"Must See For Marilyn Fans"
by Kevin Sturton on 21/03/11

Sue Glover's bio-drama should really be called Marilyn and Simone, but nowadays only film buffs of a certain age will remember Simone Signoret ('Les Diaboliques'). Marilyn needs no introduction. Then as now she is loved for her beauty, but while she has endured there is still a tendency to regard Marilyn as the archetypal dumb blonde. Nobody knew back then 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' and 'Some Like it Hot' were masterpieces, least of all Marilyn. Glover's play focuses on Marilyn's need to be taken seriously and contrasts her with the sophisticated Signoret.

'Marilyn' is set during the making of George Cukor's 1960 movie 'Let's Make Love.' Marilyn and her playwright husband Arthur Miller find themselves staying opposite her co-star Yves Montand and his wife Simone Signoret in the Beverley Hills Hotel. Marilyn and Signoret begin an awkward relationship, the Hollywood superstar and the French intellectual and political activist. There is a third character present, Peggy, a hair colourist from Hollywood's Golden Age, who once worked with the original blonde bombshell, Jean Harlow. Peggy acts as Marilyn's confidante and dispenses advice, and occasionally sleeping pills.

Signoret was high-minded, outspoken, and passionate about her beliefs, and condescending towards Marilyn. She was closer in spirit to Arthur Miller. Signoret mocks Marilyn's frivolity, yet Glover rebuts this by having Peggy point out Marilyn paid for Arthur Miller's legal fees, and stood up for other workers persecuted by Joseph McCarthy and his goons. Signoret chastises Marilyn for her childishness, yet conversely she mothers Montand and considers him to be a far more important star than herself.

There are portents of the impending tragedy Marilyn will succumb to; her insomnia, a box filled with pharmaceuticals, the endless bottles of Dom Perignon, her love for Harlow and her wish to emulate her. She does of course become like Harlow, but not in a way anybody wanted. Glover's play hints at the casting couch and the sexual exploitation built into the Hollywood studio system. Best of all is Glover allowing Marilyn to deliver a welcome kicking to Miller's ponderous screenplay for 'The Misfits.'

Frances Thorbun's performance captures the complexity of Marilyn's personality, her childlike wonder combined with her knowing sexuality and quick wit. Dominique Hollier's brittle, pretentious Signoret is a decent foil but grates a little. There really isn't enough dramatic material here. Not much good came out of 'Let's Make Love.' The film is unwatchable. What happened behind the scenes is a footnote, even if it did involve an affair between the two leads. The best moment touches on 'Some Like it Hot;' allowing Marilyn to deliver an improvised Oscar speech musing on why Jack Lemmon could never pass for a woman, but Tony Curtis could.

'Marilyn' is diverting stuff, but lacks the pathos and humour of Sunny Thompson's one-woman show 'Marilyn - Forever Blonde.' The ending feels rushed and contains an otherworldly element that is faintly ridiculous. "Peroxide, that's all it is," Peggy says at one point, but she's wrong. There were plenty of other blonde would-be stars who wanted to be the next Jean Harlow. Marilyn's gift for comedy and her ability to make people fall in love with her made her special. For all their brilliance, Miller, Montand, and Signoret, will always be in her shadow.

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