With the release of the widely acclaimed The Shape of Water on HBO earlier this fall, fans and new viewers of Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi love thriller can treat themselves to the film with the new fascinating and sad knowledge that within one scene lies a lost recording by Marilyn Monroe herself.
“How Wrong Can I Be” is sung by a 22-year old Monroe during a reconciliation scene between Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins as they set in motion the plans to help an amphibian human-like creature kept away in a top-secret government facility. Set in 1960’s Baltimore, the film boasts of a rich cinematography immersed in green-tinted Cadillacs and deco pie diners, alongside playful, toe-tapping hits of the big band era that Sally Hawkins’ heroine, Elisa, loves to listen to. Besides the surreal and endearing adventure that follows when Elisa, a janitor at the facility, tries to save the creature from destruction at the hands of both the US government and Soviet spies, lovers of old cinema and particularly the early Universal monster movies of the 30’s-50’s will find much to admire in the Oscar-winning feature. del Toro himself had always wanted to reboot the one and only The Creature from the Black Lagoon for the 21st Century, and in The Shape of Water, the homage is well-done and applauded.
So it is no wonder that Marilyn Monroe would herself make a subtle and haunting little appearance, if only through her beautiful voice. Another unique connection between this film and her in why her song might have found its way into the film could be the nod to her innocent and humanist approach to the Black Lagoon creature in her famous The Seven Year Itch film– after her character exits from seeing the movie at a local theater:
“He wasn’t really all bad. I think he just craved a little affection, you know? A sense of being loved and needed and wanted.”
The song itself was written by Fred Karger, who coached Monroe’s vocals for her third feature film in the late 40’s, Ladies of the Chorus. It was lost until discovered in London by an anonymous man who said his father had been in the music business. The 12-inch disk was listed for sale man in 1995 in a Sotheby’s auction where it was expected to be purchased for up to $15,000. No further existence of the song can be found, except for this 20-second clip and forever on the silver screen, in The Shape of Water— and somehow with a feeling as Marilyn Monroe herself would have liked it.
Listen to the sound clip of “How Wrong Can I Be” here
Watch The Shape of Water on HBOGo here