The Palm Springs Cultural Centre is hosting a summer season of Marilyn’s movies each Wednesday at 7 pm, with Niagara on July 10; followed by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on July 17, How to Marry a Millionaire on July 24, and Some Like It Hot on July 31. On Wednesdays at 7 through August, catch The Seven Year Itch, Bus Stop, Let’s Make Love and Monkey Business. And finally, the retrospective winds up in September with Don’t Bother to Knock and The Misfits.
On Marilyn’s 93rd birthday, Sophia Waterfield aggregates online ratings from Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes to gauge the 10 highest scoring Monroe movies with critics and audiences today in a post for Newsweek. The results are surprising, with her dramatic roles in Don’t Bother to Knock and The Misfits tying for first place; followed by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Asphalt Jungle, with perennial favourite Like It Hot coming in fifth. The ranking continues with All About Eve, Monkey Business, The Seven Year Itch, Niagara, and How to Marry a Millionaire.
Meanwhile on the Gold Derby website, Zach Laws and Chris Beachum pick their top 15, with Some Like It Hot, The Misfits and The Seven Year Itch on top. Three more of my favourites – Bus Stop, Clash By Night and The Prince and the Showgirl – occupy the 5th, 13th and 14th places respectively, with River Of No Return ranked 11th and There’s No Business Like Show Business at 15th. (Of all Marilyn’s major movies, Let’s Make Love is the only one not to make either list.)
“Don’t Bother to Knock offers the 26-year-old Monroe an especially rigorous dramatic workout as an emotionally disturbed young woman whose inner demons come to the fore while she’s babysitting a six-year-old girl in a New York City hotel … Despite her limited acting experience, Monroe tackles the tricky role well, juggling naïveté, passion, rage, and emotional distress with surprising aplomb. She also displays a heartbreaking vulnerability that makes us feel for Nell’s predicament despite her shocking and reprehensible actions. Though still rough around the edges and a bit studied, Marilyn’s work has a disarming authenticity, especially in her emotional scene … Don’t Bother to Knock, which runs a brief 76 minutes, begins sluggishly and the tale isn’t particularly well developed. Still, this throwaway B movie flaunts an impressive pedigree. Director Roy Baker, who would later helm the classic Titanic docudrama A Night to Remember, nicely builds tension, while cinematographer Lucien Ballard (The Wild Bunch) beautifully photographs Marilyn, maximizing the impact of every close-up.
Let’s Make Love is a pleasant, innocuous diversion, but it lacks the effervescence of more spirited romantic comedies. Though peppered by a few pointed barbs, Norman Krasna’s script meanders along, and the direction by the esteemed George Cukor is anemic at best …The only reason Monroe consented to do this inferior film was because she was desperate to fulfill her contractual obligations to Fox, which never really respected her talent and often saddled her with vapid, ornamental roles designed to exploit her sexuality. Yet despite looking a tad zaftig and occasionally glazed here, Marilyn does her best to rise to the occasion. She handles her free-spirited part like a pro, exuding marvelous warmth, sensitivity, and some welcome spunk. She’s at her best in a couple of lively musical numbers, the finest of which is her dynamite opening salvo, a coyly sexy, tongue-in-cheek take on Cole Porter’s ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ that stands as one of Marilyn’s finest screen moments.”
Over at Vulture, film critic Angelica Jade Bastien names Fritz Lang’s Clash By Night (1952) in a list of ’10 Female-Led Noirs’. Some might argue that Clash isn’t a classic noir, as it’s not set in a major city and no serious crimes are committed – but for me, its gritty treatment of post-war discontent, and repressed sexuality and simmering violence place it firmly in the canon. (I would argue that Don’t Bother to Knock and Niagara also partially qualify, thanks to Marilyn’s gripping scenes with Anne Bancroft and Jean Peters, respectively.)
“What happens when the woman people view you as isn’t who you really are, nor who you want to be? Clash by Night poses this question by beginning where most noir ends. Mae Doyle (Stanwyck) has grown accustomed to a decadent life, but is forced to return to her hometown of Monterey, California, after that life falls apart. Soon, Mae settles into a life in which she’s uncomfortable, navigating marrying a gruff fisherman (Paul Douglas) and having a daughter quickly after. She finds herself drawn to the far more exciting, equally restless Earl (noir stalwart Robert Ryan). Clash by Night is a domestic noir bolstered by its rich insight into the ways women feel confined by society, as well as by its amazing direction by the legendary Fritz Lang and its performances, including a magnetic supporting turn by Marilyn Monroe. But it’s Stanwyck’s performance as a woman of temerity who is far too bold and yearning for the prosaic existence she finds herself trapped within that earns it a spot on this list.”
Actress Lurene Tuttle, who appeared in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) and Niagara (1953), will be the subject of a presentation by Elten Powers of the Steuben County Genealogical Society at the Carnegie Public Library in Angola, Indiana on Monday, September 17 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm, KPC News reports.
Born into a family with theatrical connections in nearby Pleasant Lake in 1907, Lurene Tuttle became a radio actress in the 1930s, and made her movie debut in 1947. In Don’t Bother to Knock, Lurene plays Ruth Jones, who is staying in a hotel with her husband during a business conference, when the elevator operator suggests they hire his niece, Nell Forbes (played by Marilyn) to babysit their young daughter.
It soon becomes clear that Nell is a troubled young woman, and after Ruth leaves her alone with the little girl, Nell puts on Ruth’s negligee, jewellery and perfume. Towards the end of the film, Ruth returns to find her daughter bound and gagged in the bedroom, and a struggle ensues in which Ruth ultimately overpowers Nell.
This brief scene was recreated in a rather lurid series of publicity photos featuring Lurene and Marilyn. They did not appear together in Niagara, in which Lurene plays Mrs Kettering, the cheerful, long-suffering wife of honeymooning ad-man Ray Cutler’s loquacious boss. Her character mirrors that of Polly Cutler (played by Jean Peters.)
“It is STUNNING! Honestly worth it for the packaging alone! I’ve had a sneak peek and it’s very well done, although the only down side is that the inclusion of the wonderful documentary The Mortal Goddess as a special feature is just the 45 min version, not the full 90 min version.”
Next up is a review from Mike Clark at Media Play News:
“Filmed on three or four simple sets and clocking in at just 76 minutes, Don’t Bother to Knock is an unusual movie for Marilyn Monroe to have made just as she was on the brink of the Twentieth Century-Fox superstardom that was obviously on Darryl Zanuck’s mind (along with, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to hear, one of two other things). Though professionally speaking, Julie Kirgo notes in another of her well-researched Twilight Time essays, that he did make Monroe test for the part, a lesson that one wonders if he forgot when it came to Bella Darvi.
Knock was one five movies that marked Monroe’s 1952 output — along with two Fox comedies, a cameo in the opening segment of the studio’s all-star anthology O. Henry’s Full House and a loan-out to RKO for Clash by Night. Though the last was a drama, she didn’t have to carry large chunks of it, but in Knock, she has to bring off a case of frightening bonker-dom brought on by her lover’s death — an emotional condition that ends up threatening a child’s life.
It’s a somnambulant performance somewhere between effective and one she gets away with — though some will tell you that I’m underrating it, and possibly so. Call Monroe’s approach a second cousin, say, to Kim Novak’s deadpanned dialogue deliveries in Vertigo, though the passage of time has pretty well rendered Novak’s turn a complete success, no matter how she and Alfred Hitchcock got there. Monroe, of course, just got better as she aged, which more people should have told her at the time.”
Marilyn is the latest cover girl for Noir City, a digital quarterly published by the Film Noir Foundation. Inside, there’s an eight-page illustrated article, with Jake Hinkson analysing her diverse roles in The Asphalt Jungle, Clash by Night, Don’t Bother to Knock and Niagara. Fellow bombshells Diana Dors and Gloria Grahame are also profiled in this issue. To subscribe to Noir City, join their mailing list and donate $20 or more to the foundation, who host regular screenings across the US and a yearly film festival, and also publish an annual print round-up of the best features.
As reported last week, Don’t Bother To Knock has been released on Blu-Ray. Film critic Kim Morgan a longtime friend of this blog, has reviewed it for the latest issue of Kill Or Be Killed magazine, which you can order here.
“It’s a heartbreaking portrait, and a movie that sympathises with Nell [Monroe], but the moral of the story comes somewhat at Nell’s expense – Widmark’s Jed becomes the decent man for not giving in to temptation with the damaged woman. He finally shows an ‘understanding heart.’ It’s almost heroic because in real life many men wouldn’t be sensitive enough to resist. And you know that Nell will learn that soon enough. Likely, she already has.”
One of my favourite Monroe movies, Don’t Bother to Knock will be released on Blu-Ray by Twilight Time Video on March 20. It’s a limited release with a high-def transfer, and it’s Region 0 so should be compatible with most Blu-Ray players. Special features include the excellent documentary, Marilyn Monroe: The Mortal Goddess.
Here’s an excerpt from Mike Finnegan’s Twilight Time review:
“Made early in her blazing movie career before the full range of her comedic and dramatic gifts were fully explored, it’s intriguing to note that many later reappraisals of the Marilyn Monroe thriller Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) cite the storyline of a mentally fragile woman whose personal insecurities and sad delusions trigger dangerous behavior seem to prefigure her later-in-life struggles. It does endure as a neatly executed noir exercise with a richer than usual bench of character portrayals from Monroe’s colleagues Richard Widmark, young Donna Corcoran, Jeanne Cagney, Lurene Tuttle, Elisha Cook Jr., Jim Backus and Verna Felton, and in that company, Monroe impressively delivers the goods … Monroe reportedly struggled with the role and caused some consternation with her director and castmates, but 66 years later, that very process of struggle seems to vindicate the promise of her undeniable talent on screen, while subsequent assessments of Don’t Bother to Knock, which got no critical love in its time but now seems all the more “on the cusp” of greater things henceforth, not only for Monroe (who would show further evidence of her dramatic chops as a scheming wife contemplating spousal murder in the following year’s Niagara), but for Baker and Bancroft too.”
Thanks to Fraser Penney
A red taffeta gown with black lace overlay and fishtail skirt worn by Marilyn in 1952 has been recovered and will be on display at the New York Open House at the city’s French Embassy this weekend, reports NY1. Marilyn wore the dress for a photo shoot with Bob Landry, and on several public outings.
“‘We are pretty sure that it belonged to her but the mystery remains, we don’t know why it is here, because to our knowledge, she never came to the French Embassy,’ said Benedict de Montlaur, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy.”
The French embassy is situated on Fifth Avenue, at the former Payne Whitney family mansion. Ironically, Marilyn was briefly a patient at the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Hospital on East 68th Street in 1961. She also received a Crystal Star award at a venue described as the French Film Institute or Consulate in 1959, but wore a different outfit to the ceremony.
Christopher Nickens wrote about the dress – purchased ‘off the rack’ in 1951, after Marilyn rejoined Twentieth Century Fox – in his 2012 book, Marilyn In Fashion:
“With a steady pay-check coming in, she indulged in some new clothes. She bought this evening gown at I. Magnin’s department store. It is a strapless red silk taffeta, snug from the bodice down to just below the hips, and covered in black French lace. The black lace gloves and a black fox boa Marilyn wore with the dress helped soften some of its gaudiness. ‘I paid a stiff price for it,’ Marilyn said. ‘I was told that the dress was the only copy of an original purchased by a San Francisco social leader.’
Marilyn wore the dress on several occasions, including the 1952 Photoplay magazine awards, and for the party celebrating the opening of Don’t Bother to Knock. She considered it her lucky dress because of the attention it always brought her although it was criticised in the press. ‘This was the dress that provoked so much comment … it was proof positive, they claimed, that I was utterly lacking in taste. I’m truly sorry, but I love the dress.'”