Category Archives: Awards and Polls

Mahfouz Doss Remembers Marilyn

Mahfouz Doss, the Egyptian-American film critic and former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, has recalled meeting Marilyn and Rock Hudson, who presented her with the ‘World Film Favourite’ award at one of her final public appearances, the Golden Globes in February 1962. He shared his memories  – though not his much-prized photo – with actress Jenna Elfman  (best-known for her role in TV’s Dharma and Greg) during a panel discussion at a ceremony to rename part of California State University, Northridge the HFPA Wing, as Broadway World reports.

“‘I remember the event with Marilyn Monroe and Rock Hudson. As a matter of fact, someone took a picture of me. It was me, Marilyn Monroe and Rock Hudson. The three of us together.’ When Elfman asked if he still had the photo, Doss responded, ‘Yes, I still have it. I show it to people from time to time.’ Elfman joked, ‘If you get pulled over by the police, just pull that out.’ As the room erupted with laughter, Doss replied, ‘That’s what I’ll do.'”

Ranking Marilyn’s 29 Films

Marilyn made 29 films during her 15-year career (excluding the unfinished Something’s Got to Give.) Around half of these were made while she was still a starlet, and her screen-time is often quite limited although she always made the most of her role. In the first of an New York Magazine series profiling classic Hollywood stars, Angelica Jade Bastien has taken on the daunting task of ranking all 29 films from worst to best, with insightful commentary on each one. I don’t agree with all her opinions – for example, I would put The Seven Year Itch (ranked 10th) in my top 5. There’s also a question of whether to judge each movie as a whole, or by Marilyn’s performance – for example , her debut film, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (ranked 24th) is enjoyable fluff, but Marilyn’s role was cut to ribbons. Whereas her next ‘bit part’, in Dangerous Years (ranked just below at 25th) was more enaging. Let’s Make Love (ranked 22nd) and There’s No Business Like Show Business (ranked 15th) are among my least favourite of Marilyn’s major films, but her musical numbers are superb. However, we all have our own preferences and it’s always great to see Marilyn’s true legacy in the spotlight, where it belongs.

“Hollywood has been creating a mythology around blonde bombshells since its beginnings. But no blonde sex symbol has had a deeper and more long-lasting impact on film and American culture than Marilyn Monroe. You probably had an image of Monroe in your mind long before you ever saw her on film. The dumb blonde. The white-hot sex symbol. The foolish girl-woman. The picture of mid-century femininity — wasp-waisted, platinum blonde, and buxom. The tragic victim. These warring images have lasted long after Monroe’s death in 1962 at 36 years old, and they’re easy to twist into caricature. She’s been flattened onto dorm-room posters, mugs, T-shirts, artist renderings. She’s been linked to falsely attributed quotes, conspiracy theories, and lurid rumors. But Monroe was more complex than her legacy suggests, as both an actress and a woman. This ranking of Monroe’s 29 films — based on her performance in each — gives a sense of what a supremely talented comedian and dramatic actress she was, with a keen understanding of the camera that few actors can replicate.”

‘Some Like It Hot’ Tops BBC Comedy Poll

Almost 60 years after its release, Some Like It Hot has topped a BBC Culture poll of the 100 Greatest Comedy Films. (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes also made the list, at No. 87.) Nicholas Barber has an insightful take on  the enduring appeal of Billy Wilder’s classic farce…

“It is structured so meticulously that it glides from moment to moment with the elegance of an Olympic figure skater, and the consummate screwball dialogue, by Wilder and IAL Diamond, is so polished that every line includes either a joke, a double meaning, or an allusion to a line elsewhere in the film. To quote one character, it’s a riot of ‘spills, thrills, laughs and games’. To quote another, it deserves to be ‘the biggest thing since the Graf Zeppelin’. So why was it chosen as the best comedy ever made? Simple. What else were we going to choose?

There’s more to Some Like It Hot than its sparkling surface, though. As well as being a romantic comedy, a buddy movie, a crime caper, and a musical, the film is an anthem in praise of tolerance, acceptance, and the possibility of transformation. It’s an anthem that we need to hear now more than ever.

One of the film’s many twists is that when Sugar meets Junior on the beach, he doesn’t throw himself at her. He plays hard to get. Sugar tells him that her band specialises in hot jazz, but he sniffs, ‘Well, I guess some like it hot. But personally, I prefer classical music.’ Sugar doesn’t miss a beat. She claims to have ‘spent three years at the Sheboygan Conservatory of Music’ – a claim she overheard Joe/Josephine making the previous night. ‘Good school,’ murmurs Joe/Junior. Sugar, he realises, is just as adept at lying as he is.

In summary, Some Like It Hot is the story of people who lie and cheat in order to con other people into bed or out of their cash. Wilder has a reputation for dark, cynical films (see also Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity), and Some Like It Hot could be categorised as one of them. But it has so much warmth that it carries the viewer upwards like a hot-air balloon. Rather than condemning its unscrupulous anti-heroes, it respects them and sympathises with them in a way which must have seemed radical in 1959, and which seems more radical nearly six decades later.

Just imagine how the film’s scenario would be treated in a Hollywood comedy today. Joe and Jerry would be punished for their deceit. Sugar would have to catch Joe out, and he would have to apologise, and the viewer would have to sit through a montage of their shared misery before she forgave him …

Some Like It Hot is too buoyant to be brought down to earth by such prissiness. When Sugar learns that Joe has been tricking her, she runs straight into his arms. When Osgood learns that Jerry has been tricking him, he doesn’t bat an eyelid. The message is that there is nothing wrong with faking it until you make it. Experimenting with a new identity can help you become a better, happier person. It can help you survive. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll find someone who accepts you for whomever you want to be – perfect or otherwise.

It’s a boldly inclusive message, but it’s one that must have been close to the film-makers’ hearts. After all, several of them had reinvented themselves, just as the characters do: emigrating from Germany (in Wilder’s case) and Romania (in Diamond’s), distancing themselves from their hardscrabble pasts in Californian foster homes (in Monroe’s case) and on the streets of the Bronx (in Curtis’s). For a frantic farce about two cross-dressers on the run from prohibition-era mobsters, Some Like It Hot is a strikingly personal, even semi-autobiographical film.”

The Asphalt Jungle: Marilyn’s Noir Classic

Film historian and ‘Noirchaeologist’ Eddie Muller has placed The Asphalt Jungle – John Huston’s 1950 heist movie, which gave Marilyn her first important role – fourth in his list of ’25 noir films that will stand the test of time’ (ahead of The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity), reports Open Culture.

“‘I wouldn’t cross the street to see garbage like that,’ said the head of the studio that made this [Louis B. Mayer at MGM], the granddaddy of all caper films. A pure ‘crime’ film, with every character indelible.”

Marilyn’s Finest Comedy Hour

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Marilyn’s hilarious performance as the wide-eyed trickster Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is lauded today in ‘100 More Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy’, a virtual timeline for the Vulture website.

“Dumb-blonde jokes can be traced back as far as the 18th century, but it was Marilyn Monroe’s portrayal of Lorelei Lee that cemented them in modern pop culture. During this big dance number, Monroe’s iconic look, bleached-blonde and adorned in a thick diamond choker with a tight bright-pink dress, creates the prototype for a dumb blonde. She needs to be flamboyantly feminine, and speak softly and vapidly. As she says in the movie, ‘I can be smart when it’s important, but most men don’t like it.’ Monroe’s quick quips of feigned ignorance are supported by the groundedness of Dorothy Shaw, played by Jane Russell, in a rare-for-the-time female comedy duo. Helmed by Howard Hawks, a director famous for his ‘Hawksian’ tough-talking woman, the movie demonstrates comedy through the actress’s use of sexual agency. Monroe’s femininity is not an object but a tool to get what she wants — famously, diamonds. The sheer size of Monroe’s performance defined this fundamentally American archetype. Without her, there would be no Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Cher in Clueless, or Elle Woods of Legally Blonde.”

Marilyn at Julien’s: Let’s Make Music

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Marilyn’s RCA Victor award for ‘I’m Gonna File My Claim‘ after it was released as a single to promote River of No Return and sold 50,000 copies in 1954, as well as promotional materials, are among the items in the upcoming Julien’s sale.

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An unedited, 30-minute audio recording of Marilyn performing multiple takes of ‘Runnin’ Wild’ and ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ (from Some Like It Hot) on a reel of acetate tape, from the estate of Studio 7612 owner Myron Blackler, is also on offer.

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Marilyn’s personal songbook – containing more than 369 indexed pages of song standards, such as Cole Porter’s ‘You Do Something To Me’ – is up for bids. Receipts show that in February 1960, Marilyn purchased three albums by Frank Sinatra; and in April 1962, she bought a live double-album by Judy Garland.

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Finally, a set of vinyl compilations featuring Marilyn herself are on sale, as collected by Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull.

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Why Oscar Snubbed Sugar

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As another Oscar night looms, the Huffington Post notes that comedies have traditionally been overlooked. Some Like it Hot won just one in 1960 –  Best Costume Design ( for Orry-Kelly.)

The classic comedy lost out in five other categories (including Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.) While Marilyn would win a Golden Globe for her role as Sugar, she was not nominated for an Oscar that year, and never would be.

Marilyn had previously been snubbed by the Academy in 1957, when her acclaimed performance in Bus Stop failed to gain a nomination, but her co-star, newcomer Don Murray, did.  She believed this was a deliberate punishment for her victorious battle with Twentieth Century Fox, and perhaps also for marrying Arthur Miller during his stand-off with the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Simone Signoret, who won the coveted Best Actress award for Room at the Top, was then Marilyn’s neighbour at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Her husband, Yves Montand, was filming Let’s Make Love with Marilyn, and they would later have an affair.

As Hollywood’s leading sex symbol, whose niche was in comedy, Marilyn did not fit the profile of an Oscar winner. Her breakthrough dramatic role, in The Misfits (1961), would also be ignored.

Although she had top billing for Some Like it Hot, her screen-time was relatively short. If only she had been eligible for the Best Supporting Actress category, she might have pipped her pal Shelley Winters (who won for The Diary of Anne Frank) to the post.

Marilyn’s Hollywood Double Whammy

At the Chicago premiere of 'Some Like it Hot', March 1959
At the Chicago premiere of ‘Some Like it Hot’, March 1959

Two of Marilyn’s films are listed in the Hollywood Reporter‘s 100 Best Hollywood Movies of All Time – with All About Eve at 52, and Some Like it Hot at 47. (The top 3 are The Godfather, The Wizard of Oz and Citizen Kane.)

If you think that’s a rather low ranking, you’re right – after all, Some Like it Hot has been voted best comedy of all time by the AFI and many others. And the same two movies are also featured in a forthcoming book from TCM, The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter.