Marilyn Monroe

Film on Friday

Don't Bother to Knock.jpg

Marilyn Monroe is unquestionably an American icon. Beautiful, talented, tragic, she remains a fascination for many people. Often typecast as the singing ditsy blonde, she spent much of her movie career striving to be regarded as a serious actor. 1952’s Don’t Bother to Knock was her first real venture into the realm of drama – in fact, Marilyn’s character, Nell Forbes, proved to be the nightmare babysitter – not only suicidal herself, but willing to put the life of the child in danger as well.

The film co-starred veteran actor Richard Widmark as a disillusioned pilot and introduced the young Anne Bancroft (she was only 21) as a bar singer at the hotel where the action in the film occurred. Don’t Bother to Knockwas a financial success despite receiving mixed reviews.  Some critics complained that the movie was largely forgettable, but Marilyn must have been satisfied when they came away from it saying her performance was the best part of the feature. Of course, Marilyn starred in a full five films in 1953. The movie released directly after Don’t Bother to Knockwas a screwball comedy called Monkey Business(not to be confused with the Marx Brothers film of the same name). 

Betty Grable - The Master

Betty Grable's famous pin-up

Betty Grable's famous pin-up

QUESTION:  In 1939, the 21 year-old Betty Grable married Jackie Coogan, whose professional acting career began when he was seven, in Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. What tv sitcom character did Coogan claim as his own as an adult?
A)  The Skipper on Gilligan's Island
B)  Uncle Fester on The Addams Family
C)  Grandpa on The Munsters
D)  Buck Rogers on Buck Rogers
ANSWER BELOW

Where were we?  Oh right.  Yesterday's blog described Betty Grable's rise to becoming the number one box office draw in the United States at the dawn on World War Two. Betty was truly on top as American boys traveled overseas to fight for democracy. Wanting to take an easy-to-carry memento of home with them, many soldiers took pictures of their favorite actresses and pinned them in their bunks, hence the word pin-up. Rita Hayworth lost the title of number one pin-up girl to Betty halfway into the war, with her "million dollar legs," which were insured for that price by the studio for good measure. Meanwhile, her film career was at its peak. She enjoyed making formulaic, frothy boy-meets-girl dancing and singing spectaculars during the war, a distraction from the horrors going on in the world. The 1940's were a great time for Betty Grable, but all stars descend, and the fifties proved increasingly challenging for her. She found it extremely difficult to break out of the typecast she helped to create for herself, and her studio wasn't interested.

In 1953, Grable co-starred with Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall in How to Marry a Millionaire, which would prove to be her last high-profile film. Rumors of tension between Grable and Monroe circulated, but word on the set is the the two got along famously, Grable even going so far as telling Monroe to "Go get yours honey!  I've had mine!" She retired from film two years later, returned to the stage and performed in Las Vegas for a number of years.  She was only 56 years old when she died of lung cancer in 1973, but she will live on through her films and through her famous pin-up picture - regarded as one of the most influential images ever in a Time Magazine study.

ANSWER:  B)  Uncle Fester on The Addams Family.  He shaved his head for the audition, he wanted the roll so badly.

How to Marry a Millionaire

QUESTION:  How to Marry a Millionaire was the first film ever shot in the magic of CinemaScope, but it was not the first released.  What movie was completed after …Millionaire but released first?
A)  The Robe
B)  Shane
C)  Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
D)  House of Wax
ANSWER BELOW

As we stay in the Music Room here at the American Treasure Tour blog, we would like to recognize a film not only honored with photographs hanging from the walls, but that was the second biggest money-making film of 1953: How to Marry a Millionaire. It had all the ingredients a movie needed for success:  Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe.  Oh sure, there are likely other ingredients that may have helped make the movie a success, but really. Bacall, Grable and Monroe?  What else matters?  The film is a comedy about gold digging, which is to say about beautiful women whose ambitions in life are to marry … um … millionaires. Schatze (played by Lauren Bacall) is the practical one, Loco (Grable) is the perky one, and Monroe is typecast again as the simplistic blonde who never puts on her glasses for fear of looking unappealing. Because of her nearsightedness, she finds herself accidentally flying to Kansas City when she was trying to get to Atlantic City.

The film, with its beautiful leading ladies in pursuit of the riches of William Powell's J.D. Hanley, Eben played by Rory Calhoun (who is, tragically, not wealthy), and Fred Clark's Waldo Brewster. We confess we're simplifying the story, but we don't want to spoil anything for you. The comedy proved to be a huge hit and 20th Century Fox's first foray into CinemaScope - a widescreen extraveganza developed to challenge the threat of television. Eight years later, it would become the first CinemaScope film to air on television. Of course, it was presented in pan-and-scan format, not the widescreen seen in the theater. Tune in tomorrow as we learn about the stars of the film...

ANSWER:  A)  The Robe, although all five films (including …Millionaire were released in 1953)

Montgomery Clift - October 17, 2014

Happy Birthday to Montgomery Clift! Born Edward Montgomery Clift in Nebraska 94 years ago, he made his Broadway debut at the age of 15 and continued working on the stage for the next decade. His first movie role was opposite John Wayne in 1948’s Red River, for which he earned an Academy Award nomination. He was nominated again for his second film, The Search and followed that up with the Oscar-nominated The Heiress. In 1951, he starred as a brooding boy from the wrong side of the tracks who falls for the wealthy socialite Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun, and they began a lifelong friendship. Despite Clift’s successful career, he faced a number of demons, including alcoholism and an addiction to painkillers. Sadly, Marilyn Monroe described him as "the only person I know who is in worse shape than I am." Thankfully, we're left with several brilliant performances for which we can remember Clift.

TODAY’S TRIVIA QUESTION

Clift was a method actor. What did he do to prepare for his role in A Place in the Sun?

a) Spent a night in prison

b) Worked in a factory for a week

c) Went undercover to several events in high society

d) Dated Shelley Winters

Answer below!

CLIP OF THE DAY

“Tell mama everything.” Love blossoms, nay, smolders between Clift and Taylor in A Place in the Sun.

Clift wails on the trumpet in From Here to Eternity.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Good dialogue simply isn't enough to explain all the infinite gradations of a character. It's behavior -- it's what's going on behind the lines.

~Montgomery Clift

 

TRIVIA ANSWER

a) Clift spent a night in a real state prison.