In 1950, Marilyn Monroe was good but by no means a great actress. Her greatness would have to wait until 1961, although a lot of you will probably say it happens earlier than that, if you didn’t put a rock in my face already. And it’s not her fault, neither. She’s given bit parts like escorts for men you would rather not be escorts for (in the same year, she played arm candy to George Sanders), with lines full of exclamatory colloquialism that hard to pull off. Someone watching this movie in 1950 wouldn’t even know who Marilyn Monroe was until the end credits, sadly enough.
In a scene with a cop trying to take her away from her bedroom door, she delivers her words with a different emotion each line, going from anger to fear to seduction without transitioning between these three, or just staying with one while discretely sprinkling her lines with the other two. Rita Hayworth could pull off being hot by either being consistently drunk or bitter. But then Rita wouldn’t play this part in 1950.That doesn’t mean that Marilyn doesn’t add any nuance to her role. There’s a childlike quality to her, adding to the sympathy we already have for her character.
Marilyn’s appearance isn’t the only thing worthwhile in the movie. “The Asphalt Jungle” is a very apt title for the film and for that time, since some would say that urban areas doesn’t civilize people but just concentrate the wild ones. An important police officer turns on a switchboard, a box recording voices speaking about crimes. These voices effectively authenticate the chaos happening in the streets. If one cop had been only talking for the rest of his force, he’d just be a limp PS.