Book Vs. Movie: ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’

Did you know that Don’t Bother to Knock was based on Mischief, a 1951 novel by crime writer Charlotte Armstrong? In the latest episode of their podcast, Book Vs. Movie, ‘The Margos’ explore the literary genesis of this underrated gem of film noir. (And if you like what you hear, check out their discussion of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – from novel to stage and screen.)

“In 1952, Marilyn Monroe was a 26-year-old actor with several comedies under her belt but no dramatic parts to show her true range of talent. Don’t Bother to Knock adapted from Charlotte Armstrong’s 1951 novel Mischief gave her a chance to show her range and remains one of her best performances.

The story centers on an unstable woman, Nell Forbes (Monroe), who is hired to babysit for a couple at a hotel set up by her cousin who is taking care of her after a brief stay in a mental hospital in Oregon. While Nell takes care of the child, Bunny, she meets airline pilot Jed Towers (played by Richard Widmark) who soon learns that Nell is unstable and Bunny might be in danger.

The cast is rounded out by Anne Bancroft in her first role as a jazz singer and Elisha Cook Jr. who plays Nell’s cousin Eddie. The story has unusual twists and turns as it ultimately becomes a morality play about knowing your nieghbors. And Marilyn is FANTASTIC in it!

So between the novel and the film, which did we like better?”