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‘The Misfits’ at 50: Honoring the Horse and an Iconic Western

Posted on Feb 13, 2011

By Deanne Stillman

(Page 3)

Later that day, the men would come back, and take the horses to the slaughterhouse.

In the weeks after “The Misfits” wrapped, Marilyn would sit for hours in a disguise and watch the horse carousel at the Santa Monica pier. We do not know what was on her mind and in her heart as the gaily painted animals turned forever. A fragile soul on and off the screen, she may have given great thought to what was really going on in Nevada, and to the fact that her lover, Arthur Miller, had torqued the truth to resurrect her career and, because she was in love with him, she had played along. “I don’t know where I belong,” she tells Perce in the movie—and perhaps she found a moment at the carousel. The place where “The Misfits” was filmed is now a tourist attraction, and it’s called Misfits Flat. Wild horses still come down from the mountains and head across the flats, running for their lives as never before, now surrounded on all sides by freeways, belonging, like Marilyn, to the ages.

Deanne Stillman’s latest book is the widely acclaimed “Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West,” a Los Angeles Times “Best Book ’08” and winner of the California Book Award silver medal for nonfiction. Her book includes an account of the 1998 Christmas horse massacre outside Reno, Nev., as well as the story of Bugz, the lone survivor of the incident. Her previous book was “Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave,” the cult classic which Hunter Thompson called “A strange and brilliant story by an important American writer. It’s now out in a new, updated edition. Her work appears in the Los Angeles Times, Slate, Orion, National Review Online and other publications and is widely anthologized. Her plays, including “Star Maps,” have won prizes in theater festivals around the country. She is currently writing “Mojave Manhunt” for Nation Books, based on her Rolling Stone piece of the same name. Follow Deanne Stillman on Facebook.


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By john crandell, February 15, 2011 at 1:42 am Link to this comment

More like a play?  No, I don’t agree on that.

A movie about rounding up horses for slaughter? No, I don’t agree on that either. The horses are simply a device.

True that both Clift and Monroe had begun to come apart at the seams by then. 
The actor had had the car accident and had his face messed up as he crashed
while driving down Tower Drive after leaving Liz Taylor’s house above Beverly
Hills one night. His infamous vanity was shattered.

Irony: come July of ‘62, Monroe would be escorted to nearby Lake Tahoe by the
brother in law of JFK to spend a few days at the Cal Neva Lodge and there be
drugged out of her mind and raped by Giancana, Sinatra and who knows who
else, two weeks before her death.

Coroner Thomas Noguchi expressed concern over what he’d observed of the
condition of Monroe’s large intestine as part of his autopsy. Giancana’s
daughter eventually published a memoir and Noguchi’s concern is supported
by Ms. Giancana’s allegation that on the night she died, Monroe had been
administered a fatal enema by a team of hitmen organized by mobsters in an
attempt to maximize their leverage, their having bugged the actress’ residence
knowing of her contacts with the Kennedy brothers.

If indeed the tryst at Cal Neva did occur and if Ol’ Blue Eyes did indeed take
pictures as Ms. Giancana later alleged, whatever happened to them? Gee, maybe
they eventually were ground up along with Hoffa’s corpse… Ya think?

Peter and Patricia were turned away at the gates, weren’t admitted to Monroe’s
funeral. The way things have turned out for this country: well - I’d say that ‘The
Misfits’ is one VERY underrated flick. On second thought, the movie IS like a
play! A prelude to a Greek tragedy.

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By Inherit The Wind, February 14, 2011 at 11:59 pm Link to this comment


(yawn).  Conspiracy fantasies are a dime a dozen here—and most don’t have as many holes as this one.

When someone starts telling me about aliens from Xenu coming down 75 million years ago to kill people in volcanoes, I say “Thank you for the input” and book.

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By Gloria Picchetti, February 14, 2011 at 11:20 pm Link to this comment

The Misfits has always made me heartsick because of the horses.

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By Kjeld, February 14, 2011 at 10:56 pm Link to this comment

What’s the deal with the posting timestamps? Are the TD servers in Europe?

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By Kjeld, February 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm Link to this comment

Well, tip of the hat for the gesture TD. It was a fun read.

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By MeHere, February 14, 2011 at 4:42 pm Link to this comment

Thanks for honoring “The Misfits.”  It is a film with a great deal of artistic value—one of my favorite US films.

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By DONALD BARR, February 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


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By rend, February 14, 2011 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@ Inherit The Wind,

Did you read the whole piece or just the opening couple of paragraphs?

There was conspiracy plot in it..

Great piece TD, thanks for publishing it.

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By wageslave, February 14, 2011 at 2:27 pm Link to this comment

To me the film was about the death of a paradygme; an attempt to find a way to live in a world that had changed and left a number behind.  Hence Mr. Millers words:“Nevada was full of misfits,” Miller would later recall, “people who did not fit anywhere. They knew it, they made fun of it, of their inability to function in the United States.”
I also saw the film as an ominous sign of things to come and have in fact come.  We are all ‘Misfits’ now.  Only we don’t have the smarts of the ones in Nevada to know it.  The modern age that replaced these average Americans has evolved and has now replaced us all.  But we are too self important, vain, fat and self-delusional to realize it…like the character played by Marlyn Monroe.  We are a nation of ‘Misfits’ now.

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By JDmysticDJ, February 14, 2011 at 12:23 pm Link to this comment

I’ll suggest that the reason the movie received such acclaim was primarily because it was concerned with aging stars, and their deaths. It was a passion play that was moving, but I think the horses were only an afterthought. Marilyn was the lovable heroine, but I can recall thinking Montgomery Clift was a fifth wheel.

I don’t suppose anyone wants to see Trigger, Silver, Champion, Scout, Black Beauty, my friend Flicka or any other pinto, golden palomino, mustang, or Beatlebomb put to death, but maybe we should concentrate on the nations slaughter houses before we get too maudlin about the pretty horses.

I’m looking to see Billy Jack give the Armour Company a few good roundhouses, chops, and kicks. Alas, if it’s not one thing it’s another. I guess Deanne Stillman has found her niche, but I suggest she find another, preferably a two legged one. I guess I’m just too homo-centric (not homosexual) to be much concerned, though she does have a point, a point that is nearly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Anyway, I had a dog.

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By Queenie, February 14, 2011 at 10:17 am Link to this comment

I saw this movie when it was released. I was too young to realize it at the time but it had a great impact on my philosophy in my own tortured path to becoming an adult.

What I wound up with, the message for me, was that my freedom was something that began and ended with only me. No one could grant it to me nor take it away as they did with those poor horses.

I have seen the movie as an adult, or rather, part of it. I turned it off because I could not stand the suffering.

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By Inherit The Wind, February 14, 2011 at 7:24 am Link to this comment

alerted many people to the then little-known war against wild horses playing out in Nevada, and, in my opinion, contributed to the early demise of three of its four stars—Gable, Clift and Monroe—all of whom died after the film was wrapped; in Gable’s case, 12 days later.

Oh, shit.  Another crackpot conspiracy theorist.  Gable was dying of cancer.  He looked like hell in the movie, pure hell.

Plus, if there was a conspiracy to kill those involved how was it that Arthur Miller and John Huston, survived? Both were HUGE names, far more controversial in their politics—Miller had SHREDDED McCarthyism in “The Crucible”.  Eli Wallach is STILL alive and working.

Why does TD air such crap?

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