The death notices for Sheree North really made me mad: In one she was referred to as Marilyn Monroe's stand-in in another as a "Seinfeld" actress. Geezus. Would they say "Actor fired from Garbo movie dies at 82" or "Polaroid salesman dies" in Laurence Olivier obits? For starters, Sheree North was never Marilyn's stand-in. Her presence on the Fox lot was intended to be a threat to Monroe, but Sheree North danced up a storm in the Martin-Lewis musical, "Living It Up," but that wasn't all she could do. In 1957, she was the lynchpin of Martin Ritt's "No Down Payment" as Isabel Flagg. 24-year old Sheree North perfectly captured the burnt-out anguish of the suburban nightmare. Married to the alcoholic car salesman played by Tony Randall, Isabelle is held together by a thread. Even in a crowd of neighbors played by Joanne Woodward, Cameron Mitchell, Patricia Owens, Jeffrey Hunter, Barbara Rush and Pat Hingle, Sheree North's Isabelle stood out.
Her projection of bottled up pain, anger, disappointment and despair all came through as she walked through chores, feigned joy during small talk and finally blasted her husband for wrecking their lives by acting as if his boozed-soaked fantasies were real. Could Marilyn Monroe have played this part? No. Could Marilyn Monroe have worked as a dedicated actress through nearly half a century, playing large parts and small ones. making every single one of them vivid and real? No, I'm not knocking Marilyn Monroe, I'm just saying that Sheree North created her own special light in whatever she did. Twenty years after no down payment, in the film "Telefon," Sheree North, as sleeper agent Marie Wills, transforms herself from a mother to a driven assassin in a matter of seconds. Time after time, Sheree North was discovered and re-discovered as if someone finally noticed she could act. She always could. Hollywood is a poorer place without this unjustly neglected brilliant star.
© 2006 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 11/2/05