Gene Walz, a professor in English and Film Studies at the University of Manitoba, has reviewed Charles Casillo’s new biography, Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon, for the Winnipeg Free Press. (I’m currently reading this book, and my own review will follow in due course.)
“Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon, meanwhile, is Charles Casillo’s second Monroe book — his first being The Marilyn Diaries (1999, expanded 2014). That book was a novel purported to be the star’s personal diary. This second one is a sympathetic biography with a substantial bibliography (500 book entries and multiple footnotes). While it contains no Earth-shaking new insights, it’s a serious, commendable study.
This is not a Cinderella story. Not just because Monroe was insecure, terribly needy and never truly happy, but because very few men in her life were princes — and that’s what she so desperately wanted and needed. Certainly not Fox’s executives, who had little respect for her talent … In addition to the un-prince-like men, there were some ‘wicked stepsisters’ as well.
Monroe was not a dumb blonde, as she is elsewhere presented. She was a woman with a quick wit and genuine humour, a gifted and sensitive writer as well as a thoughtful, hard-working actor who wanted to be taken seriously. Her notorious lateness and absences on movie sets were not because she was a prima donna, but because she was a manic depressive wracked by suicidal self-doubt and despair. Her talents and needs were rarely honoured by the people around her. Casillo’s book attempts to rectify this wrong. Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon is like a massive quilt of a book, assembled artfully from other resources and his own interviews. It’s the latest ‘last word’ on the undeniable, unforgettable, but misunderstood star. It’s a readable refresher course for those caught up in Monroe idolatry, providing some new dimensions to her mythic life.”
The new exhibition, Essentially Marilyn, has opened at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles. Admission is free until September 30, ahead of the Profiles in History auction in October. The exhibit showcases the remarkable collection of Maite Minguez Ricart, all the way from Spain. Jackie Craig shared these photos of Monroe’s glamorous movie costumes and personal artifacts on Marilyn Remembered – you can see more here.
Fellow Travelers, Jack Canfora’s new play about Marilyn, Arthur and Elia Kazan, was critically acclaimed when it opened in the Hamptons this June (see here.) The producers are now hoping for a Broadway run – but as Michael Reidel reports for the New York Post, without a star attached it’s going to be an uphill journey.
“This issue is bedeviling a compelling new play that, if it could get a Broadway theater, would be a strong contender to win the Tony next year. Jack Canfora’s Fellow Travelers — about the real-life combustible triangle of Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan and Marilyn Monroe during the McCarthy era — opened in June to rave reviews at Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theater.
Local critics called director Michael Wilson’s production ‘phenomenal,’ ‘sharp,’ ‘witty’ and ‘gripping.’ New York’s major papers, alas, didn’t review the show. Had their reviews been good, the play would have stood a much greater chance of getting to Broadway.
Somebody slipped me a copy of the play, and it’s terrific. Fellow Travelers takes a few liberties here and there with the facts, but it digs deep into the complicated friendship — and falling out — between Kazan and Miller.
And it spices things up by adding Monroe to the stew. In his biography Arthur Miller, Martin Gottfried suggests that Kazan threw Monroe in Miller’s way, knowing that she would upend the playwright’s life.
Gripping as it is, Fellow Travelers has yet to find its way onto Broadway. ‘We don’t have a star,’ a production source says. Celeb duos are being floated — Andrew Garfield and Jake Gyllenhaal and Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy among them. If they read the script, they would leap at the chance to play such juicy characters.
Until then, Fellow Travelers languishes on Broadway’s waitlist. That’s a pity.”
Ahead of the Essentially Marilyn exhibition’s grand opening at the Paley Centre in Los Angeles tomorrow, Olivia B. Waxman uncovers the story behind this signed photo – taken during filming of The Seven Year Itch – showing Marilyn with Fox talent scout Ben Lyon, in an article for Time. The photo – to be sold at auction by Profiles in History in October – refutes some of the more outlandish rumours about how Marilyn got her name (I’m looking at you, Mickey Rooney.) It won’t be news to longstanding fans, however, as biographer Fred Lawrence Guiles first quoted Marilyn’s words to Lyon back in 1969.
“The above photograph — inscribed by Marilyn Monroe to Lyon: “Dear Ben, You found me, named me and believed in me when no one else did. My thanks and love forever. Marilyn’ … [is] Considered to be one of the most important photographs in Hollywood history because it debunks myths about how she got her iconic stage name, it could fetch more than $100,000, according to Profiles in History CEO Joseph Maddalena, who runs the auction house that specializes in Hollywood memorabilia. He said photos autographed by Monroe usually fetch between $20,000 and $30,000.
So how was the name Marilyn Monroe chosen?
It was a team effort, according to one account of how it happened by Monroe biographer Donald Spoto. At the time, Lyon thought there were too many possible pronunciations of “Dougherty,” the surname of her soon-to-be ex-husband. The 20-year-old model — who was born Norma Jeane Mortenson and later baptized Norma Jeane Baker — suggested Monroe, another surname on the mother’s side of the family, while Lyon came up with Marilyn because she reminded him of Marilyn Miller, the Ziegfeld Follies Broadway musical star who starred with him and W.C. Fields in Her Majesty, Love. (Miller and Lyon were also thought to have been romantically involved at one point ) It would be apt that the two performers would share the same name, in more ways than one. Spoto points out that not only were they similar on the surface — both blonde in appearance — but also because they both had complicated personal lives, including failed marriages.”
Following the big-screen premiere of a new 4K restoration at the Venice Film Festival, a special edition of Some Like It Hot will be added to the ranks of the prestigious Criterion Collection on DVD and Blu-Ray in November, as Charles Barfield reports for The Playlist.
New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary from 1989 featuring film scholar Howard Suber
New program on Orry-Kelly’s costumes for the film, featuring costume designer and historian Deborah Nadoolman Landis and costume historian and archivist Larry McQueen
Three making-of documentaries
Appearance from 1982 by director Billy Wilder on The Dick Cavett Show
Conversation from 2001 between actor Tony Curtis and film critic Leonard Maltin
French television interview from 1988 with actor Jack Lemmon
Richard Avedon’s 1954 photo of Marilyn with director Billy Wilder covers the latest issue of Dutch arts weekly VARAgids(or VARA Guide), as this summer’s Wilder retrospective continues at the Eye FilmMuseum in Amsterdam. (You can read the full article – in Dutch – here.)
Ontarians, set your diaries now: Niagara will be screened at the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope on October 14, as part of this year’s Vintage Film Festival, sponsored by the Marie Dressler Foundation (the Canadian-born character actress was an idol to Marilyn.) Mark Baker reviews Niagarahere.
“The story starts relatively quickly and the tension keeps increasing. I was surprised at just how quickly the story unfolded. There are some nice plot twists along the way as well that kept me engaged.
Likewise, the acting was wonderful. I’m not that familiar with Marilyn Monroe as an actress (this is only the second film I’ve seen her in), but her performance here was strong. You could see her character’s mind working. The rest of the main cast is just as good, which is one reason why I got so lost in the story so easily.
While the movie was filmed partially on sound stages in California, it was also partially filmed on location. That gives the sinister story a gorgeous backdrop. The Technicolor picture adds to the beauty.
The bigger issue are a couple of plot holes. Yes, you can guess how the characters got to where they are, but it is truly never explained …”
Major news outlets (who really ought to know better) frequently trumpet ‘rare, unpublished’ images of Marilyn which are usually nothing of the kind. With that in mind, what a lovely surprise to wake up this morning and find genuine unseen colour footage of Marilyn arriving at Chicago’s Midway Airport to begin her promotional tour of Some Like It Hot on March 17, 1959, posted to the Marilyn Monroe Video Archives account on Youtube.
Charles Casillo’s new biography, Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon – released in the US today – has already attracted quite a few headlines, with some fans concerned that it will be overly sensationalised. In his extensive review for New York Social Diary, Denis Ferrara suggests that most of these detractors ‘know nothing’ about who Marilyn really was.
Personally, I don’t think that’s entirely accurate – many well-informed fans are understandably worried about the way she is portrayed, and after all, Monroe has been misrepresented by many.
At the same time, however, I’m a firm believer in reserving judgement on any book until you’ve read it from cover to cover. As a fellow author, I know there’s nothing worse than having your ideas dismissed without a fair hearing. And the mass media will always focus on the more scandalous aspects of any biography.
Also, in my own acquaintance with Charles I’ve always found him thoughtful and sensitive, and I fully intend to read his take on Marilyn with an open mind. So without further comment, I’ll leave you with this excerpt from Dennis Ferrara’s comprehensive first review.
“The Private Life of a Public Icon covers familiar territory — how could it not, 56 years and probably a thousand books since her death? But Casillo charts her life, particularly as she felt her youth and career slipping away, with the precision of a great surgeon and the sympathetic expertise of a therapist who knows his patient is on the precipice, but is helpless to save her.
The shattered nature of Monroe’s psyche — ruinously formed by her disordered and disconnected childhood (the unstable mother, absent father, foster homes, orphanages, abuse) runs through the book like a volcano-red warning sign. But as Casillo notes over and over again — despite every single person who was close to her, knowing of her fragility — her ability to rise spectacularly, like a wounded phoenix, in both her personal and professional life, muted concern, or forced her friends to accept her as she was, and hope for the best.
But when had it been otherwise? No one who knew Marilyn intimately would have ever said, at any time. ‘She’s such a happy girl’ — although she was capable of summoning up an infectious, joyful façade. It was her own disapproval of herself, her self-loathing that drove her to excel and reach ever up and beyond. (She could call onIsak Dinesen, Truman Capote and Carl Sandburgas friends.) Her struggle was heroic, and her accomplishments are ill-served when placed in the mode of inevitable failure and victimization. (As Casillo notes, she was used, but she used as well, and her rages, when she felt betrayed, were towering.)”
A briefly nude scene from The Misfits – cut by director John Huston – may have survived, according to Charles Casillo, author of the new biography, Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon.
Still photos attest that Marilyn was indeed semi-nude in the bedroom scene, in which stayed in the movie after being edited. She wanted to keep the footage intact, but Huston dismissed the idea. Marilyn was more attuned to the mood of the times, as minor nudity was already becoming commonplace in films made in Europe.
“Charles Casillo interviewed Curtice Taylor, son of the film’s producer Frank Taylor, and was taken aback to learn that he has kept the footage in a locked cabinet since his father’s death in 1999.
Mr Taylor said: ‘A lot of times, unused takes were destroyed. But Frank Taylor believed that it was so important and so ground-breaking that he saved it.’
The footage, with sound, lasts about 45 seconds. Curtice Taylor, a photographer and teacher, understands why his father was so keen to include it: ‘It’s much more passionate.’
He said: ‘So Gable’s fully clothed. He comes into her bedroom. She’s asleep. He caresses and kisses her neck, turns her face around and gives her a good lip-lock. That exists in the scene in the [final] film – but not to the passionate degree of this one, which is much better. The smile on her face when he’s kissing her shoulder is just sublime.’
After Gable leaves the room, Ms Monroe holds up the sheet to put on her blouse. Mr Taylor believes that she dropped it partly due to her training as a method actress.
He said: ‘Why would a woman sitting up in bed, with nobody in the room, pull the sheet up and then try to put a blouse on at the same time? It makes no sense. So she just drops the sheet. I think it’s one of the reasons she did this. There are quite a few takes of this scene. Whenever she dropped the sheet, which she did a few times, Huston would say “Cut, remember the sheet, Marilyn”.’
Mr Taylor was surprised that the footage is an edited sequence, and wonders whether the censors had insisted on its removal.
He attended the shoot at just 13-years-old, and said he remembers Ms Monroe talking to him and asking him to do ‘little favours’. He said: ‘She’d give me $5 to go get something.'”