With awards season underway, Entertainment Weekly has named the 51 Greatest Performances Overlooked by Oscar – with Marilyn’s unforgettable turn as Sugar Kane in Some Like it Hot ranked fifth. (She did, however, win a Golden Globe for her role.)
“This film picked up several nominations for the men involved in making it, but there was no love for its lead actress that year—or any year. Maybe she was already too big a movie star. Maybe that blinded the Academy to a performance that was arguably the strongest ever from one of the 20th century’s most iconic stars. Monroe never got quite enough respect when she was alive, but there’s a reason she endures as a legend. Her ukulele-strumming Sugar Kane Kowalczyk almost tempts Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon out of the feminine disguises they’ve donned to hide from the mob. Sugar captures the allure and effervescence of a sex symbol while showcasing the warmth and soulfulness of the woman beneath. How much of that is thanks to the actress herself, and how much is her acting? That’s why it’s a great performance—almost as good as Norma Jean’s portrayal of Marilyn Monroe herself.” —Anthony Breznican
“It must be said that Curtis looks quite the part as Josephine, Lemmon less so as Daphne; though putting both in close proximity to 50s sex goddess Marilyn Monroe as the vulnerable singer Sugar Kane is a comic gift that keeps giving, with the lovestruck Joe and Jerry permanently on the verge of being discovered, permanently on the verge of revealing their true selves, as it were, to Sugar.
In the hands of director Billy Wilder, this is actually a sophisticated sex comedy with uncomfortable hints of voyeurism, but much of that will sail straight over younger heads, leaving plenty of innocent, laugh-out-loud gender-swap farce…’Nobody’s perfect’ is Osgood’s legendary last line, but this fizzy, scintillating film is pretty close to it.”
Writing for Deadline, Pete Hammond recalls his friend, Julian Myers – ‘the ultimate Hollywood press agent’ – who died on Saturday, December 21st.
“He started off as nearly a charter member of USC’s Film School in 1937 and then worked in Columbia’s story department , but it was landing his job in the Fox publicity department in 1949 that really got things cooking for him. That was about the same time as Fox’s most famous star, Marilyn Monroe also started. Julian would often tell me about those days when he would have to go try to get the famously difficult actress out of bed and on to the set. He wasn’t her publicist as some outlets wrongly said in their headlines today, he was a loyal studio publicist – or more accurately press agent – who had 20th’s back in those days. One of his earliest encounters with her was in 1950 when she had a small role in the iconic Fox Oscar winner, All About Eve. In pure ‘press agent’ fashion he even got the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to block out all the letters in its neon sign except ‘EVE’ when the film had its premiere across the street at Grauman’s Chinese.”
Marilyn does not seem to have attended the premiere, captured on newsreel from November 13, 1950. However, she did later present an Oscar to Thomas H. Moulton for Best Sound Recording on the film.
Julian Myers worked at Fox until 1961. In 2013, Myers shared his memories of Marilyn in a TV interview. He recalled accompanying her to visit troops at San Pedro. (He may be referring to her visiting the USS Benham in 1951, or Camp Pendleton in 1952.)
En route, they stopped at a gas station where Marilyn spent 45 minutes in the powder room. Despite her tardiness, the troops loved her.
Myers remembered Marilyn as an insecure young woman who never thought of herself as a sex symbol. “I was the only guy trying to get her out of bed,” he joked, noting that he “was a happily married man.”
The New York Postreports on 31 Days of Oscar, TCM’s countdown to this year’s Academy Awards by screening a special program of classic movies – including Some Like it Hot (February 1st) and Let’s Make Love, which though not one of Marilyn’s more successful films, earned Oscar nominations for its impressive soundtrack; BAFTA nominations for director George Cukor and Yves Montand; and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Musical/Comedy.
In New York’s Village Voice, film critic Michael Musto noted the irony of Oscar talk about Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn, when the woman she plays was never nominated:
“I guess you can get a nomination for recreating the production of a film, but not for having actually been in it…The insanity at the time was that Marilyn was just a giddy sexpot, not an actress – a point of view she herself took to heart…She had a natural magnetic appeal, deft comic timing, and heartbreaking pathos, and she knew exactly what to do whenever a camera loomed.”
Over at PopMatters, Matt Mazur casts an eye at 1961’s Oscar nominees, and argues that Marilyn should have been on the list: ‘Marilyn Monroe’s final, haunting dramatic turn in John Huston’s The Misfits is a subtle marvel.’
1961’s winner was Sophia Loren, for Two Women. Mazur has previously contended that Marilyn merited a nomination for Some Like it Hot(1959), and also Kim Stanley for her MM-inspired role in 1958’s The Goddess.
Whenever Mazur gets around to 1956, I hope he’ll mention Marilyn’s extraordinary performance in Bus Stop. Not only should she have been nominated that year, I think she deserved to win outright.
May 19 marked the 49th anniversary of Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday’ performance for President Kennedy at Madison Square Garden, as Garrison Keillor noted in his Writers’ Almanac. (Unfortunately, while he reports on the event well, he has added three spurious quotes attributed to MM via the internet. )
Given all the confusion out there, it was refreshing to find a sound, intelligent analysis of some verified Monroe quotes from Jason Cuthbert over at MadeMan.
And talking of the eternal rumour mill, Lady Gaga – who really should know better – tweeted yesterday that ‘Government Hooker’, a track from her new album, Born This Way, “was inspired by Marilyn Monroe + political mistresses. I wonder what they were privy to + what they affected.”
The Seven Year Itch is one of Marilyn’s most enduringly popular films, yet for some reason it is rarely included in cinema revivals (Some Like it Hot, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Misfits are all frequently shown.) So I was glad to hear of a recent outdoor screening via the San Diego Reader.
Over at Pop Matters, Oscar-watcher Matt Mazur challenges the Academy in Best Actress Rewind: 1959. Contending that Elizabeth Taylor deserved to win for Suddenly Last Summer, he also states that Marilyn should have been nominated for Some Like it Hot. (Actually, Marilyn won a Golden Globe. Simone Signoret won the Oscar that year for Room at the Top, while Marilyn was filming Let’s Make Love with her husband, Yves Montand.)
Actor James Franco, seen here with co-host Anne Hathaway, briefly – and somewhat randomly – channelled Marilyn on Oscar night last Sunday.
“It puzzled many why a young, interesting actor like Franco would take a lame job like hosting the Oscars…he began the night game and filled with possibility during the opening skit, but as the hours wore on his enthusiasm dampened and waned. Halfway through he tested the very boundaries of our concepts of humiliation by coming out on stage in Marilyn Monroe drag for a piece that was anti-comedy in the finest Andy Kaufman tradition. Finally by the end Franco was apathy personified, lazily reading his lines from the teleprompter, seemingly unclear that ‘The King’s Speech’ had just won Best Picture, and even rolling his eyes in the final moments of the show.”
TCM includes one of Marilyn’s shining moments in its new list of the Top 10 Greatest Overlooked Performances. Many felt she was denied an Oscar nomination by the Hollywood establishment because of her rebellion against Twentieth Century Fox.
Marilyn Monroe as Cherie in Bus Stop (1956)
“After studying with The Actors Studio, Marilyn Monroe was determined to draw on every painful memory from her past for her role as a small town singer – dubbed a ‘chantoosie’ by her fans – courted by an idealistic cowboy. She allowed herself to look under-nourished and performed her one musical number badly, ‘That Old Black Magic’, to capture the desperation of a woman who would never achieve her dreams. As in her other great performance, Sugar Kane Kowalcyzk in Some Like It Hot (1959), the role is a central part of the legend of Marilyn – the beautiful, sensitive loser. But the film’s success failed to bring her an Oscar nomination or much respect. Reporters were more interested in signs of star temperament, as when she insisted co-star Hope Lange’s hair be darkened so as not to match hers, than the painstaking efforts she put into one of the best roles she would ever play. Neither has the passing of time helped fans to appreciate Monroe’s performance, for many aspects of the film have not aged well. In his dogged pursuit of his ‘Cherry,’ cowboy Don Murray now seems less romantic than criminal – a grating sexual bully. And Cherie’s ultimate capitulation puts into question all of the dreams that made her so touching. Beyond the sexual politics, however, the film vividly reveals what Monroe could have done as an actress had Hollywood allowed her to re-invent herself.”