Making Montgomery Clift

History is funny. The narratives we tell about the great figures of the past are more important than the actual truth. The classic is George Washington and the cherry tree. Whether the story is truth or legend, we still use it to instill the value of honesty in our children. What if the legend of your story is more exciting and more marketable than the actual facts of that story. That’s question is answered in Robert A. Clift and Hillary Demmon’s documentary Making Montgomery Clift the story about the story of famed actor Montgomery Clift.

Montgomery “Monty” Clift story paints a picture of one of Hollywood’s most handsome actors, who flew under the radar as a closeted gay, maybe bi-sexual man. His presence on screen stirred the hearts of male and female audiences around the world. The inner turmoil regarding his sexual identity made Clift difficult to work with, always demanding script approval, often rewriting his own lines, and driving director’s nuts.

Tormented by a system working against him, Clift’s depression led him to drug and alcohol abuse. A drunken car accident left his beautiful face disfigured, and marked the beginning of the end with Clift’s descent to his early death.

Monty’s life and career were that of legends, and like many legends, the stories are rarely true. Details of his life were conflated to fit a narrative that sounds overly dramatic and designed sells books. In death, Monty was never able to refute the facts and his family, in turn,  had no way of setting the record straight…until now.

“…how he embraced his sexual identity, his brilliant approach to the art of acting…and the new life he found in acting after his car accident.”

In Making Montgomery Clift, Clift’s nephew Robert A. Clift steps in front of the camera to tell his search for the truth about his uncle. In the end, he is able to transform Clift’s legendary life from Monty’s tragic personal life to where it truly belongs, Clift’s acting ability and smart choices he made regarding his image.

The most scandalous part of Making Montgomery Clift is challenging Clift’s best-selling biography written by Patricia Bosworth (who served as the Clift family’s trusted biographer) by flipping the script by showing Monty’s most tragic moments and getting Monty’s perspective on those event, including how he embraced his sexual identity, his brilliant approach to the art of acting, his most notable falling out with director John Huston that unfairly tarnished his career, and the new life he found in acting after his car accident.

To uncover the truth of his life, Clift and Demmon use stories from Monty’s close friends and family, including a romantic encounter with Superman’s Jimmy Olson (Jack Larson); Bosworth’s best-selling biography, and tapes that Monty’s brother and business partner, Brooks Clift made of virtually every phone call and conversation he had with everyone.

No one knows why Brooks Clift recorded every conversation with Monty, Bosworth, his mother, sons, and ex-wife political pundit, Eleanor Clift. Most likely an obsessive habit he acquired in his days working for the CIA. These tapes proved valuable in debunking Bosworth’s account of Monty’s life. While a frightening invasion of privacy without these tapes of his conversations with Monty, the truth of his story would never have come out.

“…Brooks Clift made tapes of virtually every phone call and conversation he had with everyone.”

The documentary in a way vilifies Bosworth and her best-selling biography, Montgomery Clift: A Biography. Bosworth appears in the doc standing solidly behind her version of Clift’s life, but the tape casts doubt on her true motivations in writing the book, ignoring family wishes for specific changes prior to publication, and her continued attempt to have her book made into a movie. Bosworth’s notoriety was so tied to the faulty narrative, that even the truth could not convince her to set the record straight.

In Making Montgomery Clift, you see how brilliant an actor Clift was. You see his love of the art of storytelling, developing characters with depth and dimension, and his willingness to put the final product over his own ego. He loved living life just as much as portraying it on screen.

Making Montgomery Clift (2018) Directed by Robert A. Clift, Hillary Demmon. Featuring Montgomery Clift, Brooks Clift, Patricia Bosworth, Jack Larson. Making Montgomery Clift screened at the 2018 Los Angeles Film Festival.

8 out of 10 stars

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