This fascinating, well done and profoundly sad documentary is an eye-opener into the final months of Marilyn Monroe's troubled personal life and how it impacted her ability to work on "Something's Got to Give." The story, narrated by James Coburn, is told at a good pace without being too rushed or too slow; and there's a great deal of compassion for Marilyn from her peers who worked with her on the film including Cyd Charisse and producer Henry Weinstein. True, while Marilyn added to the problems by being remarkably tardy and insisting that Paula Strasberg essentially direct her when George Cukor was the real director, the filmmakers make no bones about it that Fox was incredibly insensitive to Marilyn's personal problems by forging ahead as if there was really nothing wrong with her that some good old fashioned strict discipline wouldn't fix. Sadly, we know in hindsight that poor Marilyn needed so much more TLC than she ever got from Fox or perhaps anyone at that time despite the fact that she had been their biggest star since Shirley Temple! Marilyn had made tons of money for Fox, too.
But Fox was panicking over the out of control cost of "Cleopatra" and poor Marilyn was trampled as a result. Again, Marilyn had her share of human faults and foibles; she was a troubled woman who shouldn't have been working at that time. Nevertheless, there's one poignant moment with producer Henry Weinstein when he recalls asking Fox if an actor had had a heart attack would they postpone shooting the film and Fox said of course--but an emotional condition was not reason enough to postpone shooting even after Marilyn was found in her bed after what was a dangerous but survivable overdose of drugs.
It may seem as if I've given it all away; but I can assure you that I didn't! There's plenty more to this tragic story that what I've written here; and the footage from rehearsals not to mention the restoration of the film that was never finished is incredible. Other interviews give us insight from associate producer Gene Allen; writer Walter Bernstein and producer David Brown.
The DVD comes with a few bonus features. We see Marilyn Monroe as a "Blue Book" model in 1943 and 1948; and we get "Movietone Newsreels" as well as the trailer for "Move Over Darling" when Fox actually did complete the film with Doris Day and James Garner. By the way, this was all to be a remake of "My Favorite Wife" with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.
Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days is a must have for Marilyn Monroe fans and film buffs. People interested in looking at the tough world of Hollywood politics would do well to add this to their collections; and if you like documentaries about Hollywood stars you will not be disappointed.
on June 10, 2012
At the end of this disc, there is a tribute to three of the stars who were no longer around when it was made. Viewing it in 2012, we can add all the stars and featured players whose names are known: Phil Silvers, Steve Allen and Cyd Charisse, among them. Of all of these shown acting or directing, however, only MM died young (36). Rather to my surprise, she did not survive to see either of the Kennedy brothers killed. 1962. I must say that it is a surprise for me to add up the years and find it to be exactly a half-century since, somewhere in the background of my life at that time, this able successor to Harlow, Faye, Grable, and a few others, ended her screen career. By the standards of Hollywood, when the Major Studios reigned supreme and were on top of the world, she made only a handful of films. In the same time, a Joan Blondell, Bette Davis, Ginger Rogers, would have made at least two or three times that number in their first five years as contract players. Is she still remembered outside of yet another story of she and Bobby, she and Jack, she among Hollywood's overdosed stars? I have no idea. Are her films worth seeing today? To my tastes, absolutely. 7 Year Itch, delightful. Some Like it Hot, classic. Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend? Well, nobody on stage could do what Carol Channing could do. Film actress. though, it seems not. A guess. Monroe did it better for the screen. As to the serious roles. Well, she was learning. Niagara, was, let us say, like Myrna Loy playing those oriental evil sexpots in her first few years.
As to the documentary and the segment of the film that might have been made had she lived to perform it, the first is interesting history, the second pure fun. Considering the latter, it give every appearance of being a fine comedy in the style of the period and a hit for MM. Who can tell? The segment is worth seeing on its own merits as well as for a brief reminder of some of the good ones of that era: Dean Martin, Phil Silvers, Steve Allen, Wally Cox and John McGiver (died 1975 at 61). No, I did not forget Cyd Charisse, one of our all-time favorites, here doing a straight acting job.
With regard to the documentary, the most striking aspect of it, was the description, by her physician, of her ailment. For me that was like the clouds suddenly parting to show the sun (as a symbol of understanding). It was the same as reading somewhere recently about a talented actor, now about 60 years of age. He has, apparently, been known as a troublesome person, a pain on the set, a user of drugs, but right-on when you got him to perform before the camera. The burst of light: he is what we now call a sufferer from Bi-Polar disorder. Clearly, from the diagnosis of her physician, MM was also a victim of that terrible disease. Yes, childhood experiences, aspiration and anxiety, will play their role, but, fundamentally, in the first instance, the emotional turmoil, the search for anodynes, the need for support, and the like, are due to a chemical imbalance. As in many such bodily dysfunctions, the physical creates the psychological which reinforces the physical dilemmas. Had Monroe had available sufficiently early in life, the medications and medical knowledge available today, she would not have been a happy person, it is still very difficult to treat requiring, like Parkinson's, for example, almost daily adjustment of prescribed drugs, as well as frequent skilled psychiatric support. Yet, as with many bi-polar sufferers today, it is quite possible, given her financial resources and access to the best of every kind of therapy, that she could have had a fuller "glamour girl" career, and, perhaps, even have developed to the point where she could find rewarding work thereafter.
At any rate, in sum, for even the casual viewer, even for those of us to whom MM was not a fabulous presence but a very entertaining performer, this is a DVD worth seeing. I needn't add, that for fans, it is a mandatory purchase or loan.