Film Review of Don’t Bother to Knock: Breaking and Mending Hearts and Minds in The Big Apple
New York can be as alienating or exciting as the sane or troubled people who live, visit or work there. It is a place of oblivion, opportunity or ostracism for people in search of second chances. The film “Don’t Bother to Knock” looks compassionately but realistically at second chances which pan out for some but not for others.
Don’t Bother to Knock is a thriller which benefits from black-and-white filming, compelling plot, convincing acting, and effective set designs.
The 76-minute black-and-white film begins with the up-and-down relationship between hotel bar singer Lyn Lesley (played by Anne Bancroft) and airplane pilot Jed Towers (played by Richard Widmark). Contrasting interactions quickly emerge with introverted Nell Forbes (played by Marilyn Monroe) and the married couple, Peter and Ruth Jones (played by Jim Backus and Lurene Tuttle).
The Joneses are staying in New York’s McKinley Hotel. They look forward to an evening in the hotel banquet hall. But what will they do about their daughter Bunny (played by Donna Corcoran)?
The fateful consequence of that simple question is at the heart of Don’t Bother to Knock, written by Daniel Taradash; produced by Julian Blaustein; and directed by Roy Ward Baker. Twentieth Century-Fox released the film on July 18, 1952. The plot subsequently was recycled in a more complicated way and with a much more disturbed characterization of Marilyn’s character in the made-for-TV movie The Sitter (1991).
Mr. and Mrs. Jones accept the recommendation of the hotel elevator operator Eddie (played by Elisha Cook Jr.) to hire his niece Nell as babysitter. Nell makes short shrift of her charge in order to wear Mrs. Jones’ clothes, jewelry and make-up. The dress-up provokes destabilizing interactions with Lyn’s ex, Nell’s Uncle Eddie, and the Jones girl. The Ballews (played by Donn Beddoe and Verna Felton), long-term hotel residents, speak to the hotel detective about the strange happenings on the eighth floor. The police take Nell away, and Lyn takes Jed back.
Some movie-goers are unacquainted with Don’t Bother to Knock. The unfamiliarity comes as no surprise. The role of a troubled young girl is atypical of Marilyn’s portfolio of generally comedic parts in her last eight years as an actress. Marilyn nevertheless manages a skilled interpretation of a pretty girl who is dangerous in her mental instability, indiscriminate in her revenge, and unaware of reality. She offers a similarly adept interpretation of an adulterous, conniving wife in the following year’s Niagara (1953).
Don’t Bother to Knock begins as a dark movie whose black-and-white filming foreshadows the cynical stances and shadowy depths which alienated individuals maintain and plumb. But it ends up illustrating why Anne’s character finds an understanding heart essential in life and love. The film will continue to attract viewers with its unique contributions to movie history: Anne’s (1931-2005) film debut and Marilyn’s (1926-1962) first dramatic role.
Copyright: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 by Derdriu