The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh”
(because Marilyn can never be ugly)
Finishing “The Good.”
Laurence Olivier as the titular prince and Marilyn as the titular showgirl. (I love using “titlular” in a sentence.) On paper, it seems a terrible mismatch of talent, and it is, just not the way you’d expect.
How I see it: Olivier may be the “greatest actor of his generation,” but he can’t seem to grasp the comedy based on the stage play he starred in for years. Marilyn, on the other hand, turns in an inspired, charming performance, and easily grabs the lion’s share of the laughs. Essentially this is a fluffy comedy about a traveling prince with a night off who secures a showgirl for a late night dinner party–or so she thinks. To no one’s surprise but hers, it’s a party for two, and she spends the weekend spurning his awkward passes, though she never quite makes it out the door for several days. Lots of laughs, a good time.
Accolades and popular consensus: Only a mild hit at the time, this is a movie that has grown in popularity, though I suspect most viewers would put this in the “Meh” category, neither good nor bad.
The film suffers from a segment midway through in which the prince drags the showgirl off to a cathedral where we’re “treated” to the “majesty” of the ceremony, which kills the momentum of the film midway through, and has to build up again. Still, it’s a personal favorite. Side note: the print of the film looks terrible; it’s long overdue for a proper restoration.
“Known for” Marilyn Moments: Olivier and Marilyn were constantly in the gossip columns during the making of the film. Olivier had little patience for Marilyn’s tardiness and lack of focus. Last year’s Academy-nominated bio-pic My Week with Marilyn is set during the making of this film, a powerful no-brainer for a double feature night.
Okay, stop the bus. Let’s start with
Accolades and Consensus: Bus Stop is considered by film buffs a wonderful triumph for Marilyn, was a huge success at the time and is still much beloved to this day. Just look at how TCM gushes praise for it here.
How I see it: Understand up front I’m going against popular opinion here, but Bus Stop? “Train Wreck” is more like it. And I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. As a huge fan, I give it a spin every few years (and will again on Saturday), just to see if something clicks. Fortunately, it’s as forgettable as it is bad. The story is bad–I think. Something about a bus stop and a diner next door and a showgirl and a cowboy harassing her? I don’t care. The acting is bad. The songs are…you get the idea. Marilyn sings badly…on purpose…for comedy, so the raving comments say. Don’t listen. This is a terrible movie.
“Known for” Marilyn Moments: Her rather terrible rendition of That Old Black Magic, I guess. (Which, oddly enough, I can’t seem to find on YouTube.)
Update 2015–I’ve watched the film a couple more times and my view has softened toward it just a bit, but it’s still pretty terrible. I can enjoy and appreciate Marilyn’s brave performance, but the heart of the problem lies in the misogyny inherent in the premise. Let me be clear about the plot–this is about a brute ignorant cowboy who decides after looking at Marilyn one time that he has to marry her, and will not take no for an answer. He chases her, harasses her, and literally puts her over his shoulder more than once, and the turnaround at the end comes out of nowhere. Yes, she pities him, but I simply can’t believe she falls in love with him as the movie tries to sell us. I can’t imagine how modern audiences see this film. Bottom line, for me, it completely fails as a story, even if I can appreciate Marilyn in it.
Co-stars Yves Montand as a pompous ass trying to win Marilyn’s affections while Tony Randall and Wilfred Hyde White wander around the movie with confused looks.
Accolades and Consensus and How I See It: Starts out promising with a sizzling musical number and then evaporates into a truly terrible 90 minutes. It was a flop when it came out because it was terrible, and nothing has changed.
“Known for” Marilyn Moments: The opening number “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” is HOT. Here’s a link so you won’t have to bother with the rest of the movie.
(Because Marilyn can never be ugly)
Films that are neither good nor bad, merely films that fail to make much of an impression one way or the other.
There’s No Business like Show Business
Co-starring Ethel Merman, which tells you everything you need to know about whether this movie is for you.
Accolades and Consensus: This is ranked as one of her worst films. Many harsh things have been written about Marilyn’s “embarrassing” “Heat Wave” number, about which I disagree.
How I see it: Seriously, film people, y’all love Bus Stop but trash this? The problem with TNBLSB isn’t that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s not particularly good. Essentially a tribute to Irvin Berlin wrapped around the tiniest excuse of a plot, the trials of a touring family and music act in the early 20th century. Who cares? It’s a two hour first class send up to a bunch of Broadway tunes. Period. It plays old school, it is old school, I have a good time with it. Not for everyone, but not painful.
“Known for” Marilyn Moments: Marilyn’s eye-popping “Heat Wave” performance.