BR: Let’s Make Love (1960)

July 26, 2018 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Good

Label:  Twilight Time

Region: All

Released:  June 19, 2018

Genre:  Musical / Comedy

Synopsis: A billionaire plays amateur actor and infiltrates a show to woo its sexxxy co-star.

Special Features: Isolated Stereo Music Track / Theatrical Trailer / 8-page colour booklet with liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo / Limited to 3000 copies / Available exclusively from Screen Archives Entertainment and www.twilighttimemovies.com.

 


 

Review:

Marilyn Monroe’s final film for 20th Century-Fox is a sort-of remake of the studio’s 1937 Irving Berlin-penned musical On the Avenue, augmented with different classic songs by Jimmy Van Heusen & Sammy Cahn and Cole Porter, but benefiting from a similarly superb cast likely chosen to help the film’s international marquee value, and support the production’s troublesome star.

Monroe’s career wasn’t at any nadir in 1960, but her personal life was becoming increasingly messy, affecting her ability to meet the demands of a big budget shoot. Wafting between her psychiatrist, meddlesome acting coach Stella Adler, prescription bills and alcohol, by the time Billy Wilder directed her for a second time in Some Like It Hot (1959), Monroe’s radiant screen performance is due in part to Wilder’s extraction of strong moments from takes edited carefully into a fluid character rendition.

Fox’s decision to hire George Cukor for LML was most astute, given he was known for not only directing powerful actresses (and eccentric personalities), but his ability to create classic films within the studio system. The Women (1939), Gaslight (1944), and Born Yesterday (1950). More important, A Star is Born (1954) proved he could also handle enigmatic, brilliant, and deeply messed up talent like Judy Garland.

Cukor had the added pressure of guiding Yves Montand through his first English language role and ironing out the actor’s thick French accent for some very witty dialogue by Norman Krasna (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, White Christmas), Hal Kanter (The Rose Tattoo, The Milton Berle Show), and uncredited material by Monroe’s then husband Arhtur Miller. Trivia has it other actors turned down the part of Jean-Marc Clement due to Miller’s reduction of the character at the expense of More Monroe, but in fairness, for all the drama that occurred during the making of LML, it’s quite a fun comedy with zippy musical numbers.

Jean-Marc Clement (Montand) is the latest benefactor of his family’s extraordinary wealth which, as the Zelig-esque prologue details, grew exponentially over centuries, leading up to Jean-Marc’s upbringing in NYC and being raised by former guardian and right-hand man George Welch (Wilfrid Hyde-White). When publicist Alexander Coffman (Tony Randall) brings him details of a little play that seeks to spoof his billionaire employer, Clement decides to personally check out rehearsals and decide whether it’s worth suing and shutting down the production, or allowing a caricature to remain in the play and show the public the renowned womanizer has a sense of humour.

Clement is mistaken as a wannabe actor hoping to score some stage time as his namesake’s lookalike, and he pretends to be aspiring bit thespian / costume jewelry salesman Alexander Dumas after he sees a rehearsal with Amanda Dell (Monroe) performing the film (and trailer’s) signature number, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.”

It is highly improbable that no one amongst the theatre troupe recognizes Clement as the real deal during the time he rehearses and graduates to a bit player, but it’s a conceit perhaps borrowed from Superman, who masquerades as reporter Clark Kent under a suit and big glasses. Clement’s main competitor is Amanda’s stage partner, pal, and lover Tony Danton (super-suave British crooner Frankie Vaughan), and Clement’s determination to win her affection includes playing poor at a cafeteria, and buying jokes to gain the favour of the show’s blustering producer (whose own power is diminished when Welch ‘saves’ the production from sudden closure, and becomes its 51% owner).

The film’s meandering second hour is boosted by a series of unexpected cameos – Bing Crosby’s brought in to teach Clement how to sing and sway Amada’s attention from multi-skilled Tony; Gene Kelly tries to teach smooth moves; and Milton Berle offers his ‘best’ comedic schtick after an ‘original’ $1000 joke by Joe Besser backfires – but the ease with which Tony loses his standing within the production and cedes Amanda’s heart to Clement is far too neat.

Tony’s also the film’s most underwritten character, barely interacting with Clement, and a sudden discovery of Tony’s ‘return’ to an alcohol addiction feels like a hasty rewrite insertion, but Vaughn sells Tony by injecting his own charisma and magnificent voice into several tight music numbers. The film’s biggest budget expenses may have gone towards its stars and director, but by setting the show in a small theatre, LML’s production and costume designers put more focus on the stars via rudimentary stage props and sets.

“My Heart Belongs to Daddy” is just a few striptease poles and Monroe surrounded by a gaggle of men on a black stage, but Cukor adopts a similar backstage angle used to great success in A Star is Born, using spotlights to send pools of pastel colors. In both films one can argue the side angles open up the stage’s drama, and allowed respective cinematographers Sam Leavitt (Carmen Jones, Major Dundee) and LML’s Daniel Fapp (Union Station, West Side Story) to enliven numbers with a mix of harsh whites, saturated pastels, stark shadows and hot rims on actors and objects.

The “Daddy” number also has Monroe echoing her “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” sequence from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) by interacting with a mass of adulating (and politely lecherous) men; if you’re going to remind cynical audiences that Monroe’s still has oomph, have her flowing & bobbing among a team of men, teasing her way through their fawning and bawdy lyrics.

Her duet with Vaughan of “Incurably Romantic” is performed on a clever two-level rectangular platform anchored to a pole that’s part divan, mini-stage, and low-rise furniture, around which the two swing while wind blows Monroe’s pink dress. “Specialization” is memorable for being classic Monroe and showcasing primarily the actress and her figure flattered by a shimmering white dress that’s very similar to the taunt number into which she was sewn for her memorable “Happy Birthday” rendition to John F. Kennedy.

Trivia cites LML as being the film in which the actress was at her ‘heaviest,’ something Cukor does attempt to hide by having Monroe wearing baggy sweaters, but the mask seems to have been strategically retained to soften just the opening number, as later sets show the actress not only in dresses, but in one rehearsal she’s wearing a corset. It’s a peculiar moment that might be a continuity gaffe by the wardrobe team, or maybe Monroe showing the nonsense being done to hide her otherwise beautiful physique. Regardless of whether Cukor may have followed Wilder’s ploy of building a performance from slivers of select takes, the actress is still magnetic in a fluffy tale that challenges no one, but is pleasing to her fans.

As for Montand (whose liaison with Monroe during filming tested his marriage with Simone Signoret), his English is rough in spots, but the actor’s innate charm softens Clement’s character as a rich playboy determined to use whatever underhanded tactics are available to acquire Amanda, initially as a conquest, but soon into the game as a potential soul mate.

Fox’s HD transfer is quite lovely, and Twilight Time’s mix features a fine stereo and more spread out 5.1 mix, plus stereo cues of the underscore and songs minus vocals. Pity there’s no archival extras beyond the trailer – Fox must have shot promo materials to maximize Monroe’s buh-bye to the studio – but Julie Kirgo’s liner notes provide contrast between what Fox wanted, what Cukor managed to deliver from his distant star, and Montand’s ‘laudable’ adventure in Hollywood.

As for LML’s link to On the Avenue, it is worth noting what aspects were retained: instead of a billionaire masquerading as a bit actor to woo the actress in a low rent play, OTA had a new Broadway musical’s co-star/writer (Dick Powell) being pursued by ‘the wealthiest girl in the world’ (blonde Madeline Carroll), initially to woo and convince the star to tone down the satirical jabs at herself and her pompous father, but later exacting revenge by buying the show and staging a prank to humiliate him after the show’s other co-star (Alice Faye) adds her own dose of character assassination.

In terms of script and structure, LML’s a fine example of taking a great romantic plot, updating the satire, and adding some class conflict to deepen the gap billionaire Clement must cross to reach and gain the trust of working actress Amanda. OTA’s finale accelerates into screwball comedy with an interrupted marriage to a dingbat, whereas LML brings in cameos to boost the film’s pop culture references, but reduces rival Tony to a wan lover.

Monroe’s next and final completed film would be the heavy-handed The Misfits (1961), penned by Miller and starring tormented Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable, after which she made an ill-fated ‘return’ to Fox in the never completed Something’s Got to Give, itself a remake of My Favorite Wife (1940). The aborted production briefly reunited the actress with director Cukor.

Vaughan co-starred with Martha Hyer (Cry Vengeance, Some Came Running) in the ironically named The Right Approach (1961), another Fox production, after which he dropped out of film and concentrated on his already solid stage and recording career.

 

 

© 2018 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

 


 

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Soundtrack Album — Composer Filmography
 
Vendor Search Links:

Amazon Canada —  Amazon USA —  Amazon UK

 


 

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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