Posts Tagged ‘marilyn monroe’

In 1956, Marilyn Monroe came to England to make a film with Sir Laurence Olivier.  The film was The Prince and the Showgirl, based on the Terence Rattigan play The Sleeping Prince.  Monroe wanted to work with Olivier, who directed and starred in the movie, because she thought it would give her credibility as an actress, and Olivier was initially equally as keen – so much so that Olivier’s wife Vivien Leigh was worried that her husband would have an affair with Marilyn.  She needn’t have worried as it turns out; the most overwhelming feeling that Marilyn roused in Olivier was that of annoyance – at her lateness, her constant fluffing of lines, her moods on set…it’s safe to say that making the film was probably not an enjoyable experience for either of them.  (The Prince and the Showgirl is regarded as far from the best thing that either actor worked on, although I personally really liked it).

During filming, Marilyn’s recent marriage to playwright Arthur Miller already seems to be crumbling, and when Miller flies back to America, Marilyn turns to third director Colin Clark, for comfort.  The two end up spending the titular week together.  Colin Clark wrote two books about the making of the film – one of which excluded the week with Marilyn, and one of which concentrated solely on that week.  The second book is the basis of this film.  I have no idea how much of the book is truthful, and I was – perhaps unfairly – sceptical about some of the things he wrote, which made their way into this film – but nevertheless I found the film enjoyable from start to finish.

Playing Marilyn Monroe is a tall order for any actress, but fortunately Michelle Williams was up to the task.  She captures Marilyn’s mannerisms and voice very well, and more importantly, shows Marilyn as more than just the dumb blonde which she was often portrayed as.  She also demonstrates Marilyn’s extreme vulnerability and need to be liked (“Shall I be her?” she asks Colin, when they are surrounded by fans while on a day out, before breaking out Marilyn’s sexy poses and million dollar smile).

Kenneth Branagh was also brilliant as Laurence Olivier – in a cast full of brilliant actors, he stole the film for me.  I loved every one of his scenes; his exasperation at Monroe was entirely understandable – I adore her, but frankly she must have been a nightmare to work with – but he is not incapable of sympathy for her.  He also shows Olivier’s fear that he himself is getting too old for this business, and that his popularity belongs to days gone by.  I always enjoy watching Kenneth Branagh, and this is one of my favourite performances of his.

As Colin Clark, Eddie Redmayne had the unenviable task of making the audience care about someone who they had likely never heard of, when there were two characters in the film who were international stars.  I think Redmayne pulled it off.  There are other actors who probably could have done as good a job, but he was great – especially when you consider that other actors on this film included the aforementioned Branagh and Williams, as well as Dame Judi Dench (wonderful and absolutely adorable as Dame Sybil Thorndike, who also starred in The Prince and the Showgirl) and Zoe Wannaker (in a flawless performance as Marilyn’s acting coach Paula Strasberg, wife of Lee Strasberg, who is known as the father of method acting.  Strasberg’s constant presence on the set, and her undermining of Olivier’s direction proved to be another bone of contention between the two stars).

I really enjoyed seeing the scenes from The Prince and the Showgirl being acted out, and My Week With Marilyn acts as a nice sort of companion piece to that film.  Overall, great performances throughout and an interesting and touching story make My Week With Marilyn a film well worth watching.

Year of release: 2011

Director: Simon Curtis

Producers: Simon Curtis, Kelly Carmichael, Christine Langan, Jamie Laurenson, Ivan Mactaggart, Cleone Clark, Mark Cooper, David Parfitt, Colin Vaines, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein

Writers: Colin Clark (books ‘My Week With Marilyn’ and ‘The Prince, The Showgirl and Me’) Adrian Hodges

Main cast: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Dominic Cooper, Richard Clifford


Click here for my review of The Prince and the Showgirl.


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In Chicago in 1929, musicians Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) witness a mob hit, and decide to get out of town described as women in an all-female music group, where they meet singer and ukelele player Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe).  Romance, complications and comedy ensue!

Some Like It Hot was voted number 1 on the AFI’s list of the top 100 comedies of all time.  In the past, I have sometimes been disappointed by films which have been so hyped up, so I wasn’t sure what I would make of this.  However, I absolutely adored it.  The three leads are all wonderful – Marilyn was made for this role – she absolutely sizzles – and Curtis and Lemmon play perfectly off each other.  (My personal favourite was Jack Lemmon, who was so utterly endearing, and laugh-out-loud funny, both as Jerry and his female alter-ego, Daphne.)

Naturally two men posing as women, in the company of young and pretty actual women gives rise to plenty of opportunity for comedy and romance, and Curtis was so funny as both ‘Geraldine’ and Junior – a third identity which he adopts in order to woo Sugar!  Meanwhile, ‘Daphne’ has caught the eye of millionaire yacht owner Osgood Fielding III, who decides he wants to make her his eighth wife (or ninth – he can’t really remember how many times he has been married).

This film is one that really is worth all the hype.  It’s sexy and sweet, and really, truly, incredibly funny.  Billy Wilder was a legendary director, and films like this, Sunset Blvd and Stalag 17 show us exactly why.  Watch it whenever you need a good belly laugh!

Year of release: 1959

Director: Billy Wilder

Producers: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond, Doane Harrison

Writers: Billy wilder, I.A.L. Diamond, Robert Thoeren, Michael Logan

Main cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Joe E. Brown, Joan Shawlee,

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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 film was not directed by Alfred Hitchcock. But it could have been…I feel that certainly it must have been influenced by Hitchcock. All the Hitchcockonian (is that a word?) traits are there: a crime that does not turn out as it’s supposed to, the requirement of huge suspension of disbelief, jarring music to signal that SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT is happening, and of course, a beautiful blonde bombshell. In this case, the bombshell in question is Marilyn Monroe. She plays Rose Loomis, a woman who has come to Niagara with her emotionally unbalanced husband George (Joseph Cotten). However, Rose is scheming with her young lover, to murder her husband so that she and said lover can be together. Enter young couple Ray and Polly Cutler (Casey Adams and Jean Peters), on a belated honeymoon, who end up getting entangled in the Loomis’s unhappy marriage, and the fall out from Rose’s plan.

I actually did enjoy this film a lot, even though it was hard to take seriously. Marilyn Monroe is stunning and certainly looks the part of a femme fatale – all pillar box red lipstick (even when she has just woken up in the morning), and practically busting out of her very clingy clothes. I really really like Marilyn in comedies (and I do believe that she was under-rated as a comic actress). I’ve seen her in other dramas, where she did much better work than here, but in Niagara, she becomes a caricature, and at times overacts quite obviously. Casey Adams, as the husband in the honeymooning couple was beyond annoying. He seemed to spend most of the film grinning inanely and came across as nothing so much as an overgrown schoolboy.

However, Jean Peters and Joseph Cotten were both superb – Stevens in particular. I actually thought that Stevens’ character Polly, who was a demure but witty and compassionate wife, looked far more attractive – although certainly not as striking – than Rose. Peters also played the part extremely well, not being too over the top, but remaining believeable in an unbelieveable plot. Cotten also excelled as the brow beaten husband of Rose, at the end of his tether, and seemingly aware that things between them were not going to end well.

The storyline is hard to take seriously, but not hard to enjoy, with the requisite twists for such a film. The ending came somewhat abruptly – but I liked it. And with a total running time of just over an hour and half, the scripting is nice and tight, and the plot moves quickly, thus holding interest.

Overall, despite it’s obvious flaws, this is a film which is well worth watching at least once.

Year of release: 1953

Director: Henry Hathaway

Producer: Charles Brackett

Writers: Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, Richard L. Breen

Main cast: Joseph Cotten, Marilyn Monroe, Jean Peters, Casey Adams

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This film, set in the Northwest American states, features Robert Mitchum as widower Matt Calder, newly released from prison and hoping to live a quiet life on his farm, with his young son Mark. Gambler Harry Weston (Rory Calhoun) and his girlfriend Kay (Marilyn Monroe) arrive at the farm, racing to get to the nearest town so that Harry can register his claim to some land which he won in a poker game. When Calder refuses to let Harry take his only rifle and his horse, Harry steals and leaves Kay behind with Matt and Mark. Unable to defend themselves against an impending attack by Native Americans, Matt, Mark and Kay are forced to take a dangerous journey down the river, on the raft that Harry left behind. Hostile territory, the ever-present threat of ambush, and a clash of personalities guarantee that this will not be an easy journey…

Considering that this film stars two movie greats – Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum – one might wonder why it is not better known. I suspect that it’s because it isn’t anywhere near the best film from either star. I’m personally in two minds about this film, and would compare it to eating cheap chocolate – you know that it’s not really very good, but you can’t help enjoying it all the same! Because that’s the thing about this movie…despite the hokey storyline, Marilyn’s less than stellar performance, and some very dodgy stereotyping of Native Americans, it is still quite an enjoyable movie. And while it’s not a great performance from Marilyn, it is interesting to see her playing (somewhat) against type. She may be a bar room singer, but she doesn’t play the whole dumb blonde thing here – instead, she’s a resourceful, feisty woman. Robert Mitchum meanwhile, is fine in his role, which is no more than you would expect. Rory Calhoun plays only a small part as Harry Weston, but he makes the most of it, and young Tommy Rettiq is impressive as Mark Calder.

The making of this film was not without its problems. Monroe and director Otto Preminger fell out during filming, and would only communicate through Mitchum (who had originally met Monroe back when she was Norma Jean Baker). Mitchum meanwhile was arrested for Marijuana possession during the filming of the movie (perhaps he needed it because of his role as go-between!)

All in all then, this is certainly not a memorable film, and if you want to watch either Mitchum or Monroe, then there are better films to see either of them in. However, it’s entertaining in its own way, and an enjoyable enough way to fill an hour and a half.

Year of release: 1954

Director: Otto Preminger, Jean Negulesco

Writers: Frank Fenton, Louis Lantz

Main cast: Robert Mitchum, Marilyn Monroe, Tommy Rettiq, Rory Calhoun

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Okay, I admit it – I love Marilyn Monroe. I’ve never not enjoyed any film I’ve seen her in, so when I sat down to watch this one, I guessed that I would be in for a good time, and I was right. Marilyn shares star billing with two other major stars, namely Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable. They play three single and broke girls in New York City, who are hoping to land rich husbands. None of them however, account for the possibility that true love might get in the way…

This film is full of laughs, and that is mainly down to Monroe, who plays a ditzy blonde. Maybe not a big stretch for the blonde bombshell, but she does play the role perfectly, and I think she looks at her most beautiful in this film. (Check out her scenes in the fuschia coloured gown, and the red swimsuit – wow!). Betty Grable is also hilarious, and looks stunning too. Lauren Bacall plays Schatze, the brains behind their operation, and is probably the least sympathetic of all the characters. It’s impossible not to like the other two, despite their less than honourable intentions, but Schatze is a colder character. But that’s not to say that Bacall doesn’t play her extremely well. She is pursued by both older widow J.D. Hanley (William Powell), and the younger man Tom Brookman (Cameron Mitchell). Pola (Monroe) meets a mysterious man, who she sets off for a romantic rendevouz with, but – due to her refusal to wear her glasses in public! – things don’t quite go according to plan. Loco (Grable) is courted by an unhappily married man (and frankly it’s a mystery as to how he ever found anyone willing to marry him), but a bout of measles looks set to ruin their plans!

The whole film is very funny indeed, and very light hearted. Grable and Monroe both made me laugh out loud on several occasions, and I adored William Powell’s character. Obviously the storyline is pretty fluffy and silly, but it is very entertaining. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it now – Marilyn Monroe was a very talented comic actress, and she shows her skills off perfectly. She’s in good company too – Grable and Bacall nail their parts.

Haven’t seen it yet? Want a good giggle? Give this film a try – you might just love it!

Year of release: 1953

Director: Jean Negulesco

Writers: Nunnally Johnson, Zoe Akins, Dale Eunson, Katherine Albert

Main cast: Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, Lauren Bacall, William Powell, Cameron Mitchell

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Laurence Olivier directed this 1957 movie, and starred in it alongside Marilyn Monroe. These two screen icons may seem mis-matched, and indeed in the film they play a mis-matched couple.  However, while it may not be one of the more popular films of either of the main stars, it does have a charm all of its own.

Olivier plays the Prince Regent of Carpathia, a fictional Balkan nation, who has come to London in 1911 with his young son the King, for the coronation of King George V. The night prior to the coronation he meets showgirl Elsie Mariner (Monroe), and invites her to dinner.  However, their romancing hits a few obstacles – the Regent Prince’s preoccupation with political business, Elsie’s lack of knowledge of regal etiquette, and of course, the coronation itself.

The filming of this movie also hit a few obstacles – Olivier did not get on at all with Marilyn, and grew impatient with her moods and her tardiness.  For Marilyn’s part, she suffered a miscarriage during filming.  She also had a number of health problems, and the medication she took for them caused her weight to fluctuate (for much of the film, she wears a stunning white dress – at least three copies of the dress in differing sizes were used, in order to accommodate her weight fluctuation).  However, despite all this, the film is actually rather lovely.  Olivier is fine in his role – he hams it up somewhat, but that seems entirely appropriate for a romantic comedy such as this; but the acting honours really have to go to Marilyn Monroe.  It’s a shame that this is one of her less well-regarded films, because she really is on top form here.  Whether Elsie is telling the Prince Regent off for being unromantic, or whether she’s practising a dance while believing that she is alone in the room, or whether she is trying unsuccessfully to manoeuvre her way around various waiters after realising that she is the Prince Regent’s only dinner guest, she simply sparkles.  She looks beautiful (like always), her acting is superb and while Marilyn’s comedic skills are often justly celebrated, she displays more depth in certain scenes, and I found it impossible not to love her character.

If you are a fan of either of the stars of this film and have not yet seen this film, I recommend that you seek it out – you might be pleasantly surprised!

(This was the only film that Marilyn made outside of America, and her time in England is the subject of the upcoming film ‘My Week With Marilyn’ starring Michelle Williams as Monroe, and Kenneth Branagh as Olivier.)

Year of release: 1957

Director: Laurence Olivier

Writers: Terrence Rattigan (play and screenplay)

Main cast: Marilyn Monroe, Laurence Olivier, Jeremy Spenser, Sybil Thorndike


Click here for my review of My Week With Marilyn.


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This is one of Marilyn Monroe’s most popular films – and it’s easy to see why.  Tom Ewell plays Richard Sherman, a married man whose wife and son go away for the summer, and he finds himself tempted by the beautiful woman (Marilyn Monroe) who moves into the apartment upstairs from where he lives…

This film appears in the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 comedies, and it deserves its place.  Marilyn looks stunning and again shows off her comedic skills. Tom Ewell is brilliant as Sherman – a part that could easily have been annoying in the hands of a less skilled actor.  Sherman talks to himself incessantly, and is constantly imagining himself being an irresistable object of affection for women.  The two actors work really well together, and have a real chemistry, but the whole time the viewer is reminded that Sherman is really something of a dreamer.

There are several laugh-out-loud moments in the film, and Marilyn with her blend of childlike innocence and woman-like seductiveness, really shines.  From the moment she first appears on screen, she makes the character her own, and it’s really hard to imagine any other actress playing this part.  Special mention also to Robert Strauss, who plays a slovenly janitor; he only takes a small part in this film, but is very funny.

So what happens at the end?  Well, you’ll just have to watch it to find out – and if you haven’t seen this classic comedy yet, I definitely recommend that you do so!

Year of release: 1955

Director: Billy Wilder

Writers: George Axelrod (play), Billy Wilder

Main cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tom Ewell, Evelyn Keyes, Robert Strauss

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This 1954 musical tells the story of the Donahues – a family who perform in vaudeville shows.  There’s the mother Molly (Ethel Merman), the father Terence (Dan Dailey) and their three children Steven (Johnnie Ray), Katy (Mitzi Gaynor) and Tim (Donald O’Connor).  Problems arise when Steven reveals his plans for a surprising career change, and Tim falls for aspiring singer Vicky (Marilyn Monroe).

The storyline is entertaining enough, but it’s really just a vehicle to showcase some fantastic songs (Irving Berlin wrote the songs) and some terrific and humorous dancing.  However, the film is no less enjoyable for all that.  Ethel Merman very nearly steals the show as Molly.  Marilyn looks stunning and totally sizzles when she’s singing, particularly in the ‘Heatwave’ number (goodness knows how that got past the censors in the 1950s).  Equally gorgeous is Mitzi Gaynor, who does some brilliant dancing.  Donald O’Connor is funny and sweet, and his dancing, as seen two years earlier in Singin’ In The Rain, is great.  He has a very enjoyable solo number A Man Chases A Girl (Until She Catches Him).  I also particularly liked the aforementioned Heatwave, and the whole Alexander’s Ragtime Band Sequence, which involved numerous dancers, several outfit changes, and the chance for each family member to shine.

The only weak spot in the film was Johnnie Ray, who quite frankly could not act his way out of a paper bag.  I can only assume that he was picked for the role for his singing ability (he was after all a singer, not an actor), but he was badly miscast, to the point where it almost felt embarrassing watching him on screen.  It’s fortunate that he had only a relatively small part, so it didn’t take anything away from the enjoyment of the film as a whole.

The film was not without it’s off-screen problems.  Donald O’Connor had recently separated from his wife of 10 years when he filmed this – and his estranged wife was dating Dan Dailey, who played the father of the Donahue family (Dailey subsequently married her).  Marilyn did not actually want to do the film, and was only persuaded to do so when she was told that she could have the lead in The Seven Year Itch, if she did this film.

For all it’s off-screen problems though, it’s a very entertaining and colourful film (much of it is performed on a stage setting with eye catching costumes); some might even say gaudy.  It’s over the top in places, and the storyline is fairly thin.  But – none of that matters, because it’s also a feel-good movie, with plenty of laughs, and  some hugely enjoyable songs and dances.  Definitely worth catching if you’re a fan of musicals, or of any of the actors.

Year of release: 1954

Director: Walter Lang

Writers: Phoebe Ephron, Henry Ephron, Lamar Trotti

Main cast: Ethel Merman, Marilyn Monroe, Donald O’Connor, Mitzi Gaynor, Dan Dailey

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Howard Hawks directed this fabulous 1953 musical, starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell.  Marilyn plays Lorelei Lee, a gold (or diamond) digging nightclub singer, and Jane is her best friend Dorothy Shaw, who is altogether more down to earth, and unlike her friend, is not interested in whether a man has money or not.

Lorelei is engaged to Gus Esmond, but his father strongly disapproves of the match, so when he forbids Gus to travel to France with Lorelei (where they planned to get married), and Lorelei goes anyway with Dorothy, Gus’s father hires a private detective Ernie Malone (played by Elliott Reid)  to spy on Lorelei while the girls are on the transatlantic liner which will take them to their destination.  Esmond Snr is hoping that Malone will uncover evidence of Lorelei’s unfaithfulness to his son, but Malone is distracted by Dorothy, whom he starts to have feelings for.  Meanwhile, Lorelei catches the eye of an elderly ‘gentleman’ (in fact, he is anything but a gentleman) on board the liner, and their friendship results in all sorts of trouble…

What a fabulous film this is – full of very clever jokes and cheeky innuendo, with some fantastic song and dance numbers (fewer songs than I was expecting however, but that didn’t mar my enjoyment).  Marilyn was great as Lorelei and her performance of Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend is iconic, but I thought that Jane Russell was by far the better actress here.  Or maybe I just preferred her character – Dorothy was straight talking and wise-cracking, and she and Lorelei made a great partnership.  Their friendship was entirely believable – they recognise and acknowledge each other’s flaws, but love each other anyway (when Malone makes an unkind but accurate comment about Lorelei, Dorothy snaps “Nobody talks about Lorelei but me.”).

With a lavish opening sequence which sets the scene for the story to follow, and several genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, this is a film which is sure to make you smile and feel great after you’ve watched it.  It might be over 50 years old, but it’s lost none of it’s charm.  Definitely recommended.

Year of release: 1953

Director: Howard Hawks

Writers: Charles Lederer, Joseph Fields, Anita Loos

Main cast: Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid

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