Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stripping Away the Mystery


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!

12 comments:

  1. Never knew she had been reinstated at Fox. As usual darling, what would I do without you!

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  2. Perfectly put TJB, Fox did want her to finish the picture - but I thought Lee Remick, a Fox player, was the only choice they announced to replace MM - I don't think Kim had worked at Fox at that time (being mainly at Columbia). Much as I like Doris I had no interest in seeing her in the remake. The Stripper would indeed have been perfect for Marilyn, and its very Inge - but The Duchess of Downbeat (Woodward) just wasn't right for it (and Beymer was no Beatty, who played it on the stage). I did a nice MM tribute myself, focusing on the George Barris pictures, which you may like (at my MM label). She looked amazing then back in summer '62.

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  3. Felix - And the same goes!

    Michael - I suspect it was more publicity than anything else, but Kim was touted as being courted for the role, then Shirley MacLaine; Lee Remick was eventually announced as the "official" replacement, but even she later came out as saying that it was pretty much all drummed-up publicity, including phony statements released by Fox to the press, attributed to Remick, criticizing Monroe's behavior.

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  4. On a side note, I once read a letter Jayne Mansfield wrote to her fan club, and one of the films she announced she "might" be making was Something's Got to Give! (This was pre-production.) One wonders if she was ever seriously considered, or if Jayne just knew of the project, and was hoping to throw her hat into the ring...

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  5. I doubt sincerely that what Miss Mansfield threw into the ring would have been her HAT...

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  6. OMG, don't you just hate that?
    I hate being right and then doubting myself. But I really DID see a photograph of Sheree North in an outfit that looked suspiciously like the one in the sketches, except it was white. That was why I changed my mind and went with the others. Plus, the photos from The Stripper kept showing Woodward in what looked like a balloon outfit, and there were no pics of her in anything like those sketches. Life can be confusing, even with plenty of evidence. But thanks, you darling boy, for the leggy blonde remark!
    They are still there, and they are still kicking! :)

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  7. Oh ! crap! I could of sworn that was Sheree North ,, In "How to be Very Very Popilar"..also on the words of an interview Sherre did in 1980's ,, That she had been hired by FOX to keep Marilyn in line.. plus MM would of been starring once again along side Betty Grable in her last movie... OH ! What the hell do I know....

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  8. One of the best tribute shows to MM is the one hosted by Remick - of course its scripted for her but she delivers it with that trademark Remick wistful touch, and its a sympathetic look at MM. Of course if Fox had valued Monroe and paid her more and she had a more sympathetic director than Cukor (who considered her mad) things may have been different ... still they have those 50th anniversary reissues to look forward to, so she can still make money for them.

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  9. I recently watched Move Over, Darling just because I wanted to ogle James Garner in a swim suit and thought it was a pretty ridiculous movie, Jim's pecs aside. From some of the footage I've seen of MM in the original version, it would have been a much different movie.

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  10. I have read that Fox had purchased "Goodbye, Charlie" for Marilyn, would make at least four movies intended for her eventually made with other actresses. As for "Move Over, Darling," I think it is a very enjoyable movie. Some critics feel it is overplayed, and I think that is true in spots. I have also seen the existing footage of "Something's Got To Give" that was compiled into a sort of movie to show what may have been. It had a very different tone, and I enjoyed watching Marilyn interact with the children. But overall I thought the pacing was leaden beyond belief. Compare the scene with the the wife, husband, and shoe salesman. In "Move Over, Darling" it is one of the funniest scenes in the movie, but in "Something's Got To Give" they all seem to be reciting lines they don't quite have down yet. But it is fascinating to see the same basic premise acted by two different casts on the same sets (or at least some of the same sets - the backyard set was the same, but the interiors were different).

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