Montgomery Clift on Elizabeth Taylor: “You know how it is when you love somebody terribly but you can’t describe why? That’s how I love Bessie Mae.”

Excerpt from Patricia Bosworth’s Montgomery Clift: A Biography. Kevin McCarthy describes the tragic car accident that almost killed Montgomery Clift and ruined his face. McCarthy and Clift had been hanging out at Elizabeth Taylor’s home (which she shared with then husband Mike Wilding), and then, McCarthy and Clift got in their cars to drive down the long winding hill.

McCarthy gives a visceral glimpse of what went down that night, and an unforgettable image of Elizabeth Taylor.

Those who snicker at her weight gain and her tracheotomy and choking on chicken wings and her marriages will never understand. It’s too bad. They are limited in their capacity for understanding and flexibility. Not to mention compassion. They are unimaginative. They see life in two dimensions, not three, but that is their own limitation, not the limitations of those at whom they sneer. And I’m not even talking now about Elizabeth Taylor’s acting, and what passion and truth she brought to role after role. I’m talking about her character. Her character has been assaulted for decades. She handled it with grace and dignity.

Elizabeth Taylor inspired fierce loyalty from her friends. And here, in the anecdote below, you can see why.

Kevin McCarthy:

Suddenly I looked in my rearview mirror and I saw that Monty’s car was coming much too close to my car. I got the idea he was going to play one of his practical jokes – he was going to give my car a little nudge. He never did bump my car, but I had the feeling he might, so I put my foot on the gas and went a little faster. Monty’s car seemed to be almost on top of me. I wondered if he was having a blackout. I got frightened and spurted ahead so he wouldn’t bump me. We both made the first turn but the next one was treacherous. We were careening now, swerving, and screeching through the darkness. Behind me I saw Monty’s carlights weave from one side of the road to the other and then I heard a terrible crash.

A cloud of dust appeared in my rearview mirror. I stopped and ran back. Monty’s car was crumpled like an accordion against a telephone pole. The motor was running like hell. I could smell gas. I managed to reach in the window and turn off the ignition, but it was so dark I couldn’t see inside the car. I didn’t know where Monty was. He seemed to have disappeared.

I ran and drove my car back and shone the headlights into Monty’s car. Then I saw him curled under the dahsboard. He’d been pushed there by the force of the crash. His face was torn away – a bloody pulp. I thought he was dead.

I drove back to Elizabeth’s shaking like a leaf and pounded on the door. “There’s been a terrible accident!” I yelled, “I don’t know whether Monty’s dead or alive – get an ambulance quick!” Mike Wilding and I both tried to keep Elizabeth from coming down to the car with us but she fought us off like a tiger. “No! No! I’m going to Monty!” she screamed, and she raced down the hill.

She was like Mother Courage. Monty’s car was so crushed you couldn’t open the front door, so Liz got through the back door and crawled over the seat. Then she crouched down and cradled Monty’s head in her lap. He gave a little moan. Then he started to choke. He pantomimed weakly to his neck. Some of his teeth had been knocked out and his two front teeth were lodged in his throat. I’ll never forget what Liz did. She stuck her fingers down his throat and she pulled those teeth. Otherwise he would have choked to death.

We all should be so lucky to have such a friend.

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13 Responses to Montgomery Clift on Elizabeth Taylor: “You know how it is when you love somebody terribly but you can’t describe why? That’s how I love Bessie Mae.”

  1. Kent says:

    These are very beautiful words, Sheila! Very fitting for the great beauty who inspired them. She had tremendous humility, even while she was sitting up there on Cleopatra’s golden throne. It showed in the actions of her well lived life, and it showed in her acting. Her humility gave her humor, and her passion put the light in those gorgeous eyes.

  2. sheila says:

    Her humility gave her humor. So true. You can see it in interviews, in outtakes. She had a crazy personal life. So what. Lots of people do (especially people as beautiful as she was). She cracked, “I’ve only slept with men I’ve been married to. How many women can make that claim?” She had illnesses, losses, heartbreak, and she kept going. She took acting seriously. She was a famous child actor. How many child actors go on to become what SHE became? She’s as rare as they come.


  3. Tony Dayoub says:

    I’d heard this story before, but not from McCarthy’s perspective. It makes all the scandalous things said about Taylor vanish like the thin smoky plumes that they are. I have to tell you, it’s my very favorite story about her.

  4. JessicaR says:

    Steve Hayes who does Tired Old Queen at the Movies told this story when he reviewed A Place in the Sun. I was especially moved by he detail that when the paparazzi showed up she told them straight that she knew each and every one of them and if they took a picture of him in this condition she’d see to it that they’d never work in Hollywood again. Nobody took a picture.

  5. sheila says:

    It’s just tremendous, her protectiveness of Clift. I loved her tribute to him on TCM, too – have you heard it? I looked for it on Youtube but couldn’t find it. It had to have been recorded in the last 5 or 6 years – ages after Clift’s death – but the emotion in her voice is palpable. Killer.

    • j says:

      have you had any luck finding this now?? anybody?? somebody??? I WANNA SEEE!!! somebody help us get this footage!!

  6. Peppi Turco says:

    I was influenced so much from a force from beyond which affected my life drastically. It wasn’t until I opened a book at a Hollywood bookstore in the middle and began reading. Within seconds I recognized what and who had been following me around, getting inside my body and head and leading me to a lifestyle unimaginable. The book was a bio of no other than Montgomery Clift.

    I wrote about my adventures with the man from beyond in a stage play and screenplay, “Calling Monty!”

    The difference between the film version and the play is that in the film version, the main character thinks he’s just wandering in off the street to get out of the weather and to kill some time into this club or Off Broadway show. Little does he know that he is the main attraction and he unknowingly comes back every night going through the whole act over and over again. Much like being stuck in the twilight zone of deviant behavior.

    His real character is totally straight with a bit of Jesus/Bible influence. His body was invaded by the infamous gay actor, Montgomery Clift who is using his body to continue his sexual romp from beyond. Unknowing to him, he has walked into a hypnotist act where he always goes under while in the audience by the use of a quick set of pre instructed code words that the hypnotist had given to him while under the first time he came into the club.

    A two person show, with multiple characters, one being channeled from beyond. The hypnotists takes Monty’s spirit into the past as you witness his side of conversations with tricks he brings home, others on the phone and you get to hear his side of the story in each situation. You also get to hear him talk about all of the major relationships and acquaintances in his life. From Elizabeth Taylor, his other co-stars, directors and even his mother, Sunny Clift, who Monty says, “wasn’t so sunny

    Here is what happens when a guy feels he’s not really alone and learns to channel spirits. The oddity here is that the dearly departed is the infamous Montgomery Clift, revealing a very humorous and somewhat seedy life long past.

    A MUST for every Hollywood Homophile!

    Montys Girlfriends and Montys Boyfriends and how he rationalizes the two.

    Including Who Has The
    Biggest And Smallest Dicks Of Hollywood!

    Listen To The Included Extra’s Of

    Marilyn Monroe
    Judy Garland

    Hear What Monty Has To Say About

    Elizabeth Taylor
    Frank Sinatra
    Richard Burton
    Sunny Clift
    Lee Strassburg
    Arthur Miller
    Hollywood Agents
    Roddy McDowell
    Uncle Milty
    Libby Holman

    Hear Monty’s Very Own Mentions Of

    Billy Holiday
    Car Wreck
    Florence Nightengale
    Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
    Sex With A Woman
    Sodom, Gomorrah, Ancient Greece And Rome
    Back Injury
    Ray Buckingham( Music Lessons)
    Sinatra’s “Other Family” (Mafia)
    Kevin McCarthy
    Roberta, Suzanne And Monty’s Nephew

    People Worth Hating
    John Huston,
    Alfred Hitchcock,

    People Who Hated Me
    The Duke

    Monty’s Dislikes
    Vanilla Sex

    Monty’s Boyfriends

    Monty’s Tricks
    The Audience

    Places Of Mention
    Fire Island
    New York
    Off Broadway
    Roosevelt Hotel
    Bizarre Sexual Places

    Phone Sex
    West Village Tavern’s Pool Table

    Monty Completely trashes the “Hollywood Studio System” of the era!

  7. Kevin Crow says:

    I always had this feeling as I was growing up that Elizabeth Taylor was so much more than outside beauty…..I quickly found out I was so right……this amazing person cared for those society found it difficult to understand. She worked so tirelessly to remove the stigma from Aids. She made this world a much better place by showing us how to care about and for others……I’m so glad Montgomery Clifft had this amazing friend whom he desperately needed……I won’t remember her for diamonds or violet eyes…..I will remember her for her kindness and humilty as these characteristics of beauty never fade.

  8. Vanessa Guardado says:

    Pure Beauty!!!!! Both this actors deserve a tribute !!!! and The Oscars should perform this tribute some day. If any of you have realized it but Monty, I think, was the man Elizabeth Taylor was looking for but too bad he was bisexual. Hollywood should make a movie of there life long friend ship and love. Hope someone reads my post and spreads out my desires to Hollywood actors, actresses, and directors so this movie or tribute someday would be made. I miss Monty and Liz…. OH !!!! LIZ AND MONTY sounds much better than LIZ AND DICK, oops no offense D

  9. Sarah says:

    Found it! It is as beautiful and moving as I remembered. So much emotion in her voice.

  10. Sarah says:

    Oops, wrong link. Hopefully, this works.
    If it doesn’t, found it by googling “Montgomery Clift tribute tcm”

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