From Marilyn Monroe to Scarlett Johansson

Hello folks! Six Degrees is coming to you late because we’ve had friends visiting and before that there was a bug floating about and it’s the school summer holidays and all sorts of other fun and frolics. On the upside, it’s given me a chance to rethink my schedule and from now on, Six Degrees will be released on Saturdays. Mostly because Six Degree Saturday sounds better than Six Degree Monday. I’m right, you know I am. Anyway, on with the blog!

Our Six Degrees pairing this week was suggested by Richard Dzien and will take us from blonde bombshell to Black Widow.

Richard says “Fair point” because he first suggested Bela Lugosi to Robert Englund, but i’m saving that one for closer to Halloween, which gives me time to prepare myself for the mental anguish of connecting Lugosi to the modern era. For now, let’s go with the easy opt… oh.

At times like this i’m very grateful to my Dad for inspiring in me an eclectic taste in entertainment. My bedtime reading ranged from Dickens to Enid Blyton to comic books. I’d watch old black and white comedies on a Saturday morning and we’d rent the latest sci-fi blockbuster that same night. When it comes to music, I enjoy everything from Tiesto to Johnny Cash to Slipknot and spent a chunk of yesterday afternoon listening to some incredible hurdy gurdy music.*

My varied tastes come in handy when writing these blogs, because it means I can cross eras fairly easily. Marilyn Monroe tragically passed away in 1962 at just 36 years old. At that time, Scarlett Johansson was but a glint in the eye and wouldn’t appear in her first film until 1994 when, aged 10, she appeared in “have-I-seen-that-oh-right-Bruce-Willis-was-a-big-rabbit” fantasy adventure flick, North.

When one actor debuts 32 years after the death of another, finding links can prove tricky. Thankfully, I have two of the best comedies ever made to help me out. Let’s start with Marilyn Monroe and the truly wonderful Some Like It Hot.

Released in 1959, Some Like It Hot saw the coming together once again of Marilyn Monroe and director Billy Wilder. By all accounts, working with Monroe was far from easy as she would often struggle with lines and lose concentration. Wilder struggled to come to terms with this but admitted later that Monroe was wonderful in the part and clearly made allowances for her obvious star factor, famously saying “My Aunt Minnie would always be punctual and never hold up production, but who would pay to see my Aunt Minnie?”

Some Like It Hot features what may well be one of the greatest final lines in film history. If you’ve not see the film you might want to skip the video below. While you’re ordering a copy on Amazon, the rest of us will watch this and you can rejoin us after.

Is that not wonderful? Hard to believe that was supposed to be a placeholder line until the actual final line was agreed upon. When Wilder and scriptwriter I. A. L. Diamond failed to come up with a better line, it was left in and I, for one, am glad. It’s perfectly delivered by Joe E. Brown and the reaction from Jack Lemmon is absolutely spot on. Of course, Lemmon was one of the all-time greats and is, quite handily, our first link.

Over a long and impressive career, Jack Lemmon starred alongside countless famous faces but one particular name stands out. If you’re a fan of comedy from across the years, you’ll probably have guessed who I have in mind. The late, great Walter Matthau isn’t the next link, but he does lead into it so you’ll just have to bear with me for a moment while I talk about one of the best comedy duos to ever grace the silver screen.

Matthau and Lemmon were, quite literally, the original Odd Couple. Their starring roles in the 1968 film of that name led to a television series (starring Tony Randall and Jack “Quincy” Klugman) and would eventually spawn a sequel which brought the original stars back together in the nineties, 30 years after the original. Funnily enough, I assumed that would be some sort of record but according to Wikipedia the longest gap between a film and it’s sequel is Bambi to Bambi 2, standing at 63 years, 178 days between releases. Get with it, Disney.

These live action remakes are getting silly, now.

The two actors also starred together in a slew of other films over the years including the hilarious Grumpy Old Men (and the equally hilarious follow up Grumpier Old Men) and it’s these brilliant films which lead not only to our next link, but to a little story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin…

Some time in my teens, I rented Grumpy Old Men and I absolutely fell in love with it. The end credit extras with Burgess Meredith actually made me laugh until I did that thing where I was no longer making audible sound and breathing was becoming difficult. I rented that film time and time again when stuck for something new to watch and eventually tracked down a copy of both the original and the sequel on VHS.
Years later, my VHS copies sadly long gone, I was lucky enough to be able to introduce my wife to both films when they popped up BT Vision (which I neither still have nor recommend…) and she also absolutely adored them.

This shared love of the films led to a mighty online search in the run up to Christmas that year as I made a desperate bid to track down either a DVD or Blu-ray double pack. I eventually managed to find a Blu-ray double, which was Region 2 but imported from the US as the films hadn’t been released here at the time. It cost me almost £30 at the time (they’re now up for about seven English pounds and I heartily recommend grabbing a copy of your own!) and my wife was thrilled when she opened her gift on Christmas morning. Since then, we’ve watched both films on assorted online services and I don’t think we’ve opened the Blu-ray once. The moral of the story? I don’t know. Looks nice on the shelf, though.

Anyway, Grumpy Old Men! A classic comedy starring Jack Lemmon alongside Walther Matthau, Daryl Hannah, the amazing Burgess Meredith and my next link… Kevin Pollak.

Pollak is a man of many talents. A gifted impressionist, a stand-up comedian and host of his own bloody brilliant Youtube chatshow. He’s also no slouch when it comes to acting and has starred alongside some huge names in Hollywood, in some truly fantastic movies. I could link to Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson or Demi Moore via his role in A Few Good Men. I could run through any number of huge stars via Pollak’s work with Scorcese in Casino. The options are limitless. It is, therefore, perhaps strange that i’m going to opt for a film which falls under the heading of cine-meh, The Whole Nine Yards.

I have seen The Whole Nine Yards, but I can’t remember much of it. Funny, but forgettable. I decided to go via this film instead of one of the many greats in Pollak’s body of work to point out that sometimes, the links don’t have a funny story or much loved remembrance. Sometimes, you just remember seeing a guy in a thing. Pollak starred in The Whole Nine Yards alongside Bruce Willis and he’s done a bunch of films, so that’s handy. Moving on.

You might now be remembering one of the earlier paragraphs in this rather long and rambling blog and be thinking that i’m linking through Scarlett Johansson’s film debut in North. That would be brilliant, if i’d done that. I’d look pretty stupid if i’d missed that one, huh?

Not THAT stupid…

I had no idea that Johansson was in North until I researched the filler for this piece. No, I went a different route. Bruce Willis has, of course, made a ton of movies with all sorts of actors so you can pretty much guarantee a one actor link from him to Johansson, it’s really just a case of which one to pick. After much making-of-notes and tapping-of-teeth-with-a-biro I decided to pick the slightly obvious but hugely awesome Samuel L. Jackson.

Jackson starred alongside Willis in Die Hard: With A Vengeance, Pulp Fiction, Unbreakable and will soon star opposite Bruce’s David Dunn in the upcoming Glass, reprising his role as the eponymous villain. Plenty of options, there.

Obviously, from Samuel L. Jackson we go direct to Scarlett Johansson in assorted Marvel films. Nailed it.

I wish i’d made that North link.

*Patty Gurdy. Check out her rendition of the Game of Thrones theme. Phenomenal right?

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