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Marilyn Monroe and Her Movies

Updated on May 29, 2013
Marilyn Monroe in "The MIsfits" directed by John Huston in 1961.
Marilyn Monroe in "The MIsfits" directed by John Huston in 1961.

Marilyn Monroe's Movie "Break"

Marilyn Monroe's "break" came with the small part in The Asphalt Jungle under the direction of John Huston at MGM. She played a character named Angela Phinlay and it was this small part that begot some attention for Monroe. The June 9, 1950 issue of The New York Times paid particular attention to the film's director, "We've got to hand it to the boys, particularly to Mr. Huston: they've done a terrific job!" Nowhere in the article is Monroe's name mentioned other than listing her as one of the actors. In time, however, she would be in print as well as having her photograph plastered on a page, let alone the screen as a leading actor. Monroe won this small part due to the influence of a man named Johnny Hyde who believed in who she could become. In time, for all his influence with the industry on her behalf, he would want to marry her, but she did not love him and, thus, declined several times. It was after Hyde's death that Monroe attached herself to Elia Kazan in 1951, and later that same year fell in love with Arthur Miller.

On July 12, 1953, The New York Times reported the following, which could only influence a person's psychology of the "blonde" stereotype. Of course, it is no wonder why the male gener's hormones would stir upon seeing Monroe on a wide-screen.

At Hollywood's first demonstration of CinemaScope, Twentieth Century-Fox's own new wide-screen development, some weeks back, the initial reaction among the assembled notables seemed to be that this process was fine for mountains and the Empire State Building, but a little hard on actors, who came out looking twelve feet tall and a mile wide. Then appeared the phenomenal form of Marilyn Monroe, also twelve feet high, doing her 'Diamonds are a Girl's Best Fried' number from 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.'

'Well-l-l-l,' hurrahed the boys in the front row--and in the back row--and in the middle rows--and on the sides, 'this is great! Wonderful! Zanuck, you old devil, you've done it again!" (Source: "A Portrait of Marilyn Monroe Showing Why Gentlemen Perfer That Blonde." by Barbara B. Jamison published July 12, 1953 in The New York Times).

"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" also starred Jane Russell.
"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" also starred Jane Russell.
Howard Hawks
Howard Hawks

The Male Admiration

With the male admiration that Monroe received that was to become universal, it is perhaps their uncontrollable admiration that led Monroe in such a short amount of time to her success. The success brought her the attention, finally, that she wanted, but she wanted respect as well. One has to wonder if this form of attention was healthy for her in light of her personal issues that kept haunting her. What we have is a woman who went through the experience of an awful childhood into modeling, and from being an uncelebrated bit player into one of Hollywood's prized possessions. Her dream was becoming realized, but it does not seem apparent that this was the "fix" for the inner baggage she carried. Indeed, she had a good part of the world's attention from the male population. She admits to creating her own dialect, which is "a cross between a British accent and baby-talk." Although Monroe admitted that it was her hope to become a good actress and have serious roles, it would seem that Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was the true beginning of her being stereotyped as nothing but a dumb, sexy blonde. With the steadfast increase of this perception of who and what she was on a wide scale this, alone, was one of the main reasons why Monroe is somewhat legendary. Never mind if the woman had real talent or was quite brainy, she had a body that naturally begged for attention. In Monroe's interview with The New York Times, she stated that her "dramatic coach, Natasha Lytess, tells everybody that I have great soul--but so far nobody's interested in it. Someday, though--someday--."

It is interesting to note, however, Robin Wood's pulication of Howard Hawks, wherein he writes:

"Of all Hawks' films, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is the one most flawed by discrepancies between Hawk's daring originality and the 'safe' conventions of a commercially orientated history. It contains striking things, but disintegrates under analysis."

Wood suggests that Hawks could have done a better job in shaping the movie where it could have clearly had more meaning in expressing the morality of the time as well as the absurd values placed on money and/or sexual experiences. Regardless, the film, Lorelei Lee played by Monroe successfully gained male attention. It does not matter, really, if Wood is one of many who viewed Hawks' Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as either a failure or marginal piece of work. The public, as a whole, spoke and the end result and for whatever logical reason, even if it's based on the animalistic nature of human beings. Without the intentional purpose of sounding sexist, men were not gathering to see the film for the desire of catching symbolic meaning or to practice analytical reasoning. The film, did, however, ultimately stereotype Monroe. Again, this is one of the ingredients, though, folding into the shaping of Monroe as an icon.

The "Bus Stop" made in 1956 starred Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray, Arthur O'Connell, Betty Field, Eileen Heckart, Robert Bray and Hope Lange.
The "Bus Stop" made in 1956 starred Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray, Arthur O'Connell, Betty Field, Eileen Heckart, Robert Bray and Hope Lange.

"Bus Stop"

Finally, we were to see a different aspect of Monroe's abilities in 1956, when we were presented with Bus Stop under Joshua Logan's direction at 20th Century-Fox. Monroe's and Don Murray's portrayal of Cherie and Bo clearly gave the viewing audience another side of Monroe's capability as an actor as opposed to simply being able to wiggle a fanny and exclaim the highlights of certain body parts. Bosley Crowther wrote a fairly good piece on this other side of Monroe in his "Glitters as Floozie in 'Bus Stop' at Roxy" published in The New York Times in September 1956. His opening statement said it all: "HOLD onto your chairs, everybody, and get set for a rattling surprise." Furthering that line, he wrote, "Marilyn Monroe has finally proved herself an actress in 'Bus Stop.' She and the picture are swell!"

It does seem that historically, one's mind without the serious deployment of a simple thought process, can only arrive at a shallow view of who and what a person truly is, let alone their emotional make-up as a human being or what their aspects of personality have to offer to others. When one sets aside the fact that Monroe had a "white glow" as Madonna stated, or that she had natural sex appeal, perhaps it can then be discovered that although she had naive notions at one time, that she, in fact, had a soul that was driven to fulfill a purpose. It seems that this purpose incessantly announced the desire to be accepted and loved. In view of Monroe's childhood experiences, it should be obvious to thinking minds that she absolutely lacked what is considered a "normal" childhood. Also, she was conditioned to behave in the manner(s), which she did, due to the fact that she knew she had a voluptuous body. She had no male figure in her life from the inception of her life who could represent someone for her to look up to and, thus, it seems apparent why she had several promiscuous relationships with men. Perhaps Hyde played a role in fulfilling this figure. Perhaps Miller respected her in such a way tha she tried to teach herself to love herself and that she was, indeed, loveable. Who knows with any certainty, when there is so much speculation because only Monroe knows how she felt inside. It is a terrible feeling to be standing in the midst of a crowded room with gazing fans and still feel alone. It is a terrible feeling not to have inner peace of mind, not to be truly content and to be incessantly representative of a human being who is very much a sheep looking for a shepherd.

It should be noted that one of the reasons why Monroe is such an icon is the very fact that she is embraced by empathetic viewers when they are made aware of all the circumstances in her life prior her Hollywood experience. This gives a viewer or reader her life's story, the overall compassion that is necessary before offering a valid judgment of who or what she was. It is seeming how determined Norma Jeane was in pursuit of her goals and dreams. It is "feeling" her drive and perseverance. It is arriving at a palce where a certain level of awareness can be experienced simply by looking at life through her eyes based on what was factual about the early part of her life. Based on that information, alone, one can feel and sense her pains.

John Huston's "The Misfits" which Huston thought was "magnificent."
John Huston's "The Misfits" which Huston thought was "magnificent."
John Huston (August 5, 1906 – August 28, 1987).
John Huston (August 5, 1906 – August 28, 1987).
Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in "The Misfits"
Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in "The Misfits"
Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe in "The Misfits"
Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe in "The Misfits"
Thelma Ritter (February 14, 1902 — February 5, 1969).
Thelma Ritter (February 14, 1902 — February 5, 1969).

"The Misfits"

Miller must have believed in Monroe and loved her with sincere passion. Those who know little of Monroe's circumstances probably are not aware of the fact she lost a baby during her relationship with Miller. This could be another example of Monroe being hard on herself, thus feeling a failure or that it was her fault. Regardless, it could have been compared with similar type emotions relative to her childhood.

During the summer of 1958, the year she lost the baby, Miller sent his The Misfits to John Huston for his review. Much to Monroe's surprise and delight, Huston thought it was "magnificent." Monroe had not worked with Huston since The Asphalt Jungle and even though she had a minor role in that film, she viewed it as one of her finest performances.

The Misfits allegedly cost around $4 million to produce making it one of the most expensive black and while movies ever produced. Perhaps it was not a good idea agreeing to make the film in Nevada as Huston lost $50,000 to gambling even during the making of the movie. Also, Monroe was having emotional problems within the first month of filming. Too often, she was unwell or she declined to work long hours during a day, which she would only begin by the time the afternoon came. As time went on, Monroe became more ill to such an extreme, that she was eventually hospitalized. Naturally, the Hollywood rumors were spilling over and sadly enough, Monroe and Miller ended their marriage by the time the film was finally completed. According to Stuart Kaminsky's John Huston-Making of Magic, "Houston announced that in spike of the publicity about Marilyn Monroe, he would be willing to work with her again. 'When people talk about her,' he said, 'they are generally talking about themselves. They don't really know her.'"

Ironically, after the making of The Misfits, we read about the deaths of Clark Gable and the automobile accident of Montgomery Clift, which ultimately led to his death. In due course, the deaths of Monroe and Thelma Ritter would occur. Several years later, Huston said that Monroe "was a good-hearted girl." At the time of Kaminsky's publication of his book, he stated the irony of the film was the fact that it was the only film of Huston's in which no one died, but one that involved actors who, in reality, would die shortly thereafter.

When Monroe first read lines for huston, it was during the inception process of The Asphalt Jungle. She was so nervous that she was shaking and during the meeting, she reuested to sit on the floor to remove her shoes. Huston told Fred Lawrence Guiles,

"I was not too surprised when she asked if she could sit on the floor. I'd been told that she was unusual. I told her that would be just fine. The cameras rolled and when it was overk Marilyn looked very insecure about the whole thing and asked to do it over again. I agreed, but I had already decided on the first take. The part of Angela was hers."

Monroe attributes to Huston the fact that nobody would have heard of her if it were not for him and that she respected him, nad that he meant a lot to her during her life.


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