Marilyn Monroe’s very first film appearance is found in a 1948 movie called “Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!” She was basically an extra in the 20th Century Fox comedy and supposedly had only one line, which was “hello,” as she tells it. But then she laughed, saying the line was cut.
She was filmed canoeing and frolicking on the dock with some girls and boys her age. In fact, Natalie Wood appeared in this movie as an inconnu as well! During the production, Marilyn met Joe Schenck who would be very influential in forming her career.
Fox Takes the Bait
Ben Lyon was quick to offer Marilyn a contract as he wanted to get her signed before RKO had the chance to screen her. Cinematographer Leon Shamroy filmed her screen test for Fox. The cinematographer was dumbfounded. He said he had not seen film capture a woman so stunningly since the silent pictures.
He even said that her presence gave him a cold chill. Her mystique radiated effects visually, he explained, and she did not need a soundtrack to create special effects. She could “sell emotions in pictures,” like a new filmmaking invention.
20th Century Fox Did Not Renew Her Contract
After six months with Fox, Marilyn’s contract was not renewed. The experience was good, she received lessons and learned to sing, dance, and act to industry norms, yet she missed getting a film role. Top executives failed to see her potential and the future pop culture icon went back to modeling to pay rent.
Marilyn later complained that Fox was the one that forced her to change her name. She often complained about the industry taking advantage of people because of their power, and laughed by saying that she misspelled her name on her first autograph signing.
Dedicated to Her Craft
As soon as she was hired as a model, Monroe jumped into modeling classes. She studied movement and poise. She relished in taking voice lessons. Eventually, she would sign up at the Actor’s Studio for classes, even after she had made several films.
Marilyn read up on powerful women who held fame ferociously. She was riveted by women like Joséphine Bonaparte, Eleanora Duse, Marie Antoinette and Lady Emma Hamilton. Monroe would read these women’s biographies, delving into the lives of such figures who had uniquely defined their image and lived significantly.
A Contract at Columbia Pictures
It is still not known for certain how Marilyn landed the 6-month contract with Columbia Pictures. Some think that Joe Schenck, her caretaker pulled some strings. Other accounts say executives at the studio found her by searching around Hollywood, though other theories have also been speculated.
One way or another, Marilyn signed the deal in March of 1948. She made just one film with the studio, “Ladies of the Chorus”, in which she was the second actress on the billing. The song “Anyone Can Tell I Love You,” that she sang in the movie, stuck with her. She would perform it often over the years.