One could argue that every film Marilyn Monroe made in Hollywood after she became a full fledged star is a classic film. Certainly no one would dispute that Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch, Some Like it Hot, and The Misfits qualify.
Today we’re going to talk about a few of the films in which Monroe appeared on her way up to stardom that also, in our minds, deserve special attention.
Our last assessment is buttressed by author Carl Rollyson, who has updated and revised his thought-provoking book, originally published in 1986, Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress (Univ. of Mississippi Press, 2014). It’s a great read.
While she was between studio contracts Marilyn’s agent Johnny Hyde had gotten her some key roles, first in the Marx Brothers final Hollywood film, 1949’s Love Happy. Then in a couple of key 1950 outings: John Huston’s drama, The Asphalt Jungle, and Joseph Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (above photo with George Sanders).
You remember, she was “Miss Caswell, a friend of Mr. DeWitt’s mother.” Writes author Rollyson: The role of Miss Caswell solidified Marilyn’s dumb blond stereotype. The variation on the type…is Miss Caswell’s absence of innocence. She is hard, ambitious and corrupt.
In The Asphalt Jungle, Marilyn played the mistress of a corrupt barrister (Louis Calhern). Although she only had a few lines and two scenes, her character was indispensable to both the plot and themes of the film, writes Rollyson.
The last two are certainly rated as genuine classics and Monroe benefited enormously by being featured in them. These films (and the publicity about her nude photos; she was Playboy‘s first playmate of the month) got her a long term contract at 20th Century Fox.
While her studio was grooming Monroe they cast her in some showy roles in films, one of which, Howard Hawks‘ Monkey Business, might be termed a minor classic. It’s certainly worth a look. If only to watch her derriere, as Charles Coburn did when he noted “anyone can type a letter.” He was her boss, she his inept secretary.
Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers are the stars of the movie, but it’s Grant’s scenes with Monroe that are remembered. When she hops into his sports car she asks, “is your motor running?” He retorts: “is yours?”
Her derriere was also prominently featured in Niagara, her first real starring role, prompting actress Constance Bennett to quip “There’s a broad with her future behind her.” Jean Peters and Joseph Cotten starred in the film, another minor classic, this time BECAUSE of Marilyn’s performance AND the shots of the falls themselves.
We’re sure you’ve seen all the films mentioned here today but if you haven’t — what are you waiting for?