Strikingly beautiful and exceptionally talented, Montgomery Clift was at the peak of his fame in 1956 when a devastating car crash nearly destroyed his face. While this traumatic event robbed him of his heartthrob status and turned him into a somewhat disturbing, socially alienated character, author Elisabetta Girelli argues that Clift had always combined on-screen erotic ambiguity with real-life sexual nonconformity. In Montgomery Clift, Queer Star she maps the development of Clift's subversive image over the span of his entire career, approaching Clift as a queer signifier who defied normative cultural structures.
From the sexually ambivalent "beautiful boy" of his early films, to the seemingly asexual, transgressive, and often distressed man of his last years, Girelli argues that Clift shows remarkable consistency as a star: his presence always challenges established notions of virility, sexuality, and bodily "normality." Girelli's groundbreaking analysis uses queer theory to assess Clift's disruptive legacy, engaging with key critical concepts such as the closet, performativity, queer shame, crip theory, and queer temporality. She balances theoretical frameworks with extensive close readings of his performances and a consideration of how Clift's personal life, and public perceptions of it, informed his overall image as a deviant star and man.