The Silly Secretary Trilogy
Marilyn first appeared on film as a secretary in Hometown Story, a pro-capitalist message movie financed by General Motors Corporation for the minuscule sum of $243K. An interesting feature of the movie is the appearance of Academy Award winner and Hollywood legend, Donald Crisp, whose career began in the silent era as both an actor and a director. In 1906, his singing ability was discovered by opera impresario John C. Fisher so Donald joined Grand Opera in New York City. He eventually became a stage director for George M. Cohan, also a legend. Donald appeared in D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation in 1915: he portrayed U. S. Grant. With Griffith, another legend, Donald learned a how to make movies and directed seventy silent features. During his lengthy career, he acted alongside most, if not all, of the film industry’s acting legends. To mention a few: Lilian Gish, Laurence Olivier, Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, Buster Keaton, Bette Davis, Douglas Fairbanks, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, Kate Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe at an early stage in her brief career. In 1942, Donald won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in John Ford’s revered, How Green Was My Valley. It is indeed remarkable to see an actor of Donald Crisp’s renown starring in a B grade, low budget production like Hometown Story. He portrays the benevolent businessman, John MacFarland.
As Young As You Feel clearly falls within a category of bedroom comedies in which Marilyn appeared, like Love Nest and Let’s Make It Legal, during her second tour of duty on Fox’s lots. The only distinction with the film is her role as Harriet, her second instance as a secretary. She also appears for the first time in a movie with David Wayne. She appeared in four movies in which David also appeared but he actually only shared scenes with her in two of the four: We’re Not Married and How to Marry a Millionaire. David was complimentary of Marilyn’s photogenic qualities but he never spoke very highly of her acting ability, not uncommon among the actors with whom she competed.
Marilyn’s role in Monkey Business as Miss Lois Laurel, a secretary who has a girlish crush on Cary Grant’s research chemist, Barnaby Fulton, represents three significant demarcations in her movie career: 1) it marks the end of her early career as primarily a bit player; 2) it immediately precedes Niagara; and 3) Miss Laurel represents the initial incidence of Marilyn’s fully developed dumb blonde persona.
Of additional significance to Marilyn’s career, Monkey Business is the first of her two movies directed by Howard Hawks; and apparently, the correct title for Marilyn’s final adventure in secretarialism is not just Monkey Business but Howard Hawks’ Monkey Business. By adding the director’s name, one creates a distinction between it and the Marx Brother’s 1931 flicker show which has the same name. Apparently for some, that’s an important distinction to draw. However, Howard Hawks’ involvement in this movie is not what makes it marketable or sellable six decades after its original release. As a matter of fact, the movie is not packaged or sold as a Howard Hawks movie or even a Cary Grant movie. O No! It is packaged and sold as a Marilyn Monroe movie. So I want to be the first person to propose that this movie should now and forevermore be entitled Marilyn Monroe’s Monkey Business.
While Howard Hawks made uncredited contributions to the Monkey Business screenplay, the talented writers credited with the screenplay include Charles Lederer, I.A.L Diamond and Ben Hecht, an impressive trio. Marilyn has an additional connection to Mr. Hecht: he ghost wrote her autobiography.