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.)
Hot on the heels of their Some Like it Hot reissue, the Soundtrack Factory label has released Alfred Newman’s music for The Seven Year Itch on CD, alongside his compositions for other Fox classics (including All About Eve) and including a 16-page booklet. You can listen to sample tracks on the Jazz Messengers website.
Hailed as ‘the ultimate theatrical backstage story’, All About Eve will be screened at at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Laemmle’s Royal in West Los Angeles on Tuesday, October 13 – exactly 65 years after its release.
If you’d like to know more about the making of this classic movie – and how Marilyn got her big break – read Sam Staggs’ book, All About All About Eve.
The Cary Theater in North Carolina are screening some of Marilyn’s best movies this weekend, including Niagara and The Seven Year Itch (Thursday, February 26th); Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Misfits (Friday, 27th); Some Like it Hot and Bus Stop (Saturday, 27th); and All About Eve (Sunday, March 1st.)
“Though she is eighth billed, a young Marilyn Monroe is a standout…even in this heady ensemble, so much so that ‘an officially authorized stunning hand-painted porcelain collector doll’ of the actress in her All About Eve party dress now sells for twice its original $195 Franklin Heirloom Dolls Price. Cast largely because of the efforts of her mentor, powerful agent Johnny Hyde, Monroe impressed Mankiewicz, he later wrote, as having ‘a breathlessness and sort of glued-on innocence about her that I found appealing.'”
On the 88th anniversary of the birth of Marilyn, The Playlist selected five of her greatest movie performances yesterday (in Niagara, The Seven Year Itch, The Prince and the Showgirl, Some Like it Hot and The Misfits.) While I don’t agree with all of their comments, it’s great to see Monroe’s cinematic legacy getting proper attention.
Some of MM’s other roles were also given honourable mention, although Clash by Night and Don’t Bother to Knock have been omitted.
“But it’s easy to overlook her screen achievements with the legend, and the woman born Norma Jeane Baker in Los Angeles in 1926 was a star for a reason. Despite being slighted as a weak actress by some, she was an accomplished comic talent, and capable of far more when she was allowed.
Of those early supporting turns, it’s The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve that make the most impact, the former as Louis Calhern’s beguiling mistress in John Huston’s excellent noir, the latter as an aspiring actress, a graduate of ‘The Copacabana School of Dramatic Art.’ Her supporting performance in Howard Hawks’ Monkey Business, with Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers, released just before she became a star, is also worth checking out.
She reteamed with Hawks, joined by Jane Russell, to far greater effect on Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, arguably the film that cemented her stardom, even if the film doesn’t hold a candle to Some Like It Hot, something doubly true of the same year’s How To Marry A Millionaire, although the central trio of Monroe, Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall is undeniable. Finally, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Bus Stop, as a small-town singer who’s borderline-stalked by a rodeo rider. The film is a somewhat uncomfortable watch, but it’s a good showcase of Monroe’s range.”
At first glance, it’s hard to imagine two stars more different than Marilyn and Bette Davis, although they briefly appeared together in All About Eve. Many on the set found Davis intimidating, and few escaped her catty remarks.
However, as Bette later told a biographer, “I felt a certain envy for what I assumed was Marilyn’s more-than-obvious popularity. Here was a girl who did not know what it was like to be lonely. Then I noticed how shy she was, and I think now that she was as lonely as I was. Lonelier. It was something I felt, a deep well of loneliness she was trying to fill.”
In her latest column for the Chicago Tribune, Liz Smith finds another similarity between MM and Davis – both actresses were, at different points in their careers, known for their ‘mannered’ speech.
“Last weekend I watched two films, one a classic, the other not so much — though it has a cult following. I do mean William Wyler’s The Letter, starring Bette Davis as a woman who murders her lover and River of No Return starring Marilyn Monroe as a tough saloon singer fighting turbulent rapids, Indians and Robert Mitchum. Quality wise there’s no comparison, although River, directed by Otto Preminger, is a great looking movie, with excellent use of early Cinemascope. It’s an entertaining potboiler. The Letter, based on Somerset Maugham’s novel, is one for the ages.
And while you might imagine Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe were as unalike as two actors could be, they shared one quality — an odd manner of speaking. Davis’ clipped tones became famous instantly, and as she grew older, the static quality of her delivery increased, rendering many of her performances artificial. It took a strong director and an inspiring script to wrench Davis out of her habits.
AS for Miss Monroe, shortly after she began working in films, she met a dramatic coach named Natasha Lytess who convinced the insecure Monroe that her diction was ‘sloppy’ and she needed to enunciate more clearly. Well, Monroe, whose diction was just fine actually, did enunciate. Boy, did she en-nu-ci-ate. She came down so hard on her Ds and Ts she all but bit them off. Even she was not entirely comfortable with this, and when given a good script, her speech would relax, no matter what Miss Lytess said. River of No Return was not a script Monroe liked. The result was a performance that varies wildly. It’s fun to see her as a smart-talking, back-talking woman. And when she unbends her diction, she’s earthy and effective — refreshingly strong. But in other scenes, she comes off like a gorgeous Martian, who is just learning our language. It’s a pity, because despite Monroe’s objections, River was a change of pace, and all contract actors did westerns. They just did. (The chief pleasure of ‘RONR’ is the sight of Monroe in her physical prime, athletically running around in skin-tight blue jeans!)
But unlike Bette, Marilyn’s vocal impairment didn’t last. (Even in The Seven Year Itch, she is merrily relaxed.) After Monroe abandoned Hollywood and her 20th Century Fox contract, she went into the Actors Studio. Lee Strasberg convinced her, first of all, that she was nothing, had accomplished nothing. Only he (and wife Paula) could help her. That she was the biggest female star in the world at that point didn’t impress the Strasbergs. At least that’s what they said. Presto! Out with Natasha — who didn’t go quietly — and in with Paula, who became even more hated on Monroe sets than Lytess. (Natasha at least lectured Marilyn on discipline. The Strasbergs told her only the ‘art’ mattered, and she should take as long as she liked.)
There was little change in the essentials of Marilyn’s acting, except the disappearance of her excruciating diction, although every so often it would pop up on a word or two. Lytess must have used hypnosis on her!”
Gabriella Apicella has written a great article about Marilyn, celebrating her lesser-known performances as part of a ‘Great Actresses’ series at Bitch Flicks.
“Unfortunately, Marilyn Monroe was seldom cast in a truly excellent role… Rather it is her presence that lifts otherwise mediocre fare into essential viewing. Her leading men were frequently unable to match her charisma onscreen…Despite this, even from her earliest roles in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve, she delivers nuanced and sensitive performances of rather bland parts, making a forgettable supporting role into a highlight of both iconic films.”
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 British-born actor, George Sanders – most famous for his role as Addison DeWitt in All About Eve – owned an Art Deco mansion, Rothbury, in Storrington, West Sussex. The property is now on the market for just under £1 million.
An article recently published in the West Sussex County Times claims that Marilyn once spent a night at Rothbury:
“In 1959 he was at the centre of tabloid gossip when Marilyn Monroe spent a night at the Storrington mansion during her shoot on The Prince and the Showgirl (her time spent in England that year is depicted in 2011’s My Week With Marilyn).
Honoured with a blue plaque, the property is steeped in history across 4,000 square feet.”
This story was also reported in the Daily Mail last week:
“During the stay the pair left other diners aghast when they enjoyed a meal at nearby Manleys restaurant, before returning to the star’s house.”
Sanders hosted many lavish parties at Rothbury, with guests including Sir Laurence Olivier – Marilyn’s co-star in The Prince and the Showgirl.
However, there are several problems with this story. Firstly, The Prince and the Showgirl was filmed in 1956, not 1959. On days off, Marilyn visited the East Sussex towns of Brighton and Lewes with her new husband, Arthur Miller (as noted by Michelle Morgan in Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed.)
However, there is no record of Marilyn visiting Rothbury, and if there was tabloid gossip about her and Sanders at the time, it’s news to me. I’d be interested to know if there is a traceable source for this rumour. Furthermore, Marilyn never returned to England after 1956.
Back in 1950, Marilyn had played Sanders’ companion, aspiring actress Claudia Caswell, in All About Eve. Sanders’ wife, Zsa Zsa Gabor, was allegedly so jealous that she refused to allow him to spend any time with Marilyn off-set – although whether her suspicions were justified remains unclear. (In her unfinished memoir, My Story, MM claimed that Sanders had asked her to marry him the first time they met, at a Hollywood party. Sanders and Gabor divorced in 1954.)
After Marilyn’s death in 1962, Sanders recalled fondly, “Marilyn was very inquiring and very unsure -humble, punctual and untemperamental. She wanted people to like her, [and] her conversation had unexpected depths. She showed an interest in intellectual subjects which was, to say the least, disconcerting. In her presence it was hard to concentrate.”
Perhaps this earlier encounter is where the Sussex rumour originated. Nonetheless, there is no solid evidence to suggest Marilyn visited Sanders in England. (Cynically, one might conclude that it’s a case of local tittle-tattle transformed into an estate agent’s perfect marketing ploy…)