Bus Stop / Wrong Kind of Girl, The (1956)

“I know she’s my angel — and that’s good enough for me!”

Bus Stop Poster

Synopsis:
While on his way to a rodeo competition with his buddy (Arthur O’Connell), a romantically inexperienced young cowboy (Don Murray) meets the woman of his dreams (Marilyn Monroe) at a saloon, and attempts to convince her to marry him by kidnapping her.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
In a decidedly dubious endorsement, Peary writes that “if you like William Inge’s play, you’ll be more than satisfied with this version, directed by Joshua Logan [and] scripted by George Axelrod”. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of Inge’s tale about an “infantile” cowboy who “pays no attention to [Monroe] when she attempts to say they are unsuitable for each other”, but who eventually “learns that men should respect women”, at which point “Monroe falls for the suddenly tender young man”. I agree with Peary that it’s “hard to watch Murray’s overly aggressive, obnoxious cowboy”, and concede that “Monroe is sexy and beautiful and gives one of her best performances” — a frustrating dilemma for film fanatics, who will want to check this one out simply to see Monroe in “the film that won her the first critical praise for her thespian skills”, but will likely find themselves irritated by the vehicle itself. With that said, while Logan should have dialed Murray’s performance w-a-a-a-y back, he does a nice job opening up the stagey scenario (originally taking place exclusively in a diner), and incorporating live rodeo footage — and he elicits fine performances from the rest of his cast (most notably Monroe, but also Eileen Heckart as Monroe’s coworker, Betty Field as the randy owner of the diner, Robert Bray as Carl the bus driver, and O’Connell as Murray’s father-figure friend).

Note: This would make a sociologically interesting double-bill with the similarly-themed Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) — another ’50s film about male courting aggression taken to extremes.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Marilyn Monroe as Cherie (nominated by Peary as one of the Best Actresses of the Year in his Alternate Oscars)
    Bus Stop Monroe
  • Eileen Heckart as Vera
    Bus Stop Heckart

Must See?
No, though of course it’s worth a look for Monroe’s performance.

Links:

One Response to “Bus Stop / Wrong Kind of Girl, The (1956)”

  1. Agreed, not a must.

    This is one of those supposedly top-drawer classics that many think is must-see, mainly for Monroe’s performance. But it’s very very thin stuff that wears out its premise early on. I’m a huge Monroe supporter but even I don’t really think this is among her best performances. But it’s not her fault, really – there’s not a whole lot that can be done with her character’s arc (or lack thereof). My single favorite Monroe moment (or perhaps the only moment in the film I actually enjoy) comes when she’s singing ‘That Old Black Magic’ and kicks a floor switch that turns her stage lighting from blue to red. It’s a marvelous bit – which also indicates what is lacking from the rest of the film: any real surprise.

    William Inge had four big hits on Broadway in a row. Two of them – this and ‘Picnic’ – resulted in rather forgettable films. The other two – ‘Come Back, Little Sheba’ and the autobiographical ‘The Dark at the Top of the Stairs’ – have held up more successfully. But that’s because they’re better plays. (I would suggest that ‘The Dark…’ is must-see, but it seems that Peary doesn’t think so.) Of course, Inge also wrote (directly for the screen) ‘Splendor in the Grass’ – which, arguably, could be his best work.

    Note: I’m curious as to where this film was ever referred to as ‘The Wrong Kind of Girl’, since I’ve never heard it called by that name.

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