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Marilyn Monroe slammed by director for limited acting talent

Marilyn Monroe starred alongside Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon (Image: GETTY)


Marilyn Monroe slammed by director for limited acting talent


“Some Like It Hot,” a pioneering cross-dressing comedy directed by Billy Wilder, plays differently today than it did in 1959. A modern viewer may be able to detect the film’s queer subtext more clearly, such as when Jerry (Jack Lemmon) discovers that he is better at ease as a woman and considers marrying a male (Joe E. Brown).

Marilyn Monroe in the character of singer/ukulele player/saxophonist lover Sugar Kane was, without a doubt, the most important component of Some Like It Hot casting. It was a showcase for her abilities as an actor, comedian, and all-around entertainer, and it became one of her most memorable roles. Wilder considered hiring Mitzi Gaynor in the role at first. When Monroe became available, though, Wilder leaped at the chance to work with his The Seven Year Itch star once more—even if it came with some baggage. “I knew that I was going to go crazy at moments. And there were such moments, half a dozen moments,” Wilder said. “But you always tell yourself, ‘I’m not married to her, right?’ And then you come home, you have no dinner, you take a sleeping pill, and you wake up in the morning and you start again.”

Marilyn Monroe died in 1962 (Image: GETTY)

For the film, Marilyn worked closely with director Billy Wilder, who first saw the diva as a positive element.

But, before long, she began behaving badly, causing the director to become upset.

Marilyn was rumored to be notorious for arriving late to her appointments. And when she did show up, she would annoy the director with repeated awful takes of basic lines.

The star would flub saying simple things such as: “Where’s that bourbon?” or “It’s me, Sugar.”

During conflicts with Wilder, she consistently deferred to her acting instructor, Paula Strasberg. All of this put a tremendous amount of pressure on Wilder and the performers, particularly Curtis and Lemmon, who had to be flawless on every take since Wilder would pick the one in which Monroe was flawless, no matter how brilliantly they acted.

Monroe would more often follow instruction from Strasberg, according to producer Walter Mirisch in the book “Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot,” resulting in a lot of confusion and disagreement. Monroe’s then-husband, writer Arthur Miller, sought to intervene with plot and character ideas as well, despite the fact that he was not a professional member of the production. Monroe’s drug-induced amnesia and the infiltration of her “handlers” left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth, and no one left “Some Like It Hot” without a grudge.

After the shooting, Billy was not polite to Marilyn in front of the press.

“The question is whether Marilyn is a person at all or one of the greatest DuPont products ever invented,” Billy was reported as saying.

“She has breasts like granite; she defies gravity; and has a brain like Swiss cheese – full of holes.”

“I have discussed this with my doctor and my psychiatrist and they tell me I’m too old and too rich to go through this again,” he later said. This prompted Monroe to call Wilder’s home and tell him to, well, fornicate himself (we’re paraphrasing). Wilder attempted to mend fences, but she died a short time later. As the years passed, he softened his stance about his time working with her. “I had no problem with Marilyn Monroe. Monroe had problems with Monroe,” Wilder said. “When it was all done, and my stomach got back to normal, it seemed well worth the agony of working with her.”

Marilyn Monroe was trouble for her director (Image: GETTY)

Monroe, on the other hand, was first hesitant to play Sugar Kane. Monroe was pigeonholed in Hollywood, where she was frequently cast in clichéd “dumb blonde” roles. Laurence Olivier, her co-star in “The Prince and the Showgirl,” is said to have patronized her by telling her that all she needed to do was “be sexy.” Monroe despised stereotypes and hated being treated as if she were one. Although Sugar Kane matches the stereotype, Monroe consented to play the character because of a lucrative arrangement that included a ten percent share of the film’s revenues in her pay. Monroe finally gave a strong performance, but Wilder probably didn’t notice that she fought with stage anxiety and needed additional time to get into the correct mentality to film. When she finally arrived on set, she and Wilder frequently clashed about the character’s personality. Wilder had a reputation for being tough, and the combination of the two was a recipe for disaster.

Monroe, like Wilder, expressed her dissatisfaction with her experience working on “Some Like It Hot” in the press after the film’s completion. She called the whole film a sinking ship, and slyly took a dig at Wilder, Lemmon, and Curtis by saying, “Why should I worry? I have no phallic symbol to lose.” Monroe began to demand respect on the set of “Showgirl,” and she would not come on set until she received it, a method recommended by Strasberg. It was a strategy she seems to employ frequently on “Some Like It Hot.”

Throughout the filming, Marilyn was on sick leave for several days at a time, causing FOX to terminate her from the project.

To make matters worse, the corporation went on to sue her for $750,000 in damages.

They began renegotiating her role in the film months later, but she died before they could finish.


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