All About ‘Playboy’

The Mexican edition of Playboy‘s latest issue features a different cover shot of Marilyn. Meanwhile, ‘Sunset Gun’ blogger Kim Morgan, whose wonderful tribute is a highlight of the magazine special, spoke to the Winnipeg Free Press about writing for Playboy, and what MM means to her.

“I wouldn’t say that I was being simply protective, though I do feel loyal towards her. I think there’s more complexity to how one approaches Marilyn, whether they know it or not, which is why she remains powerful to this day. And I mentioned Candle in the Wind briefly, a well-meaning song, in opposition to the song that runs through my piece, Bob Dylan’s She Belongs to Me, even though Dylan didn’t write it for MM. But to me, that song feels like Marilyn in all her beauty, complications, mystery and art. ‘She’s an artist.’ Marilyn was an artist.”

Dominik, Watts Hold Out for ‘Blonde’

Andrew Dominik (Killing Them Softly) confirmed his plans to direct Naomi Watts in a long-rumoured, big-screen adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, Blonde, in a recent interview with The Playlist. (It will be produced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B company.)

While I’m impressed by the talent involved, I still wish Oates’ story was more faithful to historical fact. Like many fans I’ve spoken to, I’m concerned that this movie – however well-intended – may only add to the misunderstandings about Marilyn’s life.

“‘I’m going to do this movie called Blonde,’ which is about Marilyn Monroe,’ Dominik said.

As to the scope of Blonde, don’t expect a Lincoln-like sliver of the troubled star’s life. ‘It’s about her whole life,’ Dominik said, definitively. ‘It starts when she’s seven and it ends when she dies.’ Dominik acknowledged that it will be based on the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominated novel by Joyce Carol Oates, then clarified his approach to the material. ‘It’s sort of a Polanski descent-into-madness-type movie,’ Dominik explained. ‘It’s about this orphan girl who gets lost in the woods.’

Those comments echo his earlier description of the movie as an ’emotional nightmare fairy tale,’ and Dominik sounds genuinely excited about the project. ‘I love it,’ he said. ‘It’s my dream project and I’ve been working on it for years and years and years.’

When we asked Dominik if he was going to push, visually, into the realm of what-is-reality-what-is-fantasy, Dominik said yes. ‘It’s very pseudo-Freudian,’ he said. ‘The lines between fantasy and reality become very blurred in the story.’ About when the film will actually shoot, Dominik optimistically says, ‘I’d like to do it next year.’ He says he hasn’t hired a cinematographer yet, but that Naomi Watts — who was attached early on, but over the summer seemed like she might have to bow out — is still on board, although, as he said, ‘Anything can happen.’

We wondered though, if he has another project ready to go, should Blonde face another delay). Dominik says no. ‘It’s pretty much all about Marilyn at the moment,’ he said.”

Marilyn’s Chanel Moment

Chanel have uploaded a rather nice video about Marilyn, including audio from her 1960 interview with George Belmont of Marie-Claire magazine in which she explains her answer to the question, ‘What do you wear to bed?’

Of course, it was Chanel No 5 – possibly the most lucrative free publicity a perfumier ever had. The source of the original quip remains obscure, though it dates back as early as 1953 when she posed for photographer Bob Beerman.

You can watch Chanel’s video here.

Marilyn in Playboy (Again)

While I’ve said here before that I’m not Hugh Hefner’s greatest fan, we do share a liking for a certain iconic blonde. In recent years, it has become something of a tradition for Marilyn to feature in Playboy‘s Christmas issue.

‘The Nude Marilyn’ graces the December issue, due out on November 20th in the US and elsewhere thereafter. A selection of (mostly familiar) nudes and semi-nudes from Earl Moran, Tom Kelley, Lawrence Schiller and Bert Stern are included, as well as tributes by the late novelist John Updike, film critic Roger Ebert and blogger Kim Morgan (aka Sunset Gun.)

You can check out the photos on Playboy‘s website, while the article can now be viewed in its entirety at Everlasting Star (thanks to Megan.)

Marilyn and Ralph Roberts

Marilyn first met fellow actor Ralph L. Roberts at the home of Lee Strasberg, and in 1959 he became her personal masseur. She loved to hear stories about his hometown of Salisbury, North Carolina, and called him ‘brother’ – in fact, her final phonecall may have been to Ralph. He died in 1999.

Ralph’s nephew, Hap Roberts, will appear in a forthcoming documentary, Marilyn: Birth of an Icon, and extracts from an unpublished memoir, Mimosa, have been posted on Roberts’ website.

In today’s Salisbury Post, Mark Wineka looks back at their close friendship.

“Only two weeks ago, documentary filmmakers from Paris were here, interviewing Ralph Roberts’ nephew, Hap, who saw his uncle almost every day for the last three years of his life in Salisbury.

French Connection Films also spoke to Chris ‘Steve’ Jacobs, the man Hap Roberts has made archivist for his uncle’s papers and all things Marilyn.

Long after Monroe had died and mainly as a way to correct and set straight things written about her, Ralph Roberts started several versions of a memoir, which he titled Mimosa.

‘There’s constant interest in that manuscript,’ Jacobs says.

Hap Roberts and Jacobs hope to publish the memoir some day, though putting the Marilyn years in chronological order and dealing with Ralph’s writing style have been difficult.

‘He never took advantage of his relationship with Marilyn Monroe in any shape or form,’ Hap Roberts says of his uncle. ‘We don’t want to profit from it, either. We just want to do what Ralph would want done.’

Roberts actually met Marilyn Monroe for the first time at [Lee] Strasberg’s New York apartment in 1955. He wrote in his memoir that she was ‘one of the most radiantly beautiful creatures’ he had ever seen.

‘And when I say creature, that was it,’ Roberts wrote. ‘An animal. The blue-whiteness one sees sometimes in the stars of a desert night. White-blond hair, clear-white complexion framing violet-blue eyes.’

Roberts became Monroe’s official masseur in 1959, and for long periods, during her various marriages and romantic entanglements, would give her massages daily.

Roberts and Monroe forged a bond. She called him ‘Rafe,’ the British pronunciation for his name.

They connected on the Willa Cather books they read, their spirituality and, believe it or not, Salisbury.

As Roberts massaged her at night, he spoke to her about his hometown and all of its places and people – down to men such as Irvin Oestreicher and Julian Robertson Sr. to the roasted peanuts at the Lash store and the winged statue on West Innes Street. Together, Roberts and Monroe ran errands, ate meals together, attended parties and took plane trips across the country between New York and California.

Roberts was with Monroe the night she practiced singing ‘Happy Birthday,’ the version she would famously croon to Kennedy.

They watched the 1960 Democratic National Convention together when Kennedy won the nomination. They were on the set together every day of The Misfits, Clark Gable’s last movie.

In addition to massaging Monroe between scenes and being her chauffeur, Roberts played the part of an ambulance driver in The Misfits.

Hap and Annette, who also became close to Ralph, knew not to probe him for his memories of Monroe.

When he did talk about their relationship, they tried not to interrupt, savoring every detail and recognizing how much he loved and respected Monroe.

Ralph Roberts felt great remorse that he wasn’t home the night of Monroe’s death to answer her call. He lived close to the actress and could have been to her house quickly.

‘I do think he probably carried that to his grave,’ Hap Roberts says.

Hap Roberts tells a funny story, too, of another Monroe gift to his uncle. After Ralph’s death, Hap was gathering his uncle’s clothing together for a donation to Goodwill.

He noticed a woman’s Burberry trench coat in the closet, but he figured it was a friend’s coat, left at Ralph’s house in the past. He placed it with the other things for Goodwill.

‘About a month later, I found a list of Marilyn Monroe items,’ Roberts says. ‘Sure enough, on the list was Burberry trench coat.’

‘Well, Marilyn’s coat is now protecting some unsuspecting lady in Salisbury from inclement weather.’

When Ralph Roberts died April 30, 1999, at his home, he was 82. Hap Roberts said he sat alone in his uncle’s house and cried until he couldn’t cry any longer.

Roberts noticed the stacks of memoir papers spread out everywhere in the living room. In the den, he also saw the open Willa Cather book that his uncle had been reading.

Up to the end, Ralph Roberts was chasing his friend, Marilyn Monroe.”

Martin Landau Remembers Marilyn

Veteran character actor Martin Landau, who appeared in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959), and the classic TV series Mission: Impossible, is currently featured in Tim Burton’s latest movie, Frankenweenie. 

Now 84, Landau has spoken to The Guardian about his memories of Marilyn. They met at the Actor’s Studio, and, Landau claims, dated for a while in 1955.

“In his youth, Landau was good friends with James Dean and briefly dated Marilyn Monroe. Was there a sense that the two were somehow ill-starred, pointed towards disaster, destined to die young?

‘No, no, no, he says with uncharacteristic emphasis. ‘Jimmy never talked about dying; Jimmy talked about living. Jimmy’s only concern was that he would become an old boy, like Mickey Rooney. When Kazan tested actors for East of Eden, Paul Newman and Jimmy auditioned on the same day. Paul looked like a man when he was 20, whereas Jimmy was still playing high-school kids at 23. So that bothered him a bit. But Jimmy did not want to die. And there’s always a lot of conjecture about Marilyn’s death. It’s still a mystery; no one seems to know exactly what happened. Yes, there were ongoing issues with Marilyn, but they did not support the idea of suicide in any way, shape or form.'”

In an interview with The Australian, Landau talks in more detail about Marilyn:

“He recalls taking classes with Monroe, a couple of years his senior, under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York.

‘She was there because she was dissatisfied. People perceived her as a Hollywood blonde bimbo. She was very needy and would go from being on top of her game to absolutely bereft of any self-belief or confidence. She seesawed between those two personalities.’

When they went to the theatre she’d change her outfits many times. ‘We’d never see the first act of the play.’ Did he desire her? ‘She was terrific … I don’t talk about those things,’ he says, quietly. Did he have a relationship with her? ‘I had a relationship with her. It was just before Arthur (Miller, the playwright whom she married in 1956). It was an interesting relationship, I look at it very differently than the way I did then. She was incredibly attractive but very difficult.’

How did he cope with that? ‘You can’t. That’s why I didn’t.’ It lasted? ‘Several months.’ He couldn’t cope with the poles of her personality? ‘Yeah, you didn’t know which one would show up in the middle of something.’ Did he end the relationship? ‘I did, by becoming more busy.’ Was she upset by that? ‘I don’t know, probably. I didn’t want to upset her.’

After the relationship ended, Landau and Monroe saw each other ‘a couple of times in passing’ in New York and Los Angeles.

Was he in love with her? ‘I don’t know if I was in love with her or fascinated by her or flattered by her. She was incredibly attractive and fun to be with much of the time. When she wasn’t she wasn’t. I mean, that was the problem. She could get very withdrawn.’ Did he want to marry her? ‘No, no. It was almost a form of purgatory. I never knew who (that is, which Marilyn) I was going to be with.’

Landau was changing planes in Rome in 1962 when he read that Monroe had died. ‘I was heartbroken. As the mystery unfolded I was more and more shocked. It didn’t seem possible that she killed herself intentionally. It was possible she took more barbiturates than necessary, just losing count, or possibly it was foul play. Nobody knows.'”

In his new book, They Knew Marilyn Monroe, author Les Harding also mentions Martin Landau. This anecdote is attributed to Paddy Chayevsky’s biographer, Shaun Considine.

“After a class at the Actor’s Studio, Landau, with Ben Gazzara and Elia Kazan, escorted Marilyn to the window table of a Times Square restaurant. Landau noticed that Marilyn’s attention seemed to be somewhere else. Following her gaze, Landau glanced across the street which housed the office of the theatrical producer working on Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From the Bridge’. High up in the building, framed in the window, was Miller himself. ‘He stood there for the longest time, with his foot on the windowsill, looking down at her,’ said Landau. ‘I was the only one who noticed, and nothing was said. Only later did I put it all together.'”

Edna O’Brien on Jackie, Marilyn

In her newly published memoir, Country Girl, the Irish novelist, Edna O’Brien, recalls her friendship with the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Though she never met Marilyn herself, O’Brien crossed paths with many of her New York friends, including photographer Sam Shaw.

In Country Girl, Edna compares Jackie to another iconic American – MM.

“Long before [Jackie] was a First Lady, she had the certainty of one who was cherished, and the little girl in her held on to that; it was her armour and it saw her through varying nightmares with astonishing poise. Ironically, Marilyn Monroe, who in her sheath dress sang the birthday tribute for President Kennedy in 1962 (when Jackie was noticeably absent), had no sheath at all, the little girl in her had been cut to the core. Jackie was the opposite, she went through life veiled, and left it with her stardust intact.”