Marilyn Charms the Critics – but not Oscar – in ‘Bus Stop’

In the latest instalment of his series for Classic Movie Hub, Gary Vitacco Robles looks at Bus Stop (1956), the first film made under Marilyn’s new, improved studio contract, following her New York sabbatical. Eschewing her usual glamour for a gritty role as a careworn nightclub singer in Joshua Logan’s adaptation of William Inge’s Broadway play, Marilyn enjoyed the best reviews of her career to date – but in what has been widely perceived as payback for the long dispute with Twentieth Century Fox, her hopes for an Oscar nomination were dashed.

“‘Monroe had finally succeeded in delicately balancing being wildly funny, and in the next minute, tender and fragile,’ began the Hollywood Reporter. ‘There has been a good deal of comment and some knowing laughter about Miss Monroe’s attempts to broaden her native talents by working at her acting. It should be some satisfaction to the lady that she now has the last and very triumphant laugh.’

Monroe lived up to Lee Strasberg’s endorsement of her being on par with Marlon Brando. She moved audiences. Without doubt, Monroe drew from her identification with Cherie. Like Norma Jeane (the young girl who changed her name to Marilyn Monroe), the character dreamed of escaping her mundane existence by becoming a Hollywood star and living happily ever after. Cherie doesn’t make it to Hollywood but finds contentment with a man who loves her, and Monroe achieved stardom but never found eternal love.

‘Fox’s promotion of Deborah Kerr in The King and I had been a deliberate snub to the year’s most conspicuous non-nominee, Marilyn Monroe, whose tragicomic performance in Bus Stop had widely been deemed worthy of Oscar consideration,’ wrote Anthony Holden in Behind the Oscar: The Secret History of the Academy Awards.

In his film debut, Don Murray received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. ‘I was astonished,’ he admitted on the fiftieth anniversary of Monroe’s death. ‘But still more astonishing, Marilyn’s superb performance was overlooked.'”