IM Interview: Dr. Thomas Bywater on Marilyn’s Acting Career

Dr. Timothy Bywater is a respected professor at Dixie State University with a PH.D. in English and Film. He was kind enough to sit down with staff writer, April VeVea, to discuss Marilyn’s impact on the film industry and her quest for an Oscar.


Q – Marilyn was very much put in the box of typecasting. How do you think this affected her career?

A – Let me say this, I think more than typecasting in film she was typecast as a human being. It destroyed her life. It’s beyond her career. I don’t think (typecasting) destroyed her career, it destroyed her life. She was typecast in her life. I think her roles are brilliant. I think as nasty as Hollywood was, the roles they gave her, she did a wonderful job.


How did other actresses overcome typecasting?

I don’t think any of them overcame it in the 50’s. I think in the 60’s when the studio system began to be destroyed, it changed, but I think up until then there were brilliant roles and brilliant women doing them but I think the whole system was pretty well typecast.


Do you think Marilyn’s reliance on “The Method” affected her career?

I think the whole system of dealing with her was so cynical. I think it was just people who were hangers-on, including The Actor’s Studio. I think she was above that. I think she was just brilliant as an actress. I think she affected The Method more than The Method affected her.


What would you have handled her career differently?

No. I think she mesmerized men. I think men tried to control her and I don’t think they could.


Bette Davis famously lost her contract dispute with Warner Brothers in 1937, while Olivia De Havilland won her case in 1943 which led to actresses not being able to sign for more than seven years. Marilyn fought with Fox from 1953-1956 and won director, co-star, and picture approval. How do you think this affected other actresses?

I think the times and the studio system affected them. I think the best thing an actor or actress can do is choose a good director and choose a good product. Some of them act like big shots but I don’t think Marilyn used it that way. Marilyn used it (to get) roles that exactly fit what she was good at. Marilyn was dumb as a fox. The studio system was trying to gain power but ended up losing it.


Do you think this hurt Marilyn’s career?

Yes, no doubt about it.


There are three performances that tend to stand out to Marilyn Monroe fans as being Oscar worthy. They are Bus Stop, Some Like It Hot, and The Misfits. What is your opinion on her chances of winning compared to the nominees and winners from those years?


Marilyn as Cherie in Bus Stop

Marilyn as Cherie in Bus Stop

1957 Oscar – Bus Stop

Ingrid Bergman (Anastasia)

Carroll Baker (Baby Doll)

Katherine Hepburn (The Rain Maker)

Nancy Kelly (The Bad Seed)

Deborah Kerr (The King and I)

That’s a tough group. That’s a really tough group. It almost seems to me that Bus Stop wasn’t in the same category as some of these, Baby Doll for example. It should have been Marilyn in Baby Doll. She could have had that part, potentially, but she was too seasoned for that part. Ingrid Bergman should have won every year. If Marilyn could have been Ingrid with how Bergman dealt with things she would have been Ingrid as an actress. She would have had a lot of roles. (Note – The 1957 Oscars were Bergman’s return to Hollywood after being ostracized for having an affair. This was considered her glorious return to Hollywood and there was little to no chance of any nominee beating Bergman)


Conclusion: Wouldn’t have won based off of the other nominees but gave a glorious performance.


Marilyn as Sugar in Some Like it Hot.

Marilyn as Sugar in Some Like it Hot.

1960 Oscar – Some Like It Hot

Simone Signoret (Room on Top)

Doris Day (Pillow Talk)

Audrey Hepburn (The Nun’s Story)

Katherine Hepburn and Liz Taylor (Suddenly Last Summer)


She wasn’t nominated for Some Like It Hot at all? That should have been “Best Actress” for sure. That’s ridiculous. That’s a travesty that Marilyn wasn’t nominated.


Conclusion: Marilyn should have been nominated and should have won.


Marilyn as Roslyn in The Misfits.

Marilyn as Roslyn in The Misfits.

1961 Oscar – The Misfits

Sophia Loren (Two Women)

Audrey Hepburn (Breakfast at Tiffany’s)

Piper Laurie (The Hustler)

Geraldine Page (Summer and Smoke)

Natalie Wood (Splendor in the Grass)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s should have been Marilyn Monroe. I don’t know The Misfits so I can’t make that decision but I can’t believe she wasn’t nominated for that either. I think she should have been nominated every year. She was in that category of actresses.


Conclusion: Undetermined


In 1955 Marilyn followed in the footsteps of Alice Guy-Blanche, Lois Weber, Mary Pickford, Marion Fairfax, Dorothy Azner, and other trailblazing women and started her own production company. Do you think this ended up adversely affecting her career?

The only thing I can think of is that it alienated Marilyn Monroe more from the acting community, from standard Hollywood.


Marilyn frequently worked with “A” list leading men, notable Clark Gable and Laurence Olivier. Gable demanded to do his own stunts while Olivier thought “The Method” was unnecessary yet Marilyn is labeled as the difficult one. What do you think her co stars aren’t held to the same scrutiny?

Why don’t women make as much money as men in the marketplace? It’s just treatment of women across the board. Men are afraid of women. Men run the system, men are afraid of women, so they keep them in their place.


Marilyn’s legacy continues with stars today citing her as an influence. Why do you think her legacy has endured?

None of them can hold her hem. What they’ve done is caricatured her and that’s taking away from her. She’s different than most great actresses. I think her legacy has endured for the wrong reasons. (Other actresses) are allowed to let their true value shine through but Marilyn isn’t allowed to do that.