Montgomery Clift (October 1920 – July 1966) was born in Omaha, NE to a VP of Omaha Trust and a home maker. Appearing on Broadway at the age of 15, Clift achieved success and performed on stage for 10 years before moving to Hollywood. At 20, he played the son in the Broadway production of There Shall Be No Night, which won the 1941 Pulitzer Prize for drama. Entering the 1950s, Clift was one of the most sought-after leading men in Hollywood; his only direct competitor was Marlon Brando. According to Elizabeth Taylor (as quoted in Patricia Bosworth’s biography of Clift), “Monty could’ve been the biggest star in the world if he did more movies.” Clift was notoriously picky with his projects. His next movie, A Place in the Sun (1951), is one of his iconic roles. The studio paired up two of the biggest young stars in Hollywood at the time (Clift and Elizabeth Taylor) in what was expected to be a blockbuster that would capitalize on their sex symbol status.
He often played outsiders and “victim-heroes”; examples include the social climber in A Place in the Sun, the anguished Catholic priest in Hitchcock’s I Confess, the doomed regular soldier Robert E. Lee Prewitt in Fred Zinnemann’s From Here to Eternity, and the Jewish GI bullied by antisemites in Edward Dmytryk’s The Young Lions.
Later, after a disfiguring car crash in 1956, and alcohol and prescription drug abuse, he became erratic. Nevertheless, he continued his acting career, playing such parts as “the reckless, alcoholic, mother-fixated rodeo performer” in John Huston’s The Misfits, the title role in Huston’s Freud.In 1961, with the scars still visible from the 1956 car crash, Clift gave a stunning portrayal of Rudolph Peterson, an emotionally unstable and physically tortured concentration camp victim in the Stanley Kramer film Judgment at Nuremberg, earning Clift a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.Clift received four Academy Award nominations during his career, three for Best Actor and one for Best Supporting Actor.