Don't Bother To Knock (1952)

Don't Bother To Knock (1952) is a psychological character study thriller film noir starring Anne Bancroft, Richard Widmark and Marilyn Monroe and directed by Roy Ward Baker. 

The screenplay was written by Daniel Taradash, based on the 1951 novel Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong. 

In the picture, Monroe plays a blinder as a disturbed babysitter watching a child at the same New York hotel where a pilot, played by Widmark, is staying. 

He starts flirting with her, but over the evening her strange behaviour makes him increasingly aware that she is most mentally disturbed indeed. 

Marilyn Monroe's better known for any number of reasons, but often these reasons are not acting. Here she plays Rose Loomis, she’s got scars on her wrists, a past as murky as the Hudson River, and a penchant for trouble. Rose is the niece of the hotel’s elevator man, a guy who knows more about the guests than the bellhops know about their tips.

Enter Widmark, a brooding cat nursing a broken heart. His lounge singer gal, Anne Bancroft, dumped him like yesterday’s newspaper. But Widmark ain’t just nursing his wounds. He’s nursing a flask of bourbon too. When he locks eyes with Rose, sparks fly faster than bullets in a mob shootout. They flirt, oh yeah, from their separate rooms — words like smoke rings curling through the air.

But this ain’t no love story. And Widmark is a man here for a night of sin, a rendezvous with danger. Trouble is, Rose ain’t just a scarred beauty; she’s a ticking time bomb. Her mind’s a maze of memories, and she’s convinced Widmark’s her dead pilot beau. The poor sap’s in for a wild ride — a night of terror that’d make a hardened gumshoe break a sweat.

Turns out, Monroe’s been locked up, her sanity rattling like a loose window pane. Her uncle, Elisha Cooke, Jr., thought she was “nearly well,” but the shadows in her eyes tell a different story. 

When she scolds the little girl—voice sharp and shocking—it’s downright bone-chilling. And Widmark is a cynic with a heart buried deeper than a mobster’s secrets. He’s got layers, like an onion soaked in bourbon. And when it comes to the kid, he’s got more tenderness than a bruised peach. 

Before any more is said about Don't Bother To Knock (1952) it will be observed that the hotel within which the entire action is set has a most innovative broadcast network, and this article will not be finished until this has been entirely researched for historical veracity.

This is how it works. Anne Bancroft sings with the band in the bar and this is live-streamed to the rooms, it is quite the hotel experience, and more than ingenious, it boasts a certain technical and cultural aspiration. This is streaming, 1952 style.

Anne Bancroft in Don't Bother To Knock (1952)

In light of Marilyn Monroe's iconic comedic roles, Don't Bother to Knock stands as a lesser-known gem that reveals her dramatic prowess. Directed by Roy Ward Baker, this psychological thriller delves into the complexities of gender, power, and mental instability.

Jed Towers: Hello. Are you the girl in 809?

Nell Forbes: Why, yes. Who is

[Jed answers before Nell finishes her question]

Jed Towers: I'm the guy in 821, across the court. Can I ask you a question?

Nell Forbes: I don't know; I suppose so. Are you sure you want me?

Jed Towers: Yeah, you're the one I want, all right. Are you doing anything you couldn't be doing better with somebody else?

Nell Forbes: I guess I'll have to hang up!

Jed Towers: Why? You cant get hurt on a telephone.

Nell Forbes: Who are you?

Jed Towers: I told you. The man across the way; a lonely soul.

Nell Forbes: You sound peculiar.

Jed Towers: I'm not peculiar; I'm just frustrated. And I got a bottle of rye. And as I was saying, what are you doing?

Nell Forbes: What's your name?

Jed Towers: Uh... Billy.

Nell Forbes: Oh...

Jed Towers: What's the matter? Don't you like Billy?

The gender follies within Don't Bother To Knock (1952) are solid noir playmaking, showing in the full bluntness of the black and white light of the early 1950s, a set of influential, lively, potent display of manners that will mortify in the modern minds of many.

Read the above cinema pick-up between Richard Widmark and Marilyn Monroe and establish if that ever happened in real life, we can only hope not and that it is a model established only this one time as a variation on courtship, here between the predatory and the vulnerable.

Anne Bancroft is a straight-up depressed louche lovely studded leather wrist-guard lounge singer, trapped in the movie mould of the lost woman, tied to the hotel lounge, tied to the bar, and most of all tied in the most tired fashion to the men of the city, including randy player and pilot on the prowl Richard Widmark. He's good with dogs and has a great trick with — early product placement — Life Savers — to endear himself to a Dalmatian who later performs a similar trick when an elevator passenger stands on his tail. 

Elisha Cook Jr. in Don't Bother To Knock (1952)

Bancroft's character is not central to the focal noir of Don't Bother To Knock (1952) but provides the moral compass usually lacking in the other characters in the noir-o-verse. She sings and lounges and takes requests on discrete pieces of paper and she knows all the songs of New York.

Monroe portrays Nell Forbes, a fragmented personality with a blank expression. Her face registers sadness, fear, and rage with credibility. This role defies the conventional "dumb blonde" stereotype, showcasing Monroe's range beyond glamour.

Nell oscillates between an introverted waif and someone ruthless, even dangerous. Her descent into madness mirrors societal expectations placed upon women: to be both nurturing and submissive while concealing inner turmoil.

Nell's role as a babysitter is significant. Babysitters often symbolize female caretaking roles, reinforcing traditional gender norms. However, Nell subverts this archetype by becoming a threat to the child she watches.

The film questions the assumption that women are inherently nurturing. Nell's instability challenges the idea that motherhood or caregiving is universally fulfilling.

Anne Bancroft's character, Lyn Lesley, serves as a foil to Nell. Lyn is a lounge singer, confident and independent. Her career choice defies societal expectations for women.

Lyn's presence highlights the contrast between Nell's fragility and Lyn's resilience. It suggests that women can exist beyond predefined roles.

Richard Widmark plays pilot Jed Towers, who pursues Nell. His pursuit mirrors male entitlement, assuming he can possess any woman he desires.

The film critiques the power dynamics between men and women. Jed's pursuit of Nell becomes a dangerous game, emphasizing the vulnerability of women in such situations.

Nell's backstory involves losing her pilot boyfriend in the war. Her trauma manifests in her fragile mental state.

The film subtly suggests that societal expectations and male dominance contribute to Nell's breakdown. Her vulnerability is exploited by those around her.

The film also explores compassion. Jed shows kindness to Nell, unaware of her instability. His actions demonstrate how empathy can impact someone struggling with mental health.

This theme reinforces the idea that women need support and understanding, especially when facing emotional turmoil.

Don't Bother to Knock challenges gender norms, portrays complex female characters, and critiques power imbalances. Monroe's performance transcends her iconic image, revealing the depth of her talent. As we revisit classic cinema, let's celebrate films like this that offer feminist perspectives beyond the surface glamour. With just 900 words, we've merely scratched the surface of this thought-provoking gem of classic film noir.

Richard Widmark in Don't Bother To Knock (1952)

Don't Bother To Knock (1952) as class and classic film noir, it might be worth researching which lists this film is on. The true facts are naked in the hotel corridors, lobbies, lounge bars, bedrooms, bathrooms, elevators and front desks of nor as revealed in the motion picture's real shipping taglines which are as follows:

SHE'S DYNAMITE! It Opens the Door on the Screen's Most Exciting New Personality---MARILYN MONROE

Hungry for Love! A lonely guy...a girl on the make!

MARILYN MONROE - in the role that fits her like a black negligee!!

A lonely girl...a guy at loose ends...passionately alone...hungry for romance!

20th Century-Fox's pulsing drama

In the loneliness of the night - she opened her door and reached out to the first stranger passing by!

You never met her type before...

...a wicked sensation as the lonely girl in room 809!

Monroe's portrayal of Nell Forbes is a departure from her usual glamorous roles. In this film, she embodies a complex character, revealing layers of vulnerability and inner turmoil. Here's a closer look at her performance:

Nell oscillates between fragility and resilience. Her face, often devoid of expression, conveys a haunting sadness. Yet, beneath this fragile exterior lies a simmering rage. This duality mirrors the societal expectations placed upon women: to be both nurturing and submissive while concealing their inner struggles.

Monroe defies the prevailing "dumb blonde" stereotype associated with her. Nell's complexity challenges the notion that beauty and vulnerability are mutually exclusive. Monroe's performance transcends mere aesthetics, revealing her dramatic depth.

Anne Bancroft in Don't Bother To Knock (1952)

Nell's role as a babysitter is significant. Traditionally, babysitters symbolize female caretaking roles. However, Nell subverts this archetype. Instead of nurturing, she becomes a threat to the child she watches. This subversion questions the assumption that women are inherently maternal or nurturing.

By portraying a babysitter on the edge of sanity, Monroe disrupts the norm. Nell's instability challenges the idea that motherhood or caregiving is universally fulfilling. It suggests that women can exist beyond predefined roles, even within seemingly mundane professions.

Interesting male slur included in Don't Bother To Knock (1952):

Eddie Forbes: You smell like a cooch dancer!

  • Miriam Webster
  • noun
  • variants or cootch 
  • ˈküch
  • plural-es
  • : a dance performed by women that was once common in carnivals and fairs and marked by a sinuous and often suggestive twisting and shaking of the torso and limbs
  • a roving carnival cooch dancer
  • —Frank Barton
  • a circus cooch show

Jed Towers: Another rye, please. You married?

Joe the Bartender: Sure. Who's not?

Jed Towers: You and your wife fight... argue all the time?

Joe the Bartender: Some of the time she sleeps.

Jed Towers: Seventy-eight percent of the pilots in Skyway Airlines are married. Ya' see, you get married, you become a statistic.

Joe the Bartender: Yeah... Stay single, and you wind up talkin' to bartenders.

Jed Towers: [to elevator operator] You're lucky to have such a steady job.

Eddie Forbes: Oh - it has its ups and downs - most people laugh at that one, sir.

Nell Forbes: You look so different in those clothes.

Eddie Forbes: I'm different all the time.

Nell Forbes: Did you fly a bomber during the war?

Jed Towers: Who didn't?

Bunny Jones: To the automatic?

Peter Jones: No, sweetie, the Automat.

Bunny Jones: Where they have food that you put in a nickel and it comes out like music in a jukebox?

Peter Jones: Right.

Jed Towers: I said: "Look, I believe in a drink, a kiss, and a laugh now and then." That's the way it'd be. "Fine," she said, I can hear her saying it now. "Fine, I like to laugh."

Lyn Lesley: I still like to laugh... but not at myself. I just don't want it any more. Life's too long.

Jed Towers: All right, I'll send you a valentine. What *do* you want? Hearts and flowers? Forever and ever? Love?

Lyn Lesley: Don't be afraid to say it; it's not a dirty word.

There was something unsettling about her — an otherworldly quality that might have put audiences off, if she hadn’t also seemed rather innocent and nice (like all our favourite extra-terrestrials). The problem lay in the persona she had crafted: Marilyn Monroe. 

Undeniably odd, she radiated a glow that was both real and remarkable. But was all that wattage, that insistent radiance, solely about sex? Probably. Yet, at first glance, she seemed to belong in a noir film, doing bad and sexy things — if she belonged anywhere.

Her first major leading role came in the low-budget thriller Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) alongside Richard Widmark. Ann Bancroft played a nightclub singer in the same film, but it was Monroe who took top billing as the Dangerous Woman. 

Not a conniver, but a psycho—a loony babysitter trying on another woman’s negligees and menacing a child in a hotel room. In the end, she’s gently led away by the hero and his “normal” girlfriend (Widmark and Bancroft). Monroe’s role demanded both scariness and pathos, but these weren’t the aspects her fans wanted to dwell on, and the movie didn’t achieve much success.

Richard Widmark's character, pilot Jed Towers, relentlessly pursues Nell. His pursuit mirrors male entitlement, assuming he can possess any woman he desires. This dynamic underscores the vulnerability of women in such situations.

Nell's backstory involves losing her pilot boyfriend in the war. Her trauma manifests in her fragile mental state. The film subtly suggests that societal expectations and male dominance contribute to Nell's breakdown. Her vulnerability becomes a weapon wielded by those around her.

Jed shows kindness to Nell, unaware of her instability. His actions demonstrate how empathy can impact someone struggling with mental health. This theme reinforces the idea that women need support and understanding, especially when facing emotional turmoil.

Anne Bancroft's character, Lyn Lesley, serves as a counterpoint. Lyn, a confident lounge singer, contrasts with Nell's fragility. Her presence highlights the resilience of women who defy societal norms.

Mrs. Emma Ballew: After all, if anything dreadful is going on upstairs, it's our duty to do something about it.

Mr. Ballew: [Preoccupied with his stamp collection] Don't be a peeping pansy. Leave 'em alone.

Mrs. Emma Ballew: I think we should call the house detective.

Mr. Ballew: Huh. That one! He couldn't detect a monk in a convent!

Mrs. Emma Ballew: Well, heaven only knows what's going on right across the way.

Lyn Lesley: I'm not angry; I'm just furious.

[Last lines]

Lyn Lesley: [Watching Nell being led away] Jed, you care what happens to that girl, don't you.

Jed Towers: She didn't want to hurt the kid. She didn't wanna hurt anybody.

Lyn Lesley: [Lyn taking Jed by the arm] You do care.

Lyn Lesley: [Walking slowly arm in arm] Come on, I'd like to buy you that drink now.

Lyn Lesley: [singing] We'll have Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island too, It's lovely going through, The zoo...

Eddie Forbes: You been here as long as I have, you take an interest in things outside the elevator. Would you like lipstick tissue? Sometimes they forget to leave them in the rooms.

Ruth Jones: Well, thank you.

Eddie Forbes: That's a $5 idea! They just got hold of it last week.

Jed Towers: Female race is always cheesing up my life.

Eddie Forbes: I just got the wind knocked out of me.

Jed Towers: You're wrong, boy. You almost got the brains bashed out of you.

Bunny Jones: Are you tattooed?

Nell Forbes: No. Are you?

Bunny Jones: Not now. But I'm gonna be when I grow up.

Jed Towers: You know, I met a girl right here - right here at this bar, six months ago. Six months and a week. I asked her to sing a song. She did. And it gave me gooseflesh and notions.

Janey: He's like my husband. He's mean, but, he don't - mean it.

Jed Towers: What's been wrong with it?

Lyn Lesley: Nothing much. It's what was going to be wrong with it. Call it the old blank wall. The future without a future.

Jed Towers: Little Miss Larceny.

Lyn Lesley: She's a nice kid, Jed.

Jed Towers: Reminds me of a chicken thief I used to know.

Nell Forbes: I like you.

Jed Towers: Thanks.

Nell Forbes: I'll probably dream about you tonight.

Jed Towers: Don't be rash.

Suicide in film noir - - Don't Bother To Knock (1952)

Jed Towers: You're a gal with a lot of variations.

Nell Forbes: I haven't had earrings on for three years. All through high school, I never had a dress to wear out at night. If I liked a boy, my folks would whip me. When I went away from them, I didn't cry. A month ago, I came here on a bus from Oregon. At night on the highway, we'd pass those big trucks with those little lights all over them - like Christmas trees. And then I was here. I'd walk down the street, look in the beautiful stores. Eddie calls it "window-wishing." Then I got this job tonight.

[looks down at negligee she's wearing]

Nell Forbes: And this was hanging up. And the earrings. I couldn't help it. I was gonna put them back.

Jed Towers: I'm sorry I made fun of you. Things will be better. They even up, bad breaks, good breaks.

Nell Forbes: If you go, then none of it can be true.

Jed Towers: None of what? Half the time, I don't know what you're talking about.

Jed Towers: I can't figure you out. You're silk on one side and sandpaper on the other.

Nell Forbes: I'll be any way you want me to be.

Eddie Forbes: Why are you so restless? You're ticking like a clock!

Eddie Forbes: I've been an elevator jockey for 14 years. Ain't that enough to get out of life without any more trouble?

Marilyn Monroe in Don't Bother To Knock (1952)

Nell Forbes: He tries to get tough. He doesn't have any respect what people really want. I know what I mean.

Jed Towers: You mean he hasn't got an understanding heart.

Nell Forbes: Yes, that's it exactly. He's not the way you are at all.

Marilyn Monroe's performance in Don't Bother to Knock transcends her image. Through Nell Forbes, she challenges stereotypes, critiques power imbalances, and portrays the complexities of female experience. This film invites us to explore the hidden depths behind the glamour, reminding us that every woman's story is layered and multifaceted. Did AI write that last line there or what? Sounds like it. Classic film noir.   .

Jeanne Cagney in Don't Bother To Knock (1952)

Don't Bother to Knock (1952)

Directed by Roy Ward Baker

Genres - Drama, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller  |   Release Date - Jul 18, 1952 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 76 min.  |  Wikipedia Don't Bother to Knock (1952)

Marilyn: Behind the Icon – Don’t Bother to Knock.

Don't Bother to Knock (1952) - FilmAffinity.

Blu-ray Review: Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) - cinematic randomness.

Don't Bother to Knock - Wikipedia.

Film noir and the female body with Marilyn Monroe in Don't Bother To Knock (1952)

No comments:

Post a Comment