• U.S.

Cinema: Something for the Boys

4 minute read

The new movie had to buck Manhattan’s hottest July on record, a barrage of bad reviews, the Democratic convention on radio & TV. and the summer box-office slump. But Don’t Bother to Knock (20th Century-Fox), reported Variety, reaped a “sock $26,000” its first week, then kept on “holding in fine fashion.”

The large, enthusiastic audiences, observed a ticket-taker, are “mostly men, ten, to one. maybe. And I guess there’s a few old ladies who come to get shocked.” What the audience sees is a turgid little melodrama about a blonde, paranoiac babysitter. Dripping with frilly negligee, she lures Airline Pilot Richard Widmark to her charge’s apartment. When interruptions prevent her making love to him, she tries to murder the freckle-faced moppet she is supposed to be taking care of.

Top Billing. What lifts the film above the commonplace is its star, Marilyn Monroe, who is an inexpert actress but a talented woman. She is a saucy, hip-swinging 5 ft. 5½-in. personality who has brought back to the movies the kind of unbridled sex appeal that has been missing since the days of Clara Bow and Jean Harlow. The trademarks of Marilyn’s blonde allure (Rust 37 in., hips 37 in., waist 24 in.) are her moist, half-closed eyes and moist, half-opened mouth. She is a movie pressagent’s dream.

Says Director Henry Hathaway: “She can make any move, any gesture, almost insufferably suggestive.” She currently gets more than 5,000 letters a week from smitten admirers. Soldiers in the Aleutians voted her “the girl most likely to thaw out Alaska.” A whole U.S. battalion in Korea recently volunteered to marry her. Students of the 7th Division Medical Corps unanimously elected her the girl they would most like to examine. Neighborhood theaters now showing movies in which she plays supporting parts (e.g., Clash by Night”) give Marilyn Monroe top billing on the marquees over such well-established stars as Barbara Stanwyck and Ginger Rogers.

A loud, sustained wolf whistle has risen from the nation’s barbershops and garages because of Marilyn’s now historic calendar pose, in which she lies nude on a strip of crumpled red velvet. Uneasy studio executives begged her last January to deny the story. But Marilyn believes in doing what comes naturally. She admitted she posed for the picture back in 1949 to pay her overdue rent. Soon she was wading in more fan letters than ever. Asked if she really had nothing on in the photograph, Marilyn, her blue eyes wide, purred: “I had’the radio on.”

A Mutual Appreciation. Marilyn got her start 26 years ago in the charity ward of Los Angeles General Hospital. Her mother, a onetime film cutter, turned the baby over to a guardian and Marilyn spent her childhood in a succession of foster homes. At 16, to avoid being sent to an orphanage, she married a young aircraft worker. The marriage lasted ten months and then Marilyn set out to conquer Hollywood. She studied stenography, got by as a part-time model and a movie bit player. Director John Huston let her play a small part in The Asphalt Jungle. When Fox Production Boss Darryl Zanuck saw her scenes he cried: “That’s the girl we let go! Get her back!”

On her present, relatively small salary of $750 a week, Marilyn can afford a comfortable Bel Air hotel suite. She likes to doze before an open fire while listening to classical recordings. When she’s alone, she often strikes art poses before a full-length mirror, admiring the beautifully distributed 118 Ibs. that millions of moviegoers admire. In bed, she claims, she wears “only Chanel No. 5,” and she avoids excessive sun bathing because “I like to feel blonde all over.” Marilyn dislikes being interviewed by women reporters, but with gentlemen of the press it is different. Says she: “We have a mutual appreciation of being male and female.”

In one scene of Monkey Business, a new Howard Hawks comedy with Gary Grant and Marilyn Monroe. Actor Charles Coburn tries, unsuccessfully, to explain the intricacies of typing to Marilyn, who plays his secretary. Coburn finally watches her make her hip-swinging exit, then shrugs and says to Grant: “Anyone can type.” Apparently Marilyn’s avid, growing following feels strongly that anyone can act.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com