The Diamond Collection" on DVD
A Guy's Best Friend?
20th Century Fox has assembled a lovely six disc set with this Diamond
Collection. All the movies, for the most part, look and sound great and
the documentary that's included gives remarkable insight into this Hollywood
icon's last days.
The five movies here may not all be her most famous - nor are they necessarily
all star vehicles for Monroe. They are, especially when coupled with the
documentary - a good chronology of her career as well as a great look
at how she grew as a performer and actor.
But it's the movies that are the most important, and they're all well
There's No Business Like Show Business
A Wonderful old style Hollywood musical, this flick follows the fortunes
of the Vaudeville and post-Vaudeville Donahue family. Mom and Pop Donahue
(Ethel Merman and Dan Dailey) are a song and dance team and every time
they have another kid the act gets bigger.
Eventually they're the Five Donahues as the kids, played by Johnny Ray,
Mitzi Gaynor, and Donald O'Connor learn to sing and dance as well.
The family becomes huge stars, though their lives aren't without the
usual family trials and tribulations. Eldest son Steve (Ray) decides to
leave the act and become a priest, while a bit later Katy and Tim (Gaynor
and O'Connor) are offered gigs in a new Broadway vehicle being staged
as a showcase for the blonde bombshell Vicky Parker (Marilyn Monroe).
Fortunately, they find love interests there as well.
Through it all, mom and dad smile and love, until Tim - facing inner
demons - disappears.
This is a marvelous song and dance movie, with music and lyrics by the
great Irving Berlin and incredible production numbers staged by Robert
Alton. The old fashioned De Luxe color and Cinemascope picture looks terrific
in this DVD transfer, and the 4.0 surround sound is about as good as you
could want from a 1954-vintage film.
The performances are all first rate, except that despite her obvious
charms and talents, Monroe is really out of her league among the song
and dance types of Merman, Dailey, and particularly Gaynor and O'Connor
(who positively light up the screen).
The anamorphic widescreen picture, 16x9 TV compatible, is wonderful and
so is the Dolby Digital audio. Extras are confined to a couple of trailers.
There's No Business Like Show Business, from 20th Century Fox Home Video
Starring Ethel Merman, Dan Dailey, Mitzi Gaynor, Donald O'Connor, Marilyn
Monroe, Johnny Ray
Produced by Sol. C. Siegel
Written by Phoebe and Henry Ephron, directed by Walter Lang
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Howard Hawks' movie of the hit Broadway musical isn't
nearly as good as "There's No Business Like Show Business," but it's still
a pretty good showcase for the various talents of Monroe and others.
In this flick, Monroe and Jane Russell play showgirls
Lorelei and Dorothy, respectively, a song and dance team who are both
looking to find good men. The difference is that Lorelei wants a rich
guy, while Dorothy has a penchant for pretty faces.
Lorelei has gotten herself engaged, at least unofficially,
to the rich guy of her dreams, but his family thinks she's a gold digger
and is against the relationship. Nevertheless, the guy wants to marry
Marilyn, er, Lorelei, and sends her and Dorothy to Paris to await their
Unbeknownst to him, however, his father has also dispatched
a private detective named Malone (Elliott Reid) to dig up any potential
dirt on Lorelei, to prove his case that she's no good for his son (Tommy
Noonan). Malone, meanwhile, falls for Jane Russell but the situation gets
complicated when she witnesses him taking surreptitious pictures of Lorelei
and an elderly roue in an innocent, but compromising-looking, pose.
Well, doesn't all hell break loose then!
The movie is light and upbeat, and the musical and
production numbers are good. The performances are also good, though Monroe
and Russell, at least at this point in their careers, aren't as good at
singing and dancing as they should be. That isn't why they're there, of
course, but they fill their costumes very well and that's apparently what
it's all about.
The DVD is in the old style aspect ratio of 1.33:1,
which means it's full frame and therefore best suited to conventional,
non widescreen, TV's. Picture quality is very good, however; the Technicolor
images are bright and colorful and the film looks great. The audio tracks
feature a newly-mixed stereo soundtrack and the original mono. We listened
to the original mono, and while there was some distortion, on the whole
it sounded just fine for a 1953-vintage movie.
Extras include the trailer, a Movietone newsreel of
the female stars being immortalized in concrete in front of Mann's Chinese
Theater, and an essay on the restoration of the film.
Not the best disc, or musical, then, but well worth
catching - especially if you grew up in the era of Madonna's "Material
Girl" video, which was inspired (some might say ripped off from, but we
won't) by Monroe's "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" production number.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, from 20th Century
Fox Home Video
91 min, full screen (1.33:1), non-anamorphic 16x9 compatible, Dolby Digital
Starring Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn
Produced by Sol C. Siegel,
Written by Charles Lederer, directed by Howard Hawks.
How to Marry a Millionaire
Marilyn teams up with Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable in this comedy from
director Jean Negulesco.
They're models renting a high-priced Manhattan apartment so they can appear
appropriately well to do for the rich guys each is trying to snag.
Each of them pairs up with a man they think will do the trick; Bacall
finds a rich widower, Gable finds a rich - but married - oilman, and Monroe
snags a one-eyed adventurer. But will the girls find happiness with these
three, or are they merely stepping stones to their one true love - and
are they even who they say they are?
The film is very lighthearted and has plenty of laughs. Monroe's comedic
performance is noteworthy: she's virtually blind without her glasses but
won't wear them because "men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses,"
and this causes her to walk into wall and otherwise get confused. In one
scene she asks her girlfriends to tell her what her man looks like because
she can't see him well enough!
In the end they all find happiness, though not necessarily in the way
you might think.
There are plenty of good lines, too, including Lauren Bacall expressing
an attraction for the actor who was in "The African Queen," who was, of
course, her real life husband of the time, Humphrey Bogart.
Bacall, as the brains of the all-girl operation, and Grable, the trusting
airhead, are both very good in their roles as well.
Mention should be made of the interesting overture that opens the film.
Rather than merely hearing the music behind a dark screen or a still image,
they've actually shot the orchestra as it performs the overture, and that's
kind of neat.
The DVD is in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and the audio
is in offered in Dolby Surround 4.0. Picture and sound quality are very
good, especially the crisp and colorful picture, though the audio can
be a tad confusing since there's no center channel and therefore the voices
come from off screen even when the actor is on screen. This isn't a big
Extras include the trailer (including the Italian and German language
trailers) and a Fox Movietone newsreel promoting the Cinemascope film.
How to Marry a Millionaire, from 20th Century Fox Home Video
105 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby
Starring Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, David Wayne, Rory
Calhoun, Cameron Mitchell
Written by Nunnally Johnson
Produced by Nunnally Johnson, Directed by Jean Negulesco
The Seven Year Itch
Billy Wilder's sex comedy was ground breaking in its day, pushing the
censorship envelope as it had never been pushed before.
Today, it seems gentle and tame, and that actually works to the film's
Tommy Ewell is Richard Sherman, a married man who, like so many other
married men in New York City at the time were said to do, puts his wife
and kid on a train to spend the summer in Maine. While many men use this
"virtual bachelorhood" to sow a few wild oats, Sherman fully intends to
be faithful to his wife.
His big problem is his overactive imagination, which makes mountains
out of the most innocent situations. This is made worse when he meets
and befriends "the Girl" (Monroe), a sexy model who's living in the apartment
upstairs for the summer.
While their relationship is platonic and bound to stay that way, Richard
imagines much more - while also imagining the trouble he could get into
if his imaginary relationship were to become known.
In all, it's a case of one man's silly obsession with "the Seven Year
Itch" (he's been married for seven years) and how it messes up his head.
This classic comedy is very funny; Ewell is perfect as "everyman" and
Monroe plays the innocent blonde bombshell to perfection.
The DVD is in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, with Dolby Digital
3.0 audio. The picture and sound quality are excellent.
Extras include a very interesting "AMC Backstory" documentary on how
the film had to be toned down to meet the day's censors, a Movietone News
feature on the film, a couple of deleted scenes (which are pretty funny),
The Seven Year Itch, from 20th Century Fox Home Video
110 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital
Starring Tommy Ewell and Marilyn Monroe
Written by Billy Wilder and George Axelrod
Produced by Charles K. Feldman, directed by Billy Wilder
William Inge's play gets the Josh Logan/George Axelrod treatment in this
CinemaScope production from 1956.
Don Murray is Beau Decker, a cowboy who's about as wet behind the ears
as anyone could imagine. He and his bud Virg (Arthur O'Connell) head for
Colorado so Beau can compete in the big rodeo there - and so he can also
get a taste of the big wide world around him.
Beau's big problem is that he's not only the ultimate rube, but he's
also particularly headstrong - which means you can't tell him anything.
So when he meets Ozark belle Cherie (Marilyn Monroe) and falls head over
heels for her, he decides he's a-gonna marry her and take her back to
his Montana ranch.
The fact that Cherie doesn't want to have anything to do with his plan
Needless to say, their relationship gets off to a rocky start, as he
ends up abducting her and taking her on the bus for Montana.
Marilyn is a true victim in this, a worldly woman who just doesn't understand
this wide eyed innocent. You really root for her and hope she gets away
from this whacko - and in the end he gets his comeuppance and "sets her
That's when the film gets truly bizarre. Needless to say, not everyone
that got on the bus for Montana actually gets there, but it may not be
who you think.
The movie's actually pretty good, but the ending is nothing if not extremely
Mention should be made of Murray and, especially, Monroe. Murray's Beau
is perfectly played - and Marilyn also does an excellent job as the Southern
belle who suddenly finds herself a fish out of water.
The DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and
the audio is Dolby Digital 4.0. Picture and sound quality are both very
good - though in honesty we have to mention a flaw in the disc about a
half hour into the film. There's about a ten minute section that's littered
with digital dropouts and hangups and they really get annoying. Fortunately,
they go away fairly quickly (though not quickly enough) and the rest of
the disc is fine.
Extras include the theatrical trailer, and lobby cards.
Possibly the least entertaining of this boxed set, but a must see nonetheless
if you want to see Monroe at her best.
Bus Stop, from 20th Century Fox Home Video
105 min, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital
Starring Don Murray, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur O'Connell, Betty Field, Eileen
Produced by Buddy Adler
Written by George Axelrod, Directed by Joshua Logan
Marilyn Monroe, the Final Days
This full length documentary accompanies the Diamond Collection boxed
set. It follows Marilyn through the aborted filming of her last film "Something's
Got to Give," offering us a fascinating insight into Monroe and her mystique.
This was a doomed production from the start, thanks mostly to Monroe's
cavalier attitude toward showing up for work. Now, to be fair, the documentary
shows that some of her absences from the set were due to illness, but
it becomes clear that Marilyn was in big trouble with her life and that
eventually Something Had To Give - and in this case it was Monroe herself.
There's lots of footage shot for the film by director George Cukor, and
in fact they've assembled the finished scenes into a short approximation
of the film at the end of the documentary. Most of this footage has already
been seen in the documentary, so assembling the film (which is obviously
full of holes) is rather anticlimactic.
Still, you get fascinating insights into - and great footage of - Monroe,
as well as some very interesting tidbits on movie making in the 1950's.
The DVD is full frame, not enhanced for widescreen TV's, with Dolby Digital
stereo audio. Picture and sound quality are first rate.
This is an entertaining and interesting look at Marilyn, and a fairly
honest one at that: they don't sugar coat Marilyn and make her out to
be a victim; it's even made clear that her firing from the film wasn't
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