To mark the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death, TCM rolls out a full 24-hour marathon of Monroe films on August 4 as part of the month long "Summer Under the Stars" festival. The lineup reflects Monroe's versatility and depth as an actress, including her trademark naughty-nice comedic turns ("Some Like It Hot," "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes") and more anguished roles that communicated her underlying sadness ("River of No Return," "Niagara").
The programming kicks off with John Huston's brilliant heist tragedy "The Asphalt Jungle." Monroe plays Louis Calhern's kept mistress, periodically bobbing up from a couch to purr "Uncle Lon!" and then returning to her catnap. Though small, her part in Huston's film looks ahead to a type of role she would revisit throughout her career -- the ditzy, unassuming golddigger.
(Less successful in Monroe's golddigger subgenre is Jean Negulesco's "How to Marry a Millionaire," which sags under the weight of its own star wattage -- Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable and William Powell -- and finds Marilyn's dumb-as-a-Tiffany's-rock character insecure about her need to wear glasses. As if the men wouldn't make passes.)
Wilder's other Monroe film in the TCM lineup, "The Seven Year Itch," hasn't aged as well. The horny middle-aged man bit comes off as stale, though Wilder finds a recurring visual that works: Breeze! It's a scorching New York summer, and Monroe situates herself near vents of all sorts, most often next to Tom Ewell's air conditioner, and most famously over a sidewalk grate that gives her skirt a lift.