Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong (1951)
Don’t Bother to Knock directed by Roy Ward Baker (1952)
In honor of the release of Blonde this Friday, I decided to cover a Marilyn Monroe movie! She doesn’t have very many based on books (though a lot are based on plays), but Don’t Bother to Knock is based on a book and it also happened to be on the Monroe movies I hadn’t yet seen so it worked out well!
I will be doing a book vs movie for Blonde, so keep an eye out for that one!
The Jones family are staying in a hotel for a convention, and their babysitter calls out at the last minute. The elevator man says he has a niece who could come watch their daughter, and he seems reliable to they agree.
We quickly see that something is off with Nell, the babysitter. She gets the attention of a man across the way, Jed, and he comes over to have a few drinks with her.
He starts to see she is unstable, but when he tries to get away, he is unable. Eddie shows up at one point, and when he discovers Jed hiding in the bathroom, Nell freaks out and hits him on the head, knocking him out. She then ties up and gags the girl, because she won’t stop crying.
A woman comes to the door inquiring what is happening, and while this is happening, Jed leaves through the other door. Nell then blames everything on him.
Jed eventually returns, because he feels bad for abandoning the girl. During this time, the mom also returns and she and Nell get in a fight. Jed then enters and helps the mom get Nell away.
In the end, Nell is taken to an institution, and Jed realizes how much he cares about his girlfriend, whom he’d gotten in a fight with. It is a happy ending for everyone but Nell basically.
This was a quick read, and I enjoyed it. Nell was an interesting character, and I was curious to see how things would progress. I do with it had been more of an edge of your seat book though because when I had to take breaks from reading, it’s not like I was dying to get back to it.
The movie has good performances all around, and like the book, it is short-only 75 minutes! I have seen a number of Monroe movies in my life, but the majority that I’ve seen have been comedies so it was cool to see her in a drama where she plays an unstable character.
We also have a young Anne Bancroft who was absolutely stunning!
I want to mention how much I hate the poster for this lol. They of course make Monroe seem super sexy and in this pose that just doesn’t fit the movie at all so that is annoying.
In the book we see more of the family who needs the babysitter. Their last name is Jones, and all three have an “O” middle name and call themselves the O. Jones’s. I loved seeing their family dynamic in the beginning and how fun and cute they all were together. We get this a little in the movie, but not much. The parents also seem much older than I would have expected to have a young daughter.
The movie makes big changes when it comes to Nell. For starters, in the book her last name is Munroe! Once Marilyn Monroe was cast, they of course changed her last name for the movie.
But they made bigger changes as well. She is far more sympathetic in the movie. We find out she had a boyfriend who was a pilot and he was flying over the pacific in 1946 and his plane was either shot down or crashed and he died. She then tried to commit suicide, spend time in an institution and had a hard time knowing what reality was.
When she meets Jed, she finds out he is a pilot and she is triggered and starts to think that he is her boyfriend who died. That is also why she becomes so upset with Eddie, because she thinks he is trying to keep her from being with her boyfriend. She basically loses touch with reality entirely.
In the book, Nell seems like a bit of a sociopath. We find out her family home burned down and that she did it in her sleep and she says it was an accident. I wasn’t clear on whether or parents were still alive, or if they died in the fire. I think they are still alive, but they sent Nell to be with Eddie, her uncle, because they just didn’t want her around.
In both, she puts on Mrs. Jones’s jewelry and robe, but in the book, she is very careless and makes a mess and doesn’t seem to care at all about being caught. In the movie, she cleans up when she spills perfume and isn’t as thoughtless as she is in the book.
When Jed is hiding in the bathroom, in the book she goes in there to rinse the glasses and Jed is on the side in the shower, but she doesn’t look at him at all. Doesn’t give him a wink, a nod, or any kind of recognition. Whereas in the movie, when she goes in there she and Jed do have an interaction. I thought her lack of recognition in the bathroom was such a great scene. Jed would have felt better had she given him some look, but she literally acts like he truly isn’t there.
In the end of the book, she falls asleep again and is carried away. Whereas in the movie, she gets a razor and is going to commit suicide when hotel people surround her and Jed comes up and helps her understand reality and she gives him the razor. In both, she is then taken to an institution.
Jed and Lyn
In the book, Jed and Lyn are on a date when a homeless person asks for money and Jed refuses. This bothers Lyn and they get into an argument about it because she thinks he is heartless, selfish and a cynic. Jed says he just sees the truth about life. The date ends early, because Lyn is so upset, she leaves.
In the movie, Lyn is a singer at the hotel and she says she wrote Jed a letter asking him not to see her anymore. He comes over anyway and they have a talk about how she thinks he is rude and uncaring. There was a funny part where they are having this disagreement, when a guy comes up to make a son request and during their argument she says, “I’ll be right back. I have to sing a love song.”
Another funny line is when Lyn is busy singing, Jed is talking to the bartender saying how he doesn’t want to be married because when you get married you just become a statistic. The bartender replies, “and if you stay dingle you end up talking to bartenders.”
Anyway, in both Jed goes back to his room and he sees Nell across the way and comes over.
In the book, when he gets out of the room, he sees Lyn in the lobby. She had been waiting there for him for a while-she tired calling his room but he didn’t answer. She had written him a note, but all it says was “Dear Jed” because that’s all she could think to say. She felt bad though about the date and had been waiting in the lobby to apologize to him. When he sees her, he doesn’t give her any kind of explanation and she doesn’t ask for one.
In the book, Mrs. Jones doesn’t feel right about Nell from the start, but she leaves anyway. While at the dinner she calls and thinks Nell sounds weird, and so she takes a cab back to check. She sees Nell in the daughter’s room, potentially about to kill her, and Mrs. Jones and Nell get in a fight. I thought this was such a great scene to see Mrs. Jones being the one to bust in there and fight to save her daughter.
In the movie, the mom doesn’t seem to have a bad feeling until after the phone call. Their convention is right there in the hotel, so she goes up there and, in the movie, she also fights Nell.
Jed then comes in after and helps out. Soon after that, the police show up and it seems like Jed is shot..? He doesn’t go to the hospital though, just stays at the hotel, so I guess it wasn’t serious?
Anyway, Lyn is there too and the whole group of them hang out and chat about the events and it has a happy ending where Lyn and Jed are reconciled and Jed realizes what is important in life.
The movie has a similar ending, but after Jed gets Nell away from Mrs. Jones, he is distracted talking to Eddie and Nell escapes in a trance out of the room. She then gets a razor but is found by the hotel staff. Jed helps calm her down, and Lyn is touched to see he actually cares. Same as in book, their relationship is rekindled because Jed learns to care.
Book vs Movie
I liked the book, and I thought Nell was just so interesting with how she just didn’t care and didn’t really plan ahead. And also, just had no empathy. In the movie she is much more sympathetic and I felt bad for her. It’s hard to say which wins, because I really liked the performances of Bancroft and Monroe, and not going to lie, they both are so gorgeous.
I think I will still say the book wins because we saw the Jones family more. Both versions of Nell are interesting, I don’t know which I prefer to be honest.