Marilyn Monroe in Gentlmen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Stories & Ideas

Wed 25 Jan 2023

Return Fire: Marilyn Monroe, actor and icon

Film Melbourne Cinémathèque Retrospective
Melbourne Cinematheque icon

Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society

Notes for the 12–26 April 2023 Melbourne Cinémathèque program.

Marilyn Monroe's (1926–62) image, as the personification of Hollywood glamour, beauty and desirability, is perhaps the most iconic in popular culture. After a troubled childhood – her mother was diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia” when Monroe was eight, relegating her to the care of foster parents and, for a time, an orphanage – she began her career as a pin-up model at the age of 19. After a series of minor film roles, Monroe signed a seven-year contract with Twentieth Century-Fox following her memorable supporting appearance in All About Eve (1950). By 1953, she was voted the top female box-office star, captivating the gaze of audiences with the same seeming effortlessness with which her characters attracted admirers in the films themselves.

Yet Monroe was not simply “the ultimate embodiment of the desirable woman” (Richard Dyer) but, as has become more widely acknowledged in the years since her untimely death at the age of 36, a witty, intelligent and receptive performer who elevated her roles beyond their often ostensible simplicity on the page and craved recognition beyond the objectification to which she was relentlessly subjected. Joshua Logan, who directed Monroe in Bus Stop (1956), said of the star: “[She] is pure cinema… Watch her work in any film. How rarely she has to use words. How much she does with her eyes, her lips, with slight, almost accidental gestures.” This season focuses on the wide range of Monroe’s work in the 1950s, working with major directors of Hollywood’s golden age including Howard Hawks and Fritz Lang, as well as her soulful, final completed film written by her then-husband, playwright Arthur Miller, and directed by John Huston: The Misfits (1961).


Return Fire: Marilyn Monroe, actor and icon

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) – Wed 12 April, 7pm
Clash by Night (1952) – Wed 12 April, 8.50pm
The Misfits (1961) – Wed 19 April, 7pm
Don't Bother to Knock (1952) – Wed 19 April, 9.20pm
Monkey Business (1952) – Wed 26 April, 7pm
Bus Stop (1956) – Wed 26 April, 8.50pm

Person laying on sand, with their face reflected in a puddle

Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society, Melbourne Cinémathèque screens significant works of international cinema in the medium they were created, the way they would have originally screened.

Melbourne Cinémathèque is self-administered, volunteer-run, not-for-profit and membership-driven. 

Learn more | View the 2023 program | See membership options