The Misfits ranks alongside The Godfather Part II and Top Gun in a list of 7 movies featuring the Desert State as a location, posted at Nevada SportsNet. In this photo by Inge Morath, we see Marilyn conferring with cinematographer Russell Metty, while shooting a scene in which her newly-divorced character leaves the Washoe County Courthouse in Reno, and following a local custom, throws her wedding ring into the Truckee River.
Celebrating Marilyn’s Dramatic Chops
Although better-known for her high-glam comedies, Marilyn shone in dramatic roles when the opportunity arose. Over at NCN, The Misfits represents 1961 in an article listing the Best Western Films from the Year You Were Born, while at Classic Movie Hub, Gary Vitacco Robles continues his series on Marilyn’s movies with a look at Don’t Bother to Knock (you can read his take on Niagara here.)
“Four years before she set foot into the Actors Studio, Marilyn gives a Method Acting performance, beginning with her entrance. Nell enters the hotel’s revolving door in a simple cotton dress, low heels, a black sweater, and a beret. From behind, we see her outfit is wrinkled as if she had been sitting on the subway for a long time … Nell’s backstory is cloaked, and Monroe builds the character through use of her body in a manner studied with [Michael] Chekhov. She moves with hesitancy and scans her environment in a way that suggests she has not been in public for a long time.
According to [co-star] Anne Bancroft, Marilyn disagreed with both [director] Roy Ward Baker and acting coach Natasha Lytess on how to play the final climatic scene, ignoring their advice. ‘The talent inside that girl was unquestionable,’ Bancroft told John Gilmore. ‘She did it her way and this got right inside me, actually floored me emotionally.’
Nell Forbes is a fragmented personality with a blank expression. Sadness, fear, and rage register in Monroe’s face with credibility. She fluctuates from an introverted waif to someone who seems ruthless, even dangerous. Having worked with Chekhov, Monroe learned to delve deep into her own reservoir of painful memories and accessed her own natural talent for portraying vulnerability and madness. Employing Chekhov’s technique of physicality, she frequently held her waist as if the character were preventing herself from succumbing to madness. Perhaps Monroe’s mother, Gladys, served as inspiration. Gladys was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and institutionalized for long periods of time.
Monroe gives a stunning, riveting performance as a damaged woman, and suggests an alternative path her career might have taken if her physical beauty had not dictated the roles Fox gave her. Indeed, her comic performances were gems, which ultimately led to her legendary status, but what heights might she have achieved had she been allowed to experiment with more dramatic roles earlier in her career? Sadly, the film is rarely emphasized as a part of her body of work.
Arguably, Monroe effectively channeled her mentally ill mother and gives a believable performance as a vaguely written character in a script without any description of her personality. Monroe later told friend Hedda Rosten that Don’t Bother to Knock was one of her favorite films and considered Nell her strongest performance.”
Gable and Marilyn’s Misfit Best
The Misfits, which proved to be the last film completed by either Marilyn or Clark Gable, ranks 4th among his 10 highest-rated movies on IMDB, as Screen Rant reports. (Interestingly, Gone With the Wind – one of the most famous movies ever made – is tied with Gable’s 1934 comedy, It Happened One Night, for first place.)
Miller and Marilyn’s Misfit Movie
Writing for The Independent, Geoffrey McNab ponders why Arthur Miller’s plays (unlike those of his contemporary, Tennessee Williams) have translated so poorly to the screen. He concedes that The Misfits has stood the test of time – perhaps due to the calibre of its cast, and being written directly for the screen (albeit based on a short story.)
“‘It’s a very mysterious business. It’s very difficult to generalise about the movies. It has a mystical effect on you finally. I can see why people devote their whole lives to fiddling with this [medium],’ the playwright, then at the end of his career, told producer/director Gail Levin when interviewed for her documentary Making The Misfits (2001).
John Huston’s The Misfits (1961), about rodeo riders, ageing cowboys and divorcees adrift in Reno or chasing wild mustangs in the Nevada deserts and mountains, was a famously chequered production. It went over budget and over schedule. Miller had intended it as a valentine to Monroe but, during shooting, their marriage imploded. Her behaviour was erratic and her time-keeping infuriating. This, though, is a heartrending movie in which, against the odds, Gable, Monroe and Clift, alongside a youthful Eli Wallach, give their rawest and most tender performances. It combines an old Hollywood feel with the best of Method acting. It also has an obvious added poignance because Gable and Monroe never completed another film after it.
Ironically, Miller felt that Huston wasn’t making The Misfits cinematic enough. ‘What intrigued me somewhat about life in Nevada was that the people were so little and that the landscape was so enormous. They were practically little dots … they were like specks of dust,’ Miller told Gail Levin. He wanted Huston to give the film an epic quality. Instead, the director did close-up after close-up, concentrating on the inner emotions of his tormented protagonists. Nonetheless, the credits are very revealing. For once, Miller’s name appears as big as those of his stars. He originated the project, found the producer and hired Huston.
At the time of The Misfits’ release, audiences were flummoxed. It wasn’t a typical Monroe or Gable vehicle and nor was it a conventional western. Sixty years on, it stands as the purest and least compromised of any of the films in which Miller was involved.”
Marilyn’s Lee Rider Returns
The rigid, heavyweight Lee Rider denim jacket worn by Marilyn in The Misfits is being relaunched for $300, reports Daily Front Row.
“The first 101J Rider jackets started popping up in Lee’s product catalogs in 1925. They originally designed as workwear for cowboys, but soon became popular with women as well and developed a following for their style, as well as their utility … The Reissue version of the jacket remains true to the spirit of the original. It has a slimmed-down, form-fitting silhouette with slanted chest pockets and short-cut waistband. Made with lightweight left-hand twill cone denim, the jacket also features Lee’s instantly recognizable zig-zag topstitching.”
‘The Misfits’ at the Fairfax
The Misfits will be screened at the Fairfax Cinema in Los Angeles from January 31 – February 2nd this week.
SADNESS PREVAILS AT RODEO. MANY DRINKS INVOLVED. SECOND SHOT AT ROMANCE?
“We are always looking for ‘art,’ or for good stories, drama, ideas, content in movies — as we are accustomed to in books. Why don’t we forget literature, and drama, and Aristotle! Let’s watch the face of man on the screen, the face of Marilyn Monroe, as it changes, reacts. No drama, no ideas, but a human face in all its nakedness — something that no other art can do. Let’s watch this face, its movements, its shades; it is this face, the face of MM that is the content and story and idea of the film, that is the whole world, in fact — if you know what I mean.”Jonas Mekas
Marilyn Makes ‘Contact’ in Cleveland
PROOF: Photography in the Era of the Contact Sheet, on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art from February 2 – April 12, includes a section devoted to Marilyn and is accompanied by Marilyn X 4, a week-long film series with screenings of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Some Like It Hot, Bus Stop and The Misfits (from February 9-16.)
Thanks to Catherine at Marilyn Remembered
Eve’s Misfit Marilyn in the FT
Seven years after Eve Arnold’s death aged 99, Josh Lustig looks at her photos from The Misfits in today’s FT Weekend magazine (sold with the Financial Times.)
“Unlike many photographers who spent time with Monroe, Arnold was rooted firmly in documentary and photojournalism … Arnold’s photographs are striking for the way she captures these legends of the silver screen as lonely, troubled individuals. She strips away their movie stardom and reveals them as fragile, vulnerable. Even when photographed together, everyone seems to inhabit their own world, disconnected from one another, lost in the desert.”
January With Marilyn in Utah
The Utah Theatre in Logan is devoting this month to Marilyn, with screenings of The Misfits this week, followed by Bus Stop from next Wednesday, and The Seven Year Itch, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and There’s No Business Like Show Business afterwards.
A ‘Collector’s Ransom’ for Marilyn
Over 50 Marilyn-related lots will go under the hammer at on December 17-19, as part of the Hollywood – A Collector’s Ransom auction at Profiles in History. Marilyn’s costumes from A Ticket to Tomahawk, Love Nest, and Don’t Bother to Knock, and her fishnet tights from Bus Stop – which went unsold at last year’s Essentially Marilyn event – are back for a second chance. (UPDATE: the brown skirt suit worn by Marilyn in Love Nest has been sold for $30,000 – but again, the other movie costumes went unsold.)
As Simon Lindley reports for Just Collecting, Marilyn’s personal annotated screenplay for The Seven Year Itch is also on offer, with a reserve of $60-80K. (The photo shown above, taken on location in New York, is sold separately.)
“In the film Monroe’s character is known simply as ‘The Girl’, an aspiring actress who serves as the object of the husband’s desires.
But behind her on-screen persona as the blonde sex symbol, Monroe’s extensive handwritten annotations reveal her dedication to her craft.
Throughout the script she has written notes to herself such as ‘Look first indecisive – pause – hesitation – little smile’ and ‘My body into his – sliding into him as if I want to sleep with him right then & there. Swing hips again’.
This preparation and complete understanding of the role in evident in her notes for the famous ‘Subway’ scene, which helped cement her place as a genuine Hollywood icon.
The energy and sexuality which Monroe portrays may seem effortless, but her script notes show she though very carefully about how to play the moment: ‘Child w/a woman. Direct & fem[inine]. Open… This is everything there is in the world. Light & easy. Everything flies out of her. Newborn – the baby looking at the moon for the first time.'”Screenplay UNSOLD; photo sold for $200
And now, let’s take a closer look at what else is on offer…
“Vintage original 8 x 10 in. photograph taken of 13 year-old Norma Jeane on a trip to Yosemite with ‘Aunt’ Ana Lower and other family members. And sold separately, a vintage original 2-page printed 6.25 x 9 in. Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior High School Class of Summer 1941 commencement program. The printed program contains itinerary including music, speeches, and songs. Listed alphabetically in the ‘Graduating Class, June 1941 Girls’ roster of graduates is ‘Baker, Norma Jeane’.”UNSOLD
“Vintage original gelatin silver 8 x 10 in. photograph of Marilyn with her junior high school glee club, smiling in the center of the group. The verso is copiously inscribed with messages to Norma Jeane by her girlfriends, including, ‘To a beautiful, sweet, charming, and darling, adorable Norma Jean’ and ‘I hope your ambition will come true – to stay an old maid all your life’.”SOLD for $3,000
“A 2-page letter to ‘Cathy’ handwritten in pencil and signed, ‘Norma Jeane’. Written during a period of major transition in her life, Norma Jeane mentions a leave of absence from her job as a parachute inspector at Radioplane. She had recently been ‘discovered’ by US Army Air Force First Motion Picture Unit photographer David Conover while working at the plant, and through his connections, had been able to get freelance work as a pin-up model. She writes in full: ‘Thursday. My dearest Cathy, thank you for your sweet little note, why of course of course I like you dear very much, you know that. If I seem a little neglectful at times its because I’m so busy I don’t seem to have any time to catch up on my correspondence, but I promise after this, I shall, do better, honestly I will. Jimmie arrived about three weeks ago and you can imagine how thrilled I was. I only wish he didn’t have to go back. Jimmie and I went up to Big Bear Lake for a week and had a grand time I hope you and Bud will be down soon because I would love for you both to meet him. I’ve been on leave of absence from Radioplane. I shall tell you all about it when I see you honey or I shall write to you later. I have so many things I have to do so I had better close for now but I shall write soon. Tell Bud Hello for me. Love, Norma Jeane.'”UNSOLD
Vintage original 8 x 10 in. cast & crew photo from Marilyn’s first movie, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! She is in the third row, just above leading lady June Haver. SOLD for $1,500
“Vintage original gelatin silver 7 x 8.75 in. double weight matte photograph, inscribed and signed in black ink at lower right, ‘To Grace and Daddy Always Lovingly Norma Jeane 12/25/46′. The ‘daddy’ to whom Norma Jeanne inscribed this early headshot is Erwin ‘Doc’ Goddard, a research engineer and the husband of Norma Jeanne’s legal guardian, Grace Goddard. And sold separately, two oversize glamour portrait photographs of Marilyn Monroe in character as ‘Miss Caswell’ in All About Eve. The first is credit stamped by Ray Nolan with studio snipe, and the other, seen at right, attributed to Ed Clark.” [A poster for the film, signed by Bette Davis, Joseph Mankiewicz, and Celeste Holm, is being sold separately.]Signed photo SOLD for $30,000; poster SOLD for $6,000.
Two vintage calendars including a 1950 wall calendar measuring 8.5 x 14.5 in., and featuring paintings by Earl Moran, six featuring Marilyn, alongside cute, risque poems like, ‘What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice, Perfume that smells nice, Jewels and furs, To attract attention, And other good things Too obvious to mention’, and a wall calendar featuring unique topless ‘cowgirl’ images of Marilyn not seen elsewhere. Sold separately, a 16 x 32 in. pin-up 1952 wall calendar titled, ‘The Lure of Lace‘. Featuring Marilyn Monroe in her famous Tom Kelley nude kneeling pose, but with a black lace teddy ‘overprint’.”UNSOLD
“Two original studio production 8 x 10 in. negatives of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, each modeling wardrobe by designer William Travilla. [Russell wore a blonde wig to impersonate Marilyn in a courtroom scene.] Each includes within image a ‘shot-board’ documentation of production, scene, and change numbers. Also included are two original wardrobe documentation green pages detailing costumes [Monroe page describes a different costume, for the opening ‘Little Rock’ number.] At some point in time a positive copy print of the Monroe negative was made for archive continuity, but is not original to the production.”UNSOLD
“11 x 14 in. portrait by Ed Clark of Marilyn in the gold lame gown from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for LIFE magazine. Signed in black ink on Marilyn’s skirt by the photographer, ‘Edmund Clark Life’.”SOLD for $300
“Photo of Marilyn at the Photoplay Awards in 1953, part of a 1750-image archive for celebrity snapper J.B. Scott. And sold separately, an award plaque presented to Marilyn by a County Fair ‘Sugar Queen’, engraved, ‘To the Sweetest Girl in Motion Pictures, Marilyn Monroe, 20th Century-Fox Films Star Presented by 1953 Yolo County Fair Sugar Queen’.”Photo archive SOLD for $95,000; award plaque UNSOLD.
“Elois Jenssen costume sketch for Lucille Ball as ‘Lucy Ricardo’ as ‘Marilyn Monroe’ from I Love Lucy. Elois Jenssen was Lucille Ball’s designer of choice, who is credited with creating the ‘Lucy Look’. This dress design was created for the I Love Lucy Episode: ‘Ricky’s Movie Offer’, which aired on Nov. 8th, 1954. In the episode, ‘Lucy’ transforms herself into Marilyn Monroe to try to win a role in Ricky’s (Desi Arnaz) new Hollywood film. This costume was then repurposed into a showgirl costume for two subsequent episodes.” [Elois Jenssen’s costume sketches for Marilyn in We’re Not Married are being sold separately.]UNSOLD
“Ten 8 x 10 in. photographs of Marilyn Monroe in scenes from films, including the earliest title which depicts her on any of its publicity, Dangerous Years. Other highlights include Ladies of the Chorus, The Asphalt Jungle, Right Cross [to our knowledge, this still is the only original release paper to depict Marilyn], Let’s Make it Legal, and [shown above] Bus Stop.SOLD for $225
“A set of fourteen 7 x 8.5 in. to 8 x 10 in. photographs, a mix of portraits, candids, and scenes, including stills from The Seven Year Itch and Let’s Make Love [at left] and a candid by Al Brack [at right], showing Marilyn on location for Bus Stop in Sun Valley, Idaho.”UNSOLD
“Two exhibition photos signed by Marvin Scott, of Marilyn performing at a circus benefit in 1955; and sold separately, another set including this photo of Marilyn arriving at Los Angeles in 1958 for the filming of Some Like It Hot.UNSOLD
“A candid photo taken by Milton Greene at Marilyn’s wedding to Arthur Miller; and sold separately, two address books from her estate, including typed and annotated entries for contacts including Actor’s Studio, Jack Benny, Eve Arden, George Cukor, Montgomery Clift, Jack Cardiff, Joe DiMaggio, Henry Fonda, John Huston, Hedda Hopper, Designers, makeup artists, Ben Gazzara, Gene Kelly, Jack Lemmon, Yves Montand, Arthur Miller, Robert Montgomery, Jane Russell, Jean Negulesco, Lee and Paula Strasberg, David Selznick, Carl Sandburg, Frank Sinatra, Eli Wallach, Shelley Winters, Clifford Odets, Peter Lawford, JAX, Richard Avedon, Louella Parsons, and more. Annotations not attributed to Monroe.”UNSOLD
And finally, a set of nine photos from Marilyn’s last completed film, The Misfits (1961.) SOLD for $4,500