Much too much has been written about one Marilyn Monroe for us to have any new to add to the numerous litanies of her trials and tribulations. Most of her films are tolerable, but few approach greatness. Perhaps Some Like It Hot (1959) comes the closest. However, in that one she share the screen with other giants, namely Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis. Marilyn is in many ways just along for the ride. In fact she finished only two films after Some Like It Hot, those being Let’s Make Love and John Huston’s The Misfits, which ironically was also Clark Gable’s last film.
The year following Some Like It Hot, Marilyn shot Let’s Make Love under the direction of George Cukor, the noted “women’s director.” The initial challenge seemed to be who to cast opposite Marilyn, as none of the leading stars of the day had any interest. Cary Grant, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, and Jimmy Stewart all passed. A lister Gregory Peck was cast for a moment, but after script rewrites reduced his role (and expanded that of Monroe) and numerous terror stories of her notorious work delays, he too opted out. So we are left with Yves Montand.
Montand brought little in terms of pedigree and the result on screen is less than perhaps was intended. He portrays a billionaire tycoon who after a few twists finds himself impersonating an out of work actor so that he can play opposite Marilyn’s character, Amanda Dell, the star of the show.
Of course love is in the air and presumably the deception doesn’t harm Montand’s chances long term with Monroe: however, we will never know because the end titles run almost immediately his true identity is revealed. But again, Montand generates so little empathy from the audience and has so little chemistry with Monroe that the average viewer probably couldn’t care less.
Marilyn does well as does the supporting cast, with the possible exclusion of Montand himself, who is mostly smirking and snarly throughout the picture. Marilyn does what she does best, light romantic comedy. For what ever reason, she does appear a bit heavier here than in the preceding year’s Some Like It Hot. There are several camera shots which appear to have been intentionally shot to diminish this impression. Lighting for the stage rehearsal scenes are also done likewise.
The supporting cast helps too. Tony Randall does a pleasant if unmemorable turn as Montand’s assistant. Perhaps Randall’s quips were funny at the time of release, but they surely have not stood the test of time.
The best scenes are those including the best stars of the day. Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Milton Berle, and Joe Besser all pop in for single scenes which are the highlight of the picture. Note to self: it is NEVER a good thing when the most memorable scenes are those where cameos are made.
Also, the musical numbers look a bit forced and do not drive the plot at all- in some cases they simply don’t sound finished. Those negatives aside, it isn’t a bad picture, but perhaps more a story of a movie which could have been great. It passes two hours in relatively pleasant fashion, you just won’t feel an overwhelming need to pass the time the same way again most likely.
Let’s Make Love had been out on DVD for quite some time, originally appearing only as a part of the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection 2 box set. Of late it is also available as a standalone disc and also (of course) via download. The requisite restoration has been done (as with all films in the set) and the results are strong. Video is crisp for the age of the film and the audio is good but of course makes minimal use of surround, again, resulting from the age of the film.
It’s exceedingly average, and Montand unfortunately is the driving force in that assessment. If you are a true Marilyn fan this will be of interest, but for the average classic film buff interested in Ms. Monroe, I’d suggest The Seven Year Itch, Bus Stop, or the aforementioned Some Like It Hot. Those are better known and for good reason.
This is one you truly want to watch before purchasing so a rental may be the best bet.