Marilyn the Rebel

Marilyn in New York (Sam Shaw, 1957)

In an article for the Huffington Post, Dr Lois Banner – author of a new biography of Marilyn, due out next month – pinpoints two areas where Marilyn defied expectations: firstly in her lifelong quest for self-improvement, and secondly in her liberated views on sex.

Banner also makes an interesting comparison between Monroe and her previous biographical subject, anthropologist Margaret Mead.

“By 1960 Margaret was often in Hollywood; her sister was married to screenwriter Leo Rosten, who was Ralph Greenson’s best friend. Margaret came to Greenson’s weekly salons, where he played the violin with a group of amateur chamber musicians and the guests discussed ideas. It’s said that Margaret was the only person who could out-argue Greenson; in fact, her ideas about male insecurity and women’s need for equality came to dominate his psychiatric theories after Marilyn’s death. Marilyn sat in a corner at the soirees and didn’t enter into the conversations, but it’s possible that she and Margaret were at a session together. The week Marilyn died she was reading Rosten’s novel about Greenson, Captain Newman, MD. That book might have led her to Margaret’s writings and to a better understanding of her situation as a woman in a man’s world. It had that impact on Ralph Greenson.”

Richard Adler 1921-2012

Marilyn rehearses with Richard Adler

Richard Adler, the Broadway composer and producer, has died aged 90, reports The Guardian. Best-known for hit musicals The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees, Adler also produced the birthday gala for President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

In their 1992 book, Marilyn: The Last Take, Peter Brown and Patte Barham wrote that Adler first approached Marilyn at the Actors’ Studio in November 1961.

‘I told her I wanted her to sing Happy Birthday straight and clear-voiced,’ Adler recalled. In the spring of 1962, he sent Marilyn a recording of the song, with the message, ‘You should sing this precisely as I did. Full out. No baby-voiced breathlessness, please!’

As Marilyn flew to New York in May, Adler was besieged by angry messages protesting Monroe’s appearance at the President’s birthday. (Some were reportedly from leading members of the Democratic Party.)

Adler called Kennedy, who insisted, ‘It’ll be fine. Everybody’ll love it.’

With Adler and Jack Benny

Marilyn staged a private rehearsal in her apartment for Adler, accompanied by pianist Hank Jones. Monroe’s defiantly sexy rendition led to a ‘bitter row,’ according to her masseur, Ralph Roberts.

‘I went home certain we were headed for one of the most embarrassing disasters of all time,’ Adler admitted. In fact, he was a witness to history in the making.

One of the event’s co-organisers, Clive David, told Keith Badman, author of The Final Years of Marilyn Monroe, ‘As a gimmick, Richard Adler originally wanted Marilyn up on the top balcony with all the lights in the room surrounding her when she sang. But it never happened. Marilyn hated that idea.’

Of course, the show went ahead and Marilyn was a sensation. ‘It was like a mass seduction,’ Adler remembered. ‘With Marilyn whispering Happy Birthday and the crowd yelling and screaming for her, I realised then that the President was a better showman than I was.’

She concluded her brief, dazzling performance with an adaptation of ‘Thanks for the Memory,’ rewritten by Adler with the lines, ‘Thanks, Mr President/For all the things you’ve done, the battles that you won/The way you deal with US Steel, and our problems by the ton/We thank you so much…’

‘Goddess’ Re-Reviewed

Having reviewed Marilyn’s Men by Jane Ellen Wayne recently, blogger xoxoxoe (aka Elizabeth Periale) takes an in-depth look at Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, the controversial biography by Anthony Summers, over at Cannonball Read IV. Read her review in full here. And to check out her other MM-related articles, click here.

“Marilyn’s life is usually presented as an inexorable, inevitable, and pathetic progression towards her death. Death is waiting for us all, but we wouldn’t be able to function if we didn’t have hopes and dreams for our present and future. For all of her talk about death, Marilyn did, too…Summers gets a little too sidetracked in Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe with the Kennedys and their amorous and political complications. Poor Marilyn gets lost in the middle of the book in the Kennedy glare. The last few chapters present a Rashomon-like account of her final hours. It’s well-researched, but full of so many conflicting statements by people who claimed to be ‘on the scene’ that it is depressing and dizzying to read.”

Meanwhile over at Videogum, we learn that Goddess was once mooted to be adapted for the big screen with David Lynch as director…

“David Lynch, who had experienced previous success with the acclaimed The Elephant Man (1980) and Blue Velvet (1986), was hired by a Warner Bros. executive to direct a film about the life of Marilyn Monroe, based on the best-selling book Goddess. Lynch recalls being ‘sort of interested. I loved the idea of this woman in trouble, but I didn’t know if I liked it being a real story.’ Lynch’s agent, Tony Krantz suggested the director work with his friend and writer Mark Frost. He worked on the Goddess screenplay with Lynch. Even though this project was dropped by Warner Brothers, Lynch and Frost became good friends…”

Eva Longoria Inspired by Marilyn

One of the world’s most glamorous women, Eva Longoria – star of TV’s Desperate Housewives – has named Marilyn as her style inspiration, reports Contact Music.

 ”Marilyn Monroe had that certain something. She never changed her look, and even after her death that blonde hair with the red lips is still glamorous and beautiful. But it’s also what she exuded – she was electrifying and you couldn’t wait to see what she did next and who she was with. She just had this essence about her that was beautiful.”

Close-Up on ‘Clash By Night’

Marilyn with ‘Clash by Night’ director Fritz Lang

Over at the Chicago Reader, J.R. Jones takes another look at Clash by Night, the 1952 movie directed by Fritz Lang which gave Marilyn one of her breakthrough roles, as feisty cannery worker Peggy.

“Marilyn Monroe was terrified of Fritz Lang. ‘The actress vomited before almost every scene,’ writes Lang biographer Patrick McGilligan about the shooting of Clash by Night, ‘and grew so apprehensive about her dialogue that she broke out in red blotches. It didn’t help her standing with the director that Monroe was habitually late, or that she insisted on her personal dialogue coach Natasha Lytess being present on the set at all times. Or that newspaper columnists squired to the soundstage by RKO publicists ignored the veteran player, Barbara Stanwyck—not to mention the veteran director—demanding instead to interview, in Lang’s words, the girl with the big tits.”


Ferragamo Exhibit Opens in Florence

A major exhibition dedicated to Marilyn has opened at the Ferragamo Museum in Florence, Italy, and will stay until January 2013. (For those of us who can’t make it, an accompanying book, Marilyn, will be published in August. You can also watch a video here.)

“The exhibition is curated by director of the Museo Ferragamo, Stefania Ricci, and Sergio Risaliti and enjoys the patronage of the Tuscany Region and the Municipality of Florence. Many other major museums have loaned their works for this exhibition. The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, for example…” – Milady

“The exhibit makes a point to illustrate the classic art and sculpture Monroe referenced in her photos–that famous 1962 George Barris photo of Monroe in a chunky sweater on the beach recalls a Botticelli Venus-like image, Ricci and Risaliti point out.” – Fashionista

“Yet there is something touching about seeing the star not as a movie diva, interpreted by contemporary artists like Andy Warhol, but as an eternal beauty. The curators have achieved the unexpected, a fresh take on a woman who once said these wistful words: ‘I want to be an artist, not a pin-up. I don’t want to be sold to the public like a celluloid aphrodisiac.'” New York Times

“I met the curator Stefania Ricci after the show when I was buying the book. The book alone is a masterpiece. Signora Ricci pleased me very much when she said ‘Marilyn was a great, great actress’ hear hear. If you do anything before you die, get an Easy Jet to Florence and come to see Marilyn at the Ferragamo Museum. It is not only the best exhibition ever staged about Marilyn Monroe, it is one of the finest curations of any subject I have ever had the privilege to see.” James Sherwood


Bill Ray Exhibit in Lincoln, Nebraska

This iconic shot of Marilyn singing ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ to John F. Kennedy in 1962 is featured in ‘Bill Ray: A LIFEtime of Photographs’, a new retrospective at the Museum of Nebraska Art, reports Lincoln’s Journal-Star.

“‘It had been a noisy night, a very ‘rah rah rah’ kind of atmosphere,’ Bill Ray told ‘Then boom, on comes this spotlight. There was no sound. No sound at all. It was like we were in outer space.’ Marilyn was onstage, taking off a white fur to reveal that utterly gorgeous, scandalous dress underneath. ‘It was skin-colored, and it was skin-tight. It was sewn on, covered with brilliant crystals. There was this long, long pause … and finally, she comes out with this unbelievably breathy, ‘Happy biiiiirthday to youuuu,’ and everybody just went into a swoon. I was praying [that I could get the shot] because I had to guess at the exposure. It was a very long lens, and I had no tripod, so I had to rest the lens itself on the railing, and tried very, very hard not to breathe.'”