A Deeper Dive Into Marilyn’s ‘Unfinished Finale’

Rick Gould takes a measured view on the collapse of Marilyn’s last film, Something’s Got to Give, on his Rick’s Real/Reel Life blog today.

“The chaos of Something’s Got to Give still gets big play today. After MM’s firing and shortly after her death, all the blame was laid at Marilyn’s pedestal. But like many other showbiz scandals and tragedies, the blame has shifted over the years, to the studios and their ‘suits.’ Especially when Something’s Got to Give footage was discovered and restored, and showed Marilyn looking radiant and trying her best.

The thing is that both sides are right. Marilyn fans point to MM’s fine figure and game face while trying to put over familiar film material. And those who counter that Marilyn held up shooting over illness, while jetting across the country to JFK’s birthday bash, also have valid points … When Monroe started missing work, nearly everyone started to turn against Marilyn, except Dean Martin. The cardinal rule in the movie biz is you don’t hold up the shooting schedule … [Director] George Cukor didn’t help matters by anonymously dishing to gossip ghoul Hedda Hopper about Monroe’s behavior.

As for Fox, they blamed Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor for the chaos during the making of Something’s Got to Give and Cleopatra respectively. Yet, Fox was equally guilty—out of corporate greed. Both films went into production with dated, problematic scripts. And both projects started shooting with stars that were physically ill and emotionally precarious. Though Monroe hadn’t made a film in 18 months, her personal life had worn her down, and was going from slim to thin as shooting progressed. And Marilyn was physically ill with sinusitis right from the start. Fox was warned off of Monroe by the producer but they turned a deaf ear … The mantra was the same for both Fox productions: get the stars in front of the camera, no matter what.

Much was made of ‘fading’ Marilyn working at her home studio for $100,000 while Fox made Elizabeth Taylor the first star to earn $1 million dollars per film, with all the contractual trimmings. The media picture painted Marilyn as Cinderella, scrubbing floors, while Elizabeth was the belle of the ball. However, before Taylor could accept the Cleopatra offer, Elizabeth had one more film to make on her old MGM contract, a similarly paltry $125,000, to make the boring soap, BUtterfield 8. The big difference between the two, as always in Hollywood, was profits. Both Marilyn and Elizabeth had major career breakthroughs in 1956, Bus Stop and Giant, respectively. Both stars made five films by ’62. The difference was Elizabeth’s films were all smash hits, two of which were epics. Marilyn had a hit with Bus Stop and a smash hit with Some Like it Hot, but The Prince and the ShowgirlLet’s Make Love, and The Misfits, were considered ‘disappointments.’ Also, while Taylor could be spoiled and difficult toward MGM brass, she was ‘One-Take Liz’ on the set.

Interestingly, when Monroe was fired from Something’s Got to Give, she gave a flurry of interviews and photo shoots, as a rebuttal to the bad studio publicity. Marilyn’s mantra was that it was okay if fame as a sex symbol was passing her by, that she was ready for something new. Yet, at the same time, her photo shoots were often scantily clad, along with the barrage of nude skinny dipping photos. Once again, Marilyn was sending out mixed signals.

I have wondered what would have become of Marilyn Monroe had she lived, and embraced maturity. This is unlikely, as the general consensus now is that Marilyn was an untreated bi-polar personality. Yet, could she have become an enduring star no matter what, like Elizabeth Taylor? Could she have become a star character actress like Shirley MacLaine or Lauren Bacall? Or could she have found happiness and solitude by leaving Hollywood, like Kim Novak? I think she could have opted for any of these possibilities, but given her instability, would she have? Instead Monroe became part of the trio of legendary slow suicides who died in the ‘60s: Marilyn, Monty, and Judy … sad, sad, sad.”