Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 8, 2019


Monroe and Don Murray
BUS STOP (1956). Director: Joshua Logan. Based on the play by William Inge.

"Ain't it wonderful when somebody so terrible turns out to be so nice." -- Cherie.

Bo Decker is a young rancher who has a lot of energy but little experience with life or women. With his foreman and best friend, Virgil (Arthur O'Connell), he travels to Phoenix, Arizona to compete in a rodeo. He is certain that he will meet the right gal for him, and is convinced that that is just what's happened when he runs into nightclub entertainer Cherie (Marilyn Monroe). The trouble is that while Cherie may think Bo is handsome, she has no intention of marrying a complete stranger that she has just met. Bo, unfortunately, simply won't take no for an answer ...

Don Murray as Bo
Bus Stop was based on a stage play by William Inge, and it was opened up by screenwriter George Axelrod. Joshua Logan also directed the film version of Inge's Picnic the same year, although he had not directed the stage version of Bus Stop as he did Picnic. The movie benefits from inspired casting. Marilyn Monroe is simply outstanding as Cherie -- possibly the best performance of her career -- and is able to bring out the pathos and confusion in her character as well as her more comical aspects. Her interpretation of "That Old Black Magic" which she deliberately sings off-key in the saloon is very funny. Don Murray [Advise and Consent], whose first theatrical film this was, is also excellent, just perfect in fact, as Bo, managing to make a man who seems nearly psychotic at times a bit vulnerable and greatly appealing in some instances.

Arthur O'Connell and Monroe
As for the rest of the cast, Arthur O'Connell offers another of his spot-on performances as father surrogate Virgil. Betty Field [Seventeen] makes an impression, and seems to be channeling Mae West a bit, as the coffee shop owner, Grace. Robert Bray [Never Love a Stranger] has possibly his best role as the bus driver, Carl, who has a yen for Grace, and who has a fateful encounter with Bo. Eileen Heckart and Hope Lange are also effective in smaller roles as, respectively, Cherie's friend and co-worker and a young woman on the bus who befriends Cherie. Like Picnic, this romance has a bittersweet conclusion. Murray was nominated for an Oscar (supporting); Monroe should have been. The TV series Bus Stop was very loosely based on this movie.

Verdict: Very entertaining and well-acted comedy drama. ***. 


angelman66 said...

This is a delight, and I agree, Monroe’s most layered, multi dimensional performance—she got so few opportunities to do more than her stock in trade role of blond bombshell, although she always did that with extraordinary comic aplomb. (Niagara was another opportunity to play against type as the murderous adulteress.) Murray and his soon wife Hope Lange are strong, as are Betty Field and Arthur OConnell as always. Eileen Heckart’s role is tiny here—must have been a consolation prize since she starred on Broadway as Rosemary the schoolteacher for Inge and Logan in Picnic, and her role was commandeered by Roz Russell for the film.
- Chris

William said...

You may be right about Heckart. I forget that Murray and Lange were married, possibly they met while making this film? Monroe has certainly come in for her share of knocks, but I have always thought "the adorable one," as I call her, was much more talented than some people gave her credit for. I believe Joshua Logan -- although the man certainly had his problems -- worked very well with actors and may have helped Monroe really deliver in this. In any case, I was struck by how wonderful she was every step of the way. I had resisted seeing this again for many, many years -- don't recall why I didn't like it the first time -- but I'm glad I finally got around to it. Very entertaining and well-acted flick.