Biography & Autobiography - Nonfiction

Elizabeth and Monty : The Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship by Charles Casillo

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Movie stars Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift first met in 1949 on the set of A Place in the Sun, where they demonstrated a chemistry that could be felt by anyone observing their acting. Their acquaintance blossomed into a (almost) romantic friendship – a young Elizabeth Taylor was in love with the then-closeted, older Monty Clift, and Clift did nothing to dissuade her. Elizabeth eventually realized that pursuing Monty was a fruitless endeavor and despite her broken heart, the two remained lifelong friends.

Taylor went on to have a very successful acting career, once the highest paid actress in the world. She was known for her beauty and her “vulgar language” – a lady calling someone a “shmuck” was considered foul back in the 1950s. She was also a very passionate person, which gives reason for her brief marriages: once the romance was over, she would move on to the next man.

Many years after the filming of A Place in the Sun, Clift crashed into a telephone pole after a party at Taylor’s house. The accident disfigured his face, mangled his body and drove him further into alcoholism and prescription drug use.

With the occasional help from a sought-after Taylor – who would use refuse to take certain roles unless he could be cast as her opposite – Clift would continue to land leads in films despite his unpredictable behavior. He was known for his unpleasant table manners – sometimes eating his food off the floor – and arriving to the set too inebriated to act. He was also known as a gentle, loyal soul that needed nurturing and he had many friends who loved him and worried about him.

Clift was set to star in one more movie with his best friend Elizabeth Taylor, but he passed away from a heart attack at the age of 46. Taylor was devastated when she learned about the death of Clift and was unable to attend his funeral since she was filming in another country.

Although the subtitle declares the “Intimate Friendship” of Monty and Liz, this book is more of a superficial examination of Monty and Elizabeth’s lives as Hollywood stars with brief descriptions of their relationship. The interesting parts of the story described the disputes on the movie sets, Taylor’s scandalous marriages, Clift’s illicit meetings with men and his imminent downward spiral. With plenty of tragedy to acknowledge, one would expect a more heartbreaking, emotional account, but that is not the case with Casillo’s factual writing.

Overall, this book is an entertaining and informative account of Montgomery Clift’s and Elizabeth Taylor’s lives in Hollywood during the 1950s and 1960s.