If you see a faded sign by the side of the road that says 15 miles to the Love Nest, then you're reading Judge Sandra Dozier's review of this Marilyn Monroe flick.
Mrs. Scott (in reference to Monroe's character): He's walking right into a
Marilyn Monroe is a woman who can captivate an audience with the briefest of appearances. The camera loves her. With her face, her honeyed voice, and her curves, it isn't difficult to understand why, but there is also a sweet innocence about her that is just as attractive. Fans call her "Marilyn" (she isn't "Ms. Monroe") and it seems appropriate. Fox is banking on this quality for their recently released line of her classic movies. Love Nest has about 10 minutes of Marilyn (compared to 84 minutes running time), but it seems like more—as soon as she appears on screen, the scene gets a little bit more exciting.
Facts of the Case
Jim Scott (William Lundigan, Pinky) is a war veteran returning home in 1946 to find that his wife (June Haver, The Dolly Sisters) has purchased an apartment building and they are now landlords. She bought it partly to have a place to live in the wake of drastic housing shortages (with most of the economy going towards the war, but population growth not slowing, housing was in demand when soldiers returned), and partly to enable him to write without the pressure of needing to sell short stories, his trade before the war.
Attracting tenants isn't a problem, but attracting the police and FBI is another story. When a suave confidence artist with a knack for swindling rich widows out of their money moves in to the building, all sorts of weird things start happening. Jim has "an old army buddy," Bobby, who wants to move in to a recently vacated apartment. Bobby turns out to be Roberta (Marilyn Monroe), a WAC who was stationed with him in Paris. Now things really start to get interesting.
Love Nest is a charming little movie. The trailer (and, indeed, title) for this movie tried to make it seem like the building was a hotbed of temptation for the married owner (ala The Seven Year Itch), but I think it does just fine as a fairly straight-forward comedy with a little sex and a little mystery thrown in for good measure.
June Haver and William Lundigan, who play Mr. and Mrs. Scott, have nice on-screen chemistry that makes for a great opening scene. He cradles her and they share several steamy kisses, and as he tries desperately to steer her towards the bedroom, all the while interrupted by tenants and callers. "This is not how I thought I'd be spending my first night back home!" he moans.
It doesn't take them long to settle in, before we move to our next plot element: Mr. Patterson (Frank Fay, Spotlight Scandals) as a sweet talking older gentlemen. He immediately catches the eye of Edie, a widow who lives in the building, but several suspicious events lead Mrs. Scott to suspect that he is up to no good. Marilyn is sandwiched between these storylines for a little light comedy, tomfoolery (Mr. Scott, casting a worried eye on his wife as he leads Bobbi upstairs, trips at the top of the landing), and sex appeal. Although June Haver is lovely, here she is definitely playing the cute, devoted wife.
I found the story to be well written, the pacing to be tight, and the acting quite good. Aside from a bit of scene stealing from veteran stage actor Fay, the actors were all quite natural in their roles and blended well together. Monroe herself manages to both blend into the background and stand out all at once—helped along by the Scott's drooling lawyer friend (Jack Paar).
The movie is in black and white, and the transfer shows its age. There is considerable scratching and nicking, which gets better after about the first ten minutes, but still noticeable throughout. The picture is slightly faded, with gradients not being as contrasted as they could be, giving it a washed-out look. Overall, I found the film to be rather light, which ensures the darker scenes are fully recognized, but brighter scenes tend to be a little over-exposed. Sound quality also shows age, but not too badly. Presented in original mono and stereo, it is basically clear and distinct, with only one or two glitches (where the volume suddenly dips) and a slight hiss at louder volume levels.
Extras include several trailers, highlighting the titles released for Marilyn Monroe. There is also a preview of the Diamond Collection, a box set of remastered Monroe titles that is coming out in the end of May, which includes some rare Monroe footage from the latter years of her career which I have only seen in photograph form. I'm guessing many fans will buy the Diamond Collection based on this fact alone. There is also a commentary by director Joseph Newman and film historian (and Monroe biographer) Jack Allen, but it is essentially useless in terms of the movie. Newman talks about himself—how he rose to be a director, the other projects he worked on—and only briefly mentions Love Nest directly. Allen provides a detailed and interesting background on Marilyn Monroe, but much of the information is probably review for most Monroe fans. He does spend some time talking about how Monroe had to step through a succession of "dumb blonde" roles (of which Love Nest is one of her earlier ones) in order to obtain star billing. This is interesting, but you must wade through over half the running time to hear it.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Not enough Marilyn for the casual fan, with a nearly useless commentary unless you don't know much about Marilyn Monroe, or want to know all about director Joseph Newman, best known for This Island Earth. If you are going to do a commentary, at least talk about the movie or the featured actress. Give some juicy behind-the-scenes tidbits, some interesting perspectives on getting it off the ground or casting Monroe—something other than the boring rambling featured on this release.
Sadly, Monroe fans will probably want to skip this one, unless your goal is to collect every title she has been in. Otherwise, a delightful little movie. If you want some light entertainment at a reasonable price, this one will make for a pleasant afternoon.
Love Nest is fined for misleading marketing, but is otherwise free to go.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary featuring director Joseph Newman and film historian Jack Allen
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