It is amazing how profound and complex one can look as a person in photographs taken by professionals, no matter how you really are in life or profession. Marilyn Monroe looks sultry, steamy, sophic, luminous and ebullient in her photos, especially in those collected in Life in Pictures autobiography that I expected wonders from her on screen. A celebrated sex symbol and a known method actress are two opposite poles for an actress, and Marilyn has the reputation for earning both the titles. What did I get after watching her on Bus Stop and Prince and the Showgirl back to back? Certainly a top-class bust and a show-stopping backside but other than that, it was disappointment.
Marilyn Monroe looks pretty, but there are actresses that are possess a lot more grace than her. Her face lights up on the screen but it never allure, and she has a twittery voice that grates most of the time (especially on Bus Stop, where she was accompanied by Don Murray, who surpassed her in loudness). I admit I see the method acting qualities in her, but she seldom succeed in holding it together, going all over the place and seeming forced. If she had a deeper tonal quality, she would have gone further as an artist but she still would’ve had to work a lot on her acting process. Marilyn seems like a woman who was very keen on acquiring acting prowess, but never could, even though she tried hard. This may be a reason she was preferred so much in Hollywood, but watching her take acclaim for acting is shocking.
In Bus Stop, her name pops up first in red and big font size even though her role is tinier compared to Don Murray’s. Don plays a cowboy nicknamed Bo who enters a rodeo competition along with his companion Virgil (Arthur O’Donnell). They take the bus to the city but Bo’s rustic background makes him appear boorish and obstinate to others. Virgil advises Bo to look for a gal, but Bo is dreams for an angel. Bo meets the woman of his dreams named Cherie (Marilyn) in a bar, and instantly decides to marry her and take her with him back to his hometown. After announcing his plans to Cherie and practically everyone around him, he abducts her when she tries to escape.
This movie has probably the most disgusting and disparaging treatment of a woman I have seen. It doesn’t give Cherie any importance and makes her look so demeaning in front of the men. Bo tells Virgil of tying the animal while imagining it were Cherie, Bo abducting her without anyone stopping him and Cherie running away without informing the goddamn police that there was a stalker after her are some of the pathetic parts in the movie. All men laugh at Cherie, treat her like a w—re and watch her getting manhandled by Bo, the women don’t protest when Cherie is going through all this while the children just watch happily – was this supposed to be funny? I remember a line from Singin in the Rain when the sound video was first shown to the audience in the film and one actress remarked “It’s vulgar!”; ditto for Bus Stop’s plot. Apart from being vulgar, the plot is paper-thin and never uses its potential in the desired way. I expected Bus Stop to be a comedy drama where dramatic elements were focused more upon, not some sketchy vile humorless drivel.
The acting is atrocious; Don Murray’s character is badly written and badly played – it had to potential to show a person’s obsession for another but it never happens. It is impossible to endure him as the film progresses and his character becomes miserable for the audience. Arthur O’Donnell is equally over-the-top and acts miserably when his character opposes Bo. Marilyn puts on a deeply irritating Texan accent while butchering every scene of hers by spitting out her poorly written lines even more cornily. All the actors fail with their poorly outlined characters; much of the blame goes to the script. I skipped the last four chapters on my DVD because I knew it was going to be the ‘All’s well that ends well’ ending. As I expected, it was.
There are many great films that were made in the forties and fifties with very talented actors and actresses and I advice everyone to watch those movies rather than spending two hours on Bus Stop. It conjures a relationship of love between a stalker and his victim, something that is thoroughly frightening. If Bo were an actual person living in America today, he would’ve rightfully been in the mental asylum along with Madonna’s and Jodie Foster’s stalkers.