‘A Wounded Bird’: Richard Widmark on Marilyn

Marilyn with Richard Widmark on the set of Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)

A 2002 interview with actor Richard Widmark – formerly Marilyn’s leading man, and Arthur Miller’s neighbour at Roxbury – is reprinted in today’s Telegraph. (While Marilyn’s difficulties on the set are well-documented, she gave one of her strongest performances opposite Widmark, who admitted in another interview, ‘At first we thought she’d never get anything right…but something happened between the lens and the film, and when we looked at the rushes she had the rest of us knocked off the screen!’)

“He was the anti-hero in several film noir classics and the object of Marilyn Monroe’s romantic obsession in one of her first major parts. ‘Well, Marilyn herself wasn’t obsessed with me,’ Widmark hastens to point out. ‘It was just the character she was playing.’

Their prolonged kiss in one scene of Don’t Bother to Knock, 1952, looks very convincing. Can it really be that there were no sparks between them? ‘None. She wasn’t even flirtatious. Not with me, anyway.’ He pauses and laughs. ‘I may be the only one she never flirted with.’

In truth, Widmark is such a dedicated professional that he couldn’t help being put off by Monroe’s erratic behaviour on the set. Overwhelmed by emotional traumas, she caused long delays.

His memory is so sharp that he speaks of their work on a 50-year-old film as if it were yesterday. ‘I liked Marilyn, but she was God-awful to work with. Impossible, really. She would hide in her dressing room and refuse to come out. Then, when she finally would show up, she was a nervous wreck. It was all a result of fear. She was insecure about so many things and was obviously self-destructive. She was a wounded bird from the beginning.'”

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