‘Making Montgomery Clift’ shows a family’s love

Category: Movies


Making Montgomery Clift is a project of family love from his nephew Robert Clift and Hillary Demmon. In this documentary Clift sets out to show the personal life and conflicts of his famous uncle and the ways in which his family has tried to set the record straight about the Hollywood star.

Montgomery Clift, aka Monty, was born in Nebraska in 1920 when the world was a different place and social convention was much more conservative. In the film Monty’s mother Ethel acknowledges that she knew her young son was gay but his brother Brooks Clift, Robert’s father, explained to her that Monty was bi-sexual because he liked both women and men.

What is interesting about the Hollywood career forged by Monty is that he insisted on bucking the system, literally. He said “no” to the studio system in which actors signed on with specific studios. After signing, the actor was told what film he or she was going to do. Clift wanted complete control of his film choices. For years he turned down role after role, even for some of the most classic films we still enjoy today. He wanted to make his own decisions and he did. He even insisted on having the right to write his dialogue if he so chose.

This was a man who was completely independent. He knew what he wanted to do and was driven to do it. He had his own ideas about what his characters would do and say and that is what he wanted to put on film.

Off screen he was described as tormented because he couldn’t lead the life he wanted to live. His homosexuality was an open secret, but it was still a secret to some degree. His family insists that did not play any part in his personal life and that he was at peace with himself, yet biographers and other press still made him a prisoner of his sexuality.

Another interesting aspect of Monty’s life, and also his brother’s life, is that they recorded conversations. Brooks recorded everything and many tapes are played in this film. And Monty also recorded phone conversations. Listening to personal conversations between mother and son and also brother and brother highlights their relationships. In a sense, this is a window into the real lives of the Clift family.

Jack Larson who played Jimmy Olsen in the TV series Superman, relates an episode he had with Clift and describes his friend. Clift was a fun-loving man who enjoyed jokes and joking around.

This documentary is a portrait of Montgomery Clift done by his nephew who wanted to set the story straight. In this day and age of finding your roots and ancestry sites, families are going deeper and deeper into their histories. And in this case Robert Clift searched and researched about his family and his uncle. And he has the tape recordings to prove it. That in itself is an interesting aspect of this family. But at the heart of the show is the family love that binds them together and that pushes them to keep the legacy of Monty alive and correct the errors that books and interviews have made about one of Hollywood’s notable stars of the golden age.

Making Montgomery Clift is available on Digital and VOD October 15, 2019.

About the Author

Francine Brokaw has been covering all aspects of the entertainment industry for over 25 years. She also writes about products and travel. She has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines as well as Internet websites. She has written her own book, Beyond the Red Carpet The World of Entertainment Journalists, from Sourced Media Books, is the entertainment correspondent for Good Day Orange County, and has her own TV show, Beyond the Red Carpet, on Village Television in Orange County. Follow her on Twitter.