Werth: The festival starts today, July 1st, and runs through July 17th, and includes all of Marilyn's best work. Marilyn was my gateway drug to the world of classic film so I can't wait to catch a couple of these flicks on the big screen. If only I could move into BAM for a couple weeks...
Wise: Who wouldn't fall for a man with a bus ticket and a plan for abduction?
Werth: While many of the typical Marilyn touches are here (beautiful pale skin and blond hair, singing and humor that relies on her not being the sharpest pin in the cushion) she elevates these elements beyond mere comedy to develop her character—much as a dramatic actress would craft a role. Cherie is so much more than a "dumb hillbilly." She is soft and tender, lost, willful, and earth-shatteringly beautiful without glamor. Her show costume is ripped, her hair mussy and in one scene Logan even catches Marilyn drooling languidly on her arm.
Wise: I think there are a few clues about what that might have looked like in one of her final performances, and while it's a little bit difficult to come by, Something's Got to Give, a reconstruction of her final, uncompleted film, is definitely worth watching.
Werth: The reconstruction was included as part of the documentary Marilyn: The Final Days.
Wise: The film, a remake of Cary Grant-starring farce My Favorite Wife, began filming in 1962 under the direction of George Cukor and co-starred Dean Martin as Nick Arden, an attorney who has his wife declared dead seven years after her boat was lost at sea. Ellen (Marilyn) reappears just before Nick and his new wife Bianca (Cyd Charisse) return from their honeymoon, and the revelation that Nick is an inadvertent bigamist drives all the screwball comedy that follows.
Werth: Bigamy—Mormonism's greatest gift to comedy.
Wise: The Marilyn that appears in the footage is very different from the comedienne who had been charming audiences for over a decade. Plagued by an acute sinus infection she had caught on a trip to New York to study with Strasburg, and still recovering from gall bladder surgery left her twenty-five pounds lighter than her typical adult weight, Marilyn was thinner and more mournful than the giggly buxom blond she normally played.
Werth: The documentary also points out she was heavy into her affair with one or both of the Kennedy boys—not to mention her addiction to sleeping pills that plagued her last several films.
Wise: There are some great comedic bits that survive (including Wally Cox playing a milquetoast Ellen recruits as an alibi), but an undercurrent of sadness runs through the competed scenes. Of course, Marilyn's illness was partly to blame, but she's also playing a woman who has lost everything—her husband, her children, her home—and she's not sure whether there's still a place for her among them or even if she wants to be there.
It makes me wonder how much Marilyn connected this role with the events in her own life; the hardships in both her personal and professional lives must have made returning to a film set into a bit like haunting a world where you no longer exist.
Werth: Pretty spooky, Wise. But Marilyn wouldn't have wanted to creep us out. Let's pep up this Welcome Home party with some blond fireworks.
Wise: Happy Fourth of July to all our Film Gab readers!