Wednesday, 27 May 2015

BFI Marilyn Monroe

ONE of Hollywood's most iconic actresses is to be celebrated next month with a season of her films.
Throughout June, BFI Southbank will show 15 of Marilyn Monroe's movies including Some Like It Hot, There's No Business Like Show Business and The Misfits, the latter of which will play on an extended run.
As part of the season there will be an opportunity to see some of her lesser known and rarely-screened early works including We’re Not Married and Clash By Night.
And if that wasn't enough fans will get a chance to take a look behind the legend of Marilyn Monroe, who has been described as sex symbol, Hollywood starlet and tragic heroine, with dedicated talks and study days.
The season, which begins on Monday, June 1 has been curated by BFI events programmer, Laura Adams who says she's excited about bringing Marilyn and her movies to the South Bank.
"I think it's about time we had a season dedicated to Marilyn," she tells me. "Her story has been pored over countless times but I wanted to show that far from being just a ditzy blond or the face to sell Coca Cola, that she was actually a very good comic actor.
"I think she was misunderstood as an actress. In fact I think her acting ability has been overlooked and underrated in the past and so this season will help to dispel some of these misconceptions."
Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortensen on June 1, 1926. She overcame a difficult childhood of growing up in various foster homes, to become one of the world's biggest stars and most enduring sex symbols.
She invented her own image of femininity and in the years since her untimely death in 1962 aged just 36, she has gone on to influence women across the world including performers such as Madonna and Rita Ora.
"What's great about the season is that we chart her career right from her first films," says Laura.
"These films include We're Not Married, Monkey Business and Clash By Night and they were quite dark.
"Others include Don't Bother To Knock, in which she plays a slightly damaged young woman who lost her fiancé in the war.
"These films show the studios weren't sure about her potential yet and were putting her in titles that used her beauty but not her comedy.
"You can see she hasn't quite created that Marilyn Monroe image we know from later films with the platinum blond hair and slightly arched eyebrows."
However, Laura says it was her role as a femme fatale in Niagara in 1953 that really began to propel her towards stardom and her performance in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in the same year that launched her comedy career.
"She is the star in them and she's just fantastic," says Laura.
"You can see she's developed this luminescent star quality, warmth and humanity and she's also actually really secured her sexual confidence in these films."
As well as a chance to see how she developed her star status, Laura says the season will also give people a chance to find out more about Marilyn the person at a series of talks.
"Marilyn trained at the Actors Studio in New York which was amazing because they don't take just anyone," she says. "She was also very savvy about her career.
"She tried to break away from the studio system and tried to have some control over her career but quite a lot of time she didn't have the choice and instead had to find a way to play the system.
"She formed her own production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, which produced The Prince and the Showgirl, in which she starred alongside Laurence Olivier.
"She was also an incredible campaigner for civil rights and was very active particularly in the promotion of Ella Fitzgerald's career.
"Ella wasn't able to play in leading bars because of the ban on black singers. However, Marilyn insisted Ella be allowed to play in her favourite bar. She told the owner she would book out the front table every night which she did and invited the press down.
"It resulted in Ella's career going stratospheric.
"I think it will be really nice for people who are not necessarily familiar with her work to take a look and find out more about her and realise how smart she was as well as what a good actress she was.
"Some of her films weren't the best but you can say that about most actors so the idea that she was just a celebrity without talent is nonsense."
And Laura says it was a "work of seconds" to draw up the list of films for the season.
"It was really easy to choose them," she laughs. "It's a list of really great works telling a story from her early career to her last days on screen.
"My favourite is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - I think she's a comedy genius as you can't learn that timing.
"Inevitably she remains an icon because she's no longer with us and we now have this set in stone image.
"She's become ageless because she was lost earlier than expected. She's one of a kind, utterly transfixing and when you see her on screen with other actors it becomes clear.
"Had she not died so young I think she would have made many more films and I hope she would have found success with her plans with an independent studio."

The Marilyn Monroe season starts on Monday, June 1. Visit for full listings

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