AFI Silver marks 50 years since Marilyn Monroe’s death

Jason Fraley, WTOP film critic

WASHINGTON – Her face welcomes you across the Taft Bridge into Woodley Park in Northwest D.C.

Her life inspired an Oscar-nominated role by Michelle Williams in “My Week with Marilyn” (2011).

And Elton John memorably wrote her swan song with the chorus, “Her candle burned out long before her legend ever did.”

Exactly how long has it been?

Marilyn Monroe died exactly 50 years ago this Sunday.

To mark the anniversary, the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring is showing the best work of her legendary career, listed below in order of the screenings.

The Seven Year Itch (1955)

Friday Aug. 3 at 5:10 p.m.; Monday Aug. 6 at 7:10 p.m.

Billy Wilder’s romantic comedy follows a faithful husband (Tom Ewell), who is tempted by a beautiful neighbor (Monroe) when his family is out of town on vacation. The film features Monroe’s most iconic moment, walking over a steam grate and moaning as the subway air blows up her skirt.

Some Like it Hot (1959)

Friday, Aug. 3 at 7:20 p.m.; Saturday Aug. 4 at 1:00 p.m.; Sunday Aug. 5 at 4 p.m.

Monroe returned with Billy Wilder for “Some Like it Hot,” voted the AFI’s top comedy of all time. She plays Sugar Kane, a traveling singer who turns the heads of two cross-dressing fugitives (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis), while wooing us with four words: “Boop boop be doo.”

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Saturday, Aug. 18 at 11:05 a.m.; Sunday Aug. 19 at 11:05 a.m.

Howard Hawks was a master of all genres, and his foray into the movie musical starred two of the 20th century’s most bosomy sex symbols, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. “Gentleman Prefer Blondes” also featured the AFI’s No. 12 Movie Song of All Time, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

All About Eve (1950)

Saturday, Sept. 1 at 11:10 a.m.; Thursday, Sept. 7 at 6:45 p.m.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s tale of Broadway backstabbing featured one of the best scripts and deepest casts in history. Amidst the powerhouse performances of Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and George Sanders, Monroe snuck in with a highly memorable bit part as a ditzy piece of arm candy trying to sleep her way to the top.

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Saturday, Sept. 15 at 11:05 a.m.; Thursday Sept. 20 at 4:30 p.m.

Monroe’s star-making role came in John Huston’s heist flick, featuring one of the sexiest images in screen history, as Monroe looks up seductively from a couch.

The Misfits (1961)

Sunday, Sept. 16 at 11:00 a.m.; Monday Sept. 17 at 7:00 p.m.

Coming just one year before her death, John Huston cast Monroe as a sexy divorcee (Monroe) who falls for an over-the-hill cowboy (Clark Gable) in early ’60s Nevada. When camera rolled on a bedroom scene, Marilyn sat up completely topless, proud of her body. Everyone wanted to use the shot, except director Huston, who demanded they reshoot the scene with a sheet over her breasts. And the world collectively sighed.

If you head to the AFI Silver Theater to check out her work, follow Elton John’s advice and sit in the 22nd row. See her as “something more than sexual, more than just our Marilyn Monroe.”

Read more from WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley by clicking “Fraley on Film” under the “Living” tab above, following @JasonFraleyWTOP on Twitter, and checking out his blog, The Film Spectrum.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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