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John Howard Reid

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Marilyn Monroe in Ladies of the Chorus: A Review
by John Howard Reid   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Sunday, March 15, 2009
Posted: Sunday, March 15, 2009

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In 1949 there was only one thing going for "Ladies of the Chorus". You guessed it. The Ladies. And as if to compensate for this indulgence — and doubtless to kowtow to the all-powerful censors of the day — these glimpses of feminine charm are surrounded by and incorporated into one of the dreariest and most turgid stories of True Romance ever confined within the impoverished limitations of Columbia’s notoriously stingy “B” department. In 2009 of course the chief attraction is Miss Monroe and we suppose we should be grateful to Columbia for affording us such a comparatively large glimpse of her pre-legendary career. (Don’t believe what other books will tell you, this was actually Marilyn's fourth screen appearance (after "You Were Meant for Me", "Scudda Hoo Scudda Hay" and "Dangerous Years").

    On the whole, however, Ladies of the Chorus proves disappointing. True, Marilyn does have a fair innings in the first third of the movie, but then Miss Jergens — to whom Marilyn has been playing second fiddle all along — takes over. And I mean she really takes over. Marilyn is ejected from the plot completely whilst Jergens propels herself into a long and extremely tedious flashback. When the contemporary story does finally resume, Nana Bryant of all people is allowed to steal the limelight.

Several unbelievable things about the movie are: Jergens looks far too young to be Marilyn’s mum; whilst Marilyn does her own singing, most of the other principals are dubbed; Rand Brooks is an incredibly wet lover for MM; Columbia failed to pick up MM’s contract. True, her make-up is applied far too liberally, yet she still looks great and though forced to act in the shadow of such a minor-league “B” lead as Adele Jergens, she still manages to radiate some typical MM allure.

Costumes are attractive but direction and other credits are firmly molded by the film’s lower-case "B" budget.





Cast: Adele Jergens (May Martin), Marilyn Monroe (Peggy Martin), Rand Brooks (Randy Carroll), Nana Bryant (Mrs Carroll), Eddie Garr (Billy Mackay), Steven Geray (Salisbury), Bill Edwards (Alan Wakefield), Marjorie Hoshelle (Bubbles LaRue), Frank Scannell (Joe), Dave Barry (Hipple), Alan Barry (Hipple, Jr), Myron Healey (Tom Lawson), Gladys Blake (flower shop girl), Almira Sessions (old maid), Claire Whitney (Mrs Windrift), Emmett Vogan (manager), the Bobby True Trio, Robert Clarke.

Production Credits: Director: PHIL KARLSON. Screenplay: Harry Sauber, Joseph Carole. Original screen story: Harry Sauber. Photography: Frank Redman. Film editor: Richard Fantl. Art director: Robert Peterson. Set decorator: James Crowe. Production numbers staged by Jack Boyle. Music supervisor: Fred Karger. Music director: Mischa Bakaleinikoff. Songs, all by Allan Roberts and Lester Lee: “Every Baby Needs a Da-Da-Daddy” (Monroe and chorus), “Anyone Can Tell I Love You” (Jergens), “Ladies of the Chorus”, “Crazy For You”, “You’re Never Too Old”. Additional “Love Song” by Buck Ram. Western Electric Sound System. Producer Harry A. Romm.

Copyright 10 February 1949 by Columbia Pictures Corp. No New York opening. U.S. release: 10 February 1949. No record of any general theatrical release in the U.K. Australian release: 20 January 1949 (sic). 5,539 feet. 61 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: May Martin (Adele Jergens), once a burlesque star, now dances in the chorus, as does her daughter Peggy (Marilyn Monroe). When May has an argument with Bubbles LaRue (Marjorie Hoshelle), a featured dancer, Bubbles walks out on the show and Peggy takes her place. Peggy becomes a success.

When Peggy falls in love with wealthy young Randy Carroll (Rand Brooks), May fears the outcome will be as heartbreaking as had been her own marriage to a man of means and social position. She is convinced that Randy’s mother (Nana Bryant) will disapprove of the match.

Unaware of Peggy’s background, Randy’s mother arranges an engagement party for the two young people. At the gathering, the bandleader recognizes Peggy and unwittingly reveals her identity. Peggy is crushed, sure that her dream of marriage is over. But Randy’s mother comes through in an unexpected way. Convinced of the genuineness of Peggy’s love, she invents for the benefit of her surprised guests a secret past in show business. Peggy is thus put at ease and murmurings stilled before harm can be done. Nothing now stands in the way of Peggy’s and Randy’s happiness. Reassured and free of responsibility and concern for her daughter’s future, May decides to marry her beau of long standing, Billy Mackay (Eddie Garr), a comic with the show.


Web Site: New Film Books

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