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.”

Marilyn Takes TCM to the Jungle

US fans, take note: The Asphalt Jungle is on TCM tonight at 5:45 pm (EST.) Over at his 24 Frames blog, John Greco looks back on how the ultimate heist movie broke all the rules of star-making…

“[John] Huston cast the film with an excellent group of actors. For Sterling Hayden, this was his first leading role in a major film. Louis Calhern, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe and Jean Hagen were known entities but lacked marquee strength. Marilyn Monroe was still a starlet in what was essentially her first substantial part in a major film. She was not even Huston’s first choice for the role; he originally wanted Lola Albright. Monroe does not have much screen time as the young plaything to the sleazeball lawyer but she manages to make a big impression with her limited exposure, and she looks great.”

Marilyn Gets Lost in ‘Noir City’

Marilyn is the latest cover girl for Noir City, a digital quarterly published by the Film Noir Foundation. Inside, there’s an eight-page illustrated article, with Jake Hinkson analysing her diverse roles in The Asphalt Jungle, Clash by Night, Don’t Bother to Knock and Niagara. Fellow bombshells Diana Dors and Gloria Grahame are also profiled in this issue. To subscribe to Noir City, join their mailing list and donate $20 or more to the foundation, who host regular screenings across the US and a yearly film festival, and also publish an annual print round-up of the best features.

Marilyn’s ‘Noir Night Out’ in Pittsburgh

Marilyn with Jean Hagen and Sterling Hayden in a promotional shot for ‘The Asphalt Jungle’

The Asphalt Jungle will be screened at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie, Pittsburgh on April 6. Doors open at 6 pm for this ‘Noir Night Out’, with a chili dinner plus drinks on offer, and the movie starts at 7 pm. Tickets can be purchased here.

The event is hosted by the former Friends of the Hollywood Theater, as the Dormont venue was purchased by the Theatre Historical Society of America in February – a contentious move, as the FOTH had been raising funds and making improvements  in the hope of buying it, Maria Sciullo reports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Cincinnati Marilyn: Queen of the Asphalt Jungle

‘Is The Asphalt Jungle the greatest Cincinnati movie ever?’ Jason Gargano asks in an article for City Beat. Although Marilyn’s scenes were filmed on the MGM lot in Hollywood (as was most of the movie, apart from the opening shots), she also gets honourable mention for putting the Queen City on the movie map. (Although MM appears not to have visited Cincinnati in real life, Sugar Kane – her character in Some Like It Hot – mentions a prior stint in a Cincinnati band.)

The Asphalt Jungle is not exclusively the domain of men; it also possesses the screen debut of Marilyn Monroe, who plays Alonzo’s mistress, Angela. [John] Huston introduces Monroe, who lies lazily on a couch, with a carefully staged shot in which Alonzo (Louis Calhern) gazes down at her from above. Angela’s demeanor and visage are pure Monroe — innocence mixed with seduction.

Monroe only has a few scenes, little more than five minutes total, but her presence, much like the brief establishing shots of various Cincinnati cityscapes, leaves a distinctive impression in a movie full of them.”

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.”

Lola Albright 1924-2017

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’

IMG_2677

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.”