Celebrating Marilyn Monroe: Star’s Most Seductive Song, ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’

Celebrating Marilyn Monroe: Today, August 4, marks the 60th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death of presumably (but not surely) drug overdose on August 4, 1962.

“Let’s Make Love” is George Cukor’s third musical movie, after  the 1954 “A Star Is Born,” with Judy Garland, and the 1958 “Les Girls,” with Gene Kelly.

It became his first, and only completed, picture with Marilyn Monroe; the star died of drug overdose, August 4, 1962 during the production of Something’s Got to Give, starring Dean Martin, which was unfinished.

However, “Star Is Born” was such a distinguished drama with music, artistically and commercially, that it cast a shadow on Cukor’s subsequent attempts.
Like “Heller in Pink Tights,” with Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn, “Let’s Make Love” is a light film, albeit one with serious thematic overtones and strong artistic values.
Initially known as “The Billionaire,” the musical is based on a negligible plot. A French billionaire-playboy, Jean-Marc Clement (Yves Montand), learns that an off-Broadway company is planning a satirical review of him. Offended, Jean-Marc intends to take legal action to stop the show. 
However, upon meeting (i.e, glaring and noticing) the qualities of the leading lady, Amanda Dell (Marilyn Monroe), he changes his mind. Instantly infatuated with Amanda, he passes himself off as a down-at-the-heels actor, who “just happens” to bear resemblance to Jean-Marc Clement.
The rest of the film describes the preparation of the show and Jean-Marc Clement romance with Amanda.  The chemistry between the two stars, who also had an affair off-screen, is predictably notable.
Though the material is slight, the film features one of Cukor’s dominant themes, the magical pull of show business and how it affects–both positively and negatively–the lives of its “dream” practitioners, especially the new, young and beginners.
Cukor gives stronger visual attention to the theatrical setting in Greenwich Village than to the characters’ personalities. He conveys the chaos of rehearsal, the confusion of activities of a company in the midst of putting on a show, the excitement of performing.
In the end, the spirit of play and theatricality conquer Jean-Marc Clement and shake his bureaucratic world, captured by Cukor in a long shot of his formal office.
In this film, Cukor shows again his expertness in constructing special entrances for his female stars. Monroe’s introduction begins with her legs shinnying down a pole at center stage; she is rehearsing her big number, the Cole Porter classic, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” Cukor alternates shots of Amanda and an all-male chorus, emphasizing the smooth whiteness of Monroe’s skin and shining blonde hair. Lighting is a key factor in this sequence, with spotlights aiming to illuminate even more Monroe’s best-known physical magnetism.
Like other Monroe’s vehicles, the movie encourages voyeurism among the spectators by manipulation, urging them to gaze at the voluptuous figure of the star.  The film puts the viewers in the position of Clement, who is seen in one scene fantasizing about his own performing with Amanda the sexually suggestive songs.
After the Judy Garland vehicle, “A Star Is Born,” Cukor’s mise-en-scene, specifically his use of screen space and color became more pronounced. He began to employ more self-consciously camera movement and color to intensify the impact of songs (and love scenes).
Amanda’s red dress, suggesting her sexuality, is contrasted with her white face, her naivete. The scene in which Amanda’s chiffon dress, moved by a blast of air, billows out from her waist, paid homage to Monroe’s famous image in Billy Wilder’s earlier film with Monroe, “The Seven Year Itch.”
Like other directors, Cukor exploited Monroe’s photogeneity, cashing in on the viewers’ familiarity with her persona–on screen and off.
On May 27, 1960, principal shooting ended, except for the musical numbers. However, once again, Cukor encountered censorship problems. The Legion of Decency gave “Let’s Make Love” a Class B rating, because of its suggestive costumes, dancing, and lyrics.
On June 10, 1960, Frank McCarthy, Fox’s director of Public Relations, asked Cukor to let some censors see a rehearsal of the big number, “Let’s Make Love,” whose lyrics were deemed unacceptable. 
He concurred and two male censors arrived to observe Monroe doing her number.  While Cukor and the crew were nervous about the unwelcome visit, Monroe remained cool and deliberately exaggerated her gestures and movements while performing the song.  After all, she was a pro, who was used at being stared and gazed upon.
The witty Cukor, known for his sharp tongue, later told friends and colleagues, that the censors were glued to their seats, enchanted by Monroe like millions of viewers all over the world. 
And so, at the end, in what seemed like a miracle to Cukor, this truly sexually suggestive number remained intact, without any cuts of words or gestures.
Looking back, it’s Monroe’s most sexually overt delivery of a song, surpassing in its allure her performance of other famous songs, including the notorious “Happy Birthday” song to President John F. Kennedy at the Madison Square Garden.