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ten songs that forged the legend of the hollywood star

Marilyn Monroe’s film career spans from the end of the 1940s to the beginning of the 1960s, punctuated by collaborations with great filmmakers (Otto Preminger, Howard Hawks, George Cukor, Billy Wilder, Henry Hathaway… ). The actress has sung on many of her films, queens of the music hall (1948) to Billionaire (1960) – a number being adaptations of Broadway musicals. Marilyn Monroe, who wanted to be considered a true artist and not just an incendiary blonde, took her acting profession to heart, but also the disciplines of singing and dancing. A great admirer of Ella Fitzgerald (to whom she gave her support in a racist America, and who became her friend), she loved to sing. She took singing and diction lessons with Fred Karger, musical director at Columbia Pictures, with whom she fell in love at the end of the 1940s. On the sidelines of filming, she also recorded a few songs. Anthology of an often underestimated singer.

I Wanna Be Loved by You (1959)

Main song of the film Some Like It Hot (Some Like It Hot) by Billy Wilder, punctuated by the most glamorous scat onomatopoeias in the history of cinema (“Pou-pou-pidou!”, I Wanna be Loved by You remains one of Marilyn Monroe’s two or three greatest successes as a singer. Composed by Herbert Stothart and Harry Ruby, with lyrics by Bert Kalmar, the song premiered in 1928 in the musical Good Boy. It included an introduction which does not appear in the 1959 version. On the other hand, the onomatopoeia were already present, with micro-variations: its first interpreter Helen Kane, fond of scat, sang “Pou-pou-padou”, sometimes “Ba-pa padou”, and was a source of inspiration for the creators of the cartoon character Betty Boop. In the sequence of Some like it hotthe male characters played by Jack Lemmon (on double bass) and Tony Curtis (on saxophone), disguised as women to escape gangsters, observe the charm that one of them exerts on a spectator in the audience during a concert…

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friends (1953)

Legendary film sequence Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Howard Hawks, hymn of feminine venality in love, Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend is a song composed by Jule Styne with lyrics by Leo Robin, originally for the 1949 Broadway musical of the same title (starring Carol Channing). The sequence of the 1953 film shows and hears a breathtaking Marilyn Monroe, surrounded by dancers in tail coat costumes, including a certain George Shakiris, the future Bernardo de West Side Story. On the singing side, as the voice of the actress lacked power and amplitude, parts of the sequence were doubled. The only certainty: “No, no, no” lyrical and high-pitched were performed by a professional singer. At the time, the dubbing of actors’ vocals was a matter of defense secrecy in Hollywood. Nearly 70 years later, the name of the soprano recruited for these alterations varies according to the sources. Some evoke Gloria Wood. Others cite Marni Nixon, the famous “ghost singer” who sings instead of Natalie Wood in West Side StoryAudrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady and Deborrah Kerr in The King and I). Either way, the song, the sexy pink satin dress and the profusion of diamonds (which had their relevance in the plot of the film) remained ingrained in the collective imagination. Madonna recreated the footage from the film in her song’s music video material girl in 1985. And in 2001, Baz Luhrmann adapted Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend for his movie red Millwith Nicole Kidman, incorporating a nod to material girl

My Heart Belongs to Daddy (1960)

This famous jazz standard by Cole Porter (booklet by Bella Spewack) was originally composed for the musical Leave it to Me! (1938), and created by singer Mary Martin (with an introduction not preserved in the 1960 film). In the famous movie sequence The Billionaire (Let’s Make Love) by George Cukor, of which we see a brief excerpt above, Marilyn Monroe first presents the subject of her song in French, with a charming accent: “My heart is with Papa! You know… The owner!” (listen to the full audio version of this very jazzy piece). Then she sings, carried by a sensual – and sometimes acrobatic – choreography under the admiring gaze of Yves Montand, her partner in the film, and with whom the actress will have a brief affair that will make headlines.

Bye Bye Baby (1953)

Another flagship comedy title Men prefer blondes by Howard Hawks, bye bye baby is a tender and delicious ballad by Jule Styne on the libretto by Leo Robin, created on Broadway in 1949 by John “Jack” McCauley and Carol Channing as a duo. In Hawks’ film, Loreleï alias Marilyn Monroe performs the song alone for the beautiful eyes of the shy Gus (played by Tommy Noonan). The resumption of the theme by a flamboyant choir (full audio audio version here) – already present on the score of the 1949 musical – experienced a new notoriety in France twenty years ago: it was the band- sound of a spectacular advertisement for a famous mineral water in which a host of babies dive and swim in a giant swimming pool, in a strong tribute to the aquatic choreographies of Esther Williams…

River of No Return (1954)

Four songs punctuate the western The river of no return (1954) by Otto Preminger, in which Marilyn Monroe shares the bill with another huge Hollywood star, Robert Mitchum. One of these songs – all signed Lionel Newman (music) and Ken Darby (lyrics) – bears the title of the film of which it constitutes the final sequence. Kay, alias Marilyn Monroe, sings it in the saloon where she returned to work after sharing many adventures with Matt (alias Mitchum). The latter literally comes to snatch her from this dreary life, carrying her on his shoulders like a good old macho of yesteryear… In this film from the heart of the 1950s, Robert Mitchum embodies a character sometimes irresistible in his sensuality, sometimes very excessive in the expression of his virility, we will say with the eyes of 2022. It was another time!

I’m Through With Love (1959)

In Some like it hot by Billy Wilder, Marilyn Monroe, who embodies the character of Sugar Kane, sings with emotion of her heartbreak before being surprised by a kiss from her musician friend Josephine, alias Tony Curtis disguised as a woman in a female big band to flee the gangsters on his heels. As the masks fall, this sequence marks a highlight of the film. I’m Through With Love (“I’m done with love”) is a song that has entered the Jazz Pantheon, covered over time by many artists. Dated 1931, it was composed by Fud Livingston and Matty Malneck, with lyrics by Gus Kahn. Still in this film, we also recommend the very swing moment of Running Wildwhere Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis almost steal the show from Marilyn…

Lazy (1954)

Written in 1924 by Irving Berlin, the song lazy (“Sloth”) became Hollywood legend thirty years later thanks to the film The Joyous Parade (There’s No Business Like Show Business) by Walter Lang. This feature film where all the songs are signed Irving Berlin includes spectacular numbers of which the Hollywood of the golden age had the secret… For lazy (a sequence which is a repetition in the film), Marilyn Monroe plays the seducers jaded by the solicitations of her boyfriends, and who just wants to let herself live… Donald O’Connor’s dance and energy and Mitzi Gaynor counterpoint his “laziness” claimed… In the same film, in a dazzling outfit, Marilyn Monroe also sings with aplomb and maximum seduction After You Get What You Want You Don’t Want Itor vague de Chaleur in an exotic way.

One Silver Dollar (1954)

Another classic from the soundtrack of river of no return by Otto Preminger, the song One Silver Dollar, a simple piece in guitar-vocals, illustrates Marilyn Monroe’s ability to exploit the timbre and emotional potential of her voice, even if one can assume that the short, high-pitched, wordless passage she sings was dubbed by a lyrical singer. . At Monroe, the actress reinforces the singer to make her a very moving performer. In addition to this beautiful ballad and the title song of the film, the western includes two other songs by Ken Darby and Lionel Newman: the sparkling I’m Gonna File My Claim and stretch it Down in the Meadow.

Every Baby Needs a Da Da Daddy (1948)

Directed by Phil Karlson, The Queens of Music Hall (Ladies of the Chorus) is the first film in which Marilyn Monroe, then aged 22, takes on one of the main roles, after two experiences as an extra. She performs two solo songs, including Every Baby Needs a Da Da Daddy, Anyone Can See I Love You, and finally the title song of the film with several other artists. Most of the songs are by Lester Lee and Allan Roberts. We are struck by the youthful and fluid voice of the young actress, trained at the time by her coach Fred Karger, with whom she had fallen very much in love.

Kiss (1953)

In niagara (1953) by Henry Hathaway, one of the black films in which she shot, Marilyn Monroe shares the poster with the famous actor Joseph Cotten (Citizen Kane, The Third Man…). The two stars play a couple in distress who will implode in violence not far from Niagara Falls. In a sequence that has remained mythical, charged with tension, the actress hums a few notes from a disc that she brought to the disc jockey of a neighborhood party a few steps from the bungalow she occupies with her husband. “You seem to like that song, don’t you, Miss Loomis?”, says her neighbor from the residence, as she comes to sit next to him and his fiancée. “There is no other song”, she answers. If she just sings a few lines in the movie, she’ll sing the whole song in the soundtrack. The music is by Lionel Newman, the lyrics are by Haven Gillespie.

Bonuses and the unusual…

We could have added many other songs, between those interpreted by Marilyn Monroe in the musicals where she shone, or those she recorded on the sidelines of her acting career. On the cinema side, in Men prefer blondes, Marilyn Monroe sings charming duets with Jane Russell, When Love Goes Wrong, Nothing Goes Right and Two Little Girls from Little Rock… In contrast, the star deliberately sings very poorly in Bus stop (Joshua Logan, 1956). And presumably she was dubbed on the song I Found A Dream from the movie The Prince and the Dancer (1957), by and with Laurence Olivier, the filming of which was a long ordeal… A Fine Romance (music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Dorothy Fields), You’d Be Surprised by Irving Berlin or do it again (music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Buddy DeSylva)…

>> And also: Marilyn Monroe, four reasons that make the American actress a timeless icon

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