Marilyn Monroe is mostly remembered as a movie sex symbol, at least by my generation. If you were raised on video games, you may have never heard of her. In fact, she was such a major sex icon of the 1950s and 60s, hardly anyone noticed she was also a pretty fine actress.
Check out Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), in which Monroe played a young woman with serious psychological issues. Jim Backus and his wife are staying at a hotel so they can attend a formal dinner, and they need a sitter for their little girl. The bellhop, the immortal Elisha Cook Jr., recommends his niece. He wants to help her by finding something constructive for her to do. He greatly underestimates the intensity of her mental illness. She gets the gig, the parents go out, and the little girl is left alone with this terribly unstable woman.
It’s bound to end in murder or suicide–unless the heart of a hard and cynical young man (Richard Widmark) can be moved to understanding and pity.
This is a movie version of the 1950 thriller, Mischief, by Charlotte Armstrong–an original and effective writer of suspense novels. She died in 1969 and her books have been unjustly forgotten except by connoisseurs of the off-beat novel. She deserves to be rediscovered.
If all you want from a movie is super-heroes taken from comic books, lots of screaming and bodies flying around, and a really loud sound-track–well, there’s really no hope for you, is there?
Don’t Bother to Knock is edgy, presenting a creepy situation that is just about to get disastrously out of hand. But it’s also a story of the power of goodness, against all odds.
And that’s a story worth seeing.