The actress and Marilyn impersonator Paula Lane passed away in August this year, reports the Telegraph. Born in the same year as her idol, she played a bit part in What a Way to Go! (1964), in which Shirley MacLaine replaced MM. Some 25 years later, Lane starred in Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn (1989), a sequel to the 1976 exploitation movie, Goodbye, Norma Jean – alongside another lookalike, Misty Rowe, who reprised her role as the younger Marilyn.
With a low rating of 2.9 on IMDB, Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn is (perhaps too generously) described by one user as ‘offbeat, absorbing, but ultimately redundant.’
“In 1989 she appeared in Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn, a film which the director Larry Buchanan claimed would show what really happened on August 5 1962, when the star was found dead in her Bel-Air home of an overdose. ‘I play Marilyn at 36,’ said the by then 53 year-old lookalike. ‘It took a little doing, but I think I pulled it off.’
The critics were not so sure, one describing the film as ‘maybe the sleaziest movie of 1989, a perfect 100 on the Sleaze Meter’. Paula Lane, however, he suggested, should be given a ‘Drive-In Academy Award nomination’ for saying, ‘Do they have cameras in heaven?’
One Hollywood columnist described Paula Lane as ‘the girl most men would like to be stranded on a desert island with’. But by the 1970s acting and modelling work was proving irregular, so on the advice of an agent who suggested that she exploit her resemblance to Marilyn Monroe, she put together a song-and-dance act and took off on a three-week gig in Tokyo.
She had met the star on three occasions and as she recalled, ‘studied her every move, every gesture, every notion’. When she heard the news of her death on the radio, ‘I went to church to visit my priest. I needed answers. When my grief subsided and a couple of days later I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and felt this incredible force as if Marilyn was looking back at me. It was as if she had moulded herself in to my body! I started to cry. I hadn’t realised before just how much I looked like Marilyn. I was her.’
From the 1970s onwards Paula Lane performed as Marilyn Monroe in clubs from California to Las Vegas. Calling her act ‘The Super Star Award Show,’ she sang songs which Marilyn Monroe had made famous, including Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend and Heat Wave, and recreated the classic shot from The Seven Year Itch of Marilyn Monroe’s dress blowing up around her legs as she stands over a subway grating. To ‘do’ Marilyn, Paula Lane claimed, was ‘like a fix. To go out for a Marilyn job is an upper.'”