Marilyn’s Haunting Vulnerability in ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’

Released in the US on 18 July, 1952 – 70 years ago today – Don’t Bother to Knock offered Marilyn one of her most unusual and challenging roles, as Josh Bell writes for Crooked Marquee.

“In one of her best and most underrated performances, Monroe brings genuine sorrow to a woman who’s been dismissed by the people in her life, rushed to be ‘cured’ so they don’t have to concern themselves with her anymore. Richard Widmark may get top billing, but Monroe is the heart of this melancholy movie.

Widmark lets himself look pathetic and desperate, playing against Monroe’s intense sadness. The haunted look in Monroe’s eyes as Nell alternately pleads with and threatens Bunny (Donna Corcoran) not to ruin her night with Jed (Widmark) conveys just how lost and broken this woman is, latching on to the only person who’s shown her a minimal amount of affection.

There’s a happy ending of sorts, although it’s happier for Jed and Lyn (Anne Bancroft) than it is for Nell … By that point, it’s almost too late for Nell, just as it was too late for Monroe. She remained stuck as a sex symbol, but in Don’t Bother to Knock, she shows the full range of her damaged, fragile humanity.”