“Don’t Bother to Knock” (1952) starring Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, & Anne Bancroft

SHE’S DYNAMITE! It Opens the Door on the Screen’s Most Exciting New Personality- MARILYN MONROE -A tag line (on the movie trailer)

An airline pilot, Jed (Richard Widmark), stays at the NYC hotel where his gf, Lyn (Anne Bancroft- just 20 y.o.) is a singer. Some guests have lived in this hotel for yrs (and call it “home”); others are visiting for a short time (business/vacay). Some employees have been around a long time also; Eddie (Elisha Cook, Jr.) has been an elevator operator for 7 yrs. Jed notices a young woman (wearing a black kimono) across the courtyard on the opposite side of the hotel. They start out flirting by playing w/ their window blinds, then he calls her on the phone. They decide to meet-up in her room. As they drink and talk, Jed comes to realize that this woman, Nell (Marilyn Monroe at 25), is NOT as uncomplicated as she looks. I’m NOT going to reveal more, as I don’t want to spoil the surprises!

Jed [to Nell on the phone]: Are you doing anything you couldn’t be doing better with somebody else?

The screenplay was written by Daniel Taradash, based on the novel- Mischief– by Charlotte Armstrong, published in 1951. I had never heard of the director, Roy Ward Baker, before; he worked in small-budget Hollywood films for a time after (before returning to his native England). There is nothing showy re: the style; it’s understated (NOT unlike an ep of a TV show). The acting is well-done when it comes to each role, incl. the minor ones that add flavor to the story. We get the (rare) chance to see Widmark (star of many noirs) as a regular (and mostly relatable) guy! He shows a lighter (and charming) side. Bancroft is beautiful, mature beyond her age, and sings V well.

I learned that 1952 was a great year for Monroe; she made her mark in Clash by Night (acting opposite Stanwyck), Monkey Business (I still need to see), and this film. She’d played small roles in 2 great films released in 1950: the much-acclaimed All About Eve and the noir classic The Asphalt Jungle. The (iconic) actress commented that this was one of her fave roles. Some fans noted that Monroe’s hair/make-up is much more natural than in her later film; she’s gorgeous (of course). However, when you see the fine quality of her acting, you’ll be wow-ed even more!

Marilyn Monroe wanted to be this great star, but acting just scared the hell out of her. That’s why she was always late- couldn’t get her on the set. She had trouble remembering lines. But none of it mattered. With a very few special people, something happens between the lens and the film that is pure magic. And she really had it. -Widmark on his co-star

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