Rihanna Goes Blonde for ‘Vogue’

Singer Rihanna dons a platinum blonde wig in this month’s UK Vogue, which has led to MM comparisons on the blogosphere. It does remind me slightly of this photo by Milton Greene – however, the shoot was actually inspired by Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde, according to Catwalk Queen.

‘Nobody Else But You’ in London

Poupoupidou (Nobody Else But You) the French-made murder mystery about a small-town Marilyn wannabe (Sophie Quinton) will be screening at the London Film Festival on October 17 and 20.

I’m hoping this indie flick will get a wider release. Here’s a review by The Film Pilgrim:

“On paper Nobody Else But You sounds slightly ridiculous, but Hustache-Mathieu’s script is darkly humorous and quite entertaining…

The film is undoubtedly backed by some solid performances…Sophie Quinton also deserves praise for her portrayal of a modern day Marilyn Monroe reincarnate. She has the difficult task of embodying the iconic blonde bombshell, as well as giving Candice a distinct voice and personality. Even though there are moments when the parallels between both women seem contrived – affairs with politicians, nude photo shoots etc. – she remains sympathetic and tragic…

…Delightfully frothy and packed with a generous dose of Gallic humour, Nobody Else But You could be a surprise hit among audiences on this side of the Channel.”


The Legend and the Tragedy

In her blog at the Jewish Daily Forward, Elisa Strauss responds to a recent New York Times piece, ‘The Marilyn Obsession’ by Austin Considine, on the current boom in nostalgia and ABG’s plans to capitalise on Marilyn’s image.

Interestingly, Strauss also shares with us a poignant anecdote about Monroe’s 1957 trip to Washington with husband Arthur Miller.

Stating that ‘sexy wins over tragedy’, Strauss suggests that Marilyn is being remembered in a superficial way, and that the lessons of her tragic life have still not been learned.

“Monroe’s allure is as powerful as it is ineffable, so much so that even I start to view her sad beginning and even sadder end as something otherworldly rather than gritty and tragic. Her fate easily becomes elevated above cause and effect, and she morphs into a saint of her own circumstances. Or, in short, an icon.

But the problem with this iconic lens on Monroe is that it conveniently blurs the very destructive pressure she felt as the preeminent sex symbol. A relative of mine hosted Monroe in Washington D.C. when she came to the city with then-husband Arthur Miller during his House Unamerican Activities Committee hearing.

Monroe spent a few weeks sleeping on a blue velvet couch in their study, and, as described by my relative, was incredibly insecure about nearly everything. She dreaded leaving the house unless physically immaculate, and she once decided to stay home at the last minute when she realized that there was a hairline chip in her nail polish. In intellectual matters, Monroe deferred to Miller on everything. My relative said Monroe spent the majority of her time reading, mostly self-help books.

Considering all the gains women have made politically, economically and socially since her heyday, this Monroe revival seems anachronistic. Monroe was the ultimate creation of male fantasy, the archetype of the blond bombshell – all bosom, golden curls and kittenish purrs – a fantasy women have since worked hard to deconstruct and redefine. And while the boundaries of what is considered attractive in Hollywood are still fairly narrow, they have still been expanded enough to include a far more diverse bunch than ever before.

Well, I’d like to ask the PR maven what he thinks about glamorizing and marketing the ‘Monroe style’ that she herself found quite destructive. Am I the only one who, when swiping a Marilyn gloss across my lips or stepping into some Marilyn high heels, would think about the ways in which the use of such objects was ultimately an oppressive act for her? That remaining desirable was not effortless for her, but rather all-consuming to the point of obsession?”

While I support Strauss’s feminist perspective, I would also argue that our focus on glamour is not entirely misguided. Marilyn’s unashamed pride in her own sexuality has inspired many women.

Though it may seem that Marilyn fever is everywhere now, in truth it never really went away. Monroe has fascinated us for over sixty years now and probably will for decades, even centuries to come.

Her beauty, intelligence, and yes, her tragedy are all part of the legend and we cannot, and should not, ever try to separate them. Like any woman, Marilyn deserves to be appreciated for all that she was.

When ‘Spud’ Murray Met Marilyn

Meredith W. ‘Spud’ Murray, a pitcher for the New York Yankees from 1960-68, died at home in East Waterford, PA, earlier this month. Writing for the Delaware County Times, Ed Gelbhart recalled a conversation with Murray in which he spoke of meeting Marilyn (probably while Joe DiMaggio was training the Yankees in St Petersburg, Florida, in 1961.)

‘Mr. Murray had a thousand stories, like the time all the players were eating at the same hotel during spring training. The great Joe DiMaggio, by now a batting instructor, entered the dining room a little late. He surveyed the scene, noticed an empty seat at Mr. Murray’s table, and decided to eat with him that night.

Later that spring, Mr. DiMaggio introduced “Spud” to Marilyn Monroe.

“Wow, ‘Spud,’ what did you think of Marilyn?” I once asked him.

“Spud,” a master of understatement, simply replied, “She seemed like a nice girl.” ‘

When Nikita Met Norma Jeane

Marilyn’s encounter with Soviet president, Nikita Khrushchev, in 1959, is among the ‘memorable meetings’ described in Craig Brown‘s newly-published, anecdotal book, One on One.

Khrushchev’s American visit is the subject of another book, K Blows Top by Peter Carlson, of which a big-screen adaptation was mooted last year.

An excerpt from One on One is published in today’s Guardian, though it should be noted that Brown’s main source is Lena Pepitone‘s disputed memoir, Marilyn Monroe Confidential.

‘Another key 20th-century meeting between showbiz and politics came on 19 September 1959, when Marilyn Monroe met Nikita Khrushchev on his American tour. When Monroe was first invited to meet the Soviet premier, his name hadn’t rung a bell, and she had refused. But then her studio informed her that in Russia, America meant two things: Coca-Cola and Marilyn Monroe, and she changed her mind.

When the big day comes, Monroe tells her maid that the studio wants her to wear her tightest, sexiest dress. “I guess there’s not much sex in Russia,” she concludes.

Khrushchev is a far cry from the dour, stony-faced monoliths who are due to succeed him. He is shouty and quick-tempered and wonderfully undiplomatic, but sometimes erupts in laughter. “The fellow’s all over the dials,” says the New York Daily News, while the New York Mirror describes him as “a rural dolt”.

Over lunch with 400 stars and bigwigs at 20th Century Fox (Edward G Robinson, Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole, Gary Cooper and so on), Khrushchev is informed, in a note, that his spur-of-the-moment request for a tour of Disneyland has been turned down. He is furious, and his anger has not abated by the time he rises to reply to the speech of welcome from the president of 20th Century Fox. First, he berates the US for its lack of culture (“You do not even have a permanent opera and ballet theatre!”). Then the cancelled Disney tour bubbles up into his mind. “Just now, I was told that I could not go to Disneyland. I asked, ‘Why not? What is it? Do you have rocket-launching pads there? … Is there an epidemic of cholera there? Have gangsters taken hold of the place?'” He punches the air. “For me, such a situation is inconceivable. I cannot find words to explain this to my people.”

After lunch, he finally gets to meet Monroe in her low-cut, skin-tight black lace dress. All wide-eyed, Monroe delivers a line that Natalie Wood, a fluent Russian speaker, has taught her. “We the workers of 20th Century Fox rejoice that you have come to visit our studio and country.”

It seems to work like magic. Khrushchev cannot take his eyes off her. “He looked at me the way a man looks on a woman,” she recalls.

“You’re a very lovely young lady,” he says, squeezing her hand.

“This is about the biggest day in the history of the movie business,” Monroe tells the cameras. But when she gets home, she has changed her tune. “He was fat and ugly and had warts on his face and he growled,” she tells Lena, her maid. “He squeezed my hand so long and so hard that I thought he would break it. I guess it was better than having to kiss him.” ‘