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Sigmund Freud and Montgomery Clift.

Sigmund Freud and Montgomery Clift. By Julie Seyler.


Does anyone remember coming home from school and turning on Channel 9 at 4:00 to watch the Million Dollar Movie? When I was in my Clark Gable movie phase, I was able to catch a myriad of his pre and post “Gone with the Wind films” like, “Test Pilot” with Myrna Loy, and “China Seas” with Jean Harlow, while lying on my flower bedspread eating forbidden potato chips. But this was not the only station where we could indulge ourselves in Hollywood fantasy. Before Turner Classic Movies, there was also NBC Saturday Night at the Movies inviting us to an evening of at home entertainment. Anyway, this is a long-winded segue into to a movie I discovered when I was about 12 or so.

I remember it was a Saturday evening, and I was home babysitting my younger sisters. After the Swanson’s Turkey TV dinner (the ubiquitous fare on nights when my parents dined out), I settled in to watch the movie of the week. It was “Freud,” which I just learned was directed by John Huston. It starred a bearded Montgomery Clift as Dr. Sigmund Freud. The plot revolves around a woman patient riddled with issues – she is repressed, depressed, and hysterical but there are no physical symptoms that can explain her illness. Freud takes her on as a patient and after two hour’s worth of hypnosis, and lying on Freud’s famous couch, she is cured. Freud’s theories of the unconscious have helped unlock her buried memories and released her from emotional bondage so she can blossom again in the world. Hollywood schmaltz, no doubt, but it turned me on to the power of dreams; the notion that childhood events can shape one’s psyche. And rehashing it all can be a wondrous experience. A few years later, this was confirmed when I saw, “The Three Faces of Eve” with Joanne Woodward’s academy award winning portrayal of a woman with three separate and distinct personalities that had sprouted in response to a traumatic childhood event. Two hours later, she is completely cured by Lee J. Cobb.

These movies simplistically collapsed psychological theory into a 120 minute drama, but the message they contained – that the hidden psyche is a complex and perplexing phenomenon – resonated for me as a teenager. I cannot say that all these years later I have changed my opinion much.

Did the movies lead me to embrace the phenomenon of the psyche? I mean, Montgomery Clift as Freud is a pretty sexy role model. Or was I destined to discover the curious case of the unconscious mind, regardless. It does not matter. I remain a firm believer that the unconscious is way more powerful than what we think we “know.” In fact, I think if scientists could figure out a way to harness the unconscious, the energy problems of the world would be solved.

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