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Marilyn Monroe: Highlight Edition

Caproni

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Marilyn was beautiful throughout her career, but I think was was in her prime in '53 and '54. That particular evening for the premiere of HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE might just have been the best she ever looked. I think it's the hair. It's slightly longer than she typically wore after her earlier starlet years.
I can't quite put my finger on it, but I'd say the hair was certainly a contributing factor. Like you've said, Marilyn was always beautiful, but she probably at her peak around 1953 or 1954. She was beautiful in all of her films during that era from NIAGARA to IRVING BERLIN'S THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS.

As a film, I've gone in and out on my fondness for HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE over the years. For the longest time, I hadn't any interest in them whatsoever. Over time, my view has changed: I think Marilyn, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall play off one another beautifully. The film itself is a star-stuffed romp and now I enjoy it, even if less frequently that her other films, such as GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES.

Was she possibly the most photogenic woman there's ever been?

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Ehh. Other than Marilyn, I don't think there's much to that film. It's the story of a mentally challenged cowboy stalking and browbeating a down-on-her-luck singer. It's kind of creepy. Maybe with a less obnoxious leading man in a more intimate, character driven story it could have worked; as a Technicolor, CinemaScope film, the slim story feels hollow.
Similar to HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE, I've shifted my view many times over the years when it comes to BUS STOP. For the longest time, I thought it was one of her best movies, and it was one of my personal favorites. I still find the movie very good, although I'd re-cast Don Murray with someone else probably. I think Jeffrey Hunter would've made a good counter-balance for Marilyn. I'd also shave a little off of the story because it does get a little overlong through the middle. I good 20 minutes or better could've been trimmed out and nothing would've been lost. Still, I think Marilyn turns in a very good performance in BUS STOP and it is definitely a career-defining film for her.

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DallasFanForever

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I can’t say BUS STOP is one of my favorite Marilyn movies, but it definitely has nothing to do with her. I just find Don Murray’s character so annoying in that movie. I’ve only seen it once because of that so maybe I should give it another shot.
 

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I'd also shave a little off of the story because it does get a little overlong through the middle. I good 20 minutes or better could've been trimmed out and nothing would've been lost.

It's really a puny little story of two small people that might have worked as a lowkey, black & white drama. But, in typical mid-50s fashion, it's blown out of proportion; a tiny story filmed like an epic. Without a doubt, BUS STOP is my third least favorite of Marilyn's star vehicles -- only slightly ahead of THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS and LET'S MAKE LOVE.

The basic story was done better a few years later, when it was Jethro chasing after Miss Chickadee Laverne.

 

Caproni

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It's really a puny little story of two small people that might have worked as a lowkey, black & white drama. But, in typical mid-50s fashion, it's blown out of proportion; a tiny story filmed like an epic. Without a doubt, BUS STOP is my third least favorite of Marilyn's star vehicles -- only slightly ahead of THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS and LET'S MAKE LOVE.
I think BUS STOP is a good movie, especially since it is atypical of Monroe's other vehicles. Like THE MISFITS, it is a more straight piece, despite its few musical numbers and comedic moments. I believe it proved Monroe a stronger actress than she had been dismissed as not being. The film itself is overlong and padded, but still a standout in her filmography. Had Don Murray been replaced, I honestly think it would be better received.

I'd say LET'S MAKE LOVE and IRVING BERLIN'S THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS are Monroe's biggest duds. THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL isn't far behind those two either. I'd be hesitant to call any of these movies 'bad' but they're not my favorites.

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The basic story was done better a few years later, when it was Jethro chasing after Miss Chickadee Laverne.

The episode guest stars actress Barbara Nichols, a woman often compiled in a long list of Monroe 'wannabes' and 'clones', although her career never reached the heights Monroe's did. Apparently Nichols was a background dance hall girl in Monroe's 1954 Western RIVER OF NO RETURN when she was just starting out in the business.​
 

Caproni

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I've always had a fondness for how Marilyn looked during production of SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE in 1962. She had lost about 20 pounds or better -- therefore reaching the lowest weight of her adult life -- for the role. In the makeup tests and what footage was shot of this film, she looks wonderful. Producer Henry Weinstein, a close ally of Marilyn's, later said she looked "extraordinary" after he saw the hair and makeup tests of her. He said she was "at her best" during filming, at least looks-wise.

It's sad that this comedy seemed doomed from the start. All the odds seemed to be stacked against it: Marilyn was hesitant; director George Cukor wasn't wanting to work with Marilyn after the difficult filming of LET'S MAKE LOVE in 1960; there was numerous problems with the script and the production went nearly $300,000 over-budget simply because of the several rewrites.

Aside from all that, Marilyn's chronic tardiness and persistent absences plagued the production from the very beginning. Her doctors claim she was suffering from sinusitis during that time -- as well as other health issues -- although Fox and her co-workers eventually got fed up with her antics and stopped believing that she was sick. Writer Walter Bernstein said he believed her "up to a point" and that he even tried to convince himself that Marilyn was "susceptible to colds". He also said that he never got the impression that Monroe was a drinker, but that she had a pill dependency because "she had those types of mood swings". Co-star Cyd Charisse was apparently very patient with Marilyn, and went on record saying that this was "nothing unfamiliar" and that the studio should've known what to expect because "they had been through this many times with Marilyn". Cukor strongly suggested that Fox replace Monroe. He suggested Kim Novak or Shirley MacLaine for the role, but they each turned it down. Lee Remick was later cast after the studio fired Marilyn, only before she was hired back and SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE was going to resume filming with Jean Negulesco in place of Cukor.

Despite all the chaos that surrounded the production, Marilyn looked lovely throughout it all. In her makeup tests, one commentator said she looked "trimmed, happy, and ready to work" but it was the calm before the storm.

Even so, she looked beautiful in the stills. Aging graciously and beautifully.​

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Crimson

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I've always had a fondness for how Marilyn looked during production of SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE in 1962.

Among abandoned or never produced films, SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE ranks only behind von Sternberg's I, CLAUDIUS as something I wish actually existed. Remakes are usually iffy, but this one had about as good a cast and director as any comedy could hope for; and, yeah, Marilyn hadn't looked that good since at least '57.
 

Caproni

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I remember being so annoyed when I first watched IRVING BERLIN'S THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS for the first time. You're nearly 30 minutes into the movie before Marilyn shows up, but yet she receives third billing below Ethel Merman and Donald O'Connor, but yet over Dan Dailey and Mitzi Gaynor, both who have more screen time. One speculates that Monroe's billing was merely for her 'name' value and not for the importance of her character in the story.

When you dig into some of the back story, Marilyn never wanted to do SHOW BUSINESS at all. She had originally been assigned to star in THE GIRL IN PINK TIGHTS, a lightweight musical comedy in late 1953, but she rebuffed the project. While she was overseas in Korea performing for the servicemen and honeymooning with Joe DiMaggio, she was briefly suspended from her Fox contract for refusing to report to the set of PINK TIGHTS in January 1954. Around the same time, she was touted for what was basically a secondary role in SHOW BUSINESS, but she also declined it.

Monroe returned to Hollywood after her honeymoon newly validated with a renewed confidence in her public popularity. She continued to refuse to report to work on PINK TIGHTS or SHOW BUSINESS, so Fox brought in Broadway dancer-turned-actress Sheree North and signed her to a contract. The studio planned to groom her as an alternative to Monroe so they could hopefully use North in films that Monroe refused to make. North was publicized as a 'threat' to Monroe in the press. What also appealed to the cost-cautious Fox was that North just happened to have Monroe's same measurements and could therefore wear Monroe's wardrobe. North tested for Monroe's PINK TIGHTS and SHOW BUSINESS roles, but Fox apparently never had any serious thought of casting North in those movies. They were hoping that Marilyn would be concerned, but she knew better: the public loved her and she knew it.

Eventually, the production of PINK TIGHTS died on the drawing board and neither Marilyn nor Sheree played the role. Fox finally got Marilyn to agree to appear in SHOW BUSINESS, but only after they agreed to up her salary to $3,000 a week. The studio pushed the story to the press that Monroe 'had to do' SHOW BUSINESS because she had refused to make PINK TIGHTS. Behind-the-scenes, however, Monroe had only agreed to the picture only after her salary was upped and when the studio agreed that THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH would be her next film.

SHOW BUSINESS is a glittery and star-stuffed musical drama. It is beautifully filmed in CinemaScope, but it is hopelessly lacking in substance. The movie belongs to Ethel Merman, but whether or not that's good for you will depend on how much you like her. For me, it isn't a good thing: I've never been a fan of Ethel Merman; she's far too brash and almost obnoxious for my tastes. Donald O'Connor and Mitzi Gaynor are a delight as always; I've often wanted to see them in more movies, but I've yet to get around to it. Dan Dailey is also good; he specialized in those frothy musicals, especially those he did with Betty Grable. Johnnie Ray is likeable as the brother that that receives a religious conversion and leaves show business for the priesthood.

When it was released in December 1954, SHOW BUSINESS was only a moderate box office success. It received mixed reviews from most critics as well. Monroe, in particular, received indifferent reviews. Ed Sullivan said Marilyn's rendition of "Heat Wave" was "one of the most flagrant violations of good taste" he had witnessed. TIME magazine compared Monroe unfavorably to Ethel Merman (what were they thinking?). THE NEW YORK TIMES praised Donald O'Connor, and said that Mitzi Gaynor had surpassed Monroe's "wiggling and squirming" which were apparently "embarrassing to behold". Despite a budget of $4.3 million, Fox was expecting a profit of around $2 million. The film ended up loosing almost $1 million at the box office. It was considered a resounding critical and box office dud.

I've never been a big fan of SHOW BUSINESS ever since I've seen it. It's a padded, over-stuffed, lacking-in-substance musical drama. It's bland and I rarely (if ever) re-watch it.

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Caproni

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Among abandoned or never produced films, SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE ranks only behind von Sternberg's I, CLAUDIUS as something I wish actually existed. Remakes are usually iffy, but this one had about as good a cast and director as any comedy could hope for; and, yeah, Marilyn hadn't looked that good since at least '57.
As much as I enjoy MOVE OVER, DARLING -- the re-branded version of SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE with Doris Day -- I still long for the world where Marilyn didn't pass and finished the film. She was beautiful in the footage we have of it. She looked considerably younger than her 35-36 years, with her next-to-white hair and mole-less face. She was maturing into more sophisticated movies.

I enjoy THE FINAL DAYS documentary about SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE, but I never watch the last 40 minutes or so that compiles together what footage of the film had been shot. It makes me too disappointed that it was never finished. I'd rather just watch MOVE OVER, DARLING instead, which I sometimes re-cast with Marilyn in my mind.

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Crimson

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Around the same time, she was touted for what was basically a secondary role in SHOW BUSINESS, but she also declined it.

I can only assume that assigning Marilyn to the film was an act of dominance on the part of Zanuck / Fox, as if to remind Marilyn she was a mere contract player and they could demote her to supporting, starlet roles again if she didn't behave. The movie is a dog, the worst film Marilyn made in her post 1952 career. It's only notable for her musical numbers, and those aren't even among her best.

Otherwise the movie is only interesting as evidence of why Ethel Merman didn't translate well to film. She's too damn loud. She was made for amphitheaters, not movie cameras.
 

Caproni

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I can only assume that assigning Marilyn to the film was an act of dominance on the part of Zanuck / Fox, as if to remind Marilyn she was a mere contract player and they could demote her to supporting, starlet roles again if she didn't behave. The movie is a dog, the worst film Marilyn made in her post 1952 career. It's only notable for her musical numbers, and those aren't even among her best.

Otherwise the movie is only interesting as evidence of why Ethel Merman didn't translate well to film. She's too damn loud. She was made for amphitheaters, not movie cameras.
That's precisely what happened I'm sure. Zanuck was a jerk and he always wanted to put Marilyn 'in her place', that's why he brought in Sheree North and Jayne Mansfield to 'threaten' her.

SHOW BUSINESS is a high-profile dud. Marilyn's performance is the only thing that elevates it, and like you said, her musical numbers aren't among her best. At least a misfire like LET'S MAKE LOVE had "My Heart Belongs to Daddy", which is right up there with "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" and "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" as her signature song performances.

Ethel Merman is the worst part of the movie to me. Had her role been played by another actress -- I once read Betty Grable was slated for the part but turned it down -- I would've liked this movie better. It still wouldn't be great by any measure, but it would be more tolerable at least.

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