75 YOF: “Don’t Bother to Knock,” the Marvelous, Maniacal Monroe (1952)

It’s a bit hard to study film history without including Marilyn Monroe at some point. However, I wanted to look beyond her iconic appearance. Could she actually act? Here’s a film that tries her talent, not just her physique.

After being snubbed by his lover, a man named Jed starts flirting with a Nell (Monroe) who is babysitting at their hotel. But when the child she’s watching interrupts their affections, Nell becomes angry and unravels piece by piece, becoming more and more dangerous to others and herself.

It’s certainly worth a watch. Monroe actually did well as the pretty psychopath, fully showing us just how miserable, desperate, and broken this poor girl is. I’m not sure Monroe could have pulled off full-on slasher (i.e. Glenn Close), but her pitiful performance gives her character more credibility. It’s a fun thriller because Nell is so unhinged you really don’t know what she’s going to do next.

If you read Monroe’s biography on IMDB.com, you can see she knew a thing or two about instability. Her mother was mentally unwell, she had no father, she nearly died at two, and she struggled to get by until someone found her and gave her a shot in the movies.

Don’t Bother to Knock was part of Monroe’s uphill climb. She didn’t achieve her sex-symbol status until Gentlemen Prefer Blondes two years later. A few years after that, she got tired of that image and tried to improve her acting caliber to be taken seriously, giving her a turnaround for Bus Stop.

Unfortunately, she soon fell victim to pills and bottles, spiraling downward so badly that her last two films were affected by her health. In addition, Monroe apparently became uncooperative and constantly late in many films, costing her some roles, including her last one. She died of a drug overdose at the age of 36 on August 5th, 1962, a death labeled as probable suicide (source).

Even back then, the life of a superstar was not easy. Nowadays, Monroe has become a poster child for the rise and fall of stardom: fame that has lasted her though the ages, but a drug and alcohol addiction that kept her from seeing it.

It’s sad how many others have followed her footsteps.


Was it stardom that caused her death? One certainly can’t rule out such a large part of her life. It seems she sought stardom and got it with her body though acting, modeling, even posing nude for Playboy. But like so many, once she had it, it seems she didn’t know what to do with it.

Drugs, divorce, miscarriages, these are things fame can’t fix. Applause can’t take the place of love. Something was missing in Miss Monroe’s heart. Then, her apparent idol of fame abandoned her and she died the same year she was fired from her last movie.

Seeing Marilyn Monroe in a film makes me remember what goes on behind the flashing cameras. A human. Not a god of endless might, but a human. Humans are not meant to be idolized. They weren’t built for it.

“I have feelings too. I am still human. All I want is to be loved, for myself and for my talent.” -Marilyn Monroe (source).

PREVIOUS: 1951–African Queen

NEXT: 1953–War of the Worlds



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