Olga Franklin: ‘Two-Faced’ Memories of Marilyn

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The newlywed Millers arrive in London, 1956

Olga Franklin (1911-85) was a columnist for the Daily Mail when she encountered Marilyn in England, during filming of The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956. Her private observations have now been revealed in A Letter From Oggi, a new collection of private letters to her sister Beryl, edited by nephew Richard Jaffa. While many others would echo her statement that the private Marilyn was very different to her public image, Franklin’s snarky tone shows that celebrity-bashing (for which the Mail is still renowned) is nothing new.

“July 1956: c/o The Daily Mail

Northcliffe House, Tudor Street, London EC4

Dear Beryl,

Marilyn Monroe, who arrived here this week with husband Arthur Miller, is extraordinary. A woman with two faces. Perhaps we’re all like that? Only her two faces seem to contradict each other somehow.

Her first appearance was with someone’s overcoat over her head, you know the way they smuggle criminals into the Old Bailey, to avoid the cameras. Inside the door when they pulled the coat off, she was safe because no one could recognise that this was the star. Easy to see why she is renownedly unpunctual because the make-up and hair-do must take a long time. She looked like one of those girls who used to work in the old ABC cafes before the war, with white exhausted face and sweaty messy hair dyed too often.

Then our cameraman sent me climbing on the stair banisters high up to hold his flashlight and I got a shock looking down, seeing the famous blonde head was clearly bald on top, with the pink scalp showing through the sparse hairs.

A few days after we were all in attendance again, but this time at the studio, fenced off so that when the two ‘royals’ Miss Monroe and Mr Miller strolled in front of us, we were held in check behind a barrier.

Her looks were even more astonishing. The crumpled ABC waitress with no looks to speak of was gone, not a trace remaining.

The hair was freshly washed and set exquisitely with two soft loops forward over her cheeks leaving still enough hair for a chignon behind. The face, too, was transformed and was not just beautiful but with a luminous prettiness and charm.

She looked tall, slender and fragile in an attractive cloak which hid any hint of voluptuousness. A great groan of delight went up from the cameramen who’d waited a long time for this.

She was a work of art, a living tribute to the cosmeticians and couturiers. Under the subdued lighting, there was never a wrong note nor a hair out of place. Except for Mr Miller, who seemed to have no place there and was ill at ease.

I suppose it is all this collective effort which marks the difference between European performers and American ones. The latter are almost the result of a team effort, whereas our own or Continental ones are self-made, individual products. I think this must be why the European product is superior.

Love, Og”

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