Marilyn, Pursued By A Bear – a new play by Nicole Neely, blending Marilyn’s life story with Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale – is being staged at the Bath House Cultural Center as part of the 21st Festival of Independent Theatres in Dallas, Martha Heinberg reports for TheaterJones.
“Marilyn Monroe wakes up in a mental institution, where she’s been taken by her third husband. The Hollywood icon is back in the hospital because she’s overdosed again.
In Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, a jealous duke casts out his faithful wife and newborn daughter because he thinks she’s an adulteress and the baby is a bastard. At one point, the duke’s man ordered to carry out the cruel errand, is chased by a bear, dropping the baby as he exits. Daughter lives, man devoured offstage. The playwright sees some reflections of the bard’s late romance in the real-life traumas of Norma Jean Baker, the funny, gorgeous daughter and granddaughter of abused and abandoned women.
Here, we see Marilyn (slight, pretty CC Weatherly in platinum wig and blue scrubs) haunted by visions of her dead grandmother (loving, touching Sally Soldo) and her mother Gladys (sharp-featured, defensive Stephany Cambra), trying to battle her way out of a drug fog on an empty stage with blue lighting and three white blocks as props. A chorus of four characters in black, representing everything from accusing orderlies to the dark bear of death (svelte Olivia Cinquepalmi in a clingy satin gown), pursue the anguished actress as she struggles to defend herself against false accusations.
The tone of the play shifts from a sense of pity for the embattled heroine shrinking from a menacing animal growl in the distance to the overly melodramatic … The action swirls and the bear growls, but unlike the Shakespearean romance, there is no magical ending in this evocative, sad remembrance of a woman. We are, however, left with a sense that ‘like mother, like daughter,’ might also mean that these poor women are also forgiving and supporting, despite the husbands, doctors and fathers who left them behind.”
Perhaps best known for her role in It Came From Outer Space (1953), Kathleen Hughes was married for sixty years to River Of No Return producer Stanley Rubin, who died in 2014 (see here.) She is also a regular guest at the annual memorial services for Marilyn.
In an interview with Stephanie Nolasco for Fox News, Kathleen looks back on her career, and shares memories of Marilyn dating back to the first time she saw her perform in Strictly For Kicks, a revue staged at 20th Century Fox in March 1948 – many months after Marilyn’s first contract with the studio lapsed. (You can hear the Glenn Miller Band’s version of the song Marilyn performed here.) Kathleen’s cousin, Diana Herbert, had briefly appeared with Marilyn in her first movie, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! Both were uncredited.
Kathleen also mentions testing for a role ‘a short time after’, which involved dancing, and losing the part to Marilyn. This could be Ladies of the Chorus, a low-budget 1948 musical filmed at Columbia Pictures in April 1948. The black gown worn by Marilyn in Strictly For Kicks was a costume from the movie.
“My cousin Diana Herbert was taking acting lessons when I was already under contract. She was in a show at the studio club. Every studio in those days had a studio club and it consisted of all the people behind the scenes – the mailroom people, the secretaries – everybody but the actors. They would put on a show every year. My cousin was going to be in one of these shows.
The day before the show, she said, ‘They took my song number away from me and they gave it to a girl named Marilyn Monroe who had been under contract at the studio for six months — they had just dropped her! But now they’re giving her the song. I’m still in the show and you still have to come and see me.’ Well, I went to see it and Diana did her number. She was very, very good. But then Marilyn came on. Oh my God, she was fantastic. She did a song called “I Never Took a Lesson in My Life.” She was wearing this slinky black dress. I just couldn’t believe they dropped her.
She was incredible. She was just a star. I just thought if anyone from the studio saw the show, they would realize they made a terrible mistake and sign her back again. A short time later, the casting office called me and they said, ‘Can you dance?’ They got me with this poor, patient man of a dance director. He tried hour after hour after hour to teach me one simple step. Years later I was able to pick it up, but I could not learn this step at the time. At the end of the day, as it was getting dark, he said, ‘Forget it! We’ll get someone else.’ That someone else was Marilyn.”
Fans have posted their latest Monroe sightings on the Marilyn Remembered Facebook group. Firstly, ChadMichael Christian Morrissette found this mural (based on Alfred Eisenstadt’s famous 1953 photo of Marilyn) on Highland in Hollywood.
And secondly, Lorenzo Presti spotted Marilyn gracing the cover of the ironically-titled Marilyn Had Eleven Fingers On Her Feet, a book of Hollywood-themed paintings by artist Maria Herreros on sale in Madrid. This portrait was inspired by Milton Greene’s 1953 Laurel canyon series. And of course, Marilyn had no extra fingers, or toes – this rumour was debunked by Snopes.
Incidentally, another of Maria’s portraits – based on another shot of Marilyn by Eisenstadt – is featured on the cover of Autobiografía de Marilyn Monroe, a novel by Rafael Reig.
Sugar Kane, as played by Marilyn in Some Like It Hot, is actually Sugar Kowalczyk from Sandusky, Ohio – as Matt Westerhold notes in a piece for the Sandusky Register about his hometown’s movie connections.
“I enjoy it when Sandusky is the center of attention, and always get geeked when I hear mention of our city on TV shows and films. I loved it the first time, and ever since, when I heard Marilyn Monroe in the movie Some Like It Hot, say, ‘Imagine me, a smalltown girl from Sandusky, Ohio, (marrying the heir to the Shell Oil Co.).'”
He’s got the gist of it, but here’s the exact dialogue from the scene in which, after singing ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ in a Florida hotel, Sugar receives a bouquet from her admirer and eagerly shares the news with her best pals, Daphne and Josephine…
SUGAR: Josephine, just imagine. Me, Sugar Kowalczyk from Sandusky, Ohio, on a millionaire’s yacht. lf my mother could only see me now.
Monroe expert and friend of this blog Scott Fortner has been interviewed by the New York Post, giving tips to other Marilyn collectors.
“According to Scott Fortner, a top collector of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia who works as a health-care executive, bodily fluids are an enhancement. ‘I have a dress of Marilyn’s with a sweat stain on the underarm,’ said the 50-year-old Bay area resident. ‘That personal touch makes the dress . . . more valuable to collectors.’
Another gambit for increasing the worth of Fortner’s 200-plus-item Monroe collection: Putting together multiple elements to create documented ensembles. He had a mink collar, purchased in 2006 as part of a lot that went for $10,000, and sought the jacket to go with it. He ‘spent forever’ looking for the piece. In 2016, he bought it at auction for $10,000. Combined, the outfit would now sell for $50,000 to $60,000.
He does what he can to keep the value and the threads intact. ‘I [store] everything in a temperature-controlled environment,’ said Fortner. ‘I’m happy to not touch anything. Putting [these garments] on mannequins would stress the fabric.’ With that in mind, he adds that accessing the Monroe collection is beside the point. ‘I’m happy to know that I have it and to have the photos.'”
In a blog post for the 25 Years Later site, J.C. Hotchkiss looks back at Marilyn’s comedic roles in Monkey Business, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot.
“The ‘dumb blonde’ has more depth than you would first think. As someone who has played this ingénue of a character, the ‘ditzy’ blonde needs to know herself. She needs to know the jokes but is NOT the joke. She needs to command the scene, but not be so childlike that the audience stops rooting for her and gets annoyed with her immaturity. Marilyn navigated this fine line throughout her career …
Marilyn fought for a long time to be taken seriously in the acting arena in which she desperately wanted to excel and to be a true actress, not just a pretty face. I believe all these performance showcase that brilliance … To me, she was more than just a beauty. In fact, the internal struggles she was fighting throughout her life made these performances even that much more poignant …
Marilyn was a trendsetter without even trying to be. She just wanted to make people happy, sometimes at the detriment of her own well-being. At least we have her bright smile and contagious laughter on celluloid whenever we need to laugh and remember just how funny and beautiful she was; to remind us of who Marilyn Monroe was and the legacy she wanted us to remember. “
The artist Robert W. Richards, who began his career as a magazine illustrator and went on to create iconic theatrical posters, has passed away, Broadway World reports, He was also a sketch artist, capturing celebrities past and present – including Marilyn.
Owlwood, once the home of movie mogul Joe Schenck, is up for sale again, as Taylor Boozan reports for Forbes. The Holmby Hills estate, described as ‘Los Angeles’ most coveted property’, comes with a price tag of $115 million. Owlwood was previously on the market in 2012 for $150 million (see here), and in 2018, it was reported that it was one of several Hollywood homes tied up in a Ponzi scheme.
It has become almost a cliché to link desirable properties to Marilyn, often with no factual basis – but Owlwood really was a part of her life, as while she may never have lived there, Marilyn often stayed in Schenck’s guest cottage, and later posed for photo shoots there with Milton Greene.
One can only imagine how this young starlet from a humble background (and with comparatively modest tastes) must have felt amid such opulent surroundings. After Schenck’s death in 1961, other famous occupants included Marilyn’s Some Like It Hot co-star, Tony Curtis, who sold it for $750,000 in 1974 to Sonny & Cher. And in 2017, rapper Jay-Z hosted a Grammy Awards after-party at Owlwood.
The Divine Marilyn exhibition (first reported here) has now opened at Galerie Joseph at 116 rue Turenne in Paris, through to September 22. You can read a report (in French) on the launch over here. (Photos by Joshua Greene, and Ma Zaz at Marilyn Remembered.)