A naive but stubborn cowboy falls in love with a saloon singer and tries to take her away against her will to get married and live on his ranch in Montana
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When William Inge wrote Bus Stop, critics loved it. It was a Broadway sensation and was quickly picked up by Fox. They wanted to make it into a movie, or rather they wanted to change it to fit the personality of one of their stars who wanted to be in it – Marilyn Monroe.
The 1956 film Bus Stop is only loosely based on the play, so I can’t comment Inge’s work. The movie however is terrible. It has not aged well at all. Still, it is beloved by critics as a worthwhile movie and considered by some to feature Monroe’s best performance. This was during her Actors’ Studio days when she was trying to become a “legitimate” actress and her performance as Cherie was supposed to be an extension of this. Monroe’s performance is not what is wrong with the movie however. She does fine and acts well. It could be one of her best performances and one of her most enjoyable, if only the rest of the movie were watchable.
Don Murray’s performance as the over-the-top cowboy Bo Decker is what kills this movie. Supposedly Bo has never been off the ranch in Idaho until he and his friend Virgil take a trip to Phoenix for a rodeo. Maybe this could be believable in 1956, but certainly in 2009 it is hard to believe that someone would jump up and down and go crazy over taking a bus ride, much less a cowboy. Cowboys do not typically deal in outward emotions. But this is Hollywood. This is also supposed to be a drama. The dramatic moments of this movie are killed by Murray’s performance however.
Things go bad for this movie when Bo and Virgil go to a saloon. There Cherie is performing and Bo falls in love with her on sight, since this is the first girl that he has seen and he promised Virgil that he would find himself his angel on this trip. Cherie is nice to Bo and Virgil at first, letting them buy her drinks so that the bar gets some extra money. Virgil sees through her plot though and tells Bo they need to leave, Bo doesn’t want to as he has found true love. Virgil finally gets him to go, but Cherie becomes an obsession for Bo.
For some reason Cherie does not try to fight Bo. At times it looks like she will, but she always ends up knuckling under to him. It is not like Cherie enjoys being stuck in Phoenix. She is trying to make it to Hollywood from the Midwest in order to pursue an acting career. Thus far her straight-line route has brought her only this far. Leaving with Bo back to Idaho would end that dream for her.
Bo somehow manages to get Cherie on the bus back to Idaho. There is a snowfall however and the bus has to make a stop. This is where the movie gets good and where it is probably the truest to the play. Everyone in the bus has heard Bo go on and on about his love for Cherie. She has heard it the whole way as well and determines to stay at the bus stop while Bo goes back to Idaho. This doesn’t stop him though from pestering her, the other passengers and the audience. Luckily the bus driver steps in and challenges him to a fight. A fight in which Bo looses, much to the delight of the audience.
Unfortunately, the audience is not satisfied as the movie should end here with Bo going back to Idaho and Cherie going her own way. Bo would have learned a valuable lesson about love and life off the ranch. Instead, Cherie feels sorry for Bo and agrees to marry him. Bo tells everyone that he will calm down, but is not convincing at all in this.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I do not hold this movie in high regard. Therefore I would not recommend watching it unless you like overly emotional cowboys who turn what should be a drama into a terrible comedy.