Marilyn Monroe is most widely recognised as an icon of femininity and one of the most recognisable symbols of pop culture from the past fifty years. Occasionally she is often shrugged off as a sexy woman who only played a caricature of herself in rom-coms and musicals. However, true Monroe fans will know that she was a versatile actress and some of her films are absolute hidden gems- and that she starred in many roles, not just the famous few.

Yes, of course she is stunning, but she was unfortunately steered clear of ‘serious’ acting in her latter years in Hollywood and was marketed solely based on her extraordinary beauty- something that sources have argued for years as one of the potential reasons for her psychological breakdown and untimely death.

To the general public Marilyn is a film star but she is not an actress.

These ideas can be supported by the fact that although more than 50 years after her untimely death Marilyn is still an icon, I would argue that most people, particularly of younger generations, are certainly aware of her presence in the past and her legacy now but are unfamiliar with her acting career.

Furthermore, if you were asked to name a Monroe flick, most would only remember the likes of: Some Like it Hot and Gentleman prefer Blondes. In addition, even though the image of her standing over an air vent with her white dress blowing up as she pulls it down in a sultry manner is one of the most recognisable and iconic images of all time I would bet most people wouldn’t know that it is from The Seven Year Itch.

If awareness of Marilyn the actress has at all increased in recent years it is almost certainly thanks to Michelle Williams’ portrayal of her in My Week with Marilyn in 2011. Yet still even this only focused on Marilyn as a confused woman struggling with her acting and forgetting her lines and seeking solace in infidelities.

However, as you may have guessed, I am an advocate of all things Marilyn and I truly believe that as well as the beauty and the vulnerability there was a talented actress underneath. A talent that was no doubt enhanced by the aforementioned stunning looks or innocent demeanour but was not solely derived from those attributes.

If we take a look back to Marilyn’s first leading role [even though it was her 18th film], in Don’t Bother To Knock, I feel that Marilyn’s essential self- the actress she should be remembered as can clearly be seen.

The title seems off putting at first- it sounds like another cheeky rom-com where Marilyn will have a million excuses to unleash her hourglass body. In fact, once you begin to watch the 1952 film you’ll see that the title holds a much more sinister meaning.

One night air line pilot Jed ventures to a hotel where his girlfriend is performing cabaret- however she is not so pleased to see him and ends their relationship. He takes refuge in a room and spots the girl across the way in room 809.

Meanwhile, the Joneses, guests at the hotel, need a baby-sitter, and elevator operator Eddie recommends his shapely niece Nell [Monroe]. She seems sweet but a little nervous however Eddie warns her that she must act suitably.

Nell is the girl in 809 and she soon becomes acquainted with Jed via the telephone- he decides to pop over- meeting Marilyn Monroe right after being dumped I bet he couldn’t believe his luck! 

But as Jed and Nell chat he begins to realise she is rather peculiar. She mistakes him for her long lost fiancé who went missing during the war. She threatens kill herself and attacks the Jones’ child. Eddie finally admits that Nell has spent the past three years in a mental institution following an attempted suicide.

Marilyn is utterly compelling in this film noir style thriller. The storyline builds slowly however there is an eerie undertone from the start- the grand old hotel; Nell’s nervous nature and the grainy black and white picture add a chilling effect.

I was pleasantly surprised when I first saw this film. It was refreshing to see Marilyn in a role that did not rely solely on her looks and where there was no tongue-in-cheek comedy. The character of Nell is unstable and deluded and Marilyn encapsulates the confusion and vulnerability of these emotions without the scenes becoming ludicrously over the top.

Directed with stlye by Roy Ward Baker, Don’t Bother To Knock is as suspenseful as it is underrated.

About The Author

Emily is from South London and has a degree in English Literature. Emily is a marketing assistant who writes about films and music in her spare time. Horror and grindhouse are her thing - although she will happily watch anything if it means a trip to the cinema.