Variety Reviews ‘Love, Marilyn’

Variety has reviewed Love, Marilyn, giving us a fuller picture of the cast and materials. (David Strathairn as Arthur Miller is surely inspired casting!)

“With: F. Murray Abraham, Elizabeth Banks, Adrien Brody, Ellen Burstyn, Glenn Close, Hope Davis, Viola Davis, Jennifer Ehle, Ben Foster, Paul Giamatti, Jack Huston, Stephen Lang, Lindsay Lohan, Janet McTeer, Jeremy Piven, Oliver Platt, David Strathairn, Marisa Tomei, Lili Taylor, Uma Thurman, Evan Rachel Wood, Lois Banner, George Barris, Patricia Bosworth, Sarah Churchwell, Amy Greene, Molly Haskell, Jay Kanter, Richard Meryman, Thomas Schatz, Donald Spoto.

Two unearthed boxes of diary entries, letters and whatnot (some of which were published in 2010 as Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe) provide the novelty and appeal to what would otherwise be a standard life-overview. The erstwhile Norma Jean Baker’s awful childhood, her stormy marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, the paralyzing effects of her insecurities on film shoots, her problematic alliance with the Actors Studio, her pill consumption, et al., all constitute familiar terrain that makes Love, Marilyn seem redundant at times.

The first-person testimonies are more interesting, from archival clips of Susan Strasberg, John Huston, Joshua Logan, Jane Russell, Laurence Olivier and others to excerpts from memoirs and other writings by one of her many shrinks (read by F. Murray Abraham), Miller (David Strathairn), and analysts Gloria Steinem (Hope Davis) and Norman Mailer (Ben Foster), among others. Particularly flavorful are Oliver Platt and Paul Giamatti as Billy Wilder and George Cukor, respectively, both recalling their exasperation working with the hypersensitive box office sensation. There are also present-tense interviews with biographers, critics, Actors Studio contemporary Ellen Burstyn, and close non-celebrity friend Amy Greene (who shares some salty thoughts on Marilyn’s husbands).

While there’s no question Garbus has recruited first-rate talent to pay homage here, some of the most impressive names prove heavy-handed or simply miscast in attempting to channel the love goddess’s fragile spirit; moreover, having them act against green-screened archival materials has a tacky, pop-up televisual feel. Probably most effective in their straightforward readings are Jennifer Ehle, who gets a fair amount of screentime, and (perhaps surprisingly) Lindsay Lohan, who does not.

Limiting clips from predictable movie highlights, and skipping over several well-known titles entirely, the pic tries to emphasize lesser-known materials, including numerous candid photos, behind-the-scenes footage, and one uncomfortable live appearance on TV’s Person to Person.”

MM to Feature in Khrushchev Movie

Listening to Khrushchev, September 1959

Paul Giamatti will star in a new HBO movie, to be produced by Tom Hanks, about Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev’s trip to the US in 1959. Based on a 2009 book by Peter Carlson, K Blows Top is named after a New York Daily News headline, penned after the premier’s desired visit to Disneyland was unceremoniously cancelled.

Khrushchev may not have met Mickey Mouse, but he did go to Hollywood and was introduced to Marilyn Monroe at a star-studded luncheon at Twentieth Century Fox. Which has to be an improvement, don’t you think?

‘The lunch over, Skouras led his new friend toward the soundstage where Can-Can was being filmed, stopping to greet various celebrities along the way. When Skouras spotted Marilyn Monroe in the crowd, he hastened to introduce her to the premier, who’d seen a huge close-up of her face—a clip from Some Like It Hot—in a film about American life at an American exhibition in Moscow. Now, Khrushchev shook her hand and looked her over.

“You’re a very lovely young lady,” he said, smiling.

Later, she would reveal what it was like to be eyeballed by the dictator: “He looked at me the way a man looks on a woman.” At the time, she reacted to his stare by casually informing him that she was married.

“My husband, Arthur Miller, sends you his greeting,” she replied. “There should be more of this kind of thing. It would help both our countries understand each other.” ‘

Extract from K Blows Top in Smithsonian Magazine

Vintage newspaper articles from The Los Angeles Times

Vintage newsreel footage