The Zurich Filmpodium in Switzerland is screening a series of Marilyn’s movies from July 1 – August 19, including early gems like Clash By Night and Don’t Bother to Knock as well as the familiar favourites.
Slate magazine looks at the ‘cultural history of the all-American babysitter’, mentioning Marilyn’s performance as the disturbed Nell, whose childcare stint doesn’t run smoothly in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952.)
(Of course, the real Marilyn adored children and often babysat for her friends!)
“But even as the baby boom and a more mobile workforce made baby sitters essential, sitters provoked as much anxiety as reassurance. A typical 1952 article in Cosmopolitan, ‘The Baby Sitter, a New and Baffling American Problem,’ relayed tales of girls who murdered or kidnapped their charges. Pulp novels wove tales of insane sitters who wind up institutionalized after violently destroying happy homes. One such book became the basis for the 1952 thriller Don’t Bother to Knock, in which Marilyn Monroe starred as a mental patient turned sitter.”
The Bel Air Hotel has re-opened after a $100 million facelift, reports the Financial Times. However, not everyone welcomes the news – particularly the 300 former workers who were made redundant when the hotel closed in 2009.
Marilyn’s long association with the Bel Air Hotel is reflected in the name of a new cocktail: Monroe’s Passion. She first lived there in 1948, while under contract to Columbia. She returned in 1952, while filming Don’t Bother to Knock; and spent her 26th birthday there, drinking champagne to celebrate landing the role of Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Monroe stayed at the Bel Air Hotel in 1958, while filming scenes for Some Like it Hot. She was photographed at the hotel by Andre de Dienes in 1953, and by Bert Stern June 1962, her last visit.
Thanks to the continuing Marilyn! season in Brooklyn, some of Marilyn’s lesser-known movies are being reassessed. AltScreen devotes an entire post to critical analysis of Monkey Business, while over at Slant, Joseph Jan Lanthier compares Marilyn’s portrait of a disturbed young woman in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) to the character played by Catherine Deneuve in Roman Polanski’s classic 1965 chiller, Repulsion.
“I remain touched most indelibly by a single theatrical gesticulation of Marilyn’s—at the end of Don’t Bother to Knock, when she timidly hands over her concealed blade to an avuncular Richard Widmark. She appears truly frightened by what harm she could manage with such an innocuous, household object in a manner that predicts the predatory nature of her iconolatry. She seems, in that moment, to be reaching out of the screen, across that divide between her and her audience, in order to surrender a token of her desire to melodramatically entertain. It was the last time she would give up anything in the movies.”
“As the characters meet, the film subtly plays with their well known back stories. We see how the Actress longs to be a mother (an ominous Picasso painting seen throughout the film reflects both this yearning and also the film’s own cubist structure) but has had enough of her brute husband: the Ballplayer.
The film’s melancholy and fear is best summed up in an exchange between the Professor and the Actress. As she points out her image in a huge billboard outside the hotel, the wise man says ‘I prefer to look up,’ as he points to the stars. ‘They make me feel sad and lonely,’ replies the Actress. ‘All who look up feel small and lonely,’ he says. A movie star talking about feeling lonely with other stars? It’s absolutely no coincidence.”
July 1: The Asphalt Jungle, Don’t Bother to Knock
July 2: The Seven Year Itch
July 3-4: Some Like it Hot
July 5: Bus Stop
July 6: Monkey Business
July 7: How to Marry a Millionaire
July 8: Niagara
July 10: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
July 14: River of No Return
July 15: The Prince and the Showgirl, Let’s Make Love
July 16: All About Eve
July 17: The Misfits
Don’t Bother to Knock screens twice at the Seattle International Film Festival Cinema today, at 4pm and 9.30 pm, in a double bill with the 1947 thriller, They Won’t Believe Me. Part of the ‘Noir City’ festival, and linked to a recurring noir theme, ‘Who’s Crazy Now?’
Read my tribute to the director of Don’t Bother to Knock here
On the WowOwow (Women on the Web) site today, ‘Mr Wow’ enjoys some classic movies – starting with Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Heat Wave’ from There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954), as what song could be more apt in the heat of July?
Two other Monroe movies are also mentioned: Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), not really a ‘summer movie’ but a great film noir with one of Marilyn’s most affecting performances as the disturbed babysitter, Nell Forbes.
An interesting observation is made on the scene in Niagara (1953), where Marilyn, as the trampy Rose Loomis, requests her favourite song, ‘Kiss’. (Monroe had recorded her own version, which was deemed too sensuous for the movie but can found on most MM compilation albums today.)
“She wears a tight, blazing red dress, and when she walks toward the camera, pelvis thrust out, a bit of a womanly belly obvious, it is her most erotic screen moment. (Later, she would look sexy – all butt and bust – but not be sexy.)”
However, surely the ideal Monroe vehicle to watch right now is The Seven Year Itch (1955), as the comic storyline hinges on the unbearable heat of Manhattan in July, and a middle-aged man’s existential crisis when his wife and son leave the city and he attempts to seduce his gorgeous neighbour (Marilyn, of course), via the wonder of air conditioning.