A major icon's birthday is marked today and she's so well known that there hardly seems to be anything to say about her that hasn't already been said. She's still a ubiquitous presence in our culture that has never gone away and won't anytime soon, what with Jessica Chastain set to take on the role in the latest Marilyn biopic. Still, though everyone knows her image, I wonder how many people today have actually seen her movies. We know she was always a bigger star and screen presence than a great actress, so what were the films she made that are still worth watching? I'd say these are her three essentials:
GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953)
A light comedy to be sure, but it's definitely the movie that solidified her ditzy blond image, and this is where she sings "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," so you gotta see it. Jane Russell is actually a pretty funny co-star, but it's obvious she gets blown off the screen in favor of Marilyn. Sorry, Jane, it just couldn't be helped.
THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1955)
Her first team up with Billy Wilder and it's another comedy, but by now she was already an icon and had to be the impossible dream girl upstairs, completely out of reach and almost unreal for schlubby neighbor Tom Ewell, who fantasizes about her at every turn. This movie may be a bit dated now, but Monroe is perfectly cast (Wilder always knew what to do with her) and creates another famous movie moment- in the white dress on top of the subway breeze.
SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)
To me it's her best movie and performance by far, with Wilder again knowing exactly how to use her personality and musical talent, giving her the chance to be both funny and bewitching, as she captivates Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, and turns in two great music numbers, with "I Wanna Be Loved By You" and "I'm Through With Love" (below). In fact, this might be the only Marilyn Monroe movie you really need to see. It captures the legend completely.