Sunday, August 5, 2012

TCM's Marilyn Monroe Movie Marathon

For as long as I've been seriously watching films, Marilyn Monroe has always been one of my all-time favorite stars of American cinema. Ever since I first watched her in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes about four years ago, I've been completely enthralled with her magnetism, sex appeal, and overall stage presence. After reading much upon her personality and personal life, I soon came to the realization that, not only was she beautiful and talented, but she was also kind, warm-hearted, and so very intelligent. Unfortunately, not very many of the roles she was given allowed this side of her to completely shine through, but to just know that an independent woman as herself has gotten the respect she deserves is a huge blessing in itself.

When I found out that Turner Classic Movies was holding a marathon of her films today (in memory of the 50th anniversary of her death), I knew there was no way I'd be missing out. Regrettably, although this marathon extended until far past midnight, evening plans forced me to only be able to watch three of these films, which I shall briefly go over for the remainder of this post.

The first of these films is 1953's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, directed by Howard Hawks. Many would say that this was the film that made Marilyn into a star, and for good reason. Her performance in this film as the gold-digging Lorelei Lee is absolutely hilarious, and she plays her part absolutely perfectly. This performance is complemented by Jane Russell, who tends to get the short end of the praise for this film, even though she is also just so great and unfairly under-appreciated. Her "Ain't There Anyone Here For Love" number in itself is just full of spunk and unbridled femininity. The most memorable scene of the whole film, however, comes with the "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" number, led by none other than Monroe herself. It is a truly iconic scene that has been homaged and parodied a countless number of times. It is well-known that Monroe had rehearsed the scene again and again, nonstop, until she got it perfect - and it is apparent here that the hard work was well worth it.

The second of the films is Billy Wilder's classic, The Seven Year Itch (1955). Tom Ewell gives an excellent performance as Richard Sherman, an average joe who sends his wife and son away on vacation, while he attempts to have an affair with his attractive neighbor. However, I do strongly believe that it is Marilyn herself who really steals the show with this one. I had only seen this film once before and, truthfully, didn't think much of it as first. Monroe plays another stereotypical "dumb blonde" character, but with this second viewing, I was able to appreciate it more. Her script comes with the most delightful one-liners, which she plays off with great comedic timing. My most favorite part of the movie comes when she schools Ewell's character on what a woman really desires:
"Your imagination! You think every girl's a dope. You think a girl goes to a party and there's some guy in a fancy striped vest strutting around giving you that I'm-so-handsome-you-can't-resist-me look. From this she's supposed to fall flat on her face. Well, she doesn't fall on her face. But there's another guy in the room, over in the corner. Maybe he's nervous and shy and perspiring a little. First, you look past him. But then you sense that he's gentle and kind and worried. That he'll be tender with you, nice and sweet. That's what's really exciting."
It is at this moment when Monroe's true character - not her cinematic character - begins to shine through; it's as if Marilyn herself is speaking these words from her heart. From what I believe is just an average film, this may be one of the most satisfying moments in any film I've seen from her.

The third and final film is also my personal favorite of the bunch: Some Like It Hot (1959), also written and directed by Billy Wilder. This film was quite controversial in its time, as the two male leads - Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon - resort to posing as women for an all-female road band in order to escape from some gangsters. Time has softened the blow of its content, but the humor itself remains fresh and satisfying. Moreover, Jack Lemmon is one of my all-time favorite actors, and this film is my second favorite Wilder comedy (with The Apartment leading the way only slightly!). I do believe that Marilyn herself is the most radient in this film than she has ever been in her life. Although this was the point of her life where her personal life was in turmoil, it had never once been apparent in the final product. Her performance as Sugar Kane is one that is both absolutely adorable and great at showcasing the independent woman that Monroe herself had strived to become. This is also one of the finest examples of musical talent that she possessed - just watch her lovely performances of "I Wanna Be Loved By You" and (my personal favorite) "I'm Through With Love". These performances - especially the latter - really reveal a more vulnerable side of Monroe that had either been torn apart by the media, or completely disregarded altogether. It's moments like these when viewers remember that she is, in fact, a human being, one that has been hurt, but continues to build herself up and prevail.

Unfortunately, TCM never played my personal favorite Monroe performance - The Misfits - but I'll save that for another day. Although it has been fifty years since Marilyn's death, her legacy continues to live on, almost as if she were still alive in this day and age. I've heard many call Monroe's image and popularity "overrated" and similar terms, which I would have to completely disagree with. Much of what I've read about Monroe indicates that she was a strong woman, up until her death, and I think that any and all such praise of that alone is not useless and, especially in her case, most definitely deserved.


  1. Truly an iconic woman. She died way too young. Great blog Lyzette!

    1. Thank you so much! I could only imagine what else she could have accomplished had she not left us so early.