Let's Make Love
|Let's Make Love|
|Directed by||George Cukor|
|Produced by||Jerry Wald|
|Written by||Norman Krasna
|Music by||Lionel Newman
|Cinematography||Daniel L. Fapp|
|Edited by||David Bretherton|
|Distributed by||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation|
Let's Make Love is a 1960 musical comedy film made by 20th Century Fox in DeLuxe Color and CinemaScope. It was directed by George Cukor and produced by Jerry Wald from a screenplay by Norman Krasna, Hal Kanter, and Arthur Miller. It starred Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand, and Tony Randall. It would be Monroe's last musical film performance.
The plot revolves around billionaire Jean-Marc Clement (Montand) who learns that he is to be satirized in an off-Broadway revue. After going to the theatre, he sees Amanda Dell (Monroe) rehearsing the Cole Porter song "My Heart Belongs to Daddy", and by accident the director thinks him an actor suitable to play himself in the revue. Clement takes the part in order to see more of Amanda and plays along with the mistaken identity, going by the name Alexander Dumas.
Frankie Vaughan appears as a singer in the revue, while Milton Berle, Gene Kelly, and Bing Crosby appear in cameo roles as themselves trying to teach Clement how to deliver jokes, dance, and sing, respectively. Tony Randall in a supporting role portrays Clement's conflicted flunky.
In 1955 Monroe had entered into a new contract with 20th Century Fox, requiring her to star in four films within the next seven years. In 1959 she had completed only one: Bus Stop, which had been released in 1956. While Monroe shot Some Like it Hot in 1958 (for United Artists) her husband, Arthur Miller, completed the screenplay for The Misfits (film), which they had intended on being Monroe's next film. Some Like It Hot was released in March 1959 and became an enormous success. Critics praised the film and Marilyn's performance. Hoping to capitalize on this, 20th Century Fox required Marilyn to fulfill her contract. The Misfits was put on hold and instead Marilyn signed on to star in, what was then titled, The Billionaire.
The original script was written by Academy Award screenwriter Norman Krasna. He was inspired to write the script after seeing Burt Lancaster do a dance at a Writers Guild award ceremony and receiving a loud applause. He came up with the idea of a story about a very wealthy playboy like Jock Whitney who hears about a company putting on a show that made fun of him and becomes enamored of the theatre and a girl in the play. Krasna felt that only three actors were suitable – Gary Cooper, James Stewart and Gregory Peck – because all were so obviously not musical performers, making it funny if they sung and danced. Peck agreed to play the lead, and then Marilyn Monroe was signed opposite him, even though Krasna would have preferred Cyd Charisse.
With Monroe attached to the picture she and Miller wanted the part of Amanda expanded. Miller worked on the script (although he did not receive credit) to expand the role. Peck bowed out after the emphasis shifted to the female lead. Various sources state that the role was then offered to Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, and Charlton Heston, all of whom declined. It was eventually offered to Yves Montand, who had appeared in a French film version of Arthur Miller's The Crucible in 1957 and had earned raves for his recent one-man musical show in New York. Monroe and Miller both gave their approval for Montand in the role. The title was changed to Let's Make Love and production got underway in January, 1960 with George Cukor directing.
In March 1960 Marilyn was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Actress--Musical or Comedy, further cementing the success of Some Like It Hot. Montand's wife (who he had starred with in the French version of the Crucible), Simone Signoret won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Room at the Top in April. The two couples were soon inseparable; they had adjoining bungalows at the Beverly Hills Hotel as production neared.
From the beginning issues arose with the film. Monroe, despite being enthusiastic about Montand, did not want to make the film and the original screenwriter had reservations about the cast. Despite being offered the role and having found success with his one man show, Montand did not speak English. This led to enormous stress as he worked to understand the lines he was speaking through translation. Monroe, at this point in her career, had developed a reputation (beyond Hollywood) for oftentimes being late to set, forgetting her lines, and deferring to her coach over the director. However, some reports state that this was not true during the filming of Let's Make Love, although she and Cukor did not have the best relationship. Neither star was satisfied with the script and production was shut down for over a month by two Hollywood strikes: first by the Screen Actors Guild and then the Screen Writers Guild.
Monroe and Montand were said to have bonded over the difficulties each was experiencing with the film, but when both Miller and Signoret departed during production for other commitments rumors about an affair between the two were rampant. Gossip columns at the time made note of frequent sightings of the two together alone. This led to greater publicity for the film, with Fox manipulating the affair to its advantage. In August, shortly before the release of the film Monroe and Montand were featured on the cover of Life Magazine in a sensual pose taken from the film. Although their affair ended when filming ended with Montand returned to France.
Reception and Aftermath
Given the box office success of Monroe and the press surrounding Montand and their relationship at the time the film was considered to be a disappointment, although it was, in truth, a moderate success. The high expectations and moderate results has led to many viewing the film as either a total flop or a huge success. It opened at the top of the box office its first weekend, but would only make $6.54 million in total.  It was the first film starring Monroe to earn so little money on its initial release. Although it is important to note it was the top grossing musical of the year; one of only two in the top 20 in 1960. It also fared better in overseas markets than in the United States.
Reviews at the time were mixed. The New York Times wrote that the film was slow going, that Marilyn Monroe looked "untidy" and that throughout the film she is "fumbling with things in the sidelines..." And Montand's accent was so heavy, it was not charming, but instead hard to understand. The directing and script were criticized for not allowing Montand the opportunity to use his Gallic humor. The irony of having Bing Crosby and Gene Kelly brought in to give the pupil further lessons were noted. The directing was further criticized, in part because Monroe's appearance had changed somewhat drastically during halt in production and that under Cukor the differences had been exacerbated with poor costume, hair and makeup decisions, and poor directing during the musical numbers. On top of that, poor editing resulted in parts of the film being disjointed, where stand-ins can easily be noticed. It was reported that Fox executives requested to have some of the scenes completely refilmed, but Cukor ignored such requests.
Variety stated that the film '"has taken something not too original (the Cinderella theme) and dressed it up like new. "Monroe is a delight...Yves Montand...gives a sock performance, full of heart and humour."' The highlight of the film according to the New York Times was Milton Berle, who stole the show.
Let's Make Love received a nomination for Academy Award for Best Original Music Score for Lionel Newman and Earle H. Hagen and two BAFTA nominations for Best Film from any Source for George Cukor and for Best Foreign Actor (Montand). It also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture Musical/Comedy.
Shortly before her death in 1962 Monroe stated that the role of Amanda was the worst in her career. She commented that there was "no role...that you had to wrack your brain...there was nothing there with the writing" and that it had "been part of an old contract." Arthur Miller was also critical of the film stating that despite his efforts to improve the script it was "like putting plaster on a peg leg" During an interview with David Letterman in 1988 Montand stated his difficulties with the script and his English abilities, but said it was an honor to work alongside Marilyn Monroe.
- Marilyn Monroe as Amanda Dell
- Yves Montand as Jean-Marc Clement/Alexandre Dumas
- Tony Randall as Coffman
- Frankie Vaughan as Tony
- Wilfrid Hyde-White as Welch
- Bing Crosby as Himself
- Gene Kelly as Himself
- Milton Berle as Himself
- Joe Besser as Charlie Lamont
- Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p252
- *McGilligan, Patrick, "Norman Krasna: The Woolworth's Touch", Backstory: Interviews with Screenwriters of Hollywood's Golden Age, University of California Press,1986 p229-231
- According to Variety the film earned $3 million in rentals in 1960. See "Rental Potentials of 1960", Variety, 4 January 1961 p 47. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.
- Let's Make Love at the Internet Movie Database
- Let's Make Love at AllMovie
- Let's Make Love at the TCM Movie Database
- Let's Make Love at Rotten Tomatoes
- Let's Make Love at the American Film Institute Catalog