Martin Landau on Marilyn, ‘Anna Nicole’

Agnes Bruckner in ‘The Anna Nicole Smith Story’

Actor Martin Landau, who met Marilyn at the Actors Studio – and, he says, dated her for a time – plays oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall  in a Lifetime Channel movie, The Anna Nicole Smith Story, which aired on Saturday. (Anna is played by Agnes Bruckner, and the film is directed by Mary Harron, whose credits include American Psycho, I Shot Andy Warhol and The Notorious Bettie Page.)

Anna Nicole Smith – a glamour model turned reality TV star, who first found notoriety when she married the elderly Marshall – was a huge fan of MM. She emulated her blonde bombshell allure, and even lived in her last Brentwood home for a few months.

Sadly, Anna would also die young, and in mysterious circumstances. ‘Anna Nicole Smith dreamed of living large,’ writes Linda Stasi in the New York Post. ‘She dreamed of being Marilyn Monroe. What Smith probably never understood is that her tragic idol wanted to live smaller — or at least smaller than the creation she became.’

Martin Landau discussed the similarities – and differences – between the two women in an interview with Reuters.

“Q: Anna idolized and emulated Marilyn Monroe, which is shown throughout the film. Did working on this movie stir up memories of Monroe for you? I’ve heard you were romantically involved with the actress in the 1950s.

A: Marilyn was unique, which is not to say that Anna Nicole wasn’t. I got to meet Anna Nicole once. Hugh Hefner (Playboy founder) introduced me to her. She was a big girl. When I say big, I mean big. She was big-boned. Everything about her was big, but she was proportioned perfectly.

Marilyn was very complicated. There was a different arc (to their lives) although they both died tragically.

Q: How did you come to be involved with Marilyn Monroe?

A: When she came to New York to study with Lee Strasberg (former Actors Studio artistic director), I was at the Actors Studio. She was in Lee’s private classes, and was also coming to the Studio. She saw me act, and wanted to do a scene with me.

Q: And you started seeing her then? Isn’t the Actors Studio where you also met James Dean?

A: I don’t usually talk about Marilyn or James Dean. I never wanted to use either of them to pump up my career. I didn’t want to be known as ‘Jimmy Dean’s friend’ or ‘Marilyn Monroe’s boyfriend,’ but I saw her just before (she met) Arthur Miller.”

‘Marilyn Was Just Like the Other Girls’

Montage by Sergio Serrano

Writing for the McLeansboro Times-Leader, Helen Sue Johnson remembers her residency at the Hollywood Studio Club for young actresses in the 1940s:

“Looking at a picture of Marilyn Monroe in Parade magazine reminds me of my short time in Hollywood, when I was making singing commercials. ‘Get fresh today, and you will see how really fresh can be’ was one of them.

I stayed at the Hollywood Studio Club, where Marilyn Monroe, Donna Reed and others also stayed while trying to get into the movies. At the time, Marilyn was not famous, but after she left, I got her room with another girl who had been Marilyn’s roommate.

Her roommate, Clarice Evans, later told me Marilyn was just like the other girls, but when she put on make-up, she dazzled everyone!”

 

Meeting Bert Stern

One of Stern’s most popular ‘Marilyns’, at the Staley Wise Gallery, NYC – photo by Mary Ann Lynch

Bert Stern was undoubtedly one of Marilyn’s best-known – and most controversial – photographers, and in light of his recent passing, I will be covering his life and career in depth in the near future.

In a few days, I’ll post a selection of the most interesting tributes, and in a few weeks, I’ll publish my own essay.

But first, here’s a personal recollection – in words and pictures – from artist and photographer, Mary Ann Lynch, whose Marilyn-inspired work I admire greatly. You can read about her meeting with Mr Stern here.

Profiles in History: Avedon Outtakes + Mystery Candids


With the death of Bert Stern, and the upcoming Milton Greene auction, some of Marilyn’s most eminent photographers have been making headlines recently.

With Arthur Miller

Profiles in History have just published a catalogue for their 56th Hollywood Auction, set for July 29th, and it includes rare, unseen photos by Richard Avedon (outtakes from a 1957 session, and contact sheets with Arthur Miller) and a number of candid photos taken at Amagansett that summer (attributed to Sam Shaw by the auctioneers, though his estate has not confirmed this.)

What I find most interesting about the Avedon photos is that they show that his more famous portrait of Marilyn alone, looking dejected, was actually one in a series of poses – similar to Philippe Halsman’s ‘mixed emotions’ concept.

Marilyn spent a mostly joyous summer at Amagansett, New York, with Arthur Miller in 1957. Among her companions were poet Norman Rosten, and Arthur’s children, Jane and Bobby. She was pregnant, but sadly lost the child in August.

Amagansett, 1957
With the Miller children, and the Rostens

These informal snaps are sweet, sexy – and were probably taken at around the same time as the picture below (not on auction), which has long been a mystery among Monroe fans.

Mystery photo, attributed to Sam Shaw (not in auction)

Finally, you may have noticed that a topless photo of Marilyn is among these candid snaps – sure to attract the attention of tabloid journalists! You can see the uncensored version here.

Marni Nixon: Stand-In for the Stars

Marni Nixon, the American soprano, is best-known to MM fans for dubbing the operatic introduction to ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ (as seen in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, though omitted from the soundtrack recording. It should be emphasised that all other vocals on the song are Marilyn’s.)

Nixon, now 83, spoke to The Guardian recently about her movie work, including her far more extensive dubbing work in The King and I and West Side Story.

“‘It was just a part of the working singer’s job in Hollywood to do anything that was necessary and a lot of dubbing was going on,’ she says. To subsidise a classical career that had her eventually singing for Stravinsky and Schoenberg, ‘you just worked any way you can.'”

‘Love, Marilyn’ On Demand in USA

Love, Marilyn was screened in the US on HBO earlier this month. For any American readers who missed it, the documentary can be viewed via HBO On Demand and HBO Go until September 1st.

The Love, Marilyn Facebook page also posted recently that details of a DVD release will soon be announced. If you’re in Europe and simply can’t wait that long, it is already available in Spain (as a Region 2 DVD, in English with subtitles) and can be ordered via Amazon UK.

Here are a few more reviews:

“Love Marilyn is the complete Monroe biography. Nonlinear in structure, it presents Monroe’s story in a most interesting and provocative way that leads to an understanding of Monroe’s complexities. It also leads to reflection upon how public exposure and celebrity can effect the vulnerable artists who experience it.” – Jennifer Merin, About.com

“In many ways, Marilyn Monroe is the blueprint for celebrity iconography and idolatry as we know it. She was an enigma of a woman, a creation she herself forged from within herself, seemingly made of fragile glass that would serve as her own ceiling, and later, her tomb. Much has been written, documented, and speculated about the late actress…In Love, Marilyn, director Liz Garbus attempts to let Monroe speak for herself through a series of letters, diary entries, and various documents recovered from a storage box. Like Monroe herself, the box had been shoved away and its physical contents long-forgotten — all that remained was the mythology of hearsay.” – Britt Hayes, BadAss Digest

On This Day: June 26, 1953

Sixty years ago today, Marilyn and her Gentlemen Prefer Blondes co-star, Jane Russell, were immortalised in true Hollywood fashion: by dipping their hands and feet in cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.  Jennifer Jean Miller looks back at this event over at Inside Scene L.A.

Elliott Reid 1920-2013

Elliott Reid – who played private detective Ernie Malone, Jane Russell’s love interest in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – has died aged 93.

A versatile actor with a flair for comedy, Reid was born in New York in 1920, and after making his name in radio drama serials such as Orson Welles’s The Mercury Theatre on Air, joined the Actor’s Studio when it was founded in 1947.

In that same year, Reid appeared in George Cukor‘s A Double Life, which made a star of Shelley Winters. One of his most important roles was in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953.)

Onscreen, his character was something of an adversary to Lorelei Lee. In one memorable scene, Lorelei and her best friend, Dorothy, spike Ernie’s drink and pull off his trousers, in order to retrieve some compromising photos.

On the set – Elliott Reid at left
Reid with Jane Russell, at left

Reid shared his memories with Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed:

“I thought [Monroe] was lovely-looking, beautiful and charming. She was quiet and shy but we didn’t really get to know each other during the shoot because as soon as the scene was finished Marilyn would go to her dressing room to work with her drama coach.

She was often late – sometimes ten minutes or so, but not extreme; her lateness was well known and it was just how she was. She was charming and everyone understood her lateness and no one got mad. There were no problems during the making of the film because she was so sweet; she was never aggressive – she just wanted to do her best.”

Also in 1953, Reid co-starred with Jean Peters (who had just finished shooting Niagara with Monroe) in Vicki, a remake of an early film noir, I Wake Up Screaming. (The 1943 original had starred one of Marilyn’s idols, Betty Grable, and she had used the script as an audition piece.)

Reid played a supporting role in Stanley Kramer’s Inherit the Wind, followed by The Absent-Minded Professor in 1961. He also appeared regularly on television.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Reid impersonated John F. Kennedy at a 1962 dinner. Time magazine reported that the president was ‘convulsed’ by Reid’s performance.

‘I was very sad when [Marilyn Monroe] died,’ Reid told Michelle Morgan, recalling her tragic overdose in August 1962. ‘Surprised, but more than anything I was shocked.’

In 1963, he played psychiatrist Dr Herman Schlick in Move Over Darling, a remake of Marilyn’s abandoned last film, Something’s Got to Give. Doris Day took the lead, while Reid replaced comedian Steve Allen.

Reid continued working on stage and television until his retirement in 1995. One of his final roles was in a 1992 episode of the acclaimed US sitcom, Seinfeld.

Elliott Reid died of heart failure on June 21st. His nephew told the Los Angeles Times that Reid had been residing in an assisted living facility in Studio City, California.