Tag Archives: The Asphalt Jungle

The Asphalt Jungle: Marilyn’s Noir Classic

Film historian and ‘Noirchaeologist’ Eddie Muller has placed The Asphalt Jungle – John Huston’s 1950 heist movie, which gave Marilyn her first important role – fourth in his list of ’25 noir films that will stand the test of time’ (ahead of The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity), reports Open Culture.

“‘I wouldn’t cross the street to see garbage like that,’ said the head of the studio that made this [Louis B. Mayer at MGM], the granddaddy of all caper films. A pure ‘crime’ film, with every character indelible.”

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The actress and singer, Lola Albright, has died in Toluca Lake, California aged 92, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Lola Jean Albright was born in Ohio in 1924. Her parents were gospel singers, and she became an accomplished pianist. After performing on the radio in Cleveland, she moved to Hollywood and worked as a model. In 1949, she won her first important film role opposite Kirk Douglas in Champion.

Albright was director John Huston’s initial choice to play Angela Phinlay, the young mistress of a crooked businessman, in his 1950 heist movie, The Asphalt Jungle. However, the part ultimately went to another blonde. Some have suggested that Albright thought the role was too minor, or that she wanted a higher salary. Others claimed that MGM’s Lucille Ryman campaigned on behalf of her latest protégée, Marilyn Monroe. Huston later said that Marilyn got the job ‘because she was damned good.’

In 1952, Albright married actor Jack Carson, whom had been her co-star in Tulsa (1949.) She worked with Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap (1955), and began to make her mark on television. In 1958, she secured her best-known role, as nightclub singer Edie Hart in the popular detective series, Peter Gunn. She was signed up by Columbia Records, and recorded two albums with Henry Mancini’s orchestra. In 1961 she married Bill Chadney, who played piano on the show.

She continued working in both television and movies, starring in A Cold Wind in August (1961), and playing love interest to Elvis Presley in Kid Galahad (1962.) In 1964, she appeared with Jane Fonda and Alain Delon in Rene Clement’s Joy House. A year later, she replaced an ailing Dorothy Malone for fourteen episodes of the TV soap opera, Peyton Place. Albright was named Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival for her role in Lord Love a Duck (1966.) She was reunited with Kirk Douglas in The Way West (1967), and played David Niven’s wife in The Impossible Years (1968.)

Her penultimate movie role was in the 1968 Doris Day comedy, Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? Albright would make frequent cameo appearances on television until her retirement in 1984. In later years, she enjoyed single life and caring for her pets, and never missed the spotlight.

Marilyn Returns to ‘The Asphalt Jungle’

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David Krauss has given a rave review to the Criterion Collection’s new edition of The Asphalt Jungle (available on DVD and, for the first time, BluRay) over at High Def Digest.

“Though MGM produced many all-star pictures in the past (Grand Hotel and Dinner at Eight chief among them), The Asphalt Jungle was its first true ensemble film. Sterling Hayden and Louis Calhern receive top billing, but neither were big stars at the time, nor were Sam Jaffe, James Whitmore, Jean Hagen (who two short years later would make her biggest splash – and receive an Oscar nomination – as squeaky-voiced silent star Lina Lamont in Singin‘ in the Rain), or a gorgeous young actress by the name of Marilyn Monroe, who makes a huge impression in two brief scenes as Emmerich’s nubile mistress. (Much of the movie’s poster art showcases Monroe to make her seem like the star, but nothing could be further from the truth.) Harold Rosson, who was married to another blonde bombshell, Jean Harlow, 15 years before, beautifully photographs the 24-year-old Marilyn, bringing out both her innocence and allure, and under John Huston’s tutelage she files an affecting portrayal that belies her inexperience. The Asphalt Jungle would prove to be Monroe’s big break, and the actress herself cited the performance as one of her career highlights.”

2016: A Year In Marilyn Headlines

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In January, exhibitions featuring Milton Greene and Douglas Kirkland’s photographs of Marilyn opened in London and Amsterdam. In New York, the Museum of Modern Art paid tribute to Marilyn’s choreographer, Jack Cole. Also this month, James Turiello’s book, Marilyn: The Quest for an Oscar, was published. And Edward Parone, assistant producer of The Misfits, died.

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In February, Marilyn ‘starred’ with Willem Dafoe in a Snickers commercial for the US Superbowl. Monroe Sixer Jimmy Collins’ candid photographs were sold at Heritage Auctions, and the touring exhibition, Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon, came to Albury, Australia.

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Another major Australian exhibition, Twentieth Century Fox Presents Marilyn Monroe, featuring the collections of Debbie ReynoldsScott Fortner, Greg Schreiner and Maite Minguez Ricart – opened at the Bendigo Art Gallery in March. And Barbara Sichtermann’s book, Marilyn Monroe: Myth and Muse, was published in Germany.

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In April, a special edition of Vanity Fair magazine – dedicated to MM – was published. A campaign to save Rockhaven, the former women’s sanitarium where Marilyn’s mother Gladys once lived – was launched. And actress Anne Jackson – wife of Eli Wallach, and friend to Marilyn – passed away.

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In May, Marilyn graced the cover of a Life magazine special about ‘hidden Hollywood’, and Sebastien Cauchon’s novel, Marilyn 1962, was published in France. Cabaret singer Marissa Mulder’s one-woman show, Marilyn in Fragments, opened in New York, while Chinese artist Chen Ke unveiled Dream-Dew, a series of paintings inspired by Marilyn’s life story. The remarkable collection of David Gainsborough Roberts was displayed in London. Finally, Alan Young – the comedian and Mister Ed star, who befriended a young Marilyn – died.

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June 1st marked what would be Marilyn’s 90th birthday. Also in June, New Yorkers were treated to an Andre de Dienes retrospective, Marilyn and the California Girls. An exhibition of the Ted Stampfer collection, Marilyn Monroe: The Woman Behind the Myth, opened in Turin, Italy. A new documentary, Artists in Love: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, was broadcast in the UK, while Australia honoured Marilyn with a commemorative stamp folder, and genealogists investigated Marilyn’s Scottish ancestry.

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In July, the birthday celebrations continued in Marilyn’s Los Angeles hometown with tributes from painter David Bromley, and another Greene exhibition. A new musical, Marilyn!, opened in Glendale. Rapper Frank Ocean appeared alongside a Monroe impersonator in a Calvin Klein commercial. And Marni Nixon, the Hollywood soprano who sang the opening bars of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, passed away.

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August 5th marked the 54th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. Also this month, it was announced that Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn’ sculpture may return permanently to Palm Springs. April VeVea’s Marilyn Monroe: A Day in the Life was published, and Marilyn’s role in Niagara was featured in another Life magazine special, celebrating 75 years of film noir.

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In September, Marilyn: Character Not Image – an exhibition curated by Whoopi Goldberg – opened in New Jersey. Terry Johnson’s fantasy play, Insignificance, was revived in Wales. Two locks of Marilyn’s hair were sold by Julien’s Auctions for $70,000. And author Michelle Morgan published The Marilyn Journal, first in a series of books chronicling the Marilyn Lives Society; and A Girl Called Pearl, a novel for children with a Monroe connection.

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In October, Happy Birthday Marilyn – a touring showcase for the collection of Ted Stampfer – came to Amsterdam, while Marilyn: I Wanna Be Loved By You, a retrospective for some of her best photographers, opened in France. Marilyn Forever, Boze Hadleigh’s book of quotes, was published. Marilyn’s friendship with Ella Fitzgerald was depicted on the cult TV show, Drunk History. And on a sadder note, photographer George Barris, biographer John Gilmore, and William Morris agent Norman Brokaw all passed away this month.

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In November, Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President‘ dress was sold for a record-breaking $4.8 million during a three-day sale at Julien’s Auctions, featuring items from the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, the Lee Strasberg estate, and many others including the candid photos of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull. Also this month, comedienne Rachel Bloom spoofed ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in a musical sequence for her TV sitcom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. And Marilyn Monroe: Lost Photo Collection, a limited edition book featuring images by Milton Greene, Gene Lester and Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder, was published.

05E065FF-9E98-4677-8946-85623619BBF3-2686-0000014DE181D724_tmpFinally, in December the EYE Film Institute began a Marilyn movie season in Amsterdam. The Asphalt Jungle was released on Blu-Ray by Criterion. And actresses Zsa Zsa Gabor and Debbie Reynolds both passed away.

Criterion Reissues ‘The Asphalt Jungle’

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The Asphalt Jungle will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray as part of the prestigious Criterion Collection in December. With many special features, Criterion editions are a cineaste’s dream, attesting to its long-held status as the definitive heist movie.  Directed by John Huston, The Asphalt Jungle gave Marilyn her first important role (although not a large one) and was her own favourite film.

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 2004 by film historian Drew Casper, featuring recordings of actor James Whitmore
  • New interviews with film noir historian Eddie Muller and cinematographer John Bailey
  • Archival footage of writer-director John Huston discussing the film
  • Pharos of Chaos, a 1983 documentary about actor Sterling Hayden
  • Episode of the television program City Lights from 1979 featuring John Huston
  • Audio excerpts of archival interviews with Huston
  • Excerpts from footage of the 1983 AFI Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony honoring Huston, featuring actor Sam Jaffe and the filmmaker
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien
  • More!

LIFE Goes ‘Noir’ With Marilyn

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A new Life magazine special, LIFE Film Noir: 75 Years of the Greatest Crime Films, has just been released, and one of the movies showcased within its pages is Niagara. The text is provided by novelist J.I.Baker, author of The Empty Glass and a previous Life special, The Loves of Marilyn. While his writings on the personal lives of the stars tend to be speculative in the extreme, he’s on firmer ground with the movies they made.

In this short feature, he also quotes another novelist, Megan Abbott, who describes Niagara as “sleazy, gorgeous and mesmerising,” noting that Marilyn “takes full advantage of her character’s complications and desperation.”

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“Though sometimes overshadowed by her later turns in musicals, comedies and ‘serious’ dramas,” Baker observes, “MM made an early indelible mark in film noir,” citing her riveting performances in The Asphalt Jungle, Clash by Night and Don’t Bother to Knock. (Incidentally, The Asphalt Jungle is featured in another recent publication on film noir, Mark Vieira’s Into the Dark – although Marilyn is not mentioned specifically there.)

If you love old Hollywood and film noir, this magazine is a must-have. You can order it now from Amazon (UK price £9.99, or $13.99 in the US.)

Marilyn’s ‘Blondes’ Suit, and More, at Bonham’s

10659145_750351251704217_7588656055951611251_nBonham’s will auction Marilyn’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes suit – in which she sang ‘When Love Goes Wrong, Nothing Goes Right’, back in 1953 – at their TCM Presents … Treasures From the Dream Factory sale on November 23. Other MM-related items include her red saloon gown, also designed by Travilla, and worn while singing ‘One Silver Dollar’ in River of No Return (1954); Marilyn’s signed contract for The Asphalt Jungle (1950); Paddy Chayevsky’s annotated early screenplay for The Goddess (1958), a thinly veiled portrait of Marilyn, starring Kim Stanley; and Natalie Wood’s bound screenplay for Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1947), in which Marilyn made her screen debut.

Kenneth Turan’s ‘Not to Be Missed’

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Not to Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites From a Lifetime of Film is a new, very personal book by Kenneth Turan, movie critic for the Los Angeles Times. His selection includes two movies from Marilyn’s early career, The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve.

“Though she is eighth billed, a young Marilyn Monroe is a standout…even in this heady ensemble, so much so that ‘an officially authorized stunning hand-painted porcelain collector doll’ of the actress in her All About Eve party dress now sells for twice its original $195 Franklin Heirloom Dolls Price. Cast largely because of the efforts of her mentor, powerful agent Johnny Hyde, Monroe impressed Mankiewicz, he later wrote, as having ‘a breathlessness and sort of glued-on innocence about her that I found appealing.'”

The Playlist: Marilyn’s Top 5 Movies

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On the 88th anniversary of the birth of Marilyn, The Playlist selected five of her greatest movie performances yesterday (in Niagara, The Seven Year Itch, The Prince and the Showgirl, Some Like it Hot and The Misfits.) While I don’t agree with all of their comments, it’s great to see Monroe’s cinematic legacy getting proper attention.

Some of MM’s other roles were also given honourable mention, although Clash by Night and Don’t Bother to Knock have been omitted.

“But it’s easy to overlook her screen achievements with the legend, and the woman born Norma Jeane Baker in Los Angeles in 1926 was a star for a reason. Despite being slighted as a weak actress by some, she was an accomplished comic talent, and capable of far more when she was allowed.

Of those early supporting turns, it’s The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve that make the most impact, the former as Louis Calhern’s beguiling mistress in John Huston’s excellent noir, the latter as an aspiring actress, a graduate of ‘The Copacabana School of Dramatic Art.’ Her supporting performance in Howard Hawks’ Monkey Business, with Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers, released just before she became a star, is also worth checking out.

She reteamed with Hawks, joined by Jane Russell, to far greater effect on Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, arguably the film that cemented her stardom, even if the film doesn’t hold a candle to Some Like It Hot, something doubly true of the same year’s How To Marry A Millionaire, although the central trio of Monroe, Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall is undeniable. Finally, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Bus Stop, as a small-town singer who’s borderline-stalked by a rodeo rider. The film is a somewhat uncomfortable watch, but it’s a good showcase of Monroe’s range.”