Free stuff from FNB: Win ‘Sunset Blvd.’

The winner of the October giveaway has been contacted. (The prize is “Body and Soul.”)

The November giveaway is an undisputed masterpiece, a stellar noir and one of the best-ever insider looks at Hollywood: “Sunset Blvd.” (1950, Billy Wilder) released today on Blu-ray. Starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson, “Sunset Blvd.” was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won three. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen this, but I had it on the brain this week because it was a special presentation at AFI Fest.

To enter this month’s giveaway, just leave a comment on any FNB post from Nov. 1-30. We welcome comments, but please remember that, for the purposes of the giveaway, there is one entry per person, not per comment.

The November winner will be randomly selected at the end of the month and announced in early December. Include your email address in your comment so that I can notify you if you win. Also be sure to check your email – if I don’t hear from you after three attempts, I will choose another winner. Your email will not be shared. Good luck!

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Classic Cain, power plays, Turner and Garfield in ‘Postman’

The Postman Always Rings Twice/1946/MGM/113 min.

In the opening of “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” a sign reading “MAN WANTED” flashes at us twice. This man, John Garfield as it happens, is really wanted. But you wouldn’t know it from Lana Turner’s imperious entrance.

She drops a tube of lipstick, then deigns to let him pick it up and return it to her. He decides to let her get it herself. She’s unruffled and he’s hooked. In a way, these first few minutes of the film foreshadow the sexual power play between Garfield’s Frank and Turner’s Cora.

The godless-like Cora, with her platinum hair, pouty lips and gorgeous curves, is arguably Turner’s most memorable role. One of film noir’s most famous femmes fatales, she is by turns a come-hither, passionate seductress and an icy blonde who likes to be the boss. Notice how often she wears white, sometimes from head to toe.

Lana Turner as Cora and John Garfield as Frank cook up trouble in the restaurant Cora runs with her husband.

Garfield as Frank gives her a run for her money, both in looks and attitude. Ephraim Katz writes of Garfield (born Julius Garfinkle, the son of a poor immigrant Jewish tailor): “[His] screen character was … not much at variance with his own personality – that of a cynical, defiant young man from the other side of the tracks, a resilient rebel with a chip on his shoulder who desperately tries to charm and muscle his way onward and upward.

“Despite the mediocrity of many of his films, Garfield’s boyish virility and his ability to project a soulful interior underneath a pugnacious façade made him an attractive star to many filmgoers. When given a proper vehicle, he proved himself a sensitive and solid interpreter.” (Garfield was later blacklisted for refusing to name friends as Communists in response to a House Un-American Activities Committee investigation.)

“Postman” more than qualifies as a proper vehicle. Frank, a hitchhiker at loose ends, stops at a roadside restaurant on the outskirts of LA and sees the MAN WANTED sign, posted by the owner, Cora’s chubby, cheerful, and much older, husband Nick (Cecil Kellaway). Nick persuades Frank to stay and work; not a bad deal considering that he also gets room and board.

Love on the rocks: Notice how often Cora wears white.

Before long, Nick and Cora become lovers and decide to do away with Nick so that they can start their new life together with a fat pile of cash. From there, things get darker and more diabolical. They botch their first attempt (death by electrocution) and their second try (they fake a car crash) results in charges being brought against them, which may or may not stick.

“Postman,” based on the James M. Cain novel and directed by Tay Garnett, is about as jet-black and unrelentingly bleak as they come. Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch wrote the script. There is no comic relief or guy-buddy subplot of the kind that you get in Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity,” also based on a Cain novel and written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler.

Also, the character of Nick gets a fair amount of screen time and, far from being a dire wretch of a husband (like the husband in “Double Indemnity,” played by Tom Powers), he’s affable and kind. He knows she doesn’t love him and even seems inclined to turn a blind eye if Cora and Frank want a romp in the hay. The dour vision of their betrayal, ill-fated reconciliation and their dogged determination to kill him feels far more uncomfortable – queasy even.

Because Garnett isn’t as visually stylish as many of the noir directors, “Postman” is a more blunt rendering than other essential noirs. But it’s also possible that Garnett, who was also a writer, was more interested in exploring the nuances of Cain’s book. Garnett and Cain grapple with the deepest issues of noir – for example, upending the myth that America is a classless society.

Cecil Kellaway (left) plays Nick, Cora’s husband, who is not bad as portly older husbands go. This lends his murder much gravity.

Only slightly less chilling than the violence perpetrated by the waitress and the manual worker, Garnett suggests, is the cavalier, snarky attitude of these two bourgeois buddies on the “right” side of the law (Leon Ames as district attorney Kyle Sackett and Hume Cronyn as defense lawyer Arthur Keats).

The case is nothing more than a game to them and they place a $100 bet on who will win. They’re not above using questionable methods to yield their desired results. Yet, they are considered upstanding members of society, whereas Cora and Frank are common criminals who must be punished.

Another point in Garnett’s favor: He gets excellent work from the leads and supporting players (also look out for noirista Audrey Totter). Cora and Frank are complicated parts that require range, depth and the ability to project irony.

Their love may be twisted, it’s true, but it goes through many incarnations and we sense that they are drawn to each other from mutual desperation and shared disappointment. As Frank tells her: “We’re chained to each other, Cora.”

Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange made a steamier version of the story in 1981, directed by Bob Rafelson.

To be sure, there’s no shortage of gloom. But, with leads as gorgeous and sexy as Garfield and Turner, every minute makes compelling viewing.

When Bob Rafelson remade the movie in 1981 with Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson, replete with raunchy sex scenes, Frank and Cora sizzled once more.

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Hitchcock blends noir, Americana in ‘Shadow of a Doubt’

By Michael Wilmington and Film Noir Blonde

A guide to classic film noir and neo-noir on cable TV. All the movies below are from the current schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK

Shadow of a Doubt” (1943, Alfred Hitchcock). Thursday, Oct. 4, 3:15 a.m. (12:15 a.m.)

A bright and beautiful small town girl named Charlotte “Charlie” Newton (Teresa Wright) is bored, bored with her well-ordered home in her pretty Norman Rockwellish little city of Santa Rosa, Calif., – where trees line the sunlit streets, everyone goes to church on Sunday, and lots of them read murder mysteries at night. Charlie has more exotic dreams. She adores her globe-trotting, urbane Uncle Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotten) – for whom she was nicknamed – and is deliriously happy when he shows up in Santa Rosa for a visit.

Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright play kindred spirits, sort of, in “Shadow.”

But Uncle Charlie has some secrets that no one in his circle would guess – not Uncle Charlie’s adoring sister (Patricia Collinge), nor his good-hearted brother-in-law (Henry Travers), nor their mystery-loving neighbor Herbie (Hume Cronyn), nor Charlie herself. Uncle Charlie, who conceals a darker personality and profession beneath his charming persona, is on the run, pursued by a dogged police detective (Macdonald Carey), who suspects him of being a notorious serial killer who seduces rich old widows and kills them for their money. As handsome, cold-blooded Uncle Charlie, Cotten, who also called “Shadow” his personal favorite film, is, with Robert Walker and Anthony Perkins, one of the three great Hitchcockian psychopaths.

“Shadow of a Doubt,” released in 1943, was Hitchcock’s sixth American movie and the one he often described as his favorite. As he explained to François Truffaut, this was because he felt that his critical enemies, the “plausibles,” could have nothing to quibble about with “Shadow.” It was written by two superb chroniclers of Americana, Thornton Wilder (“Our Town”) and Sally Benson (“Meet Me in St. Louis”), along with Hitch’s constant collaborator, wife Alma Reville. The result is one of the supreme examples of Hitchcockian counterpoint: with a sunny, beguiling background against which dark terror erupts.

Saturday, Sept. 29

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The Fallen Idol” (1948, Carol Reed). In 1948, a year before they made the nonpareil thriller “The Third Man,” director Carol Reed and screenwriter Graham Greene collaborated on another tilted-camera film-noir classic: this mesmerizing story of a little French boy (Bobby Henrey), a French diplomat’s son, who hero-worships the embassy butler (Ralph Richardson), but mistakenly comes to believe his idol has murdered his wife, and keeps unintentionally incriminating him. With Michele Morgan, Jack Hawkins and Bernard Lee – and stunning cinematography by Georges Perinal.

Sunday, Sept. 30

12 p.m. (9 a.m.): “Carmen Jones” (1954, Otto Preminger). From Georges Bizet’s great, tuneful, massively popular opera, based on Prosper Merimee’s novel about a lusty cigarette girl and the soldier who is obsessed with her, unwisely: A compelling noir musical, with an African-American cast (headed by Dorothy Dandridge as femme fatale Carmen and Harry Belafonte as soldier Joe), lyrics and libretto by Oscar Hammerstein II, and direction by Otto Preminger. The rest of the cast includes Pearl Bailey, Diahann Carroll and Brock Peters.

Monday, Oct. 1

2 p.m. (11 a. m.): “The Fortune Cookie” (1966, Billy Wilder). Billy Wilder, mastermind of that quintessential film noir “Double Indemnity,” comes up with another ingenious insurance swindle in this dark, very funny comedy noir. Jack Lemmon is Harry Hinkle, a likable pro- football TV cameraman who is run down before millions of spectators on a punt return. Walter Matthau won the Oscar playing Harry’s brother-in-law, a sneaky, cynical, loot-smelling lawyer.

Thursday, Oct. 4

1:30 a.m. (10:30 p.m.): “Marked Woman” (1937, Lloyd Bacon). Bette Davis plays a feisty “hostess” and Humphrey Bogart plays a crusading D. A. Together with Bette’s pals, other “hostesses” (aka ladies of the evening), they go up against the mob, in this feminist pre-noir crime classic, co-scripted by Robert Rossen. Based on a famous real-life New York City prostitution case. The Bogart and Eduardo Ciannelli characters are modeled on Thomas Dewey and Lucky Luciano. With Lola Lane, Allen Jenkins and Mayo Methot (Mrs. Bogart).

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The Noir File: As time goes by, ‘Casablanca’ remains sublime

By Michael Wilmington

A noir-lover’s guide to classic film noir on cable TV. All the movies listed below are from the current schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK

Casablanca” (1942, Michael Curtiz) Wednesday, Aug. 29, 10 p.m. (7 p.m.) On the Warner Brothers back lot, in an exotic city that hums with intrigue, we watch one of the movies’ immortal affairs and grandest pictures: “Casablanca” is, in some respects, the perfect Hollywood Golden Age studio movie.

Stuck in the middle: Ilse (Ingrid Bergman) is torn between duty (Paul Henreid) and love (Humphrey Bogart) in “Casablanca,” one of the best Hollywood Golden Age studio movies.

We see the frustrated and tormented but finally sublime passion of gloomy hard-case cabaret owner Rick (Humphrey Bogart, in his most popular role) for scared, on-the-run Ilse (Ingrid Bergman, in hers). Ilse is the emotionally torn woman of mystery whom Rick loved and lost, the angel who won his heart and left him in Paris. She now belongs body and soul, it seems, to the idealistic underground anti-Fascist leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Around them swirl the ideological storms of Nazi-ravaged Europe, at least as Warners saw them.

Humphrey Bogart and Dooley Wilson

And backing them up is one of the all-time great Hollywood supporting casts: Claude Rains as the suave and lecherous Vichy police head Renault; Conrad Veidt as the elegant, murderous Nazi commander Strasser; Sydney Greenstreet as the vaguely sinister rival cabaret owner; Peter Lorre as Ugati, the rat with the papers; S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall as the lovable fat busybody; Marcel Dalio as the nimble croupier; Curt Bois as the ferret-like pickpocket (“Vultures everywhere!”); and of course that indefatigable piano man Sam (Dooley Wilson) – the fellow who plays (or doesn’t) “As Time Goes By.”

“Casablanca,” which expertly melds several key ’40s Hollywood genres (drama, comedy, noir, spy thriller, love story) was adapted from a truly lousy play “Everybody Goes to Rick’s,” reworked by the Epstein brothers (Julius and Philip) and Howard Koch, and directed by that sometimes underrated master, Michael Curtiz. A big hit in its day and also a multiple Oscar winner, this picture has never stopped pleasing and rousing audiences. It probably never will. (Also available in Warners’ three-disc 70th anniversary edition DVD and Blu-ray.)

Saturday, Aug. 25: Tyrone Power Day

2:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.): “Witness for the Prosecution” (1957, Billy Wilder) From the famous Agatha Christie short story, Billy Wilder expertly fashions one of the screen’s trickiest trial-drama/murder mysteries – with Charles Laughton as the wily, wheelchair-bound barrister, his real-life wife Elsa Lanchester as his long-suffering nurse, and Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich as the incendiary couple caught up in a legendary triple-reverse surprise ending.

Ava Gardner co-stars with Robert Taylor in “The Bribe.”

Tuesday, Aug. 28: Ava Gardner Day

10:45 p.m. (7:45 p.m.): “The Bribe” (1949, Robert Z. Leonard) Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton and Vincent Price in the smoky noir tale of a federal guy and a femme fatale. A lot of it wound up in the 1982 Steve Martin-Carl Reiner film noir parody “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.”

Wednesday, Aug. 29: Ingrid Bergman Day

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “Gaslight” (1944, George Cukor) Set in foggy Victorian gas-lit London, this is the best of all the melodramas and noirs where a bad husband tries to drive his wife insane (or vice versa). Here, Charles Boyer gives the treatment to Oscar-winner Ingrid Bergman. Joseph Cotten, Dame May Whitty and teenage Angela Lansbury are among the bystanders. Based on the Patrick Hamilton stage play (and film) “Angel Street.”

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The Noir File: Monroe, Welles, Heflin and more

By Michael Wilmington

A noir-lover’s guide to classic film noir on cable TV. All the movies listed below are from the current schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

CO-PICKS OF THE WEEK: “The Asphalt Jungle” and “The Lady from Shanghai”

“The Asphalt Jungle” has a near-perfect cast.

The Asphalt Jungle
(1950, John Huston)
Saturday, Aug. 4. at 6 a.m. (3 a.m.): Huston’s classic heist movie, scripted by Ben Maddow from W. R. Burnett’s novel, has a near-perfect cast: Sterling Hayden (the muscle), Jean Hagen (the moll), Sam Jaffe (the brains), James Whitmore (the lookout), Anthony Caruso (the safe man), Marc Lawrence (the backer), Brad Dexter (the torpedo), John McIntire (the cop), Louis Calhern (the double-crosser) and Marilyn Monroe (the mistress). One of Jean-Pierre Melville’s three favorite films.

The Lady from Shanghai” (1948, Orson Welles)Wednesday, Aug. 8. at 10:45 a.m. (7:45 a.m.): Adventurer/sailor Welles gingerly woos a very blonde Rita Hayworth, wife of the wealthy, evil Frisco lawyer Everett Sloane, and victim of Glenn Anders as the very weird George Grisby. A flop in its day, now considered one of the greatest noirs and a Welles masterpiece. The highlights include an amazingly crooked trial scene and the wild chase and shoot-out in a hall of mirrors.

Richard Allan plays Marilyn’s lover in “Niagara.”

Sat., Aug. 4: Marilyn Monroe Day

8 a.m. (5 a.m.): “Clash by Night” (1952, Fritz Lang) Lang’s cool, underrated adaptation of Clifford Odets’ smoldering play. With Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, Paul Douglas and Monroe.

10 a.m. (7 a.m.): “Niagara” (1953, Henry Hathaway) One of Monroe’s sexiest roles was as the faithless wife of tormented Joseph Cotten, the two 0f them trapped together in a cabin at Niagara Falls. Jean Peters is the good wife next-door.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Some Like It Hot” (1959, Billy Wilder) Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, two dance-band musicians in drag, flee the Chicago mob and George Raft after witnessing The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre; Monroe is waiting for them aboard the Miami train. Only part film noir – the rest is gangster movie parody and screwball comedy – but noir can be proud to claim even a portion of the greatest American sound comedy. [Read more...]

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Guest programmer Spike Lee picks four great titles for TCM

Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal star in “A Face in the Crowd.”

Director, producer, writer and actor Spike Lee, guest programming for TCM, has selected four excellent films, all of which have strong film-noir elements and social/political themes. The movies will play at various times this month, starting on Thursday, July 5.

Ace in the Hole” (1951, Billy Wilder) Kirk Douglas stars as a sleazy reporter who will go to any length to restart his career.

On the Waterfront” (1954, Elia Kazan) A washed-up boxer and mob member (Marlon Brando) tries to redeem himself when he falls in love with a victim of the mob (Eva Marie Saint).

A Face in the Crowd” (1957, Elia Kazan) The unlikely rise of a brutal drifter (Andy Griffith) to a media/TV sensation is set against the background of the South in the 1950s. Also stars Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau.

The Night of the Hunter” (1955, Charles Laughton) Another Southern saga: Robert Mitchum plays a murderous preacher, specializing in seducing and killing widows. The outstanding cast includes Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish.

Read Michael Wilmington’s tribute to Andy Griffith here.

Meanwhile, a very happy Fourth of July to everyone!

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The ‘pulchritudinous and punctual’ Marilyn Monroe sings Happy Birthday, Mr. President … and more

After reading about Marilyn Monroe and watching some of her movies over her birthday weekend, I felt like sharing these video clips.

 

Marilyn sang on Saturday, May 19, 1962, for President John F. Kennedy at a celebration of his 45th birthday, 10 days before his actual birthday (Tuesday, May 29).

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Marilyn sings in “Some Like It Hot,” from 1959, directed by Billy Wilder.

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Marilyn sings “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the musical “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” directed by Howard Hawks and choreographed by Jack Cole. To read more about Cole and his career, visit dance critic Debra Levine’s wonderful arts meme.

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And, while reading about Marilyn, I was struck by her insightful notes on Fox’s final cut of “The Prince and the Showgirl” (1957, Laurence Olivier): “I am afraid that as it stands it will not be as successful as the version all of us agreed was so fine. Especially in the first third of the picture the pacing has been slowed and one comic point after another has been flattened out by substituting inferior takes with flatter performances lacking the energy and brightness that you saw in New York. Some of the jump cutting kills the points, as in the fainting scene.

“The coronation is as long as before if not longer, and the story gets lost in it. American audiences are not as moved by stained glass windows as the British are, and we threaten them with boredom. I am amazed that so much of the picture has no music at all when the idea was to make a romantic picture. We have enough film to make a great movie, if only it will be as in the earlier version. I hope you will make every effort to preserve our picture.”

In the end, no changes were made to the picture.

From “The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe” by J. Randy Taraborrelli

(Note: Film noir horoscopes will return next month.)

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Happy birthday, Marilyn

For what would have been Marilyn Monroe’s 86th birthday, I’ve compiled quotations from her and about her. If you have a favorite quotation from or about MM, please send it and I will add it to the list. I have credited the photographers wherever possible; copyright of all photos belongs to the photographers and/or their estates/representatives. (Note: Film noir horoscopes will return next month.)

An early shot of Marilyn on the beach; she loved the water.

FROM MARILYN …

“The real lover is the man who can thrill you by touching your head or smiling into your eyes or just staring into space.”

“I love champagne – just give me champagne and good food, and I’m in heaven and love.”

Marilyn started out as a model.

“The body is meant to be seen, not all covered up.”

“Sex is part of nature. I go along with nature.”

“My illusions didn’t have anything to do with being a fine actress, I knew how third rate I was. I could actually feel my lack of talent, as if it were cheap clothes I was wearing inside. But, my God, how I wanted to learn, to change, to improve!”

Marilyn shot by Milton Greene

“I don’t mind living in a man’s world as long as I can be a woman in it.”

“Husbands are chiefly good as lovers when they are betraying their wives.”

“People had a habit of looking at me as if I were some kind of mirror instead of a person. They didn’t see me, they saw their own lewd thoughts, then they white-masked themselves by calling me the lewd one.”

Marilyn shot by Milton Greene

“All the men I know are spending the day with their wives and families, and all the stores in Los Angeles are closed. You can’t wander through looking at all the pretty clothes and pretending to buy something.” – on why she hated Sundays

“Everyone’s just laughing at me. I hate it. Big breasts, big ass, big deal. Can’t I be anything else? Gee, how long can you be sexy?”

I love this shot and the elegant hat.

“Looking back, I guess I used to play-act all the time [as a child]. For one thing, it meant I could live in a more interesting world than the one around me.”

“No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl. All little girls should be told they’re pretty, even if they aren’t.”

Marilyn in New York, shot by Ed Feingersh

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

“My problem is that I drive myself … I’m trying to become an artist, and to be true, and sometimes I feel I’m on the verge of craziness. I’m just trying to get the truest part of myself out, and it’s very hard. There are times when I think, ‘All I have to be is true.’ But sometimes it doesn’t come out so easily. I always have this secret feeling that I’m really a fake or something, a phony.”

Marilyn shot by Richard Avedon

“Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.”

ABOUT MARILYN …

“Our marriage was a good marriage … it’s seldom a man gets a bride like Marilyn. I wonder if she’s forgotten how much in love we really were.” – Jim Dougherty talking to Photoplay magazine, 1953; they were married from 1942-46.

Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio were married less than a year.

“It’s like a good double-play combination. It’s just a matter of two people meeting and something clicks.” – Joe DiMaggio; he was married to Marilyn from Jan. 14, 1954 to Oct. 27, 1954

Marilyn and Arthur Miller, her third husband

“She was a whirling light to me then, all paradox and enticing mystery, street-tough one moment, then lifted by a lyrical and poetic sensibility that few retain past early adolescence. …

“She had no common sense, but what she did have was something holier, a long-reaching vision of which she herself was only fitfully aware: humans were all need, all wound. What she wanted most was not to be judged but to win recognition from a sentimentally cruel profession, and from men blinded to her humanity by her perfect beauty. She was part queen, part waif, sometimes on her knees before her own body and sometimes despairing because of it. …

“To have survived, she would have had to be either more cynical or even further from reality than she was. Instead, she was a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes.” – Arthur Miller, her husband from 1956-61

Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller in front of the Queensboro Bridge, New York, 1957. Sam Shaw/ Shaw Family Archives, Ltd.

“There’s a beautiful blonde name of Marilyn Monroe who makes the most of her footage.” xxxxxLiza Wilson of Photoplay magazine, writing about “The Asphalt Jungle,” 1950

She was, “a female spurt of wit and sensitive energy who could hang like a sloth for days in a muddy-mooded coma; a child girl, yet an actress to loose a riot by dropping her glove at a premiere; a fountain of charm and a dreary bore … she was certainly more than the silver witch of us all.” – Norman Mailer

Marilyn shot by Bert Stern, 1962

‘‘From families that owned little but their own good names, she had inherited the fierce pride of the poor. Because she was sometimes forced to give in, to sell herself partially, she was all the more fearful of being bought totally.’’ – Gloria Steinem

“She deeply wanted reassurance of her worth, yet she respected the men who scorned her, because their estimate of her was her own.” – Elia Kazan

Marilyn shot by Bert Stern, 1962

All the sex symbols were endowed with a large portion of earthy coarseness. Marilyn had the most. … Only an inherent whore could walk like Marilyn and dress like Marilyn. … She had a trick of making all men feel she could be in love with them and I think she could be, a sort of saving each one for a rainy day, for when things would get tough again in her life and she would need help. … I saw the hope and the disappointments. The longing to give what the people wanted and, at the same time, to become a complete person herself. She was also selfish, rude, thoughtless, completely self-centered. She kept people waiting for hours.” – Hollywood columnist Sheilah Graham

Marilyn shot by Bert Stern, 1962

“The luminosity of that face! There has never been a woman with such voltage on the screen, with the exception of Garbo.” – Billy Wilder

“If she’d been dumber, she’d have been happier.” – Shelley Winters

“Everything Marilyn does is different from any other woman, strange and exciting, from the way she talks to the way she uses that magnificent torso.” – Clark Gable, her co-star of 1961’s “The Misfits,” about which he said: “This is the best picture I have made and it’s the only time I’ve been able to act.

Marilyn shot by Lawrence Schiller on the set of “Something’s Got to Give,” 1962

“Her mixture of wide-eyed wonder and cuddly drugged sexiness seemed to get to just about every male; she turned on even homosexual men. And women couldn’t take her seriously enough to be indignant; she was funny and impulsive in a way that made people feel protective. She was a little knocked out; her face looked as if, when nobody was paying attention to her, it would go utterly slack – as if she died between wolf calls.” – Pauline Kael

“What I particularly liked about Marilyn was that she didn’t act like a movie star. She was down to earth. Although she was 28, she looked and acted like a teenager. … I was most impressed that Marilyn was always polite and friendly to everyone on the set. She was no phony or snob. … Marilyn always seemed determined to talk to me about her childhood. We would be discussing a subject of current interest to her and she would somehow bring up an incident from her bygone days.” – Photographer George Barris

Marilyn shot by George Barris, 1962

“I liked her. She was a good kid. But when you looked into her eyes, there was nothing there. No warmth. No life. It was all illusion. She looked great on film, yeah. But in person … she was a ghost.” – Dean Martin, her co-star in 1962’s (unfinished) “Something’s Got to Give”

“Nobody could be as miserable as she was in such a loving, good-natured way. No matter how sad she may have been, she was never mean, never lashed out at me. Instead she just wanted to hug me and have me hug her and tell her it was all going to work out. That it didn’t, broke my heart.” – George Jacobs, who was Frank Sinatra’s valet

“Marilyn Monroe was a legend. In her lifetime she created a myth of what a poor girl from a deprived background could attain. For the entire world she became a symbol of the eternal feminine.” – Lee Strasberg in his eulogy

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Marilyn Monroe honored with exhibits, Hollywood film festival

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death on August 5, 1962.

In New York, more than 50 photographs of Marilyn by Lawrence Schiller, many never-before-seen, go on public display this week at the Steven Kasher Gallery.

Tonight I am heading to a preview of Marilyn MonroeAn Intimate Look at the Legend at the Hollywood Museum. The exhibit opens Friday, June 1, which would have been Marilyn’s 86th birthday.

On display will be work by photographer George Barris, photos from her childhood, early modeling days and life as a star as well as famous wardrobe pieces, private documents and personal effects, such as cosmetics.

Also, on June 1, Playboy and Grauman’s Chinese Theatres are hosting a Marilyn Monroe Film Festival. Opening night is “Some Like It Hot” and one of my fellow fans has kindly provided this review.

Writer/director Billy Wilder deliberately kept his two cross-dressing stars (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, at left) straight in order to heighten the humor.

Ribald, jazzy, sexy joy and pure gold from the 20th century’s reigning sex symbol

SOME LIKE IT HOT/1959/MGM, UA/120 min.

By Michael Wilmington

The place: Chicago. The color: a film noirish black and white. The caliber: 45. The proof: 90. The time: 1929, the Capone Era and the Roaring Twenties, roaring their loudest.

Sugar Kane of “Some Like It Hot” was one of Marilyn’s top roles.

We’re watching “Some Like It Hot” and Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are playing Joe and Jerry: two talented but threadbare Chicago jazz musicians working in a speak-easy fronted as a funeral parlor. Joe, who plays saxophone, is a smoothie and a champ ladies’ man. Jerry is your classic Jack Lemmon schnook, with a couple of kinks thrown in.

After getting tossed out of their speak-easy band jobs by a police raid and accidentally witnessing the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (ordered by their ex-employer, George Raft as natty gangster Spats Colombo), they flee to Miami. They’re chased by the gangsters and the cops (Pat O’Brien as Detective Mulligan) but the guys are disguised as Josephine and Daphne, musicians in an all-female jazz orchestra.

The star of Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators, songbird and ukulele player Sugar Kane, is the Marilyn Monroe of our dreams. Sugar has a weakness for saxophone players. Josephine and Daphne have a weakness, period. Director Billy Wilder, who made lots of gay jokes in his time, deliberately keeps his two cross-dressing stars straight.

In Miami, land of dreams and beaches and bathing beauties, the “ladies” meet millionaires, including Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), who marries chorus girls like some people catch trains. They also meet gangsters jumping out of birthday cakes, waving submachine guns. Miami, to quote Sugar Kane, is runnin’ wild. (“Runnin’ wild. Lost control. Runnin’ wild. Mighty bold. Feelin’ gay, reckless too! Carefree mind, all the time, never blue!”)

“Some Like It Hot” is full of playful references to classic gangster movies like “Little Caesar” and “Scarface.” (At one point, Edward G. Robinson, Jr. flips a coin just like Raft did in Howard Hawks’ “Scarface.” Raft grabs it and demands: “Where’d you learn that cheap trick?”)

Risqué, quick-witted, scathingly funny, unfazed by foibles and unfooled by phonies, Wilder and co-writer I. A. L. “Izzy” Diamond were two Hollywood moviemakers who could cheerfully rip up the establishment, and make the establishment love it – a pair of razor-sharp script wizards who understood our society to its core, relishing its delights and scorning its hypocrisies. And with “Some Like It Hot,” they broke the comedy bank.

The movie provided plum roles for Tony Curtis, Marilyn and their co-stars.

Jerry and C. C. Baxter, of “The Apartment,” were Lemmon’s two greatest performances, and they’re as good as any American movie actor ever gave. The movie also handed Tony Curtis and Joe E. Brown their best movie roles (well, for Tony, probably a tie with Sidney Falco in “Sweet Smell of Success”). Sugar Kane was one of Marilyn’s top roles as well.

Ah, Marilyn. Who could forget the country’s and the 20th century’s reigning sex symbol crawling all over Tony Curtis in a borrowed yacht and a skin-tight gown (while Tony does his best Cary Grant impression)? As Jerry says when he spots her doing her famous wiggle-walk in the train station: “Look at that, it’s like Jell-O on springs! I tell you, it’s a whole different sex.”

Marilyn had a little trouble with her lines in “Some Like It Hot,” but we’re talking about dialogue, not curves. Wilder insisted to his dying day, that although it may have taken a while with Marilyn, it was worth it. Always. What you got was pure gold. The movie is pure gold too. Pure hilarity, pure straight-up Billy Wilder. It’s a ribald, jazzy, sexy joy – an absolute delight. As Osgood would say: “Zowie!”

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Silver and Ursini reflect on the mighty influence of film noir

Alain Silver (left) and James Ursini discuss their book, “Film Noir: The Directors.”

Historians/authors/editors Alain Silver and James Ursini discussed and signed their new work, “Film Noir: The Directors” (Limelight Editions, $24.99, multiple contributors) on Saturday afternoon at Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood.

James Ursini

Ursini maintains that film noir is the most important artistic movement Hollywood has produced, and one that’s perfectly capable of jumping genres from Westerns to sci-fi to the traditional women’s picture.

Said Ursini: “Film noir is the overwhelming influence on directors today, in film, TV, comic books … in America and worldwide. Though it went into a sort of remission in the late ’50s, by the ’70s it was back and it never stopped. It’s an incredibly vibrant movement that’s as influential today as it was in the ’40s and ’50s.”

Though appreciated by French critics, most film noir titles (especially low-budget B movies) were widely snubbed by America’s cinematic elite. Ursini recalled that as a UCLA film-school student in the late ’60s, he had to push hard to be allowed to write a paper on director Henry Hathaway.

Alain Silver

Silver pointed out that though the two most frequently cited factors in film noir’s development are the exodus of European filmmaking talent to the U.S. starting in the 1930s and the canon of hard-boiled American literature by authors such as James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, the real story is more complicated.

Specifically, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what inspired these very different directors (the book covers 30) to pursue this unique aesthetic, often self-consciously borrowing and sharing ideas. One certainty, though: Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity” (1944) was the prototype for the genre.

He added that because of World War II, the production code loosened and the American public developed a taste for realism. Were audiences of the ’40s and ’50s shocked by these cynical, gritty, fateful stories on the screen? It’s hard to say. Silver said the most interesting contextual endeavor now would be to compare the audiences’ expectations against their reactions.

Photos copyright of Film Noir Blonde

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