After completing The Seven Year Itch, Marilyn Monroe left Hollywood and went to study acting in New York with Lee and Paula Strasberg at the famous Actors Studio. What she learned there figured importantly in all of her subsequent film performances (due in part to Paula Strasberg’s becoming her on-set acting coach in her remaining films), but her in-depth character work is nowhere more in evidence than it is in Joshua Logan’s Bus Stop. And in the company of acting heavyweights like Eileen Heckart and Arthur O’Connell and with appealing newcomers like Don Murray and Hope Lange by her side, Marilyn’s work here ranks among her greatest performances.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
Audio: English 4.0 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 34 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 07/30/2013
Rip-roaring, talented Montana ranch-owning cowboy Beauregard 'Bo' Decker (Don Murray) arrives in Phoenix to participate in the rodeo. His surrogate father and best friend Virgil Blessing (Arthur O'Connell) suggests on the bus trip down that he might want to start looking for a suitable girl for a wife, suggesting that virginal Elma Duckworth (Hope Lange) whom they meet at the bus stop might make a fitting candidate. But she’s not the “angel” Bo is seeking; instead, he flips for bar singer Cherie (Marilyn Monroe), an Ozarks chippie who’s been around the block a few times. Despite manhandling Cherie (who has her own dreams of Hollywood stardom) into getting on the bus back to Montana with him, she refuses to marry him, and when the bus is forced to stop at the bus stop café due to inclement weather, their relationship plays itself out in a series of confrontations.
The Production Rating: 4/5
George Axelrod’s screenplay takes William Inge’s Broadway play (which takes place completely in the bus stop on the way back to Montana) and opens it out by providing the visual foreplay between Bo and Cherie in Phoenix allowing us to see much more clearly how these two birdbrained protagonists are clearly meant for each other. (In the play, the ending seems a bit abrupt, but in the film, we understand their motivations much more clearly so that the ending rings truer.) Some secondary characters from the play are dropped along the way, but the central characters all remain at the forefront of the action, and the movie’s script for a change becomes preferable to the stage version in terms of the central story. By allowing us to see events in Phoenix, director Joshua Logan gets to include Bo’s stunning successes at the rodeo (winning four events, and he would have won the fifth had Cherie not panicked about their impending marriage and distracted him from his steer rustling event) as well as present one of Monroe’s most famous musical numbers: Cherie’s pathetically vulnerable rendition of Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “That Old Black Magic” as Cherie attempts to stay on pitch, change her own light cues via footswitches, and dazzle her audience with her innocently seductive allure. And as the virginal Bo comes of age and realizes his limitations, so, too, does Cherie see the real man behind the bluster and sass.
There was nothing wrong with Marilyn Monroe as an actress before she enrolled in the Actors Studio, but there is no denying that she shows a richer, deeper approach to characterization with this performance. While some may note her Ozark accent shifting a bit from time to time, the earnestness of her work is palpable and very appealing. Don Murray makes a stunning introduction to films here as the rowdy, over-confident cowboy Bo, and his growing up before our eyes is a wonderful acting achievement. Arthur O’Connell offers another of his solid, reliable cohort characters, and Eileen Heckart as the waitress Vera is his female equivalent for Cherie. Robert Bray holds his own as the tough bus driver who backs down from no one, and Betty Field as the café owner Grace has a fetching, no nonsense way about her that’s most engaging.
The film has been framed for this home video release at 2.55:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is quite good for most of the film, but the DeLuxe color is variable and veers toward brown. Skin tones for most of the characters seem to bit too brown (apart from Monroe who has used a white rice makeup to make Cherie almost ghost-like), and contrast varies sometimes to a distracting extent. Black levels are acceptable throughout. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 sound mix is typical of Fox’s stereo productions of the Cinemascope era. There is directionalized dialogue throughout which most of the time is nicely discernible but occasionally can get drowned out a bit with overly loud extraneous sound effects and music. There is some use of the rear channels, mostly for ambiance and with the echoes of the music. There isn’t a lot of bass present in the mix; the Four Lads singing “The Bus Stop Song” composed for the film seems a bit bass-lite.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Theatrical Trailer (2:25, SD)
Special Features Rating: 1/5
Marilyn Monroe Trailers (SD): Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Niagara, River of No Return, The Seven Year Itch, There’s No Business Like Show Business, all of which are now available on Blu-ray.
In one of her greatest and most famous performances, Marilyn Monroe shines in Bus Stop. While it’s deeply regrettable that Fox didn’t see fit to honor this film with some bonus features which celebrate one of their most valuable stars, Bus Stop on Blu-ray offers good picture and sound at least. Recommended!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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