‘Unremarkable Death’ in Edinburgh

The Unremarkable Death of Marilyn Monroe, a play by Elton Townend Jones, staged by Dyad Productions and featuring actress Lizzie Wort, has been getting good reviews at the Edinburgh Festival. You can read more about the show on Dyad’s Facebook page.

However, there are only seven shows left, and friend of ES Updates Lorraine will be attending one of them. I await her verdict, as how critics and fans respond can be very different…

Greg Auerbach: Hollywood Grafitti

Marilyn is one of several movie icons depicted in ‘Hollywood Grafitti‘, an exhibition of art by Greg Auerbach, at the ArcLight Hollywood until October 9, reports LA Confidential. Her image is spray-painted over a collage of vintage newspaper articles about tragic beauties, sex symbols, her marriages, and blonde bombshells.

“‘It was a total passion thing for me, and since then, it’s turned into my life,’ says Auerbach, a film and street art enthusiast, whose collection caught fire in Hollywood and has fast grown from 12 original pieces to nearly 50.

Auerbach does all of the frame-building, stenciling, and spray-painting through the stencils himself. The news articles are sourced from archives of the LA TimesNew York TimesLondon Times, and more, printed on real newsprint to age authentically. Each piece utilizes about 200 articles, deliberately selected and sliced to showcase the subject’s career and livelihood…’I try to talk about their influences, how they impact society, and what was going on when they were alive,’ the artist says.”

Documentaries: Old and New

Last night, I watched two Marilyn-related documentaries online that I’d never seen before. The first, Stars of the Silver Screen: Marilyn Monroe, was made in 2011 by 3DD Productions. The second, Eyewitness: Marilyn Monroe – Why?, was filmed by ABC News just a week after her death in 1962.

Stars of the Silver Screen is a formulaic look at Marilyn’s life career, but it’s quite well-made. Film critic Derek Malcolm and fashion journalist Matthew Bevan provide a mostly interesting commentary, while interviewees include Tony Curtis, Eli Wallach, Curtice Taylor (son of Misfits producer Frank), and Angela Allen (John Huston’s script supervisor.)

A highlight was the rare footage from the David Di Donatello Awards in 1958, where Marilyn was named Best Actress for her role in The Prince and the Showgirl. When a reporter witlessly asked if she took acting seriously, Marilyn replied, ‘Yes, I’m afraid I do!’

My main criticism would be that, as with so many documentaries, the focus was more on Marilyn’s legendary on-set insecurities than the celluloid magic that resulted from her painstaking work.

Eyewitness: Marilyn Monroe – Why? has the advantage of being recorded immediately after Marilyn died. The producers were able to engage people who knew Marilyn well and were famous in their own right. It also gives a more authentic picture of how the world perceived Marilyn in her own lifetime.

Emmeline Sniveley, Jean Negulesco, Lee Strasberg, George Cukor, plus fellow actress Kim Novak and playwright Clifford Odets all feature in the programme. Novak seems to have the most empathy towards Marilyn, while Odets offers the most eloquent commentary.

There is also some rare footage from the day that the Miller’s divorce was announced, with a distraught MM telling reporters, ‘I can’t talk about my personal life.’


‘Famous Faces Yet Not Themselves’

After watching The Misfits again last week, I learned about a book I hadn’t heard of before. Published in 2010 by the University of Minnesota PressFamous Faces Yet Not Themselves: The Misfits and Icons of Postwar America is an academic study by George Kouvaros, reflecting on Magnum Photos‘ ground-breaking documentation of the making of the film.

Here’s a synopsis:

“Famous Faces Yet Not Themselves offers a multilayered study of the Magnum photographs from the 1961 film The Misfits. By closely scrutinizing the images from one of America’s most haunting and least understood films, George Kouvaros presents a new recognition of the connection between the power of star culture, art photography, and the film industry during a time of rapid social transformation.”

And a quick review from me:

“This book is both a study of the 1961 film, The Misfits, and of postwar American photography. The Misfits came with high expectations, but was considered a disappointment. The off-screen drama of Monroe’s breakdown and Gable’s death seemed to overshadow the story. The producers gave Magnum Photos exclusive rights to cover the shoot, and so it was perhaps the first time a Hollywood film was shown in the more realistic medium of photojournalism. Consequently, the stars also seemed more human and flawed than before. Kouvaros argues that these photos enhance our understanding of The Misfits, and that it represents a transition between classic and modern modes of film-making. On first reading, I found some of the writing too abstract – but when Kouvaros marries his ideas to examples from the photographs and the movie itself, it becomes rather enjoyable.”


TCM in New York

 TCM are running bus tours of New York’s most famous movie locations on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, reports Newsday. Among the landmarks to be visited en route is the northwest corner of Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street in Manhattan, where the immortal ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch was filmed in 1954.

Lee Hadwin: The Sleep Artist

Lee Hadwin is a Welsh artist who does his best work in his sleep, as this early portrait of Marilyn, entitled ‘The Look’, shows.

“When did you start creating art in your sleep?

It was when I was about four or five years old. At around 12 or one o’clock in the morning I would start scribbling on the walls of my bedroom. I wasn’t making masterpieces at that age. I’d just get up, scribble and sleepwalk around. My parents took me to the doctor and they thought it was just a normal sleepwalking habit. But in my teens the drawings became more intricate. I drew four Marilyn Monroe [portraits] at that time, and that’s when the doctors sat up and thought this was a a bit strange. They didn’t realize at the time that I didn’t draw while I was in a conscious state. That I wasn’t drawing while awake, only while I was subconscious.

Do your sleeping artworks resemble images you’ve dreamed of? Do you ever recognize the images?

Eh, some of them. People ask about the Marilyn Monroes, which I made back in the late ’80s when I was 15. Back then I was in high school and Marilyn was around a lot, on t-shirts and things. That’s the only thing I can pinpoint. I think some of the things I have seen in my waking life, but I don’t know if I scribble from what I see, because there is some stuff I can’t explain.” – Huffington Post


The Market For Marilyn

Earlier this year, the $156,000 sale of an intimate letter from Marilyn to Lee Strasberg made headlines. Maine Antique Digest spoke to Marsha Malinowski of Profiles in History about the auction.

“Virtually every news organization highlighted a letter by Marilyn Monroe to her mentor Lee Strasberg. A celebrity with worldwide recognition was an understandable choice for them. But what does it say about the manuscripts market that the undated Monroe missive was the top lot of the sale? Selling for $156,000, it beat out all other results for items by men of state (John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson), men of science (Thomas Edison, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Louis Pasteur), men of letters (Jack London, Samuel Clemens, Charles Dickens), and women of many different talents (Billie Holiday, Louisa May Alcott, Virginia Woolf, Mata Hari, Catherine de’ Medici, Helen Keller, Isadora Duncan, and Jackie Onassis), to name a few.

Maybe the outcome says that a manuscripts sale is a great leveler, just like fame itself. (Flannery O’Connor once commented that her fame had made her feel like a cross between ‘Roy Rogers’s horse and Miss Watermelon of 1955.’) Maybe it says more about the past successes of Profiles in History. Its customer base may be international, but its headquarters is not far from Hollywood, and the auction house is known for its sales of high-profile movie memorabilia—e.g., the white cocktail dress that flew up as Monroe stood over a subway grate in The Seven Year Itch. The star of a $22.8 million sale in 2011, the costume fetched $5.52 million.

Asked for her take on the result, Malinowski said, ‘It’s so hard for me to understand that a Marilyn Monroe letter sold for more than a Beethoven letter.’ (The sale’s one-page autograph letter signed by the composer, a terse message to opera singer Friedrich Sebastian Mayer, fetched $96,000.) ‘It’s just incredible to me on so many different levels. Then again, that was probably one of the most poignant Monroe letters I’ve ever read in all my years in the business.’

Partly, the price can be explained by the fact that powerful contemporary material is selling for very high prices, Malinowski said. Yet, she added, there was something about this letter that transcended that trend. ‘It was such a poignant letter; it struck a chord with people across the board.’ And as if to underline that statement, the item went not to a Hollywood collector, as one might suppose. ‘It went to a good manuscript-collecting client of mine, and I was thrilled,’ Malinowski said.

‘When people die tragically young, they become iconic, whether it is JFK, James Dean, or Marilyn,’ Malinowski said. ‘So there’s also that aspect. These tragic figures always garner a lot more attention.’ And because their lives have been cut short, ‘There’s a limited amount of the material, and people just go for it. I’ve watched that happen over time, and it hasn’t changed.’

Olivier ‘Flabbergasted’ by Marilyn

A new biography of Sir Laurence Olivier suggests that Marilyn wasn’t the only co-star he fought with. Philip Ziegler‘s Olivier will be published next month, reports The Independent.

“Before penning the book, historian Philip Ziegler listened to taped interviews with Olivier that were originally intended for the actor’s own memoirs. The star made some choice omissions: chiefly, the parts where he eviscerates some of old Hollywood’s brightest stars. Joan Fontaine, his co-star in Rebecca, was ‘loathsome’, according to extracts seen by The Sunday Times, while Merle Oberon was a ‘silly little amateur’.

Olivier ‘didn’t care to be taught acting’ by Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas on the set of 1959’s The Devil’s Disciple, and his ‘hatred’ for Marilyn Monroe – a flaky and undisciplined presence during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl – was ‘one of the strongest emotions I had ever felt’. He was ‘flabbergasted’ when the final cut was released by ‘how wonderful’ she was.”


Marilyn in Jasper: A Souvenir

Jasper Museum in Alberta, Canada has published a 25pp booklet featuring photos and anecdotes from Marilyn’s stay in the region, while filming River of No Return in 1953. You can order it here.