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Love Nest

Love Nest(1951)

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teaser Love Nest (1951)

A pleasant if unexceptional romantic comedy, Love Nest (1951) is memorable because of its significance in the careers of June Haver and Marilyn Monroe. It features the penultimate performance of Haver, who was about to leave the industry, but it was also a stepping stone in the career of Monroe, who was on her way to superstardom. Ironically, Haver and Monroe were the same age. Both were born in June 1926, with Monroe nine days older than Haver.

Haver's career took off earlier than Monroe's, becoming a star at the tail end of the Golden Age. Monroe's career began in fits and starts in the post-WWII era, but it was not on track until she signed her second contract with Twentieth Century-Fox in December 1950. The studios were at the peak of their power and influence during the Golden Age, and Haver benefitted from the systems and practices that defined the studio system. Under contract to Twentieth Century-Fox, she was 17 when she was cast in her first starring role in Irish Eyes Are Smiling (1944). Groomed by Fox to be one of its signature blonde performers, Haver could sing and dance like the studio's established stars Alice Faye and Betty Grable. Haver was dubbed "the Pocket Grable" to ensure that the press and public saw her in that tradition, but her sweet, bubbly personality gave her star image its distinction.

Personal tragedy affected her attitude toward her career. Her fianc, Dr. John L. Duzik, fell ill and died in the fall of 1949 following complications from routine surgery. After Duzik died, Haver grew disenchanted with her career, devoting more and more time to the Church. After Love Nest, she starred in only one more film, The Girl Next Door (1953), before asking Fox to terminate her contract so that she could join a convent. For reasons only Haver knew, the convent was not the answer, and she left a few months later. She finally found contentment with former costar Fred MacMurray, whom she married in 1954.

Haver was at a turning point in her life when she was cast as the lead in Love Nest, but any personal turmoil is not apparent on the screen. Her character, pony-tailed Connie Scott, is a cheerful, optimistic wife who purchases an old brownstone in New York while her husband, Jim, played by William Lundigan, is completing his military service. Her dream is to fix up the building so that she and Jim can become landlords, allowing him time to write his novel. After Jim comes home, he spends much of his time doing chores and fixing pipes, which puts a kink in Connie's ambitious plan--as does tenant Bobbie Stevens, played by Monroe. Bobbie is Jim's old pal from the service, but Connie worries that the former WAC may be her romantic rival. As the well-built blonde who turns the male characters into putty, Monroe played into her burgeoning bombshell image.

By 1951, Monroe had already been under short-term contract twice. In 1947, she was signed to Fox for six months as a contract player, but no one at the studio saw her potential, and her contract was not picked up. In 1948, she signed with Columbia for six months, where she made only one film, Ladies of the Chorus. As Monroe was trying to establish herself in the postwar era, the studios were affected by a Supreme Court decision known as the Hollywood Anti-Trust Case. Decided in 1948, the ruling forced the studios to give up business practices considered monopolistic. As the financial ramifications of this decision reverberated around Hollywood, the studios grew more tight-fisted and selective about grooming contract players for stardom.

Despite being without a contract, Monroe continued to work with the help of high-powered William Morris agent Johnny Hyde, who got her a small but showy role in All About Eve (1950). Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck caught Monroe's performance and was impressed enough to offer her a screen test and sign her to a six-month contract. Zanuck orchestrated the construction of Monroe's star image as a glamorous sex symbol with a touch of innocence. She was cast in a nondescript role as a secretary in As Young as You Feel (1951), but the part was beefed up to draw attention to her. To give her exposure and circulate her star image, Zanuck cast in her any film that called for a gorgeous blonde, including Love Nest. Love Nest is a cut above most of these films because it was penned by prominent screenwriter I.A.L Diamond, who later partnered with Billy Wilder.

During production, Fox threw a party to wine and dine theater exhibitors at the studio. Zanuck required his stars to attend in order to impress the theater owners. Monroe arrived over an hour late, making a calculated entrance in a black strapless gown. She sat with Fox president Spyros Skouras at the head table. The event became part of her build-up as a star. Based on the positive reactions of the exhibitors, Zanuck arranged a new seven-year contract for Monroe, which not only bumped her salary but improved her billing. Though she has only three or four scenes in Love Nest, she received fourth billing. Haver may have been the star, but the publicity during production was devoted to Monroe. She appeared on the cover of Look magazine, was interviewed for Colliers, and showed up in an article in Life. This time around, the studio was taking a hand in ensuring her stardom.

Costar Jack Paar, who later achieved fame on the small screen as the smooth-tongued host of late-night talk shows, received fifth billing in Love Nest--below Monroe. Long after he left Hollywood, Paar spoke unkindly of her, poking fun at her attempts to read classic literature by recalling how she carried around books by Marcel Proust but never opened one. He remarked, ". . . beneath the faade of Marilyn there was only a frightened waitress in a diner." Some biographers claim that she was taking adult extension courses at UCLA in literature and art appreciation around this time, which would account for the books. However, a 1952 photo essay arranged by the studio showed Monroe on the UCLA campus. The text claimed she attended classes, and the photos depict her studying, buying supplies at the book store, and browsing in the library. The stunt was part of Fox's publicity campaign for her; whether the story was capitalizing on an actual part of her personal life, or whether it was fabricated is debated in Monroe biographies.

Paar claimed to be unimpressed by Monroe, but June Haver, who had had her turn at stardom, offered a different opinion. She insisted that "Marilyn had that electric something. . . ."

By Susan Doll

Producer: Jules Buck for Twentieth Century Fox
Director: Joseph Newman
Screenplay: I.A.L. Diamond from a novel by Scott Corbett
Cinematography: Lloyd Ahern
Editor: J. Watson Webb, Jr.
Music: Cyril Mockridge
Art Directors: Lyle Wheeler and George L. Patrick
Costumes: Renie
Cast: Connie Scott (June Haver), Jim Scott (William Lundigan), Charley Patterson (Frank Fay), Bobbie Stevens (Marilyn Monroe), Ed Forbes (Jack Paar), Eadie Gaynor (Leatrice Joy), George Thompson (Henry Kulky), Mrs. Quigg (Marie Blake), Florence (Patricia Miller), Mrs. Arnold (Maude Wallace), Mr. Hansen (Joe Ploski), Mrs. Thompson (Martha Wentworth), Mrs. Frazier (Faire Binney), Mrs. McNab (Caryl Lincoln)
1951 B&W 84 mins.

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