Marilyn’s ‘Misfit’ Interlude

Photo by Eve Arnold, 1960
Photo by Eve Arnold, 1960

Marilyn famously made denim stylish for women in The Misfits. Writing for the Levi Strauss blog, Tracey Panek revisits the Nevada locations where the movie was shot.

It is a very interesting article. However, it should be noted that Marilyn stayed with the cast and crew at the Mapes Hotel in Reno for most of the shoot, although she did move into another suite after her marriage to Arthur Miller hit the rocks.

As Panek notes, she also briefly stayed at a country inn, which offered her a brief respite – but this was only while filming scenes on location in nearby Dayton.

“I started my journey in the Comstock at Virginia City’s Edith Palmer’s Country Inn, the place where Marilyn stayed while filming The Misfits.

‘She didn’t want to stay with the rest of the crew,’ said inn owner Leisa Findley. ‘Marilyn’s chauffeur picked her up and dropped her off here every day.’ Theorizing about Monroe’s motivation for separate living quarters (her room pictured below) Leisa explained, ‘It was during the time that she was leaving her husband.’

I interviewed the inn owner about her memories of The Misfits. Leisa was only ten years old during the filming and recalled the memorable scene when Monroe makes a ruckus beating a paddle ball in a cowboy bar. ‘I could hear them,’ Leisa said, ‘The entire crew would count aloud.’ During the scene, Monroe hits the paddle ball repeatedly and the entire bar erupts into counting. While the film makes it looks seamless, it took Monroe multiple takes to capture the continuous paddling.

Although Monroe wore a dress for the bar scene, she donned Lady Levi’s® jeans in other key scenes in the film, a flattering fit for her signature curves. In one scene Monroe wears jeans while gardening, her sexy silhouette prompting admirers to purchase their own Levi’s® jeans.

After Virginia City, I drove to Dayton, the place where The Misfits was filmed. Monroe’s Levi’s® jeans may have been purchased at Braun & Loftus General Merchandise in Dayton. The town remains much the same is it did during the filming. I spotted the Braun & Loftus building, today a restaurant, by its colorful exterior sign.

I finished my journey viewing the flat lakebed near Dayton where one of the final film scenes was shot. Wild horses still roam the area and I was fortunate to spot a few in the distance. In the climactic scene, Monroe is distraught as she watches Gable breaking a wild horse. She is dressed in Levi’s® jeans as she runs across the open lakebed and pleads with Gable to stop. Monroe looks at once rugged and practical, cowgirl Western yet stylish and cool.

Despite her death from an overdose one year later, Monroe left an imprint on the places and people she touched in The Misfits. ‘To Edith Palmer and her oasis in the desert and warm hospitality,’ Monroe wrote to the inn owner who made her feel at home during the filming. ‘May I always be a welcome guest. Marilyn Monroe.’ Despite its lack of popular appeal, the film received critical acclaim. More importantly, Monroe’s appearance in Levi’s® jeans helped popularize the denim pants — women wanting to dress as Marilyn bought their own blue jeans.”

Marilyn in Cinemascope

watson cinemascopeAn interesting new ebook is now available via Amazon Kindle. In The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses: CinemaScope 1953 – 1954, John V. Watson examines the widescreen technology pioneered by Twentieth Century-Fox.

How to Marry a Millionaire was the first movie to be photographed entirely in Cinemascope, although biblical epic The Robe had an earlier premiere. All of Marilyn’s subsequent Fox movies were shot in Cinemascope.

‘Bus Stop’ Comes to Cornwall

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‘A Night With Norma Jean’, including a screening of Bus Stop, is set for Friday, November 6 at The Poly in Falmouth, Cornwall, reports West Briton.

“Guests will enjoy live performances of some of Monroe’s most famous songs and readings from her autobiography. Senior lecturer at Falmouth University Julie Ripley will also deliver a fascinating presentation, examining the glamorous star’s famous fashion choices – from swimsuits to sweaters.

The evening will culminate in a screening of the Golden Globe-nominated classic, Bus Stop (1956). Part-comedy drama, part-musical, the film stars Monroe as a warm-hearted showgirl at a rodeo who strives to unravel the macho behaviour of the men around her.

This unique collaboration, the fourth of its kind, combines The Poly, Scary Little Girls and Falmouth University’s Fashion & Textiles Institute and was originally funded by the British Film Institute’s Film Hub.

The series explores how film actresses such as Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Mae West and Monroe herself pushed the boundaries of gender equality, fashion and more – both before and after censorship.”

Maureen O’Hara 1920-2015

tumblr_nwqhud3lQi1r42hleo1_1280Actress Maureen O’Hara has died in her sleep at her home in Boise, Idaho aged 95, reports the Washington Post.

Maureen FitzSimons was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1920. From early childhood she dreamed of going on the stage. While training at the Abbey Theatre, she went to London for a screen test. The footage was seen by actor Charles Laughton, who was so impressed by Maureen’s red-haired beauty and large, expressive eyes that he signed her to his movie production company, Mayflower Pictures.

Her first major role was as Mary Yellen in Jamaica Inn (1939), Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel. She was then cast as Esmerelda, opposite Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Now under contract to RKO in Hollywood, Maureen starred in John Ford’s Oscar-winning How Green Was My Valley (1941.) By 1947, she had moved to Twentieth Century-Fox, playing the mother of a young Natalie Wood in the classic Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street. In the same year, Natalie appeared in another Fox production, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! – which is chiefly remembered as Marilyn Monroe’s screen debut.

In Sitting Pretty (1948), O’Hara starred opposite Clifton Webb. Marilyn was photographed with Webb in a promotional shot for the comedic movie, though she had no part in it. By the time Sitting Pretty was released, Marilyn was working at Columbia.

In 1950, Maureen appeared with actor John Wayne in a Western, John Ford’s Rio Grande. O’Hara and Wayne became one of cinema’s great couples, making five films together, and were good friends. They were reunited in Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952), perhaps Maureen’s most celebrated film.

By then, Marilyn had returned to Fox and would appear alongside Charles Laughton in O’Henry’s Full House (1952.) She never worked with Maureen, but the stars were on good terms. In her autobiography, ‘Tis Herself, O’Hara shared a personal memory of Marilyn.

“Marilyn had called and asked me to play a joke on her husband, Joe DiMaggio. Apparently, Joe was a fan of mine and always teased Marilyn about how attracted to me he was. She was sick and tired of hearing her husband talk about me and I don’t blame her. She asked me if I would mind being wrapped in a big box with a ribbon tied in a bow around it, to be her gift to Joe on his birthday. The huge box would be on a large table, and right before he opened it, she was going to say, ‘Now, Joe, after I give you this, I don’t ever want to hear about Maureen O’Hara again.’ Then as he pulled the bow and ribbon off, I was supposed to pop out of the box while the crowd shouted, ‘Surprise!’ I thought it would be great fun, sadly, they separated just before it could be done.”

A gifted soprano, Maureen sang on numerous television shows, and recorded two albums. Her later films include Our Man in Havana (1959) and The Parent Trap (1961.) After her third marriage in 1968, she went into semi-retirement, returning to the big screen in 1991 for Only the Lonely, opposite John Candy.

After suffering a stroke in 2005, Maureen moved permanently to County Cork, Ireland. In 2011, she hosted a classic film festival, with Susan Bernard (daughter of photographer Bruno Bernard) introducing a screening of Marilyn’s timeless comedy, Some Like it Hot.

Following reports of elder abuse in 2012, Maureen left Ireland to live with her grandson in Idaho. In 2014, she received an honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, attending the Los Angeles ceremony.

Margaret Atwood’s ‘Marilyn Monroe-Bot’

rare13One of the world’s leading authors, Margaret Atwood, has referenced Marilyn in her latest sci-fi novel, The Heart Goes Last. “Elvis really put it out there,” she told Toronto Metro. “I was also a Marilyn fan. It’s my little homage to the Elvises and the Marilyns.”

Atwood, who is Canadian, begins the chapter entitled ‘Black Suit’ with a reference to MM’s sultry performance in Niagara. In another chapter, ‘Dressups’, a character transforms into a Marilyn-style robot. (A ‘Monroebot’ previously featured in a 2001 episode of the animated series, Futurama.)

Here’s a sneak preview of The Heart Goes Last, which first appeared as an online serial…

“Black flatters me, thinks Charmaine, checking herself in the powder room mirror. Aurora had known where to take her shopping, and though black has never been her colour, Charmaine’s not negative about the results. The black suit, the black hat, the blond hair – it’s like a white chocolate truffle with dark chocolate truffles all around it; or like, who was that? Marilyn Monroe in Niagara, in the scene right before she gets strangled, with the white scarf she never should have worn, because women in danger of being strangled should avoid any fashion accessories that tie around the neck. They’ve shown that movie a bunch of times on Positron TV and Charmaine watched it every time. Sex in the movies used to be so much more sexy than it became after you could actually have sex in the movies. It was languorous and melting, with sighing and surrender and half-closed eyes. Not just a lot of bouncy athletics.

Of course, she thinks, Marilyn’s mouth was fuller than her own, and you could use very thick red lipstick back then. Does she herself have that innocence, that surprised look? Oh! Goodness me! Big doll eyes. Not that Marilyn’s innocence was much in evidence in Niagara. But it was, later.”

Halsman Retrospective in Paris

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Marilyn at home by Philippe Halsman (1952)

Philippe Halsman: Astonish Me!, a new retrospective, has opened at the Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris, and will be on display until January 24, 2016, reports Time.com.

“All in all this retrospective showcases some 300 exclusive images and original documents (contact sheets and prints, preliminary proofs, original photo-montages and mock-ups) that shed a unique new light on the work and approach of an exceptional and atypical photographer.”

RUMOUR: Did Sinatra Propose to Marilyn?

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This year marks the centenary of another man in Marilyn’s life: Frank Sinatra. The anniversary is being marked by a slew of publications, including Sinatra: The Chairman. Second in a biographical series by James Kaplan, this tome is 992 pages long, and has been previewed in the New York Daily News.

“During Sinatra’s dalliance with Monroe, there are conflicting reports as to who wanted it more. Kaplan sides with Milt Ebbins, a talent manager, who claimed, ‘There was no doubt that Frank was in love with Marilyn.’

‘Yeah, Frank wanted to marry the broad,’ Jilly Rizzo, Sinatra’s chief henchman, said. ‘He asked her and she said no.'”

However, Kaplan’s claim that Frank wanted to marry MM – ‘to save her from herself’ – is nothing new. J. Randy Taraborrelli previously suggested this in his 1997 book, Sinatra: The Man Behind the Myth. Kaplan also speculates that others believed the opposite – that it was Marilyn who pursued Frank – but the sources for this allegation are not named in the article.

In his 1992 biography of MM, Donald Spoto argues that Frank was ‘apparently the more smitten’ in their on-off romance. Milton Ebbins told Spoto that in 1961, Sinatra failed to show up for lunch with President Kennedy at Peter Lawford’s home, because Marilyn – who was briefly Sinatra’s house-guest in Los Angeles – had gone out without telling him.

‘It wasn’t worry for her safety,’ Ebbins recalled, ‘he was just that jealous of her whereabouts! To hell with the president’s lunch!’

Joe DiMaggio with Frank Sinatra, 1958
Joe DiMaggio with Frank Sinatra, 1958

In Sinatra: The Chairman, Kaplan repeats the long-held assertion that the romance ended after Marilyn grew closer to her ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio. This led to a rift between Joe and Frank, ending a long friendship. However, Marilyn told reporters that there was ‘no spark to be rekindled’ with DiMaggio.

After Marilyn died, Frank was furious that Joe did not invite him to the funeral. Kaplan reiterates the long-held rumour that Sinatra – along with the Lawfords, Ella Fitzgerald, and even Mitzi Gaynor – were turned away from the ceremony. However, contemporary news reports did not mention this at all.

So did Sinatra propose to Marilyn? Based on all available evidence, I think not. Although Frank may have entertained thoughts of marriage, I don’t believe Marilyn was ready to commit herself. And after his failed marriage to another Hollywood beauty – Ava Gardner – I suspect he wasn’t about to risk more heartache.

Perhaps the last word should go to legendary columnist Liz Smith, who knew Sinatra well:

“I would take issue with some of Kaplan’s observations about Ava Gardner and particularly Marilyn Monroe — believe me, if Sinatra really proposed to MM and she refused him, it wasn’t because she was ‘saving’ herself for re-marriage to Joe DiMaggio. But in the face of the rest of this compelling book, that’s real nit-picking.”

‘From the First Moment’: Arthur Miller at 100

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Arthur Miller was born 100 years ago today. In this extract from her 1960 interview with Georges Belmont for Marie-Claire magazine, Marilyn describes how they first met and what attracted her to him.

“When I met Arthur Miller for the first time, it was on a set, and I was crying. I was playing in a picture called As Young As You Feel, and he and Elia Kazan came over to me. I was crying because a friend of mine had died. I was introduced to Arthur.

That was in 1951. Everything was pretty bleary for me at that time. Then I didn’t see him for about four years. We would correspond, and he sent me a list of books to read. I used to think that maybe he might see me in a movie – there often used to be two pictures playing at a time, and I thought I might be in the other movie and he’d see me. So I wanted to do my best.

I don’t know how to say it, but I was in love with him from the first moment.

I’ll never forget that one day he said I should act on the stage and how the people standing around laughed. But he said, ‘No, I’m very serious.’ And the way he said that, I could see that he was a sensitive human being and treated me as a sensitive human being, too. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s the most important thing.”

Naked Truths: Drake, Rushdie and Marilyn

10373848_1451182991791300_5610828183029719260_nThe award-winning novelist, Salman Rushdie, has praised the lyrics of Canadian rapper Drake in a video for Pitchfork, noting an allusion to one of Marilyn’s most famous quotes in ‘What’s My Name‘, Drake’s 2010 duet with pop star Rihanna.

“He also complements Drake on a subtle Marilyn Monroe reference in the What’s My Name line ‘Okay, away we go/Only thing we have on is the radio’. As he explains, ‘She [Monroe] posed in the nude and she was asked if she had nothing on, and she said ‘I have the radio on’.”

As Stacy Eubank reveals in her excellent book, Holding a Good Thought For Marilyn: The Hollywood Years, Marilyn’s remark was first reported by gossip columnist Erskine Johnson in August 1952, while she was filming Niagara on location in Canada. Marilyn’s candid humour won over the public, though her detractors questioned whether the quote was really her own.

In 1955, Roy Craft – Marilyn’s publicist at Twentieth Century-Fox – dispelled the rumour, telling the Saturday Evening Post‘s Pete Martin, “To give it a light touch, when she was asked, ‘Didn’t you have anything on at all when you were posing for that picture?’ we were supposed to have told her to say, ‘I had the radio on.’ I’m sorry to disagree with the majority, but she made up those cracks herself.”

Photographer Tom Kelley – who shot the nude calendar in 1949 – told Maurice Zolotow in 1955, “It wasn’t the radio. It was a phonograph. I had Artie Shaw’s record of ‘Begin the Beguine’ playing. I find ‘Begin the Beguine’ helps to create vibrations.’

In a 1956 interview with Milton Shulman, Marilyn herself explained, “It was a large press conference, and some very fierce woman journalist – I think she was Canadian – stood up and said: ‘do you mean to tell us you didn’t have anything on when you posed for that nude picture?’ Suddenly, an old nightclub joke popped into my head. ‘Oh, no,’ I said. ‘I had the radio on.’ I just changed the words around a bit, but I thought everybody knew it.”

Lena Pepitone Inspires Marilyn Play

lena pepitone2Mark Medoff, author of the Tony Award-winning Children of a Lesser God, has written a play about Lena Pepitone, who was Marilyn’s New York maid, reports the Deming Headlight.

“With the exception of Lena and Marilyn, everyone else in the cast will play several other people/voices. Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Jack Kennedy all appear briefly. A white piano will be onstage and the score will come from the piano along with additional accompaniment for snatches of songs Marilyn and Lena will sing.

Currently, Medoff says, the play is a ‘work in progress’. The production will be a stripped down workshop, with a focus on the process of telling the story of these two extremely different and astonishingly similar women. The play is narrated by the Lena (Baby Lamb) character who goes on a journey of discovery with the most famous woman in the world, Marilyn Monroe.”

Pepitone, who died in 2011, co-wrote Marilyn Monroe Confidential (1980), with William Stadiem, though many fans do not consider it factually accurate.

Playwright Mark Medoff with 'Marilee' (Erin Sullivan)
Playwright Mark Medoff with ‘Marilee’ (Erin Sullivan)

Medoff’s play, Marilee and Baby Lamb, reportedly based on taped interviews with Pepitone by himself and producer Dennis D’Amico, is currently playing at the Rio Grande Theatre in Las Cruces, New Mexico, until Sunday, October 18.

Medoff and Sullivan with Lena Georgas as 'Baby Lamb'
Medoff and Sullivan with Lena Georgas as ‘Baby Lamb’

Given Medoff’s prestigious background, one hopes the play will be more credible than Lena’s book. However, the lurid subtitle – ‘The Assassination of an American Goddess‘ – suggests otherwise.

‘Marilee’ is played by Erin Sullivan, who has a background in musical theatre, while Lena Georgas is cast as Pepitone. S. Derrickson Moore has reviewed the play for the Las Cruces Sun-News.