Perhaps the most famous of movies that were never finished, Something’s Got To Give (1962) provides the final chapter in the legend of Marilyn Monroe. Just after Monroe’s 36th birthday on June 1, 1962--a day she spent on the set filming with actors Dean Martin and Wally Cox and director George Cukor--Monroe was fired from the production. Less than three months later, Marilyn Monroe was found dead of an apparent overdose of sleeping medications.
For years, 20th Century Fox executives told the story of how the (apparently lost) footage of the film was unusable because Monroe had been drunk or strung out on drugs, her beauty fading...photographic evidence of Monroe’s decline into oblivion. But years later, when film historians found dozens of film canisters containing the dailies of Something’s Got To Give, the celluloid told a different story. Marilyn was as beautiful as ever, and crafting a charming, original light-comedy characterization. True, Marilyn had missed many days of filming due to a viral infection, and had been as mercurial as ever on set, keeping people waiting for hours....but that had always been Marilyn.
The myth that Marilyn had been fired because her beauty and talent were wasted is simply not true. And yet her critics continued to snipe at her, even in the 2001 documentary that released the previously lost footage.
It’s surprising how much schadenfreude the producer, screenwriter and director displayed toward Monroe for years after the filming of Something’s Got To Give--and the surviving players still seemed determined to denigrate her contributions to film history by painting her as a hopeless drug addict and mental defective.
In 1962, the studio brass at 20th Century Fox were determined to continue to treat Monroe as an indentured servant when she was their top-grossing female superstar. Monroe’s talent, humor and vulnerability were in full working order, evidenced by the existing footage of the abandoned production. Rumors and stories that she was a such a mess she couldn’t continue don’t ring true when you see what’s left of this legendary unfinished film. Yes, she may have been hooked on pills and insecure, but she functions better than many of today’s stars, who are coddled and tolerated and pampered precisely because they continue to make money for their corporations.
Even though only a few scenes survive of Marilyn Monroe as Ellen Arden in Something’s Got To Give, I count this as one of her most witty, charming and unforgettable performances.