A thorough and unsympathetic look at Marilyn Monroe’s last days on a movie set, “Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days” winningly opens and closes the book on the star’s final chapter without the usual theatrics associated with the loss of a young talent. Anecdotes from the cast and crew that worked on “Something’s Got to Give,” intended to be her big return to 20th Century Fox in 1962, are almost universally filtered through a sense of their professional loss, how Monroe’s cocktails of sleeping pills ‘n’ champagne and broken affairs constantly put the production in peril. History has been overly kind to Monroe, and “The Final Days” displays her physical beauty as much as it gets into the heads of those around her in Hollywood.
Biggest treat is the 37-minute version of “Something,” cobbled-together from 500 minutes of film. (Pic was a remake of the 1940 romantic comedy “My Favorite Wife” that starred Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.) Dean Martin stars as the father of two who gets a judge to declare his wife (Monroe) legally dead after she has been missing for five years, lost at sea in a yachting accident.
That action granted, he marries Cyd Charisse — and Monroe walks back into their life after being rescued from a deserted island by a submarine crew. Scene involving Charisse and Steve Allen, as her psychiatrist, discussing sex are the funniest; most famous are Monroe’s oft-seen skinny-dipping segment, now extended to reveal more dorsal nudity than in previous airings.
“The Final Days” traces the evolution of “Something’s Got to Give,” from Fox brass getting the idea for the remake up through its days over budget and over schedule. Intriguingly, “Something” was being shot simultaneously with “Cleopatra,” and collectively the two were nearly bankrupting the studio (though eyes were only occasionally cast toward “Something’s” troubles).
There is a bounty of rare footage and luminous stories about Monroe, who would have turned 75 years old today. It’s not a damning portrait, but one associate after another chips away at her iconic stature with talk of her flaws, most commonly her tardiness. It’s hard to tell if she was loved or tolerated, and theories concerning her ways with powerful men exposes her mental and emotional constitution in a way that hasn’t been discussed that much before.