‘The Road to Hollywood’

Photographer Rebecca Sandulak recreates classic images – including ‘Red Head Velvet’, an homage to Marilyn Monroe’s 1949 calendar shoot with Tom Kelley – in The Road to Hollywood, an exhibition at cre8ery, Winnipeg, until April 5.

‘ “I love the beauty of the great Hollywood portraits,” says the Winnipeg photographer…Visitors will encounter the likes of Veronica Lake, Dorothy and the Wicked Witch, and a brunette Marilyn Monroe’s infamous photo spread on red satin (sans nudity this time).

That is, viewers will encounter variations on these familiar images; like actors playing well-established roles, Sandulak’s subjects (most of them actors themselves) wear the “costumes” of, for instance, Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The artist’s “Brigitte Bardot” (Meghan Koley) could pass as the genuine article.

The point isn’t to fool the eye — it’s to evoke the spirit of cinema’s classical past.

“The great portraits of screen legends had no Photoshopping done to them and very little old-fashioned manipulation,” says Sandulak, who drew considerable inspiration from Hollywood ‘Golden Age’ photographers such as George Hurrell.

“The result is, there’s greater truth to them. As a purist myself, I love their beauty.”

For that matter, Sandulak, who has been a still photographer on multiple Hollywood (and non-Hollywood) film productions in Winnipeg, appreciates the beauty of a good subject. Especially women.

“I adore women with grace and beauty,” she says. Indeed, the show reinforces precisely how and why some people look like movie stars. As cinematographer Nestor Almendros once explained in Projections magazine, the camera loves some women more than others — specifically, those with “good bones” and symmetrical faces.

“Actors definitely know which are their good and bad sides,” Sandulak says. It’s often been the case that her on-set subjects will articulate if a particular angle will flatter more, or less.’

Joe DiMaggio and Son

Long after her divorce from Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe remained close to her stepson, Joe Jr, speaking to him on the telephone hours before she died.

Sadly Joe Jr had a difficult life and could never escape his father’s shadow although Joe Sr tried to support him as best he could. Joe Jr died, ravaged by years of alcohol abuse, just six months after ‘the Great DiMaggio’.

“Joe’s happiest days may have been those that he spent with Marilyn Monroe. One early fall day, just as we all had returned from our summer vacations, Joe told of his stepmother Marilyn making his breakfast and serving it to him.

Usually, when teenagers recount their vacation adventures, gross exaggeration is the rule. But we knew Joe’s story about Monroe was true. How envious we were!”

Joe Guzzardi, Baseball Past and Present

I have often thought that if Marilyn had lived longer, she might have been able to help Joe Jr. His father was a distant, reserved man, as Marilyn knew all too well. Joe Jr’s mother was DiMaggio’s first wife, former showgirl Dorothy Arnold.

Marilyn, who came from a broken home herself, never tried to replace Dorothy but was sensitive to her stepson’s emotional needs. Next to DiMaggio, Joe Jr was perhaps more hurt by Marilyn’s untimely death than anyone else.

Marilyn on Twitter

Well, it had to happen – almost half a century after her mysterious death, Marilyn Monroe is alive, and tweeting.

Marilyn Monroe

@TheMsMonroe 1961, New York, NY

It’s 1961, and Marilyn Monroe is now a regular Tweeter. It’s going to be an exciting few years, especially since @JFKennedy came up with our plan…

This account is one of several linked to the entertainment world of the early 1960s. Others include @PatNewcomb and @InitialsMMP

Admittedly, this is quite a clever idea because the Twitter feed will lead us up to Marilyn’s passing in time for the 50th anniversary in 2012.

However, I find the idea of MM tweeting about her personal life bizarre and wildly speculative, to say the least.

My personal favourite of these accounts is @GossipMike, which relates actual headlines from columnist Mike Connolly over the years. His tweets aren’t confined to MM, but I have learned a few interesting details along the way…

Did Marilyn Appear in ‘My Pal Gus’?

ES member Megan found this intriguing newspaper item, from the Long Beach Press Telegram, dated September 16th, 1952.

My Pal Gus is a comedy starring Richard Widmark as a harrassed single dad. Widmark had previously co-starred with MM in Don’t Bother to Knock. George Winslow – Henry Spofford III in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – plays Gus.

Monroe and Widmark, ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’
Widmark with George Winslow in ‘My Pal Gus’
Winslow in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1953)

Marilyn lived at the Beverly Carlton Hotel (now known as The Avalon) on and off between 1949 and 1952. We can’t see her in the movie, but maybe you can – My Pal Gus is available on DVD and can also be viewed online.

If you spot Marilyn, please join the discussion at Everlasting Star