In her first dramatic role Marilyn Monroe plays an emotionally disturbed babysitter, Nell Forbes who unbeknown to the child’s parents, Ruth and Peter Jones, is suffering from a traumatic psychoneurosis brought on by the death of her fiancé. When Nell invites Jed Towers, who reminds her of her dead pilot to the Jones room, they are at a convention downstairs in New Yorks upmarket McKinley Hotel, he is happy to oblige this beautiful young woman. Until the child’s safety becomes an issue he is unaware of her fragile mental state.
|....reads a bedtime story.|
Roy Ward Baker, best known for A Night to Remember (1958) and The Singer Not the Song (1961) which featured a delightfully camp performance from Dirk Bogarde, directed Monroe in her 13th credited film at a time when she was trying to prove her dramatic acting skills. Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) was her first starring role and to be honest she is the main reason to see this rather forgotten movie. She gives a very believable performance as a mentally deranged person and it is alleged that she based her character on how her mentally troubled mother behaved.
This melodramatic noir type thriller was based on a novel entitled Mischief written by Charlotte Armstrong and published in 1951, the screenplay was written by Daniel Taradash. Along side Monroe it starred Richard Widmark as the pilot Jed Towers, Anne Bancroft, in her first feature film as Lyn Lesley, Towers love interest and the bar singer at the Manhattan hotel.
|....the hotels singer.|
The studio gave it a tag line that tried to cash in on both her looks and her acting skill ‘Every inch a woman, ever inch an actress’ they also described her as ‘a wicked sensation as the lonely girl in Room 809’ not sure if they really knew how to market the ever improving star. It was bookended by a rom-com We’re not Married (1952) and the screwball comedy Monkey Business (1952). Even in what was regarded as her breakthrough role, Niagara (1953) 20th Century-Fox still treated her like a sex object , at least in Don’t Bother to Knock they allowed her to act without the sexual connotations that had accompanied her career to date.
|Perhaps Nell was not cut out for babysitting?|
During the filming in early 1952, the revelation that Marilyn had posed nude for a calendar five years earlier hit the media. Although the studio tried to persuade her to deny the story she would not, explaining that she was broke and needed the money. She also admitted that she was not ashamed of it. Her truthfulness and the beauty of the photo turned a potential career-ruining act into a great deal of public sympathy and publicity for MM.