Don’t Bother to Knock is a film noir from Roy Ward Backer, his first for Hollywood and one of many great noir movies he did. The movie is based on a book by Charlotte Armstrong. This movie has superstar Marilyn Monroe as our most interesting character. Noir great Richard Widmark plays a pilot in town on an over night stay at the hotel. We also get Anne Bancroft in her first film, as the lounge signer Widmark is in love with.
Our story starts with Bancroft sitting at a bar, telling the bartender her troubles with her boyfriend and then the spotlight hits her and she starts singing. We soon meet her boyfriend, the pilot that comes to town from Chicago played by Widmark. They’re relationship is on the rocks and Widmark is trying to save it. We also meet the elevator man played by the great character actor,Elisha Cook Jr., who is taking Monroe up to the 8th floor. We find out he is her uncle and got her a job babysitting. Seems like a pretty average day in the Hotel, but things get stranger and stranger as time goes on.
This film is in real-time, so the events happen in the same amount of time as the film length. This is pretty cool and done very seamlessly. The whole movie also takes place in a high-end hotel, basically the lounge, 2 rooms and the elevator contain all the scenes. This gives you a bit of claustrophobia as the suspense grows through out.
Marilyn Monroe was a popular star at this point. The problem was, she was not know for her acting. Up to this point she just played her lovable self and people ate it up. This was her 18th movie and she made this movie to show she could act, and act she did! This is an amazing performance of a suicidal, mentally disturbed young women, it is not over the top, very real feeling and subtle . At the time critics loved her performance, and I got to say, I did too. Unfortunately looking back at her life, this may have been the real Monroe and she was acting as Marilyn Monroe all the other times she was in the spot light.
This is not as gritty as most film noir but it is just as dark, maybe even more so. If you are a fan of any of the 3 main stars, especially Monroe you should see this. I give it an 8 out of 10, a must see film noir.
3 thoughts on “Review: Don’t Bother to Knock”
Great writeup, but I have to confess I differ from you completely in my assessment of Monroe’s perfo9rmance here: I found it completely unconvincing — as if she’d been hitting the catnip rather than genuinely suffering a breakdown.
For me, what makes the movie great is Widmark.
That is interesting, I really thought Monroe did something original with her performance as somebody mentally ill. I found it more true then most of the over the top performances we get today. Widmark was great and I really liked Elisha Cook Jr. performance too.
I found it more true then most of the over the top performances we get today.
You’re absolutely correct about those unrealistic OTT performances. But I’ve watched close-up as a couple of friends have had nervous breakdowns, and in neither case was it much like Monroe’s version . . . except, perhaps, in that in both instances it was something impossible to head off.
LikeLiked by 1 person