Montgomery Clift received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Pvt. Robert E. Lee 'Prew' Prewitt in From Here To Eternity.
Montgomery Clift gives a magnetic performance as the troubled Prewitt, and despite the sometimes withdrawn nature of Prewitt as a character he easily brings you into his world, and the troubles he faces with an incredible ease. Clift without ever pandering manages to gain a great deal of empathy. Clift never visibly tries to do this but gains it nonetheless because of his entirely honest method of portraying Prewitt's Struggle.
Clift never really tries to show that Prewitt is in the end not all that much more than an average career soldier, or at least shows that Prewitt really does not desire to be anything more than a career soldier. Clift really has a rather tricky character in Prewitt, despite how poorly treated he is by the army Prewitt still loves it. It seems almost a contradiction or impossible idea yet Clift portrays it entirely realistically.
Prewitt's love for the army is not some sort of masochism, but Clift rather portrays it as something entirely genuine, something that Prewitt cannot shake, something from his history. There are not too many moments in which Clift is able to express this love, but the few moments he has Clift makes it truly an honest dimension of Prewitt that no cruelty could expunge.
Clift's portrayal of Prewitt's struggle is certainly a strong effective work, that holds the screen throughout every moment. He present Prewitt as a average man in some ways, but he never does this in an average fashion. Clift always manages to give a charismatic performance, that always brings out every interesting facet of Private Prewitt fully to life.
I think what aspect of Clift's performance is most effective is the fact that he really works as the pivotal facet of the film, which is quite amazing. Although I like Lancaster to a degree, as well as some of the smaller supporting roles from actors like Jack Warden, and particularly Ernest Borgnine, the actors with some of the heavier lifting like Donna Reed, and Frank Sinatra are quite lacking.
What Clift does is amazing though because despite the lacking performance of Donna Reed, and Frank Sinatra the storyline involving their characters still work quite well because of the involvement of Montgomery Clift in their scenes. For example the whole Maggio storyline really could have been an utter waste, but it is not due to Montgomery Clift.
Maggio and Prewitt are friends, but Maggio is a hot head who quickly gets into trouble resulting eventually in a tragedy befalling. Frankly this tragedy could have easily been forgotten if up to Frank Sinatra who overacts Maggio needlessly. Clift though manages to make Maggio's fate through just his heartbreaking reaction to the events, and his final playing of taps something very much moving in spite of Sinatra.
The same goes for Prewitt's relationship with the hostess/prostitute Elma played by Donna Reed. Although Reed both overacts, and underacts her part Clift manages to still turn their relationship into something special despite Reed's lacking performance. Clift again manages more expressing not a wholly love relationship even, at first, but a sort earnest desperation that eventually forms into love.
Clift simply gives an outstanding performance from beginning to end in the film. He takes a integral portrait of rather tragic man that is fascinating, as well as very moving to watch. Clift never overacts for a moment giving always a completely honest and moving performance. What I do find most outstanding his ability to take the lacking nature of some of his rather important co-stars, and still make their moments and storylines unforgettable.