Actress Marilyn Monroe was more than just a pretty face. Her 1956 Bus Stop costar Don Murray remembers how the starlet had trouble dealing with her anxiety behind the scenes. “She was very, very nervous,” Don, 89, exclusively recalled to Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “She’d break out in a rash every time we’d shoot a scene.”
Marilyn’s rashes got so bad that makeup artists were called in to try and hide her blemishes. Although they did the best that they could, it was hard for them to make Marilyn look flawless when she would shoot certain scenes with Don.
“We had a scene where she was naked in bed, and she kept rolling around and accidentally exposing herself,” Don revealed, adding that the director, Joshua Logan, told him “whenever she moves, slip your hand in and cover her!” And that’s exactly what he did!
Don tried his best to make Marilyn feel comfortable in front of the camera, but sometimes it just didn’t work. “After the first day of shooting, Joshua came to me and said, ‘Marilyn has a tendency to miss her marks,’” Don recalled. “He told me, ‘Whenever she’s off her mark, put your hands on her hips and move her.’” But every time Don would try to move Marilyn a little bit to the left or to the right, she would get very angry with him.
Once “she swung the sequined tail of her costume across my face, and it cut my eyelid,” Don explained. “She stalked off the set, and I started after her. I was going to tell that spoiled brat where to get off, but Joshua said, ‘No, I’ve won the war by avoiding these battles.’”
Since Marilyn had a hard time keeping up with her costars, she would bring in an acting coach to try and help her get through her scenes. For Bus Stop, she brought in Paula Strasberg, her colleague from New York City’s prestigious Actors Studio.
“Paula would watch and listen and give Marilyn advice between takes,” Don said. “She was friendly and nice and a very good influence on Marilyn.” But not every one felt the same way. When Marilyn filmed How to Marry a Millionaire in 1953, her costar Lauren Bacall said the “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” singer was “really was not cut out to be an actress. She would never look at you or the director, but the goddamned drama coach.”
It was hard for Marilyn to film complete scenes, too. “She would lose track of scenes very quickly, so they had to put her performance together out of small pieces,” Don admitted. “You never got the feeling of a complete scene or performance. I had to be at my best on every take — I couldn’t have a letdown.”
Bus Stop was Don’s first big film and, though he described the experience as a “little unusual,” he didn’t blame Marilyn for all of the onset drama. “I never really held it against her, because for her to agree to let me play this leading role was such a generous thing since I had never done a movie,” he said. “I was always aware of that and grateful to her.”
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