‘Love, Marilyn’ US DVD Release

Neil Lumbard’s detailed and insightful review of Love, Marilyn – released on DVD in the US today – has been posted at DVD Talk.

“Some might critique the documentary a bit negatively in the sense that some of the readings seem to have as much to reflect about the way the readers feel in providing narration towards the life of Marilyn Monroe, but I viewed it as another way in which our society and culture has tapped into Monroe’s life to such an extent that it has a strong connection for so many.

Working in cinema was a professional life goal of hers and one in which she had worked hard to expand her abilities and to take the kind of roles she wanted. Yet with her personality and public appearance often being summed up solely on her sexuality, she so frequently faced unfair disadvantages, both in terms of how the studio system treated her throughout the production of many films and in the way she was thought of at the time as uneducated and ‘dumb’ to many — despite her efforts to learn, her efforts to grow, and her constantly evolving ways of expanding herself in film and in life. Monroe was a incredibly intelligent and business-smart person who was often misunderstood within the Hollywood system. Yet it is to her credit that her work and her life is still at the discussion of so many individuals within and outside of the filmmaking industry.

The film also sheds light on how hard she worked to perfect things like her walk, voice, and other elements of her public persona which she even wrote about in her diaries — in one such example, she had written about how she walked to seem as if she was being lifted into the air from a pulling umbrella — and how this helped her persona in film and in public, something in which she would often ‘turn on’ somehow when trying to be the ‘Marilyn’ that the world had come to expect. Despite the fact that she was really a soft-spoken, sensitive, and emotionally resonant human being who was, in some ways, perhaps always looking for the love that she never received in her youth.

Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortensen, was always someone who the public — and even those closest to her — seemed to never fully comprehend. Love, Marilyn attempts to present her as herself as close as it can — through her own words and voice. As a result, I found great beauty and importance in this profoundly moving documentary work.”

‘Endurance’: The Art of Michael Mahaffey

‘Marilyn MonROGUE’ by Michael Mahaffey

Michael Mahaffey is an artist based in Savannah, Georgia. ‘Curious Tales and Terrible Creatures’, his solo exhibit at Gallery Expresso, includes works inspired by Marilyn and is on display through to January 6.

The concept of an updated, ‘gangsta’ Marilyn has become a popular trope in recent years, as has ‘zombie’ Marilyn. What interests me about Mahaffey’s work is that he takes these hackneyed ideas and creates something fresh and original.

‘Endurance’ by Michael Mahaffey

‘Marilyn MonROGUE’ shows Marilyn not as gangster but revolutionary, while ‘Endurance’ suggests (to me) the beauty of Monroe’s face (her own work of art) in perpetual conflict with the fact of her mortality.

“I used to be much more interested with just creating pretty pictures, and now I work hard to blend beauty and content,” Mahaffey tells Savannah Now. “I like to pull people in with a striking image and then hope they’ll stick around to consider the visual story happening on the canvas.”

You can also find his work on Etsy

Shirley MacLaine: The Understudy

Actress Shirley MacLaine was honoured by the Kennedy Center this week for her ‘exemplary lifetime achievement in the performing arts.’ She began her career on Broadway as understudy to Carol Haney in The Pajama Game, and made her screen debut in Hitchock’s The Trouble With Harry (1955.)

Among MacLaine’s most famous films are Some Came Running, The Apartment, Sweet Charity and Terms of Endearment. Recently she reached a new audience with her role in TV’s Downton Abbey.

In They Knew Marilyn Monroe, Les Harding notes that ‘after Marilyn’s death, MacLaine took over several projects which had been earmarked for her.’ And in recent years, MacLaine has shared some surprising (to say the least) anecdotes about MM.

In 2011, MacLaine claimed that Marilyn attended a preview of The Apartment nude under her fur coat, although photos from the event appear to show her wearing a dress. MacLaine has also claimed to have ‘shared’ Yves Montand – Marilyn’s Let’s Make Love co-star who accompanied her to the screening – with Monroe, implying that she also had an affair with him.

In her 2012 book, I’m Over All That, MacLaine added fuel to the fire of the MM-JFK rumour mill:

“I never had any proof that the Kennedy brothers had intimate relations with Marilyn Monroe, but it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of probability. Once at Arthur and Mathilde Krim’s house in New York, I joined an impressive gathering of movie stars and politicians. Marilyn was there. I saw her go into a private room with Jack. They stayed awhile, until he came out another door. Immediately, Bobby entered the room and stayed until the song that Jimmy Durante was singing was over. I have a picture of that night on my Wall of Life. Of course, the Kennedy brothers and Marilyn could have been talking about world affairs and comparing notes, but most of us thought it was the other kind of affairs they were interested in.”

This appears to be a reference to the party held after Kennedy’s birthday gala on May 18, 1962, which Shirley also attended. In a recent interview – broadcast on CNN – she talks about the gala itself, claiming that Marilyn refused to go onstage and Shirley was asked to stand in for her.

Of course, Marilyn was prone to stage fright – and given her unreliable reputation, it wouldn’t be surprising if a last-minute replacement was considered. However, Marilyn had already defied orders from Twentieth Century-Fox to perform at the gala. In fact, her later dismissal from Something’s Got to Give was partly related to this matter.

Also, Marilyn’s appearance at the very end of the gala was pre-planned. Peter Lawford introduced her as ‘the late Marilyn Monroe’ as a pun on her reputation for unpunctuality. Throughout the evening, her appearance was announced, only for her not to appear. In fact, she performed on schedule.

Interestingly, the sole occasion when Monroe and MacLaine were allegedly photographed together – on Dean Martin’s yacht in 1961 – has been disputed by Shirley herself. Upon writing to MacLaine, a member of Everlasting Star was told that she was not in the photo. It has also been suggested that the mystery woman is French cabaret star Zizi Jeanmaire.

Photo by Bernie Abramson


Irina Eldarova: ‘Girls Prefer Oilmen’

A new solo exhibition by artist Irina Eldarova, has just opened at the Yay Gallery in Azerbaijan. ‘Girls Prefer Oilmen’ features paintings and installations, inspired by 1960s movies and Marilyn Monroe.

Combining retro glamour with contemporary global capitalism, Elderova seems to be saying that while diamonds may still be a girl’s best friend, the money to buy them lies in Middle Eastern oil.

Playing on the ‘gold-digger’ aspect of Marilyn’s screen persona, Elderova juxtaposes the artifice of Monroe’s image with her natural vitality, set off against a vibrant, Middle Eastern landscape and pairing her not with tycoons, but ordinary working men.

In the image shown above and at the top of this article, Eldarova has painted John Vachon’s 1953 shot of Marilyn in Canada, filming River of No Return in 1953. But while Joe DiMaggio features in the original photo, here he is replaced by an Azerbaijani oilman.

Another painting evokes the famous kiss at the DiMaggio wedding, plus Eve Arnold’s photo of Arthur dancing with Marilyn on the Misfits set.

This painting reminds me of Sam Shaw’s photo of Marilyn at Ebbets Field in 1957, plus a car ride from The Misfits.

This recalls Marilyn in her pink Niagara dress…

And finally, the artist at work…


Remembering Tommy Rettig

Writing for the Times-Ledger, the The Greater Astoria Historical Society takes a fresh look at the career of child actor and native of Queens, New York, Tommy Rettig.

“Thomas Noel Rettig was born Dec. 10, 1941, and grew up in Jackson Heights. His father, Elias, was an aircraft parts inspector for Lockheed and his mother, Rosemary, a housewife. He began his acting career at 5 when he was discovered by an acting coach who lived in the same apartment building. Before beating out nearly 500 other boys for the leading role in Lassie in 1954, Rettig already had a lengthy acting résumé.

After touring with Rogers and Hammerstein in Annie Get Your Gun, Rettig also appeared in the films The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, a fantasy film written by Dr. Seuss, and the Western River of No Return, where he acted alongside Monroe and Mitchum.

Rettig endured stiff competition in the casting of wholesome Midwestern farm boy Jeff Miller in Lassie. Appearing in the leading role for the first four seasons of the program, the child actor bonded so closely off screen with his canine co-star that the dog began to disobey his trainer so the two could then only interact on screen.

He soon discovered, however, that dreams of stardom were replaced by grueling, long hours on the set and a rapidly disappearing childhood. The star complained bitterly of his treatment in the industry, and it is reported that he did not receive any residual payments for his performance in the series. After four seasons as everyone’s boy next door, the boy from Queens wanted to come home and was released from his contract.

Acting work, however, soon began to dry up as Rettig struggled to transition from Lassie to the increasingly in demand Rebel without a Cause roles for young men in the late 1950s.”

Tommy was 12 years old when he appeared in River of No Return (1953) opposite Marilyn and Robert Mitchum. He initially avoided MM because his priest had told him she was a ‘scarlet woman’. But she soon won him over, even taking him along on a fishing trip with Joe DiMaggio.

Unfortunately, Monroe’s dramatic coach, Natasha Lytess, frightened Tommy by telling him that if he didn’t take acting lessons, his talent would dry up by the time he was 14. Director Otto Preminger had Lytess removed from the set, though she later returned after Marilyn intervened.

Tommy also became Marilyn’s ‘youngest ever date’ when she escorted him to a screening of The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T, a fantasy based on a story by Dr Seuss in which Tommy also starred.

Rettig’s later life did not always run smoothly, as the Times-Ledger explains:

“Finding it difficult to support his wife and two young sons, he left Hollywood for a farm in rural California. Here his litany of scrapes with the law began, chalking up arrests for growing marijuana and cocaine possession.

Only after hitting rock bottom did the former child celebrity begin to turn his life around. Going on the road as a motivational speaker, Rettig built a new career based upon newly discovered computer skills he developed building databases for his mailing lists.

Starting in the early 1980s, the star of Lassie shone once again as a computer programmer and author. He was one of the earliest employees of software company Ashton-Tate, and later founded software consulting firm Tom Rettig Associates.

In 1991, Rettig revisited his roots with a guest appearance in the series The New Lassie along with former co-star Jon Provost. Rettig’s new beginning was sadly cut short when he died of a heart attack in 1996 at age 54.

His ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean near his home in Marina Del Rey, with Lassie, a descendant of his TV sidekick, there to say goodbye.

In his later years, looking back on the elusive, fleeting nature of his childhood dreams, Rettig confided, ‘I wanted to be a real kid and see what the real world was like. I wanted to be one of those people I portrayed.'”

‘Artie, Gadge and Marilyn’ in North Jersey

Artie, Gadge, Marilyn and HUAC is a new play by Thom Molnyneaux, based on the love triangle between Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller and MM, and set against the background of the infamous ‘red-baiting’ era.

The play’s first public reading (with actress Lee Ann Hoover playing Monroe) will take place on December 27 (tomorrow night), at 8 pm in The Becton Theatre on the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson in Teaneck, North Jersey.

‘Blonde Bombshell Bursts Over Bement’

Marilyn arrives at Willard Airport, Illinois

A rare photo of Marilyn en route to Bement in 1955 has been posted at the East Illinois News-Gazette today:

“Marilyn Monroe made headlines — literally — when she arrived on Ozark Airlines at the University of Illinois Airport on Aug. 7, 1955. The movie star’s destination: Bement to judge a beard contest as part of the village’s centennial celebration. ‘Blonde Bombshell Bursts Over Bement’ blared the headline in The News-Gazette.”

Fox Publicist Julian Myers Dies

Legendary Hollywood Publicist Julian Myers showing his Amingo Day cufflinks

Writing for Deadline, Pete Hammond recalls his friend, Julian Myers – ‘the ultimate Hollywood press agent’ – who died on Saturday, December 21st.

“He started off as nearly  a charter member of USC’s Film School in 1937 and then worked in Columbia’s story department , but it was landing his job  in the Fox publicity department in 1949 that really got things cooking for him. That was about the same time as Fox’s most famous star, Marilyn Monroe also started. Julian would often tell me about those days when he would have to go try to get the famously difficult actress out of bed and on to the set. He wasn’t her publicist as some outlets wrongly said in their headlines today, he was a loyal studio publicist – or more accurately press agent – who had 20th’s back in those days. One of his earliest encounters with her was in 1950 when she had a small role in the iconic Fox Oscar winner, All About Eve. In pure ‘press agent’ fashion he even got  the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to block  out all the letters in its neon sign except ‘EVE’ when the film had its premiere across the street at Grauman’s Chinese.”

Marilyn at the Oscars, 1951
Marilyn at the Oscars, 1951

Marilyn does not seem to have attended the premiere, captured on newsreel from November 13, 1950. However, she did later present an Oscar to Thomas H. Moulton for Best Sound Recording on the film.

Julian Myers worked at Fox until 1961. In 2013, Myers shared his memories of Marilyn in a TV interview. He recalled accompanying her to visit troops at San Pedro. (He may be referring to her visiting the USS Benham in 1951, or Camp Pendleton in 1952.)

En route, they stopped at a gas station where Marilyn spent 45 minutes in the powder room. Despite her tardiness, the troops loved her.

Myers remembered Marilyn as an insecure young woman who never thought of herself as a sex symbol. “I was the only guy trying to get her out of bed,” he joked, noting that he “was a happily married man.”