‘Don’t Bother to Knock’ Reviewed

Reviews are coming in for Twilight Time’s limited Blu-Ray release of Don’t Bother to Knock.  First of all, here’s some thoughts from Lorraine at Marilyn Remembered:

“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 Gets Lost in ‘Noir City’

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.

Kim Morgan On Understanding Nell (and Marilyn)

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.”

‘Don’t Bother to Knock’ on Blu-Ray

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

Marilyn’s ‘Lost Dress’ Found In New York

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.'”

Marilyn Book News: Directors and Co-Stars at Fox

Just published is Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment, Michael Troyan’s mammoth study of Marilyn’s home studio. It’s 736 pages long, with 150 photos in a landscape-size hardback.

Anne Bancroft, who made her screen debut in Don’t Bother to Knock and shared a dramatic scene with Marilyn, is the subject of two new biographies: one by Peter Shelley, and another by Douglass K. Daniel.

And one of Marilyn’s favourite directors, Jean Negulesco (How to Marry a Millionaire), is given the biographical treatment in a new study by Michelangelo Capua.

Coming in September is the much-anticipated Milton Greene retrospective, The Essential Marilyn Monroe (a German version and special edition are also available.) And in November, Marilyn graces the paperback cover of Cecil Beaton: Portraits and Profiles.

Looking further ahead, two intriguing new titles will be hitting our shelves in 2018: Colin Slater’s Marilyn Lost and Forgotten: Images from the Hollywood Photo Archiveand Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon, a biography by Charles Casillo. And Elizabeth Winder’s Marilyn in Manhattan will be released in paperback.

Marilyn’s Heartbreak in ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’

FIlmed while she was on the cusp of stardom, Don’t Bother to Knock gave Marilyn one of her most important, yet least-known rones. Over at Birth Movies Death today, Kalyn Corrigan takes a closer look at this remarkable performance.

“For a girl who gained fame as a stunningly photogenic sex symbol, working her dumb blonde persona to her advantage, it’s fascinating to see Monroe play someone who’s so irrevocably cracked. Best known as the steamy naïve seductress in films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Seven Year Itch, and this writer’s personal favorite, Some Like It Hot, it’s a graceful and gratifying pivot to see Marilyn take on the role of a damsel come undone. Jed tells Nell at one point in the film that she’s ‘silk on one side and sandpaper on the other’, and the description couldn’t be more fitting to Monroe’s performance. As she flutters back and forth between the shy, sweet girl who did everything in truth, to the manipulatively maniacal beauty queen with a screw loose, we really get to see a taste of Monroe’s range, and it’s an invigorating break from the normal romantic comedy routine. Norma Jeane was undoubtedly beautiful, but she was also an actor, and it’s cool to see her given a chance to show off her skills in a rare, multi-layered role for women in cinema in the 1950s.”

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-town

Writing 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.”