Marilyn Takes ‘Time Out’ at the Movies

Marilyn with Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch (1955)

For a relaxing start to the weekend, why not dip a potato chip in champagne, and watch a favourite Marilyn movie? Over on the Screen Rant website, Alexander Holm ranked her ‘Top 10 Movies From Worst to Best.’

  • Monroe’s livewire performance is by far the film’s most interesting element. Her mania is truly arresting, yet she manages to bring a sad depth to the outlandish role she was handed (Don’t Bother to Knock, 1952)
  • Her innocent lilt fits beautifully in the unique musicality of Howard Hawks’ approach to dialogue, especially when playing opposite the frantic energy of Cary Grant (Monkey Business, 1952)
  • Monroe proves surprisingly capable of menace and manipulation, leading to several seductive moments for the young starlet (Niagara, 1953)
  • The three actresses, all at different phases of their illustrious careers, play wonderfully off of each other, but Monroe still manages to steal every scene (How to Marry a Millionaire, 1953)
  • Few remember Monroe’s trip to the old west, but she is unsurprisingly vibrant playing against a rugged Robert Mitchum (River of No Return, 1954)
  • Though not as well remembered as some of Monroe’s other films, this light comedy of culture clash is a wonderful showcase for Monroe’s comedic talents (The Prince and the Showgirl, 1957)
  • Monroe displayed a vulnerability she had yet to express on screen … serves as a sad coda for the actress’ brief, brilliant career (The Misfits, 1961)

However, I can’t agree with Holm’s dismissal of The Seven Year Itch, ranked last. ‘Though she nails her assignment,’ he says of Marilyn’s performance, ‘the film itself is more of an artifact than an entertainment.’ While some viewers know the movie mainly for its iconic ‘subway scene,’ Marilyn’s role as a very modern girl is among her most likable – and the film also boasts numerous wry observations on sexual mores.

Perhaps part of the problem is that director Billy Wilder was dissatisfied with the movie, in which the affair between Richard Sherman and The Girl depicted in George Axelrod’s play is watered down into a mild flirtation. As Phil de Semlyen notes in his list of ‘8 Great Marilyn Monroe Performances to Cherish‘ for Time Out, Wilder called it ‘a nothing picture.’ However, I would argue that Marilyn’s natural sex appeal more than compensates.

Here are some more picks from this latter piece, which includes links to full reviews of each movie…

  • An early showcase of her ability to embody a rare kind of freighted innocence (she’s sweet, but she’s trouble), and it manifests here as a necessary shard of light to briefly pierce the enveloping gloom (The Asphalt Jungle, 1950)
  • It’s tempting to think that the young Monroe must have felt a lot like her character, suffering imposter syndrome among the cast of established greats, but she brings poise and balance to this classic scene (All About Eve, 1950)
  • When she delivers a jazzy ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in an electric pink ball gown, it could just be the perfect four minutes of cinema (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953)
  • Sure, she burnt through a lot of film stock – many of her lines requiring 40 or more takes – but the end result had Wilder raving: ‘All I can tell you is if Marilyn was around today, I’d be on my knees, saying: “Please, let’s do it again!”’ (Some Like It Hot, 1959)