What with real-life personal insecurities, a drug dependence and a prominent and public marriage to celebrated playwright Arthur Miller headed into a tailspin, the earnest and enchanting Marilyn Monroe captured on the Cinemascope screen by director George Cukor in the breezy show-business-meets-big-business musical comedy Let’s Make Love (1960), which arrived on the nation’s screens 58 years ago this past weekend, remains a marvel, a glowing reminder of the naïve vulnerability, innate sensuality and good-natured humor (considering her decade-long ordeal striving to be more than a larger-than-life sex symbol) that secured her status as a cinematic treasure.
True, it was a rickety vehicle whose first-draft Norman Krasna script (first named The Billionaire) favored the male lead, a stodgy tycoon who seeks to halt the production of a sly, satirical off-Broadway revue that makes fun of him and instead becomes enamored of its leading lady. Nevertheless, when revamped by Twentieth Century Fox as a contract-obligated showcase for Monroe, it attained a revitalized glamour and a stylish infusion of purpose and plushness for which Cukor and producer Jerry Wald were expert. True, its heavily accented leading man Yves Montand, though already revered in the stage and movie industries of his native France, was not yet at home in the English language and more crucially, not a box-office asset in Hollywood terms. But his willingness to spoof his suave romantic image and play a stuffy interloper succumbing to the scruffiness of show business played surprisingly well against the Monroe glow. True, the five tunes penned for the film by composer James Van Heusen and lyricist Sammy Cahn do not approach the resonance of their best output, which included three Academy Award®-winning Best Songs (All the Way, High Hopes and Call Me Irresponsible) and eight other nominees in that category over the years. However, they afford grand occasions for choreographer Jack Cole and musical arrangers Lionel Newman and Earle H. Hagen (Oscar®-nominated for their efforts herein) to contribute their seasoned, sophisticated, specialty injections of razzle-dazzle. In fact, and indeed tried and true, Let’s Make Love’s most magical musical sequence brought together three veterans of a comparably witty Cinemascope theater-world bonbon, Les Girls (1957) – Cukor, Cole and songwriter Cole Porter – when Monroe’s sinewy showgirl makes her enchanting entrance into the story in a marvelous rehearsal sequence centered around Porter’s 1938 classic My Heart Belongs to Daddy. Montand’s character is immediately smitten while watching from the audience – and we are too. Also starring Tony Randall, Wilfrid Hyde-White and Frankie Vaughan, with merry cameos by Milton Berle, Bing Crosby and Gene Kelly attempting to tutor Montand to do what they each do much better, Let’s Make Love is a celebration of the camera’s love affair with the transcendent Monroe and an invitation well worth accepting on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray.