Julien’s Auctions in China

Julien’s Auctions will hold their annual ‘Legends’ sale at Ponte 16, Macao, China, on October 22. For a full list of MM-related items, click here

“Marilyn Monroe seduced on-screen and film going audiences with her performance as Kay Weston in River of No Return. Monroe conjured a saloon hall vixen to perform ‘I’m Gonna File My Claim’. The provocative green gown she wore during this song and dance routine is offered for sale along with Monroe’s personal phone book, pearl necklace, medical prescription orders and a rare painting created by the iconic actress.”

Broadway World

 

The Doctor and the Misfit

Psychiatrist Dr Ralph Greenson’s unconventional – and ultimately, disastrous – treatment of Marilyn Monroe has long been the subject of speculation. Dr Lucy Freeman – a student of Greenson’s – published Why Norma Jean Killed Marilyn Monroe in 1993, and Luciano Mecacci’s Freudian Slipsincluding a long chapter on Marilyn – was published in English in 2009.

Personally, I found both of these accounts disappointing. However, I can recommend Lisa Appignanesi’s Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors (2009), which contains a very insightful study of Monroe.

Now the New York psychoanalyst and painter, Dr Steven Poser, has written The Misfit, a new essay on the topic, now available as a Kindle Single from Rosetta Books:

‘Greenson essentially adopted Monroe, creating psychic confusion for a vulnerable woman who lacked a sense of belonging in the first place. Poser details how, in eliding the negative aspects of the transference-countertransference matrix, Greenson lost a patient and lost his own way as a clinician.

In addition to discussing this tragic analytic dyad, Poser also shares his thoughts about psychoanalytic writing and research. He argues that then-current psychoanalytic theory did little to aid Greenson, or to help Greenson treat Monroe. That theory did not allow therapists to use their patients’ hateful feelings toward them to help said patients cohere. This important technique was not developed theoretically until the later twentieth century. Poser reminds us, then, that we are in a sense prisoners of contemporary practice, however flawed it may be.’

St Vincent on Marilyn and Music

On the American Songwriter website today, New York-based musician St Vincent explains how Marilyn’s writing inspired ‘Surgeon’, a track from her upcoming album, Strange Mercy:

‘Inspiration can come from unlikely places. Annie Clark, the Dallas-raised, Brooklyn-based musician who records as St. Vincent, was reading Marilyn Monroe’s recently published diaries when she came across a sentence that stood out to her: “Best finest surgeon,” the actress writes, “Strasberg waits to cut me open.”

“I thought that was an incredibly poetic line and a strange sentiment – wanting someone to come in and make that adjustment that will heal you,” says Clark, who adds that the troubled actress “was a highly intelligent woman and doesn’t get enough credit for being very powerful.” Clark pondered the line as she finished Monroe’s Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters, and eventually she used it as the chorus for “Surgeon,” a stand-out on Strange Mercy, her third album as St. Vincent. It begins at a dreamily unrushed pace, with Clark’s florid vocals filling the frame and her spidery guitarwork adding detail to the background. The tempo gradually tightens until the song mutates into a breakneck jam between Clark and gospel organist Bobby Sparks. When it sounds like the song might simply snap in half, “Surgeon” fades out abruptly. Roll credits.

It’s a more vigorous and abrasive sound than expected from St. Vincent, and the lyrics prove equally strained and edgy. Rather than cinematic and critical, that voice sounds like that of someone desperate to be cut open. “I took elements of what I knew about Marilyn Monroe and superimposed them with something that I knew personally,” Clark explains. “I think it’s all fair game – whatever makes the best and most compelling story with a sturdy emotional truth to it.” ‘

What a Girl Wants…

Another extract from film critic Richard Dyer’s essay, ‘Monroe and Sexuality’, published in his 1986 book, Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society, focuses on Cherie’s speech to Elma (Hope Lange) in Bus Stop (1956), and also her performance in The Misfits (1961.)

“Time and again, Monroe seems to buy into the ‘progressive’ view of sex, a refusal of its dirtiness – but that means buying into the traps of the sexual discourses discussed above: the playboy discourse, with women as the vehicle for male sexual freedom, and the psycho discourse, with its evocation of the ineffable unknowability of sexuality for women. The choice of roles from ‘Bus Stop’ on indicates the conundrums the image is caught up in. Only ‘The Misfits’ begins to hint at a for-itself female sexuality, and then casts it utterly within the discourse of female sexuality as formlessness. The men in the film look on, unable to comprehend her sensuality; grasping a tree she looks out at them/us with a hollow expression of beatitude, straining to express what is already defined as inexpressible.

Yet some of her later films do contain hints of the struggle, traps and conundrums of the fifties discourses of sexuality. ‘Bus Stop’ is probably the most extended example. It is possible, without straining too much against the drift of the film, to read Cherie/Monroe not just as the object of male desire but as someone who has to live being a sex object.

Cherie/Monroe’s longest dialogue comes in scenes with other women characters, and has thereby the quality of unburdening herself rather than putting on an act or standing up to men. With the waitress Vera (Eileen Heckart), she expresses her ambition to be a singer and Hollywood actress, referring to the lack of respect she has had up to now. With the young woman on the bus, Elma (Hope Lange), she speaks of the ideal man she is looking for, a notion of a man who combines traditionally masculine and feminine qualities:

‘I want a guy I can look up to and admire – but I don’t want him to browbeat me…I want a guy who’s sweet to me, but I don’t want him to baby me…I want a guy who has some real regard for me, aside from all that loving stuff.’

None of this is desperately radical or progressive; the ambition is mainstream individualism (‘I’m trying to be somebody’), the ideal man is a sentimental fantasy. But both are located in the consciousness of a dumb showgirl type, and given a legitimate voice by the seriousness of the performance, of the way in which they are filmed, and, especially, by virtue of the fact that they are spoken to another woman. The ambition and fantasy are not in the slightest ridiculed, and they have the effect of throwing into relief the showgirl role that Cherie/Monroe is playing.”

The monologue in Bus Stop is rightly considered one of the high points of Marilyn’s acting career. Unfortunately, it was heavily cut – which, Monroe believed, robbed her of an Oscar nomination.

In her 2007 book, Platinum Fox, Cindy De La Hoz revealed the text of Marilyn’s speech in its entirety. The edited parts are emboldened here.

Cherie: I don’t know why I keep expecting myself to fall in love, but I do.

Elma: I know I expect to, some day.

Cherie: I’m seriously beginning to wonder if there’s a kind of love I have in mind…naturally, I’d like to get married and have a family and all them things but…

Elma: But you’ve never been in love?

Cherie: I don’t know. Maybe I have and I didn’t know it. Maybe I’m expecting it to be something it ain’t. I just feel that, regardless how crazy you are about some guy, you’ve got to feel…and it’s hard to put into words, but…you’ve got to feel he respects you. Yes, that’s what I mean…I’ve just got to feel that whoever I marry has some real regard for me, aside from all that loving stuff. You know what I mean?

Elma: I think so. What will you do when you get to Los Angeles?

Cherie: I don’t know. Maybe if I don’t get discovered right away, I could get me a job on one of the radio stations there. Even singing hillbilly if I have to. Or else, I can go to work in Liggett’s or Walgreen’s. Then after a while I’ll probably marry some guy, whether I think I love him or not. Who am I to keep insisting I should fall in love? You hear all about love when you’re a kid and just take it for granted that such a thing really exists. Maybe you have to find out for yourself it don’t. Maybe everyone’s afraid to tell you.