Marilyn Monroe Movies

Caproni

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Marilyn Monroe almost single-handedly represents the embodiment of classic Hollywood glamour and style. Her image is blazed across everything from pillowcases to shot glasses. She's probably even more famous today than she was in her time.

I figured we'd do a little discussion her on Marilyn's best films and the ones you particularly prefer. My favorites of hers are probably Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Some Like It Hot, and The Misfits. She is generally stereotyped in the public mindset as a dumb blonde, and when watching her films, one can definitely see why. Her most successful pictures had her playing some variation of a feather-headed blonde that generally relied on her looks over her brain to achieve her goals. This is most prominent in films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire, both of which were two of the biggest box office successes of 1953. The importance of her characters to the story line of her pictures was typically viewed as irrelevant. This was probably seen at its best in The Seven Year Itch, a sex comedy in which she was not even given a name. She was a mere fantasy-like object of desire.

Marilyn's ambitions of maturing her craft eventually led her to joining the Actors Studio in 1955. She studied the method form of acting there under the skillful supervision of Lee Strasberg. Her studies eventually enabled her to turn out strong performances in films like Bus Stop and The Misfits. Her chops were sharpening before she passed in 1962. Most of her work is forgotten in popular culture. The "Marilyn Monroe" image is what sells the t-shirts.

Any fans of her movies?


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Caproni

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Not a big fan of Marilyn but have seen a few of her films. I only have one in my collection and that is River of No Return which is a good film with Robert Mitchum.
RIVER OF NO RETURN was the first movie I ever saw her in. My dad had bought me a collection of her films, and this is the only one he would agree to watch with me. He remembered seeing it on AMC or somewhere and liking it. We watched it the very night I got them in the mail, and it has been one of my favorites of hers ever since.

RIVER OF NO RETURN was clearly one of those movies made for the budding CinemaScope process. The scenery is absolutely beautiful, and so are the actors quite frankly. Marilyn evidently felt the movie itself was bad, but praised the cinematography. She had tried to get out of it, but ended up doing it. She wouldn't do it a second time that year, though, because she quickly rebuffed THE GIRL IN PINK TIGHTS when she was offered that film after RIVER OF NO RETURN wrapped. That move got her placed on suspension for a little bit.

I find RIVER OF NO RETURN to be a classic and enjoyable western. Sure, it's riddled with cliches, but most movies are anyway. This makes no difference. The acting is good, but I cannot get over the scenery. I got to rewatch this movie on Blu-ray now that I've got it in that format.

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Matt Hough

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I just rewatched River of No Return a few days ago. For me, it holds up beautifully, and the screen tank shots of the stars mixed with the actual location work on the rapids is still breathtaking. Yes, the score is wonderful, and even though it isn't a musical, Marilyn gets to sing four songs, all of them quite haunting paralleling the melancholy story being told on-screen.
 

Joe Wong

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My wife Sarah is a huge Marilyn fan. I had previously seen Some Like It Hot, but she introduced me to films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the magnificent All About Eve (though Marilyn has a relatively minor role).

GPB is very entertaining, with the awesome Jane Russell pairing well with Marilyn. How to Marry a Millionaire is less compelling to me story-wise, but we always discuss the extended intro of an orchestra playing music (how quaint!), which has no relation to the film's story. The costumes in both films are amazing.

My favourite is The Seven Year Itch. Risque (for its time), and richly satirical.
 

Matt Hough

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I marvel at Marilyn in All About Eve. She didn't have a lot of experience by then, but she's able to play opposite one of Hollywood's greatest stars in Bette Davis and hold her own against expert scene stealers like George Sanders and Thelma Ritter. She steals both her scenes in All About Eve.
 

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Monroe is a legend - period. In an industry that dismissively brands too many 'wannabes' as such, Monroe is the real deal. How many contemporary actresses have gone through their 'Monroe' phase of their career, mimicking the look, but never to capture the essential charm beneath the sweet and strangely innocent sex appeal. Anna Nicole Smith, Madonna, Gwen Stephani, Cindy Crawford, Blake Lively, Kate Upton, Paris Hilton, and on and on. Monroe's influence is epic - the true hallmark for any star - "You have arrived!"

Love River of No Return but cannot abide the Blu-ray incarnation, with its muddy colors and blue/beige lean. Just awful. Needs a new master. Love Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Ditto for Niagara (which proved what a fine actress she could have been if the bubble-headed blonde ditz persona didn't take over). Other Monroe favorites include There's No Business Like Show Business, How To Marry a Millionaire, The Asphalt Jungle, Some Like It Hot, and The Prince and the Show Girl.

Never found The Seven Year Itch particularly good. Apart from its infamous skirt-blowing/subway grate sequence, its just a fluff comedy. The whole point of the stage show was that the male 'star' of that show was in love with a nondescript sexpot who suddenly caught his fancy while the wife was away. Giving Tom Ewell Marilyn Monroe as his costar in the movie made this one a no brainer. Which would you want, Evelyn Keyes (who played the wife) or Marilyn Monroe? Well, duh!

The films leading up to Monroe's death were not exactly her best, especially, 'Let's Make Love' and the 'never completed' Something's Gotta Give. Monroe's persona was so inextricable linked to her sex appeal, when it began to slightly tarnish and/or fade, the movies themselves suffered for lack of allowing her more depth of character. That doesn't mean she was not a great actress. I mean, her iconography as the 'dumb blonde' has endured for more than half a century since. She IS the template by which all other presumably stupid sexpots are compared and judged. That's saying quite a lot of how well she managed to convince us what was on the screen was an extension of Monroe in real/reel life.

Best explanation offered up in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. When asked by the father of her intended fiance why she wants to marry him, Monroe's Lorelei Lee explains, "I want to marry him for your money. Aren't you funny. Don't you know a man being rich is like a girl being pretty. You may not marry a man just because he's rich, but my God, doesn't it help? And what if you had a daughter? You'd want her to have all sorts of wonderful things, wouldn't you? Well, why is it wrong for me to want them too?"

Brilliant snap analysis. Why indeed?
 

Caproni

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I marvel at Marilyn in All About Eve. She didn't have a lot of experience by then, but she's able to play opposite one of Hollywood's greatest stars in Bette Davis and hold her own against expert scene stealers like George Sanders and Thelma Ritter. She steals both her scenes in All About Eve.
ALL ABOUT EVE is one of my favorite classic films. Even if I didn't like any of the actors in it, I'd still love this movie. It's a fabulous example of old Hollywood at its finest. The acting, writing, directing, humor is all superb. It's practically flawless.

Even though it's Bette Davis and Anne Baxter's time in the sun, Marilyn does well in a relatively small, but important role. One commentator said that her character and performance came "dangerously close to self-parody", which points towards Marilyn's own real life experiences at the time of befriending men to advance her career.

ALL ABOUT EVE is an exceptional film. I never tire of it. Just a few months ago, I bought the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release at Barnes & Noble. It came in a beautiful box and includes "The Wisdom of Eve" short story upon which the film had been based.

Good grief, I love this movie.

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Caproni

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Monroe is a legend - period. In an industry that dismissively brands too many 'wannabes' as such, Monroe is the real deal. How many contemporary actresses have gone through their 'Monroe' phase of their career, mimicking the look, but never to capture the essential charm beneath the sweet and strangely innocent sex appeal. Anna Nicole Smith, Madonna, Gwen Stephani, Cindy Crawford, Blake Lively, Kate Upton, Paris Hilton, and on and on. Monroe's influence is epic - the true hallmark for any star - "You have arrived!"

Love River of No Return but cannot abide the Blu-ray incarnation, with its muddy colors and blue/beige lean. Just awful. Needs a new master. Love Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Ditto for Niagara (which proved what a fine actress she could have been if the bubble-headed blonde ditz persona didn't take over). Other Monroe favorites include There's No Business Like Show Business, How To Marry a Millionaire, The Asphalt Jungle, Some Like It Hot, and The Prince and the Show Girl.

Never found The Seven Year Itch particularly good. Apart from its infamous skirt-blowing/subway grate sequence, its just a fluff comedy. The whole point of the stage show was that the male 'star' of that show was in love with a nondescript sexpot who suddenly caught his fancy while the wife was away. Giving Tom Ewell Marilyn Monroe as his costar in the movie made this one a no brainer. Which would you want, Evelyn Keyes (who played the wife) or Marilyn Monroe? Well, duh!

The films leading up to Monroe's death were not exactly her best, especially, 'Let's Make Love' and the 'never completed' Something's Gotta Give. Monroe's persona was so inextricable linked to her sex appeal, when it began to slightly tarnish and/or fade, the movies themselves suffered for lack of allowing her more depth of character. That doesn't mean she was not a great actress. I mean, her iconography as the 'dumb blonde' has endured for more than half a century since. She IS the template by which all other presumably stupid sexpots are compared and judged. That's saying quite a lot of how well she managed to convince us what was on the screen was an extension of Monroe in real/reel life.

Best explanation offered up in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. When asked by the father of her intended fiance why she wants to marry him, Monroe's Lorelei Lee explains, "I want to marry him for your money. Aren't you funny. Don't you know a man being rich is like a girl being pretty. You may not marry a man just because he's rich, but my God, doesn't it help? And what if you had a daughter? You'd want her to have all sorts of wonderful things, wouldn't you? Well, why is it wrong for me to want them too?"

Brilliant snap analysis. Why indeed?
HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE is stale when compared to GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES and NIAGARA, even though all three are career-defining performances for her in 1953. NIAGARA was her breakthrough film, and one of her first major dramatic roles. She dazzles in one of the rarer representations of film noir in Technicolor. GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES is a delight from start to finish, a gorgeous and fun-filled musical comedy and Marilyn's chemistry with Jane Russell is exquisite. They seem like real life pals, which apparently they were for several years. HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE was one of Fox's biggest hits of 1953, and is generally regarded as the film where Betty Grable handed Marilyn the crown of being the studio's foremost female star. The story itself is intriguing, but the most interesting thing about the film is the casting. It is lengthy and Marilyn's role is smaller than I prefer.

Like I said before, RIVER OF NO RETURN was the first movie of hers I saw and it's been a favorite ever since. THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH was made under strait-jacket restrictions and the censors wouldn't let them get away with as much as Broadway had during the play's theatrical run. I still find it a pretty funny movie, even if it does not really make too much sense because the man and the girl do not actually have an affair. The comedy in the play was drawn from the guilt the man felt after cheating on his wife with this stranger upstairs. I just tell myself that the man was guilty because of the mere thought of cheating on his wife. Either way, I enjoy the picture. It's one of Marilyn's jewels, even though she's playing right into her dumb blonde stereotype.

I personally think that LET'S MAKE LOVE was Marilyn's worst film. She apparently thought so too, calling it her "worst" in a 1962 interview she gave shortly before she passed. The idea of it was good enough, but the execution was poor. I thought it was going to be good, but boy was I misled.

As for SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE, I personally feel it would have been a great film had it got finished. Too bad it wasn't.
 
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Caproni

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Don't Bother to Knock.
Oh yes, how could I forget that one? DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK is usually touted as her first starring role, even though she had headlined the B-movie musical LADIES OF THE CHORUS four years earlier. DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK is actually a very good throwback film noir. It runs just over an hour, but it's suspense filled all the way. Marilyn goes back brunette for the final time for her role as a mentally and emotionally unstable young woman who stirs up trouble while baby sitting in a New York hotel. Richard Widmark makes for an interesting co-star, and Anne Bancroft is as beautiful as ever here in her film debut.

A lot of people skid over DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK as misguided or low-brow. They're all wrong though. It's a downright intriguing piece of cinema, even if the standard of production was lower than average. It sort of falls between the A-movie and B-movie categories to me; it's not quite as first-rate as a most A-list features, but not quite as cheap and thrown together as many B-movies of the area.

When I want a "different" movie to watch featuring Marilyn, sometimes I'll fall back on DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK to quench that thirst.

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Osato

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Love all her films. I just saw the prince and the showgirl for the first time this year.

I know she’s not in a lot of the film but I love her part in Monkey Business.

some like it hot and seven year itch are great ones.

how to marry a millionaire is another favorite of mine.

no fans of The Misfits? I’ve only watched it once.
 

Caproni

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Love all her films. I just saw the prince and the showgirl for the first time this year.

I know she’s not in a lot of the film but I love her part in Monkey Business.

some like it hot and seven year itch are great ones.

how to marry a millionaire is another favorite of mine.

no fans of The Misfits? I’ve only watched it once.
THE MISFITS is one of my favorites of hers. I think it contains her finest performance on film. She was at her loveliest and most vulnerable as Rosalyn, a recent divorcee trying to find her place in the world whilst getting tangled up with three misfit cowboys searching for their own identities. THE MISFITS was written for Marilyn by her then-husband Arthur Miller, who presented the script to her as something of a Valentine's present. It was directed by prolific director John Huston, and teamed Marilyn with what was called a "dream cast" consisting of Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, and Eli Wallach. Thelma Ritter also shows up in the film, particularly the earlier parts, and is usually sidelined although her work as a character actress here are certainly worth noting.

THE MISFITS is probably just as well-known in popular culture for its production difficulties. Both Marilyn and Montgomery Clift were suffering with depression and addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol, although Clift famously referred to Monroe as "the only person in the world more screwed up that I am". There were other delays as well. Filming was originally postponed so Marilyn could star in LET'S MAKE LOVE for Fox, while the locations needed for the exteriors caused some pausing in filming because of the unpredictable weather. The film eventually ended up running over its budget, ultimately becoming the most expensive black-and-white film up until that point, a feat later topped by WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?

When it was released in 1961, THE MISFITS received mixed reviews from critics and was only a mild success in theaters. Many regard the initial reception unsatisfying. Even so, all three of the top billed stars ─ Monroe, Gable, and Clift ─ thought the film contained some of their best work. Rumors apparently flew about possible Oscar nods for them, but they bore fruition. THE MISFITS would go under-appreciated for many years after its original release. It finally struck a cord with movie historians, who reanalyzed it and realized the artistry and fine performances it held within it. Still, the movie doesn't register with all classic movie fans, many who perhaps find it too drab and long-winded to leave any considerable positive impact.

I don't let any of that detour me, however. THE MISFITS is one of my favorite films, regardless to Marilyn's presence or not. I do think it wouldn't have gotten reexamined had she not been in it, however, and I personally would've skidded over it had someone else played her role. THE MISFITS is a little odd, though, and I don't really know where to file it in my mind. Some call it a western, some a drama, some a melodrama. It's really a little of it all, therefore placing it in a class all by itself. I cannot right off think of another film that blends so many genres and their distinctives into one piece of cinema. But I think that's why THE MISFITS remains enduring and respected.

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Caproni

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What about those Could've Been Marilyn Monroe movies? Anyone that's done any studying on Marilyn knows there were several movies she wanted to do and didn't and some she refused.

Let's deduce some of those:

THE GIRL IN PINK TIGHTS (although a newspaper article from 1953─54 simply calls the project PINK TIGHTS) was based on a successful Broadway musical comedy. It was supposed to be Monroe's project after RIVER OF NO RETURN, but she declined. At first, Fox brought in Sheree North and tested her for the film in Marilyn's wardrobe, but eventually the film was shelved. Monroe ended up doing IRVING BERLIN'S THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS instead, as something of a consolation to Fox for having bowed out of THE GIRL IN PINK TIGHTS.

HOW TO BE VERY, VERY POPULAR was to re-team Marilyn with Betty Grable, her co-star in HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE. Monroe found the role of Curly Flagg inferior, and she was hastily replaced with Sheree North, an actress Fox had put under contract to mold in Marilyn's shadow.

THE GIRL IN THE RED VELVET SWING was one of Fox's most anticipated movies of 1955. The original intent was to have Marilyn in the female lead, but someone behind the camera felt that Marilyn, at twenty-nine years old, was a little too old. She was replaced with newcomer Joan Collins.

THE REVOLT OF MAMIE STOVER was offered to Monroe while she was in New York studying at the Actors Studio. She was to play a goodhearted Honolulu hooker. She turned the part down flat, and was replaced with her GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES co-star Jane Russell.

BABY DOLL was another film Marilyn was touted for during her time in New York. I'm fuzzy on whether she was actually interested in doing the picture, but either way newcomer Carroll Baker ended up in the role.

THE JEAN HARLOW STORY was the one picture Monroe spoke often of. Actress Jean Harlow was her favorite star as a child, and she wanted to play her in a film. Apparently Fox once presented her with a script based on Harlow, but she refused it because she found it inferior. In 1962, Fox was evidently preparing another Harlow biography as a part of Monroe's new contract with the studio. She died before the movie could be made.

THE SHERIFF OF FRACTURED JAW was bought around 1953 by Fox as a possible pairing of Marilyn with British actor Clifton Webb. The project never got off the ground, but was dusted off five years later with Monroe-esque Jayne Mansfield taking on her role.

COLD SHOULDER was a gritty noir Fox was planning to produce around 1950. Marilyn screen tested for one of the lead roles, but the film died on the drawing board. (Her screen test is available on YouTube.)

WHAT A WAY TO GO! was the second film Marilyn agreed to make when she was resigned by Fox in 1962, the other obligation being to complete the troubled SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE. She died before fulfilling either side of the agreement. In the former, she was replaced with Shirley MacLaine, while the later was re-branded as MOVE OVER, DARLING with Doris Day in Marilyn's role.

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN was apparently in the works to remade by Fox in the early 1960s with Marilyn in one of the lead roles.

THE STRIPPER (at one time called CELEBRATION) was to star Marilyn and Pat Boone. Boone refused the role on moral grounds, and Marilyn was replaced with Joanne Woodard after she passed.

KISS ME, STUPID was to repair Marilyn with director Billy Wilder, the man who directed her successfully in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH and SOME LIKE IT HOT. She passed before production started. Jayne Mansfield was originally going to replace her, but her pregnancy led to her being replaced with Kim Novak.

CAN-CAN was a flashy late 1950s/early 1960s Broadway-style musical. Marilyn apparently refused the project after the disappointing reception of LET'S MAKE LOVE, and she was replaced by Shirley MacLaine.

IRMA LA DOUCE ("Irma the Sweet") was yet another film that was to repair her with director Billy Wilder and co-star Jack Lemmon. She passed before filming started, and Shirley MacLaine again took on her role.
 
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bujaki

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THE MISFITS is one of my favorites of hers. I think it contains her finest performance on film. She was at her loveliest and most vulnerable as Rosalyn, a recent divorcee trying to find her place in the world whilst getting tangled up with three misfit cowboys searching for their own identities. THE MISFITS was written for Marilyn by her then-husband Arthur Miller, who presented the script to her as something of a Valentine's present. It was directed by prolific director John Huston, and teamed Marilyn with what was called a "dream cast" consisting of Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, and Eli Wallach. Thelma Ritter also shows up in the film, particularly the earlier parts, and is usually sidelined although her work as a character actress here are certainly worth noting.

THE MISFITS is probably just as well-known in popular culture for its production difficulties. Both Marilyn and Montgomery Clift were suffering with depression and addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol, although Clift famously referred to Monroe as "the only person in the world more screwed up that I am". There were other delays as well. Filming was originally postponed so Marilyn could star in LET'S MAKE LOVE for Fox, while the locations needed for the exteriors caused some pausing in filming because of the unpredictable weather. The film eventually ended up running over its budget, ultimately becoming the most expensive black-and-white film up until that point, a feat later topped by WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?

When it was released in 1961, THE MISFITS received mixed reviews from critics and was only a mild success in theaters. Many regard the initial reception unsatisfying. Even so, all three of the top billed stars ─ Monroe, Gable, and Clift ─ thought the film contained some of their best work. Rumors apparently flew about possible Oscar nods for them, but they bore fruition. THE MISFITS would go under-appreciated for many years after its original release. It finally struck a cord with movie historians, who reanalyzed it and realized the artistry and fine performances it held within it. Still, the movie doesn't register with all classic movie fans, many who perhaps find it too drab and long-winded to leave any considerable positive impact.

I don't let any of that detour me, however. THE MISFITS is one of my favorite films, regardless to Marilyn's presence or not. I do think it wouldn't have gotten reexamined had she not been in it, however, and I personally would've skidded over it had someone else played her role. THE MISFITS is a little odd, though, and I don't really know where to file it in my mind. Some call it a western, some a drama, some a melodrama. It's really a little of it all, therefore placing it in a class all by itself. I cannot right off think of another film that blends so many genres and their distinctives into one piece of cinema. But I think that's why THE MISFITS remains enduring and respected.

I saw The Misfits in a spotless 35mm print in a revival house in NYC sometime in the '70s. Russell Metty's cinematography was top notch, as was Huston's direction. Miller's script was indeed a gift to Marilyn and her costars. It is a bittersweet film in retrospect, but it stands on its own two feet.
 

Caproni

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Love her movies. Wish we could get Ladies of the Chorus on Blu-ray or 4K.
I ain't even that picky. I'd be satisfied if Columbia Classics would get off their rocker and put it out on DVD. I honestly cannot see why this movie's been held up as long as it has been. It's been out in Australia or somewhere, I think, and here I am just pondering away at my keyboard waiting desperately for someone in the U.S. to get their acts together.

It was Marilyn's first starring role, and boy she was beautiful in it!

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JimJasper

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Don't Bother to Knock.
.....really liked "Don't Bother to Knock" ...... Monroe is a ravishing woman as well as complicated and intriguing. I think she was at her peak of beauty in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" about mid-way through, when she was in that orange dress, coming to dinner with Russell, when Marilyn (and Russell) comes down those stairs and walks to the table....those few seconds of Marilyn walking - I know she's all made-up, but I've just never seen a more beautiful woman in my life.
 
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