At the time of Marilyn Monroe's death, she was not, contrary to popular belief, unemployed and unemployable. Although she had been terminated from the unfinished Something's Got to Give (1962) due to excessive absenteeism, she had been quietly reinstated at 20th Century Fox, and scheduled to finish the picture. Of course, Monroe's death at age 36 on August 5, 1962 rendered that impossible; the film was completely recast and revamped as Move Over Darling (1963), starring Doris Day and James Garner.
Monroe was also slated for two other Fox productions: What a Way to Go!, a fantastical black comedy eventually filmed in 1964 with Shirley MacLaine; and an adaptation of a William Inge play, A Loss of Roses. The latter seemed tailor-made for Monroe: Inge had, after all, written Bus Stop, the 1956 film version of which contained Monroe's most critically-acclaimed dramatic performance. The character of Lila had "Marilyn" stamped all over it: seemingly worldly, yet childlike; used and abused by those around her, yet struggling to maintain her sense of self; and fighting for her dignity while being looked at as a sexual plaything. Designer William Travilla, who had famously costumed Monroe in such classics as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and The Seven Year Itch (1955) signed on to do the costumes, and came up with some typically glitzy ideas:
With Monroe's death, the film went forward with a new, misleading title, The Stripper (1963) -- with the odd choice of Joanne Woodward in the lead. Perhaps in deference to the Oscar-winning Woodward's reputation as a heavy-hitting dramatic actress, Travilla ditched the more glamorous concepts he had envisioned for Monroe, and did tawdrier, cheaper-looking costumes for Woodward, admittedly more in keeping with the character's background as a small town Kansas girl with shattered Hollywood ambitions.
The film wasn't a success, although many did praise Woodward's fine acting; of all the proposed projects that Monroe didn't live to see come to fruition, this may be the most tantalizing. She certainly would have known how to get inside this particular character, perhaps even more so than the talented Miss Woodward. Of course, Fox being Fox, the publicity campaign verged on the exploitative, promising a leering, lecherous look at a burlesque queen, when in fact the film was more of a character study. Playing up the "stripper" angle, Gypsy Rose Lee was cast in a small, perfectly superfluous role. Adding to the tackiness, the beginning of the film includes a scene (which presumably would not have made it into the Monroe version) in which Lila is mistaken by Hollywood tourists for Jayne Mansfield and Kim Novak -- Mansfield being Fox's second-string blonde, used as a bargaining chip to keep Monroe in line, and Novak being the first actress asked to replace Monroe in Something's Got to Give.
When we originally posted the Travilla sketches, jiva was the first, and only, to correctly guess the film and the actress -- but later recanted! Darling Angela, never doubt your instincts; after all, it takes a beautiful, leggy blonde to know one!