Thanks to Fraser Penney, I can report that Love, Marilyn will be screening at Dundee Contemporary Arts from October 25-31. (Remember, the acclaimed documentary is also being shown at Cineworld theatres throughout the UK from this Friday, October 18th.)
A publicity photo of a young Marilyn playing with a Cocker Spaniel on Santa Monica Beach features in a new coffee table book, Hollywood Dogs: Photographs From the John Kobal Foundation.
The photo is sometimes credited to Joseph Jasgur, but I’m not sure if this is correct. In the book, the photo is dated to 1948, two years after they last worked together. The photographer is not named in Hollywood Dogs, but it’s said to have been taken while Marilyn was signed to Columbia, where she was often photographed by Ed Cronenwerth (although their work was mostly studio-based.)
I have posted more from the series below…
A preview of Hollywood Dogs, over at the Vanity Fair website, also includes one of Eric Skipsey’s famous shots of Marilyn with her beloved Maltese poodle, Maf, in 1961.
As I predicted, the upcoming sale of Marilyn’s medical files has led to a media blitz of speculation (mostly unfounded) about the history of Marilyn’s plastic surgery. In a blog for Allure, Joan Kron fills in the gaps:
“The story of Monroe’s surgery starts in 1949 or 1950 and is a (somewhat fuzzy) part of Hollywood mythology. According to Patrick McGrady, author of the book The Youth Doctors, Monroe was a $75-a-week contract player and getting nowhere fast when she allegedly overheard herself referred to at a party as a ‘chinless wonder.’ Monroe consulted John Pangman, a surgeon who often operated in Gurdin’s office, who diagnosed a mild flatness of the chin and performed a cartilage graft, according to McGrady. Needing time to recover, Monroe postponed a screen test by explaining that she had fallen on her chin. When she finally took the test, the director said, ‘Honey, you should have cut your chin two years ago.’
The medical records tell a similar story, with slight variations. On July 14, 1958—years after the original procedure— the actress showed up at Gurdin’s office using her husband, Arthur Miller’s, last name for cover. The visit was for an evaluation of a flat chin, which was apparently a remnant of the graft that Pangman, possibly working with Gurdin, had implanted in 1950. (Norman Leaf later wrote that the graft was bovine, or cow, cartilage, since semi-soft silicone implants had yet to become the standard of care.) On the chart, Gurdin noted that the original graft had absorbed or dissolved over time, leaving virtually nothing but a scar under Monroe’s chin. There is no notation about whether Gurdin or Pangman replaced it, and no mention of work on Monroe’s nose—although Leaf claimed that Gurdin told him in private conversation that he and Pangman also refined Monroe’s nasal tip.
In an interview nearly 20 years ago, Dorothy Henderson, Gurdin’s nurse, told me she clearly recalled assisting Pangman at Monroe’s early chin graft operation, although she didn’t remember Gurdin being there, nor a nose job taking place. Neither did John Williams, another Doc Hollywood, who in an 2001 interview with London’s Daily Mail said he witnessed Pangman’s operation on Monroe’s chin, but that the implant was sponge, not cartilage. (That seems plausible to me, since Pangman was experimenting with a plastic sponge for breast implants years before silicone gel implants were developed.) Williams recalled Pangman’s description of Monroe as an up-and-coming actress who felt this would help her appearance in photographs. ‘She photographed beautifully after that and I realized how simple and important it could be for facial balance,’ said Williams.
The reason for the 1962 visit was an accidental fall, said Monroe, who feared she had broken her nose. There was ‘swelling and tenderness,’ Gurdin wrote. Insiders believed the fall was no accident, but rather the result of abuse by the psychiatrist. ‘Mike Gurdin told me he thought she was beaten up,’ says J. Arthur Jensen, associate clinical professor of plastic surgery at UCLA, who discussed Monroe with Gurdin when he was writing a book, The Kennedy Assassination.
In 1962, the radiologists who reviewed Monroe’s X-rays detected no break in her nose. But Leaf was curious: Would more modern tools find something different? Recently, he sent the film out for a second opinion, and this time radiologists found ‘a minute fracture of the tip of the nasal bone,’ he says—a condition that, even if detected, would not have required treatment.”
The article ends with further speculation that Marilyn may have had silicone breast injections:
“The chart being auctioned contains nothing about Monroe’s alleged breast issues. I learned of those in 1995 when I interviewed Rosemary Eckersley, a friend of Monroe’s and the widow of Franklin Ashley, another legendary Hollywood surgeon, known for rejuvenating John Wayne. (Yes, John Wayne had facial work). Shortly before Monroe’s death ‘her breasts were infected,’ Eckersley said, probably from liquid silicone injections. ‘Marilyn wanted Frank to do something about them, but he wouldn’t.’ More accurately he couldn’t, because it’s almost impossible to remove free silicone after it’s injected.”
This is the first time I’ve heard about Marilyn having had ‘work’ done on her breasts. Personally, I’m not convinced – by 1962, Marilyn’s bust was noticeably smaller than before. She had lost weight after gallbladder surgery the previous year. While I’m no expert on these matters, this seems to suggest that her breasts were natural.
Furthermore, I don’t really care if Marilyn had surgery – this doesn’t make her beauty any less real to me, because I believe it came from within. But I’m certainly not prepared to accept hearsay.
Much as I feared, the sale of these medical files – while informative – tells us less about Marilyn herself than the intrusive, shallow, and base nature of today’s celebrity culture. Hopefully, this will be my last word on the subject!
Back in 1955, Kauffmann authored Marilyn Monroe as the Girl, a booklet released to promote The Seven Year Itch (scanned here.) It is now a highly sought-after fan collectible, and a reissue of inferior quality was published in 2011.
Kauffmann remembered the experience in his 2007 book, Albums of a Life. I’ve reconstructed most of it here, from my notes and files.
“The deadline for the Monroe book began to loom over our office, seemingly blocking out the light of day. At last her intermediary said she would see me, without fail, on Wednesday afternoon at two. On Wednesday morning, my agent telephoned to say that she was having lunch with my editor that day, expected an answer about my novel, and would telephone me after lunch. I explained to her that I would be incommunicado with an author of my own. I asked her to telephone my wife and give her the news. I would call home as soon as I could. I alerted Laura to the plan.
That afternoon, at five to two, I was in the lobby of the Waldorf Towers with a dummy copy of the book. I gave the concierge my name and asked for Miss Monroe. He rang. There was no answer. I knew that she went almost daily to classes at the Actors Studio, and I asked if she had gone out. He said he had seen her go out that morning but his lunch-hour relief had seen her come home a while ago.
I sat and waited fifteen minutes. I asked him to ring again. This time she answered and said she would see me soon. Another fifteen minutes. Another half hour. I clutched the dummy book wetly. Two anvils pressed on me. I had to see her today, had to. I also wanted to telephone Laura for the news that might be waiting. There was no pay phone in the lobby, and I didn’t dare go to look for one because in the interim, however brief, Monroe might call down and be cross if I weren’t there, or she might go out. I sat, under my two pressures, on broken glass.
At half-past three, an hour and a half after our appointment, she called down to say that she would see me. I hoped that she had been busy, but no one came down in the elevator, and no one was waiting on her floor when I arrived.
I rang the doorbell, and she opened almost at once, blonde and glowing. Also barefoot. She looked as if she had just showered. She was wearing a white terry-cloth robe, tightly belted. The top billowed out just a bit. I wondered if this was to compensate me for my wait. She said nothing about the wait. She just took my hand and drew me inside. At the touch of her hand, my resentment vanished.
It was a two-room suite. This was the living room, and through the open door, I could see the bedroom. I was there on business, of course, but I couldn’t help realizing that I was alone in a hotel room with the current sex goddess of the wide, wide world. She was in a bathrobe and barefoot.
But there was another part of my mind. After greetings had been exchanged, the first thing I had said, alone with the globe’s Aphrodite, was, ‘May I please telephone my wife?’
She replied, in that breathy voice that had whispered into every male ear on earth, ‘Sure.’ Almost with childish pride, she said, ‘I have two phones. One here and one in there.’
I said I would go inside so that I wouldn’t disturb her. It would take only a moment, I promised.
I went inside and telephoned Laura. ‘Guess where I am,’ I said.
‘I’m in Marilyn Monroe’s bedroom, sitting on her bed.’
‘Oh, come on,’ said Laura impatiently.
The news from home was good. I went back into the living room, and when my hostess offered me a drink, I felt like having a little whiskey, unusual for me at that time of day. She had an assortment of bottles on the table, and she served me. She drank bottled water. We sat together on a sofa, and I felt trebly incandescent, being with her, knowing my private good news, and the whiskey. I took up the book. I showed her the foreword, and I turned the glassine-envelope pages. She nodded and said, ‘Mm-hm.’ When I finished, she said she wanted a few days to think about it. I supposed she wanted to consult someone. Of course, I said, but I mentioned the deadline. We made an appointment for Friday at three. Sam Shaw would be there.
On Friday I was ushered up promptly. Shaw was alone in the living room. He explained that Marilyn was at the Actors Studio and was due back at any moment. He said that Marilyn loved the book but had a few ideas. I said I was anxious to get them, to get anything, so that I could send the book off.
Very soon she came in from her acting class. This time she was not the world’s goddess. She wore a sweatshirt and slacks. There was a bit of belly. The knees were slightly knocked. Her hair looked tired, as if it were exhausted by all that had been done to it through the years, as if it were taking a day off. The best thing about her appearance was that she didn’t seem to care about our seeing her like that, off duty.
She was pleasant again, and in a few moments she settled down with me on the sofa, with Shaw seated on a hassock facing us. She held the dummy book, and she turned the pages studiously. For some reason, I got the image of a high school senior turning the pages of her yearbook, even though all the pictures were of herself.
She came to an inserted slip of paper, marking a place. I had included a picture of her sunk back in an easy chair, looking tired after a long day on the set. She said she didn’t like it. I said I had wanted to show that filmmaking is hard work.
She shook her head. ‘When people look at me, they want to see a star.’ I said the picture would come out. …
I asked her for a souvenir, a signed photo. Shaw pulled out a publicity still from The Seven Year Itch, a famous shot. She sits on the arm of a gaily striped sofa, wearing a white pantsuit with a wide-collared shirt and tight trousers, holding a drink, her left leg extended, her white, high-heeled, wide-strapped shoe pointing. She is smiling toward the left of the picture. She looks perfect. Like a star.
Shaw gave her a pen, and she asked him what she should write. He told her. She picked up a piece of paper and practiced the inscription. ‘Thank you, Mr. Stanley Kauffmann, for your sensitive insight. Love and kisses.’ Then she wrote it on the photo and signed it.
It is hanging on the wall in front of me right now.
I visited her once more. A week or so after the book had gone into production, I was told that she wanted to see me. I went over, was shown up promptly, and found the living room crowded with agents’ underlings and advisers on makeup and hair. She was inside with still another hairdresser, I was told, being readied for an appearance at a huge conference in the Waldorf later that afternoon.
About twenty minutes later, one of the makeup women rose to go inside. I asked her to tell Miss Monroe that, as requested, I was here. After a few minutes, the makeup woman opened the bedroom door and beckoned to me. I went to the doorway. Monroe was seated before her dressing-table mirror, lavishly gowned, her hair fluffily but carefully arranged. People were around her. She saw me in the mirror and waved at me as someone did something to her dress. I waved back.
The woman next to me smiled at me and closed the door.
I suppose Monroe had wanted something or other when she sent for me. I’ll never know what it was. But at that very moment, in that split second, I promised myself that someday I would write about our encounter. The wave in the mirror, quick, almost apologetic, settled the manner.
The paperbound book came out called Marilyn Monroe as the Girl, which was the only name given to her role in The Seven Year Itch. The book didn’t sell particularly well.
Our excuse to ourselves in the office was that people could pick it up at a bookshop or at a newsstand, flip through it, and put it back. We had another excuse: people may have been looking for girlie pictures of Monroe. The book was neither a girlie book nor a substantial book.
Time passed. At the end of 1955 I left publishing. Laura and I went to Europe for something over a year. We were in London for about six months at the same time that Monroe was there making a film, but I didn’t see her. I made no attempt. We returned to New York. I went back into publishing. I wrote another novel. I left publishing and never wrote another novel. I concluded that there was a kink in my head that tied novel-writing with editing.
In August 1962 came the news of Monroe’s death. Oddly, a few people, who had seen my signed photograph, called me up to console me. That response would have been a bit grand, I assured them. Still, I felt my own stab of sadness. I remembered our two talks, especially the first afternoon when, though she didn’t know it, she shared some good news with me. I saw again the wave in the mirror, like an escaped prisoner who had been recaptured.
There was a touch of pity, too. I remembered how she had kept me waiting in the lobby, and I saw it differently now. She had been getting a child’s revenge on a world that had abused, then used her. Now revenge had run out.”
The upcoming sale of Marilyn’s medical files (at Julien’s in November) has spawned many sensationalist headlines. As I said in a previous post, I don’t approve of this sale. However, the files have raised some important points which have largely been overlooked – so I’m going to briefly address some of these issues here.
Most of these stories pertain to plastic surgery, but the files (from the collection of Dr Michael Gurdin) actually prove what sites like Danamo’s MM Pages have been saying all along – that Marilyn had very few surgical enhancements:
“1. Prior to the shooting of Ladies of the Chorus, (1948) Dr. Walter Taylor, an orthodontist specializing in cosmetic surgery, fixed her front teeth, which protruded slightly.
2. In 1950, Johnny Hyde arranged for her to have her nose and chin surgically perfected. The details are unknown. Rumor has it that they removed a piece of dead cartilage from her nose and added cartilage to her chin.”
The sale of the files was originally reported in an interesting article by Eric Kelsey and Sharon Reich for Reuters:
“The set of six X-rays and a file of doctors’ notes that offer a partial medical history of the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes actress from 1950 to 1962, are expected to fetch between $15,000 and $30,000 at auction on November 9-10, said Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, California.
The notes written by Hollywood plastic surgeon Michael Gurdin appear to confirm speculation that Monroe, who epitomized glamour and set a standard of movie star beauty during the latter part of Hollywood’s golden era, went under the knife for cosmetic reasons.
The seller, who is so far unnamed, received the items as a gift from Gurdin.
Gurdin’s notes include references to a 1950 cartilage implant in Monroe’s chin, which he observed to have slowly begun to dissolve.”
What intrigues me most about the files is that they also mention the mysterious injury to her nose that Marilyn suffered in June 1962. It was attributed to a fall in the shower, although some biographers have disputed this.
Following the incident, Marilyn visited Gurdin’s office with her psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson. These files are under the pseudonym ‘Joan Newman‘ – probably after Greenson’s daughter, Joan, and Leo Rosten’s novel, Captain Newman M.D., which was based on Greenson’s wartime experiences. Marilyn was reading the book in the weeks before her death. It was filmed in 1963, with Gregory Peck in the lead role.
At the time of her visit to Gurdin, Marilyn weighed 115 lb. And at 5 ft 6, this makes her quite slim – certainly not the plus-size beauty that some have claimed. Like all women, MM’s weight fluctuated at times – but even at her heaviest, she was still only 140 lb.
Finally, the files also reveal that Marilyn suffered from neutropenia – a low level of a white blood cell type, which can make patients vulnerable to bacterial infections.
Maybe this could help to explain why Marilyn was so susceptible to viruses throughout her short life. Also during filming of Something’s Got to Give, she caught a cold which quickly developed into acute sinusitis. Unfortunately, her bosses at Fox were unsympathetic, and her repeated absences from the set led to her being fired.
“The X-rays are dated June 7, 1962, after Monroe saw Gurdin following a late night fall and two months before the actress would die at age 36 from an overdose of barbiturates. The death was ruled a probable suicide.
The X-rays include Monroe’s frontal facial bones, a composite right and left X-ray of the sides of her nasal bones and dental X-rays of the roof of her mouth.
A set of three chest X-rays of Monroe from 1954 sold for $45,000 at a 2010 auction.
A self-published memoir by Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Norman Leaf in 2010 claimed that Monroe underwent cosmetic surgery on her chin in 1950, citing the same notes made by Gurdin, Leaf’s medical partner.
Leaf also states in his memoir that Monroe underwent a slight rhinoplasty procedure on the tip of her nose.
A radiologist’s notes included in the lot determined that there was no damage to Monroe’s nose from the fall, but a recent evaluation of the X-rays found a minute fracture, the auction house said.
Doctors used the name ‘Joan Newman‘ as Monroe’s alias on the X-rays which list her height as 5 feet, 6 inches (1.68 m) and her weight as 115 lb (52 kg).
Gurdin’s notes were first drawn up in 1958 when the actress complained about a ‘chin deformity’ and the note listed her married name, Marilyn Miller. She was married to playwright Arthur Miller from 1956 to 1961.
The notes also indicate that Monroe suffered from neutropenia, a low level of a white blood cell type, in 1956 while in England and had an ectopic pregnancy in 1957.”
The Asphalt Jungle (1950) gave Marilyn her first important role, and remained the film she was most proud of. Scottish fans will have a chance to see this crime classic on the big screen on Sunday, October 20th at 11 am, at Dundee Contemporary Arts.
Thanks to Fraser Penney
Liz Garbus’ acclaimed documentary, Love, Marilyn, finally reaches Britain on October 18th, with a limited theatrical release followed by the DVD release on the 28th. To see it on the big screen, check Cineworld listings nearer the time.
Confirmed DVD release dates for other countries include: Italy (October 9th); Canada (October 15th); Germany (December 5th, also on Blu-Ray); Australia and the USA (December 31st.)
Some interesting Marilyn-related items are featured in the upcoming Icons and Idols auction at Julien’s, set for November 9th. My favourites are these Korea photos, taken by Daryl Mitchell, who served in the Korean War from August 1952 to August 1954 as ‘Senior Still Photographer’ of the 101st Signal Battalion.
There is also a set of three childhood photos of Norma Jeane, taken when she was 3 1/2 years old. Her young companion is named as ‘Dona’.
This photo of Marilyn holding a fan was probably taken during filming of Niagara in 1952. The photographer is not named, but it seems to came from the same occasion when Marilyn posed with Robert Slatzer (who went on to write several books about their controversial relationship, though some believe he was a fantasist.)
Also from 1952, a series of photos by Philippe Halsman:
Among the more curious items on offer are a painting by Earl Moran, believed to be of Marilyn though I’m not sure (I’ll let the experts decide!)
A medical file from the office of Dr Michael Gurdin has attracted the attention of Reuters, and will doubtless ignite further debate about cosmetic surgery. While certainly interesting, I think this kind of item is too personal to be sold at auction.
Here’s a selection of the best Marilyn-related calendars on sale now. First up is a bi-monthly calendar from French publisher Hugo Image. This is probably the highest-quality product on the market. (The photo below shows the back cover, and was posted at Immortal Marilyn.)
Next up, ‘Fox Presents the Films of Marilyn’ or ‘Marilyn in the Movies’ is an unusual and fun calendar. (Thanks to MarilynGeek for sharing the back cover.)
Individual photographers are well-represented this year, with calendars featuring Milton Greene, Sam Shaw (I prefer the smaller version, as the large one is colourised) and Andre de Dienes (pictured below.)
Several other calendars include miscellaneous candid and formal shots. You’re very likely to spot these in local shops, so I won’t post them here.
And for diarists, there’s good and bad news: while TeNeues are not offering a Marilyn diary this year, she makes the cover of their new Glamour Magneto Diary, featuring more artwork of MM and other vintage stars inside.
UPDATE: This calendar from ML Publishing features classic images of Marilyn in black and white.