Forever Marilyn: The Blu-ray Collection (Blu-ray Review)

Celebrate the life, the legend and the beauty of Marilyn Monroe. The iconic blonde bombshell shines in high definition in Forever Marilyn: The Blu-ray Collection. With classics like The Misfits and Some Like It Hot as well as new-to-Blu-ray titles How to Marry A Millionaire, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Seven Year Itch, There’s No Business Like Show Business and River of No Return this unique set of films, those that made Marilyn a star, is a collector’s dream. Marking the 50th anniversary of the passing of this Hollywood legend, the seven disc collection will be available as a Blu-ray set and individual titles beginning July 20th Internationally (Germany) and on July 31st in North America from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.


There’s a few movie stars whose entire persona is so dazzling that no matter what kind of role they take, their essential star power goes with them. Stars like Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, Errol Flynn, and of course Marilyn Monroe, just to name a few, were always able to retain their larger than life personas even in bad movies. Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson) had a rough early life in foster homes before she was able to slowly climb the Hollywood ladder to success. From modeling to super-stardom, Monroe carved out a one of a kind career and has been labeled the sixth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. This box set covers her best years in Hollywood during the 1950s when her prominence grew from co-star to top-liner. While this set doesn’t include all of her hits, it can be reasonably described as her “greatest hits” package and one that her fans will be happy to buy. Here are the movies included in this set:

There’s No Business Like Show Business

This delightful Irving Berlin musical – featuring Marilyn Monroe, a stellar cast and an array of dazzling, upbeat production numbers – is a showstopper on Blu-ray. Co-starring with Ethel Merman, Donald O’Connor, Dan Dailey, Johnnie Ray, and Mitzi Gaynor, Marilyn plays an ambitious and beautiful showgirl named Vicky, who catches the eye of Tim, a son in the veteran vaudeville family act known as the Five Donahues. But when Vicky steals Tim’s heart, his loyalties to his talented clan will be tested and the show business life will prove to be more surprising and entertaining than anyone thought possible.

This movie is without a doubt is the one that offers the biggest spectacle thanks to its huge showstopping production numbers. This is a very entertaining musical dramedy about the life and careers of the Donahue family that shows the family’s professional and personal ups and downs. The movie is perfectly cast in each role and you can tell that the cast had a ball making this film. Directed with flair by Walter Lang and filled with some fantastic choreography by Jack Cole and wonderfully filmed by Leon Shamroy, this movie is one of the highlights of this set and one that I hadn’t seen before now. The best part of the movie for me was the multiple song and dance sequences that flow from one to another very impressively. The cast performs “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” which is sung in differently themed versions that include Sweden, Austria, Scotland, Paris, and more in a succession of incredible numbers done by each of the cast members taking a turn. Although Marilyn Monroe has the smallest role in the movie, she is effective during her limited screen time.

The River of No Return

This sweeping adventure filled with thrilling suspense and spectacular scenery offer a very different movie from the others in this set. Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum star as a dance hall singer and widowed farmer who both become victims of a treacherous gambler. Abandoned in the Northwest wilderness, Kay (Monroe), Matt (Mitchum) and Matt’s young son face a host of untold dangers, including relentless Indian attacks and a perilous journey down a raging river. Fighting for survival and justice in the rugged terrain, Kay and Matt form an unexpected bond as they both realize there’s no turning back.

This movie represented a departure from the roles Monroe usually played and this movie definitely stands apart from the rest of the other movies in this set. While the script and direction are uneven, the performances by Monroe, Mitchum, and Rory Calhoun are good. Despite being a child actor, Tommy Rettig was also good in his role as the young son who is coming to terms with his absentee father who has re-entered his life. There’s a lot of rear screen projection during the river scenes but there’s still a lot of great on location footage which makes this movie better than it normally would’ve been.

Monroe gets to show off a more natural and less glamorous look and manages to get a couple of nice songs in the movie as well. The movie had the makings of something better than it ended up being, but thanks to some questionable character choices (including making the polite and gentlemanly Matt force himself on Kay) they really undermine the movie. Monroe (who had fought with director Otto Preminger throughout the shoot) also thought it should have been a lot better saying, “I think I deserve a better deal than a grade Z cowboy movie in which the acting finished second to the scenery and the CinemaScope process.” It’s still a fun adventure to watch, but then again, I’m always a sucker for rafting adventure movies in the wild.

The Seven Year Itch

Featuring one of the most iconic images in cinema history, this classic Billy Wilder comedy classic stars Marilyn Monroe, who lights up the screen as a voluptuous actress known only as “The Girl,” who moves into the apartment above a married man named Richard (Tom Ewell). While Richard’s wife and son are away for the summer, his marriage vows are put to the ultimate test by The Girl’s sexy charm and unwitting flirtations. Will the smitten Richard stay faithful or will he succumb to “the seven year itch”?

The Seven Year Itch has always been my favorite Marilyn Monroe movie up until I watched this set. Now, it’s gotten a lot tougher to pick the top movie, but this movie is still incredibly sexy and very funny.  By this point in time, Monroe had perfected her singular sexy blonde routine and she was so beautiful and enticing that you just feel for poor married Richard whose attraction to her resembles a moth to the flame.  Tom Ewell (who also played the same role on Broadway to great acclaim), is perfect as the hapless Richard who spends the entire movie talking, contradicting, and fretting to himself to great comic effect.  I hadn’t seen this movie for about twenty years and it was interesting to watch again now that I’m married and have a son which adds a new understanding and appreciation for the movie. The screenplay by Billy Wilder (who also directed this flawlessly) and George Axelrod (from his own play) is fantastic and very funny and realistic.  Watching Richard struggle between temptation and virtue to see which one will win out is funny.   This is pretty much a perfect movie!

Some Like It Hot

When Chicago musicians Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) accidentally witness a gangland shooting, they decide to get out of town and quickly board a south-bound train to Florida, disguised as Josephine and Daphne, the two newest and homeliest members of an all-girl jazz band. Their cover is perfect… until they meet an unlucky in love singer (Marilyn Monroe) who makes them both want to break their cover. This madcap farce was nominated for six Academy Awards and was later voted the Greatest American Comedy Film of All Time by the American Film Institute in 2000. The film did win the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy and Marilyn Monroe won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in Musical or Comedy, and Jack Lemmon won as well for Best Actor in Musical or Comedy.

This movie has a superb cast with its lost but not forgotten stars – Monroe, Lemmon, and Curtis who all did a fantastic job in this movie. Monroe ramps up her usual sex appeal with an endearing performance of a sweet and not too bright desperate young woman who is searching for someone that will care about her. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could have played the role any better than her. Curtis and Lemmon make a great comedy team and their transformation into women is very funny although Lemmon’s Jokeresque laugh as Daphne and Curtis’ constant pursed lips did get a little annoying. Despite those small distractions, both of them were very funny in their roles especially Lemmon’s character’s succumbing to his role as Daphne enough that he accepts a wedding proposal from his elderly suitor in a very funny scene. Curtis also does a great job in his three different roles but I think I liked him best as the psuedo Cary Grant where he cleverly pushes Sugar away in a fashion that only makes her want him more.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Featuring Marilyn Monroe’s legendary rendition of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” this fun musical comedy stars Marilyn and Jane Russell as two showgirls who set sail on a luxury liner bound for France. Hi-jinks on the high seas ensue as Lorelei (Monroe) and Dorothy (Russell) discover they’re being tailed by a private detective hired by the father of Lorelei’s landlocked boyfriend. By the time the ship reaches Paris, a missing diamond tiara lands the girls in hot water, but by following their hearts, they’ll get out of trouble and on to the altar.

This was another Monroe film that I had never seen for some reason but I’m glad I finally did as it was one of her better roles.  Even though her character Lorelei is a manipulative gold digger, Monroe’s inherent sweetness keeps the character sympathetic and relatable.  Even though Monroe is second billed in this movie, it’s really her movie as she steals every scene that she’s in, even with the lovely Jane Russell next to her.  Russell never really had a chance since the camera always loved Monroe and you can’t keep your eyes off her.  Both of them are very good in their parts, but watching the movie it’s inescapable to notice that the movie was the perfect springboard for Monroe to get even bigger parts.  There’s some excellent songs in this (especially “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”) and some great numbers for Russell and Monroe to do together during their act. They also benefit from a strong supporting cast of great character actors too and some superb direction from the versatile Howard Hawks.

How To Marry A Millionaire

One of the first movies filmed in glorious Cinemascope, this funny and sexy romantic comedy stars Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable as three gorgeous models who concoct a wild scheme to marry rich men. The girls rent a lavish Manhattan penthouse to lure wealthy bachelors, but things go uproariously awry when they actually end up falling in love!  They soon discover the road to romance is filled with hilarious twists as their new suitors reveal surprises none of them saw coming.

This was the weakest film in this set for me despite the stellar cast involved in it. Maybe because of that cast I had my expectations set too high, but this movie was just ho-hum.  The script wasn’t as sharp as it should’ve been and unlike the characters in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, these women are less sympathetic and more interested in money over love.  Of course, over time that will change as they each discover love is more important to them than money, but it takes a long time to get there.  The ringleader of this group is Lauren Bacall’s character who is kind of a ruthless shrew for most of the movie.  Betty Grable’s character spends most of the movie’s time whining about something, which really got annoying to hear.  Once again, the movie is saved by Marilyn Monroe’s sweet-natured character who is the most likable of the group. Even hidden behind some ugly grandma glasses, Monroe’s beauty still shines through.

The Misfits

Directed by the legendary John Huston (The Maltese Falcon) from a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize winner Arthur Miller, The Misfits has made its debut on Blu-ray. Divorced and disillusioned, Roslyn Tabor (Marilyn Monroe) befriends a group of misfits, including an aging cowboy (Clark Gable), a heartbroken mechanic (Eli Wallach) and a worn-out rodeo rider (Montgomery Clift). Through their live-for-the-moment lifestyle, Roslyn experiences her first taste of freedom, exhilaration and passion. But when her innocent idealism clashes with their hard-edged practicality, conflicts are bound to happen which can change everything.

This film is famous for its behind the scenes trouble which has been elevated to mythic heights due to the people involved in it. Those difficulties also resulted in the disjointed feel of the movie with a third act that should have been better. Because of that, poor Thelma Ritter’s role just disappears without an explanation or reason. The script was written by Arthur Miller for his wife Marilyn Monroe but by the time the movie premiered, they were getting divorced. Their personal difficulties slowly seemed into the script which feels highly biographical for both Monroe and Gable.

Despite the issues with her husband, this role did show Marilyn in a different way than her traditional roles did and it feels honest and is most likely the closest to her actual personality. Gable’s role as the old cowboy who can’t believe life has changed so much and passed him by seemed real to him and could possibly even a metaphor for the way Hollywood and it’s stars were changing at the time. Gable felt that this role was his finest performance and without a doubt it’s his most vulnerable. Director John Huston did some amazing work on this film despite the accounts that later claimed that he spent much of the production either gambling, drunk, or asleep. Between his breaks and Monroe’s tendency to show up later for shooting, it’s a wonder this turned out as well as it did. Clift, who was so good in Red River, is also very good in the small but integral role as Perce, as is Wallach as Guido, which is a role he could do in his sleep.


All seven of these movies have benefited greatly from being upgraded to Blu-ray.  How to Marry A Millionaire (2.55:1) is the worst looking film of the set with rough transitions and some blurriness that was most likely caused from being the very first Cinemascope movie filmed and they hadn’t worked out the kinks in getting the foreground and background elements in focus as well as they did later. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1.37:1) looks great and is full of bright colors, The Seven Year Itch (2.55:1), and There’s No Business Like Show Business (2.55:1) offers a very nice transfer that looks a lot better than the previous DVD release. River of No Return (2.56:1) and The Misfits (1.66:1) offer better than average transfers while Some Like it Hot (1.66:1) fares better.


All seven films have been shown some love and have been upgraded to a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix with the exception of The Misfits which has a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix.  These are all primarily front channel centric mixes because of the age of the films but they all sound very good.  I think There’s No Business Like Show Business fares the best out of the group which is a nice bonus considering that the film contains wall to wall music and dance sequences.  Dialogue across all of the discs is clear, crisp, and clean which is impressive considering how old these films are.  I didn’t notice any age-related sound issues either, which usually plague these older releases.  I think fans will be pretty happy with how these films turned out.


My biggest issue with this set is the lack of extras as the only constant is that each movie in the set comes with the trailer that was released for it. Three of the movies – There’s No Business Like Show Business, How to Marry a Millionaire, and The Misfits also contain a Movietone Newsreel. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes includes the trailer and a Movietone Newsreel showing Monroe and Russel placing their hand-prints in cement on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Only two films (The Misfits and The Seven Year Itch) have the kind of extras which I wish had been awarded to all of the other releases. Here are the extras for those two films:

The Misfits:

  • Audio Commentary – This is an interesting commentary track since it’s been pieced together from many different sources and combined into one track. There’s commentary by I.A.L. Diamond’s son Paul Diamond, screen-writing partners Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (of Splash fame), and some snippets from past interviews with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. I enjoyed this commentary track but I wish that a new track had been recorded by Wilder, Lemmon, and Curtis before they died.
  • The Making of Some Like It Hot A look back at the making of the movie with the cast and crew of the movie including: Billy Wilder, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, I.A.L. Diamond, and more. We learn some interesting facts like before Lemmon got the role of Jerry/Daphne, it was offered to Frank Sinatra (who was cut once he stood up Wilder for a meeting). It’s obvious that this film meant a lot to everyone involved especially for Wilder, Lemmon, and Curtis who
  • The Legacy of Some Like It HotA short featurette about the impact of the film that was recorded partly during the 25th Anniversary celebration at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego where it was originally filmed. Director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) takes us on a studio back-lot tour of where Wilder worked and shares some interesting anecdotes of his time spent with Wilder.
  • “Nostalgic Look Back” Documentary – A talk at the Formosa Cafe between Leonard Maltin and Tony Curtis where they discuss the making of the film. Tony Curtis is a natural raconteur but he changes the facts of a couple of stories that are all captured on this disc which makes you wonder which parts are correct but he is so gracious it doesn’t really matter.
  • Memories from the Sweet Sues Featurette – Four of the girls from the ”Society Syncopaters” get together to talk about the movie, the stars, and their fond memories of Marilyn Monroe.
  • Virtual Hall of Memories – This is a CGI hallway with portraits of the stars, the director, and one for some behind the scenes shots. Each picture leads to a collection of clips and photos of whomever is selected. This is a nice way to go back and see the highlights of each performance but it’s not really necessary since you can skip to them on the disc anyway but the photos included are a nice bonus.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The theatrical trailer in high definition.

The Seven Year Itch:

  • Isolated Score (in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
  • Commentary by Author Kevin Lally – This commentary track from Billy Wilder’s biographer Kevin Lally is interesting and insightful as he clearly knows a lot about Wilder and his films. He discusses the making of the movie and the constant fight with the ratings board who felt the movie was too racy.
  • The Hays Code: Picture-in-Picture with Sexual Innuendo Meter – I found this extra to be a little silly but it shows some Hays Code trivia in a pop up window that is triggered by events on screen. There’s also some interview bits mixed in but I would have preferred a featurette than this.
  • Marilyn Monroe Interactive Timeline – This is a text and video timeline that charts Monroe’s career which you can explore further by hitting the “enter” button.
  • Monroe and Wilder: An Intersection of Genius – A featurette that lasts almost a half an hour, this retrospective look at Monroe includes her co-stars, friends, and more including Hugh Hefner.
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents Fox Legacy with Tom Rothman – 20th Century Fox fixture Tom Rothman talks about the history of the film. The info is interesting enough but someone else should present it.
  • Deleted Scenes – The two deleted scenes include the bathtub sequence that was mentioned but not seen in the final cut of the movie and an alternate take of Monroe’s skirt getting blown up by the subway.
  • Hollywood Backstories: The Seven Year ItchAnother interesting thirty minute look back at the movie which covers a lot of the same ground as the others but I still enjoyed it.
  • Publicity – Movietone Newsreels and trailers.
  • Still Galleries – Self-playing photos from the film.


She could sing, she could dance, and she was staggeringly beautiful. There’s never been someone like Marilyn Monroe and I doubt we will see another like her again. Despite her onscreen portrayal of a fuzzy thinking blonde, she was anything but as you can tell how shrewd she was by looking at the collaborators she chose to work with. Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, Clark Gable, Robert Mitchum, Montgomery Clift, Lauren Bacall, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Donald O’Connor were just some of them. This set perfectly showcases Monroe’s various talents and appeal and these movies have never looked or sounded better than they do now on Blu-ray. This set is highly recommended!

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2 Responses to “Forever Marilyn: The Blu-ray Collection (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    Looks like a great set here! Great recap, Sean!

  2. Sean Ferguson

    Thanks Brian!