General News

Monroe remembered

By:
Jun 03, 2001 | 12:40pm EDT

On June 26, 1953, Marilyn Monroe received her star along Hollywood's Walk of Fame. She wrote her name in the wet cement in front of Grauman''s Chinese Theater and dotted the "i" in her first name with a rhinestone.

The blonde bombshell had quickly become Hollywood's darling, a legendary movie star, and would soon become one of the biggest silver screen icons of the 20th century.

On Friday, to celebrate what would have been Monroe's 75th birthday, cable network AMC will premiere Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days, a feature-length documentary chronicling the tragic last months in the life of Hollywood's sweetheart.

The documentary will include the premiere of the edited, 37-minute reconstruction of her final film, Something's Got to Give.

The film was a remake of the 1940 romantic comedy My Favorite Wife, starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. The footage languished for nearly 40 years in 20th Century Fox's vault.

The rise to stardom wasn't easy for Monroe, born was Norma Jean Baker. Having grown up in a string of foster homes and an orphanage, she eventually found her talent in modeling. She quickly moved to Hollywood in the late 1940s to launch a movie career.

Scoring bit parts in such films as John Huston's Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve was enough for Monroe to catch the attention of many studio producers in the 1950s. Monroe's curvaceous body, platinum hair and breathless voice were just some of the traits which led studios to knock on her door with movie deals.

The American Film Institute, dedicated to advancing and preserving the art of the moving images, has included Monroe on three of its Best 100 movies list.

An AFI panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community ranked Monroe's 1959 film Some Like It Hot as No. 1 on the "Funniest Movies" list and No. 14 on its "Greatest Movies" list. She also is No. 6 on the AFI's list of "Greatest American Screen Legends" for actresses.

Her status as a sex symbol began to solidify when she graced the first issue of Playboy magazine in 1952.

"Marilyn Monroe is the playmate of all time," Elizabeth Norris, director of public relations for Playboy, said.

The actress not only appeared on the magazine's first cover, but also was its first playmate, Norris said. Monroe has been featured eight times in Playboy but she never posed for the magazine. Playboy purchased the pictures.

"She was a flagship model [for Playboy]," Morris said.

Monroe's image has been forever preserved as a result of crooning "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy or standing with a billowing skirt over a subway gate in Billy Wilder's The Seven Year Itch.

She died in August 1962 of an overdose of barbiturates. Her last completed film was The Misfits. She never completed Something's Got to Give.

Kevin Burns, executive producer of AMC's Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days, found nearly 9 ½ hours of raw footage of her last film, Something's Got to Give, in 1996.

Most of the footage was faded badly, but it was restored and color corrected using technical video technology.

After restoration, "the quality was better than we feared," Burns recalled. "There was a lot more footage than we thought existed."

Producers had to string together pieces of the film following the order they thought the plot would fall into. But the actress' performance seemed promising as she played the part of a "flesh-and-blood person," Burns said, having matured as a woman and an actress in the final years leading up to The Misfits.

"Marilyn looks beautiful, although she was not in great emotional or physical condition," Burns said. "She seemed to have difficulty remembering lines and seemed to have physical and emotional problems."

Monroe's personal physician, Dr. Hyman Engelberg, will discuss publicly for the first time in the documentary Monroe's emotional instability, chemical dependency and general poor health during the period of filming.

It is difficult to say how Something's Got to Give would have fared at the box office since it's incomplete, Burns said. Monroe wasn't present in all of the found footage. Her illnesses led to her absence from the set 17 of 30 days scheduled for shooting.

"It would have probably been one of the featherweight comedies of the 1960s," Burns said. "It would have been cute and charming."

It is hard to predict what Monroe would be doing today if she was still alive, but Burns assumed that she would continue being the charming, yet vulnerable, person that she was.

Burns pondered whether Monroe could have survived losing her looks, because she didn't have a strong personality. She was sweet yet very fragile, he said.

"It's intriguing to watch a woman like Marilyn, and yet know that she was full of doubt, insecurity and pain," Burns said. " [Marilyn's] death was part of who she was."

Burns promises that the charm which people love about Monroe will come across in the documentary.

The documentary is a part of a daylong celebration of Monroe's 75th birthday, ending at 4 a.m. EST Saturday. Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days will premiere at 8 p.m. EST.

To coincide with Monroe's birthday, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment launching Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection. The collection features the debut of Monroe's most celebrated and colorful films on DVD, such as The Seven Year Itch, Bus Stop and more. Almost a million copies were pre-ordered before the collection's release.

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