Review: Don’t Bother to Knock

Nell (Marilyn Monroe) is not who she seems

(Twentieth Century Fox, 1952)

They say that Monroe, early on in her career, had to struggle hard in order to be accepted as a serious actress instead of just being seen as the dumb blonde with a knock-out rack. The producers in Hollywood never gave her a real chance to be a success doing serious roles, however, and only until The Mistfits, some nine years after this movie, was she once again to illustrate the depth of her acting abilities, albeit at a time where it was probably too late to save her.

In this movie she is doing one of her finest acting at an already very early stage of her career – before her commercially successful and better known pictures such as How to Marry A Millionaire, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch and of course Some Like it Hot catapulted her into stardom and then legend. One can only imagine what she could have turned into acting-wise had she been allowed to continue on the route we see her partake in this movie.

Unfortunately, Hollywood was merciless in that regard and Marilyn’s success dependett very strongly on the success she could bring at the box office. Marilyn, therefore, realized early on that she had to be able to sell and that people, as well as the studios themselves, preferred her as the voluptuous, ditsy, blonde kitten who exhumes sex appeal rather than as the serious dramatic actress she could be; they had Liz Taylor, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn for that.

This movie is from the small window in Monroe’s career where she was still undamaged by Hollywood’s demands on her and instead was allowed to take on the role of a person with more psychological depth than any of the characters she would play later on in her career (except for The Misfits). Richard Widwmark and Anne Bancroft do a great job as well, but they are easily overshadowed by Monroe’s breathtaking radiance and screen presence. When she enters a scene, all you see is her. Watch All About Eve and you will notice how all the other beautiful and renowned actresses sort of melt into the background when Monroe enters the scene, even though her part is very small.  Among her many love affairs, I think the camera was her biggest one.

I am still surprised that after this role she was still not taken seriously as an actor by her contemporaries even later on and was in fact often mocked by such serious and talented actors as Bette Davis. Today she is mostly remembered for her femininity, vulnerability, immense sex appeal and tragic past. She isn’t remembered as the master of her craft Maybe her beauty and extraordinary femininity were overwhelming for everyone around her, including her female counterparts, and just too powerful to ignore and she could not have ever been anything else in Hollywood but what she was exhuming outwardly.

Here are a couple of screenshots of Monroe in All About Eve. It has been observed that no matter how a scene was lighted, Monroe had the quality of drawing all the light to herself… 

Marilyn Monroe in a promo-shot for All About Eve (1950)

Marilyn Monroe with Anne Baxter (far left), Bette Davis and George Sanders in All About Eve, 1950

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