Thursday, January 5, 2017

Quantum Leap -- Episode 88: Goodbye Norma Jean

Sam Leaps Into:
Dennis Boardman, Marilyn Monroe's chauffeur. 

Stop Marilyn from overdosing and losing her part in a movie.


Los Angeles, California

Memorable Quote:
I don't know about other pictures, but this one will never come again. And this one needs you.  It needs a brash, beautiful, glorious, untamable misfit.  ~Sam

The scene where Sam exposes Barbara in front of Marilyn is a good one.  I probably should have seen the plot twist involving Barbara coming, but I actually thought when she was first introduced that they were setting it up so that Sam would have to save her instead of Marilyn.

I wasn't wild about the Sam/Marilyn romantic angle.  If they were going that route, I would have liked to see some more relationship development as opposed to Sam leaping in and immediately being in love.  I guess they were trying to make the point that Marilyn was irresistible, but I always thought she was a bit overrated (though admittedly I've only seen one of her movies and it was a long time ago).

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Marilyn doesn't actually die until 1962, but I guess the implication of this episode is that she would have died earlier if not for Sam.
  • Nice to see Griffith Observatory, an L.A. landmark that features in both the original MacGyver and the ill-fated reboot.
  • The director's assistant is Stephen Root who has been in a lot of things including Office Space (Milton).

Susan Griffiths is a professional Marilyn Monroe impersonator and has played Marilyn in many different shows and movies including Pulp Fiction and Growing Pains.

I had just starred in an ABC movie of the week called Marilyn and Me, so playing this role for Quantum Leap was a thrill for me. The idea was for Sam to be part of her life, and then, to no avail try to save her.......while weaving in the All about Eve aspect with Liz Vassey's character (I adored working with her).

One of the nicest men I've ever met, Scott Bakula was pure pleasure to work with. He is so kind, loved every minute with him. Dean Stockwell was so encouraging and a compliment from him I knew was the ultimate as he has been on the scene for a long time. Great actors, great crew, and director.

Because of having just starred in a movie of the week, and knowing all that that involves (numerous lines to be learned, wardrobe fittings, hair make up,etc etc it's a 16 hour day), I was able to enjoy this knowing how very special this experience was. This is definitely in my top 3 of my Marilyn Monroe career.

For additional background on Susan, here's an interesting Daily Mail article about her career.  Also I googled "All about Eve" (which I hadn't heard of) and turns out it was a movie about the same premise (an aspiring actress backstabbing the established star), and Marilyn was even in it.

Final Analysis:
The first two-thirds of the episode was pretty slow and featured some stilted dialogue, and I don't normally critique Bakula but I thought his acting was too overdramatic here.  But I liked Liz Vassey's performance and the last 15 minutes were pretty good.  Ranking it of 66 out of 88.


  1. Going in, I thought the entire episode was gonna be another gimmicky mess, and while it did certainly come off as the kind of gimmick indicative of a series in its final throes of creative exhaustion, I thought it was an entertaining hour. I didn't really find it "slow" at any point and thought the narrative worked throughout, and especially enjoyed the conniving Barbara and the slow-motion reveal of her agenda.

    Like you, I've never been particularly captured by what little I've seen from Marilyn Monroe, and actually found the more girl-next-door appeal of Barbara (pre-sellout Barbara anyway) more attractive than the pretentious to the point of cartoonish air of glamour that Marilyn Monroe represented. With that said, Susan Griffiths did a very good job with the role and especially sparkled in the end by outshining Barbara's stage performance. I didn't realize the actress played Marilyn Monroe before, even though it's not surprising. I recall the 1990 Halloween episode of "Growing Pains" featuring a Marilyn impersonator but never made the connection to Susan Griffiths. Sounds like she really enjoyed the experience on "Quantum Leap" as well.

    The only part of the episode I didn't like is how badly they screwed up the timeline. They made it sound like Marilyn Monroe committed suicide in 1960....when JFK was only a Senator from Massachusetts. I don't know a lot about her timeline but I do know she didn't die until a couple of years later, and continue to be relevant to JFK after he became President, so the conversation about Sam preventing her from killing herself in 1960 was an odd distortion of the timeline.

    This was a middle of the road episode overall but considerably better than I expected given how unimpressed I've been with some of their other gimmicky episodes from season 5. I'll rate it between "Double Identity" and "All-Americans".

    1. Yeah I was confused also about the timeline. I think they were implying that she only made it to 1962 because of Sam, but it would have been better if they would have left that part regarding her death out of it (or else just made the episode take place in 1962).

  2. Marilyn Monroe was actually a really talented actress. I know a lot of her movies made her look vapid and self-absorbed, and not all that intelligent, but I recommend checking out one of her lesser known films, Niagara from 1953. In it she portrays a gold-digging honeymooner plotting to murder her new husband at Niagara Falls. One of her best dramatic performances.