August 8, 2013

Marilyn Monroe Dialogue

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers 

This week in 1962, Marilyn Monroe died at the age of 36. I recently watched the new HBO documentary, "Love, Marilyn" and was struck by how little I knew about Marilyn. It is a unique insight based on the boxes of Monroe’s own writings that were discovered just a few years ago. Marilyn was also an avid reader and read the textbook, "The Thinking Body," by Mabel Elsworth Todd. Based on this book, she developed her signature "Marilyn Monroe" walk.

My favorite role of Marilyn Monroe is her breakout 1953 film noir movie, "Niagara," in the role of Rose Loomis opposite Joseph Cotton, who stars as her husband, George Loomis.

My attraction to this movie is two-fold. I love a mystery especially when it unfolds quickly and maintains a number of twists and turns. The movie has a beautiful setting at Niagara Falls hence the name, "Niagara." Rose Loomis appears supportive concerned wife of a WWII veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. As every mystery fan knows, looks can be deceiving. A honeymoon couple staying at the Rainbow Cabins gets wrapped up in the Loomis couple's problems, and of course, a murder occurs. 

Dialogue in "Niagara" is the perfect balance of sass and spunk with some memorable lines. The screenwriters were Charles William Brackett; who also wrote Sunset Boulevard, Richard L. Breen, who also wrote the 1953 "Titanic," and Walter Reisch, who also wrote "Gaslight." These men knew how to write snappy stylish believable dialogue.  

Here are a few of my favorite movie quotes from "Niagara:"

[First movie line, voiceover as we watch him at the base of the Falls]
George Loomis: Why should the Falls drag me down here at 5 o'clock in the morning? To show me how big they are and how small I am? To remind me they can get along without any help? All right, so they've proved it. But why not? They've had ten thousand years to get independent. What's so wonderful about that? I suppose I could too, only it might take a little more time.

[Upon seeing Rose Loomis in a low-cut, tight-fitting fuchsia pink dress]
Ray Cutler: Hey, get out the firehose! Why don't you ever get a dress like that?
Polly Cutler: Listen. For a dress like that, you've got to start laying plans when you're about thirteen.

George Loomis: Parading around showing herself off in that dress. Cut down so low in the front you could see her kneecaps. 
Polly Cutler: Stunning. 
Geroge Loomis: Would you wear it?
Polly Cutler: I'm not the kneecap type. She's a pretty girl why hide it?

George Loomis: Let me tell you something. You're young, you're in love. Well, I'll give you a warning. Don't let it get out of hand, like those falls out there. Up above... d'you ever see the river up above the falls? It's calm, and easy, and you throw in a log, it just floats around. Let it move a little further down and it gets going faster, hits some rocks, and... in a minute it's in the lower rapids, and... nothing in the world - including God himself, I suppose - can keep it from going over the edge. It just goes.
Polly Cutler: Don't worry. I'm one of those logs that just hang around in the calm.

When you have trouble crafting believable dialogue, flip on a movie with quick smart dialogue. It will help bring dialogue to your pages and authenticity to your characters, while moving your story forward. 

As your female character walks away from her love interest, just think of your character's repartee and describe the way your character walked away. Remember Marilyn Monroe's walk in "Niagara" attempting to walk across the borders of the United States and Canada. 

Sashay on!

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