In the end

joseph-mankiewicz on cleopatra set

From Richard Burton’s intro to Pictures Will Talk, a fine study of the work of Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Best read in a rumbling Burton voice (try it: you can probably do it in your head as long as you don’t try to make any actual sound). Interesting for possible humour value (though I imagine Mankiewicz told this better than Burton’s account) and for the fact that it seems to reveal Mankiewicz joking in a ribald fashion about the death of Marilyn Monroe within hours of the event.

“Above all, he is witty. Witty with the kind of wit that makes people laugh and retell his tales, not merely smile and admire. His mind has an elaborate, paradoxically practical capacity for fantasy. For instance, some notable figure in our mad business had committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills — perhaps it was Monroe, I can’t remember — whereupon Joe mused that if some sort of pill were invented, a sleeping pill, I mean, which could only be taken rectally, a great many of these beautiful would-be suicides would find it not only boring but supremely undignified to stuff twenty or thirty suppositories up his or her beautiful ass. That was, of course, only the bare bones of his tale. He elaborated and wove around each pill a world of increasing tedium on the part of the pill taker until the beautiful one by, shall we say, pill six, said, “Oh, to hell with it, I’ll go and get me an enema.” The image he created in my mind — the bending over, missing the entrance, dropping the thing on the floor and carefully washing it before trying again, for the beauty must be hygienic even in death — reduced me to hysteria.”

3 Responses to “In the end”

  1. “Perhaps it was Monroe, I can’t remember” is just seven words, but they are indelible.

  2. Marilyn Monroe left a real impression on Monkeybitch. The Edie Adams character in The Honey Pot is pretty clearly his notion of what Marilyn’s life might have been like had she, like so many other movie queens, settled down and “Married Well.” (Adams specialized in a Monroe spoof in her nightclub act.)

  3. The timing is suggestive — Cleopatra would have been filming all through 1962, wouldn’t it?

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