Monty under Howard Hawks

From an article by David Bromwich about the movies of Howard Hawks:

The best actors of Hollywood films for three decades did a lot of their best work with Hawks.  Grant and Bogart, pre-eminently, but also Cagney, Edward G Robinson, Hepburn (whom he introduced to screwball comedy), Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire, Carole Lombard (who first showed her formidable power and comic range in Twentieth Century), and Montgomery Clift – a refined actor on the brink of being dismissed as overdelicate when Hawks gave him the second lead in Red River and offered tips on movement and gesture.  For example, “the business”, as Hawks’s biographer Todd McCarthy relates, “of putting a strand of wheat in his mouth”; also “rubbing the side of his nose while in thought”.  All the dynamic contest of that movie is there in the contrast between the voices of John Wayne and Clift, the loud monotone of command and the distinct but quiet utterance that suggests a reserve of conscience.  All this Hawks must have heard at once and measured against the story when he saw the actors read for their parts.” (page 17, The Guardian Review, 2011-01-15)


It is hard to believe that someone who had been the leading male actor on the New York stage for a decade before he made his first film should have needed tips on movement and gesture, even from someone as great as Howard Hawks.  Once again, Monty’s intelligence, contribution and agency seem belittled and minimized. Why is this, I wonder?
And, while we are wondering about his reception, why has Monty’s home city’s leading cultural magazine, The New Yorker, never published an article about him in its history?
Posts about Montgomery Clift can be found here.

1 Response to “Monty under Howard Hawks”


  • I often wondered why the New Yorker never did a story on him, myself. And yes, such a superb technician wouldn’t need tips from a Hollywood director, even one as good as Hawks.
    Plus, as much as I love Clift in Red River, I wouldn’t describe his performance in that movie as “some of his best work.”

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