Under contract with 20th Century Fox, Marilyn was scheduled to appear in “The Girl in Pink Tights”, a musical starring Frank Sinatra. It was another dumb blonde role, and she did not want it. Aghast, she complained, “That’s the cheapest character I ever read in a script. What’s the use of being a star if you have to play something you’re ashamed of?”
Turning her back on Fox, she abruptly married Joe DiMaggio and fled to the other side of the world, honeymooning and entertaining the troops in Asia.
The Asphalt Jungle
As her agent, Hyde managed to get Marilyn a part in the 1950 MGM suspense film “The Asphalt Jungle”. She played Angela, an “easy-living green-eyed blonde”. It was a small role but one of the most rewarding films she made.
Oscar-winning director John Huston recalls her work in his film noir with tenderness. It was her breakout role. The heist movie won four Academy Awards. Huston would work with her again in “The Misfits”, making him the director of both her first and last movie.
Marilyn Waves to Adoring Crowds
Marilyn was a hard worker. She showed up for all PR events that were offered. She loved her fans and credited them with her success. Monroe appeared at movie promotions, film premiers, sporting events, and anything that would put her image in the public eye.
Once, she showed up at a parade at an Atlantic City beauty contest. She wore a dress that featured a very low V-cut, nearly to her navel. Her dress personally offended the parade’s Grand Marshall, creating a local scandal. She did it intentionally. And she wore stage makeup, she said, to give her adoring fans the best possible view of Marilyn Monroe.
Marilyn’s Protest Pay-Off
She was also rebelling against her pay for the film, compared with Sinatra’s. He was getting $5,000 per week for “Pink Tights” while she got a paltry $1,500. She refused to show up for rehearsals and the studio suspended her, but Marilyn’s protests did not fall on deaf ears.
In fact, she was able to negotiate a significantly higher paycheck with meaningful perks, like director approval. Up next, her newly negotiated, $100,000 per year, seven-year contract would include making the seminal movie of her career, “The Seven Year Itch”.
‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’
Contingent to Monroe’s cushy deal she inked with 20th Century Fox, she agreed to appear in “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” costarring with headliners Ethel Merman and Dan Dailey. In return, the studio promised she would take the top billing in “The Seven Year Itch”.
Marilyn’s performance in Walter Lang’s 1954 musical comedy seemed uninspired. “No Business Like Show Business” did not do well at the box office and an expansive budget did not help. It lost $950,000.