Don Murray was an unknown actor appearing on Broadway in Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth when Joshua Logan saw him and cast him in Bus Stop, the film version of William Inge's play. Murray played Bo, the wide-eyed cowboy who falls head over heels for a saloon hostess named Cherie whom he tries to drag back to Montana to marry. The ambitious Cherie-- for a time anyway--has her sights set higher than marrying the rowdy young rancher.

As a youth Murray had strong convictions against killing and capital punishment. During the Korean War he did alternative service working with refugees as a conscientious objector. After his success in Bus Stop (1956), Murray turned to social themes in his film making, sometimes writing and producing his projects. Murray played a priest who works with juvenile delinquents in The Hoodlum Priest and appeared as Dr. Norman Vincent  Peale, the Protestant theologian, in a film biography. In the 1960s, Murray tried unsuccessfully to film Life Plus 99 Years, the prison memoir of Nathan Leopold whom Murray met  through their association with the Church of the Brethren.

Here, in an exclusive interview with American Legends conducted over the telephone from Murray's home in California, Don Murray  remembers the actress who played opposite him in Bus Stop: Marilyn Monroe.

MM and Arthur Miller outside their Sutton Place residence  

AL: Bus Stop had been a hit on Broadway.



Kim Stanley played Cherie. The role I played in the film, Bo, was done on Broadway by a wonderful actor named Albert Salmi. After I landed the part, and we started shooting, I learned for the first time the movie was being co-produced by Marilyn Monroe and Milton Greene, a photographer who was her business partner. They had bought the rights to the play for Marilyn to return to Hollywood after studying at the Actors Studio.

AL: She had spent a year studying with Lee Strasberg as a special student.

Paula Strasberg was on the set as Marilyn's acting coach. Before a take, they would talk quietly off to one side, or if Marilyn seemed disturbed, Paula would take her aside and talk to her. They huddled together. You never heard what they said. Paula was polite but didn't pay attention to anyone else. She was very devoted to Marilyn. She never discussed the Actors Studio or offered any other actor advice.

AL: How did Josh Logan, the director, react to Paula Strasberg's presence on the set?

Paula was there every day, even on location in Phoenix and Sun Valley (Idaho). Logan worked with it very well. He let her talk to Marilyn. Then he would step in and direct. He was very patient. Very few directors would have put up with it.

AL: How was it working with Marilyn?



Every scene was difficult to get through. She had difficulty remembering her lines, concentrating. If she had a long paragraph, for instance, and was supposed to say, "Oh," at the end--she would come to the end and there would be no, "Oh." On some scenes there would be thirty takes. The average film scene requires about five takes. If  Marilyn was having trouble getting through a particular scene, and finally got it, they would print it. It did not matter how the other actors did. I had a feeling of relaxation doing the scenes she wasn't in. I loved the stuff with the  horses at the ranch and the rodeo sequence we shot in Phoenix.

AL: Did Marilyn socialize with the rest of the cast?

Marilyn didn't socialize with anyone. She was going with Arthur Miller, so anytime she was away, she was seeing him. It was clandestine. He was still married. We were shooting all day, so nobody was going out on the town. Sun Valley was very cold. When the shooting was finished, you went to your room.


Did you get to know Marilyn?


She was detached, into herself. On the set, she appeared frightened, worried. Just thinking about what she had to do. There was not much interchange. While they were setting up lights, she would sometimes have conversations about relationships. Marilyn didn't say so, but we knew she was talking about Arthur Miller.

AL: Ezra Goodman, who was covering the filming of Bus Stop, thought that Marilyn was bitten by the star bug.

At the time I was going with Hope Lange who was also in the cast. The story is true that Marilyn objected to having two blondes in the film. So they darkened Hope's hair a little.

AL: You have that kissing scene with Marilyn at the end of the movie.

Love scenes in movies are pretty mechanical. You have to make sure you put your head in a certain position so you don't throw a shadow. In those days, it was pretty strict. You had to keep your mouth closed or it wouldn't get past the censor. In viewing the rushes someone noticed that Marilyn had her mouth open during the love scene. They could not cut around it. So we had to redo the scene even though the filming was over. Marilyn was lighthearted. She was laughing. It was the most relaxed I'd seen her. She didn't have any lines to memorize.

AL: Did you get any feedback from Inge?

Inge was shy, but he was very appreciative of what we were doing. He liked the movie very much. George Axelrod wrote the screenplay. In the play, all the action takes place at a bus stop. George added the ranch and rodeo sequences. He created the movie as much as Inge did.

AL: Did you have any contact with Marilyn after the film?

I never saw her again. I never talked to her again. I heard from other people that she was upset. She was expecting to get a nomination for one of the awards.


(Ezra Goodman's The Fifty-Year Decline and Fall of Hollywood, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1961, provided background information on the filming of Bus Stop.)

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