‘Bus Stop’: Marilyn Monroe’s breakthrough

✻ Sixty years on, we acknowledge Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Bus Stop’, released at the height of her fame, and reflect on her iconic status.

“I just got to feel that whoever I marry has some real regard for me, aside from all that lovin’ stuff.”

There can’t be many people in this world who are unaware of the name or image of Marilyn Monroe.   The blonde bombshell was the ultimate epitome of glamour and was a golden starlet of the post-war age, who quickly became a household name.  After several minor supporting roles, she  soon starred as an actress in her own right, in a plethora of movies that were the blockbusters of their day, reeling millions of the cinema-going public in, across the world in what was to be dubbed as “The Golden Age of Hollywood”.

To some, she was merely seen as a ‘dumb blonde’, but she was as quick-witted off screen as she was on, and consequently became just as famous for her witty one-liners.  At the height of her fame Monroe was married to baseball star Joe DiMaggio and in the early to mid 1950s; they were viewed as America’s ultimate dream couple.  However, they divorced after their whirlwind marriage lasting eighteen months, and in 1956 she married playwright Arthur Miller.  The media reporting of this latter union suggested that there was more substance to Monroe than her previously reported image may have implied. Consequently, she was soon being taken more seriously by both the media and the general public.

Inside, Monroe was a deeply shy, conflicted woman, who was always seeking to perfect her craft.  At this time, she was keen to shake off the ditsy sweetheart image that the movie studios were previously keen to promote. As a consequence of this decision, she started attending method acting classes at the ‘Actors Studio’ in New York, run by Lee Strasberg and his wife, Paula, who became great friends with the actress.

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The first film she made after attending the classes and at the height of her fame, was Fox Studios production of ‘Bus Stop’ in 1956. It was released on 31 August that year to positive critique and yielded over $7 million in the box offices.  Her method acting lessons had paid off in the ultimate pursuit of perfecting the characterisation of her part.  Tights were ripped and fringing was deliberately frayed for the movie, in order to achieve a less glossy character into one that was “more real”.

The story is essentially a “boy meets girl tale with a twist”, and it’s an adaptation of two plays by William Inge; ‘People in the Wind’ and ‘Bus Stop’.  The storyline is that when cowboys Beauregard Decker (Don Murray) and Virgil Blessing (Arthur O’Connell) attend a rodeo in Phoenix, Decker falls in love with beautiful cafe singer Cherie (Marilyn Monroe). He wants to take Cherie back to his native Montana and marry her, but she dreams of travelling to Hollywood and becoming famous. When she resists his advances, Decker forces Cherie onto the bus back to Montana with him, but when the bus makes an unscheduled stop due to bad weather, the tables are soon turned.  The film features several songs, all sung by Monroe; however unlike most of Monroe’s movies, ‘Bus Stop’ is neither a feel-good musical nor a fully-fledged comedy but a more dramatic, serious piece.

The film itself yielded many award nominations from BAFTA, Golden Globes and Academy Awards including Best Actress for Monroe, Best Supporting Actor/Newcomer for Don Murray and Best Director for Joshua Logan who also directed films such as Picnic, Sayonara and most notably, South Pacific.

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Monroe went on to make other more dramatic films with strong story lines, including ‘The Prince and The Showgirl’ in which she co-starred with Laurence Olivier and later, arguably her most famous film, ‘Some Like It Hot’ with co-stars Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.

However, following divorces, multiple miscarriages and abortions, and a dwindling reputation borne out of her unprofessional attitude and constant lateness on set, Monroe’s final film in 1962 was ironically entitled ‘Something’s Got To Give’.  Coupled with her highly publicised affairs with the Kennedy brothers, Miller’s alleged connections with the Communist Party, and her own increasingly unstable and somewhat fragile mental status, Marilyn became an unwitting time bomb that would inevitably implode.  She died at her home in Brentwood, Los Angeles on 5 August 1962, and was found by her housekeeper who was the only other person in the locked house. At the time of her death, Marilyn was clutching the telephone receiver, although the records of calls made on that fateful day were immediately seized by the Police. Marilyn was reported to have died of a barbiturate overdose. She was 36 years old.

The world mourned the loss of an actress, but in her untimely death rose a cultural icon of the 20th century and beyond.


✻ ‘Bus Stop’ can be purchased on DVD from Fox. 

1 Comment

  1. The reference here to ‘abortions’ is untrue, though I wonder why I bother, because much of this is rather dubious — ‘Miller’s alleged connections with the Communist Party’ and such, ‘highly publicised affairs with the Kennedy brothers’, there were no actual affairs, nor was any such thing ‘highly publicised’, nor is that how you spell ‘publicized’. Marilyn Monroe is, I think, a very interesting figure. I hope that you are able to find genuine interests in your life.

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