Marilyn Monroe Fought An Uphill Battle To Get Cast In All About Eve

Before she was starring in the biggest feature films of her day, Marilyn Monroe had a minor breakout role in a major motion picture. Her performance as Miss Casswell in the Academy Award-winning film "All About Eve" gained her some recognition in Hollywood, but it wasn't an easy part to land for the young actress.

"All About Eve" is a 1950 drama about an aging stage actress named Margo Channing (Bette Davis) that lets a superfan named Eve (Anne Baxter) into her life. Once inside the star's inner circle, Eve tries to take everything from her. When a spot opens up as Margo's understudy, Eve takes it behind Margo's back because she knows the part perfectly. A turning point of the film comes when Margo discovers that Miss Casswell auditioned for the show by running lines with Eve, causing a fight between Margo and the director that promptly leads to the starlet's firing.

Monroe's part in "All About Eve" may have been small, but she lights up the frame in each of her few minutes of screentime. Landing this part was a huge feat for Monroe because she had to win the approval of the same studio exec who fired her months earlier — Darryl F. Zanuck. His reason for suspending her contract in the first place is even more shocking than the reason he agreed to hire her back.

The studio execs said Monroe was not photogenic

Zanuck and other executives at 20th Century Studios originally fired Monroe because "it was the opinion of the studio that I was not photogenic," as the actress tells it herself in her autobiography, "My Story." Fortunately, her role as Miss Casswell in "All About Eve" reignited Monroe's career and her love of acting once more. "I felt happy on the set," she recalled. "And, with Johnny Hyde's help, I was able to daydream again."

Monroe was referring to Johnny Hyde, a casting agent who believed in Monroe's star quality and advocated for her during this lull in her early career. Hyde was married, but the two were engaged in an illicit affair.

Despite the questionable ethics of their romance, Hyde was a huge advocate for Monroe. He pushed writer-director ​​Joe Mankiewicz hard to give her the part of Miss Casswell. "He haunted my office," the filmmaker complained (via All About All About Eve). Eventually, though, Mankiewicz was swayed by Monroe's charm. "There was a breathlessness and sort of glued-on innocence about her that I found appealing," he admitted.

All About Marilyn

After winning over the director, there was still Zanuck to convince. Mankiewicz made it clear that he wasn't going to plead Monroe's case himself. "I wasn't about to tear up my contract and stomp out if she didn't get the part," he explained.

Somehow Hyde managed to sway the temperamental producer and Monroe was again signed to 20th Century Studios — "on a one week guarantee," Mankiewicz recalled. This contract would transform into a long-standing agreement with the studio that persisted for over a decade, until 1962 when she was fired for the second time. Two months after being let go from Fox again, Monroe passed away.

The actress' life and career was tragically cut short at the age of 36, but her legacy lives on in her films. "All About Eve" was the actress' first chance to truly shine onscreen. Even in such a minor part, she is absolutely captivating. The best work of her career was still to come, but her ability to deliver a stand-out performance alongside such a formidable main cast proved she had the star quality to become a Hollywood legend.