So I figured I’d use tonight’s entry to recap, look back, and reflect on the catalyst that caused me to start this blog, My Month with Marilyn. I write for several sites but don’t get to discuss classic film on a daily, or more than weekly basis. Having two Marilyn Monroe box sets that I’d never opened and a movie that just so happened to be about the actress, I decided to enter the pool of blogging and try a fun cross-promotion with the movie. To start, this was originally supposed to last 17 days as I had 17 movies, thus how it originated as “My (Slightly Less Than) Month with Marilyn.” Unfortunately, life and the holidays ended up getting in the way and it officially took two months for me to complete the Marilyn retrospective (I PROMISE I’ll do better next time).
I must say Marilyn’s early work really didn’t do anything beside set her up as the sweet sex object/secretary/mistress as evidenced in roles like All About Eve, As Young as You Feel, Love, Nest, Let’s Make It Legal, and even Monkey Business. The roles were limited to a few scenes or even a few lines (the most egregious being her less than a minute appearance in O. Henry’s Full House). The biggest change for me between her early and later work was her voice. In films like Hometown Story she had a markedly deeper voice as opposed to the breathy voice we’ve come to epitomize with her persona.
Marilyn always fought to have people take her seriously and not see her as the sexy girl with a large backside and boobs. Her first foray into dramatic territory 1951’s Clash by Night directed by Fritz Lang. To digress, one cannot deny that Marilyn didn’t work with quality actors and directors as she worked with Lang, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, and a cadre of top celebrity talent! Clash by Night wasn’t a true test of her worth, that would come later with Don’t Bother to Knock and especially Niagara. Marilyn definitely made some strong dramatic work culminating in the sad opus The Misfits but even by the 60s she was trying to juggle both to middling effect with the weird Let’s Make Love.
To get the favorites and least favorites out-of-the-way, I did enjoy more than I hated so I’ll give a quick top five of my favorites and least favorites. My least favorites were pretty cut and dried: 1. Bus Stop (God this one was awful) 2. Hometown Story (I’m surprised I remember this cheap movie that MST3K should have done) 3. Let’s Make Love (just weird) 4. Love Nest (the guy was unlikable) and 5. As Young As You Feel (so boring it’s not registering in my mind. My five favorites: 1. Some Like It Hot (Loved it before I did this and love it even more now) 2. The Seven Year Itch (so glad I finally saw this and so mad it took me so long) 3. All About Eve (the movie’s a classic despite how small Marilyn’s role is) 4. There’s No Business Like Show Business (Donald O’Connor gets me every time) 5. Let’s Make It Legal (I was surprised how much I enjoy this film)
We’ll never know what Marilyn could have accomplished in terms of acting had she lived past 1962. She was filming at the time Something’s Gotta Give, itself a remake of My Favorite Wife (which I just saw and will be doing a review of!). The footage that remains shows a bright, chipper Marilyn who really could have been as good as Irene Dunn in the original. Sadly, based on the differing performances and strengths we saw throughout this theme, Something’s Gotta Give could have been a great role amongst a slew of bad films. As Let’s Make Love showed, the dumb blonde wasn’t as attractive in the era of lithe, smart beauties that was coming up. The need to make Marilyn “hip” didn’t come off. Marilyn was also suffering from personal problems, battles with various addictions not unlike the stars of today so who knows if she might have succumbed to her demons later on down the line. She’s a legend regardless and provides a diverse body of work unlike another young legend James Dean (as much as I like Dean I don’t think his film canon is large enough to label him “iconic”). The world will never know, and never see, an actress like Marilyn Monroe, but the films remain to show us who she was!
1926-1962 (Forever 36)
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.