Classic Movie Review: Bus Stop (1956)

Title: Bus Stop
Release Date: August 31, 1956
Director: Joshua Logan
Production Company: Marilyn Monroe Productions | 20th Century Fox

When I put together my list of Classic Movies, I made sure to include a Marilyn Monroe movie since she is such an iconic American movie star. I chose Bus Stop, because it is her most highly-regarded acting performance. Monroe’s acting is indeed spectacular, and while the rest of the cast are playing for comedy, for the most of the movie she acts as if she’s in a horror movie.  Bus Stop offers heaping portions of corn pone and heteronormativity, and let’s just say it hasn’t aged well.

Beauregard Decker (Don Murray) is a naive rancher from Montana who travels to Phoenix, Arizona to participate in a rodeo.  Having never had experience with women he declares that he hopes to find his “angel” on the trip. Spotting Chérie (Monroe) performing a song and dance at a Phoenix cafe, Beau declares that she’s his angel, and when Chérie admits she is physically attracted to him, that’s enough for him to decide that they will be married immediately.

Again, this movie is played for comedy, but it’s hard not to imagine that Beau’s aggressive and abusive behavior is terrifying for Chérie (you can see it in Monroe’s eyes). Beau’s friend and chaperone Virgil (Arthur O’Connell) and Chérie’s friendly co-worker Vera (Eileen Heckart) both try to interfere on Chérie’s behalf, but Beau will listen to no one. Ultimately, Beau abducts Chérie and puts her on a bus to Montana (and yes, the word “abduct” is used by the characters in the movie).

It won’t be a big spoiler to note that this movie does not end with Beau’s arrest for kidnapping a woman and transporting her across state lines.  Instead, Chérie and Beau finally fall in love and go off together.  A generous reading of the final scenes is that Beau finally learns consent and respecting the wishes of other.  But overall watching this movie made me feel uneasy.  Monroe had to deal with abusive relationships in her real life and the future of this fictional marriage does not look promising.

Rating: **