August 8,. 2011


This morning I looked out my kitchen window to find a crow sitting in the middle of the birdbath. The bird was too large for the receptacle but seemed to refuse to acknowledge this as it continued to sit, fluttering its wings with no hope of stirring the water because the water wasn’t high enough to be stirred. Finally, it gave up and flew away.

For some reason, seeing the crow’s efforts to “fit in,” made me think of the “The Misfits. The script was written by Arthur Miller who, at the time, was in a failing marriage with one of its stars, Marilyn Monroe. She was struggling with drug and alcohol, as was her director, John Huston. Clark Gable played a romantic hero past his prime, which was true of his life, and Montgomery Clift, who’d nearly been killed in a car accident, was suffering from bouts of depression. The film received critical acclaim but was never a box office success though the actors gave performances of chilling authenticity. 

(photo: MGM)

Most people know the plot. A depressed woman in the midst of a Reno divorce pairs up with an aging cowboy. When he and his sidekicks decide to raise cash by rounding up mustangs and selling them to a meat packing house, the woman tags along. Once she sees the wild horses, however, Monroe’s character balks at their slaughter. Her compassion for these creatures, metaphors for the characters, sends each of them down a path of introspection that reveals the emptiness of their lives. 

Two of the major actors, Monroe and Gable, died shortly after the film wrapped, Clift a few years later. Each of these actors left a legacy of their art that is legend and Huston’s contribution to the industry gives him a seat among the giants. But becoming a legend has a price. They grew too large to lead ordinary lives. And we loved them so much, they could not longer fit in among us. The price of success sometimes can be loneliness and isolation.