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Not to make too much of a minor point, but can I gently take exception to the professors’ airy dismissal of Marilyn Monroe’s career after Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as consisting of “off-color comedies”? I would suggest that there are some very fine dramas, comedies and musicals among Monroe’s later films, made when she was at the peak of her career. They may not be Shakespeare, but I don’t think there’s even one of them that could be described as ”off-color.” That’s it. Just felt compelled to clarify that.

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Good catch on this, and whether you consider it a major or minor point might depend on how much you do or do not like Marilyn Monroe. Some people, I suspect those who aren’t huge Monroe fans, might say that anything she was in was off-color simply because she’s Marilyn. I think some people can’t see past the fact that she makes nearly everything she does sexy, and that might be enough for some to consider her very presence in a film as a categorizing factor. But like you, I happen to think she did some fine work after Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Maybe, maybe, you could  make a case for The Seven-Year Itch (1955), The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) or Let’s Make Love (1960) as off-color, but these seem to me to be more tongue-in-cheek poking fun at social mores, and besides, Monroe was so non-threatening and somehow innocent in her sexiness that it’s still hard to see these films as anything other than just comedies. But dare I say it, Monroe was kind of brilliant in Bus Stop (1956), Some Like It Hot (1959), and The Misfits (1961). Monroe certainly was no more off-color than Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag! 

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I will say Marilyn Monroe was effective in what she was asked to do for most of her career but I do believe she played the dumb blonde  over and over again.  A lot of the movies were the same version of the dumb blonde with something new to do.  Again she was great at it but they were literally playing on her sex appeal in just about every movie.  She was top billed in Niagra but yet I'm still loving Jean Peters performance over hers.  With Gentlemen Prefer Blondes I'm looking at Jane Russell.  We can't be naive and say that these vehicles weren't made to show of Marilyn's figure and poke fun at it a bit can we?  Now look at Kim Novak's career.  Can you imagine Marilyn in Picnic?  Totally different movie and not for the better.  Same with Vertigo.

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Kim Novak was for sure a good actress. She especially had a cool, composed marble-like quality that she was brilliantly cast in Vertigo and other films to make the most of. Monroe was one of the most vibrant and spontaneous of actresses. Of course they couldn’t be interchanged. Have you ever seen a Marilyn Monroe film on a big screen in a theatre with an audience? The way her intensity and energy leap off the screen and captures the audience is like nobody else. 

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I think Marilyn is definitely underrated as an actress, but I didn't always think so. When I first saw her films, I think I had only see Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (which I loved) and The Seven Year Itch (which I loathe). My two best friends at the time gifted me with a large collection of her movies. It wasn't everything, but it came pretty close. So I started watching them in order. It was fascinating to see her growth and going from bit part in films like All About Eve and O. Henry's House to starring. I think she was underutlized because, even if you dislike the type of characters she ends up playing, like Sugar and Lorelai Lee, the ability she has to act can't be denied. I teach high school students, and many of them like Marilyn for her beauty...I always encourage them to check out her acting as well. 

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