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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Monroe Takes The Center Ring


Don't Bother To Knock (1952) Intros MM The Star

As admitted before, I’m no authority on acting, not having trod boards except for disastrous go at Shakespeare where I paraphrased dialogue and sounded less like Gielgud than James Best on Dukes Of Hazard. For little as my bouquets matter then, I would say that Marilyn Monroe’s work in Don’t Bother To Knock seems as accomplished as what she’d later do under spell of flim-flamming Actor’s Studio guidance. I’ve read the Strasbergs had quite a racket going on MM. Without over-dwell on Marilyn as victim-or-not, I’ll aver she at least got grossly over-coached, her instinctive gifts suborned to manipulation the well paid courtesy of those who’d exploit her. Don’t Bother To Knock was a first lead-of-sorts for Monroe. She’s billed below Richard Widmark, has protection of character players who help her look good (interesting that one of them, Jim Backus, would do as much for James Dean a few years later). It isn’t a glamour part, and in fact would be a stretch for any actress given the assignment. That Monroe acquits well might have led to further challenging had not glare of publicity made her a biggest sex lure for Fox since Betty Grable. I wonder to what extent the calendar pose impacted, and led to casting that would feed stardom.
She's Hot in Cleveland
So this demonstrated Monroe’s competence as a dramatic actress --- so what? 20th had these in abundance, as did all companies. Ann Bancroft’s role could have been switched with MM and yielded as good result. Problem would have been sales, this where Marilyn really paid as new-minted lead. Poster and art was hers alone, a mini-Widmark peeking in from the side on most displays. A one-sheet, since collectible, is purest pin-up, and made all-day suckers of many who bought admission. They'd understand, however, that boxoffices were like carnival ground, as in seldom getting what posters promised. Monroe demonstrated, in any case, that she could make a small picture pay. Don’t Bother To Knock with anyone else would probably have lost money, as what were Gene Tierney, Jeanne Crain, and Linda Darnell but largely played out? Fox had to keep volume high to keep an oversized engine running, but most of their modest ones fell before emerging colossus that was television, so it must have been refreshing to find someone who could bolster a modest B/W into profit ($484K), and underpaid as she was, MM was it.

5 Comments:

Blogger CanadianKen said...

Definitely agree with your assessment of Marilyn's touching and unsettling performance here as accomplished. I'd have gone further and awarded her a best actress Oscar nomination (and win)in a strong field that should have (but didn't) include Barbara Stanwyck in "Clash By Night" and Eleanor Parker in "Scaramouche". I'd have also given the never nominated Monroe a second Oscar for complex,unbelievably luminous work in "The Misfits" nine years later. "Don't Bother to Knock" and "The Misfits" provide stellar book-ends to Marilyn's fascinating career as a leading lady.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

THE ACTOR'S STUDIO plays to the vanity of those who like to boast of coming from the best whatever.

David Mamet's books TRUE AND FALSE and BAMBI VS. GODZILLA take the mickey out of all that but that does not and will not stop folks from lining up at the doors to acting schools.

As Mamet writes, "This is a generation that would like to stay in school."

4:34 PM  
Blogger brickadoodle said...

I’d take James Best over John Guielgud any day. Who could ever forget his masterful performance in THE KILLER SHREWS?

4:54 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

From the Britcom "Extras": Ricky Gervais is an actor on a bad TV show who lands a part in a play directed by Ian McKellen. McKellen feels he needs to explain acting to him:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Juzy2YVQgw8

3:31 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer shares some observations about Marilyn Monroe and DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK:

Monroe's performance is all the more effective for its contrast with the other performances. They are almost uniformly good--nuanced, the lines well-timed and well-spoken--but conventional for all that. She seems a authentically disturbed woman in their midst, like a handful of shattered glass in a kaleidoscope, its pattern changing with each turn of the cylinder. If the "Method" was intended to develop characterization from the inside out, we can only wonder from what depths she drew this one.

4:54 PM  

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