In the 1952 film Don’t Bother To Knock, Marilyn Monroe showed the world that her acting skills deserved better than the stupid ditzy blonde roles she was normally given. Don’t Bother To Knock is a thriller, in which Marilyn Monroe plays a mentally unstable woman who might kill an innocent child.
Despite this tense plot, Hollywood could just not resist promoting it as a sexy Marilyn Monroe movie rather than a thriller. The movie poster featured Marilyn Monroe in a skimpy outfit that was not part of the movie. The advertisements called her ” a wicked sensation as the lonely girl”.
In Don’t Bother To Knock, Marilyn Monroe is Nell Forbes, whose pilot boyfriend has been killed in a plane crash. Unable to deal with her loss, Nell attempts suicide and spends time in a mental institution. After being released, she goes to New York to live with her uncle Eddie (played by Elisha Cook Jr.)
Eddie finds Nell a baby sitting job in the hotel where he is a elevator operator. Nell seems fine and gets along well with Bunny, the little girl (played by Donna Corcoran). However, Nell is actually quite unbalanced. When she meets Jed (Richard Widmark), a pilot staying at the hotel, she believes he is actually her dead boyfriend. In her mind, Nell creates a fantasy world. When Jed rejects her, Nell thinks it is because he does not want the little girl Bunny keeping them apart. That is when Nell decides to take action against Bunny.
Don’t Bother To Knock, is a fantastic movie, whose plot and tension still hold up today. It is also the debut film for a stunningly beautiful Anne Bancroft as Lyn Lesley, a lounge singer. This was 15 years before Anne Bancroft would gain international fame as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate.
Don’t Bother To Knock did well in the theaters and was a critical success. Although she was only 26 years old at the time of her brilliant performance, Marilyn Monroe never went on to a full career as a true dramatic actor. Hollywood producers continued to cast her in a series of very profitable “dumb blonde” movies. There were lots of actresses who could do drama, but directors knew that only Marilyn Monroe would be perfect for films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)or Some Like It Hot (1959).
Unfortunately, off-screen, Marilyn Monroe had much in common with the mentally troubled woman she played in Don’t Bother To Knock. Despite being a world-wide celebrity, Monroe was very unhappy, and committed suicide in 1962 at the age of 36. (Of course, rumors still swirl that The Kennedys actually killed Marilyn Monroe).