Remembering Marilyn Monroe with my Top 10 of her films

Today is the 55th death anniversary of Marilyn Monroe, my favourite actress and a very special woman. On this day, I try to remain positive, and encourage happy thoughts and celebration. In her short career and life, Marilyn made over 30 films, and this blog post will be a Top 10 countdown of my personal favourite films of Marilyn.

10) Monkey Business (1952)

In one of her earlier supporting roles, Marilyn played a dimwitted secretary, alongside Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers and Charles Coburn. Monkey Business is perfect for all Old Hollywood fans with the 2 main stars being Cary and Ginger, it is reminiscent of Bringing Up Baby. This film is so great, and although Marilyn’s part is small, its important for the film and she definitely held her own against Grant and Rogers. Expect laughter, wit and silly behaviour from this screwball comedy!

Marilyn Monroe in a scene from River of No Return in 1954

9) River of No Return (1954)

Now this isn't your typical Western adventure film which is why I love it. River of No Return was not a success and the plot is often silly and melodramatic, but I love it all the same. Marilyn played a saloon singer who gets caught up in an adventure of love, hate, drama and murder, all while aboard a raft down the river! Marilyn had great chemistry with her co-star Robert Mitchum, and it was this film that introduced me to Mitchum and now I love his films! Marilyn claimed River was her worst film, although I would disagree as it is very enjoyable. I would recommend it for the highlights of the films are Marilyn’s singing performances, including Down By The Meadow, One Silver Dollar, I’m Gonna File My Claim and the beautifully haunting title song, River of No Return.

8) The Prince and The Showgirl (1957)

The Prince and The Showgirl is a romantic comedy starring Marilyn alongside the critically acclaimed British actor Laurence Olivier, who also served as director and producer. Set in London 1911, the film marked Marilyn’s first and only visit to England, where she stayed during production and also met Queen Elizabeth ll. Marilyn played the showgirl Elsie Marina, a great witty character with a heart of gold, who falls in love with the Prince Regent played by Larry. The Prince and The Showgirl was the first film Marilyn made with her own film production company Marilyn Monroe Productions, however it is probably better known for it’s difficult production as Marilyn and Larry did not get on well. During filming, Marilyn experienced personal heartache, as she suffered from a miscarriage and discovered her husband regretted marrying her. Marilyn still managed to give a glowing performance and her co-star Dame Sybil Thorndike defended Marilyn and praised her for her natural acting ability and talent. This film is still great to see, if only for Marilyn, as it isn’t Larry’s best performance.

7) Niagara (1953)

The film that made Marilyn Monroe. In this thriller/noir, Marilyn played the seductive femme fatale who has secret murderous plans. Marilyn received top billing for the first time, and showcased her sex appeal and her talent as a dramatic actress. Filmed in Technicolor, Marilyn seductively sang Kiss, wearing a hot pink dress and with deep red lips. The storyline in Niagara is so clever, mysterious and original with misleading moments. Marilyn surpassed the beauty of Niagara Falls, and elevated to fame with her electric performance! The film also starred Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters, and Max Showalter.

FACT- Marilyn’s famous walk in the film across the cobblestone street holds the record for the longest walk in cinema history — 116 feet of film.
Marilyn Monroe as femme fatale Rose Loomis in the film noir Niagara in 1953

6) Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)

Don’t Bother to Knock is a mystery film noir notable for being Marilyn’s first dramatic role after making 18 films playing a secretary or a dumb blonde. Marilyn played a mentally ill babysitter whose disturbing behaviour alarms and worries all at the hotel, including Richard Widman’s sensitive and kind character. To me, and many Marilyn fans, the film proved Marilyn’s capabilities and versatility as an actress, and she proved her talent. However, the film wasn’t commercially successful and Marilyn continued to be given mediocre roles until the success of Niagara. I definitely recommend Don’t Bother to Knock, for a chance to see Marilyn in a dramatic performance and how talented she was then, and how she improved even more.

5) How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)

Three gold diggers played by Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable! What more could you want? This romantic comedy is beyond brilliant, with its witty script and storyline, and its beautifully talented stars. Marilyn’s name was first in all advertising despite the legacy of Lauren and Betty, who welcomed Marilyn with open arms. These ladies got on wonderfully, and Betty and Lauren tried to help Marilyn. Their chemistry as a dynamic trio is great with Lauren as the brains behind their gold digging plot. Marilyn wears glasses and is hilarious as her character cant see without them! How to Marry a Millionaire is an unforgettable film with fantastic performances.

4) The Seven Year Itch (1955)

Famous for containing the most notable image of the 20th century, The Seven Year Itch is a classic romantic comedy directed by Billy Wilder, starring Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe. Playing The Girl, Marilyn was hilarious and so beautiful as the woman of Tom Ewell’s dreams, and who just so happens to move into the apartment upstairs while his wife is away. Everything about The Seven Year Itch is fantastic, with the wittiest quotes and most memorable moments. Marilyn arguably had the greatest onscreen chemistry with Ewell, both romantically and comedically. Of course the film is known for Marilyn standing on a subway grate as her white dress is blown upwards by a passing train, with the scene, the dress and Marilyn becoming pop cultural figures. It was also the first Marilyn films that I saw and it made me fall in love with her. The Seven Year Itch holds a special place in my heart.

Marilyn Monroe in a scene from The Seven Year Itch in 1955

3) Some Like It Hot (1959)

Marilyn’s most successful film and dubbed the greatest comedy of all time, Some Like It Hot is definitely one to watch and LOVE! Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are on the run and disguise themselves as women and join an all-female band. Marilyn plays the band’s singer and ukulele player Sugar Kane, and both men fall for and attempt to charm her whilst maintaining their disguises. This film has everything and more — laughter, wit, songs, music, drama, comedy, romance and even murder! Again directed by Billy Wilder, Marilyn shines on screen as Sugar, despite her personal struggles and problems on set. Marilyn performed four songs in the film and won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical. Some Like It Hot is an extraordinary film everyone has to watch!

2) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

“Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” she sang. Marilyn and Jane Russell were absolute perfection as the blonde and brunette in the musical comedy romance Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. They complimented each other so wonderfully and had the greatest onscreen partnership and were a dynamic female duo. The storyline, songs, performance, humour, costumes! are all just great. Marilyn played one of her most iconic characters, the gold digger Lorelei Lee against Russell’s witty and bodacious Dorothy. Jane Russell was so kind towards Marilyn, and spoke fondly and proudly of her for many years. There isn't a single reason not to watch Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. There’s also a pretty iconic musical sequence too, with Marilyn dancing around in an iconic Travilla dress, surrounded by male dancers, and diamonds as she sings Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend. The iconic moment has inspired and been recreated by many including Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Nicole Kidman.

1) Bus Stop (1956)

Finally, my number 1, my favourite of all of Marilyn’s film performances, and my absolute favourite of all of Marilyn’s films, Bus Stop. This romantic drama has always enchanted me, with Marilyn's performance as the untalented cafe singer Cherie. Cherie’s character and spirit reminds me of Marilyn in a way, with her honest vulnerability, her kindness and her determination and hope for the better. Marilyn’s Southern accent, pale skin and worn out costume created a very different image from the buxom bombshell, dumb blonde and seductresses that she had played. Her performance was genuine and honest, and she received a Golden Globe nomination and was highly praised.

Don Murray and Marilyn Monroe in a scene from the romantic drama Bus Stop (1956). Marilyn received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance as Cherie.

Bus Stop gave Marilyn the chance to prove that she was a fantastic actress, not just in comedy and musicals, but given the opportunity she could play dramatic roles. Bus Stop also starred Arthur O’Connell, Betty Field, Eileen Heckart, Hope Lange and newcomer Don Murray. Marilyn had great chemistry with Don Murray’s innocent cowboy who falls in love with Marilyn’s Cherie.

Bus Stop has been my favourite film since I first watched it 4 years ago, and I love it still. Marilyn was mesmerising, as she was in all of her films. She had a unique, magical quality and beauty, and an immense talent as an actress, singer, dancer, model and overall performer. This is my Top 10, but there are so many more fantastic films with Marilyn, and some small but vital performances too. Although she was a top-billed actress for only a decade, between 1952 and her death in 1962, her films grossed $200 million. Rest In Peace Marilyn. Thank you for everything, you’re always remembered, respected and loved.

Thanks for reading this dedicatory blog post. I hope you learnt some things, and want to see some Marilyn films! Follow my Instagram accounts below for more pictures, facts, reviews, trivia, and quotes about Marilyn and more stars of Old Hollywood.

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