Documentary about the moviestar's last months including her tumultuous love affairs, drug and alcohol dependency, depression and eventual firing from her final film, 20th Century Fox's "...
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Her story is well-known - the lonely child who yearned for affection and approval which she finally seemed to find as Hollywood's greatest love goddess. But even though she scaled heights ... See full summary »
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Documentary about the moviestar's last months including her tumultuous love affairs, drug and alcohol dependency, depression and eventual firing from her final film, 20th Century Fox's "Something's Got To Give". Features several first time interviews with the people surrounding Monroe at the end of her life, behind the scenes footage and stills, and the assembled footage from her final film, co-starring Dean Martin and Cyd Charisse. Written by
the ups and downs (mostly downs) of a star's waning year
Marilyn Monroe had it all, as a successful star really. Lots of adoring fans, movies that were pitched at a particular audience - for those who loved to see 'Marilyn' on screen, in her beauty, her charm, her humor, and on good occasions her dramatic skill - and a helluva strong studio contract for her bankability. But what she didn't have was piece of mind. She was troubled since her youth, and her "manic-depressive" nature, along with some other genuine problems, caused her to basically flunk out of her stardom in Hollywood. Of course, this is the blanket statement, as the documentary makes clear she could have come back to finish the film she was originally fired from her vehicle, Something's Got to Give. What spurred on that last night when she left the mortal coil is still speculation, some forty years on after the fact (that is when this documentary was made in 2001).
What remains fascinating throughout this look at Monroe's last days was to see how her own fragility contrasted in a similar way to the fragility of Hollywood, specifically Fox at the time, in 1962. Fox needed a solid hit to offset the production nightmare of Cleopatra, but they also had a kind of double-edged sword to yield: like Elizabeth Taylor, Monroe was unreliable as someone who could get to work on time with the schedule made out by the filmmakers, and as costs escalated Studio chiefs (as they are to do often) got uneasy. We learn that Monroe's tardiness (that is her on a good day) was already notorious. But a bad cold-cum-flu that kept her away from the shoot for almost the first three weeks of filming made things very tense on the set. And even to this day the "illness" claim has to be taken from her former doctor, or those who knew her. One of the interviewees says it best: "I could buy she was sick, up to a point - but it was also the drugs."
How ironic then that the documentary shows how in other ways the production got muddled with its organization. Take the example of when Monroe does finally get to the set to do some work, and the first thing done is a scene with a dog that doesn't bark on cue. What were they thinking, one might ask, that as soon as the big star is on set to tool around with a mangy mutt? The Final Days doc does give fans, or just curious and casual movie buffs, glimpses of what might have been of Cukor's film, including a rather infamous scene where Monroe skinny dips in a pool to distract Dean Martin's character (and, indeed, she did it for real - how "method" of her, after all), and some so-so funny scenes with the other actors.
Actually, the documentary also includes the entire 'restored' version of Cukor's film, all 37 minutes that was filmed (mostly the scenes without Monroe), though oddly enough seeing that was just OK. For a big movie buff it doesn't bring the same thrill as, say, when in the 90's Paramount released Orson Welles' complete filmed segment in It's All True. It's simply a fluffy romantic comedy that was a remake to start with and something that, perhaps throughout deep down, Monroe wasn't crazy to work on. The history and the politics of the studio, and Monroe's intentional (Kennedy birthday bash) or unintentional (getting sick, either for real or psychosomatic) means of mucking up the production, proves to be much more valuable, even when getting the stories and information from sources that could be just making stuff up. The producer Henry Weinstein might appear to be one of these at first, though he talks about how fair he really was to her, while her entourage of Strasberg (damn you, method!) and her publicist hurt, not helped, her mental state.
The documentary is shaped like a tragedy, and so there's the double-twist that Monroe was trying to get back on track before she died, that it wasn't just a two-month depression bender after she got fired (and, perhaps, this isn't unbelievable as she could pull a few good strings in Hollywood when she needed). This structure makes it conventional, but it's never really dull, and only at the end does the music and James Coburn's narration become too cheesy and melodramatic. Up until then, and before it gets to the restored Cukor footage, it's an engrossing story of stardom gone awry, and it's both beautiful and haunting to see when Monroe was "ON" on the set, it was one of the most wonderful things to see. The darker parts, however, can really only be filled in by the audience.
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