As Jake Dee reports for Screen Rant, the top-ranking Marilyn movie on user-led review site Rotten Tomatoes is not one of the more famous comedies, but her early dramatic role in Don’t Bother to Knock, reviewed here by film blogger Wess Haubrich.
“One huge reason Marilyn rocked my world as a lover of film, is that I myself have struggled with depression … I identify with her struggle with mental illness (read a heart-breaking letter she wrote about her time in a psychiatric ward here) — the seed of which was likely planted long before her stardom: her mother was not in her life as she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and spent much time in and out of hospitals, and virtually none with her daughter — because I too have been there, in that deep, dark, blacker-than-the-deepest-black hole.
1952’s Don’t Bother to Knock (based upon the 1951 novel Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong) hits on those fronts and is also, in my view, Marilyn at her most visibly delicate, at least early on in the film. The film is 66 years old this August.
We see Marilyn Monroe in the role of the fragile Nell Forbes, new to Manhattan and recruited by her uncle Eddie, who is an elevator operator in a ritzy hotel in the city, to babysit for an affluent couple … [the] tension in Nell Forbes’ unfolding psychosis is made all the more palpable because Marilyn Monroe’s performance feels like it reaches into the pit of her soul and her struggle with mental illness.
In the screen test for her role, Monroe stayed up for 48 hours straight training hard with her acting coach Natasha Lytess (much in the way of rumor circles the two women), even disobeying direct orders not to sneak Lytess on to the soundstage during her screen test, despite Monroe’s notoriously insecure nature at this point in her career. This gamble she took to get her first starring role in feature film paid off with a successful test, and Zanuck himself sent her a note of congratulations.
Don’t Bother to Knock was unjustly lampooned by the critics when it was released. Marilyn Monroe’s performance is truly something to behold, despite the low budget B-Picture trappings surrounding the film itself. It is a fine contribution to the canon of both film noir and B-Movie history.”
As many fans will know, Norma Jeane Baker was born in Los Angeles to an absent father and her mother suffered from mental illness. For much of her childhood she stayed with friends and family, and also spent time in an orphanage and in foster care.
As children’s services protect vulnerable families during the coronavirus crisis, Marilyn has been chosen to front a campaign for the Raise a Child non-profit organisation based in her hometown, alongside some of today’s celebrities who have also benefited from fostering.
Although Marilyn’s childhood memories were not all happy, she would later lend her name to numerous children’s charities and was reportedly considering adopting a child in the final months of her life, so this campaign is a wonderful way to honour her legacy.
“The faces of some notable former foster children — screen legend Marilyn Monroe, actress/comedian Tiffany Haddish and Olympic gold-medalist Greg Louganis — are featured prominently in a new street-banner campaign that began this week in an effort to recruit foster and adoptive parents.
The campaign by the nonprofit RaiseAChild — which will run through mid-July — is an effort to increase the number of foster and adoptive homes, particularly in Los Angeles County, which manages the nation’s largest child welfare system with 35,000 children in care, officials said.
‘We’re honored to support RaiseAChild’s mission and bring awareness to this important cause,’ said Katie Jones, vice president of entertainment at Authentic Brands Group, which owns the Marilyn Monroe estate.
Jones said many people are unaware that Monroe grew up in the foster care system and often craved the stability of loving parents and a permanent home.”
Bill Sluyter Fredendall, who once lived in the Los Angeles Orphans Home alongside Norma Jeane Baker, has died aged 92 in L’Anse, Michigan, according to the Keewanaw Report.
In a 2016 interview with Eden Prairie News, Bill fondly recalled the future star, two years older and a friend of his sister Doris, pushing him on a swing, and the children’s excitement at being so close to the world of film-making. ‘We sat on the radiators and looked at the front of the RKO studio, up in the sky from where we were,’ Bill said. ‘We could see that from the orphanage. We all wanted to be in the movies.’ His daughter Phyllis said that when Bill heard of Marilyn’s death, he was bereft: ‘She was a good girl,’ he said.
Marilyn was a resident from 1935-37, from the age of nine to just after her eleventh birthday. She was treated well there, but like many children displaced during the Great Depression, struggled with feelings of abandonment throughout her stay. The home, on El Centro Avenue, was renamed as Hollygrove in 1957. After closing in 2005, it now operates an outreach service for vulnerable children and their families.
“Bill and his brother Dick and sister Doris were placed in the Los Angeles Orphans Home in Hollywood in 1934. His stories from that time are legion. It was the favorite charity of many of the movie stars as it was across the street from RKO Studios. Oliver Hardy’s sister was one of the matrons. Bill remembered Laurel and Hardy arriving in a big convertible full of presents. The campus of the orphanage was sometimes used as a movie set – he recalled the filming of a fire rescue from a second story window. And of course he remembered one of the girls, Norma Jeane Baker (Marilyn Monroe) who was there at the same time.
Bill was an avid reader and a movie buff. He loved to drive and took many trips with family and friends. He enjoyed golfing, sailing, skiing, and swimming in Lake Superior, Minnesota. Music was a lifelong friend. He played harmonicas large and small, having learned to play while in the Orphan Home.”
British artist Nina Mae Fowler just posted this on Instagram:
“A small drawing of Marilyn as she leaves the hospital, shortly after suffering an ectopic pregnancy. The press and the crowds waited outside so she was forced to put on makeup and a smile. The frame is handmade in aluminium and reminiscent of a surgical dish/tray …”
Nina often uses Hollywood iconography in her art, and has drawn Marilyn several times – I wrote about her work here.
Photographer George Rodriguez, who captured Los Angeles life for forty years – from Hollywood glitz to Chicano civil rights movement – is the subject of a retrospective, George Rodriguez: Double Vision, at the Vincent Price Art Museum in LA until February 29, We Are Mitú reports. (Rodriguez photographed Marilyn at the Golden Globes in 1962 with her date, Mexican screenwriter José Bolaños, though it’s unclear whether these images of part of the exhibition.)
Actress Terry Moore began her movie career in 1940, and would later make a successful transition from child performer to adult star when she was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for her role in an adaptation of William Inge’s Come Back, Little Sheba (1952.) After director Elia Kazan cast her in Man On a Tightrope (1953), she was signed by Twentieth Century Fox. She was photographed with Marilyn at public events including the 1953 wedding of columnist Sheilah Graham (see above), and at the premiere of How to Marry a Millionaire (below.)
Terry had previously been signed to Columbia Studios in 1948, the same year when Marilyn was briefly under contract there, starring in the low-budget musical, Ladies of the Chorus, before being dropped by boss Harry Cohn. It was during this period that Marilyn met Natasha Lytess, who became her acting coach until 1954.
Now 91, Terry recalls her encounters with Marilyn and other stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age in an interview with Stephanie Nolasco for Fox News.
“Fox News: What’s the story behind your friendship with Marilyn Monroe?
Moore: I met Marilyn when she was put under contract. I was under contract to Columbia Studios at that time. We both then went to 20th Century Fox at the same time. And if you read anything about Marilyn, her acting coach was Natasha Lytess. The directors got so mad that she was always looking at Natasha while filming her scenes. Natasha was behind the cameras trying to guide her. It got so bad the directors later threw Natasha off the set.
I was with her when she met Natasha. They brought her into Natasha’s acting lessons. I was the only one in the class. And so I really wanted someone to do scenes with. I was told, ‘This is a new contract player named Marilyn Monroe. Now you and Natasha will have someone to act with.’ I was so happy to meet her. And we became close, fast friends. I would take her home to dinner with me. My parents were just crazy about her. She was one of the sweetest, loneliest girls I ever met. But she learned so quickly as an actress.
Fox News: What do you think made Marilyn feel so lonely?
Moore: Well sometimes the biggest stars are usually very shy … They’re very much like John Wayne. He was so backward, very backward. He also had to learn to get out there and have self-confidence. Most actors when they start out have little confidence. Marilyn didn’t have confidence. She had to have everyone in the world believe in her and love her before she had any confidence.”
Marilyn’s getaway to St. Petersburg, Florida with ex-husband Joe DiMaggio on March 22, 1961 – following her divorce from Arthur Miller and a traumatic hospital stay – is covered by Bill DeYoung in a fascinating piece for St. Pete Catalyst.
“Leaning back on a beach recliner under a blue-and-white striped cabana for two, the most-photographed woman in the world smiled shyly at the gathered gaggle of photographers – the newswire paparazzi and the Brownie-toting locals.
‘Her skin is white – almost chalky – and her hair is platinum-gold,’ the daily newspaper would report the next morning. ‘She’s trimmer than the girl in the movies. And she’s beautiful. She’s really beautiful.
The paper was the St. Petersburg Times, and the woman under glass was none other than Marilyn Monroe … It was DiMaggio who suggested a relaxing week at the beach. The retired Yankee slugger was working as batting coach for the team during spring training in St. Petersburg.
At the Tides, they took separate top-floor suites.
Local residents were allowed limited access to the hotel’s two pools, snack bar and beachfront. Membership in the Bath Club wasn’t exclusive – anyone who paid the annual dues could use the facility.
‘It was all about her – I don’t think I even knew who Joe DiMaggio was at the time,’ says Karen DeYoung, 12 years old in March of 1961. She and her family were Bath Club regulars.
‘Everybody was talking about it, as we were hanging out by the pool,’ she recalls, ‘so of course we had to go down and check it out. We were giggling and nonchalantly walking in front of their cabana, trying to get a glimpse of them.’
DeYoung, senior national security correspondent for the Washington Post, has never forgotten what happened next.
‘It was at that point that DiMaggio called out “Hey kid,” and handed me a dollar, or a couple dollars, and said “Go get us some hot dogs.” So I did.’
She ran to the poolside snack bar and dutifully returned, handing a steaming pair of franks to the bare-chested sports icon and the movie star with the chalky-white skin.”
“They took frequent walks on the beach, holding hands and posing for news photographers. Monroe accompanied her ex to Huggins Field, the Yankees’ training site adjacent to Crescent Lake downtown. A photographer from Sports Illustrated snapped her gazing adoringly as he swatted a few balls. Together, they watched spring training games from the press box at Al Lang Field.”
“During their eight-day stay, DiMaggio and Monroe dined often in the Tides’ on-site restaurant, and at the Wine Cellar, about a mile north on Gulf Boulevard. The Wine Cellar was a favorite haunt for visiting Yankee players.
Mike Porter was 20 years old, a student at St. Petersburg Junior College, working on the valet team at the Wine Cellar. He remembers when the Tides’ official ‘limo,’ a four-door DeSoto with a wooden rack on the roof, dropped Joe and Marilyn at the restaurant’s front door.
‘He was sitting in the front seat, she was in back,’ Porter recalls. ‘I reached in to help her get out. She was very pale, and very frail. She looked at me and didn’t say anything.'”
“They were promptly seated at a dark corner table. ‘The manager came out about 45 minutes later and said “Hey, the guests are bothering them so much they can’t eat their meal – would you take my car and drive them back to the Tides?”‘ Porter explains. ‘I said sure.’
Monroe was chatty, Porter remembers, while DiMaggio didn’t say much. The two talked about possibly renting a car. They asked him if he had a car of his own.
A day or so later, Porter was summoned to the Tides, poolside, on official business: ‘I came and picked her up and I took her to get her hair done,’ he says. ‘She was delightful; she called me Mike. I didn’t make any reference to who she was – I knew she’d had enough of that at the restaurant.’
Porter had no interest in Monroe’s personal or marital issues. ‘Other than the fact that she looked great in a bathing suit,’ he says, ‘I wasn’t into that stuff.’
Hotel management arranged for the golden couple to sunbathe in privacy, on a secluded rooftop deck over the lobby. Remembers Bath Club ‘cabana boy’ John Messmore: ‘They were hounded all the time, so Mr. Dross, the hotel manager, said to them “Why don’t I just give you the key?”‘
Messmore, 17 at the time, was dispatched to the sundeck to take a lunch order. ‘And when Joe saw me, he thought I was there to get an autograph,’ Messmore explains. ‘And that was exactly the opposite of what he wanted. So he wasn’t a lot of smiles.’
‘But Marilyn, I remember she had on a white terrycloth robe, and a kind of white terrycloth wrap thing on her head. And she ordered an avocado, and an iced tea with two lemons, for lunch. And I cannot remember what Joe ordered, I was so enamored with Marilyn Monroe.’
Even their secluded rooftop nest wasn’t totally private. Boys lined up to toss baseballs to DiMaggio, who’d sign them and toss them back down.
‘I do remember her peeking out of the door of her room,’ Messmore says, ‘and looking both ways when I was walking down the hallway, like she had heard a noise or something. And that’s how I knew which room she was in.'”
“On March 31, the Times published a United Press International photo taken the previous afternoon. In another beach cabana, Monroe and DiMaggio were smiling broadly. She was wearing a shoulderless, midriff-bearing top and black shorts.
St. Petersburg Times – Friday, March 31, 1961. SUNCOAST SUN GILDS A LILY. Marilyn Monroe arrived on the Suncoast just a week ago today, pale and drawn from a recent illness. Taking her sunglasses off for a cameraman for the first time, Marilyn looks healthy and happy as she poses in a cabana at The Tides, North Redington Beach with her ex-husband, former baseball great, Joe DiMaggio. Both are reported to be leaving the Suncoast area Saturday.
On April 1, nine days after their arrival, the couple flew out of Tampa International Airport.”
Gene Kelly – the legendary dancer, choreographer and actor/director – will be honoured with a statue in London’s Leicester Square. Patricia Ward Kelly, who became his third wife in 1990 until his death six years later, has shared some of Kelly’s memories with Metro.
Kelly was a friend of Marilyn from her early years in Hollywood. His first wife Betsy Blair recalled seeing Marilyn with director Nick Ray during a 1951 party in their home, and Marilyn would meet Milton Greene for the first time in the same house, two years later. Kelly also had a cameo role in Marilyn’s penultimate movie, Let’s Make Love, and was considering a role in her upcoming film project, What a Way to Go!, when Marilyn passed away. (He took the part, and Shirley MacLaine replaced Marilyn.)
Ironically, Patricia’s story of Marilyn making hot dogs for Gene Kelly recalls a scene in The Seven Year Itch (1955), when Sonny Tufts asks Tom Ewell who the blonde in the kitchen might be, and Ewell retorts, ‘Maybe it’s Marilyn Monroe!’
“These were in the years before I met him, but his house, the front door was never locked and people would just come in at any hour of the day or night. There was one experience where the writer James Agee, and a famous director came in with a young woman in the middle of the night. Gene realised the men had quite a bit to drink, so he thought that he should rustle up some food for them. He went into the kitchen with this young woman to see what was in the fridge and found some hot dogs. He had her boiling hot dogs – which coincidentally was the first meal I had with him. He turned to this young woman and said, ‘What’s your name?’ She said, ‘Marilyn’. And it was Marilyn Monroe.”
When pin-up queens Marilyn and Jane Russell teamed up for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, reporters predicted a mighty feud – but they quickly struck up a close bond, onscreen and off, and many fans consider Jane the best co-star Marilyn ever had. As the Northern Light reports, at the Semiahmoo Resort near Blaine, Washington State on January 29 from 7-9 pm, Ron Miller, author of Conversations With Classic Film Stars, will consider their pairing in the second part of his free film series ‘When Rivals Meet’, alongside Fred Astaire vs Gene Kelly, Bette Davis vs Joan Crawford, and others.