26 February 2018

Marilyn, my girl is you

When River of No Return (1954) began its location shooting in Alberta, Canada in July 1953, it was not without difficulties. Director Otto Preminger not only had problems with Marilyn Monroe's drama coach Natasha Lytess who kept interfering with his direction*, but he also had to deal with the heavy drinking of leading man Robert Mitchum as well as frequent rainfall and dangerous conditions of the shooting location. As to the latter, Marilyn hurt her ankle after slipping on a rock and was eventually away from the set for a number of days while recovering at a hotel. (Marilyn's good friend Shelley Winters would later reveal in her autobiography that Marilyn had exaggerated the severity of her injury so that Preminger would treat her more kindly.) Apart from this delay, Marilyn also held up production in her more usual way. Preminger later recalled: "Some of it had to be done in short takes because she couldn't remember her lines. I didn't want to spend my entire life in Canada."

Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum on the set of River of No Return (above), and Marilyn on crutches with director Otto Preminger (below).
To apologise for the delay caused by Marilyn and to thank Robert Mitchum for his cooperation with the retakes, 20th-Century-Fox boss Darryl Zanuck (who openly disliked Marilyn) wrote Mitchum a letter on 10 December 1953. After reading Zanuck's letter, Mitchum probably felt protective of Marilyn and added remarks to the letter to show his support, i.e. the word "Dig!!!" and on the back of the letter he wrote: "MarilynYour girl is my girl, and my girl is you - Ever- Bob". Mitchum probably gave the letter to Marilyn afterwards. (The letter was sold in 2016 as part of a big Marilyn Monroe auction and is likely to have been one of the personal documents Marilyn once owned.)

Incidentally, Mitchum knew Marilyn from when she was still Norma Jean and he was working with her first husband Jim Dougherty at the Lockheed Aircraft plant; to learn more about how Mitchum first met Marilyn and to hear him talk lovingly about her, watch this clip.

Marilyn with Darryl F. Zanuck with whom she had a difficult working relationship. Zanuck wanted Marilyn to keep playing dumb blondes whereas Marilyn was interested in a serious acting career.
Source: Julien's Live


December 10, 1953

Dear Bob:

Many thanks for the cooperation you have extended to us in connection with the retakes. I am deeply appreciative but I am also very sorry about the delay with Marilyn. We could not possibly anticipate any such action.

In any event, I want you to know that you came through for us when we needed you.

Best always,

Mr. Robert Mitchum



Your girl is my girl, and my girl is you - 

Ever- Bob


*Note: Marilyn Monroe, who was River of No Return's biggest star, insisted on having her acting coach Natasha Lytess present on the set, much to the dismay of director Preminger. Lytess interfered with his direction, mostly by teaching Marilyn to over-enunciate each syllable of each word which caused her to make abnormal lip movements. When Lytess also tried to influence child actor Tommy Rettig, Preminger banned her from the set. Marilyn then complained to Darryl Zanuck who, knowing that without Marilyn there would be no box-office hit, had no other choice than to overrule Preminger. Lytess was allowed back on the set, and from then on Preminger directed Marilyn mostly through Robert Mitchum or his assistant director. 

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