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.”
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.
In 2012, Marilyn was the face of Cannes – and the Champs-Élysées Film Festival uses images of her every year. Now her star will shine over the Middle East, as The 961 reports. (With an impersonator striking a classic Seven Year Itch pose, the LIFF artwork seems inspired by LIFE magazine.)
“Believing that art should have a certain message, the Lebanese International Film Festival (LIFF) chose to fight against the stigma that is attached to mental health issues by collaborating with Embrace, the leading organization that raises awareness about mental issues.
For that particular reason, LIFF opted this year for the image of the iconic renowned superstar Marilyn Monroe as she is an ideal example of a successful woman that was fighting her own battle with mental health. ”
A 1955 nude calendar sold for $5,120, while a $160 check signed by Marilyn to psychoanalyst Dr. A. Gottesman in 1952 fetched $3,840 at Julien’s Online Entertainment Auction this weekend. You can read more about the 78 Marilyn-related lots – mostly documents from her personal archives – over here.
An online entertainment sale, featuring 78 Marilyn-related lots, is set for August 19 at Julien’s Auctions. In addition to photos by Andre de Dienes, Bert Stern and George Barris, and an original nude calendar from 1955, there are also numerous documents from her personal files which shed new light on her life and career. Here are some selected highlights:
“A counter check written entirely in Monroe’s hand in black ink dated February 26, 1952, and paid to Dr. A. Gottesman, in the amount of $160. The check is drawn on Monroe’s Bank of America account. Monroe lists her address as the Beverly Carlton Hotel. Gottesman was a psychoanalyst Marilyn started seeing in the early 1950s. “
“A colorful birthday card sent to Marilyn for her 30th birthday by business manager and friend Inez Melson. In her message Melson acknowledges she’s been informed that Marilyn has transitioned the responsibility for the care of her mother Gladys away from Inez. Melson’s handwritten message reads, ‘Dearest Marilyn, This little card not only wishes you a Happy Birthday, but says “au-revoir.” I say this because Mr. [Irving] Stein was in this morning and told me of the new arrangement with the Arthur Jacobs Company with respect to taking care of all matters relating to Mrs. Eley. I am truly sorry, dear one, but you know you can always call upon me if you should ever need me. With fondest love, always, Inez.’ The original transmittal envelope is included. Melson managed Marilyn’s finances and business affairs throughout the early portion of Marilyn’s career. Interestingly, Melson ended up becoming the executrix of Marilyn’s estate after her death, which included ensuring the care of Marilyn’s mother who passed away in 1984. Inez passed away in 1985.”
“A September 8, 1956 letter to Marilyn from Mary Lee Fairbank reading in part, ‘We’ve just got back and looking forward to having you both for dinner – what night? How many? Who particularly do you want to meet – political, (undecipherable), fluff, philosophical, scientifical (sic).’ The original envelope, also included, is addressed to Mrs. Arthur Miller, Parkside House, Englefield Green, Surrey, where Marilyn and husband Arthur Miller stayed for four months while filming The Prince and the Showgirl.” [Possibly from Mary Lee Fairbanks, who married actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in 1939.]
“An April 2, 1957 letter to Marilyn from Margaret Hohenberg, M.D., reading, ‘I am sending you your file for the sessions you had during March. I hope you are getting along in your new analysis, yet I want to repeat what I said last time over the phone: Whenever and for whatever reason you may want to see me again – you will be always welcome.’ Hohenberg was Marilyn’s psychoanalyst from 1955 through early 1957.”
“An original program for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof from its run at the Erlanger Theatre in Chicago, IL for the week of July 7, 1957 signed by American character actor and producer/director Delos Smith. On the cover, Smith wrote, ‘How sweet of you to ask my autograph! We are closing Saturday, then I go to Kansas for two weeks on income taxes, then back to N.Y. Read page 13. Love, Delos.'”
“An August 21, 1957 letter from [theatre director] John Gerstad. The letter reads, ‘Dear Miss Monroe, Arnold Schulman introduced us in Sardi’s quite a few months ago. Arnold figured that since I had directed The Seven Year Itch for Broadway and you had made the picture that we should meet. This is just to tell you how much I enjoyed your picture The Prince and the Showgirl, particularly your fetching performance. I hope this note finds you in good health. Sincerely yours, John Gerstad.’ Also included, a carbon copy of a December 5, 1957 letter sent to Gerstad from Marilyn, reading, ‘I am sorry it took so long to answer your note. It was very nice of you to write telling me that you enjoyed my performance in The Prince and the Showgirl. Thank you for your kindness. Warmest regards. Sincerely …'”
A November 13, 1957 handwritten letter to Marilyn from Stefan Lorant, which reads, ‘I have sent you the picture in which Lincoln looks like your husband. I hope you like it. It was so good to meet you at Amagansett. With kindest regards to you and your husband, Stefan Lorant.’ Lorant is referred to as a pioneering Hungarian-American filmmaker, photojournalist, and author. Included is a carbon copy of the response letter dated December 4, 1957 reading, ‘I am so happy with the picture you sent me of Lincoln. It was kind of you to remember. My husband loves it a much as I do, and we both feel it is probably one of the best of the Lincoln portraits. Thank you again for your thoughtfulness. Perhaps we will be seeing you again soon. We haven’t seen Mary Bass since the summer but we hope to. With kindest regards from my husband and myself.’ Mary Bass was the executive editor of Ladies’ Home Journal.”
“A small notecard dated November 13, 1957 with a very unusual message. The card reads, ‘Please forgive this extreme personal intrusion: It is my utmost desire to learn if you were adopted from an Iowa orphanage around 1935. I am looking for a browneyed (sic) sister formerly named Geraldine. Sincerely, Ruth Webb.’ Included is a carbon copy of the response letter dated December 5, 1957 reading in part, ‘For your information, I am not the person you describe, as I have never even been in Iowa. I hope you will find the person you are looking for.’ Interestingly, Marilyn herself signed the original letter, and not a secretary as was the case for a great deal of Marilyn’s correspondence.”
“A July 16, 1958 letter to Marilyn from Dr. Eugen Grabscheid that reads in part, ‘I am sorry to hear that the complaints after your flight have increased. I am very sure that everything will come out all right as long as the treatment is not overdone.’ This letter is likely referencing Marilyn’s flight from New York to Los Angeles on July 7, to meet with director Billy Wilder about Some Like it Hot.”
“A carbon copy of an October 21, 1958 letter to Marilyn from Rex Taylor in reference to Marilyn’s interest in painting. The letter reads in part, ‘I just talked with Jon Whitcomb who tells me you are quite interested in painting. He also tells me that you would like too (sic) take the Famous Artists Painting Course. At Jon’s request we are making you a scholarship student but I am at a loss as to where to forward the textbooks since, as I understand it, you will be in Hollywood for sometime (sic) before returning to New York City,’ and ‘I thought you might be interested in seeing a recent story on the army of Hollywood painters.’ Included with the letter is a reprint of a story referencing film stars taking up painting with a picture of Tony Curtis featured.” (Marilyn did subsequently take this course, and some of her artwork survives – more info here.)
“A small notecard originally affixed to a floral arrangement with a personal message from Oscar winning American actress Eva Marie Saint and her husband American television director and producer Jeffrey Hayden. The notecard reads, ‘We are so happy about the beautiful news. Best Wishes.’ The greetings are likely in response to the news that Marilyn and husband Arthur Miller were expecting a child. Sadly Marilyn miscarried in December, 1958. Also included, the original carbon copy response letter from Marilyn to the couple reading, ‘Thank you so very much for the beautiful flowers and the good wishes. My best to you both.'”
“A July 23, 1959 letter to Marilyn from Mrs. Frank Klein, regarding an article her daughter had written for speech and drama class during her freshman year in high school. The assignment was to write about the voice of a well-known personality. The typed article, also included with this lot, reads in part, ‘Marilyn Monroe’s voice is high-pitched and soft-toned. Her manner of speaking is breathless and rapid. Her voice has an appealing little girl quality. It convey’s (sic) Miss Monroe’s screen personality, the only one with which I am familiar, to perfection.'”
More fan mail, including a torn-up 1958 letter from Phil D’Agostino, asking Marilyn to send two signed photos daily for 2 months; a small photo sent by Myrna E. Phaire, who also gave Marilyn artwork previously sold at Julien’s; and an unsigned drawing.
“A Western Union telegram from publicist Pat Newcomb, addressed to Marilyn at her 444 East 57th Street, New York apartment, dated April 16, 1961 reading, ‘Hey friend. You know I knew even before and that I understand, but please call me today. I want to talk to you. Love, Pat.’ It’s unclear what this telegram is referencing. A number of events were occurring in Marilyn’s life at this time. Just five days prior to the date of this telegram Marilyn attended an opening day baseball game at Yankee Stadium with former husband Joe DiMaggio. They’d been on vacation together in Florida just weeks prior. In early March Marilyn was released from Columbia Presbyterian hospital. On March 7, Marilyn attended the funeral for August Miller, the mother of third husband Arthur. “
“A greeting card from Rupert Allan, who handled Marilyn’s publicity and press inquiries for several years. The card’s message from Allan reads in part, ‘I am already much better after a day in the sun: none of the pressures of the office, and the fabulous mineral waters and whirlpool bath treatment for my pinched nerve. It is so hot and relaxing.’ Included is the original transmittal envelope date stamped May 4, 1961.”
“A small red gift tag with an attached red ribbon. The tag reads, ‘Happy Christmas, 1961,’ and ‘George Cukor,’ written in silver ink in Cukor’s own hand. Interestingly, research indicates that Cukor agreed to direct Something’s Got to Give in November of 1961, and this card was likely attached to a Christmas gift he gave to Marilyn considering they’d soon be working together again.”
“A small notecard, presumably originally affixed to a floral arrangement due to its size and artwork, with a personal message from two-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters. The card reads, ‘All your fellow students from the Actors Studio California branch at the moment thinking of you.’ The card is signed, ‘Shelley W.'” [UNDATED]
“A small notecard with embossed letters reading ‘WADLEY & SMYTHE, NEW YORK.’ The handwritten note on the card reads, ‘May the days of your years be gentle always. Sincerely, Joan Blondell.’ A comparison of Blondell’s known autograph resembles the signature on the card, indicating it’s very likely she wrote the note herself. Blondel starred in more than 100 productions both in film and television, her most notable being her performance in the 1951 film The Blue Veil, for which she received an Academy Award nomination. Younger generations will recognize her as Vi, one of the waitresses at the Frosty Palace in the 1978 cult classic, Grease. [UNDATED]
“An oversized birthday card with an image of Marilyn on the cover together with an image of Brigitte Bardot. The card’s cover reads, ‘Brigitte Bardot or Marilyn Monroe.’ The message inside offers the bearer a night with Bardot or Monroe for $2.00 with the coupon printed in the card. A handwritten message on the card’s inside cover reads, ‘Tell M.M.M. I’ve saved up $1.62 already yet. Love, Del’ under a greeting that reads, ‘For your Birthday.’ An interesting yet crass greeting card featuring Marilyn herself (and likely without her approval) sent to the film star by a fan. [UNDATED]
UPDATE: The nude calendar, and check to Dr. Gottesman were the biggest sellers among the Marilyn-related lots – more details here.
In the third episode of May’s month-long mental health awareness vodcast, American Icon: Where Healing Meets Life, Monroe biographer Gary Vitacco Robleswill explore the subject of Borderline Personality Disorder with co-host Nina Boski. Tune in here today (Wednesday, May 13) at noon PST/3 pm EST/8 pm GMT (all episodes will be archived on YouTube.)
The second installment of American Icon: Where Healing Meets Life, a new vodcast series from Nina Boski and Monroe biographer Gary Vitacco-Robles, will air today, May 8, at noon PST. It will be repeated at 3 pm and 6 pm; for Eastern time please add 3 hours, or 8 hours in the UK – and tune in here.
“We will be discussing a serious topic of Marilyn surviving the complex traumas of childhood sexual/physical abuse & neglect, its impact on her life, & resources available today for those experiencing the long term impact of trauma. During May as Mental Health Awareness Month, MM is helping us talk about painful & challenging issues to end stigma & start the healing journey. The three-part ‘vodcasts’ will be archived on YouTube as part of the American Icon documentary.”
American Icon: Where Healing Meets Life, a five-part ‘vodcast’ (video podcast) hosted by Monroe biographer and counsellor Gary Vitacco Robles and Nina Boski (who also presented the Goodnight Marilyn online radio show) will start this Wednesday, May 1st, at midday PST (or 8pm BST.) As part of Mental Health Awareness month, Nina and Gary will discuss how mental illness and addiction shaped Marilyn’s all-too-brief life. To watch this series, follow the American Icon Facebook page here.
In a recent post for Marilyn Remembered, Gary shared his own perspective on the difficulties she faced:
“Marilyn Monroe was likely challenged with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), episodes of Major Depression and mixed episodes of depression and mania, placing her on the Bipolar Disorder Spectrum. She was also a survivor of childhood trauma & adverse childhood experiences who struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. During Marilyn’s era of limited treatment options, she was prescribed dangerous, addictive medications which led to misuse of prescribed drugs. These mental health disorders are now better understood and treatable with effective & safe interventions and mood stabilizing medications.
Marilyn’s mother, Gladys, was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and spent most of her life institutionalized. Marilyn’s maternal grandmother, Della, was diagnosed on the Bipolar Disorder Spectrum (then called Manic Depression Psychosis]. Marilyn’s maternal great-grandfather, Tilford, took like own life by hanging; suicide is usually the manifestation of a severe psychiatric illness. Her maternal uncle, Marion, took off one day and never returned to his family, possibly a manifestation of an undiagnosed genetically linked mental illness. Marilyn’s early childhood of complex trauma combined with an intergenerational genetic background of mental illness, increased her risk for mental illness & suicide. Many people who admire Marilyn relate to her history of childhood abuse & depression.
[Marilyn’s internist, Dr. Hyman Engelberg, confirmed her Bipolar Disorder diagnosis & her psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, wrote at length about her symptoms of BPD which remain in his archive]”
Marilyn suffered from endometriosis throughout her life, experiencing severe menstrual pains and at least two miscarriages. She underwent numerous operations to alleviate her condition, without success, which undoubtedly contributed to her depression and drug dependency. Although treatments have improved since then, many women today still endure physical agony and high-risk pregnancies. Inspired by Marilyn, members of the Endometriosis UK charity have posed for a vintage-style calendar, which has so far raised £4,000, as Lucy Laing reports for the Daily Mail.
Alexandra Pollard takes a fresh look at Marilyn’s ill-fated last movie, Something’s Got to Give, in an insightful piece for The Independent.
“She hadn’t been on a film set for over a year when she was cast in Something’s Got to Give, a remake of the 1940 screwball comedy My Favorite Wife. Her time off had been plagued by illness and drug addiction … The accumulative physical toll had caused her to lose so much weight that she was thinner than she had been in all her adult life. The studio, Twentieth Century Fox, was delighted. ‘She didn’t have to perform, she just had to look great,’ said the film’s producer Henry Weinstein, ‘and she did.’
But in hindsight, Monroe wasn’t ready – either physically or mentally – to return to acting … ‘She was just fearful of the camera,’ said Weinstein, who recalled Monroe throwing up before scenes. Early on, he found her unconscious, in what he described as a barbiturate coma … The studio and production team had little sympathy for their star. ‘Yes this is a sick woman,’ said screenwriter Walter Bernstein, ‘but this is a movie star who’s getting her way, and who doesn’t give a damn about anybody else, and is being destructive and self-destructive.’
But watching Something’s Got to Give’s raw footage – most of which remained unseen for years after the film was scrapped – gives a very different impression. On camera, Monroe is earnest, demure, desperate to get her part right. If she messes up, she apologises profusely … She is gentle with her young co-stars, too. Alexandria Heilweil, who played her five-year-old daughter, is told to sit up straight. ‘If I do the right thing…’ says the little girl, but [George] Cukor cuts her off: ‘Be quiet.’ Monroe smiles at her. ‘You will,’ she says gently. It certainly doesn’t seem like the behaviour of someone ‘wilfully disruptive’.
And there were a few good days. During the now (in)famous swimming pool scene, Ellen takes a late-night skinny dip, attempting to lure her husband out of his bedroom. The set was closed, but a few select photographers were allowed to stay. When Monroe ended up removing the flesh-coloured swimming costume she had been given, they were caught completely off guard. ‘I had been wearing the suit, but it concealed too much,’ she later told the press, ‘and it would have looked wrong on the screen… The set was closed, all except members of the crew, who were very sweet. I told them to close their eyes or turn their backs, and I think they all did. There was a lifeguard on the set to help me out if I needed him, but I’m not sure it would have worked. He had his eyes closed too.’ Photos of Monroe emerging from the pool, sans suit, appeared on magazine covers in over 30 countries. By all accounts, spirits seemed high.
But things went rapidly downhill. On 19 May 1962, having been too sick to work for most of the week, Monroe flew to New York for President John F Kennedy’s birthday celebrations … Monroe had gained permission to attend the event long before filming began, but [Cukor] deemed it unacceptable. In June, just a few days after Monroe’s 36th birthday, she was fired for ‘spectacular absenteeism’, and sued by Fox for $750,000 for ‘wilful violation of contract’. ‘Dear George,’ wrote Monroe in a telegram to Cukor, ‘please forgive me, it was not my doing. I had so looked forward to working with you.’
In fact, it may not have been entirely Monroe’s doing. At the same time as Something’s Got to Give was being made, Fox was haemorrhaging money on its three-hour epic Cleopatra … The studio was panicking. ‘Tensions were high, nerves were frayed, funds were low,’ wrote Michelle Vogel in Marilyn Monroe: Her Films, Her Life, ‘and it’s clear that Something’s Got to Give and Marilyn Monroe were the scapegoats for some very anxious studio executives who felt they were spinning out of control with both productions. The lesser of the films had to go.’
A few days before she died, Monroe had given an interview to a journalist from Life Magazine, and the subsequent profile was published a few weeks later. It ended with the following: ‘I had asked if many friends had called up to rally round when she was fired by Fox. There was silence, and sitting very straight, eyes wide and hurt, she had answered with a tiny, “No”.'”