My Week With Marilyn revelled in the chaos that her unpredictability, tardiness and inability to deliver her lines unprompted during the shooting of 1957’s The Prince And The Showgirl.
Chances are, however, a not dissimilar picture could have been forged from the filming of any one of the movies she starred in during her ’50s heyday, four of which – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How To Marry A Millionaire, Some Like It Hot and The Seven Year Itch – make up this ace compilation.
The irony, of course, is that whatever personal problems Monroe was wrestling with at the time are nowhere to be found in this collection, a timeless quartet that boasts some of her most treasured cinema moments.
True, neither Howard Hawks, Jean Negulesco nor Billy Wilder seemed keen on stretching the starlet beyond the rigid parameters of her ‘dumb blonde’ persona. But then 20th Century Fox was at least as much to blame, limiting her options to such an extent she fought and won a new contract allowing her to work elsewhere.
It was an astute move that enabled her to make the crown jewel of this foursome, the always scintillating Some Like It Hot. (Can you believe that Mick Jagger once hoped to remake it with himself, Madonna and Bowie in the Tony Curtis, MM and Jack Lemmon roles?)
Before you get there it’s worth giving the other discs a spin, if only to see her hone the gold-digging, object-of-male-desire archetype that would reach its zenith with the delectable Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, the ukulele-strumming cutie who always gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop.
Blondes presents other pleasures too, the most obvious being the ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ sequence that Madonna paid homage to in her ‘Material Girl’ video. It also reveals how nimbly Monroe worked with her female peers, a talent evident in both her interplay with a brassy Jane Russell and in her subsequent dealings with Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall in How To Marry A Millionaire.
The Seven Year Itch is the odd one out in this regard, Marilyn’s Girl Upstairs (she doesn’t even get a name!) having little function except to be coveted by Tom Ewell’s creepy home-alone husband and have her undies buffeted by a gust from a subway ventilation grate. It’s surely a testament to her underrated skills, then, that she manages to bring both charm and personality to such an insultingly shallow role.