The Role She Lost
When Fox Broadcasting Co. airs its one-hour special, "Marilyn: Something's Got to Give," on Dec. 13 at 9 p.m., we'll see Marilyn Monroe the closest she ever came to the motherhood she so desperately wanted.
The Fox documentary chronicles the final months in the life and career of the doomed star, with never-before-seen footage from the last film she worked on--"Something's Got to Give." Twentieth Century Fox fired her from the film just after her 36th birthday, June 1, 1962. She committed suicide about two months later.
The comedy, in which Monroe had her first screen role as a mother, was never completed. In real life, Monroe had undergone abortions and suffered miscarriages and was known to be nearly obsessed about having children, according to some Hollywood historians.
Alexandra Heilweil and Robert Christopher Morley played Monroe's two young children for about eight weeks until the studio pulled the plug, reportedly because Monroe missed so many work days.
So intent were the Fox Broadcasting producers on interviewing the two for the documentary that they placed ads in several newspapers and later hired a private investigator to track them down.
Heilweil, 5 at the time "Something" was in its troubled production, is now 33. A physicist, she's currently "between jobs," working as a waitress in Florida. "I really don't remember much (about the filming)," she says. "It was a long time ago."
Morley (now legally Christopher Robert Morley) was 8 during the shoot. Now 37, he's a Wall Street bond trader.
"One of the things that I remember most about her is that she was very personable," Morley says of Monroe. "You can sense as a little kid who really cares about you and who could care less. I distinctly remember that she was very warm, that she would spend time talking to you as another human being, as opposed to some of the other actors (Dean Martin, Cyd Charisse and Wally Cox co-starred). At least as a kid, it felt pretty genuine.
"She was very sensitive. I remember my scenes with her a lot more than with the others, which were very mechanical."
Fox Broadcasting's Henry Schipper, who wrote, narrated and co-produced the special with Ken Turner, says that outtakes from the ill-fated production--which later was made as "Move Over, Darling"--show a maternal Monroe both on-camera and off.
After one take, he notes, the camera captured her "rolling around with the two kids, tickling them, laughing, really enjoying them. The emotions on her face as she looks at them are marvelous . . . in the outtakes, you get a profile of Marilyn Monroe as a real person."
Morley, of course, was too young at the time to know if Monroe felt emotional reverberations from real life in her scripted role as a mother. But, in retrospect, he senses the possibility.
" . . . The only photo I have from that time is a very small picture of Marilyn hugging the two kids," Morley said.
Like Monroe, the work of Morley and Heilweil in "Something's Got to Give" was also final. Neither performed again.