My review of Amanda Konkle’s excellent book, Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe, is featured in the latest issue (#38) of UK fanzine Mad About Marilyn, alongside articles about Marilyn’s arduous promotional tour for the final Marx Brothers movie, Love Happy (1949); ‘A New Marilyn Comes Back’, first published by Movie Spotlight in 1956; and a profile of photographer Bruno Bernard, aka ‘Bernard of Hollywood’.
Bus Stop is one of my favourite Monroe films: an evocative character piece with an outstanding performance from Marilyn. However, many now find its gender politics – and Bo’s manhandling of Cherie – outdated and sexist. On the Culled Culture blog today, Genna Rivieccio considers why Bus Stop ‘didn’t do justice to how Marilyn Monroe fought to break free of the studio’s stereotype of her.’ (In her recent book, Some Kind of Mirror, Amanda Konkle takes a more positive view, noting that Cherie resists Bo’s advances until he learns to satisfy her desires.)
“Marilyn Monroe had spent months waiting out her unprecedented studio battle with 20th Century Fox. After fleeing to New York from Los Angeles like some sort of blonde haloed fugitive, Marilyn refused to ever turn back. To ever succumb to any of the dumb sexpot roles Darryl Zanuck wanted her to make in perpetuity. Yet the choice of ‘Chérie’–ultimately pronounced Cherry by the one who ‘wrangles’ her–in William Inge’s play, Bus Stop, didn’t seem to do much to distance herself from the image she so strongly claimed to detest. But maybe a part of her was terrified to shed it completely. For the thought of losing her adoring fans–the only source of true love in her life–was likely just as scary as forever being typecast. So it is that she went with the “just daring enough” role of Chérie … there is a meta tongue-in-cheek moment in which Chérie talks about her big plan to make it to Hollywood where ‘you get treated with a little respect.’ It’s an overt dig at Zanuck and 20th Century Fox (which Marilyn famously called 19th Century Fox for its backward treatment of female stars) …
Yet like Chérie, she can’t help but look to men for salvation. The two prototypes that would be her most tumultuous romances (and marriages), Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, are both apparent in Beau. Outwardly, his rough-hewn tactlessness makes him a closer match to DiMaggio … Upon learning of her ‘sordid’ past (a.k.a. that she’s been with a few men to further accent the fact that Beau hasn’t–Miller, too, was rather virginal, having only ever been with his first wife before Marilyn), Beau finds the key to unlocking her heart by telling her, ‘Well, I’ve been thinkin’ about them other fellas, Cherry, and, well, what I mean is, I like you the way you are, so what do I care how you got that way?’ Miller told her pretty much the same thing, never chastising her the way DiMaggio did for parading her sexy persona, which is a primary reason why she fell in love with him …
Once again in this film (as in life), Monroe is a little girl lost, who is put back on the right path by a male savior. This was not a departure by any means from what she had done in the past with the studio, and made one wonder how the accolades came in so readily for a movie such as this, when past roles in Clash By Night, Don’t Bother to Knock and Niagara provided her far more opportunity for dramatic range.
Bus Stop is still billed as somewhere in between a comedy and drama, though it very much falls into an almost screwball comedy genre (for that’s kind of how one has to look at a movie so overtly dripping with misogyny and the suppression of the female will). Marilyn would only make four more movies after this, among them being one of the most praised of her career, Some Like It Hot (with another two, The Prince and the Showgirl and Let’s Make Love, being largely panned), a film in which, you guessed it, Marilyn relies on the comedic sex symbol shtick that launched her into the spotlight in the first place.”
57 years after her death, Marilyn Monroe remains the greatest movie icon the world has ever known – a legacy celebrated in Amanda Konkle’s new book, Some Kind Of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe. You can read my review here.
Author Amanda Konkle will be signing copies of her new book, Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe, at E. Shaver Booksellers in Savannah, Georgia on Saturday, May 18, from 1 – 3 pm EDT. Amanda, who is an assistant professor of film studies and English at Georgia Southern University, has written a dynamic study of how Marilyn’s screen performances both reflected and pushed the boundaries of attitudes towards women and sex in 1950s America. (I’m currently working on a review of Some Kind of Mirror, and I thoroughly recommend it!)
Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe is a new academic study of Marilyn’s movie performances by Amanda Konkle. Although set for publication on February 28, it’s already in stock at The Book Depository. Having just read it, I can whole-heartedly recommend this book: it’s thoughtful without being stuffy, and puts the focus back on Marilyn’s work. Some Kind of Mirror is illustrated with screen-captures from Marilyn’s films, as well as the beautiful cover photo by Eve Arnold (showing Marilyn during filming of The Misfits, toasting her loyal friends and co-workers.)
Sarah Churchwell’s excellent 2005 ‘meta-biography’, The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, will be reissued in March, as well as being published digitally for the first time. (The only downside for me is no Marilyn on the cover!)
“A lifestyle guide and tribute to the style, glamour, and showmanship of Hollywood’s most iconic star, with Marilyn-inspired lessons and inspiration for today’s woman.
While the 1950s was in many ways an era of repression for women, Marilyn Monroe broke barriers and rebelled against convention — and charmed the world with her beauty, talent, and irresistible personality. Filled with gorgeous photos, The Little Book of Marilyn will show you how to bring a touch of that glamour into your own life through:
* Tutorials on recreating the star’s makeup looks
* Style advice and tips on where to find Marilyn-like fashions
* Décor ideas from Marilyn’s own homes
* Everyday inspiration from her life that will let your inner Marilyn shine, and much more!”
2018 is shaping up to be another great year for Marilyn’s book-loving fans. Marilyn: Lost and Forgotten, featuring 150 images from Colin Slater’s Hollywood Photo Archive, is set for publication in October. For those who can’t get enough of those classic Hollywood beauties, a companion volume – Venus in Hollywood: Portraits from the Golden Age of Glamour – is due in November.
Looking further ahead, Amanda Konkle’s Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe, a scholarly look at her film performances, will be published in February 2019. (Only the Kindle version is available for pre-order as yet.)
Reno, a 2016 play by Roy Smiles about Marilyn’s conflicted relationships with husband Arthur Miller and director John Huston during the tumultuous filming of The Misfits, will be published shortly by Oberon Modern Playwrights (the Kindle version is currently available for pre-order.)
And finally, Elizabeth Winder’s Marilyn in Manhattan is now available in Turkish; and Marilyn Monroe: 1926-1962, a new study of her untimely death by Eva Enderström, has been published in Sweden.