Elizabeth and Monty: the Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship
I’ve always been interested in Hollywood glamour during the 1940s and 1950s, so when I saw this book at our library, I grabbed it. Most everyone knows about Elizabeth Taylor, her legendary beauty and her eight marriages. I’d heard of Montgomery Clift, remembered him as handsome and that the two costarred in some films, but I was curious about their relationship.
Elizabeth and Monty is a well-researched biography of Taylor and Clift and a history of their friendship. Although at times repetitive and a little cheesy, I enjoyed reading about their backgrounds and relationship.
They developed an intense emotional frienship and, even during gaps when they didn’t see each other, they were closely bound. Over time, Elizabeth became more of a protector, as Monty struggled.
Elizabeth and Monty first met in 1951, on the set of A Place in the Sun. Elizabeth was already a beauty at seventeen and Monty, thirty-one, was an established and handsome star. Despite the age difference, the two were drawn to each other emotionally. And Monty, one of the first method actors, helped Elizabeth understand her character in the film. They were a gorgeous couple and Hollywood loved promoting them as one, but Monty was gay. Elizabeth fell in love with him anyway and hoped for more.
Casillo does a good job explaining how, during this time, homosexuality was mostly closeted and especially taboo in Hollywood. Many gay men married women and kept the image of being husbands and family men, forced to hide their sexuality. Elizabeth’s father was a closeted gay man and perhaps this experience made her more sensitive to Monty’s situation. In addition, both Elizabeth and Monty had sheltered childhoods and domineering mothers.
Monty developed an early dependency on alcohol and drugs and, after a devastating car crash in 1956 altered his appearance, he descended into alcoholism and addiction. Monty never fully recovered physically or emotionally and struggled to find work, but Elizabeth helped get him roles. He began acting strangely in public and with friends and was unreliable on the sets of new films, often arriving late and drinking all day. He died in 1966 at forty-five.
During this time, Elizabeth continued to make films, including Giant, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly, Last Summer and Cleopatra. And she married, a lot! First to Conrad Hilton, Jr., then Michael Wilding, Mike Todd, Eddie Fisher (big scandal!), Richard Burton, John Warner and Larry Fortensky. Elizabeth had many health issues, including alcoholism and drug addiction and was constantly featured in gossip magazines. In her later years, she was an HIV/AIDS activist, had her own fragrance and jewelry brands and supported Jewish and Zionist causes. She had four children and died in 2011 at seventy-nine.
If you’re looking for an easy, fast and fun read about Hollywood and a couple famous actors from the 40s and 50s, I think you’ll like Elizabeth and Monty.
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