“I should have known better — you’re not cured!”
The elevator operator (Elisa Cook, Jr.) for a fancy hotel enlists his niece (Marilyn Monroe) to babysit for the daughter (Donna Corcoran) of a couple (Jim Backus and Lurene Tuttle) attending an awards event at the hotel. Soon Monroe begins flirting with an embittered guest (Richard Widmark) who is reeling from a recent breakup with his girlfriend (Anne Bancroft) — but their flirtation quickly turns dangerous as disturbed Monroe begins to believe Widmark is actually her deceased fiance.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Anne Bancroft Films
- Governesses and Nannies
- Marilyn Monroe Films
- Mental Breakdown
- Richard Widmark Films
- Roy Ward Baker Films
Don’t Bother to Knock is best known for featuring young Marilyn Monroe in an uncharacteristically dark leading role, playing a nuanced character with more to her than mere sex appeal. To that end, her performance is impressive (we believe her pitiful “Nell” is psychotically disturbed), but the film as a whole suffers from a strange lack of authentic tension — perhaps because we never really sense a character played by MM could commit murder, or perhaps because Widmark’s character isn’t sufficiently developed. The claustrophobic events — all taking place in “real time” within the hotel — speed by at a fast-paced clip; ironically, however, this short-changes the pivotal “change-of-heart” supposedly experienced by Widmark’s character, whose real love interest (a young and beautiful Bancroft, singing several songs in her charismatic screen debut) has broken up with him because she claims he lacks sufficient empathy for others. With that said, Roy Ward Baker’s direction is solid, the economic script (just 76 minutes long) makes good use of the setting, and one does stay involved throughout.
Favorite (throwaway) exchange early in the film:
Widmark: You married?
Will Bouchey (as bartender): Sure. Who isn’t.
Widmark: You and your wife fight?
Bouchey: [beat, while he stirs a drink] Sometimes she sleeps.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Marilyn Monroe as Nell Forbes
- Anne Bancroft as Lyn Lesley
- Some creative direction by Roy Ward Baker
No, though it’s definitely worth a look simply to see Monroe (and Bancroft)’s impressive “early” performances.