Beauregard "Bo" Decker (Don Murray), a rambunctious young cowboy, leaves his Montana ranch for only the second time in his life to participate in the big rodeo in Phoenix. The worldlier Virgil (Arthur O’Connell), who has shepherded him through his first twenty-one years, accompanies Bo. After boarding the bus bound for Phoenix, Virg offers Bo some fatherly advice about dealing with women. When the inexperienced Bo declares that he is "gonna find me a angel," Virg advises him to settle for a "plain old little girl."

As the bus nears Phoenix, Carl (Robert Bray), the driver, stops at Grace's Diner for breakfast. As Carl flirts with the tart-tongued Grace (Betty Field), Bo gulps down a quart of milk and three raw hamburgers. When Elma (Hope Lange), a young girl who works at Grace's, boards the bus, Virg encourages Bo to court her, but Bo is not interested.

In Phoenix, Bo is bowled over by the big city and its teaming masses. Across from their hotel room, Virg spots the alluring Cherie (Marilyn Monroe) dancing at the Blue Dragon Club. When the club owner insults Cherie by calling her an ignorant hillbilly, Cherie, who aspires to be a great "chantoosie," shows her waitress friend Vera a map featuring a bold red line leading from River Gulch, Cherie's home town in the Ozarks, directly to Hollywood.

Soon after, Virg enters the club and Cherie cajoles him into buying her a drink. When Cherie takes the stage to warble a song, Bo bursts into the room and immediately falls in love. Proclaiming that Cherie is his angel, Bo silences the noisy crowd, follows Cherie offstage and then pulls her out the back door. Pronouncing her name "Cherry," Bo performs acrobatics to woo her, and then kisses her. After escorting Cherie back into the club, Bo proudly announces that they are engaged, much to Cherie's surprise. Cherie is dumbstruck by this turn of events, and is accused by Virg of being a cheap hustler.

Early the next morning, Bo barges into Cherie's boardinghouse bedroom and, hoping to impress her with his mind, begins to recite the Gettysburg Address. Bo then hauls the sleepy Cherie to the rodeo parade and hoists her up on his shoulders. At the rodeo, Bo wraps Cherie's green scarf around his neck for luck. After winning each event, the boisterous Bo cavorts around the arena, hollering for Cherie. When Cherie, seated in the stands, tells Vera that Bo bought a marriage license and shows her an engagement ring, Vera voices concern. Spotting a preacher waiting ringside, Cherie runs away, sparking rumors about an imminent marriage between the cowboy and the sultry blonde.

Back at her boardinghouse, Cherie frets as Vera packs her bags and counsels Cherie to ask for an advance on her salary so that she can make a quick getaway. At the Blue Dragon, Virg informs Cherie that Bo is a virgin who has never even been kissed. Together, Virg and Vera coach Cherie on strategies for handling Bo, but when Bo comes to collect her, Cherie, unable to lie, tells him goodbye forever. The volatile Bo then rips the tail off Cherie's costume, sending her to her dressing room in hysterics. Climbing out the window, Cherie runs to the bus station, but Bo lassoes her and drags her onto the bus bound for Montana.

As the bus approaches Grace's Diner, a blizzard closes the roads, forcing the passengers to take shelter in the diner. Cherie leaves the sleeping Bo in the back of the bus and, when he awakens he barges into the diner and harangues Cherie for leaving him behind. Outraged by Bo's behavior, Carl orders him to desist. When Bo then slings the squealing Cherie over his shoulder, Virg blocks the door and Carl challenges Bo to step outside and slug it out. After Carl soundly thrashes Bo, Virg insists that Bo apologize to everyone that he has offended.

The next morning, Bo makes amends to Grace and Elma, and then meekly asks Cherie for her forgiveness and returns her scarf. When she offers him the engagement ring, Bo asks her to keep it. After news comes that the roads have opened, Cherie tries to console Bo by confessing that she was not the angel he believed her to be. As Bo and Virg prepare to board the bus, Bo asks Cherie if he can kiss her goodbye and, after a tender embrace, he runs out of the diner.

Bo soon returns and shyly states that Virg has suggested that her experience and his inexperience average out, thus making them the perfect couple. Asserting that he loves her just as she is, Bo asks Cherie to marry him. Cherie, touched by his sweetness, replies that she would follow him anywhere and then throws away her map to Hollywood. Realizing that Bo no longer needs him, Virg decides to remain behind. After Bo tenderly wraps his jacket around Cherie, she drapes her scarf around his neck and he escorts her onto the bus.

Oscar
1 Nomination
0 Awards

Golden Globes
2 Nominations
0 Awards
Primarily a man of the theater, director Joshua Logan fashioned a brilliant career as a writer, producer and director and was that uncommon phenomenon, the theatrical director whose success extended into films. The cinematography in “Bus Stop” is lush, and evidences that we're still in the early days of the anamorphic widescreen process known as Cinemascope. Logan makes use of some broad landscapes and wide shots of the rodeo, crowd and such, but the best uses of widescreen in the film are subtler. Logan's direction is great throughout, both for camera work and his actor's performances.

“Bus Stop” marked Marilyn Monroe’s return to the screen after a one-year absence. Monroe was dissatisfied with the roles that Twentieth-Century Fox assigned to her, and left Hollywood after completing “The Seven Year Itch”. Suspended by the studio, she moved to New York where she enrolled in the Actors Studio, under the tutelage of famed acting teachers Lee and Paula Strasberg, according to a September 1956 article in Cue. After announcing the formation of Marilyn Monroe Productions, Monroe finally came to terms with Fox when the studio offered her a lucrative contract that granted her approval over directors, according to a May 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item. “Bus Stop” was the first picture of Monroe's new seven-year contract. Many of the reviews commented that Monroe's New York experience had greatly improved her acting ability. The Hollywood Reporter review noted that her performance had "been augmented by a sensitivity, poignancy, and apparent understanding that Miss Monroe did not display before." Unlike most of Marilyn Monroe's movies, “Bus Stop” is neither a full-fledged comedy nor a musical, but rather a dramatic piece. Monroe does however sing one song: That Old Black Magic (by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer). Monroe was never billed as a singer, however she did do great jobs in Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend and Little Girl From Little Rock from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, but this version of the famous song That Old Black Magic was sung very poorly, but that was the point. Cherie was not a very good performer.

An October 1955 Variety news item noted that producer Buddy Adler initially wanted Montgomery Clift to play the role of Bo, but the part eventually went to Don Murray and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Murray is underrated in this movie. He plays an insensitive bulldozer who pursues Marilyn like she's one of the calves on his ranch, and a man who can be both tender and gentle, and is completely convincing in both roles. He's really obnoxious in the first role, but that's the whole point. Possibly he could have toned it down a little, but all in all, he does a great job. The chemistry between him and Marilyn is great - especially at the end, you totally believe they just can't keep away from each other.

The supporting cast is also excellent. Arthur O'Connell who had two Oscar nominations for "Picnic" and "Anatomy of a Murder" does a great job as Virgil, Bo's buddy that tries to counsel him. O'Connell is a relief in this picture as the wiser and more mature Virgil. Virgil gives the fatherly patience and love to Bo, exasperated, angry, and hoping that his young friend grows up. Betty Field plays Grace, the cafe owner with a strut. Eileen Heckert with her deep voice plays Cherie's friend Vera. She does an excellent job of grounding the film with a sense of reality. Hope Lange puts in a brief appearance as Elma Duckworth who works at the diner. She's lovely in a small role. The following year, she would get a Best Supporting Actress nomination for "Peyton Place" and go on to win hearts in the 1960s in TV's "The Ghost & Mrs. Muir”. She began dating Don Murray during the filming of “Bus Stop” and they married soon after filming wrapped.