Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.
I was recently appalled to learn that someone close to me had a deep, dark secret: This person, despite having lived in Reno for several years, had never seen The Misfits. I won’t name names. I don’t want to subject this person to public humiliation, but I was shocked and went about rectifying the situation—within 24 hours we were watching the movie.
That kind of exaggerated response to a missing moment of cultural education might seem like snobbery—and I’ve certainly been guilty of that in the past—but seriously, if you care about this town, that’s a little bit like not knowing where Virginia Street is. It’s like living in Fargo and never having seen the movie Fargo.
If you’ve never seen it, here’s the deal: It’s a 1961 flick. Marilyn Monroe plays a woman who’s staying in Reno to get a quickie divorce back when Reno was the divorce capital of the world. She falls in with a group of locals, including Clark Gable as an old cowboy and Montgomery Clift as a rodeo performer who’s taken a few too many kicks to the head. There’s a lot of drinking, and glimpses of what Northern Nevada was like in the early 1960s. The movie was written by Arthur Miller, who’s better known for his plays, like Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. And it was directed by John Huston, who also directed The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre among other classics.
The title of the movie refers not only to the main characters, all of whom are damaged in one way or another, but also to a group of wild horses who eventually figure in the plot. It’s a gorgeous, sad and beautiful movie with an elegiac tone—made all the more palpable by the knowledge that the movie’s three lead stars were all dead within a few years after filming wrapped.
Anyway, it had been years since I had seen it, and I relished seeing it again. Something that struck me this time was that the movie’s unique story could really not be set anywhere else—the desert, the drinking, the divorce, the horses. This is a special place. Essential viewing.Brad Bynum