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Posts Tagged ‘betty field’

In this romantic comedy (of sorts), Marilyn Monroe plays saloon singer (or ‘chanteuse’ as she would have it) Cherie.  Don Murray plays Bo, a naive cowboy with no social skills, due to his having lived an extremely sheltered life.  He goes to Phoenix for a rodeo competition, sees Cherie and immediately falls for her.  He decides that whether she likes it or not, they are going to get married, and he’s taking her back with him to live on his ranch!

Marilyn received a lot of acclaim for her role in this film, and it probably is her best work.  She manages to combine innocence with knowingness – Cherie has been promiscuous in the past, but really she is like a young girl waiting for a nice man to come and rescue her.  She and the other main female characters (her friend Vera, played by Eileen Heckart; and Grace, the owner of the diner at the diner at the titular bus stop, played by Betty Field) are what make this film worth watching.

Bo however, was an extremely irritating character – way over-the-top with his whooping and hollering at every moment.  I imagine he was supposed to be childlike in his enthusiasm, but he came across as more childish when it came to what he wanted.  At one stage, he literally lassoes Cherie to prevent her getting on a bus and leaving him, and carries her away despite her protests.  It may have been that in 1956, this was a comedic moment, but watching it in 2013, it is simply silly and were it not SO silly, it would have been disturbing.  Don Murray received an Oscar nomination for this performance, but honestly I can’t see how.  (I feel almost guilty writing this, as Murray is by several accounts, a thoroughly lovely man, but I couldn’t help it – this character really grated on me.)  The performance reminded of Jim Carrey in full manic mode!

Despite this though, the film was quite watchable, and did have a few amusing moments.  It was one I had wanted to see, being a Marilyn Monroe fan, and I’m glad I watched it, but I wouldn’t rush to watch it again.

Year of release: 1956

Director: Joshua Logan

Producer: Buddy Adler

Writers: William Inge (play), George Axelrod

Main cast: Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray, Arthur O’Connell, Betty Field, Eileen Heckart, Robert Bray

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This adaptation of William Inge’s play, was brought to the big screen in 1955. It stars William Holden (swoon) as Hal Carter, an aimless drifter, who comes to a small Kansas town on the day of the Labor Day Picnic, to seek out his old schoolfriend Alan Benson. Alan is now rich, successful and going out with the prettiest girl in town, Madge Owens (Kim Novak). Madge’s pushy mother is anxious for Madge to marry Alan, so that she will have money and a luxurious lifestyle, but Madge is fed up of only being admired and wanted for her looks. And when she meets Hal, there is an undeniable attraction between them, which could threaten everyone’s plans.

I was in two minds about this film, because there are so many flaws in it, and yet it is still enjoyable in its own way. First, William Holden was a beautiful looking man, and a greatly under-rated actor, but the sad truth is that he was just too old to play Hal. The character is supposed to be a young man in his early/mid 20s – and Cliff Robertson, who played Alan, did look about the right age – but William Holden was 37 when this film was made. He himself was reluctant to take the part initially, as he felt he was too old for it, and he was right. Nonetheless, he does look great, and there are a couple of shirt-off scenes, which serve no real purpose other than to show off Holden’s physique (which is fine by me!) Kim Novak was fine as Madge, but looks slightly older than the 19 years she is supposed to be. Not really a problem to be honest, except that Susan Strasberg, who played Madge’s 16 year old sister Millie, looked young and tiny for her age (and certainly the scenes where Hal escorts Millie to the picnic looked ‘off’ somehow, as he looked like an adult man and she looked like a young girl). Also, the music in certain moments was far too dramatic, and made it all look rather silly. A specific example was when a character ripped Hal’s shirt. The music in that scene would have been more appropriate for a sudden murder scene!

BUT, for all that, I still quite enjoyed the film. The things that weren’t quite right with it, were all too obvious, but I still found myself wanting to keep watching and see how things turned out, and if it came on television I would probably watch it again, although I wouldn’t specifically seek it out. I think it was quite obvios that the fil is adapted from a play, as it did feel quite ‘stagey’ and possibly the story is better suited to a stage than a screen. This film did make it onto the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Romantic Films, and I suspect that one certain dance scene – and if you see the film, you will certainly know which scene I’m referring to – may have helped it to get onto the list! Certainly the sexual tension and atmosphere in that scene crackles, and is almost tangible.

Overall, not brilliant, but certainly not bad.

Year of release: 1955

Director: Joshua Logan

Producer: Fred Kohlmar

Writers: William Inge (play), Daniel Taradash

Main cast: William Holden, Kim Novak, Cliff Robertson, Susan Strasberg, Betty Field

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