Edward Montgomery "Monty" Clift (October 17, 1920July 23, 1966) was an American film and stage actor. ''The New York Times''’ obituary of Clift noted his portrayal of "moody, sensitive young men".〔Obituary ''Variety'', July 27, 1966.〕 He often played outsiders and "victim-heroes",〔Philip French's Screen Legends''The Observer Review'', January 17, 2010.〕 such as the social climber in George Stevens's ''A Place in the Sun'', the anguished Catholic priest in Alfred Hitchcock's ''I Confess'', the doomed soldier in Fred Zinnemann's ''From Here to Eternity'', and the would-be deserted soldier in Edward Dmytryk's ''The Young Lions''. Clift received four Academy Award nominations during his career, three for Best Actor and one for Best Supporting Actor.
Along with Marlon Brando and James Dean, Clift was one of the original method actors in Hollywood; he was one of the first actors to be invited to study in the Actors Studio with Lee Strasberg, Michael Chekhov and Stella Adler. He also executed a rare move by not signing a contract after arriving in Hollywood, only doing so after his first two films were a success—"a power differential that would go on to structure the star-studio relationship for the next 40 years."
Clift was born on October 17, 1920, in Omaha, Nebraska. His father, William Brooks Clift (1886-1964), was a vice-president of Omaha National Trust Company.〔LaGuardia, p. 6〕 His mother was the former Ethel Fogg Anderson (1888-1988), mostly called "Sunny". They had married in 1914.〔LaGuardia, p. 5〕 Clift had a twin sister, Ethel, who survived him by 48 years, and a brother, William Brooks Clift, Jr. (1919–1986), who had an illegitimate son with actress Kim Stanley and was later married to political reporter Eleanor Clift. Clift had English, as well as Dutch and Irish ancestry.
Sunny Clift was an adopted child. At eighteen she'd been told that her real father and mother were members of prominent Yankee families, forced to part by the tyrannical will of the girl's mother. She spent the rest of her life trying to gain the recognition of her alleged relations. Part of her effort was her determination that her children should be brought up in the style of true aristocrats. Thus, as long as Bill Clift was able to pay for it, Brooks, Ethel and Montgomery were privately tutored, travelling extensively in America and Europe and becoming fluent in German and French, kept apart from people whom Sunny thought "common". (Bosworth, chapters 1-4) The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s ruined Bill Clift financially. Unemployed and without money, he was forced to move his family to New York, but Sunny still persisted in her plans, and as her husband's situation improved, she was able to enrol Brooks at Harvard and Ethel at Bryn Mawr College. Montgomery, however, could not adjust to school and never went to college. Instead he took to stage acting, beginning in a summer production which led, by 1935, to his debut on Broadway. (Bosworth, chapter 6)
In the next ten years he built a successful stage career working with, among others, Dame May Whitty, Alla Nazimova, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Frederick March, Tallulah Bankhead, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. He appeared in plays written by Moss Hart, Robert Sherwood, Lillian Hellman, Tennessee Williams and Thornton Wilder, creating the part of Henry in the original production of ''The Skin of Our Teeth'' (Amy Lawrence, The Passion of Montgomery Clift, p. 13). "In 1939, as a member of the cast of the 1939 Broadway production of Noël Coward's ''Hay Fever'', Clift participated in one of the very first television broadcasts in the United States. A performance of ''Hay Fever'' was aired during the New York's World Fair as part of the introduction of television. It is not likely that any recording of the broadcast exists." (Lawrence, p. 261)
He resided in Jackson Heights, Queens, until he got his break on Broadway.
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