|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.