July is a good month for film fans partial to a platinum coif and a breathy voice. Marilyn Monroe will spend two weeks on the silver screen at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in a 14-film retrospective brimming with blond perkiness right down to its name: Marilyn! The festival runs from July 1 through 17.
Each year, New York University cinema studies professor Moya Luckett dedicates a week of class to Monroe in a course she teaches on celebrity culture. She said that Monroe's untimely death at age 36 has made her especially beloved.
"The comparable other stars, like Ava Gardner, aren’t really remembered in an iconographic way because they lived," said Luckett. "There’s something about her early death that makes it more interesting to people."
She said the public's fascination with Monroe also stemmed from her struggles with depression and drug addiction.
"It’s one of those things that intrigues us: how can someone so perfect be so sad?" Luckett said.
Check out highlights from some of the Marilyn Monroe classics showing at BAM below.
"Don't Bother to Knock": This early Monroe film from 1952 kicks off BAM's Marilyn! series with a little bit of what Luckett called "cult cachê." As opposed to the bubbly blond characters that helped make her a star, in this film Monroe plays a deeply troubled psychotic woman. The movie screens on July 1 at 4:30 and 9:15 P.M.
"Some Like it Hot": As if featuring Marilyn Monroe in a movie wasn't iconic enough, this classic was directed by Billy Wilder and stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon in evening-ware and heels. Luckett said "Some Like it Hot" most completely captured the public sensibility around Monroe: "We’ve lost the star, we’ve lost this period, we’ve lost this version of America and I think that it's also one of her greatest performances." The movie screens at 2, 4:30, 6:50 and 9:15 P.M. on July 3 and 4.
"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes": We may have this movie to thank for a zillion "dumb blond" jokes since in it, Monroe is at her ditziest and also her most glamorous. This light comedy is a love letter to technicolor with the brightly colored costumes that Luckett said shows Monroe at her most pristine and vivacious. The film screens on July 10 at 2, 4:30, 6:50 and 9:15 P.M.
"River of no Return": This western capitalizes on Monroe's tragic, sadder side, which, paired with her beauty, was the key to her star persona. Critics had a hard time deciding whether the CinemaScope wilderness shots of Baniff and Jasper National Parks in Canada were as beautiful as Monroe. "It is a toss-up whether the scenery or the adornment of Marilyn Monroe is the feature of greater attraction in 'River of No Return'," wrote Bosley Crowther in his New York Times review in 1954. "The mountainous scenery is spectacular, but so, in her own way, is Miss Monroe." The film screens on July 14 at 6:50 and 9:15 P.M.