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Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days

Discussion in 'Movies' started by ClassyCo, Jan 8, 2020.

  1. ClassyCo

    ClassyCo Soap Chat Addict EXP: 6 Years

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    Marilyn Monroe, as many are already well aware, has become a symbol of the classic movie star. Glamour, talent, looks, a tragic death. She's got it all. The total package.

    Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days, the 2001 AMC documentary, details Monroe's tragic final months in the year 1962. The film covers her personal life, but primarily centers in on the production of Something's Got to Give, a film offered as her comeback. The production was chaotic, and eventually got shelved after a series of repeated absences and budget over-runs.

    This is one of my favorite documentaries. I recently re-watched it.

    Have any of you seen it? Have any of you any thing to say about Monroe and her "tragic final days"?

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  2. ClassyCo

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    In early 1962, Twentieth Century-Fox was in the midst of a financial crisis due to costly delays in the epic production of Cleopatra. The studio needed Marilyn Monroe, who had been their biggest star the decade prior, back at work as soon as possible. Producer David Brown was tasked to entice the star with a script for a light bedroom comedy called Something's Got to Give. It would be a modern-day remake of the 1940 screwball comedy My Favorite Wife, which had starred Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. Marilyn was to play a woman whose spent five years stranded on a tropical island only to come home to find herself legally declared dead and her husband having newly remarried.

    Monroe had been absent from the screen for over year, and it was touted that Something's Got to Give would offer her something of a comeback. She had recently underwent gallbladder surgery, and had lost more than twenty-five pounds, reaching the lowest weight of her adult life. In over six hours of tests, she wore some of her own clothes and some of those provided by the Fox wardrobe department, who had worked overtime to pull together costumes for the entire cast. Her costumes included a long blonde wig meant to be worn at the start of the film, a two-piece black wool suit (which she also wore in Let's Make Love), a black-and-white spaghetti strap silk dress, and a lime green bikini with a bottom designed specifically to cover her navel.

    As one biography said it──this was the kind of movie Monroe proved "she could do better than anyone". Fox presented her with James Garner as her leading man, but she declined him, and requested Dean Martin instead. Martin and Monroe had traveled in the same circles, and the pair had long wished to make a movie together. Martin only agreed to the production to work with Monroe. Cyd Charisse was brought in as Martin's second on-screen wife, while a small army of noted character actors rounded out the cast, among them Steve Allen, Wally Cox, Phil Silvers, and John McGiver.

    Looking at photos of Monroe's screen tests, she certainly looked lovely, trim, and eager to work.

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  3. ClassyCo

    ClassyCo Soap Chat Addict EXP: 6 Years

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    Photos of Marilyn's hair and wardrobe tests done in April 1962.

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  4. Snarky's Ghost

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    All I know is that the Kennedys didn't kill her.

    Poor thing -- she looks almost skeletal there, covering up her gallbladder scar (those used to be eight feet long):
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  5. Snarky's Ghost

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    Marilyn and her pal, Susan Strasberg, were both Sun in Gemini/Leo Rising, which is why Susan could imitate Marilyn so perfectly. (The Sun in Gemini/Leo Rising pairing is pretty good at burlesquing their gender archetypes, for the guys, too -- rather obnoxiously so).

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  6. ClassyCo

    ClassyCo Soap Chat Addict EXP: 6 Years

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    She was the smallest, weight-wise, following her gallbladder surgery. She had lost twenty-five pounds, although I'd say I prefer her with the weight on. It some ways, the weight loss made her look a few years younger, although she looked younger in The Misfits than she did in Let's Make Love. That can probably be contributed to the B&W cinematography in The Misfits, whereas the lighting for Let's Make Love seems rather bland. I'm guessing that was their intent, as something of an effort to keep up with the times as a lot of movies had that sort of look then, but it didn't work for Marilyn. Also, her hair looked very frail, very unflattering.
     
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  7. Snarky's Ghost

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    Yeah, she was a bit too heavy in THE MISFITS. Her coming out of the water in her bathing suit a wee bit chunky was almost as disheartening as Richard Burton coming out of the water in NIGHT OF THE IGUANA --- but not quite.

    I liked her weight middle-of-the-road. But, at least with clothes, she looked smashing in the SOMETHINGS GOT TO GIVE footage. Oh, and the pool scene, too.

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  8. ClassyCo

    ClassyCo Soap Chat Addict EXP: 6 Years

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    I'm on the fence with that theory. Sometimes, I'm apt to believe the Kennedy family wasn't involved specifically, but might have known what was going on nonetheless. Her links to the First Family and their in-laws was a factor, I'd say.
     
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  9. ClassyCo

    ClassyCo Soap Chat Addict EXP: 6 Years

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    Yes, I agree. She did look heavier than normal in The Misfits, especially around the middle. I recall the first time I saw her emerge from the water in that movie, and I was sort of stunned at how "chunky" ─ to borrow your term ─ she was, too.

    She did look lovely in those tests and pool side scenes for Something's Got to Give.
     
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  10. Snarky's Ghost

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    The most famous person isn't always the culprit -- even if it's more fun for the tabloids. The Marilyn aficionados have been brainwashed into hating the Kennedys and assuming they "used" and then killed her.

    Always be suspicious of stories smearing Jack & Bobby --- that they ordered the assassination of the Ngo brothers in Vietnam (they tried to stop it) or the assassination plots against Castro ("I didn't start it, it stopped it!," snapped Bobby circa 1965) or that they murdered Marilyn. It's all designed to make the Kennedy brothers look like killers themselves so their own assassinations would appear like "blowback" or "rough justice" or "bad karma" and make them seem like they supposedly got what they deserved, so we would care less about what happened to them and ask fewer question about why? and by whom?

    It's all CIA stuff. Other Kennedy girlfriends were targeted, even after JFK's death, like Mary Meyer (wife of CIA agent Cord Meyer, who admitted that his own agency, "the same bastards who killed JFK!," had also knocked off Meyer's own wife) was killed in 1964, her death made to look like a city park robbery.

    Was Marilyn knocked off? There's a decent argument for it. Some feel that Sam Giancana's nephew's 1992 book, "Double Cross", does a better job than most sources detailing the CIA/Mafia connections and assassination plots (which were officially but superficially investigated in the '70s). And that book suggests that the CIA was simply worried about pillow talk in their targeting of JFK/RFK girlfriends.... That might seem a featherweight motive for executing Marilyn and Mary Meyer, but it doesn't have to make that much sense to us.

    That said, there were other JFK mistresses who went to the press, claimed they'd burned their diaries, and almost moved to Europe. Although the agency had assassination squads rolling across Europe targeting witnesses after the president was killed. So going to France wouldn't have helped.

    Anyway, by most reports, Bobby had the most serious relationship with Marilyn, and even Gloria Steinem said Bobby was nicer to Marilyn than most men.

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    There's a theory that (supposedly backed-up with surveillance audio) Bobby took Marilyn's doctor to her home in L.A. to break up with her, assuming she'd become hysterical. And when she did, the doctor gave her something which, in combination with all the pills and drink she'd been taking all day, caused her to accidentally overdose... That's a poignant plot I borrowed for my late-S7 DYNASTY re-write (and the story was circulating in 1987)… But who knows if it's true.

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    Last edited: Jan 11, 2020
  11. Snarky's Ghost

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  12. Snarky's Ghost

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    For all it's worth:


     
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  13. Toni

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    I watched that a couple of times long ago... I found it very interesting, though the movie footage had been shown for years. Ironically, Marilyn´s image at the pool has become one of her most immortal, iconic pictures. And the movie didn´t even exist (I know they did film it with somebody else, but there was no comparison, I guess).

    Every time I watch that footage, and also the camera testing, I get a somewhat eerie feeling, as if the woman there actually was Marilyn, and the actress who could have become without all those Actor´s Studio leeches (I´m pretty sure that Susan Strasberg´s influence did to her more evil than good, turning her into a more insecure actress and always depending on her ok behind the camera, as a lot of people have mentioned in many documentaries).

    Marilyn desperately needed Susan´s approval, as if she were a guru, instead of a teacher, fellow or a friend. No blame here, it probably was a wrong situation from both sides. What is amazingly clear is how good Marilyn was at picking up scripts and directors, la crème de la crème of her times. Take one of Marilyn´s early Fox films and you can feel the potential in her, maybe too excessive for someone with her looks. She was very talented there but lacked technique and versatility.

    Also, if we have to believe her biographers, she excelled when she suffered the most on the set (mainly, her movies when she was married to Arthur Miller and also when she did "The Misfits"), which is not uncommon in artists of any kind. I would have loved to see the complete movie that might have turned out, though I think that Dean Martin would have never been up to her (no Jack Lemmon!).

    Oh and she looked as 60s as she could! Another thing I love about her, always adapting her image to any period (loved her in "The Prince and the Showgirl" too).

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  14. Snarky's Ghost

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    John Huston's filming of Arthur Miller's THE MISFITS was dismissed at the time -- even by its doomed leads stars (well, Clark Gable, at first confused by this odd western, came to the conclusion he had just made one of the best films of his career -- although he'd died only days after completing it) but this poignant little B&W parable, set in the Nevada foothills, has aged as well as almost any film Marilyn ever did. And, in many ways, reflects most vividly what made her so distinct.

    In addition to being genuinely very pretty (most Hollywood "beauties" really are not) with an absolutely perfect feminine body (despite the occasional weight bump) Marilyn really did perfect the tormented, seemingly helpless blonde sex kitten persona better than anyone else, before or since, blending both the "nice girl" and "bad girl" archetypes of the mid-twentieth century.

    Also, she's one of the only ones who left behind a filmography of genuinely good pictures.

    But the era is also key to her appeal; they're inseparable... The idealized, picture perfect self-image America had during the sleepily optimistic new consumerism of the post-war, primary color-saturated 1950's when her career occurred, and the haunted end-of-an-world mood at the peak of the Cold War during the JFK years in the early-'60s when she died, mysteriously, in that cozy little bungalow in Brentwood.

    You either "get" that gauzy, wistful atmosphere or you don't. But it was immediately apparent even then, and it has everything to do with why Marilyn wasn't just one of the screen's greatest sex symbols (arguably, the greatest) but an ideal icon and metaphor for an immensely promising yet fascinatingly tragic period of American history that still intrigues and confounds. She just "fits" it perfectly.

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  15. ClassyCo

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    Documentaries such as this one have always intrigued me, ever since I got into old Hollywood and I watch as many of them as I can get my hands on. The footage of Something's Got to Give had been shown, at least sporadically, but there was never a full-fledged detailing of how the movie and its production all went down the drain. Marilyn's pool-side scene was iconic, and yes ironically so, considering the movie ended up in the vaults. That "other person" you're referencing was none other than Doris Day, who was, at the time, the biggest box office draw in the business. Day's version of the story, called Move Over, Darling, was a hit, and helped Fox recoup some of their losses from Cleopatra.

    I think you're confusing Paula Strasberg, Lee's wife, with their daughter, Susan. Paula was the one that "basically sat" with Marilyn during the production of all her films from Bus Stop onward. You're right, however, Marilyn couldn't seem to function without Paula's consistent indulging and approval. I'd agree that they didn't necessarily help her, but yet fed tendencies and struggles Marilyn should have been coached out of. She did show great promise in her earlier roles, especially such appearances in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve, the latter to which got her a second contract with Twentieth Century-Fox, this time with a commitment for seven years, starting at five-hundred dollars a week.

    She did seem to have her greatest triumphs, but at the box office as well as artistically, when the production itself was tedious and overwhelming for her. Some Like It Hot, her crowning achievement in terms of box office numbers, was one of the most difficult for her to get finished. The problems revolving around The Misfits were also abundant, and the film ended up being the most expensive B&W movie of its day.

    Her hair in these Something's Got to Give tests looks very early sixties. She's quite lovely, although a tad thinner than I generally prefer her. She could have easily been successful for several more years had she lived, but it wasn't to be.
     
  16. ClassyCo

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    I find Marilyn at her most vulnerable and beautiful in The Misfits. She looked fragile, tormented, but yet also somehow assuring that all was well, off-screen and on, or at least that it would be eventually. Her voice is softer and more brittle, her hair blonder than ever, and her acting at the top of its game.

    So much is heard about these final years of Marilyn's life, that many forget how troubled a production The Misfits outside of Marilyn's issues. Montgomery Clift was struggling with alcoholism and an addiction to prescription drugs, while Clark Gable's health was also failing, although he was persistent in doing his own stunts. I believe John Huston, the director himself, struggled with a gambling habit. Oh, and Arthur Miller, Marilyn's husband and screenplay author, struggled with script rewrites, mostly because his wife worried about the way she would be represented in the outcome.

    The Misfits was misunderstood at the time of its release. Critical reviews were mixed and box office receipts were low, and many generally classify the film as a dud during its first-run release. Over the years, however, the film's reputation has more than recovered. It is now regarding as one of the landmark movies of the tail end of Hollywood's Golden Era, while also offering some of (if not the best) work given by its leads──Gable, Monroe, Clift, and Eli Wallach.

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  17. Snarky's Ghost

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    Funny, the three leads all died young (well, Gable was 59) and this was their last film (and Monty's final American film) but the supporting cast -- Eli Wallach, Kevin McCarthy -- lived to be 427 years old.

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  18. Toni

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    You are spot on, I was confusing both Strasbergs! Thanks for clarifying it! I seemed to remember that it was Doris the "other person" but I wasn´t sure nor watched her version. Thanks for all your movie wisdom!! ;)
     
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  19. ClassyCo

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    It is quite odd. Some might even argue that the movie itself was "cursed", in a way. Both Monroe and Gable would both be dead within the following year, and Clift slipped into a continuing decline, that ultimately led to his own premature demise just a few years down the track.

    Monroe, considering this thread's set aside for her, spiraled out of control, especially after her divorce from Arthur Miller in January 1961. Her physical health weakened, and her dependency on prescription pills and alcohol only fueled her emotional fragility. Her doctors urged her that she wasn't ready to go back to work in 1962, but she went ahead any way.
     
  20. ClassyCo

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    Marilyn's favorite still photographers, such as Lawrence Schiller and William Woodfield, were on the set of Something's Got to Give on May 23, 1962 to capture the moments on camera.

    Only the illusion of skinny dipping was planned. Producer Henry Weinstein said that the wardrobe department had orchestrated a body suit for Marilyn that would make her appear nude in the water on-camera, and the entire set was closed off from all but the necessary crew. After a few takes, however, Monroe tore the swimming suit off, and paraded the pool while only wearing a flesh-colored bikini bottom.

    Had Something's Got to Give been completed and released in October 1962 as intended, Monroe would have been the first mainstream American actress to appear nude in a mainstream motion picture. Instead, this distinction goes to Jayne Mansfield, who went nude for the independent comedy Promises! Promises! in 1963.

    Below are some beautiful black-and-white stills of Marilyn poolside.

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