Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Final Resting Place of Montgomery Clift

The very handsome Montgomery Clift.

I wanted to share a piece of information I learned a couple of weeks ago, which was surprising to find out just now since I have lived in Brooklyn for over ten years!

When researching the names of the architects of Prospect Park (Olmstead and Vaux), mainly to find out if it was true that they preferred Prospect Park to Central Park (which they did, amazingly), I found out that the Friends Cemetery in Prospect Park holds the remains of Oscar-nominated actor Montgomery Clift. This was news to me!

I spend a lot of time on the Central Drive in the park. I run while my son rides ahead on his scooter. I knew that the Friends Cemetery was along Center Drive because I pass it all the time. It is a private cemetery owned by Quakers and it pre-dates the building of Prospect Park, which is why it’s still in existence today as working cemetery, with about 2,000 graves in it. The cemetery is almost always locked and there is barbed-wire around all of its tall black iron gates. The Quakers don’t want you there!

This sign is only up when the Quakers have their meeting. They do not like publicity!

Another sign that is normally never up.

The day I took these pictures the cemetery happened to be open for a Quaker meeting. While I snapped photos I watched groups of people, usually in twos, walk up the drive, only to return, as I knew they would, moments later. People thought the cemetery was open for an official tour perhaps, or to just poke around in, but that was not the case, as I knew it wouldn’t be. The signs were up probably to help Quaker newcomers to find the entrance, which is as hidden as they come, but the place is not open to passerby and rarely is.

The sign at the entrance.

The cemetery pre-dates Prospect Park.

So how did Montgomery Clift come to be buried in a Quaker cemetery in the center of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York? He who was born in Nebraska, became an accomplished stage actor on Broadway, and then a Hollywood legend in films like A Place in the Sun, From Here to Eternity, Suddenly, Last Summer, and The Misfits? Here is what I’ve learned:

At the time of his death on July 23, 1966, Mr. Clift lived in Manhattan on E. 61st Street. His mother, Sunny, was a Quaker and it is through her that he was accepted for burial at the Friends Cemetery in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

The cemetery’s opening.

A few of the headstones can be seen from the gate.

I’ve read that caretakers of the cemetery will not tell you where Mr. Clift is buried because his family did not like that, early on after his interment there, people left pictures of him (and of Marlon Brando and James Dean) on his grave. On the rare occasion when the cemetery is open to the public, the tour guide will not point out Mr. Clift’s headstone, not even when asked!

On set with Elizabeth Taylor while filming A Place in the Sun.

I did find an article in The New York Times titled “He’s Here for Eternity, But Don’t Ask Where” (love it), that said a tour-goer named George Krauss once found the headstone and was able to snap the picture below. He said Mr. Clift is buried close to the fence and facing the Long Meadow, which is lovely, verdant, and dotted with baseball diamonds.

So, in our midst here in Brooklyn lies a Hollywood star, surrounded by the activity and life of a very popular park and yet quietly protected from it all.

Mr. Clift’s headstone in Friends Cemetery, Brooklyn NY. Photo by George Krauss.

Mr. Clift was an accomplished stage actor on Broadway and lived for a time in Queens!

Montgomery Clift died on July 23, 1966 at the age of 45. He left behind some beautiful and moving work. My two favorites are A Place in the Sun and Suddenly, Last Summer. If you have a favorite Montgomery Clift movie, let me know what it is.

All pictures of Mr. Clift from Doctor Macro.


rosie said...

Interesting. Prospect Park beautiful & so was Montgomery Clift. Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in "A Place in the Sun". Was there ever a more gorgeous couple on the movie screen. That very close-up kissing shot. Wow!

Had forgotten he died so young & apparently such a tortured soul, addicted to booze and drugs.

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

My mother loved Montgumery Clift and Charlton Heston so much. This was really interesting Jill. Thanks for sharing!

Jill said...

Hi Rosie! Yeah that was some kiss by ET and Monty, huh. I know just which one you mean! It's funny, "A Place in the Sun" had just been on TV about a week before I learned Monty is buried in Prospect Park. I can't believe I didn't know this before now, but I am much more acquainted with Green-Wood Cemetery and it is far more famous than the Friends Cemetery. I'm sure the Quakers like it that way!

As for Monty, I might need to read a biography on him now. When researching for this post, I of course found all these references to his auto wreck that altered his career. I also read that someone said his death was the longest suicide they had ever seen. It seems he was a gifted, sensitive, and troubled soul. XO, Jill

Jill said...

Hi Pam, I am a fan of both Monty and Charlton as well! We watch "The Ten Commandments" every year, Charlton sure made a foxy Moses. And don't get me started on Yul as Rameses. Yowza. XO, Jill

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

I knew that only bc my mother is his biggest fan and insisted we go to his grave...I said no bc we were only in ny for a few days! PS the pics of VB are up :) xx

rosie said...

Hi Jill,

Monty's auto accident was down the road from Elizabeth Taylor's house & she called the ambulance & just about saved him. The house was in the hills of Calif. The two of them had filmed many scenes for Raintree County and many scenes were filmed after his accident. You can see he looked like two different people. So sad, he really went downhill after that accident.

Your two favorite Monty movies are also mine. I also liked him in From Here to Eternity and the Heiress

Jill said...

Naomi, you made the right choice because the cemetery is normally not open and even if it was the caretakers turn down requests to tell people where Monty is buried. I'm surprised they even accepted him for burial there to begin with, to tell you the truth. His mother must have been one persuasive lady! XO, Jill

Jill said...

Hi again Rosie, I knew he'd been in a car accident right after a party at ET's house and had read that she helped save him. It's sad that his face and career were altered because of that accident. I will add the two movies you mentioned to my Netflix list! XO, Jill

Anonymous said...

This was a lovely post, very poignant. I have visited your site often, never left a comment. Writing about someone's life takes on a different tone if they are no longer with us, and this piece was well written. When I write for, I too try and keep it personal, otherwise what's the point? Anyway, thanks for your blog, love it. - Nancy, aka

Jill said...

Hi Nancy! Wow, thank you for such a lovely compliment! Monty seemed like such a sensitive soul, from what I have read about him so far, that I can't help being touched by his story and I think it is amazing he is buried in the private cemetery of such an active public park!

Thank you for your kind words, they really made my day. I will definitely come visit your blog! XO, Jill

Anonymous said...

I called the Park to get permission to visit Mr. Clift's grave and received a firm, "No" in response to my request. Montgomery Clift is my favorite actor and it's hard for me to choose a favorite among the films he made, but I recommend The Search for his naturalness (he was often mistaken for a real soldier in this role), The Heiress for his modern, yet believable, acting style in what is a period piece, and I Confess for his restrained acting and convincing emotion conveyed through facial expression.

Dawn Lucy said...

Interesting and mysterious!
NYC is full of great stories!
Dawn Lucy

Jill said...

Hello Anon, I am not surprised the Quakers said no to your request. I have read in numerous articles that they turn down many requests to see Monty's grave every year. I will add all the film's you mentioned to my Netflix list. Thank you for recommending them! XO, Jill

Jill said...

Hi Dawn Lucy, I'm surprised this particular NYC story took so long to make it's way to me! XO, Jill

Linda Lucchesi said...

Every movie that Monty made I find interesting in some way. My favorite is of course"A Place in the Sun". I wish I could have met him!

Linda Lucchesi said...

Every movie that Monty made I find interesting in some way. My favorite is of course"A Place in the Sun". I wish I could have met him!

Dame Lisa said...

Montgomery Clift and Liz Taylor, who could ask for more? A place in the Sun and The Heiress are my two favorite Monty films. I could watch him read the phone book. He was private and troubled, but now I pray he is once again having a great time with Liz.

Jill said...

Hi Linda, I just now saw your comment! I am with you, I wish I could have met Monty in person!

Jill said...

Hi Lisa, oh yes, I sure hope Monty and Liz are have a good ol time in the beyond. I totally agree, he could've read the phone book and I would've paid for tickets!