A House of Mirrors Called ‘Smash’

NY Magazine takes an in-depth look at the making of Smash, the upcoming TV series about a theatre company’s attempt to stage a Broadway musical about Marilyn’s life:

‘“She stands for so many things that people in showbiz go through,” says songwriter Scott Wittman, “and she’s so iconic that you can just drop her into a situation and the audience will already know what’s going on. You don’t have to do a lot of explaining about who Joe DiMaggio or Arthur Miller are.” Marc Shaiman demurs: “I’m not sure that 15-year-old girls know who Arthur Miller is.”’

Marilyn, Lindsay and the Male Gaze

Over at Huffington Post, Emily Brooks offers a feminist critique of My Week With Marilyn:

“It is a shame that Williams’ Monroe appears primarily as a backdrop for this coming of age story. She is more intriguing than Clark’s character, and could have been attributed more depth. Williams’ character articulates her role in the film best when, in response to Clark’s encouragement that she “see the sights,” she responds “I am the sights.” Marilyn Monroe will never be a feminist icon, yet she was a full person, and an actor in her own story, rather than just scenery in the stories of those around her. A movie that acknowledged this and attempted to explore it, would perhaps be a new Marilyn Monroe movie worth seeing.”

Meanwhile, Queertly editor Oscar Raymundo argues that Lindsay Lohan needs to get over her Marilyn fixation:

“Lindsay, of course, looks full-bodied and beautiful, but overall the pictorial comes off uninspired — a sense that we have all seen it before even for a tribute…If Lindsay wants to be remembered as a sex symbol, she must embrace her own sex appeal and stop trying to recapture Marilyn’s.”

 

 

‘My Christmas Eve With Marilyn’

A funny story from the Los Angeles Times, inspired by the success of MM-inspired movies from Insignficance to My Week With Marilyn.

“I told Marilyn of how my sleigh would often ride along waves of antimatter as I passed through furious winter storms. The antimatter would rise up and strike the craft, forming a buoyant cushion that sped me on my way. It was similar to the drafting done by cyclists or race car drivers, except I was drafting on the aurora borealis.

To demonstrate the physics of it, I took a sheet of typing paper and folded it into a standard paper airplane. We went to the French windows of her bungalow, wide open on an unseasonably warm L.A. night, and with a flick of my wrist I sent the airplane off on the Pacific breezes. Up and up it went, looping and fluttering, dove-like and nearly alive. The little paper airplane looked caught in the glow of a stage light. ‘Where’s it going?’ she asked. ‘There,’ I said, nodding toward the full moon.

‘You can send a paper plane to the moon?’

‘Through the folds of space and time, anything is possible,’ I said. ‘Come on.’

Back inside, I pulled out an old brass telescope and focused on the moon just in time to see the little paper plane touch down softly on the lunar landscape, kicking up a small talcum cloud.

‘It’s magic,’ sighed Marilyn.

‘It’s science,’ I said. ‘Sweet and simple science.'”

 

Marilyn Inspires NBC’s ‘Smash’

As the Los Angeles Times comments today, 2012 will mark the 50th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. Of course, this has not gone unnoticed by film-makers, or the producers of the upcoming NBC series, Smash:

‘In February, Monroe comes to the small screen via the NBC scripted series “Smash,” in which theater producers mount a fictional Broadway show about the bombshell’s life. The real-life Broadway actress Megan Hilty and “American Idol” star-cum-recording artist Katharine McPhee, putting her own spin on “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” each vie to play her.

As if that weren’t enough, the series could spawn an actual Broadway musical, with creators developing lyrics and music with an eye toward putting it all on a stage.

“You can actually squint and see a real Marilyn musical,” said Craig Zadan, an executive producer on “Smash” and a Broadway producer of note in his own right. “There are already a bunch of new songs, and one of the possibilities if the show becomes a hit is to regroup and try to put it on Broadway.” (A 1983 Broadway effort, “Marilyn: An American Fable,” flopped, though that was heavily fictionalized and largely panned.)’

Gershwin Does it Again

A new recording of George Gershwin’s ‘innocently sensuous’ 1922 song, ‘Do it Again’, as sung by Sophie Milman, makes NPR’s list of The Top 5 Jazz Vocal Performances of 2011.

Perhaps the most famous – or notorious – version of ‘Do it Again’ was Marilyn’s rendition for troops at Camp Pendleton, California, in 1952. Coupled with another Gershwin standard, ‘Somebody Loves Me’, Monroe’s performance was said to have caused a riot.

She performed the song again during her 1954 tour of Korea. Rumour has it that Marilyn was obliged to change the title to ‘Kiss Me Again’, but her band leader, Al Guastefeste, denies this. Her recording of ‘Do it Again’ has featured on countless compilations.

Last of the Love Goddesses

Another extract from Peter Bogdanovich’s 2004 essay on Marilyn, featuring his interview with Arthur Miller:

“I, quite candidly, had to realize, as many have before me, that that (motion picture) business  makes human relations almost impossible – especially if you’re a woman – it scars the soul.”

And Bogdanovich’s parting thoughts on MM:

“She is the most touching, strangely innocent – despite all the emphasis on sex – sacrifice to the twentieth-century art of cinematic mythology, with real people as gods and goddesses.”

An Eternal Icon of Hollywood

Last weekend’s ‘Icons of Hollywood’ auction, hosted by Profiles in History, featured several interesting Monroe items which, of course, sold for high prices.

Highlights included this photo-booth snapshot of a young Norma Jeane ($4,612.50); various negatives, transparencies and prints; clothing worn in River of No Return, There’s No Business Like Show Business and Let’s Make Love; a personally annotated promptbook from The Prince and the Showgirl ($98,400), and a postcard sent by Joe DiMaggio in 1962 ($4.920).

However, an extensive archive of production and publicity material for The Seven Year Itch, and a nude oil painting by Earl Moran went unsold. The weekend’s big story was the sale of Marilyn’s eternity ring, given to her by Joe DiMaggio after their wedding in 1954, which sold for $516,600 (even though one of its diamonds is missing!)

Scott Fortner wrote about the history of Joe’s eternity ring on his MM Collection Blog, observing that the whereabouts of the wedding ring remain a mystery:

“The significance of this diamond eternity band cannot be overstated.  It’s safe to assume it was selected by Joe and given to Marilyn as a hopeful symbol of an enduring relationship, promising a life eternal that Marilyn was likely longing for, that of love, companionship, partnership and eventually (hopefully) motherhood.

One must wonder though what may have happened to the other diamond ring that Joe gave to Marilyn. While it is clear that this eternity band was given by Joe to Marilyn (she received a simple gold wedding band from Arthur Miller), what became of the ring that was placed on Marilyn’s finger on her wedding day, shown in photos of Marilyn at City Hall, and also in Korea while on their honeymoon?

This other diamond ring has not yet appeared at auction.  Perhaps it was a family heirloom, loaned to Joe to use for the hastily planned wedding, ultimately returned to the DiMaggio family after the divorce.  Perhaps it still resides with the Strasberg family.  Like many other Marilyn Monroe mysteries, we’ll likely never know.”