Bus Stop (1956): Starring Marilyn Monroe in Strongest Dramatic Performance

Joshua Logan’s comedic melodrama, “Bus Stop,” offers Marilyn Monroe one of her richest roles as Cherie, an Ozark saloon singer with big Hollywood aspirations.  Looking great, Monroe, just after studying at the Actor’s Studio, gets to display her voluptuous body as well as sexy singing with the number, “That Old Black Magic.”  It’s a role that embodies her best-known qualities: physical radiance along with emotional vulnerability.

Adapted to the screen by George Axelrod from William Inge’s play, Logan’s movie is still too theatrical, but it’s never boring due to the gallery of colorful characters—and Monroe’s performance, which is the main reason to see the movie.

In an Oscar-nominated turn (his only one), Don Murray plays Beauregard (‘Bo”), a young, handsome swaggering cowboy, essentially a country bumpkin who arrives in Phoenix, Arizona for a rodeo, though he seems more interested in getting himself an “angel” for a wife, and what better choice than Cherie—or so he deludes himself.

Bo and Cherie meet at the shabby club where she is singing.  When he bullies the noisy, uninterested patrons into a respectful listening during Cherie’s number, he is rewarded with an innocent kiss of appreciations, which the rambunctious cowboy misinterprets as declaration of love.

Soon, defying her wishes, Bo insists on dragging Cherie off to get married.  To escape him, Cherie boards a bus heading out of town.  However, when the bus gets caught in a snowstorm, forcing the passengers to stay overnight at a roadside bus station, Bo finds out that it’s not that easy to win women’s heart.

George Axlerod also wrote another Monroe’s vehicle, “The Seven-Year-Itch,” directed by Billy Wilder, which like “Bus Stop” also is based on a play.

The film boasts an excellent supporting cast, including Arthur O’Connell as Virgil, Beau’s loyal sidekick, Eileen Heckart, Hope Lange (Murray’s future real-life wife) and Betty Field.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Supporting Actor: Don Murray

Oscar Context

The winner was Anthony Quinn for Vincente Minnelli’s Van Gogh biopic, “Lust for Life.”  This is Don Murray’s only Oscar nomination, which he received for his very first film. In 1974, Murray made a docu, The Sex Symbol,” about his co-star in that picture, Marilyn Monroe.

 

 

 

Cast

 

 

 

Cherie (Marilyn Monroe)

 

Beauregard ‘Bo’ Decker (Don Murray)

 

Virgil Blessing (Arthur O’Connell)

 

Grace (Betty Field)

 

Vera (Eileen Heckart)

 

Carl (Robert Bray)

 

Elma Duckworth (Hope Lange)

 

Life Magazine Photographer (Hans Conried)

 

Life Magazine Reporter (Max Shwalter)

 

Crew

 

Produced by Buddy Adler

 

Directed by Joshua Logan

 

Screenplay: George Axelrod, based on William Inge’s play

 

Camera: Milton Mrasner

 

Music: Alfred Newman, Cyril J. Mockridge