As the story opens, lost-soul Roslyn (Marilyn Monroe) has just arrived in Reno to get a quickie divorce. She meets Guido (Eli Wallach), a sensitive mechanic and his pal Gay (Clark Gable), an aging cowboy. Both men fall in love with her and she ends up living with Gay in Guido's house. The men take Roslyn out the desert to go "mustangin'," but she's horrified when she learns the purpose of their trip.
This story is about four aimless and rather pathetic people who have nothing to do and no place to do it in. They're just drifting through life and for a short time, they drift together. Gable is outstanding as the rugged old cowpoke who still wants a woman's touch. He takes manly command of every scene and is charisma personified. Wallach's role is less flashy but still powerful and touching. Montgomery Clift plays a rodeo cowboy who's been kicked in the head one too many times. He doesn't get to do much but he's still sweet and likeable. Marilyn is, well, Marilyn, still delivering her lines in that breathy, little-girl voice. Only occasionally does she break through and become a real person; mostly she over-emotes and poses prettily.
Filmed in black and white in a mostly barren desert, the movie is grim and depressing and doesn't let up for a minute. (Animal lovers' note: The "mustangin'" scenes of wild horses being roped and hog-tied are brutal.) I'm glad I got to see Gable and Monroe in their last performances; this is a thoughtful character study of four achingly lonely people.