How Hollywood Recycles Part II: Something’s Got to Give

Prior to Monroe’s presidential performance at Madison Square Garden, and well before filming for Something’s Got to Give had commenced, warning signs began to flash brightly, eventually eclipsing the starlet’s name they once lit so lucently. On April 10th, 1962, four months before she died, Monroe was found laid out, unresponsive, along the very same bed that she would be found dead months later from a presumed overdose. Her discoverer, producer Henry Weinstein had telephoned Monroe earlier that day when she failed to appear on time for a scheduled meeting. When he received no response, Weinstein intuitively made haste to her private residence in Brentwood.

Upon Arrival, Weinstein telephoned Marilyn’s personal doctor Ralph Greenson as well as her internist to help revive her. Stumbling upon Monroe’s lifeless body, Weinstein was utterly shocked, as earlier that day Marilyn had appeared at the studio for her make-up and costume test. Naturally, a concerned Weinstein also telephoned studio doctor Lee Seigel for an evaluation. Accordingly, Seigel advised that filming for Something’s Got to Give be suspended for a month in order to allow Monroe to recover. Fox rejected Seigel’s advice and decided to proceed anyway.

Marilyn-Monroes-home-historic-photoAbove: Marilyn’s Brentwood residence, where she was found on April 10th, and would be found four months later dead of a often debated overdose.

It is imperative to note that before these events had transpired, Cukor (whom often criticized Monroe for her frequent lateness and absences), failed himself to appear earlier that day at Monroe’s costume test. Well informed of Monroe’s ongoing psychological and recent physical fragility (due to gallbladder surgery), Cukor’s absence gravely afflicted Monroe, making her feel that her efforts were of no importance to Cukor at all. It was as if Cukor had kicked her while she was already down, deliberately withholding from Monroe the compassion and affirmation she so desperately needed. Could this cruel and insensitive act on Cukor’s part be what triggered Monroe’s suicide attempt earlier that day? Nevertheless, on May 1st, (despite Seigel’s warning), an ailing Monroe would appear on the set of Something’s Got to Give for the first time, yet after a half hour would be sent home due to fainting on set.

Weeks passed by until May 14th, when an even more enervated Monroe had miraculously reappeared on set to resume filming on Something’s Got to Give. The first scene she filmed while on set was a tedious one; the first part of the coming home scene. Monroe was cast alongside an uncooperative cocker spaniel; Jeff who played the role of Tippy, (Ellen’s dog). In this scene Jeff was supposed to great Monroe when she appeared on set, yet repeatedly missed cues from his trainer once the cameras began rolling. An even more uncooperative Cukor, who was hell bent on making an already grave Monroe suffer even more, relentlessly forced Monroe the rerecord this scene, take after take, until Jeff cooperated. This event, (alongside the aforementioned), would also act as evidence, proving that all the catastrophe that occurred on set while filming Something’s Got to Give was not Monroe’s fault.

SGGTDogAbove: Jeff the cocker spaniel playing with Monroe on the set of Something’s Got to Give.

On May 15th, (and Intensifying her already fastidious preoccupations), a forced Monroe acquiescently, yet painstakingly (despite her unrest), struggled to film a scene in which her character Ellen, tries precariously to re-establish a relationship with her children, whom she has not seen for five years for presumably being lost at sea. Fomenting her further, the children whom had co-starred alongside her were the exact same age her children would have been, should she have not lost them due to a series of unfortunate miscarriages brought on by ectopic pregnancies (that were not treatable) during Monroe’s lifetime. For audiences, it is obvious that Monroe’s somber and unengaged performance for this scene could be easily attributed to these tragic events series of events that endlessly plagued Monroe’s personal life.

Pool 1Above: The pool as it was originally intended for use in Something’s Go to Give.

Pool 2Above: A year later, (and with minor accustoming) the same pool as it appeared in the film Move Over Darling, (note the removal of the pool house in addition to the added foliage and restyled patio furniture).

Pool 3Above: Ellen (played by Monroe), lays eyes upon her children for the first time in five years before attempting to re-establish a relationship with them.

Pool 5Above:Day a year later (portraying Ellen), in the same scene (note the house being the same one as the same one used in Something’s Got to Give, this time being painted over in blue).

Pool 4Above: A conspicuously unfocused and bewildered Monroe struggles to deliver even the most adequate of performances as Ellen in Something’s Got to Give.

Doris 1Above: In contrast to Monroe, a perceptibly focused Day delivers an assiduous performance as Ellen in the 1963 remake Move Over Darling, (note the stairwell as being the same one pictured in the image of Monroe above).

One May 23rd 1962, Monroe would escape the clutches of sorrow that plagued her life for one last memorable performance. It would be the last time Monroe would grace the cameras with a performance only Marilyn could make memorable. Sadly, this rare display of talent would never grace the big screen until years later when the film was restored. Originally, costume designer Jean Louis created a flesh colored bodysuit for the sequence. In typical Marilyn fashion, she decided to eliminate the swimwear altogether and instead appear nude before the camera for all eyes to see. In an attempt, to reestablish herself onto the Hollywood scene (and of course eclipse the publicity surrounding Liz Taylor), Marilyn made sure to have some of her favorite cameramen on standby so they could capture the very magic she conjured on screen. As a result, Marilyn successfully knocked her arch rival Liz Taylor and any other tabloid promoting Cleopatra of the stands. Given that if Something’s Got to Give was completed, Marilyn would have been the first Hollywood actress to appear nude after the uplift of the Hays Code. Because the film was uncompleted, Monroe’s nude scene along with the rest of the footage was shelved. Instead, actress Jayne Mansfield was awarded that title when she appeared nude in 1963 for the film Promises, Promises.

Marilyn 2Above: Ellen Wagstaff Arden (played by Monroe), serving as a tantalizing reminder to what her husband Nick Arden, (played by Dean Martin) was missing out on by not divorcing his current wife Bianca (played by Cyd Charise).

Garner 3Above: Emerging from the same pool (a year later), actor James Gardner (recast as Nick Arden), surprises his wife Doris Day (recast as Ellen), in Fox’s Move Over Darling.

For the duration of filming, Marilyn would appear on set a total of 13 out of 30 production days. However, it was not Monroe who was solely responsible for increasing production costs $1,000,000 over budget. Aside from Cukor’s poor displays of directorship, feuds that had erupted behind the scenes between Cukor and Weinstein were also to blame. Weinstein had replaced the original script writer Arnold Schulman with Nunnally Johnson, failing to inform Cukor. Cukor who became absolutely enraged upon finding out then replaced Nunnally Johnson with Walter Bernstein. As a result of Cukor and Weinstein’s bickering as well as the unnecessary and costly re-write of the original script, this sent Fox $300,000 over budget. Those who blame Monroe solely for the films hardships, fail to mention the additional time, money and effort on Monroe’s part that was required in order to relearn the script. Something had to give and eventually it did. Fox and Cukor had found the perfect scapegoat: Marilyn Monroe, and on June 8th 1962 officially pulled the plug on Something’s Got to Give.

SGTGAbove: An intended promotional poster for the ill-omned Something’s Got to Give.

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