452517_1020_AI wrote a review for THE MISFITS (1961) about ten years ago. The film still resonates with me fifty years after its release. There was a sweetness, yet a sadness about the whole movie, and death hovered very near all who were
in it. Gable, Monroe, and Clift were soon to depart. Eli Wallach was the only one who lived to old age. John Huston was already on oxygen when he directed it. Gable used to kid him that he needed to take better care of himself, then Huston outlived him by more than a decade. Death has its own agenda. There are those who claimed that Gable’s heart attack was stress related, from doing too many of his own difficult stunts on the film, and waiting too long and too often in the hot Nevada sun for the always late Marilyn Monroe, and the moody Montgomery Clift.


Director: John Huston
Writer: Arthur Miller
Cinematographer: Russell Metty.
Music: Alex North
Clark Gable: Gay Langford
Marilyn Monroe: Roslyn Taber
Montgomery Clift: Perce Howland
Eli Wallach: Guido
Thelma Ritter: Isabelle Steers
Kevin McCarthy: Raymond Taber
Estelle Winwood: Church Lady
James Barton: Drunken Grandfather


Director John Huston had the vision,
and his images were taunt, stark,
choked in white dust, and bathed
in high desert darkness.
Arthur Miller wrote the screenplay,
possibly as a birthday present
for his wife, Marilyn Monroe;
a panegyric valentine to salve the pain
of her recent miscarriage. Regardless,
Miller wrote a powerful tale,
something trancendent.
He was out to slay the myth
of the macho western;
creating three male characters named
Gay, Guido, and Percy; men that bonded,
and held their fears at arm’s length.
These men feared commitment,
and they cherished their freedom
at the sacrifice of everything
and everyone in their wake.

Nevada’s high desert landscape
was treated like another character,
and filmed like one. We are haunted
by images of the horse hunt.
A creaky biplane herding them down
out of the canyons, and pushing them
out onto the salt flats,
where the men and ropes waited.

Short stocky spirited mustangs,
desert horses, galloping hard,
breathing their last few gasps
of freedom before the men
captured them,
tied them down to old truck tires;
preparing them for their final journey
to the slaughter house,
ending up as food for poodles
and bull dogs.

The metaphors and symbols intertwine,
men and mustangs, freedom, isolation,
loneliness, and desperation.
But the sadness permeating the characters
within the story, was beautifully balanced
out with the gentle stirrings of love.
That slim chance that Gay and Roselyn
will have a healthy relationship.
We want it to happen.
We hope it will happen,
even though we fear
that these character might backslide
and pull apart.

The fade out is very upbeat;
a warm breath expelled
with heads tilted up,
still searching for truth
amongst the stars
in a clear desert night sky.

Glenn Buttkus


One thought on “When a Star Dies, the Sky Weeps

  1. Glenn,
    Whatever we do is play, and there is no distiction between play and culture, for reality
    is something we play at. No wonder many people don’t know what reality is; they don’t know
    how to play. Art most definitely is a kind of play, very serious play. “The Game of
    Poetics” in Yale French Studies from 1968, when I was studying such things, a scholar by
    the name of Beaujour (Mr. Niceday) said, “I posit that poetry is a game, or like a game.”
    Never forgot it when I want to poetize. Games though are played self-consciously; not so
    culture. The deconstructionists who bunged up literary analysis by playing with culture,
    saying anything anyone wants to think about a poem or a story is what the work is. Alas,
    when one gets self-conscious that way, then culture becomes absurd. Young people love this
    idea that whatever I want to think is right, and when they read stories, they want to
    imagine the characters to be what they want them to be–despite the writers descriptions
    and narrative.

    I’ve downloaded the poem to see what you’ve done.


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