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Marilyn Monroe: the three defining films of her career on screen

Marilyn Monroe is an enduring cultural icon but is perhaps not always best remembered for her film career. High-profile marriages, for example, to playwright Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio mixed in amongst reported affairs with President John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby certainly gave her a level of celebrity which sometimes outshone her filmography. Her acting talents are underestimated by some, however, and here we look at a few of her best performances and the most significant films in her tragically short career.

Some Like It Hot

The most famous of Marilyn Monroe’s films, it perhaps also featured her best performance. Billy Wilder’s film is considered one of the greatest Hollywood films ever made, with describing it as the best comedy film of all-time. Monroe was the co-lead to established stars in Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon but never looked anything less than their equal as she turned in a career-defining performance as the kind-hearted but naive ‘Sugar Kane’. The role suits Monroe perfectly as she brings the sweetness and light needed of the character in spades and has the audience willing her to find the love she craves. It was performance which transcended her superstardom and surely represents her greatest acting legacy.

The Seven-Year Itch

Another Billy Wilder film, ‘The Seven-Year Itch’ is perhaps not as highly regarded but it is responsible for the iconic shot of Marilyn Monroe having her dress lifted in the air by the updraft from the subway. That particular image has certainly contributed to the legend surrounding Marilyn Monroe and the societal obsession with her beauty.

Her status as a cultural phenomenon certainly still abides as she appears in various different mediums; Lady Gaga, for example, imitated her likeness in the iconic white dress for the music video for ‘Applause’. Monroe continues to be an influence on fashion collections, appears regularly in advertising campaigns and is even the inspiration for online casino games like Gem Splash: Marilyn Monroe which can be found via

The Seven-Year Itch represents the category of film which came to define her celebrity, perhaps more than her acting.

The Misfits

Monroe’s last completed feature film, released posthumously, ‘The Misfits’ plays a similar love-lorn character to Sugar Kane in Some Like it Hot. Her role was written with her in mind by her-then husband Arthur Miller as their marriage fell apart and the context of the film, as explained by, certainly contributed to its classic status. The film took on particular poignancy in the light of her death because its themes deal with aging, loss and the fragility of human relationships. Monroe plays her role with tenderness and her trademark charm and elevates a film which sometimes feels tedious in parts. In a morbid twist of fate, as the film reaches its conclusion, Marilyn Monroe utters her last words in a feature film ‘How do you find your way back in the dark?’

Marilyn Monroe was clearly far more than the ‘ditzy blonde’ stereotype she could sometimes be associated with. Her status as a sex symbol has sometimes overshadowed her ability as an actress but the timeless nature of her films, Some Like It Hot in particular, will ensure that her magnetic acting ability remains a fundamental aspect of her legacy.


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