When reviewers deem Marilyn Monroe little more than decoration in River of No Return, The Seven Year Itch, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, is it any wonder she fell in with the Lee Strasberg school of scratch-your-ass-and-mumble? Playing a pallid Arizona chanteuse with years of being pawed at and dreams of being discovered in Hollywood, she offers affecting roadhouse pathos and, during a coarse Eisenhower transmutation of Sternberg's Morocco, performs "That Old Black Magic" with lambent clunkiness. Don Murray in full-on Jethro mode comes a-courtin', a braying young cowboy unfamiliar with "physical attraction" but ready to marry the gal whose name he can't get right even if it means lassoing her. ("Women and swimmin', that's pretty much the same," sidekick Arthur O'Connell fumbles. Later on, romance is equated with bronco-busting.) Murray finds a bit of self-awareness after an ass-kicking in the artificial studio snow, though The Taming of the Shrew appears oddly depressing when re-imagined as a mid-century hick minstrel show. Joshua Logan magnifies the brassiness from the William Inge play ("I'm a veeery moooosical puh-son," waitress Betty Field sasses) and introduces the color filters to be carried to insanity in South Pacific, but even he can't stifle the titanic sense of yearning piled up with billboard Cinemascope close-ups during the final diner scene. Godard and Rossellini over at the Cahiers pages were reportedly smitten by the ethnographic views of rodeo yahooing and parade floats, and indeed there are shout-outs in Une Femme est une Femme and the Illibatezza segment of RoGoPaG. With Eileen Heckart, Robert Bray, and Hope Lange.
--- Fernando F. Croce