The Most Beautiful Man in Film
BY Jeremy Kinser
July 13 2010 12:00 AM ET
How do you think Clift would have fared personally and professionally if he began his career today, with the intrusion of the Internet and paparazzi?
The intrusion of the media today is offset by the openness of some gay performers — though not romantic leading men just yet. As Tom Cruise’s career shows, it is possible to withstand rumors and media speculation if you have the power and the will to do so. Because Clift was never as closeted as Rock Hudson, I don’t believe he would fight terribly hard to maintain the illusion of offscreen heterosexuality. He might be more likely to take a Keanu Reeves approach, where the actor neither courts nor tries to dispel the fantasies of any fan. In several roles in the severely repressive 1950s he even courted audiences to read his characters — and maybe himself — as gay in the casually flirtatious scenes in Red River, the rejection of heterosexual relationships in I Confess, Suddenly, Last Summer, and Freud, the material on gay Army life that acts as a subtext throughout From Here to Eternity, and the relationship with Frank Sinatra’s character in the film.
Why does Clift continue to hold such a fascination for film buffs 44 years after his death?
Clift was a brilliant actor. His performances often seem completely natural and effortless. His complex performances of masculinity in films such as Red River, From Here to Eternity, The Misfits, A Place in the Sun, and The Heiress appeal to gay men and women as well as heterosexual men and women. Fans find in Clift everything from a romantic icon or sexual fantasy figure to a model of courage, commitment, and integrity. His characters are often simultaneously stoic and vulnerable, lithe, stubborn, and funny.
Watch Clift in a scene from From Here to Eternity below: