Based on Charlotte Armstrong's 1951 novel, Mischief, "Don't Bother to Knock" was filmed shortly after publication. On a whim, I selected it based off the below description on Netflix and sat in wonder for the short 80-some minutes, musing about the sadness of Marilyn Monroe's life, that the legacy she left was so very different than who she was and who she likely would have become, if only she could have scraped herself out of the hole of being typecast as the very dumb, but very sexy, blonde stereotype.
The synopsis from Netflix is:
On the rebound after a break-up, Jed meets gorgeous Nell, but soon discovers that she harbors a dark past and is dangerously unstable.
The movie showcases Marilyn Monroe's brilliant acting talent, playing the part of Nell, a tortured young woman with a terrible secret which alters her judgment when she's asked to babysit a young girl in a hotel. The movie takes place entirely in the hotel, giving it an ominous and weighted air of claustrophobia. Shortly after meeting this man who recently was dumped, Nell begins to spiral downward as she tries to maintain a stable image for him. But with frequent interruptions from the young girl, or Nell's uncle (the hotel elevator operator), and more, Marilyn Monroe successfully delivers moments purely disturbing and unsettling, likely to have been viewed as scandalous in 1952. The performance sadly seems to have been forgotten and overshadowed when movies like "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "How to Marry a Millionaire," and "The Seven-Year Itch" were released.
I seriously want everyone to see this movie. I disagree heartily with Bosley Crowther's review in the New York Times in 1952. It almost feels as though the expectation was that the movie was to be a comedy of some sort, and when it clearly was quite the opposite, reviews settled on it being a ridiculous film with subpar acting. How disappointing it must have been for Marilyn Monroe to read these reviews at the time. Had she lived just a little bit longer, she would have read many more reviews from those not swayed by sensuality, or expecting more of it, and found that there was much more appreciation for her work in later years. I mourn for the passing of a Hollywood legend who would never be able to achieve the true acting stardom that she sought, one that was never based on her sexuality.
You're in for a real treat with this movie, and most especially if you're looking for something to watch in order to take part in the RIP Challenge this year. It's available on Netflix, and I highly recommend it.
Leading cast: Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, and Anne Bancroft
Director: Roy Ward Baker
It's clear by the posters above just how the movie studios banked so much on Marilyn Monroe's sexuality - never once does she appear this sensual in the film, and never once did she wear the red corset top in the first photo above. In fact, she's got little make-up on, and when she does dress up, she chooses a dress and jewelry that might have been more glamorous if the film were in color, but in black-and-white, it simply comes across muted and understated, allowing her acting to shine through, unblemished and unspoiled by the typically expected, lusted-after response.
This is what she looks like when she first graces the screen. Hardly what you'd imagine for the Marilyn Monroe icon, dressed in an unflattering dress, coming across as prison-attire of the day. She looks slight and quiet, unthreatening, and innocent.
During this movie, there were moments when I held my breath, wondering what this character was going to do next. Nell's eventual breakdown was easy to believe, and as the movie closed out, all I could think was (for the millionth time when I think of this actress), "she was a brilliant woman and everyone just thought she was some stupid girl." How terribly sad.
So if you were unaware, Marilyn Monroe was so much more than the infamous "flying skirt" photo of her and sexy body pin-up girl. Instead, remember that this was the woman who read incredibly difficult novels for fun and for her own education. Marilyn Monroe was a talented actress who had so much left to offer in her legacy, and we, as the audience, sadly never got a chance to witness more from her. It truly is our loss.
I'm participating in the RIP Challenge, which is in its eleventh year. Click here for my original post, and definitely click here to visit Stainless Steel Droppings' site for more details.