Cast & Crew
Lyn Lesley, the bar singer at New York's McKinley Hotel, frets about the impending arrival of her boyfriend, airline pilot Jed Towers. Lyn had mailed Jed a letter ending their six-month relationship, and when Jed questions her, she explains that she is leaving him because he lacks an understanding heart. Meanwhile, elevator operator Eddie introduces his shy niece, Nell Forbes, to guests Peter and Ruth Jones, as the babysitter he arranged for their daughter Bunny. The Joneses, who are dining in the hotel's banquet hall, bid goodnight to Bunny, and although Nell had been worried about her lack of experience, she quickly tucks Bunny in. After Bunny falls asleep, Nell goes into the other room and dons a lacy negligee belonging to Ruth, as well as some of her perfume and jewelry. Jed, whose room is across the courtyard, sees Nell through the window and calls the voluptuous blonde on the telephone. While she is intimidated by Jed's seductive tone, Nell is also intrigued, but their conversation is interrupted by Eddie, who is checking on Nell. Eddie orders Nell to remove Ruth's apparel, and when she protests, he soothes her by saying that she can obtain such luxuries for herself by finding another boyfriend to replace the one who was killed. Eddie then leaves, and Nell invites Jed over. Jed aggressively pursues Nell, but is bewildered by her hesitant, yet flirtatious demeanor, and her inconsistent explanations about her presence in the hotel. Nell is startled when Jed states that he is a pilot, and she in turn confides that her boyfriend Philip died while flying over the Pacific. Nell's true position is abruptly revealed by Bunny, after which Nell shakes the child and orders her to return to bed. Feeling sorry for Nell, who has been in New York for only a month, Jed acquiesces to her plea for him to stay, and begins to take a real interest in her. Jed also comforts the crying Bunny, although when Bunny looks out the window, it appears that Nell is about to push her. Jed rescues the girl, and the incident is witnessed by Emma Ballew, a nosy, long-term resident. Nell escorts Bunny to bed, then accuses the child of spying on her and warns her not to make any noise. Meanwhile, Jed has decided to seek Lyn's forgiveness, but Nell again begs him not to leave. As he is refusing a kiss from Nell, Jed sees scars on her wrists, and Nell confesses that after Philip died, she tried to kill herself with a razor. Just then, Eddie comes to check on Nell, and Jed hides in the bathroom to avoid angering him. Eddie is irate that Nell is still wearing Ruth's things, however, and chastises her, saying he had thought that she was "getting better." Eddie orders her to change clothes, then harshly rubs off her lipstick. The action enrages Nell and, stating that Eddie is just like her repressive parents, she hits him over the head with a heavy ashtray. Then, almost in a trance, Nell goes into Bunny's room as Jed tends to Eddie's wound. When Nell returns to the main room, she is confronted by the Ballews, who are suspicious of the cries they have heard coming from Bunny. Fearing for his job, Eddie persuades Jed to hide in the bathroom, but while Nell is talking with the Ballews, Jed sneaks into Bunny's room. As he is leaving, Jed does not notice that Bunny is now bound and gagged. When the Ballews see Jed leave, they assume that he had forced his way in and was holding Nell captive. While the Ballews then notify the hotel detective, Nell, who is now so deluded that she believes Jed is Philip, locks Eddie in the closet and goes into Bunny's room. In the bar, Jed tells Lyn about Nell, and she is surprised by his sympathetic reaction to the unbalanced babysitter. Suddenly realizing that Bunny was on the wrong bed, Jed rushes up to the room, where Nell, believing that Bunny drove Jed away, is about to hurt the girl. Wanting to check on Bunny, Ruth arrives before Jed does and is attacked by Nell. Jed pulls Nell away from Ruth, then, as he unties Bunny, Nell slips away. When Jed releases Eddie from the closet, Eddie admits that Nell had spent the previous three years in a mental institution following her suicide attempt. Jed then searches for the missing Nell and finds her in the lobby, where she is threatening to kill herself with a razor. Still believing that Jed is Philip, Nell is baffled by his attempts to help her, but his soothing tone induces her to give him the razor. Seeing that Jed has an understanding heart after all, Lyn reconciles with him as Nell is led away to a hospital.
Elisha Cook Jr.
Willis B. Bouchey
Eda Reis Merin
Paul S. Fox
George A. Gittens
Harry M. Leonard
Erich Von Stroheim Jr.
Don't Bother to Knock
Zanuck had hoped to keep Monroe buried deep in the Fox payroll but the blonde bombshell had admirers in high places -among them, Fox founder Spyros Skouras, who leaned on his executives to capitalize on her assets. Zanuck was obliged not only to use Monroe in a studio project but to slot her into a starring role. Required to test for Don't Bother to Knock (1952), an adaptation of the 1951 novel Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong, Monroe stayed up for forty-eight hours without sleep, preparing slavishly for the role of a psychologically scarred young woman unwisely left in charge of a minor with the help of her acting coach Natasha Lytess. (Monroe's contract with Fox stipulated that Lytess, a former associate of Max Reinhardt, be made a studio employee.) On the day of the screen test, the notoriously insecure Monroe disobeyed direct orders to sneak Lytess onto the soundstage. The gamble paid off in a successful test and a note of congratulations from Zanuck himself, pointing Monroe to her first starring role in a feature film.
Also making a debut with Don't Bother to Knock was British director Roy Ward Baker, working in America for the first time. A documentary filmmaker during his military service in World War II, Baker had directed the Tyrone Power vehicle I'll Never Forget You (1951) for Fox in England (where it bore the alternate title The House on the Square). Baker flew to Hollywood to deliver a rough cut of the film and, though Zanuck was ambivalent about the result, he was sufficiently impressed with the Brit's efficiency and eye for composition to offer him a job stateside. Baker thought Monroe grossly miscast as the desperately lonely Nell Forbes, whose flirtation with bachelor jet pilot Richard Widmark urges the narrative towards unthinkable tragedy, but soldiered on through a very difficult shoot. Headaches that Fritz Lang had endured on Clash by Night due to Monroe's habitual tardiness and inability to deliver two consecutive lines became migraines for Baker, Widmark, and fellow castmates Elisha Cook, Jr. and Jim Backus while veteran production manager Charlie Hall feared the delays caused by Monroe's eccentricities would push the low budget feature into overage.
"It soon became clear to me that this movie would have to be put together piecemeal," Baker recalled in his 2000 memoir The Director's Cut. "There could be no such thing as a master scene (but rather) single lines and reactions (derived) from several takes." Working in Baker's favor was the fact that Don't Bother to Knock was shooting entirely in-studio, allowing him to keep Monroe at all times relatively close at hand. Three weeks after the project's December 13, 1951 start, Baker informed Monroe that Lytess would no longer be permitted on set - part of the problem was that Monroe's attention was divided ruinously between her acting coach and her director, but the final straw was when the actress delivered a particular line using an unconsciously Germanic inflection. Wrapping the film on January 14, 1952, Baker delivered the odd psycho-drama to a diffident Zanuck, whose doubts about Monroe's future as a leading lady were confirmed by mostly negative reviews - perhaps none more damning than Bosley Crowther's in The New York Times, which alleged that the film would evoke in moviegoers nothing but unintentional laughter.
Though Don't Bother to Knock proved a negligible credit for all involved, many among its cast and crew were bound for brighter days. In 1953, with the expiration of his Fox contract, Richard Widmark began to distance himself from the villainous roles in which he was mired after his Oscar®-nominated film debut as the maniacal Tommy Udo in Henry Hathaway's Kiss of Death (1947) and starred in his first comedy, My Pal Gus (1952). Third-billed Anne Bancroft was pointed to considerable success on stage and screen and a 1963 Academy Award for The Miracle Worker (1962). Back in England, Roy Ward Baker scored with A Night to Remember (1958), the Rank Organization's recreation of the Titanic sinking, but is best remembered for his work with Hammer Studios and such films as Quatermass and the Pit (US: Five Million Years to Earth, 1967) and The Vampire Lovers (1970). Screenwriter Daniel Taradash would win the 1954 Best Writing Oscar® for From Here to Eternity (1953) but the biggest Cinderella story of Don't Bother to Knock was Marilyn Monroe.
Although a few desultory projects followed (including the 1952 omnibus O. Henry's Full House, in which she appeared with Widmark - albeit in separate vignettes), Monroe would strike box office gold with the Technicolor triptych of Howard Hawks' Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Jean Negulesco's How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and Otto Preminger's River of No Return (1954). Monroe also derived personal satisfaction from the positive critical responses she received for playing a sultry femme fatale with a mind to murder husband Joseph Cotten in Henry Hathaway's Niagara (1953). Vindicated at last and an inarguable international superstar as well, Monroe remained nagged by personal demons (many of which had their parallel in Don't Bother to Knock, which hit a little too close to the bone), and tainted her marriages to baseball player Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller and hastened her untimely demise in 1962 at the age of thirty-six.
Producer: Julian Blaustein
Director: Roy Baker
Screenplay: Daniel Taradash (screenplay); Charlotte Armstrong (novel)
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Art Direction: Richard Irvine; Lyle Wheeler
Film Editing: George A. Gittens
Cast: Richard Widmark (Jed Towers), Marilyn Monroe (Nell Forbes), Anne Bancroft (Lyn Lesley), Donna Corcoran (Bunny Jones), Jeanne Cagney (Rochelle), Lurene Tuttle (Ruth Jones), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Eddie Forbes), Jim Backus (Peter Jones), Verna Felton (Mrs. Ballew), Willis B. Bouchey (Joe the Bartender).
by Richard Harland Smith
Marilyn Monroe by Barbara Leaming
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborelli (Grand Central Publishing, 2009)
MM - Personal: From the Private Archive of Marilyn Monroe (Abrams Books, 2011)
The Director's Cut: A Memoir of 60 Years in Film and Television by Roy Ward Baker (Reynolds & Hearn, Ltd., 2000)
Richard Widmark: A Bio-Bibliography by Kim Holston (Greenwood Press, 1990)
Don't Bother to Knock
You look so different in those clothes.- Nell Forbes
I'm different all the time.- Eddie Forbes
The title credits music is re-used from Panic in the Streets (1950).
This was Anne Bancroft's first film. It was also Marilyn Monroe's 12th film and an attempt to prove to critics that she could act.
The working titles of this film were Mischief and Night Without Sleep, the latter of which was the release title of another 1952 Twentieth Century-Fox film (see below). Charlotte Armstrong's novel was serialized in Good Housekeeping (7 April-7 May 1950). According to late 1949 Los Angeles Times news items, Dorothy McGuire was originally cast as the picture's star, with Jules Dassin set to direct. Donna Corcoran was borrowed from M-G-M for the production. Don't Bother to Knock marked the film debut of Anne Bancroft (1931-2005) and the Hollywood film debut of British director Roy Baker. The picture also marked Marilyn Monroe's first leading dramatic role.
Released in United States on Video June 25, 1992
Released in United States Summer August 1952
Released in United States on Video June 25, 1992
Released in United States Summer August 1952