Summary: Stony, Dismal Love Affair – No Romantic Chemistry between Montand and Monroe and Weak Script Leaves Audience Yearning for Actual Love
There is a singular Marilyn moment which defines her timeless relevance and popularity in American history. Before experiencing Marilyn on screen, I often encountered her photos/ references about her in magazines, encyclopedia, compilation and archives. I also read a Life in Pictures biography about her. How I visualized her gait, her voice and her gestures were quite contrary to her actual performance in cinemas. I expected this woman to possess extraordinary acting capabilities along with natural stage charm and sex-appeal and a deeper, mellower voice that showed class and refinement. Never did I think Marilyn to be so bubbly, fluffy, and erratic with a chirpy, girlish timbre- the typical coquette whom men would swoon over to in an instant. She wasn’t like Greta Garbo; the magic couldn’t be discovered immediately in Monroe (Garbo could make everyone around her, the actors, the cameras and the audience, fall in love with her in an instant). The disappointment in me after enduring Prince and the Showgirl and Bus Stop cast a negative perception about Monroe. I found her syrupy and panicky, as though she is constantly thinking of ways to keep her audiences (her male fans) happy while not giving up the unpredictable method acting. I preferred 7 year itch – Marilyn didn’t experiment but only let her naive face, clueless eyes, admirable figure and the witty dialogs do the work. Sometimes, I felt the method acting ruined her performances, though she has a few shiny moments on her last released film ‘The Misfits’. After four films, the true reason for her massive success still eluded me, but in Let’s Make Love (a lackluster film overall) I realized why she was adored.
It was the scene where her character Amanda Dell, a small-time actress and a stage performer, began jogging on the footpath and encouraged Jean-Marc Clement (played somewhat sullenly by Yves Montand) to join her. An embarrassed Clement looks around as men seem to ogle Amanda; she isn’t dressed inappropriately, but she smiles and her face is beaming. Marilyn seemed to draw everyone’s attention not by acting stupendously or exposing her body here- she was carefree and spirited, probably aware that men were eying her but not minding. She knew she was a siren, but she also made it clear that she wasn’t a bimbo. She has this coy charm about her, a sense of self-awareness that makes her so amicable with men and women. It is similar to what Meryl Streep said in a speech ‘… to be appealing to boys and being accepted by girls… a tricky situation (which she mastered). Marilyn doesn’t explicitly try to draw attention; she does it cleverly, discreetly.
Unfortunately, she was stuck with a patchy script that was deficient in several aspects. A Paul Thomas Anderson start (Magnolia style) which montages the fate of six/seven Jean Marc Clement is middlingly amusing but unnecessary because there isn’t any reference to it later. I did get what it was supposed to mean but there need not be narrations of so many Clements. Then the camera lingers on a group of elite gentlemen smoking cigars as a debonair Jean Marc of Modern Times tells them a joke. These men may have heard it several times, but they flatteringly laugh at his inane joke – he is a billionaire, keep in mind. Some scenes later, when he pretends to be a nascent actor and impersonator, Jean Marc reiterates the same joke to a bunch of actors and is given a damp response. The billionaire, with a keen esthetic interest and a notorious womanizing reputation, is informed that he is going to be satirized in an off-Broadway Revue. He does not react at first but then shows displeasure in such an idea- therefore he checks out a rehearsal of the performance. This seems far-fetched as the theater itself seems so unremarkable and lowly with bawdy, unfunny and tired acts that no one but a local goon would take objection of being satirized. We instead get this wealthy man treading such common places.
There Jean is struck by the glamorous Amanda Dell, who is tailed by hungry boys in an unimpressive number that lacks naughtiness. Marilyn’s voice sounds affected, and she fails to bring the oomph. There are a couple of well acted scenes after this between Montand and Monroe where the former seems shy and out-of-place in the theater while the latter can adapt to any surrounding. The third person in the love triangle is Frankie Vaughan, who shares a better chemistry with Marilyn. Montand takes his initial defeats too seriously and seems so dull at times that it is impossible to feel sorry for him or consider Marilyn the right lady for him. She seems like a good friend and adviser, not a lover in any way, till the end of the story. Here is where more than Montand, the script fails in providing more crucial scenes between Montand and Monroe. ‘Let’s Make Love’ isn’t something the movie sets out to make- it is rather ‘let me buy your love’, which is crude. Also, in a desperate bid to raise laughs, Milton Berle, Bing Crosby and Gene Kelly were roped in and I was thinking, “If Gene were younger he would’ve made a charming Jean Clement”. Berle is funny but has to feign laughter at Jean Clements’s drab performance on stage, for which he should’ve demanded for additional fees.
The musicals are ghastly, the production is weak and the plot is sketchy; only the performances try to save ‘Let’s Make Love’s’ face. I would say the best actor in the movie would be Wilfred Hyde White, who mouths the line “You made a terrible/risky decision by mortgaging your house for this (to save his theater)” to the theater owner. I would add that George Cukor made a terrible decision of getting big actors such as Monroe and choosing such a script for them”.
- 6 Monroe Movies Reviewed: The Princess and The Showgirl (Note: Reviewed About A Year Ago) (sashankkini.wordpress.com)
- 6 Monroe Movies Reviewed – Bus Stop (Note: Reviewed About A Year Ago) (sashankkini.wordpress.com)