We passed the Labor Day weekend on Hollywood Boulevard inhaling the Egyptian Theater's popcorn-soaked oxygen during the 46th annual CINECON -- a connoisseur's festival of weird, wonderful, rarely seen classic films.
A highlight of the five-day vintage flick-fest was a wonderful guest appearance by all-American dramatic actor Don Murray following a screening of From Hell to Texas (dir: Henry Hathaway, 1958). The psychological western was filmed in CinemaScope in the beautiful rugged landscapes of Death Valley and Lone Pine, California. It was the second cowboy role for Murray, a self-proclaimed suburban kid from Long Island.
His first, filmed two years prior, was as the Montana cowboy, Beau, in Bus Stop (dir: Josh Logan, 1956). Speaking to the theater filled with cinephiles, the slender, grey-haired actor remembered playing the romantic lead to Marilyn Monroe at the height of her stardom.
When you worked with Marilyn Monroe, there was press around all the time. And everyone was so up tight, like: 'Is she gonna know her lines? Is she gonna show up on time?' And she didn't know her lines, and she didn't come on time. But there was kinetic energy [on the set] from all of this. We were all theater people and we knew our lines. But she couldn't put three sentences together. She did her scenes over and over, like, up to twenty takes. You had to be at your best, because, whenever she did it right, they might use that take. It was all start, stop, start, stop. We thought the film was a disaster, but the big impression came at a preview -- it was thanks to [director] Josh Logan and [writer] George Axelrod how good that film was. Marilyn was experienced by then, she had done about 20 films. But she was missing her marks all the time. You know, there are marks -- places to stand where the lighting, sound, camera angle are all correct. So the director [Logan] told me, every time [she wanders], put your hands on her hips and move her back into her marks. I was doing this the whole film!
You can see Murray grasping Monroe in the film poster, above, and in the photo at left. It was a tough job but someone had to do it.
Don Murray photo courtesy of Michael Schlesinger
Murray/Monroe photo courtesy of drmacro.com