Rebel Hearts: Marilyn and Madonna

Pop star Madonna has posted a tribute to Marilyn on her Instagram account. As part of a meme promoting her forthcoming album, Rebel Heart, the image depicts Marilyn within its cover art, with the caption, ‘the most beautiful #rebelheart.’

Herself one of the most enduringly successful entertainers in recent history, Madonna has long been inspired by Marilyn, most notably in her ‘Material Girl’ video and a Vanity Fair photo session in which she recreated some of MM’s iconic poses.

‘I’d love to be a memorable figure in the history of entertainment in some sexual comic-tragic way,’ Madonna confessed at the start of her career, back in 1984. ‘I’d like to leave the impression that Marilyn Monroe did, to be able to arouse so many different feelings in people.’

Drew Barrymore Joins Marilyn at the ‘Bus Stop’

To all our readers in the US, don’t miss January 3rd‘s episode of The Essentials on Turner Classic Movies (Saturday, at 8pm), when Robert Osborne will introduce a screening of Bus Stop by discussing the 1956 comedy with his celebrity co-host, actress turned director and producer Drew Barrymore.

Drew is a lifelong fan of Marilyn, and even posed as her idol for the cover of John F. Kennedy Jr’s magazine, George, when it launched in 1996. In an article for the TCM website, Roger Fristoe explains what makes Bus Stop a classic:

“Most importantly, Bus Stop marked what is generally considered to be the outstanding performance of a true American icon: Marilyn Monroe…Whatever difficulties in achieving it, her performance shines like a beacon through a film that otherwise may seem a bit dated for modern audiences…Some critics felt that Monroe surpassed Stanley’s highly lauded turn on Broadway.

It’s simply a great performance, one that grows more impressive with repeated viewings. There was no justice in the fact that, while Murray was Oscar-nominated for his one-dimensional, at times almost cartoon-like portrayal, Monroe was not. This was a great disappointment to many including director Logan and Monroe herself.”

Thanks to Christy Putnam


Go Wilder: NYE Double Bill in Leeds

‘Where’s that bourbon?’ Marilyn and Jack Lemmon in Billy Wilder’s 1959 classic, ‘Some Like it Hot’

For a classic movie fan, there are few more festive treats than a double bill of Billy Wilder movies. Some Like it Hot and Wilder’s brilliant follow-up, The Apartment, will be screened at the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds on December 31st from 3.45 pm. So if you’re in Yorkshire this Christmas, this could be a perfect start to your New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Thanks to Hazel

Marilyn and O. Henry at Christmas

Marilyn never made a Christmas movie, but at least one of her films has a Christmas connection. O. Henry’s Full House (1952) is a tribute to the great American writer, featuring five of his short stories introduced by novelist John Steinbeck.

The final episode, ‘The Gift of the Magi’, stars Jeanne Crain and Farley Granger as a impoverished young couple trying to make the best of Christmas. And ‘The Cop and the Anthem’, which opens the film, is not a Christmas tale, but was first published in December 1904 and deals with a similar theme – how the poorest among us suffer most during winter.

Charles Laughton stars as ‘Soapy’, a tramp who wants desperately to get arrested so he can spend the winter in jail. In one comic scene, he accosts a young lady (played by Marilyn at her most luscious), but she welcomes his advances.

You can watch O. Henry’s Full House here, and read ‘The Cop and the Anthem’ here.

Overlooked Noir: ‘Clash By Night’

Publicity shot for Clash By Night, with Keith Andes

One of my favourite early MM films, Clash By Night (1952), is included in a list of 30 Overlooked Noir Films That Are Worth Watching, compiled by Arnab Sen over at Taste of Cinema.

“Another case where the film is essentially two films linked with one another, Clash by Night tells the story of Mae Doyle (Barbara Stanwyck) who returns home after ten years to move back into her family’s home where her brother and his wife are living. Mae then starts dating the very likeable Jerry (Paul Douglas). But, Jerry’s friend Earl Pfeiffer (Robert Ryan), a man who is equally unlikable, starts to take an interest in her.

Barbara Stanwyck plays a woman with a mysterious past who spent ten years ‘back East.’ Robert Ryan once again is typecast, this time not as a villain, but as an obsessive, violent and unsettled man who is fascinated by Mae. Paul Douglas plays Jerry, a happy go lucky sort of person who cannot handle confrontation. The film is also notable for starring Marilyn Monroe, who plays Mae’s sister-in-law in a supporting role.

In spite of the film having a typical noir plot, it’s a very uncharacteristic melodramatic film noir by Lang and probably the most uncharacteristic noir in the list. It is also not set in some big, dangerous American city but rather in the fishing village of Monterey, California. Directed by Fritz Lang after his underrated western Rancho Notorious, the film was based on the play Clash by Night by Clifford Odets.”

Behind the Scenes of ‘Icon’

Gary Vitacco-Robles, author of this year’s outstanding, two-volume biography – Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe – has been interviewed by Bill Biss for Edge Media Network. In the article, Gary reveals his starting point for this mammoth project:

“EDGE: It’s interesting that the very first chapter you wrote was on her film ‘Niagara.’ How did you happen to begin there?

Gary Vitacco-Robles: ‘Niagara’ was a film-noir done in color that had a lot of symbolism in it. Also, I thought it was a great depiction of post-war fear of sexuality and about women’s emerging sexuality. There was so much to deal with and that was kind of on the level that I wanted to explore Marilyn’s life. The movie was considered so scandalous at the time. I thought it gave me a lot of dimensions. Her films would be the anchor and I would just thread between the films what was going on in her personal life.”

Having worked as a psychotherapist for over 20 years, Gary used his professional expertise to build a nuanced portrait of MM:

“I’m really not aware of a mental health professional writing about Marilyn. Her story is just so right for that. There’s these armchair psychologists… mostly men are writing about Marilyn and they are very misogynistic. They will believe any speculation that maybe she was very sexually promiscuous, but then they’ll completely dismiss any information that she was an abuse survivor. That appalled me. You can’t really tell Marilyn’s story without talking about childhood abuse.

Now, we know so much about complex trauma and she was a survivor of complex trauma and that accounts for so much of her life. It just puts everything in place. People want to judge her or they don’t look at her life in the context of that. This is a woman who suffered from a mood disorder, horrible childhood abuse and still was able to make it, become successful and inspire people. The fact that she had a tragic ending does not dismiss the fact that she was incredibly resilient.”