Marilyn and Arthur at NYFF

The newlywed Millers dancing in1956

Arthur Miller: Writer, a new documentary helmed by his daughter, the author and filmmaker Rebecca Miller, will have its premiere as part of this year’s New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, Deadline reports. (The festival runs from September 28 – October 15, and as previously reported here, Marilyn’s 1954 Western, River of No Return, will also be screened as part of a Robert Mitchum centennial retrospective.)

“Rebecca Miller’s film is a portrait of her father, his times and insights, built around impromptu interviews shot over many years in the family home. This celebration of the great American playwright is quite different from what the public has ever seen. It is a close consideration of a singular life shadowed by the tragedies of the Red Scare and the death of Marilyn Monroe; a bracing look at success and failure in the public eye; an honest accounting of human frailty; a tribute to one artist by another. Arthur Miller: Writer invites you to see how one of America’s sharpest social commentators formed his ideologies, how his life reflected his work, and, even in some small part, shaped the culture of our country in the twentieth century. An HBO Documentary Films release.”

Remembering Robert Mitchum at 100

Robert Mitchum was born 100 years ago, on August 6, 1917. During the early 1940s he worked at the Lockheed munitions plant with Jim Dougherty, and claimed to have met Dougherty’s pretty young wife, Norma Jeane, remembering her as ‘shy and sweet.’ (Dougherty has denied this early encounter between the two future stars occurred.)

One of Hollywood’s most celebrated tough guys, Bob starred with Marilyn in River of No Return (1954.) He and Marilyn remained friendly and worked well together, although neither got along with director Otto Preminger. Bob recalled that she didn’t take her ‘sex goddess’ image seriously, playing it as a kind of burlesque. He was later offered another chance to be her leading man in The Misfits, but was unimpressed by the script and the role went to Clark Gable instead.

Robert Mitchum died in 1997. River of No Return will be screened at this year’s New York Film Festival, as part of a major Mitchum retrospective. You can read more about the shoot here.

‘My Week With Marilyn’: NY Premiere

My Week With Marilyn had its world premiere at the New York Film Festival on Sunday, October 9. Here is a selection of reviews:

“Though Clark’s perspective (played by Eddie Redmayne) is necessarily the filter through which to see Monroe, he comes off too much the earnest young gopher, and the movie feels downright Disney at times as a result. That said, Williams is a revelation and brings a much-needed darkness to My Week with Marilyn …Williams is clearly the best thing about this movie, and a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination.” – Huffington Post

“The luminous Michelle Williams gives a layered performance that goes beyond impersonation in My Week With Marilyn. Playing both the damaged, insecure woman and the sensual celebrity construct, as well as the role with which Marilyn Monroe was struggling during a particularly difficult shoot, Williams gets us on intimate terms with one of Hollywood’s most enduring and tragic icons. If much of what surrounds her in Simon Curtis’ biographical drama is less nuanced, her work alone keeps the movie entertaining.” Hollywood Reporter

“At the risk of sounding too critical, may I suggest that those who know Marilyn’s life and Hollywood history of the 1950s, will be vastly disappointed, for the movie doesn’t contain a single note, or fresh observation, which are not already familiar from the vast, mythic lore (and folklore) of docus, books, biographies, memoirs, and albums about the legendary star, who died in 1962, at the age of 36.” – Emmanuel Levy

“Marilyn Monroe was too big a personality, too important a symbol, to ever be fully explained. My Week with Marilyn shouldn’t be confused with a biopic and it shouldn’t be framed as some sort of crackpot attempt to get to the bottom of things. Her tripartite image portrayed here is based on one man’s fleeting impressions of the legend, developed over the course of production on one film, one week spent together. The truth, of course, is that Monroe is what you make of her. Still, Williams offers a powerful way in.” – The Atlantic

“The movie is exactly what you’d expect: a well-mounted period fantasy about a young man’s brief fling with the sexiest Hollywood movie star ever, who inevitably winds up returning to her husband Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott). As a romance, it’s delightful; I watched it with a smile. It’s commercially accessible entertainment for the adult art house crowd.” – Anne Thompson

“As The King’s Speech proved last year, this is the kind of film that Hollywood adores. American audiences love British drama, and in this one you have one of the best loved American icons in the center of it all.” – Richard Wagner

“Williams looks fake as Marilyn (the padding sadly shows and though a beauty herself, she can’t replicate Marilyn’s carnality) but she’s real where it counts especially when detailing Marilyn’s painful dreams of being a Great Actress. Unfortunately she can’t conjure Marilyn’s most pitiable and most miraculous of contradictions; for all her torturous effort on set there was in Marilyn as Marilyn, a breathtaking effortlessness of being.” – Nathaniel Rogers 

” The first feature from British television director Simon Curtis, My Week With Marilyn generally takes the form of a screwball comedy based around Monroe’s constant unwillingness to play by Olivier’s rules by forgetting her lines or dashing off-set in the face of criticism from the director. But the script lands only the most basic laughs, failing to dig into the mystique surrounding its subject. While the movie goes through conventional motions, Williams has little to do save for offering her best Marilyn voice and grin.” IndieWire

“While Williams completely nails the look that we know from photos, she falls very short of Monroe’s vivacious performances. The most obvious difference is that Monroe was a comic genius, and Williams is a droopy and mopey blank slate. Williams as Monroe sounds like she is reading funny lines flatly; Monroe, with her mellifluous, put-on of a voice sounded as if she was surprised by every bizarre truth and earthy discovery.” – The L Magazine

“Ironically, Williams (who also beautifully performs three musical numbers as Marilyn) may eventually go home with an Oscar — for playing an actress who was never even nominated.” – New York Post 

“I was fully prepared to praise the performance because it seemed Michelle wasn’t going to be doing an ‘impression’ of Marilyn. The trailer made me think she was going to key into certain Marilyn-isms, while making it her version of Marilyn. Any actress who has a shot of nailing Marilyn would have to go this route. But in the end Williams doesn’t do this – it is an impression – and not a very good one. This is due, as I’ve said, to the fact that she isn’t given any scenes to actually bring anything new to the character.” – Casey Chapman

 

Michelle Williams in Vogue

My Week With Marilyn will be screened on October 9 at the New York Film Festival. Its star, Michelle Williams, makes the cover of October’s US Vogue. Photos via CatFromJapan and Marilynette Lounge

‘Williams spent six months immersing herself in all things Monroe. She read biographies, diaries, letters, poems, and notes, pored over photographs, listened to recordings, watched movies, and tracked down obscure clips on YouTube. “I’d go to bed every night with a stack of books next to me,” she recalls. “And I’d fall asleep to movies of her. It was like when you were a kid and you’d put a book under your pillow hoping you’d get it by osmosis.”

She cites a story that Monroe used to tell about walking down the beach in a bikini as a teenager and suddenly feeling the whole world open up to her. “Any messages that I got as a child about what it is to have a woman’s body or to be sexual were all negative—that people wouldn’t take you seriously or that they would take advantage of you,” she says. “So I couldn’t relate to that at all.” But surely she took some vicarious pleasure slipping into Jill Taylor’s lush period costumes? “The expectation to be beautiful always makes me feel ugly because I feel like I can’t live up to it,” she says. “But I do remember one moment of being all suited up as Marilyn and walking from my dressing room onto the soundstage practicing my wiggle. There were three or four men gathered around a truck, and I remember seeing that they were watching me come and feeling that they were watching me go—and for the very first time I glimpsed some idea of the pleasure I could take in that kind of attention; not their pleasure but my pleasure. And I thought, Oh, maybe Marilyn felt that when she walked down the beach.”

“Someone once said that Marilyn spent her whole life looking for a missing person—herself. And so she cobbled together what people thought, felt, saw, and projected onto her and made a person out of it. She had no calm center inside herself that she could come home to and rest.”

In the meantime, Williams hasn’t entirely let go of Marilyn. Not long after our trip to Rockaway, she invites me to go with her to Feinstein’s, an old-school supper club in the Regency Hotel, to hear a jazz singer named Rebecca Kilgore perform songs made famous by Monroe. Williams sways her shoulders in time to such numbers as “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Every Baby Needs a Da-Da-Daddy.” Afterward, we stop for a drink at a bar in the East Fifties that Williams likes because it evokes the New York of another era, complete with a corny piano player, tin ceilings, and walls lined with faded photographs of long-dead personalities. We’re seated at a table near the back of the room beneath, as it happens, a photo of Joe DiMaggio, Monroe’s second husband. “I wish that I could play her for the rest of my life,” Williams says. “Because when can you say that you’ve really solved the riddle? When can you say that you really know her?”

One of the riddles Williams still hasn’t solved is how a creature filled with so much life and joy could also be filled with so much misery and pain. “Her deepest desire was to be taken seriously as an actress, but she doesn’t really shine in her serious roles,” she tells me. “Where she happens to shine is in comedy and in song and dance, but she denied that. She essentially said, ‘It’s not what I’m good at.’ She didn’t know it, but she clearly was incandescent.”

Ryan Gosling, Michelle’s co-star in My Blue Valentine, encouraged her to take the role, she told The Telegraph:

‘She credits Gosling with persuading her to take on the role of Marilyn Monroe in the forthcoming film My Week with Marilyn. “He asked what I was doing and I said, God help me, I think I’m going to play Marilyn Monroe. And he was more excited than I was. He’s an unsettlingly perceptive person, Ryan. Sometimes you don’t want to be too close to him because he sees so much it’s uncomfortable. He said to me, ‘It’s so cool, the greatest sex symbol of all time being played by you, who has never wanted to trade on any kind of sex appeal or beauty whatsoever. That’s why you should do it.’ It warmed my heart. I thought, you really see me. You really notice what I’m trying to do.”

MM Biopic at New York Film Festival

My Week With Marilyn, the new movie starring Michelle Williams (focussing on the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl in England, 1956) will be screened as the ‘centrepiece gala’ of the New York Film Festival on October 9.

Director Simon Curtis says: “Michelle and I watched and read everything… For someone whom the world lost in 1962, it’s incredible how much of (MM) is still around. They gave Michelle the dressing room that Monroe had used. We were in Marilyn’s footsteps… Michelle Williams is the greatest actress of her generation.”