Although better-known for her high-glam comedies, Marilyn shone in dramatic roles when the opportunity arose. Over at NCN, The Misfits represents 1961 in an article listing the Best Western Films from the Year You Were Born, while at Classic Movie Hub, Gary Vitacco Robles continues his series on Marilyn’s movies with a look at Don’t Bother to Knock (you can read his take on Niagarahere.)
“Four years before she set foot into the Actors Studio, Marilyn gives a Method Acting performance, beginning with her entrance. Nell enters the hotel’s revolving door in a simple cotton dress, low heels, a black sweater, and a beret. From behind, we see her outfit is wrinkled as if she had been sitting on the subway for a long time … Nell’s backstory is cloaked, and Monroe builds the character through use of her body in a manner studied with [Michael] Chekhov. She moves with hesitancy and scans her environment in a way that suggests she has not been in public for a long time.
According to [co-star] Anne Bancroft, Marilyn disagreed with both [director] Roy Ward Baker and acting coach Natasha Lytess on how to play the final climatic scene, ignoring their advice. ‘The talent inside that girl was unquestionable,’ Bancroft told John Gilmore. ‘She did it her way and this got right inside me, actually floored me emotionally.’
Nell Forbes is a fragmented personality with a blank expression. Sadness, fear, and rage register in Monroe’s face with credibility. She fluctuates from an introverted waif to someone who seems ruthless, even dangerous. Having worked with Chekhov, Monroe learned to delve deep into her own reservoir of painful memories and accessed her own natural talent for portraying vulnerability and madness. Employing Chekhov’s technique of physicality, she frequently held her waist as if the character were preventing herself from succumbing to madness. Perhaps Monroe’s mother, Gladys, served as inspiration. Gladys was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and institutionalized for long periods of time.
Monroe gives a stunning, riveting performance as a damaged woman, and suggests an alternative path her career might have taken if her physical beauty had not dictated the roles Fox gave her. Indeed, her comic performances were gems, which ultimately led to her legendary status, but what heights might she have achieved had she been allowed to experiment with more dramatic roles earlier in her career? Sadly, the film is rarely emphasized as a part of her body of work.
Arguably, Monroe effectively channeled her mentally ill mother and gives a believable performance as a vaguely written character in a script without any description of her personality. Monroe later told friend Hedda Rosten that Don’t Bother to Knock was one of her favorite films and considered Nell her strongest performance.”
As Jake Dee reports for Screen Rant, the top-ranking Marilyn movie on user-led review site Rotten Tomatoes is not one of the more famous comedies, but her early dramatic role in Don’t Bother to Knock, reviewed here by film blogger Wess Haubrich.
“One huge reason Marilyn rocked my world as a lover of film, is that I myself have struggled with depression … I identify with her struggle with mental illness (read a heart-breaking letter she wrote about her time in a psychiatric ward here) — the seed of which was likely planted long before her stardom: her mother was not in her life as she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and spent much time in and out of hospitals, and virtually none with her daughter — because I too have been there, in that deep, dark, blacker-than-the-deepest-black hole.
1952’s Don’t Bother to Knock (based upon the 1951 novel Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong) hits on those fronts and is also, in my view, Marilyn at her most visibly delicate, at least early on in the film. The film is 66 years old this August.
We see Marilyn Monroe in the role of the fragile Nell Forbes, new to Manhattan and recruited by her uncle Eddie, who is an elevator operator in a ritzy hotel in the city, to babysit for an affluent couple … [the] tension in Nell Forbes’ unfolding psychosis is made all the more palpable because Marilyn Monroe’s performance feels like it reaches into the pit of her soul and her struggle with mental illness.
In the screen test for her role, Monroe stayed up for 48 hours straight training hard with her acting coach Natasha Lytess (much in the way of rumor circles the two women), even disobeying direct orders not to sneak Lytess on to the soundstage during her screen test, despite Monroe’s notoriously insecure nature at this point in her career. This gamble she took to get her first starring role in feature film paid off with a successful test, and Zanuck himself sent her a note of congratulations.
Don’t Bother to Knock was unjustly lampooned by the critics when it was released. Marilyn Monroe’s performance is truly something to behold, despite the low budget B-Picture trappings surrounding the film itself. It is a fine contribution to the canon of both film noir and B-Movie history.”
Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) gave Marilyn her first dramatic lead role, and also marked the debut of future Oscar-winner Anne Bancroft. “It was a remarkable experience,” she said of working with Marilyn in the film’s powerful final scene. “Because it was one of those very few times in all my experiences in Hollywood when I felt that give and take that can only happen when you are working with good actors. There was just this scene of one woman seeing another woman who was helpless and in pain, and [Marilyn] was helpless and in pain. It was so real, I responded. I really reacted to her. She moved me so that tears came into my eyes.”
Anne, who died in 2005, is given a long-overdue retrospective in a new Region1/A Blu-Ray set from Shout Factory, with the approval of her husband Mel Brooks. “Not only was she truly gifted but she was smart in every way,” he tells the Chicago Sun-Times. “And these films are GREAT!”
Released today, The Anne Bancroft Collection includes Don’t Bother to Knock, The Miracle Worker, The Pumpkin Eater, The Graduate, Fatso, To Be Or Not To Be, Agnes of God, and 84 Charing Cross Road, plus bonus features and a 20-page booklet.
Incidentally, Don’t Bother to Knock – presented in 1080p High Definition (1.37:1) / DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, and accompanied by the original trailer plus isolated music score – was previously released as a stand-alone, limited edition Blu-Ray by Twilight Time Video in 2018.
Donna Corcoran, the former child actress who, aged nine, played a girl terrorised by her babysitter in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), was one of eight children born to William and Kathleen Corcoran. Donna and several of her siblings (including Noreen Corcoran, who died in 2016) entered the movie industry after the family moved to Santa Monica in 1947, and their father was appointed head of maintenance at MGM. The Corcorans are the subject of a major article in the latest issue of Classic Imagesmagazine.
After making her debut in Angels of the Outfield (1951), starring Paul Douglas and Janet Leigh, Donna had an uncredited role in Love Is Better Than Ever (1952), starring another former child actress, Elizabeth Taylor. Donna appeared in two films starring ‘bathing beauty’ Esther Williams, Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) and Dangerous When Wet (1953). She also had roles in Jean Negulesco’s Scandal at Scourie (1953) and Fritz Lang’s Moonfleet (1955.) In her penultimate film, Gypsy Colt (1954), Donna had top billing. She continued working in television until 1963.
Although Marilyn often befriended her young co-stars, little is known about her interaction with Donna. Admittedly their onscreen relationship wasn’t ideal, with Marilyn’s disturbed character Nell almost pushing Bunny out of a hotel window before tying her up and locking her in the bedroom. It would be interesting to hear Donna’s memories of making Don’t Bother to Knock (she is now 77 years old.)
Incidentally, I have often wondered if Bunny Corcoran, the [young adult] murder victim in Donna Tartt’s 1992 novel, The Secret History, might have been named after Donna Corcoran’s performance as Bunny Jones. It’s a long shot, I’ll admit – but not entirely impossible, as each of Donna Tartt’s three books contain passing references to Marilyn and her movies.
Over 50 Marilyn-related lots will go under the hammer at on December 17-19, as part of the Hollywood – A Collector’s Ransom auction at Profiles in History. Marilyn’s costumes from A Ticket to Tomahawk, Love Nest, and Don’t Bother to Knock, and her fishnet tights from Bus Stop – which went unsold at last year’s Essentially Marilyn event – are back for a second chance. (UPDATE: the brown skirt suit worn by Marilyn in Love Nest has been sold for $30,000 – but again, the other movie costumes went unsold.)
As Simon Lindley reports for Just Collecting, Marilyn’s personal annotated screenplay for The Seven Year Itch is also on offer, with a reserve of $60-80K. (The photo shown above, taken on location in New York, is sold separately.)
“In the film Monroe’s character is known simply as ‘The Girl’, an aspiring actress who serves as the object of the husband’s desires.
But behind her on-screen persona as the blonde sex symbol, Monroe’s extensive handwritten annotations reveal her dedication to her craft.
Throughout the script she has written notes to herself such as ‘Look first indecisive – pause – hesitation – little smile’ and ‘My body into his – sliding into him as if I want to sleep with him right then & there. Swing hips again’.
This preparation and complete understanding of the role in evident in her notes for the famous ‘Subway’ scene, which helped cement her place as a genuine Hollywood icon.
The energy and sexuality which Monroe portrays may seem effortless, but her script notes show she though very carefully about how to play the moment: ‘Child w/a woman. Direct & fem[inine]. Open… This is everything there is in the world. Light & easy. Everything flies out of her. Newborn – the baby looking at the moon for the first time.'”
Screenplay UNSOLD; photo sold for $200
And now, let’s take a closer look at what else is on offer…
“Vintage original 8 x 10 in. photograph taken of 13 year-old Norma Jeane on a trip to Yosemite with ‘Aunt’ Ana Lower and other family members. And sold separately, a vintage original 2-page printed 6.25 x 9 in. Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior High School Class of Summer 1941 commencement program. The printed program contains itinerary including music, speeches, and songs. Listed alphabetically in the ‘Graduating Class, June 1941 Girls’ roster of graduates is ‘Baker, Norma Jeane’.”
“Vintage original gelatin silver 8 x 10 in. photograph of Marilyn with her junior high school glee club, smiling in the center of the group. The verso is copiously inscribed with messages to Norma Jeane by her girlfriends, including, ‘To a beautiful, sweet, charming, and darling, adorable Norma Jean’ and ‘I hope your ambition will come true – to stay an old maid all your life’.”
SOLD for $3,000
“A 2-page letter to ‘Cathy’ handwritten in pencil and signed, ‘Norma Jeane’. Written during a period of major transition in her life, Norma Jeane mentions a leave of absence from her job as a parachute inspector at Radioplane. She had recently been ‘discovered’ by US Army Air Force First Motion Picture Unit photographer David Conover while working at the plant, and through his connections, had been able to get freelance work as a pin-up model. She writes in full: ‘Thursday. My dearest Cathy, thank you for your sweet little note, why of course of course I like you dear very much, you know that. If I seem a little neglectful at times its because I’m so busy I don’t seem to have any time to catch up on my correspondence, but I promise after this, I shall, do better, honestly I will. Jimmie arrived about three weeks ago and you can imagine how thrilled I was. I only wish he didn’t have to go back. Jimmie and I went up to Big Bear Lake for a week and had a grand time I hope you and Bud will be down soon because I would love for you both to meet him. I’ve been on leave of absence from Radioplane. I shall tell you all about it when I see you honey or I shall write to you later. I have so many things I have to do so I had better close for now but I shall write soon. Tell Bud Hello for me. Love, Norma Jeane.'”
Vintage original 8 x 10 in. cast & crew photo from Marilyn’s first movie, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! She is in the third row, just above leading lady June Haver. SOLD for $1,500
“Vintage original gelatin silver 7 x 8.75 in. double weight matte photograph, inscribed and signed in black ink at lower right, ‘To Grace and Daddy Always Lovingly Norma Jeane 12/25/46′. The ‘daddy’ to whom Norma Jeanne inscribed this early headshot is Erwin ‘Doc’ Goddard, a research engineer and the husband of Norma Jeanne’s legal guardian, Grace Goddard. And sold separately, two oversize glamour portrait photographs of Marilyn Monroe in character as ‘Miss Caswell’ in All About Eve. The first is credit stamped by Ray Nolan with studio snipe, and the other, seen at right, attributed to Ed Clark.” [A poster for the film, signed by Bette Davis, Joseph Mankiewicz, and Celeste Holm, is being sold separately.]
Signed photo SOLD for $30,000; poster SOLD for $6,000.
Two vintage calendars including a 1950 wall calendar measuring 8.5 x 14.5 in., and featuring paintings by Earl Moran, six featuring Marilyn, alongside cute, risque poems like, ‘What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice, Perfume that smells nice, Jewels and furs, To attract attention, And other good things Too obvious to mention’, and a wall calendar featuring unique topless ‘cowgirl’ images of Marilyn not seen elsewhere. Sold separately, a 16 x 32 in. pin-up 1952 wall calendar titled, ‘The Lure of Lace‘. Featuring Marilyn Monroe in her famous Tom Kelley nude kneeling pose, but with a black lace teddy ‘overprint’.”
“Two original studio production 8 x 10 in. negatives of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, each modeling wardrobe by designer William Travilla. [Russell wore a blonde wig to impersonate Marilyn in a courtroom scene.] Each includes within image a ‘shot-board’ documentation of production, scene, and change numbers. Also included are two original wardrobe documentation green pages detailing costumes [Monroe page describes a different costume, for the opening ‘Little Rock’ number.] At some point in time a positive copy print of the Monroe negative was made for archive continuity, but is not original to the production.”
“11 x 14 in. portrait by Ed Clark of Marilyn in the gold lame gown from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for LIFE magazine. Signed in black ink on Marilyn’s skirt by the photographer, ‘Edmund Clark Life’.”
SOLD for $300
“Photo of Marilyn at the Photoplay Awards in 1953, part of a 1750-image archive for celebrity snapper J.B. Scott. And sold separately, an award plaque presented to Marilyn by a County Fair ‘Sugar Queen’, engraved, ‘To the Sweetest Girl in Motion Pictures, Marilyn Monroe, 20th Century-Fox Films Star Presented by 1953 Yolo County Fair Sugar Queen’.”
Photo archive SOLD for $95,000; award plaque UNSOLD.
“Elois Jenssen costume sketch for Lucille Ball as ‘Lucy Ricardo’ as ‘Marilyn Monroe’ from I Love Lucy. Elois Jenssen was Lucille Ball’s designer of choice, who is credited with creating the ‘Lucy Look’. This dress design was created for the I Love Lucy Episode: ‘Ricky’s Movie Offer’, which aired on Nov. 8th, 1954. In the episode, ‘Lucy’ transforms herself into Marilyn Monroe to try to win a role in Ricky’s (Desi Arnaz) new Hollywood film. This costume was then repurposed into a showgirl costume for two subsequent episodes.” [Elois Jenssen’s costume sketches for Marilyn in We’re Not Married are being sold separately.]
“Ten 8 x 10 in. photographs of Marilyn Monroe in scenes from films, including the earliest title which depicts her on any of its publicity, Dangerous Years. Other highlights include Ladies of the Chorus, The Asphalt Jungle, Right Cross [to our knowledge, this still is the only original release paper to depict Marilyn], Let’s Make it Legal, and [shown above] Bus Stop.
SOLD for $225
“A set of fourteen 7 x 8.5 in. to 8 x 10 in. photographs, a mix of portraits, candids, and scenes, including stills from The Seven Year Itch and Let’s Make Love [at left] and a candid by Al Brack [at right], showing Marilyn on location for Bus Stop in Sun Valley, Idaho.”
“Two exhibition photos signed by Marvin Scott, of Marilyn performing at a circus benefit in 1955; and sold separately, another set including this photo of Marilyn arriving at Los Angeles in 1958 for the filming of Some Like It Hot.
“A candid photo taken by Milton Greene at Marilyn’s wedding to Arthur Miller; and sold separately, two address books from her estate, including typed and annotated entries for contacts including Actor’s Studio, Jack Benny, Eve Arden, George Cukor, Montgomery Clift, Jack Cardiff, Joe DiMaggio, Henry Fonda, John Huston, Hedda Hopper, Designers, makeup artists, Ben Gazzara, Gene Kelly, Jack Lemmon, Yves Montand, Arthur Miller, Robert Montgomery, Jane Russell, Jean Negulesco, Lee and Paula Strasberg, David Selznick, Carl Sandburg, Frank Sinatra, Eli Wallach, Shelley Winters, Clifford Odets, Peter Lawford, JAX, Richard Avedon, Louella Parsons, and more. Annotations not attributed to Monroe.”
And finally, a set of nine photos from Marilyn’s last completed film, The Misfits (1961.) SOLD for $4,500
“A single page removed from a trade publication such as Variety or The Hollywood Reporter with text reading in part ‘Thank you / Marilyn Monroe’ — an ad the star placed in the publication to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for her 1962 Golden Globe win for ‘World Favorite Actress,’ mounted to cardboard; found in Monroe’s own files. ”
SOLD for $512
A framed still photo showing Marilyn with co-stars June Haver, William Lundigan and Jack Paar in Love Nest (1951); and a costume test shot for Don’t Bother to Knock (1952.)
Photo sets SOLD for $640 and $896, respectively
Marilyn and Jane Russell performing ‘Two Little Girls From Little Rock’ in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, as seen on the cover of LIFE magazine in 1953. Marilyn’s costume is expected to fetch a maximum $80,000 – see here.)
Magazine SOLD for $896; costume SOLD for $250,000
A still photo of Marilyn during filming of River of No Return in 1953. The gown she wore while performing the theme song is expected to fetch a maximum $80,000 – see here.
Photo set SOLD for $1,152; costume SOLD for $175,000
Travilla’s costume sketch for the ‘Heat Wave’ number in There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954), and a colour transparency of Marilyn in costume for a wardrobe test shot. (The costume itself is estimated to fetch up to $80,000 – see here.)
Sketch SOLD for $11,520; photo SOLD for $750; costume SOLD for $280,000
A framed still photo of Marilyn performing ‘Heat Wave‘, and a custom-made, one-of-a-kind poster made for the Century Theatre in the Hamilton, Ontario area to advertise a raffle to win tickets to see There’s No Show Business Like Show Business.
Photo SOLD for $750; poster SOLD for $1,280
“A group of three, all original prints with a glossy finish, depicting the star behind-the-scenes on the set of her 1956 20th Century Fox film, Bus Stop; all have typed text on the bottom margin noting to credit Al Brack who was a ‘Sun Valley, Idaho photographer.'”
SOLD for $576
A pair of memos regarding Milton Greene’s photos from the set of The Prince and the Showgirl; and, sold separately, a contact sheet. The second memo reads in part, ‘Dear Mike, The print you sent me, that Marilyn Monroe said she had killed, is incorrectly numbered. Marilyn is right – she did kill it.’ Both memos are dated April 11, 1957, and are addressed to ‘Meyer Hunter.’ Lois Weber, one of Monroe’s publicists at the time, authored both memos.”
Memos SOLD for $312.50; contact sheet SOLD for $500
Still photo of Marilyn with co-stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in a scene from Some Like It Hot (1959.)
Photo set SOLD for $576
“A pair of colour slides of Marilyn Monroe in a scene from How To Marry a Millionaire (1953), and during a press conference for Let’s Make Love with co-star Frankie Vaughan on January 16, 1960.”
Still photos taken by Lawrence Schiller during filming of the ‘pool scene’ in Something’s Got to Give.
Photo sets sold for $1,280 each
“A collection of approximately 65 pieces comprising only photocopied scripts and documents, all related to Marilyn Monroe’s films. Some film titles have more than one copy of the script, and some feature the working title and not the final one. All are bound into 20th Century Fox covers of various colors and appear to be the studio’s ‘loan out’ or ‘library’ copies. Pieces include (in alphabetical order): All About Eve (a treatment only), As Young As You Feel (2 scripts ), Bus Stop (3 scripts), Dangerous Years (1 script), Don’t Bother to Knock (2 scripts), The Full House (1 script), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (2 scripts plus 4 related documents), How to Marry a Millionaire (3 scripts plus 1 related document), Let’s Make Love (2 scripts), Love Nest (2 scripts), Monkey Business (2 scripts plus 2 related documents), Move Over, Darling (1 script), Niagara (2 scripts plus 4 related documents), O. Henry’s Full House (2 scripts plus 1 related document), River of No Return (1 script plus 5 related documents), The Seven Year Itch (3 scripts), Something’s Got to Give (1 script), There’s No Business Like Show Business (3 scripts plus 7 related documents), Ticket to Tomahawk (2 related documents), and We’re Not Married (1 script plus 1 related document). Also included are a few miscellaneous pieces related to Monroe. “
Film historian Rudy Behlmer has died aged 92, Varietyreports.
“Behlmer was among the most widely respected historians of Golden Age Hollywood, in part because of his insistence upon researching ‘primary source material’ and not relying on faulty memories or exaggerated press accounts of the time.
Memo From David O. Selznick, which Behlmer edited from thousands of Selznick’s private letters, telegrams and memoranda, was a best seller in 1972. Behlmer first interviewed the Gone With the Wind producer for a 1963 article for Films in Review, one of dozens of magazine pieces he wrote over the decades.
Other books followed: Hollywood’s Hollywood: The Movies About the Movies (with co-author Tony Thomas, 1975), Inside Warner Bros. 1935-1951 (1985), Behind the Scenes: The Making Of… (1989) and Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck (1993).
But essays and journalism were only part of Behlmer’s life. He enjoyed a lively and successful career in television and advertising throughout the 1950s and ’60s … He was director on ABC’s Ray Anthony Show, featuring the big-band leader and his orchestra, during the 1956-57 season, and served as executive producer and director for KCOP from 1960 to 1963, overseeing various shows including his own Movies’ Golden Age. “
InMemo From Darryl F. Zanuck: The Golden Years at Twentieth Century Fox, which is still in print after a quarter of a century, Behlmer offered insights into Marilyn’s prickly relationship with her studio boss, including this letter he sent to her North Crescent Drive address in December 1951, regarding her leading role in Don’t Bother to Knock and her insistence on having her dramatic coach Natasha Lytess on the set. (This was a battle Zanuck ultimately lost: Natasha continued working with Marilyn – much to the annoyance of her co-workers – until she was replaced by Paula Strasberg in 1956.)
“… I think you are capable of playing this role without the help of anyone but the director and yourself. You have built up a Svengali and if you are going to progress with your career and become as important talent-wise as you have publicity-wise then you must destroy this Svengali before it destroys you. When I cast you for the role I cast you as an individual …”
This memo from September 1952 reveals Zanuck’s vision for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in which Marilyn would play Lorelei to Jane Russell’s Dorothy – making clear that he recognised how crucial their friendship was to the movie. (This memo was addressed to producer Sol Siegel, director Howard Hawks and writer Charles Lederer.)
“There are two things which I consider vital to the telling of the story, and which I want to emphasise in the script. These are (1) The love story between Dorothy and Malone [Elliott Reid]; (2) Dorothy’s genuine affection for Lorelei.
This is not a satire. It is a solid and honest comedy … We must be completely sold on Dorothy’s love for Malone, or we won’t be able to accept her taking him back. And we must be sold on her real affection for Lorelei or we won’t be able to understand her sticking her neck out for her in the courtroom scene.
In order to accomplish these two things we must be willing, if necessary, to sacrifice comedy in these particular scenes …”
In March 1953, Zanuck contacted writer Nunnally Johnson, director Jean Negulesco and others involved with How to Marry a Millionaire, to express his satisfaction at how CinemaScope technology was enhancing the movie.
“… Almost in all instances the composition has been vastly improved over previous material. The full figure shot of [Lauren] Bacall on the bed and the big closeup filling the screen of Monroe were unique examples of the new medium.
I am still opposed to too much camera movement. I fully believe that while we have to occasionally move the camera we should put the emphasis on moving the actors …”
In 1954, Zanuck mooted the idea of a torrid biblical epic, The Queen of Sheba. It was never made, although United Artists would later produce Solomon and Sheba, starring Gina Lollobrigida.
“In a nutshell, this should be the story of a glamorous but evil temptress … As you know, confidentially, I have even flirted with the idea of Marilyn Monroe as Sheba. I think it might be one of the biggest box-office combinations of all time …”
And in 1955, Zanuck revealed that he had been offered I’ll Cry Tomorrow, the sensational biopic about alcoholic singer Lillian Roth, as a potential vehicle for Marilyn (then involved in a contractual dispute with Fox.) After Zanuck passed on it, the film was produced at MGM.
“This is a very interesting, solid, downbeat story and, while it has an outstanding performance by Susan Hayward, I considered it to be overrated … We turned down I’ll Cry Tomorrow, frankly because we were all afraid of the subject matter and of the fact that Lillian Roth was not a really famous personality. [Producer Julian] Blaustein wanted it but only if he could get Marilyn Monroe for the role …”
Zanuck left Fox to become an independent producer in 1956. By the time he returned in 1962, the studio was fighting bankruptcy. Reportedly, it was Zanuck who argued for Marilyn to be re-hired for Something’s Got to Give, although she would pass away before her final studio battle was concluded.
In 1960, columnist Hedda Hopper asked Zanuck why he had left Hollywood. His response makes it clear that he had anticipated the demise of the studio system…
“I just got well fed up with being an executive and no longer being a producer. That’s what the job became. Actors are now directing, writing, producing. Actors have taken over Hollywood completely with their agents. They want approval of everything … scripts, stars, still pictures. The producer hasn’t got a chance to exercise any authority! … What the hell, I’m not going to work with them!”
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.”