Marilyn Monroe Collection
Despite being a natural brunette, Marilyn Monroe is arguably the most famous blonde of the twentieth-century, and still ranks as one of the most popular sex symbols of all time; tragically dying at the young age of thirty-six in 1962. Born with the name Norma Jean Mortenson in June, 1926, Marilyn's mother was plagued by mental illness even though she held an important job as a film-cutter for RKO studios. Marilyn was unsure who her real father was - he had abandoned the family before she was born. Having then spent her childhood muddling through various foster homes and orphanages, Marilyn married an aircraft worker named James Dougherty, a man five years her senior (she was just sixteen). The marriage only lasted approximately four years, but by then Marilyn started to flirt with the idea of a being a pinup model or even a small-time contract player at major Hollywood studios. Eventually, Marilyn found her way into glamour by appearing in small but noteworthy roles in such classics as All About Eve and The Asphalt Jungle.
Frequently troubled with invasions of her privacy, and a public obsession with her many celebrity-flings, Marilyn craved and yet simultaneously shunned the limelight. Married to both playwright Arthur Miller and baseball player Joe DiMaggio in her short life, Marilyn also had highly publicised flings with such important figures ranging from Elvis to the then-president John F. Kennedy. Her death caused shock amongst the whole world, and has been drenched in mystery. Found dead in her bed clutching a telephone, it has always been assumed that Marilyn overdosed on drugs in a suicidal state. However, many revisionists have questioned this view of her death, and have even fuelled many conspiracy theories. In his book, The Assassination Of Marilyn Monroe, Donald H. Wolfe goes so far as to claim that Marilyn was heavily drugged by a team headed by Robert Kennedy, as they tried to rid her apartment of any incriminating evidence for the White House. Unfortunately (or deliberately) Marilyn was drugged too heavily, and died as a result. It seems the mystery will never be solved, but forty years on from her death Marilyn Monroe remains an endearing icon of the twentieth-century.
Fox have released an eleven-disc box containing many of Marilyn Monroe's famous films in one collection at a reasonable price. In this anthology, ten films are featured, alongside a two hour documentary about Monroe.
Don't Bother To Knock (1952) - Directed By Roy Ward Baker
This was an attempt by Marilyn Monroe to prove to critics that she could act in a dramatic role, and opposite Richard Widmark, Marilyn proves an appealing lead actress, even if the film is far from memorable. Marilyn plays Nell, a babysitter who becomes friendly with pilot Jed (Widmark) through her hotel window. However, it soon transpires that Nell's suitability to the task of babysitting has reached a catastrophic level.
To read the full review of Don't Bother To Knock, click here for Mark Boydell's review.
Monkey Business (1952) - Directed By Howard Hawks
This was Marilyn's first collaboration with director Howard Hawks, and Marilyn only appears on-screen for approximately fifteen minutes, and is billed behind major stars Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers and Charles Coburn. The film crazily tells of a scientist named Barnaby Fulton (Grant) who is testing a youth-rendering formula on chimps. However, hi-jinx ensues when one of the chimps mixes the formula with the laboratory water cooler, causing Barnaby and his wife Edwine (Ginger Rogers) to reverse in age!
To read the full review of Monkey Business, click here for Mike Sutton's review.
Niagara (1953) - Directed By Henry Hathaway
Not only is this a decent suspense thriller, but also a good indication of how successful Marilyn could prove to be as a femme-fatale if utilised properly. The plot tells of adulterous Rose Loomis (Monroe), who plots to manipulate her lover into murdering her husband George (Joseph Cotton). However, after George is reported missing, innocent couple Polly (Jean Peters) and Ray Cutler's (Max Showalter) suspicions are aroused after spying on Rose.
To read the full review of Niagara, click here for Mike Sutton's review.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) - Directed By Howard Hawks
A charming Hawks comedy-musical that pairs Marilyn with Jane Russell as two lounge singers Lorelei and Dorothy working their way to Europe on a cruise ship. Lorelei is engaged to a jealous husband, and her shallow attraction to money and diamonds is match by Dorothy's shallow attraction to good looking men. Soon, the pair cause waves on the cruise ship, particularly when Lorelei sets her eye on an expensive diamond tiara.
To read the full review of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, click here for Raphael Pour-Hashemi's review.
How To Marry A Millionaire (1953) - Directed By Jean Negulesco
The first film to be made in Fox's super-widescreen process Cinemascope, this is unfortunately a rather forgettable vehicle that features Lauren Bacall, Monroe and Betty Grable struggling to maintain their classy, socialite lifestyle. Therefore, they decide to set out and find a suitable millionaire to marry in order for the high life to continue. A superficial and lightweight comedy that comes off as a pale imitation to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
To read the full review of How To Marry A Millionaire, click here for Mike Sutton's review.
River Of No Return (1954) - Directed By Otto Preminger
Pitted alongside Robert Mitchum, Marilyn plays Kay, a cabaret singer forced to share a raft with Mitchum after her greedy husband runs off with Mitchum's rifle and horse in a desperate bid to make a gold claim at Council City. A run-of-the-mill musical western as opposed to a classic piece of cinema, River Of No Return was an uninspired turn for Monroe.
To read the full review of River Of No Return, click here for Mark Boydell's review.
There's No Business Like Show Business (1954) - Directed By Walter Lang
Marilyn displays her singing talents and her unique ability to light up a screen in this colourful CinemaScope musical. Telling the story of The Five Donaghues, a 1930's vaudeville song and dance act, There's no Business Like Show Business is light on plot, but strong on musical set-pieces with great performances from Ethel Merman, Dan Dailey and Donald O'Connor. Not essential Monroe by any means, but some of her best moments in her career can be found in this film.
To read the full review of There's No Business Like Show Business, click here for Noel Megahey's review.
The Seven Year Itch (1955) - Directed By Billy Wilder
Despite containing the famous sequence involving Marilyn's skirt being blown up by an underneath vent, this is a tired and pedestrian comedy of marital infidelities that doesn't really live up to its reputation. Marilyn plays the too-attractive blonde next door who Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) must save himself from whilst his family are away for the summer. Enjoyable in a light-hearted way, but ultimately forgettable other than for the one 'highly-memorable' moment.
To read the full review of The Seven Year Itch, click here for Raphael Pour-Hashemi's review.
Bus Stop (1956) - Directed By Joshua Logan
This was a proper lead vehicle for Miss Monroe, and proved to be a timid comedy detailing the changing relationship between men and women. Monroe plays Cherie, a Phoenix bar singer who is caught in the path of brash rodeo cowboy Bo Decker (Don Murray), who decides that whether she likes it or not, Cherie will be his house-confined wife. A pleasant comedy with a surprising sour turn at the end, Bus Stop is little more than mildly-diverting entertainment.
To read the full review of Bus Stop, click here for Raphael Pour-Hashemi's review.
Let's Make Love (1960) - Directed By George Cukor
The most recent film of this anthology tells of Yves Montand arriving from France to Broadway so that he can see the rehearsal of a new play that satirises/ridicules his life. After seeing the gorgeous Monroe perform on stage, he decides that he is the best man to play himself, if just so he can be near Monroe every day. Monroe gives one of her best performances in a lightweight film, and is a delight to watch on screen.
To read the full review of Let's Make Love, click here for Noel Megahey's review.
Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days (2001) - Documentary Directed By Patty Ivins
As a bonus, this box set also features a two-hour documentary that explores the last few months of Monroe's life, including her infamous stint on the movie Something's Got To Give, which saw her single-handedly cause delays, create painful tensions on-set and be fired. Two weeks later she was found dead. The documentary is slightly sanitised, but it does cover a healthy amount of ground in terms of Monroe's 'final days'. Narrated by James Coburn, the documentary features many interviews with relevant members of Monroe's life at the time of her death. What renders this documentary exceedingly collectable is the fact that as an extended epilogue it contains a thirty-seven minute rough cut of what Something's Got To Give could have been. For that alone, this is an ultra-memorable DVD that brilliantly complements the Marilyn Monroe Collection. A three minute Movietone News promo about the Cinemascope process is also thrown in for good measure.
The ten films provided here are of variable quality, but this is clearly a collection that no fan of Marilyn Monroe should be without, as most of the films have been lovingly restored and provided with a brief splattering of extras. It might not contain Some Like It Hot or The Misfits, but it still is an excellent tribute to a treasured icon of Hollywood cinema.