The Movies, a 10-part documentary series produced by Tom Hanks, is now available to watch on the UK TV channel Sky Arts. Marilyn is featured in Episode 2 (The Golden Age Pt 2), and Episode 3 (The Sixties Pt. 1.)
In ‘The Golden Age Pt. 2,’ Entertainment Weekly‘s Jess Cagle describes Marilyn’s ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ number from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as “one of the greatest images in the history of film.” Over footage of the ‘mirror scene’ from How to Marry a Millionaire, film historian Kate Hearst observes that “What most people know of Marilyn Monroe is that she becomes this great sex symbol, starting in the fifties. But what a lot of people don’t know is how funny she is.”
“She eventually got tired of being this sexpot bombshell,” Emily Carman says, “and wanted to expand her range. So she famously forsakes her contract with Twentieth Century Fox to move to New York …” Marilyn’s evolution is shown with footage from The Seven Year Itch (the ‘subway scene,’ of course) and Roy Schatt’s photos of her at the Actors Studio.
“I think we don’t give Marilyn Monroe enough credit as an actress or comedian,” says writer/director Cameron Crowe, as we watch her unforgettable entrance in Some Like It Hot. “She could do it all, and Billy Wilder knew it.” As Marilyn speaks about always getting ‘the fuzzy end of the lollipop,’ film critic Kenneth Turan describes Some Like It Hot as “her most memorable film, because she kind of puts everything together for herself. You really start to see her as a person who you care about emotionally.”
The actor and comedian Billy Crystal notes that under Wilder’s direction, “there’s a music in the punchline.” The Boston Globe‘s Renee Graham considers it “a ridiculous movie in many ways,” over footage of Lemmon and Curtis in drag, while Crowe praises it as “the greatest comedy of all time, with the greatest last line.”
In ‘The Sixties Pt. 1‘ we look at The Misfits, which turned out to be the last movie completed by both Marilyn and her leading man, Clark Gable. Actor Alec Baldwin reveals that it’s one of his favourite films, admiring how Gable held his own with a new generation of Method-inspired co-stars. “There’s something rough about that movie,” says actress Anjelica Huston, daughter of Misfits director John Huston. “Visceral moments, such that you almost feel it’s documentary.”
Kenneth Turan adds that The Misfits has “a very elegaic feel to it. The end of the traditional movie Western is coming, and this film is kind of a monument to that.” In these two episodes, The Movies illustrates how Marilyn both embodied Hollywood’s golden age, and ultimately transcended it.
Thanks to Fraser Penney