Noirvember Day 24: Happy Thanksgiving, the Marilyn Way

When you think of Marilyn Monroe movies, you may envision Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, or The Seven-Year Itch, or Some Like It Hot, but of course I think of her film noir appearances. During her 15-year career, she was seen in four noirs: The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Clash By Night (1952), Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), and Niagara (1953).

Today’s Noirvember post takes a look at Monroe’s roles in these features, and celebrates Thanksgiving with Monroe’s recipe for stuffing. Enjoy!

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

— “You big banana head.”

One of cinema’s best heist films, The Asphalt Jungle focuses on a disparate group of gents who unite to knock over a jewelry store. Headed by ex-con Dr. Reidenschneider (Sam Jaffe), the group includes safecracker and family man Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso); Gus Minissi (James Whitmore), the crackerjack getaway driver who has a hunchback and a soft spot for cats; Dix Handley (Sterling Hayden), a low-level hood hired to be the muscle for the crew; and Alonzo Emmerich (Louis Calhern), a shifty lawyer who’s on hand to fence the stolen jewels. Marilyn played Angela Phinlay, Emmerich’s beautiful, child-like mistress, who calls her lover “Uncle Lon” and punctuates her conversation with excited bursts of “Yipes!” Marilyn’s part was a small one, but so memorable.

Clash by Night (1952)

— “You smell like a cooch dancer!”

Barbara Stanwyck stars as Mae Doyle who, at the film’s start, is returning to her hometown after a lengthy absence. Before long, she has attracted the attention of Jerry D’Amato (Paul Douglas), a salt-of-the-earth sort who makes his living as a fisherman, and Jerry’s best friend, Earl Pfeiffer (Robert Ryan), a cynical and bitter man who works as a film projectionist. Seeing a man who will “fight off the blizzards and the floods,” Mae winds up marrying Jerry, but she can’t fight her attraction to Earl. Marilyn plays the independent and outspoken Peggy, who’s engaged to Mae’s brother, but is unsatisfied with her job in a fish cannery and longs for the exciting life she believes that Mae led during her years away from home. Marilyn more than held her own alongside her more experienced co-stars, turning in a performance that was both feisty and poignant.

— “I hate people bossin’ me.”

Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)

Here, Marilyn stars as Nell Forbes, an emotionally unstable young woman who previously attempted suicide following the death of her lover in a plane crash. When her uncle (Elisha Cook, Jr.) arranges a babysitting job for her in the hotel where he works as an elevator operator, Nell passes the time by wearing the lingerie and jewelry of her charge’s mother. She attracts the attention of Jed Towers (Richard Widmark), a hotel guest who invites himself to her room. Plagued by an increasing distress, Nell confuses Jed with her dead lover and accuses the child in her care with coming between them. By the time the girls’ mother returns to check on her child, the situation has completely spiraled out of control, and Nell has lost all connection with reality. Marilyn earned mixed reviews for her first starring role, but for my money, she was superb.

— Sure. I’m meeting somebody. Just anybody handy, as long as he’s a man.

Niagara (1953)

This film focuses on two couples staying in a cabin park at Niagara Falls: Ray and Polly Cutler (Casey Adams and Jean Peters), who are there for a belated honeymoon, and George and Rose Loomis (Joseph Cotten and Marilyn Monroe). George is brooding and disturbed, and his beautiful younger wife treats him with contempt. It turns out that Rose has a lover (Richard Allan), and that the two are planning to murder George. Unfortunately for Rose, George has plans of his own. The top-billed Marilyn was luminous in this Technicolor feature — sexy, saucy, and scheming.

I hope you’ll find time during the holidays to check out Marilyn in one of her outstanding film noir roles — and maybe even make her dressing!

Marilyn’s Thanksgiving Dressing

  • A 10-ounce loaf sourdough bread
  • ½ pound chicken or turkey livers or hearts
  • ½ pound ground round or other beef
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped curly parsley
  • 2 eggs, hard boiled, chopped
  • 1½ cups raisins
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1¼ cups chopped walnuts, pine nuts or roasted chestnuts, or a combination
  • 2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried crushed oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried crushed thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon salt-free, garlic-free poultry seasoning (or 1 teaspoon dried sage, 1 teaspoon marjoram, ½ teaspoon ground ginger and ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon pepper

Step 1: Split the bread loaf in half and soak it in a large bowl of cold water for 15 minutes. Wring out excess water over a colander and shred into pieces.

Step 2: Boil the livers or hearts for 8 minutes in salted water, then chop until no piece is larger than a coffee bean.

Step 3: In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef in the oil, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat.

Step 4: In a large mixing bowl, use your hands to mix the sourdough, livers, ground beef, celery, onion, parsley, eggs, raisins, Parmesan and nuts. Whisk the rosemary, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper together in a bowl, scatter over the stuffing and toss again with your hands. Salt to taste. Pour the mixture into a 9-inch square baking dish and bake at 350 degrees until the top is evenly browned, about 1 hour. Enjoy!

And join me tomorrow for day 25 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 24, 2022.

13 Responses to “Noirvember Day 24: Happy Thanksgiving, the Marilyn Way”

  1. […] at the Shadows and Satin blog today, another look at Marilyn’s stellar efforts in the film noir […]

  2. Bless your heart. How on Earth have I missed Clash by Night (1952)?? —especially given its solid 7.0 viewer rating on imbd, which is fairly reliable on pre-1970 films its parent company doesn’t own. It goes on The List. Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. She’s terrific in Clash By Night and it’s a real shame her performance in that never seems to get mentioned that much.

    • This post brought me unspeakable joy!

      Monroe was excellent in all four pictures, and I dearly wish she’d had the opportunity to make more noirs. Her legacy has taken a beating this year, and I thank you for taking the time to give Marilyn her due. (And I LOVE that you included one of her recipes! So charming!!)

      • I wish she’d done more noirs, too. She was so good at this kind of acting — I love her in the three films I mentioned at the outset, but in these, she’s like a completely different actress. She really demonstrates her versatility.

        • Exactly!
          When I reflect on these performances, I wanna reach back through time and slap her acting coaches in the mouth! I wish she’d had a safe space where she could’ve learned to trust her instincts, because she a Brinks truck of natural talent.

          • I totally recommend Spoto’s biography of Marilyn if it’s not already on your bookshelf. It’s profoundly compassionate, and it shifted my understanding of her life and artistry. A wonderful read!

    • You’re so right! I think it’s one of her best performances – so natural.

  4. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Karen!

  5. Does anyone have any Marilyn biography recommendations? I read and loved the Donald Spoto book after seeing him in a documentary about Monroe, but I’ve been hesitant to chance another because people can be so cruel…

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