How to Marry a Millionaire is considered to be one of Marilyn’s first “smash hit films” at the box office. It was notable for the use of cinemascope, the widening of the movie screen. Millionaire was only the second film to use this new technology. With the widening of the screen, long, horizontal shots showing the actresses stretched out on divans were used. Marilyn made an appearance on the Jack Benny show, explaining “in order to put the big screen up in the theatre they had to take out a lot of seats.” Benny quipped about his one and only film, “well in my picture they could have taken out all of the seats.” John Negulesco and George Cukor were the directors who made Millionaire, co-starring Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall. Millionaire was considered to be the film where Grable “passed the mantle” to Marilyn Monroe as the next blonde sex symbol in America. Publicists wanted Marilyn to pose in front of Grable’s dressing room but she refused.
Working with Marilyn
Negulesco was interviewed about working with Marilyn. Not surprisingly, the director replied “I found Marilyn Monroe enthusiastic, alert and especially knowledge for being better. And this probably accounts for the name she got of being late. But she wanted so much to be so perfect that she always retarded (meaning late) and her arrival in front of the camera [sic]. The quality Marilyn had was that she felt she never was ready to face the camera. For that reason she take two hours to fix her lips, or an hour and a half to arrange her hair but the moment she arrive in front of the camera then there was this romance, this love of her and the lens. And she give something which nobody was able to catch in the light.”
How to Act a Role
“As an actress she always wanted to find a key, a simple answer to the character she had to portray. I made a sketch of her and I showed her the sketch and she liked it but she still was not convinced in find the key so in the one scene we had when she was walking around and telephoning and I saw her trying to, let’s say, sell the sex of what everybody believed that Marilyn Monroe is and believed that it was this symbol, I came to her and I said, ‘Marilyn don’t try to sell the sex. You are the institution of sex.The only key to this part is you are blind as a bat without glasses‘ and she says, “that’s the key.'”
Unlike many other directors and co-stars who worked with Marilyn, Negulesco seemed to be among the most patient and understanding about Marilyn Monroe. Perhaps this is accurate and perhaps this is due to the passage of time, when irritations are forgotten and memory filters out the negatives of working with his insecure star.
Working with Marilyn
Cukor stated “Marilyn was an actress who you’d have to produce her more than direct her. if you let her have her own head she did things that were quite original, quite enchanting.” When asked if Marilyn was temperamental Cukor replied, “yes but so is everybody else. Everyone has doubts and difficulties and fears…but the great thing is if you can overcome it and function in spite of it.” When asked if Marilyn was able to do this, Cukor replied candidly, “well apparently not, poor darling. You see what happened to her. I think people are jumping in with all sorts of silly statements and big generalities as if under the stress of emotion, I don’t know why and I’m surprised rather intelligent people have said that. What do you mean Hollywood destroyed her? Hollywood in a sense created her.”
A Distinguished Mind
“For all her flash, Marilyn was a very distinguished creature in her own way.She had a distinguished mind and she was unique and she had a quality of excitement. She’s a real movie Queen. Even when she was fully dressed with a big fur coat on and she ran across the screen you followed her. There surely is excitement with her and I would always have such pleasure watching her with very, very high heels…and she’d run and she’d jump and it was always enormous interest in that…it was like watching someone skating on thin ice and you wanted to be there when she fell through and one always felt that about Marilyn.” She certainly did fall through thin ice, so it would seem.