Great Oscar Snubs: Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe was never nominated for an Academy Award. She is one of the most famous people of all time, and definitely one of the most photographed. But for all that she was a pretty face, she desperately wanted to be taken seriously for her craft. It is my opinion that she was one of the greatest comediennes of all time. She also gave a handful of wonderful dramatic roles during her career. I think a lot of people don’t realize that the bubbly “Marilyn” the public knew was a persona she played. Also a lot of people see her blonde hair and effervescence and think she is a dull bulb. She was one of the smartest people working in Hollywood, maybe ever. Her main fault, although calling it a fault is unfair, was her need to be loved. A need that she had her whole life, stemming for deep abandonment issues created in childhood, that she was very rarely able to fulfill. She was a beautiful soul and on this 48th anniversary of her tragic death, she is still missed by so many, having touched our lives so profoundly with her work and with her grace.

I’d like to take a moment to discuss my three favorite Marilyn roles. Two of which are comedies, one a drama. I haven’t seen as many of her movies as I would like, but the ones I’ve seen I will love forever.

Her performance as Pola Debevoise in the 1953 romantic comedy How To Marry a Millionaire is what turned me on to her fine comedic skills. She is positively hilarious as the ditsy would-be gold-digger. She exhibits some of the most perfect comic timing I have ever seen. It makes me sad that so much focus was placed on her as a sex-symbol and her abilities as a comedienne, even to this day, are so completely overlooked.

Her turn as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk in Billy Wilder’s 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot is arguably one of her most famous roles. She won the Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a Comedy. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards: Best Actor – Jack Lemmon, Best Director – Billy Wilder, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography (Black-and-White), Best Art Direction – Set Decoration (Black-and-White) and won one – Best Costume Design (Black-and-White). Despite all of those nominations the Academy overlooked her iconic performance as a lady jazz singer with a drinking problem. Instead Doris Day, whom Monroe had beat at the Golden Globes, received a nomination for Pillow Talk. What I love so much about Marilyn Monroe in this film is the sense of naive sexuality she exudes throughout the film. The thing is, people tend to confuse the real Marilyn (Norma Jean) for the roles she plays and thus don’t realize that her performances really were ACTING. And some damn good acting to boot.

John Huston’s 1961 Arthur Miller (who was her husband at the time) penned drama The Misfits is sort of a bittersweet film to watch. It is wonderfully acted, written and directed. But it also marks the last film for Clark Gable as well as Marilyn herself. Both actors were dangerously ill while filming – Marilyn due to mental health problems and exhaustion, Gable due to heart problems that were aggravated by the heat and long shooting schedules due to Marilyn’s erratic behavior. I don’t think it’s fair to blame Marilyn for Gable’s death shortly after filming was complete. She had major mental health issues that were not being treated correctly; issues that ultimately, I believe, caused her own tragic death a year later. I love her in this film. On top of being impossibly luminous, she gives a harrowing performance as a recently divorced woman trying to move on with her life and finding herself in the middle of some very broken, unbalanced men. If this had to be Marilyn’s last role, I’m glad it was a script that allowed her to excel so wonderfully.

About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on August 5, 2010, in Golden Globes, the Academy Awards and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I have to agree with everything you say here. Her performance in How to Marry a Millionaire is a masterpiece of comic timing. How people can think that that was not a Performance is beyong me. And certainly I love her in Some Like It Hot and think in that film she is the sexiest thing ever on screen with her innocence and sexuality mixed together without a hint of vulgarity – even though that one dress looks like it is spray painted on.

    Her life was difficult. I don’t think her husbands realized that they were marrying someone so needy and the trends at the time for therapy were a toxic comination of pschoanalysis and “method” acting. Throw in prescription drugs and some other factors – men who just wanted her for a status symbol – and it was a disaster.

    I do not believe she commited suicide. If anything it was an accidental overdose.

    I still remember the magazine racks in all the stores – every one of them with her face on the cover. Rows and rows of photographs of the beautiful face with her hair and makeup that iconic white on white which had been developed for her. I was 11 years old. I didn’t understand.

    It was later after I saw so many of her films and learned more and more about her that I realized what the world had lost with her death. A light went out that day.

  1. Pingback: Great Oscar Snubs: Marilyn Monroe « the diary of a film awards fanatic | Oscar 2010

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