Divorce, drinking, and miscarriages, oh my!

This week we watched Some Like It Hot, a comedy featuring The Marilyn Monroe which, much like Boys Don’t Cry, was ahead of its time in terms of blurring gender norms and exploring what it takes to be a passable cross-dresser in America; except this time instead of the grungy deep-south, Joe and Jerry (desperate Chicagoan musicians) try their hand at Floridian high-society in women-only band. Some Like It Hot takes a more humorous approach to the subject matter but in the end drives home the point that love is blind to social structures such as gender, class and age. 

Marilyn Monroe, known to me mainly as a beauty icon, blew me away with her performance. This was my first Marilyn movie and I’m not sure I could have picked a better one. After the movie I was discussing some of her acting choices with friends; how she managed to play drunk so convincingly, and how she seemed to be moving her head and eyes constantly. I thought these were very distinct acting choices highlighting some emotional turmoil, drawn from some indeterminate past relationship in the actor’s life (or something to at effect), only to be enlightened by my friend who proceeded to tell me three very interesting points about Marilyn during the filming of this movie.

Divorce, drinking and miscarriages, oh my.

Marilyn plays the perfect debutant, with her golden locks and sultry voice, but during this movie (I assume between takes) Marilyn was a borderline alcoholic. This was likely due to her recent divorce/miscarriage, maybe the divorce was a consequence of the miscarriage; whatever the case may be, Marilyn was in dire straits.

As for the constant movement of her eyes and head? This was the unfortunate result of the divorce/miscarriage fiasco, combine with the drinking and (I assume) handfuls of pills washed down with Moonshine (or whatever the poison of choice was in the 50’s) and some pretty severe depression… Marilyn Monroe couldn’t learn her lines. As a result, director Billy Wilder had cue cards prepared for her just off camera, so she could cheat when she needed too. This dedication to Marilyn not only shows how famous and desired she was in her time, but also what an asset she was to the film itself.

Marilyn is irreplaceable in this movie. This may be because she is great in all of her roles, I don’t know, I’ve never seen them, but I think it comes from her method. She was likely drunk while filming scenes in this movie, and by using her real life to support the role, she created a character that was both beautiful and embarrassing to watch. Someone you could feel for. And what an amazing escape; to be able to come to a studio and sing, dance and laugh with people who support you and want to see you succeed. It always fascinates me how someone who is going through so much pain is able to use it to make others feel good.

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