Special Report By Monica Sullivan
"Enoch Arden" is an old, old story, so very old that when D.W. Griffith was a young man of 36, he directed his wife Linda Arvidson & Frank Grandon in a silent version of the tale in 1911. Four short years later, Lillian Gish & Wallace Reid starred in another silent film with the same title, so Garson Kanin's "My Favorite Wife" starring Irene Dunne & Cary Grant was hardly a new idea in 1940. By 1962, director George Cukor, then 63, was hard-pressed to find a fresh way to interpret yet another retread of "Enoch Arden," re-titled "Something's Got To Give." With or without Marilyn Monroe, the chances of the movie being a comedy classic were remote: Anyone remember Michael Gordon's "Move Over Darling" with Doris Day & James Garner, released in 1963? As communication skills between the sexes became at least a shade more sophisticated, audiences who watch these movies want to yell, "Oh, come on, tell your second spouse that your first spouse is still alive & you're still in love, right now, this minute!" But then there would be no movie.
A 90 minute documentary including 37 "restored" minutes of "Something's Got To Give" premiered on American Movie Classics last weekend on Marilyn Monroe's 75th birthday, with a video plug at the end. A 1990 documentary on Marilyn's swan song covered much of the same material, enough for us to realize the obvious: that she was beautiful & quite wonderful at the end of her life. In one sequence, with her real-life friend Wally Cox as a shoe salesman, Marilyn strikes more comedic sparks than she does with her co-star, Dean Martin. The point of the documentary seems to be that we missed so many movies Marilyn might have made in the future, but it wouldn't have been like that. How many more movies did the still-gorgeous Cyd Charisse make after "Something's Got To Give?" How many movies did Doris Day make after 1968?
Marilyn wouldn't have had the sort of career that Shelley Winters or Elizabeth Taylor enjoyed because none of the groundwork had been laid. As young actresses, both cheerfully sacrificed their looks & so-called image for the sake of more challenging, Oscar-worthy roles. It's impossible to imagine Marilyn ugly or evil: when she tried to play a psychotic babysitter in "Don't Bother To Knock," it was obvious she was out of her depth. "Niagara" worked a little better, but only because she steamed up car windows at drive-in theatres. Rose Loomis may have been written as a wicked character, but she wasn't played that way. It's impossible to imagine Marilyn at 75: no computer has yielded a persuasive image of an older Marilyn in the last 39 years & she never aged in any of her movies. Marilyn Monroe was a lovely presence & you can't look at anything else when she's onscreen, but the clock was ticking fast & no one knew it better than she.
© 2001 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 6/7/01
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