Question to our readers. Has here ever been a more durable star, personality or group of personalities in the history of classic movies than … The Three Stooges?
That was the query we posed in our May 31 blog ( The 3 Stooges — Living On and On and On and On…) in making the case that Larry, Curly and Moe have enjoyed an unusually lengthy span of popularity across several generations — beginning in vaudeville and continuing through contemporary movies. (See the current Twentieth Century Fox theatrical release of The Three Stooges, directed by that raunchy, politically incorrect fraternal duo, Bobby and Peter Farrelly).
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here to say that when we ask a question, we usually receive a well-informed answer. In this case, our faithful pal Mike Sheridan emailed that the slapstick Stooges should move over and make way for — John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe.
Here is how Mike makes his case:
Guys, coming from a guy who can take or leave ‘los tres cheflados’, I did want to reply to your question.
I’m sure there are many (durable classic movie stars), but I say John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe are two that transcend eras. Even my 20-year-old knows these two (as well as the Stooges).
Thanks, Mike. We agree to some extent about Wayne, but unreservedly go along with your view of Monroe. That’s because like the Stooges (we never thought we’d be writing about Marilyn and the slapstick boys in the same sentence) the currency and aura of the Monroe name is stubbornly enduring, inspiring a current movie, multiple books and magazine articles.
My Week With Marilyn opened last November, and has played theatrically around the world since then (grossing about $35 million globally). The picture (now on DVD) isn’t terribly good. Actress Michelle Williams gives a valiant imitation of Monroe but falls well short in all significant respects of the real Marilyn.
The movie is about the making of an earlier movie, 1957’s The Prince and the Showgirl, costarring and directed by Laurence Olivier and written by Terrence Rattigan. This was when Marilyn was in the throes of her high culture period, when she decided to form her own production company to film this picture for Warner Bros. at England’s Pinewood Studios.
My Week With Marilyn provides an interesting snapshot of Monroe in late career. Her marriage with playwright Arthur Miller (pictured below) is becoming unglued, she is increasingly dependent upon acting coach Paula Strasberg, arrives at movie sets hours late (much to director Olivier’s consternation; he is entertainingly enacted by Kenneth Branagh) and is assigned a production “minder,” a young Brit with show biz aspirations who becomes emotionally involved with MM.
Like the Farrelly brothers’ The Three Stooges, My Week With Marilyn is important if only for the fact that it actually got made in today’s Hollywood. Both films’ were justified by the continued, enduring popularity of their subjects.
You can’t say that about Wayne, who, we believe, is sadly and simplistically known today more as a symbol of overblown, gung-ho patriotism rather than the superb actor he was.
As for Marilyn, much is being made of the coming 50th anniversary of her death (in August 1962). Vanity Fair Magazine in its June issue published a stunning series of Monroe photos taken by photographer Lawrence Schiller on the set of Twentieth Century Fox’s Something’s Got To Give, her last movie that was shut down shortly before her death and never completed.
The revealing, quietly moving pictures show a gorgeous 36-year-old Marilyn on her way to truly enduring classic stardom.