Absolutely gasp-inducing footage of Marilyn Monroe just weeks before her death, in a 1962 screentest for her ill-fated comeback Something’s Got to Give. I feel like this is something we’ve all seen before, but it never ceases to thrill. That hair! That smile! It’s hard to believe such beauty could really exist.
On April 10, 1962, Marilyn Monroe arrived on the set of the bedroom farce, Something’s Got To Give, for costume and screen tests. Producer Henry Weinstein described her as “at her best,” but later that same evening he found her unconscious from an apparent sleeping pill overdose. Weinstein pleaded with the executives at Fox to delay shooting, but with the studio teetering on financial collapse as a result of the white elephant, Cleopatra, they badly needed their most bankable star to bail them out.
Marilyn most likely was dealing with bipolar. And, of course, she was Marilyn. An AMC documentary from the early 2000s, Marilyn Monroe – The Final Days, recounts what happened next:
Shooting was delayed a week while Marilyn went to New York to be with her mentors, Lee and Paula Strasberg. She returned energized, but with a bad cold that rendered her cinematically hors de combat. The studio rejected their own doctor’s recommendation that production be postponed a month. One week later, Marilyn reported to work, only to collapse on the set the next day.
A short time earlier, US Attorney General Robert F Kennedy had entered Marilyn’s life. Marilyn confided in Weinstein of her impending first date and sought his advice on what kind of questions she should be asking. A week later, when Weinstein enquired how it was going, Marilyn cheerfully replied, “I don’t need any more questions.”
Then there was Robert’s older brother, President John F Kennedy. Marilyn skipped a day of shooting to pant her famous rendition of “Happy Birthday, Mr President” in a gown that anticipated Jennifer Lopez by 40 years.
Meanwhile, the set at Fox resembled an armed camp, with director George Cukor at odds with both Marilyn and producer Weinstein, frustrated actors, an unhappy crew, and Fox executives on the warpath over Marilyn’s absences.
But the Marilyn captured on film completely belies the sound and fury behind the scenes. The screen fairly lights up with her presence, and a nude pool scene, painstakingly reconstructed from footage in the vault, stands as Exhibit A for why there has been no one like her before or since.
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