Lorelei Lee, heroine of Anita Loos’ 1925 novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, was as adept at wooing intellectuals as Marilyn, who played her in the musical of the same name – despite being the most famous ‘dumb blonde’ in literature.
Writing for the Daily Beast, Nathaniel Rich reveals that authors William Faulkner, James Joyce and many others were all captivated by Lorelei’s gold-digging ways.
“It is an extremely funny book, and has remained funny for more than ninety years—almost definitely a world record. The humor sticks because the satire is not actually directed at Lorelei but at man’s lowest instincts, instincts that during the madly prosperous Twenties were allowed unprecedented indulgence. ‘I wanted Lorelei to be a symbol of the lowest possible mentality of our nation,’ wrote Loos in a forward to the novel’s 1963 edition. The men chasing Lorelei—statesmen, intellectuals, and titans of industry—are no less representative of this mentality. She does not even spare the writer who most forcefully exposed the era’s ludicrous excesses and inanities. Early in the novel Dorothy, the only girl in New York City less ‘refined’ than Lorelei, is pursued by H.L. Mencken, ‘who really only prints a green magazine which has not even got any pictures in it.’ In fact it was Mencken, a mentor to Loos, who inspired the novel in the first place. Loos, bewildered by the sight of so many of her intellectual male friends falling for ditzes, particularly blonde ones, was amazed to see that Mencken was bewitched by ‘the dumbest blonde of all.'”
While the 1953 movie’s plot bears no resemblance to the novel, the character of Lorelei remains the same. Carol Channing played the role on Broadway, but perhaps Marilyn – with her blonde allure and guileless wit – was the only actress who could do justice to Lorelei on the big screen.
Marilyn owned a first-edition copy of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and a copy signed by MM, with a dedication to child actress Linda Bennett, was auctioned by Nate D. Sanders in 2014. (Surprisingly, it went unsold.)
‘Marilyn Monroe: The Truth About Her Tumultuous Life’, an article by Michelle Morgan (author of MM: Private and Undisclosed), first published in 2012 by Emirates Woman, can now be read here. Coming from one of Marilyn’s most respected biographers, it’s an excellent summary of her life and times, and would be a great starting point for new fans too.
If you’re a fan of Michelle’s writing, her latest book – an illustrated biography of Madonna – will be published on April 2.
Two still photos from the Lifetime Channel’s upcoming mini-series, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe – based on J. Randy Taraborrelli’s 2009 biography – have been posted today by Entertainment Weekly. It will premiere on the US cable channel on May 30-31 (the eve of Marilyn’s birthday.) Kelli Garner stars as Marilyn, with Susan Sarandon playing her mother, Gladys.
‘”The role was something I tried to appreciate every second of,’ Garner says. ‘Some of these scenes, I just kind of sat back and said, All right. I’m going to learn a lot today.’
‘She’s playing a woman who’s hard to get a gauge on, who hears voices, who thinks things are there when they’re not, who disappears for long periods of time,’ says Garner of Sarandon’s character, Gladys. ‘There was a distance between us that I hope reads really beautiful. You start seeing droplets of both of these people trying to connect, and having nothing to connect on.'”
Commissioned by Twentieth Century-Fox, artist Simon Claridge’s images of Marilyn, coated in diamond dust, are currently on display (with prints for sale) at branches of Castle Galleries throughout the UK.
Goodnight Marilynis a new, weekly internet radio show, hosted by Nina Boski and focusing on Marilyn’s glittering career and untimely death (with a feature film also planned.) Recent guests include biographer Gary Vitacco-Robles, Marilyn Remembered’s Greg Schreiner (who owns one of the world’s largest MM collections, and also organises the annual memorial service in Los Angeles), and Immortal Marilyn’s president, Mary Sims.
Ted Stampfer’s extensive collection of Marilyn memorabilia is the focus of a new exhibition, ‘Marilyn – the Strength Behind the Legendary Monroe’,opening tomorrow (March 25) at the National Museum of Liechtenstein, reports ArtLyst.
“Presented are more than 400 selected pieces from the private collection of Ted Stampfer, the world’s largest collection of Marilyn Monroe originals of its kind. Through his willingness to present his collection in exhibitions, the art collector and expert wants not only to remember the actress, who was intellectually underestimated during her lifetime and reduced by filmmakers and media to her visual appeal, but also to make exhibit attendees aware of the clever and ambitious businesswoman. Most of the pieces originate from her estate, of which the items were stored after Marilyn Monroe’s death in August 1962, until 1999, until large portions of it were put up for auction with auction at Christie’s and Julien’s. The exhibition is rounded out by individual pieces from other international collectors.”
The Long Beach premiere of Gavin Bryars’ opera, Marilyn Forever, has attracted a lot of media coverage. Poet Marilyn Bowering, who wrote the libretto, spoke to the Hollywood Reporter:
“Back in the late-1980s, Bowering was approached by a TV producer, who also happened to be named Marilyn, about collaborating on an unspecified project. Nothing ever came of it until the producer finally said, ‘My name’s Marilyn. Your name’s Marilyn. What about Marilyn Monroe?’ Out of that partnership came Anyone Can See I Love You, a series of Monroe’s interior monologues dramatized for BBC Radio and later reworked as a collection of poems.
Apart from being blessed with acting talent and ethereal beauty, Monroe had an intangible quality that made an indelible mark on the popular psyche. Bowering thinks it may have to do with a period in her adolescence spent living with her aunt Ana Lower, who introduced Monroe to the Church of Christian Science, where she remained a follower for eight years.
‘That teaching, which kind of puts you in charge of how you see the world and the world is made of love, had a real influence on her and made her this unusual person who didn’t seem to feel guilt about her sexuality,’ says Bowering. ‘It fed into this kind of idealism about love. There was an absolute kind of love, which would never be achievable and would turn out disastrously in real life, but there’s a sense she was always searching for these kind of ideals.’
Drawing on his early days as a jazz bassist, Bryars (who will sit in on bass for the March 21 performance) incorporates mid-century jazz melodies in his opera, sometimes referencing pop songs of the era. ‘Marilyn was a product of popular film and music,’ says Bryars about creating what director Andreas Mitisek calls ‘a meta-world reflecting on her life, career and relationships.’
‘My initial take is that’s really interesting,’ says Bowering about director Mitisek’s novel approach. ‘I think the whole process has just reminded me of the essential aspects of it, the bits. That’s poetry basically, the things that deal with human emotions. That is really what matters. And a lot of the other stuff, in any art form but particularly mine, can fall away and it doesn’t matter. But these things, which really are about how people feel, are all that matters.'”
“The production and direction is by the company’s artistic director, Andreas Mitisek, and he took the liberty of dividing the lead role, Monroe, in two. Thus, we get a Marilyn in her bedroom, drinking, taking pills, recalling her life on one side of the stage, and a ‘public’ Marilyn, re-enacting those memories on the other. A single male role, Rehearsal Director, transforms into her several lovers (including Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio, though they are never named). A male duo, the Tritones, serves as chorus, commenting (sparingly) on the action.
Mitisek added live video, as well as some documentary footage, to the mix, all projected on scrims draped across the stage, creating an effective dream world. The division of Monroe worked well enough, but may not have been necessary. The part doesn’t always seem clearly split between the public and private character.
At any rate, soprano Danielle Marcelle Bond played the more private Monroe in a recognizable way, sensuous, nervous, making love to the camera. She sang sumptuously, expressively. Jamie Chamberlin gave the public Monroe a nice star-struck vulnerability, in shimmering tones, comfortable with the jazz. Lee Gregory sang the male parts with a fresh eloquence. Robert Norman and Adrian Rosales were the capable Tritones.”
“Live video projected large did help make each Marilyn more present, but the video also amplified the contrast between standard-issue upbeat and downbeat doppelgäangers. Watching the 80-minute performance, I kept thinking that the operatic Marilyn was given exactly the kind of typecasting that the real Monroe was trying to escape.
But Bryars’ score is her exit route…Bryars’ eloquent score has an overriding melancholic quality with an effortless flow between onstage jazz and the more symphonic style of the pit band. Vocal lines are all flowing melody, mostly unresolved. Period-style pop songs in the style that Marilyn might have sung emerge in and out of the general musical material, as though moods of Marilyn, although Bowering’s pop lyrics miss the Tin Pan Alley zing by a mile.
The maudlin Marilyn here dims the light of the bright Marilyn. The true Marilyn was both, and her allure wasn’t, as it feels with this text and this staging, mimickry. With the help of Bryars’ bluesy wonder, very good singing throughout and Bill Linwood’s expert conducting, Marilyn struggles to come alive. Just as she did so sadly, yet so wondrously, in real life.”
Writing for L.A. Weekly, Christian Hertzog was more critical:
“Marilyn Forever sounds like the title of a campy revue at the Cavern Club, but Long Beach Opera’s production at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro is a morose meditation on stardom, sex and self-destruction.
Unfortunately, this U.S. premiere never comes together. Is it the fault of Marilyn Bowering’s vague libretto, a jumble of half-factual, half-imagined episodes from Monroe’s life? Could it be 80 nonstop minutes of Gavin Bryars’ brooding, amorphous music? Is it director Andreas Mitisek’s unclear telling of the story, or his bizarre decision to split the role of Marilyn between two singers?
Bowering’s libretto is a memory play. Monroe lies dying on her bed, incidents from her life oozing through the barbiturate fog — a late arrival at a studio, an inability to sing (or act?), a boudoir scene with a man (possibly Arthur Miller), a mysterious booty call.
Is the libretto too ambiguous for its own good, or does it have latent possibilities for creative staging? Hard to tell here, as Mitisek’s design and direction either disregarded the libretto’s instructions or did a poor job rendering them comprehensible.
Mitisek divides the single role of Marilyn into two separate parts: overdose-suicide Marilyn (portrayed by Danielle Marcelle Bond) and past-memories Marilyn (Jamie Chamberlin). This drains the lead part of its bipolar showmanship. The role should spotlight a singer’s acting skills as she bounces back and forth from woozy, dying Marilyn to sex symbol or troubled wife.
The libretto uses familiar iconography: Monroe as an insecure woman whose radiant sexuality blinded men to her other traits. Bryars gives Marilyn’s part no compelling melodies, and the musical differentiation between her dying and lively personas is too subtle. To do justice to this character requires a singer with a dazzling, oversized voice and a magnetic stage presence.
Chamberlin possessed a firm, focused voice, but there was no brilliance to it. Her acting didn’t exaggerate enough the feminine qualities of Marilyn, winding up a mere simulacrum of Marilyn’s potency instead.
Bond’s voice had a bit more oomph, and she sold us on the pathetic, fading Marilyn, but it’s unclear if she could shift dramatically and vocally into the powerful movie star, if she were to one day inhabit the full role.”
A one-off benefit performance of the Bombshell musical, by the cast of TV’s Smash – set for June 8 at New York’s Minskoff Theatre – has become the most successful theatre campaign to date on crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter, raising over $300,000 for the Actors Fund, with a large number of donations coming from fans of the axed TV show, reports Vulture.com.
“It’s Smash‘s music that seems to be the selling point — even fans acknowledge the plot’s shortcomings. ‘The show itself maybe faltered a bit with the story,’ [Mike] Taylor said, ‘but the music and performances were solid. Jennifer Hudson sang a song from Smash at the Oscars this year — I would have never expected that. And why did it happen? Because it’s great music.’ Amy Poe, a 31-year-old public-school-theater teacher in the Washington, D.C., area, was an early donor who heard about the concert on Twitter. ‘Glee to my kids was like an after-school special; they’re like, That doesn’t really happen in high school. But showing the slow progression of theater like Smash did, that’s real to them.’
Though rumors circulated during Smash’s run that Bombshell could potentially make a Broadway transfer, that was never the plan. The songs for Bombshell had to serve both the needs of the musical within the show and what was going on in the characters’ lives. As such, Bombshell never had a real book, and Shaiman and Wittman [songwriters] still don’t consider it viable as a stand-alone musical.
The Broadway benefit will include most of the Bombshell songs — Shaiman notes they will likely axe three songs to cut down on length. Scott Wittman and Josh Bergasse — who choreographed Smash — are directing the concert; [Will] Chase, [Megan] Hilty, Katharine McPhee, Christian Borle, and Debra Messing are all confirmed to appear. ‘A lot of the talented people who worked on Smash had roles that didn’t require any singing, but we’re going to try to involve them,’ Shaiman says. ‘There might end up being a Marilyn song sung by men. Also to give Megan and Kat a chance to catch their breaths. We don’t want either of them to die. Or for their throats to start bleeding.'”
This photograph of a determined-looking Marilyn, arriving at the Comedy Theatre for the London premiere of husband Arthur Miller’s play, A View From the Bridge, in October 1956 – watched by a wanly smiling Sir Laurence Olivier, with whom she was filming The Prince and the Showgirl – was taken by Brian Seed, an Englishman who worked for Life magazine during the 1950s and 60s. A selection of his work is published today on the Time-Life website.
Unpublished at the time, Brian Seed’s photos of Marilyn are now in demand. In 2013, Brian – who now lives in Illinois – was interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘That Marilyn Monroe was a really smart cookie,’ he recalled. ‘Look at this picture — she’s looking directly at me, because she knows I’m likely the only photographer in there who’s working for a magazine, and that the photo that would result would not be used in one day’s paper and then gone forever.’
Two magazines dedicated to Marilyn are now available in the US only. The Private Marilyn is lavishly illustrated, but prone to speculation – including one chapter which covers the widely-disputed ‘Greenson tapes.’
Marilyn: The FBI Files, a Star magazine special, is full of salacious, unproven gossip – including a ridiculous story about Marilyn making a porn film with Johnny Hyde. Strictly for laughs, then, or to line your cat’s litter tray.
Neither of these magazines have been released outside America, and the overseas shipping costs on Ebay make them more expensive than most books. Over in the UK, this month’s History Revealed includes a 4-page article, ‘Marilyn Monroe: Something’s Got to Give’, which is well-illustrated, but focuses mainly on the tragic side of her life.