Tag Archives: Don’t Bother to Knock

Marilyn: ‘The Most Visible Star’

Marilyn in ‘Niagara’ (1953)

In an article for Film School Rejects, Angela Morrison asks why Marilyn’s acting achievements are still so often overlooked, and examines how her career was impacted by typecasting.

“What frequently happens when actors play the same types of characters over and over again is that audiences assume that the actor is their character in real life … many people believe Marilyn Monroe was genuinely being herself onscreen. This is inaccurate and does not give her very much credit for the hard work that went into her performances.

She essentially played the same character in all of her comedies, but brought a unique spin to each story … Flashes of her dramatic talents are visible in some of her early roles, such as her emotionally damaged babysitter in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), and and her femme fatale in 1953’s Niagara (one of my personal favorites of her performances).

Her final performance as Roslyn in John Huston’s The Misfits (1961) is just as powerful as Bus Stop, although perhaps more depressing … she was no longer playing young and naive ‘starlets’, but was instead portraying complex women. It takes talent to play both comedy and drama; however, dramas such as The Misfits require a different kind of depth than comedies such as Some Like It Hot (1959).”

‘A Wounded Bird’: Richard Widmark on Marilyn

Marilyn with Richard Widmark on the set of 'Don't Bother to Knock' (1952)
Marilyn with Richard Widmark on the set of ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’ (1952)

A 2002 interview with actor Richard Widmark – formerly Marilyn’s leading man, and Arthur Miller’s neighbour at Roxbury – is reprinted in today’s Telegraph. (While Marilyn’s difficulties on the set are well-documented, she gave one of her strongest performances opposite Widmark, who admitted in another interview, ‘At first we thought she’d never get anything right…but something happened between the lens and the film, and when we looked at the rushes she had the rest of us knocked off the screen!’)

“He was the anti-hero in several film noir classics and the object of Marilyn Monroe’s romantic obsession in one of her first major parts. ‘Well, Marilyn herself wasn’t obsessed with me,’ Widmark hastens to point out. ‘It was just the character she was playing.’

Their prolonged kiss in one scene of Don’t Bother to Knock, 1952, looks very convincing. Can it really be that there were no sparks between them? ‘None. She wasn’t even flirtatious. Not with me, anyway.’ He pauses and laughs. ‘I may be the only one she never flirted with.’

In truth, Widmark is such a dedicated professional that he couldn’t help being put off by Monroe’s erratic behaviour on the set. Overwhelmed by emotional traumas, she caused long delays.

His memory is so sharp that he speaks of their work on a 50-year-old film as if it were yesterday. ‘I liked Marilyn, but she was God-awful to work with. Impossible, really. She would hide in her dressing room and refuse to come out. Then, when she finally would show up, she was a nervous wreck. It was all a result of fear. She was insecure about so many things and was obviously self-destructive. She was a wounded bird from the beginning.'”

Nine Years and Counting: the ‘Variety’ of Marilyn

marilyn-monroe-variety-ad-new-face-in-townWriting for Variety, Tim Gray recalls how the movie industry’s leading trade publication chronicled Marilyn’s ‘nine years of stardom and a legacy that won’t quit’…

“Few Hollywood stars have created such a powerful legacy based on such a small, brief output: starring roles in 11 films, released during a nine-year period.

Fox ran an ad in Daily Variety in 1952, the year Monroe starred in Don’t Bother to Knock, proclaiming her ‘a new star.’ Studios often took out ads to promote contract players and 20th Century Fox was building her career, so the promo wasn’t unusual. However, in her case, the words sound more factual than hype.

Her big breakthrough occurred in 1953, when she starred in Niagara, How to Marry a Millionaire and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, all for Fox. From that point until her death, at age 36, she was the hottest thing in Hollywood.

Her final completed film came in 1961 with The Misfits. The following year, Daily Variety ran regular updates on the progress of her planned role in Fox’s Something’s Got to Give, from which she was eventually fired for not showing up.

Undeterred, she sought other roles. When Grace Kelly, aka Princess Grace of Monaco, dropped out of the Alfred Hitchcock project Marnie, Monroe expressed interest in playing the role of the chilly, neurotic kleptomaniac. ‘It’s an interesting idea,’ a noncommittal Hitchcock told Variety’s Army Archerd. It is indeed. It would have been a very different film.

Monroe died on Aug. 5, 1962, and the coroner eventually declared the cause of death was ‘acute barbiturate poisoning’ resulting from a ‘probable suicide.’ Laurence Olivier, her co-star and director in The Prince and the Showgirl, said ‘She was a complete victim of ballyhoo and sensation.’ An op-ed piece in the Albany Times-Union said, ‘It’s hard to understand that a girl so many people loved could be so lonely.’

But, as always, the public had the final word. A week after her death, Variety reported a poll by Creative Research Associates of Chicago on public reaction. Men and women liked her equally, describing her as a sex symbol, ‘having a quality of innocence, an unawareness of her physical endowments.’ Of the films she starred in (or had supporting roles in), the respondents predicted she would be best remembered for Some Like It Hot, The Seven Year Itch and How to Marry a Millionaire.

Public tastes are very fickle, but her fans were on the money, even back then.

Though many of Hollywood’s biggest stars had long careers, like Charlie Chaplin, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Bette Davis and Marlon Brando, two other notable names also had short resumes: James Dean and Grace Kelly, who, interestingly, also rose to fame in the early 1950s.”

Best Hotel Films: ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’

64894Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) is featured on a list of the ‘best hotel films’, compiled by HotelierMiddleEast.com. Other selections from classic Hollywood include Grand Hotel, Key Largo, The Bellboy and Psycho.

“Notable mostly for featuring Marilyn Monroe’s first serious role, Don’t Bother to Knock stars the shapely blond as an off-kilter, seriously psychotic babysitter being wooed by a recently single airline pilot. The film takes place solely within the confines of the McKinley Hotel in New York City.”

Sight & Sound: Marilyn’s Method

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Accompanying the ‘Birth of the Method‘ season at London’s BFI – including a screening of Bus Stop in November – the current issue of UK magazine Sight and Sound features an in-depth article about Hollywood’s Method pioneers. If you want to buy a copy, hurry – the next issue will be out in a few days. (A shorter version of the article is available here.)

“But the example of the Method, and the lure of the Actors Studio as a place where actors could go for help, could also have a positive effect on outside actors, as in the example of Marilyn Monroe. Groomed for stardom and inevitably typecast by her studio, Monroe was drawn by the promise of the ‘new’ style of actor training offered at the Actors Studio. Perhaps too eagerly, Strasberg became both surrogate therapist and parent to the troubled actress, but he did help her to hone the talent amply displayed in her early work – her psychotic babysitter in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), her smouldering wife in Niagara (1953.) When she had a good part, as in Bus Stop (1956), playing a no-talent chanteuse longing for love and self-respect, she was deeper and more self-revealing than she had been before.”

Behind the Scenes With Marilyn

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.”

Korea Photos, and More, at Heritage Auctions

Heritage Auctions are holding an Entertainment & Music Memorabilia sale on August 10th, including several very desirable Marilyn-related items. Among the lots, two sets of rare Korea photos have attracted the attention of the Daily Mail:

“A set of 13 black and white photographs, taken by an official army photographer, capture touching behind the scenes moments from the tour.

Monroe, who was aged 28 at the time, is seen in combat boots and black trousers and a flight jacket chatting to soldiers and signing autographs in the 8ins by 10ins prints.

Several images show her on stage wowing crowds in a sparkling cocktail dress while in others she is wearing her famed houndstooth dress from her film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

A set of four colour slides depict Monroe mingling and laughing with troops and signing autographs.

A 90-second clip of unseen footage from the visit shot by a young soldier shows her arriving in an army helicopter, meeting troops then leaving in the helicopter.

The images were bought by a collector in the 1990s direct from the photographer and have never been published.

Margaret Barrett, director of entertainment at Heritage Auctions, said: ‘These photos came from a collector who bought them about 18 years ago for very little money.

‘It isn’t known who shot the photos but we think it would have been an official Army photographer because they are professional images.

‘There were thousands of soldiers there all with their cameras but these photos show Marilyn behind the scenes posing for the camera and signing things for VIPs.

‘It was the only trip she did to see troops and in fact she only ever visited England after that trip – she wasn’t a world traveller.

‘These photos are really nice and have never been seen before. The photographer was with Marilyn at all the events she went to while in Korea.’

‘There are not too many quality photos of this trip, especially ones such as these which capture the behind the scenes moments.'”

Also on offer is the ‘possibly worn’ silver evening gown from Love Happy; some offscreen clothing; letters from Jean Negulesco and William Inge, and one from Marilyn to Inez Melson; two books owned by MM; and scripts for Don’t Bother to Knock, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire and Let’s Make Love.

 And finally, this rather sweet photo was taken on the set of Love Nest in 1951.

Richard Kirby: ‘The Birthday Girl’

Some of you may know Richard Kirby as author of the 2010 biography, Something Had to Give. On Marilyn’s birthday, he shared his thoughts on his personal blog:

“I’m sure most of you will have a favourite Marilyn film – mine is Don’t Bother to Knock – and some will have a favourite photograph (although there are quite a few to choose from!).  Mine is this 1953 shot taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt – for me it just encapsulates everything about this remarkable young woman.

Her expression seems to convey Marilyn alone with her thoughts… her dreams maybe, but there is the tiniest hint of fear in her eyes and for me, the photo perfectly displays the stark contrast between Marilyn’s beauty and vulnerability.

The picture will have probably been posed, yet looks effortlessly natural, and captivating as a result.”

 

Birth of an Actress: Norma as Nell

Marilyn was the subject of a TCM Summer Under the Stars blogathon on Saturday. One of the outstanding pieces was ‘Birth of an Actress’, a look at Marilyn’s role in Don’t Bother to Knock, from Kitty Packard Pictorial.

“Her walk down the corridor is a death march. She leans against the wall for support. Her beautiful eyes wide and full of numbed confusion. Her perfect face cracked with the deep stain of lost, desperate tears. This is not Nell Forbes. This is not Marilyn Monroe. This is Norma Jeane Mortenson. For the final 10 minutes of the film, she is exposed: for all her cosmetic perfection, she is raw and imperfect, alone and afraid, desperate to feel the warmth of love and kindness and respect but all-too aware that she never will.”

And yesterday at Sunset Gun, blogger Kim Morgan looked at the same movie, in a post entitled, ‘The Noncomformist: Norma Jeane Nell.’

“And yet there’s a wonderful strength to Monroe (the woman endured so much in her own life that she was, as Elton knows, more than a candle in the wind) — she was such a strong, singular performer (there will never, ever be another Marilyn) that her vulnerability gives her a special power, even as we want to hide her from every skulking Uncle Elisha Cook, ready to pounce. So bless her for revealing such powerful sadness. And bless her for holding on as long as she did. And bless her for never, ever being normal.”

Marilyn’s Movies at AFI Silver

The AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Springs, Washington, is hosting an MM retrospective through to September. Screenings include The Seven Year Itch, Some Like it Hot, Don’t Bother to Knock, Niagara, Monkey Business, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Prince and the Showgirl, How to Marry a Millionaire, Bus Stop, All About Eve, Clash by Night, The Asphalt Jungle, and The Misfits.