The Fifties Films Of Marilyn

Marilyn made most of her major films during the 1950s, so it’s no surprise to find her movies cropping up in entries for the 5 Favourite Films of the Fifties blogathon, hosted today at the Classic Film & TV Cafe. Over at Silver Screen Classics, Paul Batter picks The Asphalt Jungle; at Aurora’s Gin Joint, All About Eve makes the cut. From Monroe’s starring roles, Annette Bochenek chooses Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on Hometowns to Hollywood; Texan blogger Story Enthusiast favours How to Marry a Millionaire; and finally, author Laura Wagner selects the decade’s last Monroe movie, Some Like It Hot, over at Lady Eve’s Reel Life.

“The 1950s were also Marilyn Monroe’s zenith years. She’d been only a starlet in the late ‘40s, with minor roles in minor films, and she lived not very far into the ‘60s. Throughout the ‘50s, however, she was a comet ablaze on silver and Technicolor screens around the world. A superstar.

She started the ‘50s with small roles in two classics, John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (1950). Lesser films continued but, thanks to Howard Hawks and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), she was able to demonstrate her gift for comedy and shoot to the stratosphere in the glittery role of a dizzy but good-hearted showgirl, Lorelei Lee. Later that year she co-starred with Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable in another huge hit, How to Marry a Millionaire, playing a near-sighted Lorelei Lee type. By the time she made The Seven Year Itch (1955) for Billy Wilder, she no longer needed big name co-stars to help attract a wide audience, she was a phenomenon. At this point Marilyn Monroe wanted to prove herself as a serious actress and so she next appeared in Bus Stop (1956), a William Inge drama directed by Josh Logan. She would finish the decade working with Billy Wilder again, this time on his comedy masterpiece Some Like it Hot (1959).

My Marilyn Monroe pick has to be Some Like it Hot, a flawless film. Penned by Wilder and his writing partner Izzy Diamond, a pair that produced some of the smartest, snappiest and most worldly screenplays ever, Some Like it Hot is classic screwball … The roles of Joe/Josephine, Jerry/Daphne and Sugar Kane give the actors  – Curtis, Lemmon and Monroe – showcases to die for. And each of them delivers and then some. Directing Marilyn was a task that tested Wilder to the limit. But he was convinced that if he could be patient enough to coax it out of her, he’d get the performance he wanted. And he did.”

Barbara Eden Remembers Marilyn

Actress Barbara Eden is best-known for her zany role in the 1960s sitcom, I Dream Of Jeannie. She also starred in the TV spin-off of How to Marry a Millionaire, which ran from 1957-59.  Her ditzy character, ‘Loco Jones’, was a blend of the roles played by Marilyn and Betty Grable in the 1953 movie. And as Barbara revealed in a recent interview for Studio 10, she would later meet Marilyn in the flesh.

Marilyn and her stand-in, Evelyn Moriarty

“She eventually met Monroe, as they both shared the same stand-in – Evelyn Moriarty. Recalling the meeting, Eden said: ‘Marilyn was over there doing wardrobe tests. I’m standing there with [Evelyn], and Marilyn came out and [Evelyn] said, “Marilyn, I want you to meet my other star”.’

Monroe was filming her last movie at the time and Evelyn later confided in Barbara following the famous actress’ death, claiming she never believed the reports at the time.

‘Evelyn said, ‘”She would never take her own life”. I just feel it was probably an accident,’ Eden said. ‘She wanted to get to sleep, and took too many [pills]… I hope that’s what it was.'”

Movies, Makeovers and Marilyn in UK Press

The latest issue of UK magazine Yours Retro includes a four-page cover story celebrating 60 years of Some Like It Hot. Marilyn is also featured alongside fellow bombshells Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth and Lana Turner in a separate article about Hollywood makeovers.

In the current issue of Scotland’s Weekly News, her role as short-sighted Pola in How to Marry a Millionaire is mentioned in an article about wearing glasses. (And don’t forget her recent spot in Country Life magazine.)

Thanks to Fraser Penney 

Did Rock Hudson Reach Out to Marilyn?

In some ways, Rock Hudson was Marilyn’s male counterpart as a misunderstood sex symbol of 1950s Hollywood.  They partied together at the How to Marry a Millionaire premiere in 1953, and in 1962 Rock would present Marilyn with her final award at the Golden Globes. Sadly they never worked together, but Rock was the initial favourite for her leading man in Bus Stop; and in 1958, she was considered for Pillow Talk before deciding to make Some Like It Hot instead. (Doris Day got the part, the beginning of a great comedy partnership with Rock.)

Until now, it has been unclear how well the two stars knew each other (although a recent hack tome made the unlikely claim that Marilyn and Rock were lovers – as we now know, Hudson was gay.) In a critically praised new biography, All That Heaven Allows, author Mark Griffin draws on interviews with Rock’s secretary, Lois Rupert, who claims they often spoke on the phone. Although the frequency of their conversations may be questioned, the obvious affection of their Golden Globes photos combined with this information could suggest that Rock was one of the few Hollywood figures trusted by Marilyn in her final months – and Griffin also reveals that Hudson generously donated his fee for narrating the 1963 documentary, Marilyn, to a cause very close to her heart.

“It was while he was on location for A Gathering Of Eagles that Rock received word that a friend had died. As Lois Rupert recalled, ‘Rock met me at his front door with the news … “Monroe is dead” is all he said.’

Only five months earlier, Rock and Marilyn Monroe had posed for photographers at the annual Golden Globes ceremonies. In images captured of the event, Monroe, who was named World Film Favourite, is beaming as Hudson enfolds her into a protective embrace. With a shared history of abuse and exploitation, it was inevitable that these two should be drawn to each other. Recognising that he posed no sexual threat to her, Monroe had latched on to Hudson and had lobbied for Rock to co-star with her in Let’s Make Love as well as her uncompleted final film, Something’s Got to Give.

Lois Rupert remembered that in the early 1960s, Rock regularly received late-night distress calls from Monroe as well as another troubled superstar. ‘If it wasn’t Marilyn Monroe crying on his shoulder, then it was Judy Garland,’ Rupert recalled. ‘It was almost like they took turns. Marilyn would call one night and Judy the next. He was always very patient, very understanding with both of them, even though he wasn’t getting much sleep. I think he liked playing the big brother who comes to the rescue.’

Within ten months of Monroe’s death, 20th Century-Fox would release a hastily assembled documentary entitled Marilyn. Fox had initially approached Frank Sinatra about narrating, but when the studio wasn’t able to come to terms with the singer Hudson stepped in. Hudson not only provided poignant commentary – both on and off camera – he donated his salary to help establish the Marilyn Monroe Memorial Fund at the Actors Studio.”

Marilyn’s ‘Millionaire’ Turns 65

On November 4, 1953, one of Marilyn’s most popular movies – How to Marry a Millionaire – opened in Beverly Hills. It was Marilyn’s first big premiere, and she was dazzling that night. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen earlier this year, and you can read my review here. Over at Marilyn Remembered, Lorraine shares some facts about the movie.

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Inspired by Marilyn’s ‘Millionaire’

Jon W. Chu, director of this summer’s hit comedy Crazy Rich Asians, was influenced by How to Marry a Millionaire, as Christopher Campbell reports for Film School Rejects. (Although Millionaire isn’t a musical, it’s great to see it still inspiring today’s filmmakers.)

“Growing up in America, Chu likely was exposed more to Hollywood musicals than anything that looked like Crazy Rich Asians. In an interview for Birth.Movies.Death, he cites the movie How to Marry a Millionaire (pictured) starring Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, and Betty Grable as women who, unlike Rachel in Crazy Rich Asians, are gold diggers trying to snag a wealthy beau. Chu says:

‘I was taking from old musicals like How to Marry a Millionaire – old Hollywood films, and I love the idea that we could have been in those movies, but we weren’t. We had the same style and swag. So to be able to nod to that in our score, our costumes, was really nice…’

While you’re at it, go ahead and watch Marilyn Monroe’s other hit musical from the same year, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She plays a golddigger in that movie, too, and famously sings about her love of diamonds in a musical number that inspired the video for Madonna’s ‘Material Girl,’ which is on the Crazy Rich Asians soundtrack as covered by Sally Yeh.”

Remembering the ‘Millionaire’ Parade Car

In the New York Times, Winnie Hu looks back at the history of the ticker-tape parade car which made a brief appearance in How to Marry a Millionaire.

“It is not built for speed. It burns through gas. And it is too big to park on any street. But none of that matters when it is a 1952 Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton.

The open-air car in glossy black with red leather seats is New York City’s official parade car and the grande dame of the 30,000 vehicles in the nation’s largest municipal fleet. It stretches 20 feet from front to back to seat up to eight passengers, and it comes with its very own red-carpet floor. It has only one job: ushering V.I.P.s through blizzards of ticker tape on Broadway.

For more than six decades, its back seat has been filled with a who’s who of world leaders and celebrities … The 1952 Phaeton was one of only three that Chrysler made — part of a tradition of custom-made parade cars that once carried the newsmakers of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s in grand style, all while showing off Chrysler’s latest design in the ultimate bit of product placement. No need to advertise with Queen Elizabeth II, John F. Kennedy, Neil Armstrong and Joe DiMaggio in the car.

The three Phaetons — each in a different color — were owned by the Chrysler Corporation, which based them in New York, Los Angeles and Detroit, and lent them out for processions around the country … The New York car made a cameo in the 1953 film How to Marry a Millionaire, starring Marilyn Monroe.”

‘Forever Marilyn’ at Sainsbury’s

A bargain at just £5, this box-set containing four of Marilyn’s finest would be perfect for a new fan, and is available now at UK supermarket Sainsbury’s.

Thanks to Maxine at Marilyn Remembered

From ‘Blondes’ to ‘Millionaire’ in San Jose

Back in 1953, Marilyn was the undisputed queen of the box office. Two great movies from that golden year – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire – will be screened as a double bill at 3 Below Theaters in San Jose, California on July 31 and August 2, beginning at 5:45 pm.

Richard von Busack reviews both films for MetroActive.

“An ungodly amount of kitsch surrounds the suffering and decline of Marilyn Monroe, obscuring how much fun she was to watch. A double bill of 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (July 31-Aug. 12) and How to Marry a Millionaire(July 31-Aug. 5) explains the appeal.

Marry isn’t as magic—it’s a reprise of a frequently filmed script with three Manhattan ladies (Lauren Bacall, a myopic Marilyn, and Betty Grable) trying their luck with various menfolk. But for some reason Monroe excelled in 1920s settings, as in Some Like it Hot.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is based on Anita Loos’ superb comedic novel about Jazz Age siren and showgirl Lorelei Lee (Monroe) boating to Paris with her traveling companion Dorothy (Jane Russell, dark, shrewd and macha, where Marilyn is tentative, breathy and squeaky.)

The effervescent composer Jule Styne gave MM two of her best numbers. Her duet with Russell on ‘Two Little Girls from Little Rock’ is an outrageously bold opener of spangles, tinsel and girl power. ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ is the moment when Marilyn started to captivate the world. Producer and director Howard Hawks told biographer Joseph McBride that he hadn’t been interested in production numbers. Thus this brief 91-minute musical has the sharpness and compact size of great cabaret, highlighting the bright screwball comedy and the hot pink and fire-orange color scheme.”