When Clint Eastwood Missed Marilyn at the ‘Bus Stop’

Clint Eastwood is one of the greatest screen icons of all time, still directing and starring in films at 91. But in 1956, he was just another Hollywood hopeful. After a handful of minor parts – including a widely panned sequel to Creature From the Black Lagoon – he was dropped by Universal in 1955, but managed to land a more significant role in The First Travelling Saleslady (1956), starring Ginger Rogers and Carol Channing. However, the film he really wanted was Bus Stop, with Marilyn Monroe.

In a new interview for Parade magazine, Clint reflects on what might have been – and lays a longstanding myth to rest.

“Per a few internet bios, you were influenced by Marilyn Monroe in honing your breathy acting voice. Could that possibly be true?

[Laughs] Marilyn Monroe?! No, I was never influenced by her. I was up for a part in Bus Stop as a young guy. The director, Josh Logan, was going to choose between me and John Smith [who later starred in TV’s Laramie.] I was kind of excited because she was so attractive, and I thought, This could be OK. And, of course, it didn’t become OK because Josh cast some other guy in New York. Like you’re ready to hit the ball out of the park and then, nothing.”

Marilyn with leading man Don Murray

In her 2007 book, Marilyn Monroe: Platinum Fox, author Cindy de la Hoz confirmed that Clint was on the Twentieth Century Fox longlist to play ‘cowpoke’ Bo Decker, just below Don Murray, the ‘New York guy’ who got the gig. The studio’s first choice, Rock Hudson, was unavailable due to scheduling conflicts. Incidentally, Elvis Presley – who is sometimes rumoured to have been a contender – is not mentioned on Cindy’s list.

While Clint’s ice-cool persona seems at odds with the goofy Bo, the role which made him a household name just two years later – as ‘Rowdy Yates’ in the hit TV Western series, Rawhide – was not that different. Even as he found fame, though, Clint became dissatisfied with the character, and would finally establish himself on the big screen as ‘The Man With No Name’ in Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964.) And the rest, as they say, is history …

Personally, I think Don Murray – a Broadway actor making his movie debut – was a better choice for Bo Decker than either Clint or Rock, having a lighter touch which suited the material. (Murray’s performance earned him an Oscar nomination, while Marilyn was notably snubbed.)

However, the thought of pairing Monroe with Eastwood remains tantalising. She could certainly relate to his early career difficulties and struggle against typecasting. But I suspect that Clint, a consummate professional, would have been bewildered by Marilyn’s lateness and tendency to forget her lines.