British-born Jenny Packham – whose designs have been worn by the Duchess of Cambridge – unveiled a new, Marilyn-inspired collection at New York Fashion Week, reports The Hindu.
“Packham even wrote a ‘Dear Marilyn’ letter she included in her show notes –
‘I’ve read the book and listened to the recordings, visited your bungalow at the Beverly Hills and sat in your chair at the Max Factor building where you became a blonde, all the while challenging why you are still so relevant in this brave new world,’ it read in part. ‘For me, it’s that smile that makes you ever relevant and time enduring.’
Along with body-skimming gowns expertly embellished to glisten under lights, Packham used a playful baby pink for day looks. She went to hot pink for a slinky off-the-shoulder dress one can picture Monroe wearing with big black sunglasses.”
“Jenny Packham’s show epitomized one of the biggest problems afflicting New York Fashion Week: the lack of editing in the collections showcased on the catwalk. The British designer offered an overabundance of evening numbers, which touched too many tones. These ranged from supersweet, like an organza ballgown embroidered all over with flowers in sorbet hues, to sexy, such as body-conscious nude silk styles decorated with sequins stitched in graphic patterns.
The lineup was somewhat updated, but even if this season Packham wanted to celebrate Marilyn Monroe, her collection missed that witty, charming spirit always associated with the American actress.”
A rather misleading article by David Gardner appears in today’s Mail, claiming that Marilyn had a ‘lesbian affair’ with her dramatic coach, Natasha Lytess. This rumour is nothing new – but while there is some evidence to suggest that Natasha was infatuated with her pupil, there is no proof that Marilyn reciprocated.
Gardner cites Ted Jordan, author of Norma Jean: My Secret Life With Marilyn Monroe(also known as Norma Jean: A Hollywood Love Story, published in 1989), as hearing Marilyn remark about her supposed affair with Natasha, ‘Sex is something you do with people you like. What could be wrong with a natural act?’
However, Jordan has been widely discredited as a fantasist. There is no proof of his alleged association with Monroe. Even his ex-wife, Lilli St Cyr, said his stories about Marilyn were fabricated.
A more reliable source is Marilyn herself, who addressed the subject in her 1954 memoir, My Story (co-written with Ben Hecht.)
“Sex is a baffling thing when it doesn’t happen. I used to wake up in the morning, when I was married, and wonder if the whole world was crazy, whooping about sex all the time. It was like hearing all the time that stove polish was the greatest invention on earth.
Then it dawned on me that people – other women – were different from me. They could feel things I couldn’t. And when I started reading books I ran into the words ‘frigid,’ ‘rejected’ and ‘lesbian.’ I wondered if I was all three of these things.
A man who had kissed me once had said it was very possible that I was a lesbian because apparently I had no response to males – meaning him. I didn’t contradict him because I didn’t know what I was. There were times even when I didn’t feel human and times when all I could think of was dying. There was also the sinister fact that a well-made woman had always thrilled me to look at.
Now, having fallen in love, I knew what I was. It wasn’t a lesbian. The world and its excitement over sex didn’t seem crazy. In fact, it didn’t seem crazy enough.”
Marilyn first met Natasha when she was briefly signed to Columbia in 1948. Lytess became her dramatic coach for six years. Marilyn grew close to Natasha, and would often stay at her home. This is not unusual – Marilyn also often stayed at the home of her friends the Kargers, who lived nearby. (An apartment in the same building, on Harper Avenue in West Hollywood, was recently up for sale.)
Over time, others close to Marilyn – especially Joe DiMaggio – came to feel that Natasha was too fixated and controlling of Marilyn. Such was Monroe’s deference to Lytess, directors tried to have her thrown off the set. Nonetheless, Lytess commanded a high salary thanks to her association with the rising star. Marilyn was exceedingly generous with money, which Natasha also benefited from.
By 1954, it seemed Marilyn agreed with Natasha’s critics. After leaving Hollywood for New York, she broke off all contact with her former teacher. When she returned in 1956, Marilyn had a new acting coach – Paula Strasberg. Lytess lost her job at Fox and never saw Monroe again.
Perhaps understandably, Lytess was extremely bitter. She wrote a memoir, My Years With Marilyn, which has never been published in its entirety, but has been widely quoted by Monroe’s biographer. Natasha died of cancer in 1964.
While Marilyn may have experimented sexually on occasion, and was supportive of her gay friends, the rumours are pure conjecture. The quotes from Natasha cited in the Mail seem to be drawn from a 1961 interview, unseen until it was picked up by the soft-porn magazine, Penthouse, in 1991.
What is most noticeable about this interview – and the Mail article – is that while it may suggest that Natasha was strongly attracted to Marilyn, it gives no indication that she shared these feelings.
Lytess also gave an interview on French television in 1962. It can be seen on Youtube, and has been translated on the Everlasting Star forum (members only.)
Donald Spoto described their relationship best in Marilyn Monroe: The Biography (1992.)
“Dependent on Natasha though she seemed to be, Marilyn had an independence and a strength as well, an ingrained ambition that overcame countless disappointments, lonelinesses and setbacks. The sad truth is that Natasha Lytess was more profoundly dependent on Marilyn and Marilyn’s need of her, and therein may lie the reason why she endured six years of emotional crisis. Even as she was doomed to frustration, Natasha loved so deeply she could not bring herself to the action that would have freed her – separation from Marilyn.”
Photographer Phil Stern, who turned 95 this week, has donated prints of 95 of his iconic shots to the Veterans Home of California, where he is currently a resident, reports Media Bistro. A special celebration and unveiling of the donated prints is scheduled for this weekend.
Marilyn is pictured here at a backstage at a children’s benefit at the Shrine Auditorium in 1953. In another, most pensive photo, she poses with Jack Benny. They had filmed a hilarious sketch for his television show at the same venue in September. Although Marilyn’s expression looks tragic, the photograph may have been staged to present two comedic stars in a different mood.
Writing for the New York Times, David W. Dunlap reveals how a harmless photo taken at Marilyn’s wedding to Joe DiMaggio in San Francisco, back in January 1954, cost the newspaper’s picture editor, John Randolph, his job.
“Gay Talese told the unhappy story (with a happy ending) in ‘The Kingdom and the Power, his 1969 account of our inner workings. It concerned the picture editor John Randolph and the marriage on Jan. 14, 1954, of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio.
‘Randolph routinely picked one picture from out of the pile [of wire-service photos], marked it for a two-column cut and put it aside to be submitted later to the bullpen, which passes on all photographs before they are sent up to the engraving department. The picture showed Marilyn Monroe with her head back and her mouth slightly open, and DiMaggio with his lips puckered and his eyes closed. There seemed nothing particularly vulgar or exceptional about the picture — at least Randolph did not think so, nor did Theodore Bernstein and the other bullpen editors who later passed on it.’
The next morning, John Randolph was no less surprised than dozens of other Timesmen to hear that the picture in the Times had caused a “great flap” in the publisher’s office, and that Randolph was no longer the Times’s picture editor. Randolph at first could not believe it. He could not believe, nor could other Timesmen, that Miss Monroe’s open-mouth French kiss would so offend the sensitivities of Arthur Hays Sulzberger, or Iphigene Sulzberger, or whoever may have registered an objection in the publisher’s office.
‘Neither embittered nor angered, Randolph accepted the embarrassed assurance of the managing editor, Turner Catledge, that his pay would not be cut as he was moved over to the national copy desk.
‘Two years later came the happy ending: The “Wood, Field and Stream” columnist — whose beat was the great outdoors — was leaving The Times. Catledge offered the job to Randolph, who turned out to be the ideal writer for the assignment.'”
In the wake of news that over a hundred celebrities’ private photos have been leaked by a hacker, Anne Helen Petersen looks back at Marilyn’s nude calendar scandal, and how she survived, over at Buzzfeed.
“More than 60 years ago, an ‘it’ girl not dissimilar to Jennifer Lawrence also had highly suggestive and topless photos emerge into the public sphere, just as her career was rocketing from B-player to A-list star. A 23-year-old Marilyn Monroe, desperate for work, posed nude for art photographer Tom Kelley in 1949, receiving $50 for her time.
She made rent, and continued her fledgling career. It wasn’t until 1952, when two of the images from the shoot showed up in a calendar called Golden Dreams, that the photo shoot came back to (potentially) haunt her.
At first, it was mere speculation that the anonymous girl in the pages of the calendar seemed to look strikingly similar to one of Fox’s up-and-coming starlettes. But as it became increasingly clear that it was, in fact, Monroe nude on a bed of red satin, she urged her studio to let her guide her own PR strategy, one brilliant in its simplicity.
Instead of denouncing the images, Monroe took control of the narrative. She’d been hungry and behind on rent, and besides, she had always insisted that the photographer’s wife be in the room. ‘I’m not ashamed of it,’ she told the press. ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’
And her comments just kept getting better. ‘I’ve only autographed a few copies of it, mostly for sick people,’ she explained to the The Saturday Evening Post. ‘On one I wrote, this might not be my best angle.’
Unlike prior sex scandals, which had each served as a revelation of a hidden self, the photos of a naked Monroe fit with the expectations gleaned from her on-screen performances. (Just four years before, a leading Hollywood star — Ingrid Bergman — had been denounced on the Senate floor as an ‘instrument of evil’ for giving birth out of wedlock, with nary a single nude photo in sight.) Monroe’s on-screen persona, or ‘picture personality,’ was defined by sex; it was no surprise when her off-screen activities were as well.
But Monroe’s particular embodiment of sex, and the salience thereof, hinged on an understanding of sex not as prurient, or deviant, but natural — fitting with what came to be known as the “Playboy philosophy”, that sex is only dirty when suppressed. In this way, Monroe reassured the public that posing for those photos wasn’t wrong, or sinful, or something that should end her career — but a young, hungry, ambitious girl understanding her assets and sharing the pleasure of her beautiful body.
Monroe knew that she could fold the potential scandal of the Golden Dreams photos into her existing image, which managed to reconcile the intensely sexual with the overwhelmingly innocent. She giggled, she smiled, she completely neutralized the career-destroying power of those photos. All with a few lines of well-chosen response, calculated to help her audience understand that yes, nude photos might be the site of truth of the Marilyn Monroe image, but that site of truth isn’t cobwebbed and unseemly, but rather the most innocent, natural, and thus unimpeachable form of bliss.”