The making of The Misfits tells a far more interesting story than the actual movie.Miller wrote the character of Roslyn to help Marilyn recover from a miscarriage. It was a good time for her to play the part for two reasons: she needed the distraction from her lost pregnancy and she was still hurting from it. Her pain made a believable cross for Roslyn to bear. The movie was shot in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Miller had gone to divorce his first wife and get a passport to go to England with Marilyn to film The Prince and the Showgirl. Before this, Miller spent time in Nevada and had been struck by the drifters he met and based his script around them.
Miller contacted the producer, Frank Taylor, to visit his home in Connecticut and read him the script. Taylor brought his wife and son but they didn’t meet Marilyn. Once again Norma Jeane, when there were guests at the farm, went into hiding upstairs. This time the guests could hear her: she was vacuuming and vacuuming rather obsessively. Most of us can understand Norma Jean’s fear. Can you remember a time when you hid somewhere in the house (in my case on the stairs) when your parents invited guests over who were complete strangers to you? The idea of meeting them and sitting quietly in the same room frightened me, that is, if they were all adults. Of course I was a child then. So was Norma Jeane.
Casting Clark Gable was difficult: he liked the script but didn’t quite get it. As filming proceeded Miller joked, “as it was being filmed in the west and there were cowboys, it wasn’t turning out like a western. So they had it mixed up as to what kind of a film this was really going to be Do I said well it’s an eastern western.” He emphasized“it’s about people trying to connect and afraid to connect.” One scene captures this theme beautifully where Clark Gable kisses Roslyn then hugs her. The camera focuses on her face and she murmurs over his shoulder “I don’t feel that way about you, Gay.” Miller captured the essence of Marilyn Monroe in this scene and in Roslyn’s character. “In my mind Roslyn was a woman who had no real relationship with men even though she had a lot of relationships with men.” Roslyn comments “the trouble is I end up back where I started. I never had anybody much. Here I am.”
Wallach commented the characters “didn’t fit into the structure of a society. Each character explained their pain” to Roslyn, who is also in pain. Miller stated “in a way they were free people but they were un-free in the sense that there was an unrequited longing for something they couldn’t name.” Marilyn’s interpretation of Roslyn couldn’t have been better. Her voice, while pretty, isn’t the squeaky voice of the sex goddess, it’s much more believable. In spite of all that Miller felt, “I think there was a struggle with believing in herself in a part that serious where you didn’t get off with a wise crack, where scenes ended tragically…where her body would have meant so little.” It was a good move, considering how much Marilyn wanted to be taken seriously and not be “treated like a thing.” There is a lot of truth to Miller’s words. Even Bus Stop, the vehicle (pun) she used to present herself in a dramatic role made her into a cheap chanteuse and dressed her in a skimpy showgirl costume.
Miller considered Clift’s character to be “pathetic.” Clift wanted to act out a scene where he actually rides the back of a bucking horse right away but the studio wouldn’t allow it. He wasn’t insurable. He’d been in a car accident that had permanently altered his facial features (although he was still handsome) and was a heavy drinker. Marilyn, being a personal friend of his for years, broke her heart over his car accident. Lena Pepitone in her biography Marilyn Monroe Confidential told a story where Marilyn, for some odd reason, decided to seduce Clift,since she’d heard he was gay. She figured if anyone could attract him to a woman, it was her. Marilyn invited him to her New York apartment, allegedly wore tight white pants and sashayed in front of a bewildered Clift for an hour, yet she got nowhere. As he was leaving, he slapped her on the behind and said “you’ve got a great ass.”
As for the director, John Huston, Marilyn trusted him. “He had been very sweet to her and very good to her in Asphalt Jungle.” Tony Huston, John’s son, commented, “I feel (Huston) had a very clear, objective vision of her. He never got sucked in the way so many other men did.” Miller commented,“she liked him because he basically respected her ability. So when I wrote this she wanted him to direct it and I immediately sent it to him and he agreed to do it which i was grateful for because he was exactly the right director for this film. Because he was a misfit…this was important to him too, that was the displacement in life of commitment.”
About the first scene with Marilyn Monroe in the movie, actor Kevin McCarthy, who had the small role of Roslyn’s husband, commented about Marilyn “We did our first,,,rehearsal and she couldn’t get all the lines done. This happened maybe six or seven times. And my performance is going out the window I’m really trying to do my stuff but it gets interrupted and the secret of how I play the scene was gone by the time she finally is coming up the stairs…” Huston couldn’t hear Marilyn as she said her lines so he ran a wire up McCarthy’s leg and underneath his tie. Even then it took seventeen takes for Marilyn to complete her lines. A female crew member stated “it was an anxious set, a tremendous amount of tension. I mean first of all everybody would get there, it was 110 in the shade, and sit around…and Marilyn wouldn’t show and wouldn’t show and wouldn’t show.”
The Misfits didn’t work as a movie. An assistant producer declared “[the audience] didn’t like [Marilyn], they didn’t like anybody.They didn’t like Gable. It wasn’t a Gable movie, it wasn’t a Monty Clift movie, and it wasn’t really a Marilyn Monroe movie..Or a John Huston movie.It was an Arthur Miller movie.” For his part, Miller claimed ‘it was artistically a wonderful experience. Personally it was terrible to see her, to see Marilyn go through such torture…It’s a mystical experience to make a movie. i can see where people would devote their whole lives to fiddling with this.” One afternoon Marilyn collapsed on the set and was flown a LA hosital, where Gable visited her, trying to control her addiction to alochol and anti-depressants. Soon after filming what was ostensibly the worst film of his career, Clark Gable died of a massive heart attack.
The Misfits was an apt description for Miller and Marilyn’s marriage. it was in its fourth year and the marriage had disintegrated to the point where they were barely amicable towards one another. As for Marilyn’s take on the script Miller wrote for her, she commented to Pepitone just before her divorce from Miller, “if that’s what he thinks of me then I’m not for him and he’s not for me.”: Their marriage dissolved the same way the movie flopped at the box office: not with a bang but a whimper.