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BUS STOP (director: Joshua Logan; screenwriters: from the play by William Inge/George Axelrod; cinematographer: Milton Krasner; editor: William Reynolds; music: Alfred Neuman/Cyril Mockridge; cast: Marilyn Monroe (Cherie), Don Murray (Beauregard ‘Bo’ Decker), Arthur O’Connell (Virgil Blessing), Betty Field (Grace), Eileen Heckart (Vera), Robert Bray (Carl), Hope Lange (Elma Duckworth), Hans Conried (Life Magazine Photographer), Casey Adams (Life Magazine Reporter); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating:NR; producer: Buddy Adler; 20th Century Fox; 1956)

The Broadway based movie reduces romance to a physical attraction and of never saying I’m sorry for being a male predator.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A misanthropic weird dramedy that’s hard to classify or enjoy, even if the production values and overall acting is good. But the lead characters are twisted and the stilted dialogue is stagy and the story is almost perverse. It’s based on the play by William Inge and written by George Axelrod. The Broadway based movie reduces romance to a physical attraction and of never saying I’m sorry for being a male predator, and that the manner of breaking a bronco could also be applied to taming a woman. Director Joshua Logan (“Picnic”/”Sayonara”/”Fanny”)can never get the loud-mouth bully character played by Don Murray, in his first starring role, to be a sympathetic character and someone you can be convinced is good marriage material for the vulnerable and sensitive character Marilyn Monroe plays.

The 21-year-old naive virgin Beauregard ‘Bo’ Decker (Don Murray) has led a sheltered life and the strapping man is used to getting his way by asserting his will on others, is full of spunk as he leaves his rural Montana ranch with best buddy Virgil (Arthur O’Connell), a middle-aged cowboy, looking after the high-strung Bo as a sort of substitute father figure, to go by bus to Phoenix and perform there in the big rodeo.

In Phoenix the excitable Bo falls in love at first sight with struggling saloon singer/bar hustler thirtysomething pale faced Cherie (Marilyn Monroe), mistakenly thinking she’s an angel. Bo plans on marrying her and taking her back to his ranch even if she wants no part of him, as she dreams only of heading to Hollywood and becoming a star. His way to overcome her reluctance is to lasso her to prevent her from fleeing by bus to LA. He then kidnaps her and forces her to go with him by bus back to Montana, after the rodeo finishes. The Ozark girl from an abusive home back in River Gulch is stuck in a bus stop, run by a giddy Grace (Betty Field), because of a blizzard, and thereby has time to decide if maybe it’s not such a bad idea to marry a stud who wants her so badly. Bo seems more suitable after the athletic bus driver (Robert Bray) kicked his ass in a fistfight in the snow, when he couldn’t take the brutish asshole anymore and challenged him to duke it out.

Marilyn had just finished studying “The Method” with Lee Strasburg at his respected Actor’s Studio, and to get better parts formed her own production company to deal with the studio. This was the first film by her own independent company and she got to choose Joshua Logan as director. But Marilyn continued to be insecure and unreliable, and soon had a strained relationship with the director. Also with Don Murray and his soon to be wife Hope Lange, who had a small part as bus passenger in her film debut, as they both became annoyed with Marilyn’s tantrums, flubbing of lines, missing of the mark while shooting and tardiness.

Though the pic did have some magic in it, as “That Old Black Magic” is sung by Marilyn in a bizarre slow way that adds to the film’s unease and odd sense of pleasure. Also the glamor gal dressed down her beauty for this pic and shows that she can satisfactorily play a part that’s a little bit more complex than her earlier ones, as many critics now took her more seriously as a serious actress.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”