While this may not seem to be a comparison of equal measure it was exactly the conversation that was being had on the Fox Studio set in 1962. When Somethings Gotta Give lost their lead star, Marilyn Monroe, who died unexpectedly, they were in a lurch with no leading man- who refused to make the film and an option on the screenplay.
Who could replace Marilyn in the role of shipwrecked wife with enough allure to woo her husband back from his second wife? Who could resonate with men and women?
While the 37 minute restoration of Something’s Gotta Give offers a very sensual Marilyn with a skinny dipping in the pool, it also shows a motherly role that she never got to play in real life. What her role isn’t… is comedic. Its fun loving and she does an impressive job of holding her own when her husband questions her fidelity, learning she was trapped on the island with a man for 5 years. But Marilyn’s role opposite Dean Martin is one where he is avidly aware of her sexuality and acts as the keeper of it, by making her cover up and tone down. We don’t see this with Doris and James Garner’s versions.
Doris brings Move Over Darling back to its 1930’s slapstick roots. It is comedic first and foremost. Doris had only recently entered the part of her career where she could hold her own on a sexual level. Previous films would sometimes trap her in that infinite virgin state, even at an older age. In Move Over Darling, she keeps the friskiness to a hug/kiss session in the hotel room and a dive into the pool (with clothes on) at the end. That’s pretty much it. You can still however feel that they really want to be together through all the kerfuffle.
Critics have said that there are parts of Move Over Darling that are a nod to Marilyn and some feel like she haunts the film because of this. When James Garner ( Nick) explains Ellen Arden’s funeral included her favorite color flowers, pink, many understand that Pink was Marilyn’s favorite color. Doris’ hair is styled exactly like Marilyn’s was at the time and only a slight darker shade of blonde. In some photo stills and lobby cards, profile shots of Doris look just like Marilyn.
The answer to the question of “could Doris Day fill the Marilyn role” is evident now. While it’s definitely not the same movie ( even though its primarily the same script) the personalities of the talent are different and really does color the flavor of the whole film.