Marilyn Monroe - The Diamond Collection (2000) from Tuna

June 1, 2001, is the 75 anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death. Fox did an amazing restoration of 5 of her best-known films, as well as a special presentation, and the resurrection of footage from her unfinished film Something's Gotta Give. The five films included in this boxed set are:
  • Bus Stop
  • How To Marry a Millionaire
  • There's No Business Like Show Business
  • The Seven Year Itch
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

The appeal of these films is 90% Marilyn. She contractually was entitled to a great deal of artistic approval on all of her films, and made sure that she always shone. If you are a serious film buff, or a Marilyn fan, I recommend buying this boxed set. All 5 films were lovingly restored from old, difficult negatives and prints, and are presented in anamorphic widescreen versions. I am a little disappointed in the dearth of special features, which mostly consist of trailers and before-and-after restoration examples, but the films speak for themselves.

Bus Stop (1956)

Bus Stop is a hokey film that has Don Murray as a cowboy/ranch owner from Montana who comes to Phoenix for a rodeo. He meets Marilyn, who is hustling
drinks and singing at a tavern, and decides that he is going to marry her. Never having been off of the reservation, he is sure he can simply rope her and bring her home the way he would a steer. One of the highlights is Marilyn singing "That Old Black Magic" with a hillbilly accent. Even though the plot was silly, and Murray's performance would have seemed over the top from the cheap seats in a stage play, the film held my interest beginning to end for one reason, Marilyn.

Maltin says 3 1/2 stars and IMDB readers have it at 7.0/10. I will give a B-. There is an innocence to this film, much like Marilyn's sexy innocence. Marilyn has cleavage, legs and pokies.

There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)

This is really Ethel Merman's signature film, about a vaudeville family. We start with the three Donahue's, and the act grows as their family grows, to a total of 5. Things begin to fall apart when the oldest son decides to become a priest, and the younger son becomes a lush, partly because he has fallen for Marilyn, and doesn't think she cares about him. He disappears. The film ends with Ethel Merman's most famous song, and one of the real moments of film. Ethel is playing a benefit at the closing of a theater they had performed in, and is singing "There's No Business Like Show Business." Near the end of the song, the long missing son appears in the wings, an E5 in the Navy, and, obviously with his life together. Ethel sings "Let's go, on with the show," sees him in the wings and nearly runs
to him, then finishes with "Let's go, on with the show."

Maltin says 2 1/2, and IMDB readers have it at 6.4/10. It is mostly a vehicle for Irving Berlin songs, but does have some lavish sets that take full advantage of wide screen. If you don't like musicals in general, you probably won't like this one at all. Marilyn has cleavage, legs and pokies. C+. 

How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)

For me, the weakest of the films. Marilyn clearly didn't have a lot of artistic control on this film, and wasn't on stage nearly enough. She, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall are three models who move into a fancy apartment hoping to snag millionaires as husbands. Marilyn's character is not especially developed. He principle trait is bumping into walls because she is too vain to wear her glasses.  

Maltin says 3 stars and IMDB readers have it at 6.8/10. It does feature three of the most beautiful and charismatic women to ever appear in film, and speaks of a much earlier skirmish in the battle of the sexes. A reader submitted review at IMDB is worth reading, "An over excited critic once wrote that seeing Monroe in Cinemascope was like being smothered in baked Alaska." This was the first film done in Cinemascope, and certainly shows Marilyn to advantage. This has the least sexy costumes. C+.

The Seven Year Itch (1955)

The Seven Year Itch was a highly successful Broadway play about an editor of pocket books, which we now call paperbacks and charge $20.00 for what was then a $0.25 book. He works in Manhattan, and sends his wife and son off to Maine to escape the heat for the summer, while he remains behind to work. Then, he meets a young woman who sublets the apartment above his, has an affair with her, and spends the rest of the play dealing with the guilt. Everyone in Hollywood lusted after rights to the property. That did not escape the notice of the Hays commission, which had full censorship power, was probably upset that they had no control over stage productions, and wanted to get even with the writers for creating such filth.

Billy Wilder acquired the rights, signed with Fox, and then got cut off at the knees by Hays. Not only did Hays demand that the adultery be removed from the story, but they forced removal of some of the best lines in the play. Wilder proceeded, and created what was one of Monroe's sexiest performances anyway.

The film was a huge success, partly due to a publicity stunt during filming. There is a scene, now famous, where Marilyn is standing over a subway grating, and her skirt flies above her head. The location shoot was heavily publicized, and a huge crowd gathered, including Marilyn's husband, Joe DiMaggio. Marilyn had noticed in the dressing room that her panties were too transparent, and put on a second pair. Under the lights outside, two pair was not enough. In typical Marilyn fashion, they did take after take, with the crowd shouting lewd comments the entire time.  DiMaggio left after a huge fight that night, and the couple divorced soon after. None of that footage was actually used in the film. The blowing skirt scene was re-shot on a set.

Had Hays not interfered, the film would have been far sexier. Were it shot today, there would certainly have been nudity. The film is really about the man (played by Tom Ewell, who also did the Broadway version), and what infidelity does to him, but Marilyn absolutely stole the film. There is a wide variety of cleavage and poke-throughs, a couple of possibly nude but not revealing shots, and an image of the original skirt blowing scene spliced together from the special features, which include two censored scenes, and a featurette on the making of the film.

Maltin says 3 stars, and IMDB readers have it at 7.2/10.  Rotten Tomatoes calls it possibly her best film. It is a total treat, even after Hays got done with it. B.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) 

GPB is a musical comedy staring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell as best friends who work together as showgirls. Marilyn is very blonde, and a real gold digger, while Russell is brunette, and is more interested in love than money. Yet opposites attract, and they are best of friends. Marilyn is to sail to France to wait for her wedding to a millionaire who sends Russell along as a chaperone. His father, disapproving of the marriage, sends a private detective to gather dirt on Marilyn. Russell and the detective fall in love, which tends to complicate things. There is exactly one memorable song, Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend.

This is the only film in the set that is 4/3 rather than anamorphic, as the original was not widescreen. The restoration is again excellent. Russell is actually a stronger screen presence in this film, but not by much. The film won both actresses a slab of cement at Grumman's Chinese. They left their prints in the same ceremony. Maltin says three stars, and IMDB readers say 7.1/10. The costuming is rather conservative compared to the other films in this set, but Marilyn still looks fabulous. Those who hate musical comedy may still find Monroe and Russell worth seeing. C+.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1, except Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

  • theatrical trailers

  • examples of footage restoration

  • see comments on individual films

Final Days/Something's Gotta Give (1962/2001)

The boxed set includes a documentary chronicling the last days of Marilyn, from the time
she agreed to do Something's Gotta Give until her untimely death. The film footage (very little of which was of Marilyn) sat in a vault till 1999, when they decided to remaster and restore the footage, and assemble what they could of the unfinished film. This is, of course, a real treat for 
those of us who worship Marilyn. I had no idea that this footage would contain a swimming pool scene where she showed her nipple, and her buns. 

Marilyn, who suffered from bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic depression, was becoming increasingly dependent on sleeping pills. She was rumored to be in the middle of a frustrating romance with Bobby Kennedy, which didn't help her mood swings. Many people advised Fox that she was not up to a film, but they were hemorrhaging from the wallet over Cleopatra, and needed a quick hit. Marilyn was also subject to sinus problems. She was away from the set more than she was there, and when co-star Dean Martin walked off the set in disgust, they fired her and stopped production. She was able to convince them to restart. When she did the pool-side exposure, she told the director, "This will knock Liz off the covers of the magazines," and it did.

Happy birthday Ms Marilyn, happy birthday to you.


Return to the Movie House home page