Another extract from Peter Bogdanovich’s essay on Marilyn, published in Who the Hell’s In It? (2004)
“Monroe was frightened to come on the stage – she had such an inferiority complex – and I felt sorry for her. I’ve seen other people like that. I did the best I could and wasn’t bothered by it too much. In ‘Monkey Business’, she only had a small part – that didn’t frighten her so much – but when she got into a big part…For instance, when she started her singing (for ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’), she tried to run out of the recording studio two or three times. We had to grab her and hold her to keep her there…I got a great deal of help from Jane Russell. Without her I couldn’t have made the picture. Jane gave Marilyn that ‘You can do it’ pep-talk to get her out there. She was just frightened, that’s all – frightened she couldn’t do it.”
Hawks thought Marilyn worked best in light comedy, and was sceptical of Method acting:
“Monroe was never any good playing the reality. She always played in a sort of fairy tale. And when she did that she was great…She was trying, for example, at the Actor’s Studio, to formularize her approach: She didn’t want to squander her energies. I’m not convinced it helped her at all. But that was her aim – to make it even more real.”
Kathleen Murphy‘s essay, ‘Balls of Fire: Women in the Films of Howard Hawks’, posted today at Parallax View, includes a paragraph on Gentlemen Prefer Blondes:
‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes posits Russell and Monroe as Hawksian comrades-in-arms, professional practitioners of extreme sexual style in a world of impotent nebbishes and nerds. Critic Molly Haskell likened this charismatic duo to a pair of ace gunfighters. Given the state of manhood in this surreal, primary-colored movie (the musclebound Olympic team won’t give Russell so much as a glance as she bumps and grinds her way through “Anyone Here for Love?”), the girls’ only worthy mates are each other.’
Murphy also mentions Marilyn’s earlier role in Monkey Business:
‘This is another comic quest for equilibrium: a scientist and his wife are trapped in roles that make for a sexless, sterile marriage. Treating perpetually distracted professor-hubby Grant as though he were a retarded child, Rogers comes off as a no-nonsense mama rather than a desirable mate. When an ape accidentally discovers a formula for restoring youth, the two backtrack into cathartic adolescence and childhood—with sex-object Marilyn Monroe and lecherous old coot Charles Coburn as funhouse mirrors reflecting out-of-whack libido. As usual in Hawksian comedy, there are moments of something very like true horror, as when Rogers cradles the infant she believes her husband has become, literally.’
Film critic Peter Bradshaw, of The Guardian, thinks Howard Hawks’ Monkey Business (1952), featuring Marilyn as inept secretary Miss Laurel, is an ‘ace ape jape’:
“It is part romp, part druggie-surrealist masterpiece, and a complete joy. ‘Monkey Business’ is undervalued by some, on account of its alleged inferiority to the master’s 30s pictures, and the accident of sharing a title with a film by the Marx Brothers. I can only say that this film whizzes joyfully along with touches of pure genius: at once sublimely innocent and entirely worldly…Dr Fulton drinks [a youth drug]; his short sight is cured and he instantly gets a new youthful haircut, jacket, and snazzy roadster, in which he takes smitten secretary Lois (Marilyn Monroe) for a day’s adventures. (The memory of Grant with his Coke-bottle glasses exchanging dialogue with the entranced Marilyn was revived eight years later by Tony Curtis in ‘Some Like It Hot.’)”
Full review at The Guardian
Monkey Business screens tomorrow at 6pm, NFT2, in London’s BFI Southbank, as part of the ongoing Howard Hawks season. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes follows at 8.30 pm. Marilyn’s two collaborations with Hawks will also feature in a Hawks season at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse Cinema next month.
Marilyn’s two films with Howard Hawks – Monkey Business (1952) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) will be screened at the Filmhouse Cinema in Edinburgh this March, as part of a tribute season to this multi-talented director, beginning this Friday with The Big Sleep.
PS: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes will also be screened at the BFI Southbank, London, from February 13-18.