Arthur Miller’s Mirror to a Marriage

Red Rope Theatre are touring a revival of Arthur Miller’s Two-Way Mirror, a double-bill of short plays – one of which, featuring actress Rebecca Robson, is said to have been loosely inspired by the playwright’s famous ex-wife. Jeremy O’Brien reviewed it for The Stage.

“In the second, Some Kind of Love Story, a deluded private eye, who fears he is going downhill, tries to persuade an attractive hooker to help him solve a case that has puzzled him for years. In her turn, she attempts to hold onto him by keeping him guessing while also seeking the affection denied her in the past.

The parallel with the Miller-Monroe marriage is plain to see, although both plot and players are entities in their own right, rather than just a reflection on one of the most famous American marriages of all time.”

For Girls Who Wear Glasses

Marilyn’s estate has teamed up with Allure Eyewear to create a new range of spectacles, reports Women’s Wear Daily. (The cherry pattern in the above model seems inspired by Marilyn’s rodeo dress from The Misfits, while the retro design recalls her near-sighted character, Pola, in How to Marry a Millionaire.)

“Inspired by the iconic actress, the eyewear includes animal-printed frames and upswept cat eye silhouettes. Each style is adorned with subtle Swarovski crystals for an extra note of glam. Marilyn Monroe eyewear brand will consist of ‘The Marilyn’ Limited Edition Sunglass which will retail for $495, the Silver Screen Sun collection that will retail from $98 to $168 and the Optical collection that will retail between $150 and $180.

Allure Eyewear will donate all profits from ‘The Marilyn’ sunglass to Hollygrove, which was once an orphanage where Marilyn lived as a child and is now an EMQ FamiliesFirst agency that helps children in crisis.”

‘Blondes’: A Diamond Musical

Writing for the Worcester Telegram, the redoubtable Liz Smith makes her case for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as ‘the perfect movie musical’:

“For Monroe onscreen, it solidified her burgeoning stardom in the role of a lifetime, the role indeed she was born to play. But it was seen as lightweight, transitory entertainment. Only one writer, Monroe’s first serious biographer, Maurice Zolotow, assessed the film’s impact correctly: ‘Twenty years from now, the critics of the art-film quarterlies will discover that Blondes was one of the excellent works of its time, for it was completely true to its genre. It crystallized a viewpoint, a style … it will be shown at the Museum of Modern Art and studied by scholars.’ History has sided with Zolotow.

Blondes remains Monroe’s most totally entertaining film — one that is free of the poignant, semi-autobiographical bits that leaked into her later work. It is also the great Jane Russell’s best. And a revelation in terms of director Howard Hawks, not known for his deft hand at musicals.”

A Decisive Moment: Marilyn in New York

Over at the American Past blog, Jenny Thompson takes an in-depth look at Marilyn’s time in New York, through the lens of photographers Ed Feingersh and Sam Shaw.

“In 1955, Monroe had returned to New York City to capture something of herself, for herself. She roamed the city, taking classes at the Actors Studio (from teacher and friend Lee Strasberg, who lived with his wife Paula at 255 W. 86th Street), relaxing, changing. . . It was, to use Cartier-Bresson’s famous phrase about image-making, a “decisive moment” in her life.

“I’m much happier now,” she told the press in an interview.  Although she maintained a house in Brentwood, she would never really leave New York entirely. She would maintain a home in the city for the rest of her life.

For me, it is a far more satisfying image-memory of Monroe to picture her standing on the balcony of the Ambassador Hotel, looking forward to her future, and smiling with that special something that she possessed all of her too short life.”

Bob Thomas 1922-2014

Bob Thomas at centre, outside Marilyn’s home after her divorce from Joe DiMaggio is announced, October 6, 1954

The veteran Hollywood columnist, Bob Thomas, has died aged 92, reports the Los Angeles Times. Son of a film publicist, he began reporting for the Associated Press in 1944. He married in 1947, and had three daughters.

Thomas covered scandals like Charlie Chaplin’s paternity lawsuit, and witnessed the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. He was AP’s reporter for an incredible 66 Oscar ceremonies; published biographies of Harry Cohn, Howard Hughes and Marlon Brando; and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988. He retired in 2010.

Bob Thomas also chronicled Marilyn’s career, almost from beginning to end. In 1950, he praised her breakthrough role in The Asphalt Jungle, becoming one of the first writers to compare her appeal to Jean Harlow’s:

Scan by Lasse K for Everlasting Star

“I think cheesecake helps call attention to you. Then you can follow through and prove yourself,” Marilyn told Thomas in 1951, explaining her beginnings as a pin-up model, and her wish to become a respected actress.

In February 1953, Bob Thomas was involved in one of the great controversies of Marilyn’s career. She caused quite a stir by attending the Photoplay Awards in a diaphanous gold lame gown. A few days later, Joan Crawford was interviewed, and claimed that Thomas asked her off-record, ‘Didn’t you think that dress Marilyn Monroe wore at the awards dinner was disgusting?’

Crawford replied, ‘It was like a burlesque show. Someone should make her see the light; she should be told that the public likes provocative feminine personalities; but it also likes to know that underneath it all the actresses are ladies.’ On March 3, Thomas published Crawford’s comments in his syndicated column. Although initially upset by Crawford’s remarks, the incident ultimately worked in Marilyn’s favour, with friends and fans rallying to her defence. Crawford, meanwhile, was acutely embarrassed.

In October 1954, Thomas wrote an article for Movie Time magazine, headlined ‘Home Run!’ about Marilyn’s nine-month marriage to Joe DiMaggio. Soon after its publication, however, the couple separated – and Bob Thomas was at the scene of a press conference outside Marilyn’s home, where she appeared shaky and tearful. (Click on the image to enlarge)

After moving to New York in 1955, Marilyn became friendly with the novelist Truman Capote. In a discussion about the press, she described Bob Thomas as ‘a gentleman’ (quoted in Capote’s essay, ‘A Beautiful Child’.)

During her marriage to Arthur Miller, Marilyn lived in New York and Connecticut. Bob Thomas was one of the reporters she kept in touch with throughout those years. ‘I’m almost well again,’ she told him after suffering a miscarriage in 1957. ‘I don’t have all my energy back but it’s returning bit by bit.’

Marilyn was photographed with Bob at a press conference for Let’s Make Love in 1960 (unfortunately, my copy is watermarked.) By 1962, she was single again and back in her hometown of L.A. Thomas reported on the troubled production of Something’s Got to Give, interviewing Marilyn on the same day she filmed her iconic pool scene (click to enlarge.)

On August 5th, 1962, Thomas was one of the first to report Marilyn’s tragic death. ‘Somehow the pieces seemed to fit into place,’ he reflected. ‘It looked inevitable in retrospect…She had reached the end of her rope. She had run out of all that anxious gaiety with which she held on to life…But she left behind more than a string of glamor-filled, over-produced movies. She gave Hollywood color and excitement in an era when the town was losing its grip on the world’s fancy. No star of Hollywood’s golden era shone more brightly. Her brilliance was such that you overlooked the tragic aspects…’

Exactly 30 years later, Thomas examined the continuing fascination of Marilyn. ‘Like her contemporaries Elvis Presley and James Dean,’ he wrote, ‘and Rudolph Valentino in an earlier generation, Marilyn Monroe’s image in 1992 seems more vivid and intriguing than in her lifetime.’

“She was a great interview, just terrific. And funny,” he told the Los Angeles Daily News in 1997. “You’d ask her, ‘What did you have on when you posed for the calendar?’ And she’d say, ‘The radio.’ Or, ‘Chanel No. 5.’ … But in those days, there wasn’t any star that wasn’t available for an interview.”

Heritage Auctions: Barris and More

A collection of 80 colour prints signed by George Barris is featured in a collection of Signature Photos at Heritage Auctions, New York, on April 5, with bids starting at $30,000. Among the other Marilyn-related items are photos by Andre de Dienes, Bruno Bernard, Laszlo Willinger, Tom Kelley and others.

Some Like it Hot premiere, Chicago 1959 (Photo by George Dalmas)
Photo by Gene Anthony, 1962


Icon: The Life of MM, 1926-1956

Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe is a new, two-part biography by Gary Vitacco-Robles, author of the much-admired Cursum Perficio. Volume I (covering 1926-56) is now available, with its companion to follow by summer. With the first volume alone clocking in at a massive 788pp (no pictures, all text), Icon is a very ambitious project. Elvis Presley and more recently Barbara Stanwyck are among the few entertainers to merit such extensive study. With so much published material on MM, and yet still so many mysteries, it could be the answer to this bibliophile’s prayers.

Here’s the synopsis:

“Goddess…Legend…Icon… You thought you knew her…but never before like this. Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) survived a childhood marked by abuse, neglect, & chaos to become a psychological, cultural, & spiritual phenomenon of the Twentieth Century. Her remarkable life, brilliant film career, & posthumous legend have been deconstructed in over 600 biographies. Psychotherapist & author Gary Vitacco-Robles reframes & redefines the fascinating woman behind the iconic image through an analysis of her psyche and an appreciation of her film & stage performances. After a decade of meticulous research, Vitacco-Robles offers a treasure trove of facts comprehensively documenting each year of Monroe’s inspiring life within the context of her tumultuous times & through her relationships with literary, entertainment, & political figures. Monroe is resurrected a half-century after her tragic death in this detailed & sensitive biography which intelligently explores her passionate desires: to be loved, become a serious actress, & have a family. Based upon interviews, diaries, & personal files–and void of sensationalism–Icon: The Life, Times, & Films of Marilyn Monroe dispels many myths & reveals the ultimate truth about Hollywood’s most charismatic, beloved, & enduring star.”

Icon is available directly from publisher BearManor Media; and in hardback or paperback from all good online bookstores.

You can read an interview with Gary at Immortal Marilyn

Icon also has a Facebook group – join here

Julien’s 90210 Spring Auction

Marilyn makes the cover yet again, in this online catalogue for Julien’s 90210 auction, ending next Monday, March 17. Items on offer include photographs by Joseph Jasgur, George Barris, and Andre de Dienes; a screen-print by Pop Artist Steve Kaufman; and a nude calendar owned by Bob Hope – who arranged Marilyn’s USO tour of Korea – featuring this amusing typed text, accompanied by a facsimile signature…

UPDATE: View results here

Marilyn Crosses the Channel

Marilyn is the subject of another dedicated magazine – the third this year – as part of the French ‘Etoiles du Cinema’ series. It’s widely available in France, 80 pages long, and is said to contain many photos though nothing really new.

Also in France, Marilyn graces the cover of Bonheurs magazine, with a profile inside by author Christian Bobin (she is featured among other great women of history in his latest book, La Grande Vie.)

Across the English Channel, visitors to the current Castle Galleries exhibition should look out for Fine Art Collector magazine.

Sugar Kane: Marilyn’s Finest Role?

As part of an ongoing series about Some Like it Hot, the Hollywood Revue blog argues that Marilyn’s most enduringly popular film also contains her finest performance.

“Sure, Marilyn was funny in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but you see none of her dramatic skills there.  If you only watched Don’t Bother to Knock, you’d never take her for a comedienne.  But Some Like it Hot offers a look at everything that made Marilyn great.   It let her be a bombshell, it let her show off her comedic talents, and it let her have moments of melancholy as well.”