‘Millionaire’ Style Tips From Pola

Photo by Phil Stern

The recent passing of Lauren Bacall has brought renewed attention to one of her most popular films, How to Marry a Millionaire. Among this underrated comedy’s many attributes is an impeccable sense of style (thanks to costume designer Travilla.) Over at Queens of Vintage today, Lena Weber looks at the timeless fashion of its three heroines, including Marilyn as the near-sighted Pola Debevoise:

“Marilyn Monroe is one of the most famous pin-ups for Fifties fashion and her outfits throughout How to Marry a Millionaire certainly do not disappoint. She swaps flowing gowns for a figure hugging red swimsuit during the film, a look easily replicated today.

The fuller shape of Fifties swim wear is much more flattering than many modern bikinis resembling dental floss often seen on the beach today. Monroe teams hers with strappy wedges for a look just as stylish now as it was then. Vintage mecca Beyond Retro has scores of original Fifties swimwear.

Monroe also sports thick, black, slightly cat-eye shaped glasses throughout the film, yet takes them off at every possible moment, embarrassed by them, stating, ‘men are seldom attentive to girls who wear glasses.’

Yet, how wrong she is today. Vintage glasses ooze style and can be picked up from any vintage shop. Monroe also sports a silk turban in several scenes and similar ones can be picked up on eBay from as little as £6.”

Marilyn, Joe and ‘The Serial Fabulist’

Last month I posted a less-than-stellar review of C. David Heymann’s posthumously published Joe & Marilyn: Legends in Love. The latest issue of Newsweek – due out on Friday – includes an extraordinary cover feature by David Cay Johnston about Heymann’s ‘career as a serial fabulist.’

Johnston challenges Heymann’s long-standing claim that Marilyn attacked Robert Kennedy with a knife on her last day alive:

“In both A Woman Named Jackie and RFK, Heymann recounts Marilyn Monroe’s last afternoon alive, August 3, 1962*. (Keep in mind that Heymann maintains that both JFK and Bobby Kennedy had affairs with Monroe.) In both of those books, Heymann wrote that just a few hours before Monroe killed herself, Bobby Kennedy and the actor Peter Lawford visited her home in L.A.’s tony Brentwood neighborhood. Heymann said that at one point Monroe pulled a knife and lunged at Kennedy, and that the two men wrested the weapon from her.

When he later told that tale in Joe & Marilyn, Heymann wrote that Monroe tossed a glass of champagne in Kennedy’s face.

In the back of that book, Heymann explained how the knife had turned into bubbly. ‘In an interview with the author, Peter Lawford originally claimed that Marilyn threatened RFK with a kitchen knife; he then revised the anecdote to indicate instead that she threw a glass of champagne at him.’

Unexplained is when Lawford changed this story. Lawford died on Christmas Eve 1984, long before any of the three books were published. Putting the best possible spin on things, that means Lawford revised his story before the first book was published. And if that’s the case, why did Heymann tell the knife story in the first two books?

The answer, according to Lawford’s widow, Patricia, is that Heymann made it all up. She told Newsweek Heymann could not have interviewed her husband on any of the occasions he cited because he was under her care around the clock. Asked if Heymann could have somehow gotten past her, she said Lawford was close to death and hardly able to make coherent statements, much less conduct a lengthy interview.

The Heymann archive at Stony Brook includes his handwritten notes of the purported interview with Lawford. The dying man’s supposed words flow smoothly, the way a writer’s do after polishing. Most people in interviews meander off-topic, digress and revise their stories as they draw on their memories, especially those who are sick and dying.

A handwriting expert said Heymann’s handwritten notes of the purported Lawford interview bore a striking resemblance to the writing in Heymann’s purported Hutton notebooks.”

* Marilyn’s last afternoon alive was on August 4th, not the 3rd.

Johnston also questions Heymann’s oft-repeated claim that Marilyn told Jacqueline Kennedy she wanted to marry her husband, John F. Kennedy:

“In Joe and Marilyn, Heymann drew heavily on the rich trove of books about the Yankee Clipper and the iconic blonde. He also cited interviews with writer George Plimpton; Salinger, the Kennedy White House press secretary; and [Jack] Newfield. All three men were dead by 2005. Plimpton, in a tape recording in Heymann’s own archive, declined to be interviewed. Salinger, in a letter also in the Heymann archive, said Heymann wrote ‘dramatic lies’ and refused to cooperate. We already know that Newfield wrote a column in the Post denouncing Heymann. Despite this, Heymann ‘quoted’ all three men in his book… long after they had been buried.

Among the many statements presented as fact in Joe and Marilyn that might have raised eyebrows at CBS was the one on Page 315. Heymann quoted the late actor and masseur Ralph Roberts as saying that Marilyn Monroe called the White House and ‘actually told the First Lady she wanted to marry the president,’ and that Jackie Kennedy, humoring the actress, said ‘she had no objection.’

Yet years earlier, in 1989’s A Woman Named Jackie, Heymann attributed that story to Lawford. Only in that version ‘Jackie wasn’t shaken by the call. Not outwardly. She agreed to step aside. She would divorce Jack and Marilyn could marry him, but she [Monroe] would have to move into the White House.'”

Johnston also probes some of Joe & Marilyn‘s other main sources:

[Emily] Bestler, Heymann’s longtime editor, insists that independent fact-checking established the reliability of Joe & Marilyn, but most of Chapter 3 is fabricated. It consists primarily of long quotes attributed to ‘Rose Fromm, a German Jewish refugee’ who Heymann said treated Marilyn Monroe as a therapist. Heymann writes that Fromm told him:

I have to stress that I work as a psychotherapist in Europe but not in the United States and I made that perfectly clear to Marilyn. My doctorate in clinical psychology had been awarded abroad and I had no interest in going through the process all over again.

Heymann wrote that Fromm moved to Los Angeles for six months in 1952, when she treated Monroe, whom she met through two Hollywood journalists she describes as friends, James Bacon of The Associated Press and Sidney Skolsky, then a syndicated Hollywood columnist.

Fromm was born in Sztetl, Poland, not Germany. She arrived in America at age 17, according to her 2007 autobiography. She graduated from the Dante School in Chicago in 1931 and the University of Illinois medical school in 1938, facts supported by photographs and her medical licensing records. Nowhere in her autobiography did Dr. Fromm mention Marilyn Monroe, James Bacon or Sidney Skolsky.

In Joe and Marilyn, Heymann cites Joe DiMaggio Jr., the slugger’s only son, as a source on more than 50 of the book’s 393 pages. Joe Jr. died in 1999, long before Heymann started work on the book, and he routinely turned reporters away. Public records contradict many of the quotes attributed to him in the book – Heymann wrote that he left Yale for San Francisco, almost immediately married a woman he barely knew, quickly divorced her and joined the Marines. In fact, records and interviews with his friends show, he moved to Los Angeles, joined the Marines before Monroe died (he was photographed in uniform at her funeral) and nine months after her death married a 17-year-old San Diego woman in Southern California.  George Milman, a Beverly Hills lawyer who was Joe Jr.’s roommate back then, and Tom Law, a contractor who worked with him, said Joe Jr. was circumspect about his father and devoted to his stepmother.

Heymann also wrote that Joe Jr.’s mother, Dorothy Arnold, took her son and Milman on overnight trips to Mexico where, panty-less, she would do handstands in an apparent effort to channel Monroe’s sexual allure. Milman, chuckling, said he recalls a few trips to Baja, but not the rest of that tale.”

Legal Dispute Over Strasberg Letter

A letter written by Marilyn to Lee Strasberg, which sold for $156,000 at a Profiles in History auction in 2013, is the subject of a continuing legal dispute concerning Anna Strasberg, executrix of both Lee and Marilyn’s estate, reports the San Fernando Valley Post-Periodical. (The letter was written on Hotel Bel Air stationery, and may date from filming of Some Like it Hot in 1958. You can read a transcript here.)

“A judge told an attorney for an auction house Monday that he wanted to know who was in possession of a letter written by Marilyn Monroe to her longtime mentor and acting coach, pending the outcome of a trial over its ownership.

Robert Enders, an attorney for Calabasas-based auctioneer Profiles in History, said the letter’s purchaser – who is not identified by name or gender in court papers – advised him last week that the letter would be sent to the purchaser’s personal attorney in Los Angeles for safekeeping.

Enders said the person in possession of the letter – from Monroe to acting coach Lee Strasberg – did not give him any specifics about who would receive the letter and when.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin said he wanted answers to both.

In an Aug. 11 hearing, Fruin suggested placing the letter with an independent third party, while its ownership was litigated.

He also asked plaintiff Anna Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, to let him know when his client would be available to be deposed by Enders. Mancuso said the deposition would take place today.

Strasberg sued Profiles in History in May 2013, saying she learned in April 2013 that the letter, dubbed a ‘letter of despair’ in a New York Post article, was missing from her collection, which she inherited from her late husband – the administrator of Monroe’s estate.

According to court papers, Anna Strasberg thought the letter was with other Monroe memorabilia, locked in a filing cabinet at home.

The letter was bought via the Internet and sold by Profiles in History.

The buyer, however, is not a party to the case. Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, however said he may name him as a defendant.

While today’s deposition of his client would be done, he said he would rather wait until he knows whether or not to bring the buyer into the case. That way, Strasberg would only have to be deposed once.

‘I’d like to know who we’re fighting and what we’re fighting over before I take the next step,’ he said.

Strasberg lives on the East Coast, is 75 years old and in poor health, Mancuso said.

Mancuso said Stasberg believed the letter was stolen. But Enders told Fruin the consigner who provided the letter to the auction house said he got it from a member of the housekeeping staff at the Hotel Bel-Air in the 1970s and that it was a draft of a letter never sent Lee Strasberg.

Strasberg, who wants unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, became heir to her husband’s estate, including the Monroe letters, when he died in February 1982 at age 80.”

UPDATE: Read further news on this case here.

Marilyn and Milton at El Morocco

Liz Smith includes a rare photo of Marilyn and Milton Greene (provided by Jimmy Mitchell) in her latest entry for New York Social Diary. It was September 9, 1954, and Marilyn was filming scenes for The Seven Year Itch in New York. After a press party at the St Regis Hotel, Marilyn dined with Milton at the El Morocco Club. Little did Hollywood know, but the actress and photographer were plotting an alliance which would change her career forever.

Stolen Marilyn Mural Returns

Artist Paul Archer with his Marilyn mural

Public art featuring Marilyn always seems to cause a stir. Just two weeks ago, a mural by Paul Archer, depicting Marilyn between the sheets (inspired by an iconic photo session with Andre de Dienes), was stolen from the wall outside Floyd’s Diner in downtown Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada. But as the Times Colonist reports today, the mural has now been found in a nearby alleyway, with only minor damage.

Marilyn by Andre de Dienes, 1953

Cecil Beaton: Portraits and Profiles

Cecil Beaton: Portraits and Profiles, another new photo book, was featured in the Mail this weekend (photos from the article captured here by Fraser Penney.) Beaton’s essay about Marilyn will be familiar to fans, and given his acerbic comments about other celebrities, it seems she was one of the few he liked. Marilyn, in turn, kept a triptych of his portraits in her New York apartment. You can read more about Beaton and their 1956 collaboration here.

Forgotten Fifties: The ‘Look’ Archives

Photo by Bob Sandberg, 1952

So many photo books with a Marilyn connection are coming out lately. It takes a lot of willpower not to buy them all! The Forgotten Fifties: America’s Decade from the Archives of Look Magazine, by James Conaway and Alan Brinkley, will soon be published by Rizzoli (but is already available from The Book Depository.) The photos are sourced from the Library of Congress in Washington, where there will be a book signing event on September 23. You can preview it here.

Marilyn by Milton Greene

Forgotten Fifties is also the subject of an article in NY Magazine today:

“From its founding in 1937 until the early ’70s, Life Magazine — the first American weekly picture magazine — was the most popular rag in the country. But it was not without its competitors: 1937 also marked the founding of Look Magazine, run by Des Moines Tribune editors and brothers Gardner and John Cowles.

Derided as ‘barber shop reading’ in the ’40s, Look — known for its large-scale photographs and very short articles — lacked the high aspirations and self-seriousness of Life. At the time of its launch, Time described the magazine as having ‘reader interest for yourself, for your private secretary, for your office boy — a magazine mostly for the middle class and for ordinary lives.’

Look had sold 3.7 million issues by the mid 1950s, but the biweekly went out of print in 1971 (a year before Life) and largely faded from historical consciousness.”

‘Marilyn: American Icon’ in Washington

Cecil Beaton, 1956

‘Marilyn: Celebrating an International Icon’, a touring exhibition (previously in Georgia), comes to Reading Public Museum in Washington DC on August 22, reports Daily Local News.

“The Reading Public Museum is highlighting the woman who redefined sexuality in America with the ‘Marilyn: Celebrating An American Icon’ exhibition Aug. 22 to Oct. 5. in the museum’s Cohen Modern and Contemporary Gallery.

The multimedia exhibit composed of 115 works by more than 50 artists, including Andy Warhol, Milton H. Greene, Eve Arnold and Antonio de Felipe, highlights the many sides of the 1950s glamour goddess and immortal legend in styles ranging from fashion photography to pop art.

Photos of well-loved movie scenes, familiar publicity photos, biographical glimpses into Monroe’s private moments and various artistic interpretations of the starlet exemplify how her iconic image still electrifies the world a half century after her death. Videos include a compilation of photos by Bruno Bernard, A BBC interview with Sam Shaw about his friend Monroe, a 2009 video by Thorsten Tenberken called ‘Backlash Marilyn Monroe’ and a Tenberken video titled ‘No, no, no.’

The exhibition opens with Tom Kelley’s series, The Red Velvet Photos, which appeared in the first issue of Playboy, and continues with works by well-known photographers Frank Powolny, Lazlo Willinger and Alfred Eisenstaedt. The pictures capture the beauty and sensuality not only of the recognizable celebrity, but also of Monroe’s struggle to empower herself.

Among those images is a series of silver gelatin prints by world-renowned British photographer Cecil Beaton, including a photo said to be Monroe’s favorite picture of herself, lying across a bed in a white dress holding a carnation to her breast.

The exhibit continues into Monroe’s film career in which she appeared in 30 motion pictures. Among the photos in the exhibition are recognizable moments in that career, including the famous subway grate scene with Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch, by Sam Shaw, as well as pensive behind-the-scenes shots by photographers Ernst Haas and Henri-Cartier Bresson on the set of her last film, The Misfits.

The troubled star struggled to balance her career and love life, marrying and divorcing three times. Her second and third marriages, to baseball star Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller respectively, were highly publicized, and such photos as George Silk’s tearful Marilyn illustrate how the actress was unable to keep her The exhibit continues with an introspective look into that more private side with photos by Monroe friend George Barris. The images capture the starlet’s loneliness, which was often publicly disguised by her light and radiance.

Barris’ photos from 1962, showing Monroe laughing and striking poses, are some of the last taken of her before she was found dead in her home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles Aug. 5 of that year.

Following Barris’ introspective, the exhibit ends with a presentation of paintings and other works of art created by American, Asian and European artists after Monroe’s death. Modern and avant-garde artists such as Ramos and de Felipe offer their interpretations of the actress.

Works in this section, some from as recently as 2009, take the form of diverse media, and reflect the artists’ ideas on sexuality, commercialism and the exploitation in the world, as well as perceptions of the icon through the power of her image. Most of all, said museum curator Scott Schweigert, ‘The works reveal the character of Marilyn Monroe as an enduring cultural phenomenon.'”