Eyes Have It

Edward R. Murrow‘s Person to Person interview with Marilyn Monroe happened on 4.8.55. It happened at the Weston, Connecticut home of photographer Milton Greene, with whom Monroe had partnered the previous December on Marilyn Monroe Productions. (Two of the results were The Prince and the Showgirl and Bus Stop.) Monroe’s portion starts around 3:45 (or 4:20 if you watch the alternate clip after the jump). I’d never watched Monroe speak in an off-the-cuff fashion before this. Those eyes are amazing. She’s no Einstein but the vulnerability and empathy….wow.

  • Steven Gaydos

    Here’s yet another one the hapless Pauline Kael got irredeemably wrong: “Monroe used her lack of an actress’s skills to amuse the public.” Bullshit. Nonsense. Monroe was one of American cinema’s finest comediennes and if you don’t respect her work in “The Misfits” you have no eyes or ears or soul.

    • Raygo

      Big fan of “The Misfits” … the sadness of the picture is palpable.

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      • Steven Gaydos

        In a way, it’s kind of the beginning of the American indie film movement or certainly a key film that was ahead of its time. And a total critical and commercial bust. I’m with you, I can’t see the film without getting caught the pull of its everyday tragic truthfulness. “I don’t know what the right to do is but I think if I knew I’d do it” is a rough paraphrase of a Miller line he gave to Marilyn. Amen and Adios to American cinema of literacy and maturity, cue the Toymakers.

    • Matt of Sleaford

      Ebert’s description of Monroe in his Great Movies review of All About Eve is the best I’ve ever read: “It has been observed that no matter how a scene was lighted, Monroe had the quality of drawing all the light to herself. In her brief scenes here, surrounded by actors much more experienced, she is all we can look at.”

      • Steven Gaydos

        Beautiful example of discerning critic who was a) not blind and b) didn’t have some weird ax to grind. But remember, Kael also dismissed Kubrick and about 40 more of the greatest film talents of all time. The Queen of Petaluma rode to the top on a wave of “America First” film criticism that was as narrow and wrong as anything Trump has ever postulated. Somehow, in the pages of the great New Yorker, provincialism, anti-intellectualism was applauded and supported because… she was a good writer? How does writing make up for an almost total ignorance of the art form? Oh well, her impact continues to pollute the discourse.

        • Matt of Sleaford

          Yeah, Kael’s quote does reek of not-at-all-professional jealousy.

          • Steven Gaydos

            And/or not at all professional understanding of “acting.”

  • Grampappy Amos

    I would really have liked to know her , but I was just a kid.

    • Steven Gaydos

      “Elton John’s writing is limited to songs for dead blondes.” – Keith Richards

      I never miss opportunity to quote Keef.

    • Patrick Murtha

      Here’s a bit that I once wrote:

      We can deplore the effects of fame on the famous — it’s easy — but if we do, we are also deploring the only reason we know about their existence. It’s what I think of as the “Candle in the Wind” trick, after Elton John’s and Bernie Taupin’s famous song about Marilyn Monroe. The singer regrets the fame that destroyed Marilyn Monroe’s life, and puts forward the standard notion that she would have been better off as the original “Norma Jean”:

      They set you on the treadmill
      And they made you change your name…

      Hollywood created a superstar
      And pain was the price you paid…

      He imagines that he would have gotten along with the “real” Marilyn:

      …I would have liked to have known you
      But I was just a kid…

      Goodbye Norma Jean
      From the young man in the 22nd row
      Who sees you as something more than sexual
      More than just our Marilyn Monroe

      But, but, but. There are plenty of “Norma Jeans” out there, beautiful, lively, charming young women, who do escape the ravages of fame, because fame never comes calling. These women are situated in the “real world,” they are not tragic, and they are knowable. Does Elton sing songs about them? Of course not. Marilyn Monroe’s fame, however deplorable its influence on her life may have been, is the only reason the singer is able to assume the posture of caring about the “real” her. With fame, we want to have our cake but also pretend we’re not eating it.

      • Matt of Sleaford

        Something I’ve always wondered: since Taupin wrote the lyrics, was he the one obsessed with Monroe? Or did Elton come up with the idea for the song and ask Bernie to write the lyrics?
        The Princess Diana version is different, since she and Elton were close friends. But I’ve always wondered about the Monroe version.

      • Grampappy Amos

        Isn’t that the tragedy. She had it all. Looks, fame, money, interesting friends, famous husbands, power…none of it could keep her happy.

  • Raygo