Welcome!

Welcome to our new Everlasting Star blog, dedicated to keeping you updated on all the latest news relating to the one and only Marilyn Monroe.

You’re welcome to join us here in celebrating this wonderful woman. Read and comment on our posts, and to learn more and meet other fans, join our thriving community – online since 2001.


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Cameron Mitchell Honoured in Pennsylvania

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Marilyn with Cameron Mitchell in ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’

Actor Cameron Mitchell (1921-1994), who played Tom Brookman in How to Marry a Millionaire, will be honoured in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, beginning with a screening of the 1953 comedy on September 27 at the Zion Church, Glen Rock, reports YDR.com. The event will be sponsored by the Glen Rock Historic Preservation Society, with proceeds earmarked for the Cameron Mitchell Scholarship Fund.

Mitchell was born in Pennsylvania. He served as a bombardier during World War II, and was a founding member of the Actor’s Studio. In 1949, he appeared as Happy Loman in the Broadway production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.

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According to The Unabridged Marilyn, Mitchell was heading to the Fox Commissary with Marilyn when they met Miller, and salesman director Elia Kazan, in December 1950. (However, most accounts place Marilyn’s first meeting with Miller slightly later, in early 1951, on the set of As Young As You Feel – her first role under a new studio contract. Her agent and boyfriend, Johnny Hyde, had died in December, and as Miller and Kazan have both recalled, Marilyn was still grieving.)

‘As you know her, you find out she’s no goddamn gold-plated birdbrain. She’s a serious dame,’ Mitchell said of Marilyn. ‘At the time I first met her, she was on a big psychiatry kick. She was studying Freud, Menninger, that kind of thing.’


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Immortal Marilyn in September

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Over at the Immortal Marilyn website, this month’s updates include my tribute to Lauren Bacall (which you can also read here), and a Photoplay article from 1950, headlined, ‘How a Star is Born.’


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The Sixty Year Itch

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“A warm draft from the subway ventilator shaft is enough to turn Marilyn into the most exotic butterfly in history. Director Billy Wilder’s brilliant idea, with its mixture of erotic fantasy and the dream of being weightless and able to fly, transcends the mere tomboy eroticism of a sensation-seeking public. Film still for The Seven Year Itch, September 15th, 1954.” – Schirmer’s Visual Library, Marilyn Monroe Photographs 1945-1962

Read more about the filming of Marilyn’s most iconic movie scene in The Guardianand another perspective from Melissa Stevens – granddaughter of Sam Shaw, who captured the moment – on Biography.com.

 


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New York to Recreate ‘Marilyn Moment’

The US-based Sexy Hair brand, who have been using Marilyn in their promotional campaigns since last year, are hosting a mass ‘Marilyn moment’ next Monday, recreating the famous ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch - exactly sixty years after it was originally filmed,  reports Marketing Land.

“On September 15 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., the brand will unleash an army of modern day Marilyns that will entertain New Yorkers with their own dress-blowing moments on Lexington Avenue between 52nd and 53rd. Then that evening, images recorded from the dress-blowing moments will be projected on the sides of various landmark buildings in the city in and around Times Square, Union Square, Columbus Circle and Grand Central Station.”


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Jenny Packham’s ‘Dear Marilyn’

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British-born Jenny Packham – whose designs have been worn by the Duchess of Cambridge – unveiled a new, Marilyn-inspired collection at New York Fashion Week, reports The Hindu.

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“Packham even wrote a ‘Dear Marilyn’ letter she included in her show notes -

‘I’ve read the book and listened to the recordings, visited your bungalow at the Beverly Hills and sat in your chair at the Max Factor building where you became a blonde, all the while challenging why you are still so relevant in this brave new world,’ it read in part. ‘For me, it’s that smile that makes you ever relevant and time enduring.’

Along with body-skimming gowns expertly embellished to glisten under lights, Packham used a playful baby pink for day looks. She went to hot pink for a slinky off-the-shoulder dress one can picture Monroe wearing with big black sunglasses.”

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However, fashion bible Women’s Wear Daily was not so impressed:

“Jenny Packham’s show epitomized one of the biggest problems afflicting New York Fashion Week: the lack of editing in the collections showcased on the catwalk. The British designer offered an overabundance of evening numbers, which touched too many tones. These ranged from supersweet, like an organza ballgown embroidered all over with flowers in sorbet hues, to sexy, such as body-conscious nude silk styles decorated with sequins stitched in graphic patterns.

The lineup was somewhat updated, but even if this season Packham wanted to celebrate Marilyn Monroe, her collection missed that witty, charming spirit always associated with the American actress.”

 


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Marilyn, Natasha and a Rehashed Rumour

Marilyn and Natasha during filming of 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes'

Marilyn and Natasha during filming of ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’

A rather misleading article by David Gardner appears in today’s Mail, claiming that Marilyn had a ‘lesbian affair’ with her dramatic coach, Natasha Lytess. This rumour is nothing new – but while there is some evidence to suggest that Natasha was infatuated with her pupil, there is no proof that Marilyn reciprocated.

Gardner cites Ted Jordan, author of Norma Jean: My Secret Life With Marilyn Monroe (also known as Norma Jean: A Hollywood Love Story, published in 1989), as hearing Marilyn remark about her supposed affair with Natasha, ‘Sex is something you do with people you like. What could be wrong with a natural act?’

However, Jordan has been widely discredited as a fantasist. There is no proof of his alleged association with Monroe. Even his ex-wife, Lilli St Cyr, said his stories about Marilyn were fabricated.

In acting class with Natasha, 1949 (photo by J.R. Eyerman)

In acting class with Natasha, 1949 (photo by J.R. Eyerman)

A more reliable source is Marilyn herself, who addressed the subject in her 1954 memoir, My Story (co-written with Ben Hecht.)

“Sex is a baffling thing when it doesn’t happen. I used to wake up in the morning, when I was married, and wonder if the whole world was crazy, whooping about sex all the time. It was like hearing all the time that stove polish was the greatest invention on earth.

Then it dawned on me that people – other women – were different from me. They could feel things I couldn’t. And when I started reading books I ran into the words ‘frigid,’ ‘rejected’ and ‘lesbian.’ I wondered if I was all three of these things.

A man who had kissed me once had said it was very possible that I was a lesbian because apparently I had no response to males – meaning him. I didn’t contradict him because I didn’t know what I was. There were times even when I didn’t feel human and times when all I could think of was dying. There was also the sinister fact that a well-made woman had always thrilled me to look at.

Now, having fallen in love, I knew what I was. It wasn’t a lesbian. The world and its excitement over sex didn’t seem crazy. In fact, it didn’t seem crazy enough.”

Marilyn and Natasha, circa 1953

Marilyn and Natasha, circa 1953

Marilyn first met Natasha when she was briefly signed to Columbia in 1948. Lytess became her dramatic coach for six years. Marilyn grew close to Natasha, and would often stay at her home. This is not unusual – Marilyn also often stayed at the home of her friends the Kargers, who lived nearby. (An apartment in the same building, on Harper Avenue in West Hollywood, was recently up for sale.)

Over time, others close to Marilyn – especially Joe DiMaggio – came to feel that Natasha was too fixated and controlling of Marilyn. Such was Monroe’s deference to Lytess, directors tried to have her thrown off the set. Nonetheless, Lytess commanded a high salary thanks to her association with the rising star. Marilyn was exceedingly generous with money, which Natasha also benefited from.

By 1954, it seemed Marilyn agreed with Natasha’s critics. After leaving Hollywood for New York, she broke off all contact with her former teacher. When she returned in 1956, Marilyn had a new acting coach – Paula Strasberg. Lytess lost her job at Fox and never saw Monroe again.

Perhaps understandably, Lytess was extremely bitter. She wrote a memoir, My Years With Marilyn, which has never been published in its entirety, but has been widely quoted by Monroe’s biographer. Natasha died of cancer in 1964.

While Marilyn may have experimented sexually on occasion, and was supportive of her gay friends, the rumours are pure conjecture. The quotes from Natasha cited in the Mail seem to be drawn from a 1961 interview, unseen until it was picked up by the soft-porn magazine, Penthouse, in 1991.

What is most noticeable about this interview – and the Mail article – is that while it may suggest that Natasha was strongly attracted to Marilyn, it gives no indication that she shared these feelings.

Lytess also gave an interview on French television in 1962. It can be seen on Youtube, and has been translated on the Everlasting Star forum (members only.)

Donald Spoto described their relationship best in Marilyn Monroe: The Biography (1992.)

“Dependent on Natasha though she seemed to be, Marilyn had an independence and a strength as well, an ingrained ambition that overcame countless disappointments, lonelinesses and setbacks. The sad truth is that Natasha Lytess was more profoundly dependent on Marilyn and Marilyn’s need of her, and therein may lie the reason why she endured six years of emotional crisis. Even as she was doomed to frustration, Natasha loved so deeply she could not bring herself to the action that would have freed her – separation from Marilyn.”


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Celebrating Phil Stern at 95

Photographer Phil Stern, who turned 95 this week, has donated prints of 95 of his iconic shots to the Veterans Home of California, where he is currently a resident, reports Media Bistro. A special celebration and unveiling of the donated prints is scheduled for this weekend.

Marilyn is pictured here at a backstage at a children’s benefit at the Shrine Auditorium in 1953. In another, most pensive photo, she poses with Jack Benny. They had filmed a hilarious sketch for his television show at the same venue in September. Although Marilyn’s expression looks tragic, the photograph may have been staged to present two comedic stars in a different mood.

 


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Joe and Marilyn’s Forbidden Kiss

 

Writing for the New York Times, David W. Dunlap reveals how a harmless photo taken at Marilyn’s wedding to Joe DiMaggio in San Francisco, back in January 1954, cost the newspaper’s picture editor, John Randolph, his job.

“Gay Talese told the unhappy story (with a happy ending) in ‘The Kingdom and the Power, his 1969 account of our inner workings. It concerned the picture editor John Randolph and the marriage on Jan. 14, 1954, of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio.

‘Randolph routinely picked one picture from out of the pile [of wire-service photos], marked it for a two-column cut and put it aside to be submitted later to the bullpen, which passes on all photographs before they are sent up to the engraving department. The picture showed Marilyn Monroe with her head back and her mouth slightly open, and DiMaggio with his lips puckered and his eyes closed. There seemed nothing particularly vulgar or exceptional about the picture — at least Randolph did not think so, nor did Theodore Bernstein and the other bullpen editors who later passed on it.’

The next morning, John Randolph was no less surprised than dozens of other Timesmen to hear that the picture in the Times had caused a “great flap” in the publisher’s office, and that Randolph was no longer the Times’s picture editor. Randolph at first could not believe it. He could not believe, nor could other Timesmen, that Miss Monroe’s open-mouth French kiss would so offend the sensitivities of Arthur Hays Sulzberger, or Iphigene Sulzberger, or whoever may have registered an objection in the publisher’s office.

‘Neither embittered nor angered, Randolph accepted the embarrassed assurance of the managing editor, Turner Catledge, that his pay would not be cut as he was moved over to the national copy desk.

‘Two years later came the happy ending: The “Wood, Field and Stream” columnist — whose beat was the great outdoors — was leaving The Times. Catledge offered the job to Randolph, who turned out to be the ideal writer for the assignment.’”


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Anatomy of a Scandal

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In the wake of news that over a hundred celebrities’ private photos have been leaked by a hacker, Anne Helen Petersen looks back at Marilyn’s nude calendar scandal, and how she survived, over at Buzzfeed.

“More than 60 years ago, an ‘it’ girl not dissimilar to Jennifer Lawrence also had highly suggestive and topless photos emerge into the public sphere, just as her career was rocketing from B-player to A-list star. A 23-year-old Marilyn Monroe, desperate for work, posed nude for art photographer Tom Kelley in 1949, receiving $50 for her time.

She made rent, and continued her fledgling career. It wasn’t until 1952, when two of the images from the shoot showed up in a calendar called Golden Dreams, that the photo shoot came back to (potentially) haunt her.

At first, it was mere speculation that the anonymous girl in the pages of the calendar seemed to look strikingly similar to one of Fox’s up-and-coming starlettes. But as it became increasingly clear that it was, in fact, Monroe nude on a bed of red satin, she urged her studio to let her guide her own PR strategy, one brilliant in its simplicity.

Instead of denouncing the images, Monroe took control of the narrative. She’d been hungry and behind on rent, and besides, she had always insisted that the photographer’s wife be in the room. ‘I’m not ashamed of it,’ she told the press. ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’

And her comments just kept getting better. ‘I’ve only autographed a few copies of it, mostly for sick people,’ she explained to the The Saturday Evening Post. ‘On one I wrote, this might not be my best angle.’

Unlike prior sex scandals, which had each served as a revelation of a hidden self, the photos of a naked Monroe fit with the expectations gleaned from her on-screen performances. (Just four years before, a leading Hollywood star — Ingrid Bergman — had been denounced on the Senate floor as an ‘instrument of evil’ for giving birth out of wedlock, with nary a single nude photo in sight.) Monroe’s on-screen persona, or ‘picture personality,’ was defined by sex; it was no surprise when her off-screen activities were as well.

But Monroe’s particular embodiment of sex, and the salience thereof, hinged on an understanding of sex not as prurient, or deviant, but natural — fitting with what came to be known as the “Playboy philosophy”, that sex is only dirty when suppressed. In this way, Monroe reassured the public that posing for those photos wasn’t wrong, or sinful, or something that should end her career — but a young, hungry, ambitious girl understanding her assets and sharing the pleasure of her beautiful body.

Monroe knew that she could fold the potential scandal of the Golden Dreams photos into her existing image, which managed to reconcile the intensely sexual with the overwhelmingly innocent. She giggled, she smiled, she completely neutralized the career-destroying power of those photos. All with a few lines of well-chosen response, calculated to help her audience understand that yes, nude photos might be the site of truth of the Marilyn Monroe image, but that site of truth isn’t cobwebbed and unseemly, but rather the most innocent, natural, and thus unimpeachable form of bliss.”


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‘Millionaire’ Style Tips From Pola

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The recent passing of Lauren Bacall has brought renewed attention to one of her most popular films, How to Marry a Millionaire. Among this underrated comedy’s many attributes is an impeccable sense of style (thanks to costume designer Travilla.) Over at Queens of Vintage today, Lena Weber looks at the timeless fashion of its three heroines, including Marilyn as the near-sighted Pola Debevoise:

“Marilyn Monroe is one of the most famous pin-ups for Fifties fashion and her outfits throughout How to Marry a Millionaire certainly do not disappoint. She swaps flowing gowns for a figure hugging red swimsuit during the film, a look easily replicated today.

The fuller shape of Fifties swim wear is much more flattering than many modern bikinis resembling dental floss often seen on the beach today. Monroe teams hers with strappy wedges for a look just as stylish now as it was then. Vintage mecca Beyond Retro has scores of original Fifties swimwear.

Monroe also sports thick, black, slightly cat-eye shaped glasses throughout the film, yet takes them off at every possible moment, embarrassed by them, stating, ‘men are seldom attentive to girls who wear glasses.’

Yet, how wrong she is today. Vintage glasses ooze style and can be picked up from any vintage shop. Monroe also sports a silk turban in several scenes and similar ones can be picked up on eBay from as little as £6.”


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