Musical Monday: Let’s Make Love (1960)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Let’s Make Love (1960) – Musical No. 621

20th Century Fox

George Cukor

Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand, Tony Randall, Frankie Vaughan, Wilfrid Hyde-White, David Burns, Robert Banas (uncredited), Dick Dale (uncredited), Richard Haydn (narrator)
Themselves: Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly and Milton Berle

Billionaire Jean-Marc Clément (Montand) learns that he is being made fun of in a new musical show. He goes to the theater with his public relations man Alexander Kaufman (Randall) to show he has a sense of humor towards the show. But while at the theater, he is mistaken for an actor auditioning for the show and goes along with the farce when he sees leading lady Amanda Dell (Monroe).

• Yves Montand’s first American film.
• Screenwriter Norman Krasna wrote the script for this film with Yul Brynner in mind, according to Yul Brynner: A Biography by Michelangelo Capua.
• When Yul Brynner wasn’t available for the film, Gregory Peck was signed for the role of the billionaire. Peck had script approval and found that his role decreased after Monroe’s husband, Arthur Miller, rewrote portions of the script to grow her role. Peck withdrew from the film, according to Gregory Peck: A Biography by Gary Fishgall.
• Charleton Heston, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Rock Hudson were also approached for the lead role, but unavailable for various reasons, according to Marilyn Monroe: Her Films, Her Life by Michelle Vogel.
• Marilyn Monroe’s second to last film.
• Choreography by Jack Cole
• Guitarist Dick Dale is one of the auditioning Elvis Presleys.
• Richard Haydn is the narrator at the start of the film.
• Gloria Wood partially dubbed Marilyn Monroe
• Working title was “Billionaire.”
• Includes cameos from Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly and Milton Berle

Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand in “Let’s Make Love” (1960)

• Yves Montand dancing and singing

Notable Songs:
• “Let’s Make Love” performed by Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand
• “Incurably Romantic” performed by Yves Montand

My review:
Norman Krasna wrote some of the funniest screenplays that were filmed – from “Bachelor Mother” (1939), “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (1941) and “Dear Ruth” (1947).

Krasna wrote another one of his comedies, “The Millionaire,” which met several revisions until it was completed as “Let’s Make Love.”

The script was written with Yul Brynner in mind. When he wasn’t available, the lead role went to Gregory Peck.

Peck was fitted for costumes and preparing for what he felt was a funny script, until he saw it after Arthur Miller rewrote much for the film.

“My part began to dimish, Marilyn’s part started getting bigger and bigger, and the whole thing stopped being funny,” Peck said.

Gregory Peck didn’t think the final film was funny, and frankly neither did I.

“Let’s Make Love” is a Technicolor musical comedy that looks promising from the start, but for me it fell flat.

None of the songs were that impressive, the plot wasn’t terribly funny and even the great choreographer Jack Cole didn’t seem to get much of an opportunity to really show his stuff.

Yves Montand replaced Peck in the lead role and the character was transformed to a Frenchman. This was Montand’s first American film, and before seeing this I had no idea he could sing or dance. Montand is adequate in the film, but it’s unfortunate that this was his American debut.

Marilyn Monroe is also adequate in what ended up being her second to last film. I’m glad her last film was The Misfits (1961), and this film was not her lasting legacy.

That’s the problem, everyone is simply “adequate.” I didn’t really care about the two lead characters, if they ended up together or their problems. The songs and dances weren’t really all that interesting or catchy either.

British singer and actor Frankie Vaughan has a supporting role, and I think it’s curious that he was the “other man” in this. Vaughan seemed to have more success in the UK and I was not familiar with him before this movie.

One of the biggest issues for me with this film is that this film needed more Tony Randall. Randall plays Montand’s assistant and his role is virtually non-existent. Maybe more Randall would have added more humor to this story.

For me, what makes this film really worth watching are three “cameos” (or guest appearance may be a better word) of high profile performers who are helping train Montand’s character so he can succeed in showbusiness: Milton Berle helping with comedy, Gene Kelly helping with dancing, and Bing Crosby instructing on singing. These scenes are humorous and really fun – especially as Montand imitates the three veteran performers.

I went into “Let’s Make Love” actually expecting to enjoy this film. And I was surprised that I was disappointed. The songs and humor missed the mark with me.

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