Let’s Make Love (1960)
Directed by: George Cukor | 109 minutes | comedy, romance, musical | Actors: Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand, Tony Randall, Frankie Vaughan, Wilfrid Hyde-White, David Burns, Michael David, Mara Lynn, Dennis King Jr., Joe Besser, Oscar Beregi Jr., Milton Berle, Leonard Bremen, Harry Cheshire, Richard Collier, John Craven, Bing Crosby, Dick Dale, Ray Foster, Richard Fowler, Michael Fox, Jerry Hausner, Gene Kelly, Madge Kennedy, Marian Manners, Mike Mason, Bill McLean, Byron Morrow, Larry Thor, Geraldine Wall
‘About as funny as pushing grandma down the stairs in a wheelchair.’ That’s how funny Gregory Peck found the romantic comedy ‘Let’s Make Love’ (1960). Peck was initially cast as the lead actor opposite Marilyn Monroe. But playwright Arthur Miller, who was married to the legendary actress at the time, felt his wife was getting too little screen time and decided to tackle Norman Krasna’s script. Peck didn’t like his role being pushed into the background to allow Monroe to thrive, nor did he want to wait hours every day for his co-star—known as a notorious latecomer—to finally show up. So Peck stepped up. A handful of other popular actors, including Cary Grant, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, James Stewart, and Yul Brynner, were approached for the male lead, but for various reasons turned them down. The rescue for producer Jerry Wald came from Europe. The French star Yves Montand was interested in a breakthrough in the United States and after a crash course in English he was able to get started.
‘Let’s Make Love’ is a light-hearted romantic comedy in which Montand plays the wealthy Jean-Marc Clement. He is known as the ultimate playboy and that reputation makes him the target of ridicule. He learns from his press agent Alexander Coffman (Tony Randall) that an Off-Broadway production is in the works in which famous people – in addition to himself, among others Elvis Presley and Maria Callas – are being parodied. The vain Jean-Marc wants to do everything to take the show out of production and visits the rehearsals. There, the graceful Amanda Dell (Marilyn Monroe) is practicing her solo. Jean-Marc immediately falls for her like a rock. However, due to a misunderstanding, he is mistaken for an actor who is auditioning for the role of… himself! He decides to join the game because he thinks it will increase his chances with Amanda, who speaks in unflattering words about the real Jean-Marc. Playing an unemployed poor slob comes quite easily for him, but in the way of singing, dancing and acting he clearly still has a lot to learn!
‘Let’s Make Love’ is directed by George Cukor, who has made better films. There are several reasons why this romantic comedy doesn’t work. First off, Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand have absolutely no chemistry with each other. This is mainly because the stiff Montand is totally out of place in this film. The role of Amanda is indeed perfect for Monroe, but she also seems to be not quite there with her head. Cukor previously worked with the masterly duo Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn (including ‘Adam’s Rib’, 1949) and may have hoped that Monroe and Montand would have the same chemistry. Unfortunately… ‘Let’s Make Love’ doesn’t work either because it’s an unbalanced whole. The film – which goes on for at least twenty minutes too long – alternates story building with interestingly choreographed but musically unappealing songs. Only Monroe’s spectacular introduction ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ (written by Cole Porter) really adds something. Besides romance, the humor is also missing in this romantic comedy. Suffice it to say that the funniest moments come from the famous actors in cameos.
Because although the film as a whole disappoints, the cast is very interesting. Comedian Milton Berle, dance great Gene Kelly and legendary crooner Bing Crosby act as themselves and deliver the cutest scenes in the entire movie as they tutor Montand. We also see British singer Frankie Vaughan (with whom Monroe has a lot more chemistry than with Montand!) as Amanda’s co-star Tony Danton and character actor Wilfrid Hyde-White as Clement’s sarcastic business partner George Welch. A big plus of ‘Let’s Make Love’ is also the appearance of the film. The beautiful sets and sets and the colorful costumes come into their own even better by using Cinemascope (the so-called wall-to-wall projection). ‘Let’s Make Love’ is a no-brainer. Although there was a lot of talent involved in the production, this film does not live up to expectations. The main reason to watch this romantic comedy is Marilyn Monroe, who would only make ‘The Misfits’ (1961) after this film before she died tragically at the age of thirty-six. Monroe is certainly not at her best in this film, but has a rare appearance that can light up even the most faded film. For fans of the legendary sex bomb, ‘Let’s Make Love’ is more than worth it.