Another stage revival of William Inge’s Bus Stop has just opened at the Acadia Repertory Theatre in Somesville, Maine. Director Andrew Mayer outlined the differences between the play and Marilyn’s 1956 movie to readers of the Mount Desert Islander.
“‘This play is as good an American play as has ever been written. It depicts characters one doesn’t often see on the theater stage: cowboys, a nightclub singer, waitresses and a bus driver, Kansans, Missourians, Montanans. It shows them in their own world, with all the dignity, flaws and humanity of each on full display. And while the play has the (highly unconventional!) love story between Bo the cowboy and Cherie the nightclub ‘chanteuse’ at its heart, it gives plenty of stage time to the rest of the characters as well. Inge’s genius is in making these characters compelling and recognizable to everyone, while keeping the play deeply rooted in its Midwestern milieu. It’s not just a masterpiece, but a distinctively American masterpiece!'”
William Inge’s much-loved play, Bus Stop – so memorably filmed with Marilyn in 1956 – is currently being revived at the Redlands Footlighters Theater in California through to April 24, reports Redlands Daily Facts, with local resident Loran Wilson making her acting debut as Cherie.
Julien’s Hollywood Legends 2014 auction, set for April 11, features many Marilyn-related items (she is pictured with Marlon Brando on the back cover.) Highlights include rare behind-the-scenes photos from Niagara; original photos by Manfred Linus Kreiner; the rhinestone clip-on earrings worn to the Rose Tattoo premiere; a black ruched Ceil Chapman cocktail dress, worn on several occasions in 1953; a Mexican painting and tapestry from Marilyn’s Brentwood home; personal correspondence to Inez Melson, and letters from Jean Negulesco and William Inge.
Heritage Auctions are holding an Entertainment & Music Memorabilia sale on August 10th, including several very desirable Marilyn-related items. Among the lots, two sets of rare Korea photos have attracted the attention of the Daily Mail:
“A set of 13 black and white photographs, taken by an official army photographer, capture touching behind the scenes moments from the tour.
Monroe, who was aged 28 at the time, is seen in combat boots and black trousers and a flight jacket chatting to soldiers and signing autographs in the 8ins by 10ins prints.
Several images show her on stage wowing crowds in a sparkling cocktail dress while in others she is wearing her famed houndstooth dress from her film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
A set of four colour slides depict Monroe mingling and laughing with troops and signing autographs.
A 90-second clip of unseen footage from the visit shot by a young soldier shows her arriving in an army helicopter, meeting troops then leaving in the helicopter.
The images were bought by a collector in the 1990s direct from the photographer and have never been published.
Margaret Barrett, director of entertainment at Heritage Auctions, said: ‘These photos came from a collector who bought them about 18 years ago for very little money.
‘It isn’t known who shot the photos but we think it would have been an official Army photographer because they are professional images.
‘There were thousands of soldiers there all with their cameras but these photos show Marilyn behind the scenes posing for the camera and signing things for VIPs.
‘It was the only trip she did to see troops and in fact she only ever visited England after that trip – she wasn’t a world traveller.
‘These photos are really nice and have never been seen before. The photographer was with Marilyn at all the events she went to while in Korea.’
‘There are not too many quality photos of this trip, especially ones such as these which capture the behind the scenes moments.'”
Also on offer is the ‘possibly worn’ silver evening gown from Love Happy; some offscreen clothing; letters from Jean Negulesco and William Inge, and one from Marilyn to Inez Melson; two books owned by MM; and scripts for Don’t Bother to Knock, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire and Let’s Make Love.
And finally, this rather sweet photo was taken on the set of Love Nest in 1951.
In his 2003 book, The Bad and the Beautiful: Hollywood in the Fifties, Sam Kashner wrote, ‘[Inge] also struck up a friendship with Marilyn Monroe, who was drawn to [his] intelligence and creativity. The fact that he was not interested in her sexually also seemed to give their relationship a kind of tenderness it might have lacked otherwise. Inge and Monroe would occasionally be linked in the media during the mid-1950s, but their interest in each other was purely platonic.’
In his 2007 book,Inside Marilyn Monroe, John Gilmore notes thatMarilyn considered starring in Inge’s A Loss of Roses, but ultimately decided on the ill-fated Something’s Got to Give instead. (Gilmore was up for a role in the project, renamed Celebration. Costume designer Travilla had even drawn up sketches for Marilyn’s character.) Inge’s project was eventually filmed with Joanne Woodward, under a rather less poetic title – The Stripper.
A photograph signed by Marilyn to avoid a speeding ticket will be auctioned at a starting price of $4,000, Metroreports. Los Angeles traffic cop Roy Garrett (now deceased) made a habit of acquiring autographs from movie stars with bad driving skills. Marilyn inscribed the photo, ‘To Roy, love and kisses. Thanks for keeping me out of the clink.’
Other stars in Mr Garrett’s ‘rogue’s gallery’ are Errol Flynn, Jimmy Stewart, Greta Garbo, Ginger Rogers and Dean Martin. ‘The Marilyn Monroe one is a real gem,’ says Margaret Barrett of Heritage Auctions. ‘She only signed photos for people she knew and not random strangers.’
Bus Stop is probably the most frequently revived of William Inge‘s works, thanks to Marilyn’s starring role in the 1956 movie adaptation. The original play is now being staged by the Kentwood Players at the Westchester Playhouse, Los Angeles, until August 20, with Jessee Foudray as Cherie.
So it seems our heroine might make it to Hollywood and Vine at last…
“What I really like about the play is that the characters make emotional changes based on something that was right in front of them the whole time, but they didn’t see it. And Inge does it in such a beautiful and logical way.”
Another production of William Inge’s Bus Stop will be staged at the Peoria Civic Center, Illinois, on February 26 at 8pm. Appropriately, it is produced by the Montana Repertory Theatre (in the play, Bo wants to marry Cherie and take her to his ranch in Montana.)
“William Inge is such a great part of our dramatic literature in this country. It’s a desire to celebrate – as Inge did – the people of America. He said he celebrated the people of the Heartland. I think at this point in time when we are losing our faith in our institutions, perhaps and losing our faith in many of the things that we have believed in for so long, I think that one of the places where we can rediscover faith is in the American people. I think that is what Inge was writing about.”
Thanks to Angel aka ‘timetravelangel’ at Everlasting Star for her review of the Bus Stop revival at Newcastle-Under-Lyme’s New Vic Theatre.
‘I have seen some truly wonderful theatre at the New Vic over the years and so I was thrilled when I found out my local professional theatre was doing ‘Bus Stop” by William Inge. Though I love all Marilyn Monroe movies, I must confess that certain scenes in the movie ‘Bus Stop’ grate on my nerves – mostly Bo Decker’s persistent whooping and some of his more moronic moments.
However, a Marilyn movie is a Marilyn movie and I was very excited about the opportunity to see the original theatrical version. Would it be better? Would it be different?
Comparisons between play and movie…In the play, there are eight characters. As in the movie we have Bo Decker and his friend, the guitar-strumming Virgil Blessing, Chérie (just “Chérie” – one name is all a chanteuse needs!), Elma Duckworth – the scholarly young waitress, Grace the owner of the diner and the bus-driver Carl. Two characters who do not appear in the movie are the sheriff and the professor (more on them later).
In the movie, I don’t think anyone could disagree that Chérie and Bo are at the heart of the story. Bo’s journey into maturity and Chérie’s journey to learning what love really is are the meatiest character developments.
But in the play Elma features a lot more. In fact, it appeared that Elma was the central figure. Her naivety is like the prism through which we see the other characters. She mediates between the other characters on several occasions, and it is she who persuades Chérie to get on a table and sing ‘That Old Black Magic.’
The play focuses on the theme of one persons need for another: even an individualist rancher, an itinerant night-club singer, a long-distance driver,or a lonely diner-owner. Virgil’s loneliness is particularly poignant especially at the end of act two when the diner has closed, the bus has left and he is left alone in the snow. Though he is alone, Virgil had mentioned that it has been his own choice to remain so.
This character has more depth in the play and I felt that this was the character with whom the playwright most identified; the outsider, the traveller, the wandering minstrel. In this production the final image was Virgil, alone on the stage with his guitar and a stream of snowflakes falling onto his widebrimmed cowboy hat. It was very effective. Perhaps the movie missed a trick in leaving out this angle?
On reflection, this theme of the need for another’s company being central to the human condition has been better dealt with by other American writers, for example, in ‘Of Mice And Men’ by Steinbeck. In fact, I kept thinking that the play had a second-hand feel to it and that it was a minor work.
There is something about the freshness of Marilyn Monroe’s performance that makes the work seem more original than it is – and I don’t think I’m saying that only because I am a devoted fan. She brings an emotional truth and a depth to the piece that I had appreciated before, but never so much as I do now.
It is a one-set play, the one set being Grace’s Diner. The snow storm forces these eight people to spend the night at the diner, even the telephone lines are down so the only interaction is between these eight people holed up at this bus stop.
The scenes which we see in the movie showing other locations, such as Bo’s ranch, the ‘Blue Dragon’ night spot, the parade and rodeo etc., are only experienced through reported speech. So, as you can imagine, act one is heavy on the exposition and it takes quite a bit of time to really get going.
Naturally, due to the constraint of one set, it lacks the spectacle of the film and I really began to appreciate what a fine job the screenwriter (George Axelrod) did in ‘opening out’ the play into the many locations we see in the movie.
Grace, the worldly owner of the diner is pretty much the same as in the movie and Grace’s lover, Carl the bus driver is present too. As I mentioned, two characters not seen in the movie are Sheriff Will Masters, the face of law and order and the professor, Dr. Gerald Lyman.
From what I could tell, in the movie version the sheriff’s role was merged with the role of Carl the bus driver. In the play it is the sheriff who stands up to Bo, beats him in a fight and insists he make his apology to Chérie.
Dr. Lyman’s loneliness has caused him to become a drunkard and a serial seducer of young girls. During the night at the bus stop, he faces up to his past misdeeds and as proof he has turned over a new leaf he even releases Elma from the date he had made with her.
The role of Dr. Gerald Lyman is completely absent from the film, but I don’t think the film is any the worse for it. I kept thinking of Blanche DuBois from ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, another character that looks for love in all the wrong places, and I kept thinking how much better Tennessee Williams’ treatment of that theme is.
I think the movie was right to concentrate on Bo and Chérie and their development. (To be fair though, there is a moment in act two when Lyman and Elma re-enact the balcony scene from ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and Lyman is reciting Romeo’s pledge that if Juliet will swear love for him he will henceforth be Romeo no more. At this moment, Lyman is struck by the realisation that love might transform him into a better man and that he might leave behind his shame. This moment serves as testament to the transforming power of theatre/ performance too. It was skilfully acted and one of the most affecting moments in the play.)
In the screenplay, a major improvement is made to character of Chérie. It is her dream of getting to Hollywood (“Hollywood and Vine!”) which is so exuberantly expressed by Marilyn Monroe that helps flesh out Chérie – gives her aims in life, hopes and dreams, albeit impossible dreams. This extra dimension is absent in the play.
Also, the movie Chérie is less shallow than her theatrical counterpart. In the play it is Elma who tells her that her name means ‘dear one’, Chérie responding that she picked the name because she just thought it sounded pretty.
The scenes in the ‘Blue Dragon’ definitely add to the character. It is so much better to actually see Chérie sing there, to get a sense of how far she is from achieving her dream, and to see Bo adoring her. Learning of it through reported speech just isn’t the same.
In the play, it is also reported that Bo and Chérie have “had relations” (as he puts it) before he abducts her. I’m guessing this was axed from the movie because of the Hays Code censorship. However, I don’t think the movie suffers because of that.
The play had the effect of making me love the movie more. When I think of all the stand-out moments: that first image of Marilyn sitting in the window; Marilyn purposely singing badly with such courage and conviction, warbling ‘That Old Black Magic’ in the mermaid costume and casting a wink at Bo; Marilyn telling Bo he is “real beau regard”; Marilyn’s monologue on the bus; Marilyn trying to reach out to Bo when he gets beat; Marilyn’s sensitivity when she attempts to lessen Bo’s heartache by telling him she has led a wicked life and perhaps he’s better off without her; Marilyn getting into Bo’s warm coat – a metaphor for the warmth and protection true love affords.
If you have seen the movie but not the play, I think you have seen the best of this work. If you have seen the play but not the movie, I’d say see the movie. And if you have seen both you come away thinking- that Marilyn Monroe- wow! She was gooood and extremely underrated. And she is very much missed.
This production…All of the actors were excellent and their Mid-West American accents were spot-on. Each character was defined and memorable. Throughout the play, most of the characters remained onstage meaning that they had to find some stage business to do. This was easy for the actress playing Elma – she could brush up, wipe down tables etc.
But the poor actress playing Chérie (Louise Dylan) was given nothing to do but get out her compact and reapply her make-up – which she did like, ten times. It made her character less sympathetic because she appeared vain and shallow. I think the director should have given her something else to do.
That said, they all stayed in character and gave very detailed performances. As I stated before, Virgil and Lyman both provided poignant moments. Elma was clear, youthful chirpy and Grace provided the biggest laugh by barging on to the stage to watch the brawl- but with serious bedhair, thus giving away what she and Carl had been up to upstairs.
Bo gave just the right amount of brash chauvinism, beautifully countered by insecurity and bewilderment. His entrance gave a much-needed boost of energy to act one.
The set design is always incredible at the New Vic and ‘Bus Stop’ is no exception. It was detailed and practical to the extent of cooking eggs on a griddle! The aroma filled the theatre making me wish I could put in an order myself.
A large, three-dimensional ‘Bus Stop’ sign in chrome and blue light hung over the centre of the stage and a period jukebox provided some background music and added to the atmosphere at key moments.
I don’t think it is the greatest play ever written and I came away wondering why they chose to do it at all. That said, the production was faultless and it was a good night out.’
The New Vic production of William Inge’s Bus Stop, now showing in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, gets a five-star, rave review from Alfred Hickling in today’s Guardian.
“Inge’s structure is simplicity itself…But there is something beguiling about this forlorn slice of Americana, which meditates on the distances between towns and the distances between people, like an Edward Hopper painting with dialogue…Louise Dylan is supremely demure as his reluctant beau, a nightclub singer so little exposed to daylight her lips look like a June bug on a field of snow.”