‘Marilyn: An American Fable’

Those intrepid producers seeking to bring Marilyn’s life story to the stage (by the dozen, it seems) should take heed of this cautionary tale of an ill-fated Broadway show.

“Many people know that before Smash, there was already a Broadway musical based on Marilyn Monroe’s life – Marilyn: An American Fable, which closed after 17 performances. The show opened at the Minskoff in 1983 with Marilyn played by Alyson Reed (who went on to play Cassie in the A Chorus Line movie, and later, played Ms. Darbus in the High School Musical films).

Marilyn: An American Fable opened with Young Norma Jean singing a tuneful number called ‘A Single Dream’ (that I adore) with a trio of performers simply called: ‘Destiny’. ‘Destiny’ followed Marilyn around throughout the musical, commenting on her choices and generally looking fabulous.

The show was directed and choreographed by Kenny Ortega, and it would be his one credit on Broadway, before moving on to film projects like the High School Musical franchise (for which he brought Alyson Reed along), Michael Jackson: This Is It, and the upcoming In The Heights movie.”

You can read Jennifer Ashley Tepper‘s hilarious article in full at Broadway Spotted.

Portrait of a Lookalike

Photo by Emily Berl

Over at Feature Shoot, an interesting series of portraits by Emily Berl, documenting several Marilyn lookalikes in her hometown of Los Angeles – including Holly Beavon, Jami Deadly, Gailynn Addis and Monica Shahri.

“My main criteria for photographing these people is that Marilyn has to be a large part of their lives, either as a profession or something they personally draw inspiration from. I’m less concerned about how much they look like Marilyn and more concerned about their motivations for becoming her. The women I have met through this project want to portray the real Marilyn, not the overly sexualized, overly simplified version of her.” —Emily Berl

MM Estate Sues Florida Strip Club

A West Palm Beach strip club is being sued by Marilyn’s estate for copyright infringement, reports the Sun-Sentinel:

“Marilyn Monroe may have been the most prominent sex symbol of the last century, but her image cannot be used to promote a highbrow West Palm Beach strip club, her estate argued in a federal lawsuit filed last week.

Monroe’s of Palm Beach is infringing on the late actress’ trademark by using her name and image in its signs, its Twitter account and its very name, according to the lawsuit filed by the estate of Marilyn Monroe, which is based in New York.

Until recently, some of its fliers featured a silhouette reminiscent of the iconic scene from The Seven Year Itch in which Monroe’s skirt is blown from a blast of air coming from a subway vent.

A manager at the West Palm Beach club, who identified himself only as John, said the business has stopped using the skirt silhouette, but denied the club is trying to profit from the memory of Marilyn Monroe. The club uses images of numerous 1950s stars, including Lana Turner, Bettie Page and the Rat Pack, he said.

‘Monroe,’ he said, was the name of the club owner’s cat, and the name was chosen in jest as a challenge to Rachel’s, a rival strip club believed to be named after its owner’s cat.”

Bombshell: The Show Must Go On

Fans of TV’s nixed Smash may be interested to hear that Bombshell, the Marilyn-inspired musical at the heart of the show, may be getting a new lease of life.

“A subject of the series was a musical called Bombshell, about the life of Marilyn Monroe, and composer Marc Shaiman told The Hollywood Reporter that at least one charity has expressed interest in creating a concert based on the songs. ‘A concert could feature the cast and additional performers from Broadway. That would be a wonderful way for the show to live on,’ he said.”

Kerry Katona Cast as Marilyn

Reality TV star Kerry Katona has been cast as Marilyn in a new stage show, Norma Jeane: The Musical, reports BBC News.

“Pashun said: ‘I needed an actor of huge talent, personality and experience – Kerry was at the top of my list.’

The former Atomic Kitten singer’s first performance will be at an industry-only audience on 22 September in central London.

Belvedere, who also wrote WAG! The Musical, added: ‘This show will change the shape of people’s perceptions of Marilyn Monroe and we expect to announce a new star of drama on stage and screen with Kerry’s performance.’

Katona, who recently announced she was bankrupt, said that she was ready to take to the stage as one of the world’s most famous screen legends.

The 32-year-old said: ‘I’m thrilled to have been given this opportunity to play one of the world’s biggest female icons and can’t wait to get to work.’

‘A successful career in drama has always been a main goal of mine and this role is a challenge but one I’m going to grab with both hands.’

Writers say the script ‘isn’t an ordinary bio/drama’ and that Belvedere has included little known facts from Marilyn Monroe’s life.

The show will feature original songs from a writing team including Jay Aston, Geoff Cotton, Orna Klement and Tony Bayliss.”

Of course, this announcement has met with widespread incredulity. Katona first found fame in girlband Atomic Kitten during the early 2000s. Since her departure, however, she has been better known for her messy private life.

Kerry as Marilyn in 2004

Kerry first impersonated Marilyn Monroe on a celebrity special of Stars In Their Eyes in 2004, where she sang ‘Winter Wonderland.’ Her acting experience, though, is quite limited.

While this may seem like a classic case of opportunistic celebrity casting for maximum publicity value, maybe there’s a small chance that she’ll win us over. Her former manager, Andy McCluskey, spoke to the Telegraph earlier this year:

“‘I love Kerry Katona!’ he proclaimed of their vivacious but erratic star, who went on to become a fixture of Britain’s tabloids and star of reality TV shows such as I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here. ‘The first time I met her I told her, “You’re going to be a star, because you’ve got Marilyn Monroe syndrome. You’re gorgeous but you don’t know it.”‘

‘She was going to be a Page 3 model, but she couldn’t because she’d been in foster care and she was under eighteen,’ McCluskey says of Katona. ‘So I said give me a year and let me see if I can make you into a pop star because you’re just amazing. She couldn’t sing. But Liz and Natasha could sing, and Kerry was like the secret hand grenade: you’d throw her in the room and she’d just explode. Everybody loves her.'”

Marilyn (and Dorothy) at the Plaza

One of Marilyn’s favourite New York hangouts was the Plaza Hotel, where in February 1956, she held a press conference with Sir Laurence Olivier – and, much to his amazement, chaos erupted when the strap on his co-star’s dress broke!

John F. Doscher, a bartender (or ‘mixologist’) at the Plaza during the fifties, remembers Marilyn and other stars in his new book, The Back of the Housereports Hernando Today.

“Take for instance his va-va-va voom encounter with Marilyn Monroe. The starlet stayed at the hotel numerous times.

Doscher said he was awestruck by the entourage of photographers, hair stylists and makeup artists accompanying Miss Monroe each time she came in.

‘They were from Life, Look and Photoplay magazines, all there for photo opps, he said, early paparazzis, you know?’

One day Monroe was having a late breakfast in what was the Edwardian Room and sitting by the window overlooking Central Park South. A few tables away with her back to Monroe sat Plaza-regular New York newspaper columnist, Dorothy Kilgallen.

Working the bar that day in the Edwardian, Doscher mentioned to Kilgallen that Monroe was sitting by the window. Kilgallen, he said, ‘Let out a “harrumph” and said, ‘Yes. I saw her. She looks like an unmade bed.’

‘Apparently, there was some animosity there,’ Doscher observed. ‘I mean, Marilyn Monroe has been described many ways in her lifetime, but never the description Kilgallen offered.'”

Marilyn with Dorothy Kilgallen, 1960

Dorothy Kilgallen was a syndicated newspaper columnist. In 1952, she reported that journalist Robert Slatzer was a rival to Joe DiMaggio for Marilyn’s affections. (Slatzer has since become a notorious figure in Monroe history, and biographer Donald Spoto considers him a fraud.)

After Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was released in 1953, a sceptical Kilgallen wrote to Darryl F. Zanuck, asking him to confirm that Marilyn’s singing was her own voice, which he did.

Needless to say, none of this endeared her to Marilyn, and in his essay, A Beautiful Child, Truman Capote wrote that MM had described Kilgallen as a drunk who hated her.

Kilgallen lived near the summer house where Marilyn and Arthur Miller stayed in 1957. In 1960, she was photographed with Marilyn at a press conference for Let’s Make Love.

Just days before Marilyn died, Kilgallen alluded to the star’s affair with a prominent man in her column. In the following weeks, she tried to investigate the circumstances behind Monroe’s death – particularly her alleged links to the Kennedy brothers.

In 1965, 53 year-old Kilgallen was found dead in her New York apartment, having overdosed on alcohol and barbiturates, and also having possibly suffered a heart attack.

However, some conspiracy theorists think Kilgallen was murdered, because of her critical comments about the US government.

 

Marilyn and the Geishas

This giant image of Marilyn, in her iconic ‘skirt-blowing’ pose from The Seven Year Itch – alongside a traditional Geisha – in a Japanese rice field is part of an annual ‘Tanbo Art’ display, reports EuroNews.

During her 1954 visit to Japan with then-husband, Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn was photographed with a group of Geishas.

After Marilyn’s death, Vogue editor Diana Vreeland said,  ‘She was a geisha. She was born to give pleasure, spent her whole life doing it, and knew no other way.’

And one of Monroe’s most recent biographers, Lois Banner, has referred to Cecil Beaton‘s 1956 diptych – which Marilyn kept, framed, on her piano – as ‘the geisha photograph.’

Marilyn and Orson Welles

Marilyn in 1947 (Laszlo Willinger)

My Lunches With Orson is a new book featuring filmmaker Henry Jaglom‘s conversations with the maverick Hollywood actor-director, Orson Welles. In it, Welles mentions dating Marilyn before she was famous, during a discussion about Darryl F. Zanuck, reports the Huffington Post:

The way Welles depicts Zanuck is quite believable, as he never really respected Marilyn (even after she became his biggest star.) Another story linking Welles to MM is mentioned in a Guardian article from 2003, so their alleged affair pre-dates this book.

· 1947 
Made The Lady from Shanghai with Hayworth. A brief fling with unknown starlet Marilyn Monroe ended with an angry husband (not hers), wrongly convinced that Welles was with his wife, bursting in on Welles and Monroe and thumping the filmmaker in the jaw.

What is strange, though, is that The Guardian places Welles’s encounter with Marilyn in 1947. Success, for her, didn’t come ‘six months later’ – it took several years. And even in 1955, when she was a worldwide star, she had to fight for better pay. So I don’t know where his figure of $400,000, as told to Jaglom, comes from.

Exaggerations aside, though, his story may be true – Marilyn was certainly attracted to strong, intellectual men. And Welles was a well-known ladies’ man, on the rebound from his marriage to another beautiful actress, Rita Hayworth.

While Marilyn never mentioned an affair with Welles publicly, this is not all that surprising, as she was generally a very discreet person. It may not even have been a very long, or significant relationship for her, despite Welles’s fame. During her single days, and like many other pretty starlets, Marilyn would often be dating several men at any given time – but this is not to imply that she slept with every man she went out with.

In If This Was Happiness, Barbara Leaming‘s 1989 biography of Rita Hayworth, the Welles-Monroe rumour is also firmly placed in 1947. Leaming interviewed Welles; she had published a biography of Welles in 1988, and of course, would later write about MM.

“When Rita returned home to California that September, there was one last matter to be taken care of before she went back to work at Columbia: in October she officially filed for divorce. Not a word of protest came from Welles, who, meanwhile, had been hurriedly shooting a low-budget Macbeth at Republic Studios, enjoying a fling with Marilyn Monroe, and preparing to decamp for Italy to star in a film about Cagliostro. By the time of the divorce hearing in November, he was already out of the country.”

1947 was a shadowy year in Marilyn’s life, and it remains little-documented. The Cursum Perficio website notes that Marilyn’s contract with Twentieth Century Fox (Zanuck’s studio) lapsed in July. From September to November – the most likely time-span of the alleged fling with Welles – Marilyn was also in Los Angeles, playing a role in a stage production called Glamour Preferred, at the Bliss-Hayden Theatre.

The only known photo of Welles with Marilyn was taken eight years later, in January 1956, when she received the award from the ‘Women’s Division of the Jewish Philanthropies of New York City.’ Since her arrival in New York a year before, Marilyn had done a great deal of charitable work; and she would convert to Judaism a few months later, just before marrying Arthur Miller.

Welles also won an award that day; behind them is Victor Borge, the comedian, conductor and pianist dubbed ‘the Clown prince of Denmark.’

 

 

Cloris Leachman on Marilyn, Strasberg

Cloris Leachman, photographed by Andrew Southam

Actors Studio alumni Cloris Leachmanwho has had a long, distinguished career on stage and screen, spoke to HitFix recently, sharing her candid opinions about Lee Strasberg, Marilyn and more.

“Leachman called me from a hotel room twenty minutes late, apologizing for her tardiness. ‘I was watching Marilyn Monroe,’ she said, explaining that a documentary about the star was on HBO. While she admitted she didn’t know Monroe personally, she said, ‘I was in the first group of the Actor’s Studio, then two years later, Lee Strasberg [who famously coached Monroe] took over and I couldn’t stand him.’  Still, she was more interested in talking about Monroe. ‘She was so fragile. It’s too bad.'”