BOOK REVIEW BY DAVID MARSHALL
Over forty years since its release, the
verdict is still out on The Misfits. Some folks love it, some folks hate it.
That was pretty much the reaction when the film was initially released in late
January 1961. Let me rephrase that-- the stars and the filmmakers would have
loved it if some folks loved it. According to the reviews and the box office
receipts, it seems that not many did. Arthurís valentine and Marilynís last
ditch effort to be taken seriously as a dramatic actress went down in flames.
But to be truthful, it doesnít
really matter much what your opinion of the movie is when it comes to this book.
ìThe Misfits: Story of a Shootî is so lavishly illustrated and whose design,
paper and contents are of such high quality, you could fall heavily in love with
the book and still never much care for the movie itself.
Let me explain. The book was the
brainchild of Serge Toubiana, the editor in chief of the magazine ìCahiers du
Cinemaî and a biography of Truffaut. Toubiana acts as editor for the book as
well as contributing a long essay about the film, the events surrounding the
filming and the principle players. To be truthful, although beautifully written,
the essay itself presents nothing you likely havenít already learned from
sources such as James Goodeís ìThe Making of the Misfitsî or the wonderful
PBS documentary ìMaking The Misfitsî.
What does make the book
exceptional is the extensive interview Toubiana holds with Arthur Miller. True,
Miller covers most of the same ground in his autobiography ìTimebendsî or in
the recent documentary put on by the BBC on Millerís life and the soon to open
play ìFinishing the Pictureî which covers the long shoot and the emotional
roller coaster which was The Misfits. Yet there is something so different about
this interview, something that cuts right to the core as you read Miller
discussing a by now long ago romance, a love that faded yet stayed deeply
embedded in his heart and psyche for all the years that have come and gone since
The Misfits wrapped.
Above all that, what truly makes
this book worth finding is the amazing photographs. As you know, Magnum
Photographic Agency contracted to cover the filming of what looked to be a
certain masterpiece. The famous photographers that gathered out there in the
Nevada desert alongside the phenomenal cast and crew were a Whoís Who of
photography greats: Eve Arnold, Henri-Cartier Bresson, Bruce Davidson, Inge
Morath to name only a few. All of their work appears in the book, each photo
given the presentation it deserves. And as Marilyn Monroe was one of the main
stars of the film, the majority of the photos included in the book focus on
Monroeís ethereal beauty, providing the readers with some of the most touching
and incredible photos ever taken of the internationally acclaimed actress.
That we know the story, know what
happens after the picture finished, know the heartache, sweat and sheer guts it
took to bring the picture to fruition only adds to the bookís greatness. Like
I say, whatever your thoughts on the movie, the story of the movie had all the
makings of a legend. ìThe Misfits: Story of a Shootî treats the legend as is
fitting-- with class, quality and respect. A truly beautiful publication, the
book is one of my personal favorites and will be treasured by any who find it.