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SEE MARILYN IN BLACK AND WHITE - AND HER OWN LIVING COLOR.

Byline: Rob Lowman Entertainment Editor

It's just one of those oddities that Marilyn Monroe's most colorful film is in black and white. But shades of gray did not dull her vibrancy as Sugar Kane in ``Some Like It Hot.''

The Billy Wilder-directed classic is just one of a number of Monroe films being released on DVD to celebrate what would have been the screen legend's 75th birthday. Fox is putting out ``Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection,'' which includes ``The Seven Year Itch,'' ``Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,'' ``How to Marry a Millionaire,'' ``There's No Business Like Show Business'' and ``Bus Stop.'' The set has the bonus disc of ``Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days,'' an American Movie Classics special that will air June 1, Marilyn's birthday. The films are also available individually.

The ``Hot'' DVD features an interview with Tony Curtis, one of Monroe's co-stars. The interview, conducted by Leonard Maltin, took place at the Formosa Cafe, a landmark Hollywood eatery across from the studio where part of the movie was filmed. Curtis tells some wonderful stories about the shoot, which also took place at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. Some of them involve his and co-star Jack Lemmon's transformation into ``women.''

The story is about a pair of 1920s musicians who accidentally witness a gangland shooting, then hop a train to Florida disguised as Josephine (Curtis) and Daphne (Lemmon), members of an all-girl jazz band. A complication arises when Curtis' character falls for Sugar.

Some of Curtis' stories confirm many of the things you've heard about Monroe, such as how she was often late. He talks about how he and Lemmon would be in their dresses for hours waiting for her to show up (bathroom trips were a pain!), and how Wilder told them not to put their fingers anywhere they didn't want them seen, because if Marilyn got it right, they were going to print it.

It wasn't that Monroe wasn't a good actress. She was - a fact that's often forgotten amid the psychodrama of her life. She also worked with top Hollywood directors of the time - Wilder on ``Hot'' and ``The Seven Year Itch''; Howard Hawks on ``Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,'' in which she sings her signature song, ``Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend''; Joshua Logan in the screen adaptation of William Inge's play ``Bus Stop''; Jean Negulesco in ``How to Marry a Millionaire''; John Huston on ``The Misfits''; and ``Let's Make Love'' with George Cukor, with whom she was working on ``Something's Got to Give'' when she died in 1962.

It wasn't that she lacked talent, it's just that much of her life was spent being Marilyn and all that that encompassed. But Curtis tells other stories that reveal a side of Monroe rarely mentioned in all the cultural icon autopsies that keeping popping up about her. Marilyn apparently had a randy sense of humor and, according to Curtis, would like to ``grind into him'' during their kissing scenes on ``Hot'' to get him aroused. She would then jump away quickly so everyone could see the results. He tells another story of how, when a top dress designer came in to to measure the three of them for outfits, the designer was measuring Monroe when he joked that ``Tony's got a better ass than you.'' Monroe's supposed reply was to unbutton her blouse and say, ``Yeah, but does he have better ---- than these?''

Curtis makes another point: that people loved Marilyn because she showed her vulnerable side in public, such as when fans saw her going in and out of divorce court crying. But that sells her short. It doesn't explain her on-screen appeal. Just look at her in her films, and throw out the oodles of pychobabble that has clouded everything she has done. What you see on screen is a kaleidoscope of women - naughty, nice, ditsy, smart, sensitive, tough - which film critic Maltin believes is why people keep reading so many different things into her. But it's also what made her unique and why she endures. Even in black and white, she was a Marilyn of many colors.

``Some Like It Hot'' (MGM) is $24.98 on DVD and comes out May 22. ``Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection'' (Fox) is $99.98 on DVD or $24.98 individually. A number of extra elements are included on each.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1) MARILYN MONROE IN ``SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE''

(2) Gentlemen still prefer Marilyn, as they did decades ago in this famous scene from ``Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.''
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 12, 2001
Words:752
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