More Marilyn Book News

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First published in 2013 (and reviewed here), Marilyn: Her Life in  Pictures, edited by Martin Howard and Oliver Northcliffe, is now available in French.

Two academic studies make significant references to Marilyn this autumn. From Reverence to Rape, Molly Haskell’s feminist critique of Hollywood, is now in its third edition. Haskell writes well about how typecasting hindered Marilyn’s career. In Modern Acting: The Lost Chapter of American Film and Theatre, Cynthia Baron considers the influence of the Method on her performances. Adrienne L. McLean also mentions Marilyn at the peak of her glamour in Costume, Makeup and Hair, the latest in Rutgers’ Behind the Silver Screen series.

On a lighter note, Marilyn is among the bevy of bombshells featured in Richard Koper’s Fifties Blondes, and the stories behind some of herfavourite Hollywood haunts are revealed in L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants, a coffee-table tome by George Gerry.

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And finally… I Met Marilyn , a new collection of interviews with friends and associates by Neil Sean, is out in paperback and via Kindle. Here’s a synopsis:

“Having been a fan of the legend that is Marilyn Monroe since an early age, it seemed whoever I interviewed had either met / worked and known something about her during my journalistic career. As the years went on I noticed this even more, to the point I was lucky enough to meet and interview some very famous people whom have not had their ‘Marilyn’ stories told before. I started with a trusty cassette player, which along the way had me meeting the likes of Sir Lawrence Oliver, Charlton Heston and even Sir Norman Wisdom. What is fascinating when reviewing the tapes – along with never broadcast interviews with Tony Curtis, Mickey Rooney and Debbie Reynolds to name just a few – is how revealing the whole conversations are. I urge everyone to take a look at the book if you’re a true Marilyn fan, as it will give you a rare insight into her final months: and as Ricci Martin (Son of Dean) who met Marilyn many times told me, ‘it’s the biggest story in the world of showbiz ever and yes I was party to it in many ways which is frightening.'”

 

Inge Morath on Miller, Huston and Marilyn

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Inge Morath: On Style is a new book focusing on the late photographer’s work in fashion and film. Her images of Marilyn on the set of The Misfits are elegant and tender, and the knowledge that Morath would become Arthur Miller’s third wife adds a note of poignancy. Author Justine Picardie writes about Inge’s work with director John Huston, and her later encounter with Arthur which led to a long and happy marriage, in a blog post for the Magnum website.

“This was also the period when Morath first started working with the director John Huston; one of her earliest assignments was to photograph the stills for his film Moulin Rouge in London in 1952, which was to be the start of a lifelong friendship … Huston would later describe Morath as ‘a high priestess of photography,’ a woman with ‘the rare ability to penetrate beyond surfaces and reveal what makes her subject tick.’

Morath’s friendship with Huston was to play an important part in her personal life, as well as her career. In 1959, she travelled to Mexico to photograph the making of his film The Unforgiven … The following year, Morath visited the set of another of Huston’s films, The Misfits, accompanied by her Magnum colleague, Henri Cartier-Bresson.

When Morath was subsequently asked by the New York Times about the experience of photo- graphing Monroe, she described the actress as ‘kind of shimmery. But there was also this sadness underneath. A poetry of unhappiness. That was what was so mesmerizing, the twofold thing you got, the unhappiness always underneath the joy and the glamour…that was the poetry.’ In the same interview, Morath added one more intriguing fragment to the story. ‘I once dreamt we both danced together, Marilyn and I. It was beautiful.'”

Gretchen Mol: Starting Out With Marilyn

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Gretchen Mol, who starred in The Notorious Bettie Page and TV’s Boardwalk Empire, has talked about her early days as an aspiring actress in an interview with  Backstage.

“I remember when I took my résumé into William Morris Agency and they kind of snickered at my special skills section. Like, ‘We gotta get rid of this.’ The one that did get me my first summer stock job was I had ‘Marilyn Monroe impersonation,’ and a director said, ‘Can you sing your song as Marilyn Monroe?’ It was ‘Unusual Way,’ from Nine. I did it. I really did not have the impersonation down that well. [Laughs.] I didn’t expect to be called out on it! I remember when I walked out he said, ‘You aren’t afraid and that’s gonna really help you in this business.’ Along the way, you need people to believe in you or see something in you and then tell you, so you feel you’re on the right track. Those kinds of moments are so important when you’re starting out. And I remember that so well, walking out thinking, Whether I get that job or not, I feel like it couldn’t have gone better.”

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Gretchen was also (albeit inaccurately) compared to Marilyn after playing a woman involved with John F. Kennedy in An American Affair (2009.)

“Her first, semi-nude scene in An American Affair is reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic photo shoot with Bert Stern in 1962, taken shortly before her death, a year before this story begins. Monroe was also alleged to have been a lover of John F. Kennedy, and even played a similarly-named character, Claudia Caswell, in All About Eve (1950.)

Blonde, free-spirited and sexy, with a messy love life – it would be easy to assume that Catherine Caswell is a version of Monroe herself. However, the resemblance is only skin-deep. Monroe’s dalliance with Kennedy has long been the subject of gossip, but the truth of the matter is still uncertain.

After further investigation into Kennedy’s many extra-marital affairs, it becomes clear that Catherine Caswell is more closely modelled on another of his mistresses, Mary Pinchot Meyer …. Meyer was smart, liberal and probably one of the few women whom Kennedy treated as an intellectual equal. They met at least thirty times, and their relationship is generally considered to be one of the most significant in Kennedy’s fast-paced life.”

‘Forever Marilyn’ Set For Palm Springs Return

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In August, it was rumoured that Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn’, would be making a permanent return to Palm Springs. This was recently confirmed by the Desert Sun: however, plans for a temporary home at the Spa Casino as soon as November have been scrapped, and the statue will now take up residence at a new downtown park, close to the city’s art museum and due for completion sometime next year.

Collaborators: Marilyn, Miller and Kazan

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Richard A. Schwartz, a Professor Emeritus at Florida International University and author of several books about the Cold War era, has published a new play, Collaborators: Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe. Beginning with the accidental death of a journalist on the eve of Marilyn’s 1956 wedding to Arthur, the action then looks back to their first meeting five years earlier, when he unsuccessfully pitched a movie to studio head Harry Cohn. Marilyn was casually dating Arthur’s friend and creative partner, Elia Kazan, at the time.

However, it was Arthur she fell for – it has often been rumoured that he continued corresponding with her after returning to his wife and children in New York. Using a split stage, Schwartz imagines what Arthur might have written to her, comparing his inner turmoil with her heady rise to fame (and ongoing association with Kazan.)

The other main strand of the drama is the very different responses of Miller and Kazan to the red-baiting era. Although it’s clear that both had long since left their youthful dabblings with communism far behind and posed no threat to national security, Kazan chose to inform on fellow travellers in the theatre, thereby saving his Hollywood career, while Miller – supported by Marilyn – refused to ‘name names’, and was ultimately vindicated as a liberal hero. Unsurprisingly, their alliance came under strain, and they didn’t work together again until after Marilyn’s death, on the controversial After the Fall.

The Millers’ marriage is portrayed in two scenes: the beginning is represented by Marilyn’s alleged discovery of unflattering comments in Arthur’s journal, during filming of The Prince and the Showgirl; while the end is marked by another heated argument during production of The Misfits. But that omits a long period of relative stability in Marilyn’s otherwise turbulent life. Perhaps Schwartz could have added a further scene to reveal Marilyn’s vulnerability, and show how painful experiences, like her multiple miscarriages, may have caused her depression.

As it is, Schwartz’s portrayal of a self-destructive Marilyn seems to echo Maggie, the suicidal star in Miller’s After the Fall. He is on safer ground with his male protagonists, and the trial scenes are compelling – perhaps because those events are a matter of public record, rather than private conjecture – and with careful revisions to his characterisation of Marilyn, Collaborators could be a genuinely provocative play.

For those interested in learning more about this topic, Barbara Leaming covered it in detail in her 2000 biography of Marilyn, and Ron Briley’s The Ambivalent Legacy of Elia Kazan will be published next month.

 

Marilyn Merlot at 30

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The Marilyn Wines company is celebrating 30 years in business with the release of their 2014 Marilyn Merlot, as PR Newswire reports.

“Winemaker Bob Pepi works closely with our grape growers to craft Merlot grapes grown in the Napa Valley into bottles of Marilyn Monroe Merlot.

And the labels have been just as special as the wine that is inside the bottles since the first vintage in 1985.

Other Marilyn Monroe wines currently include: Norma Jeane, a young Merlot, Marilyn Monroe Sauvignon Blonde, Marilyn Monroe Blonde de Noirs a sparkling wine, and our new addition of Marilyn Monroe Meritage.”

Kirkland Exhibit in Perth, Australia

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Douglas Kirkland’s touring exhibit, Icons and Idols, features four images from his 1961 photo shoot with Marilyn among 22 shots spanning his long career. It is on display until November 13 at There Is, a gallery in the Northbridge district of Perth, Australia. In an interview with Perth Now, Kirkland reflected on his life as a celebrity photographer.

“He says the entertainment industry has changed ‘like night and day’ from the beginning of his career.

‘This is a different, a vastly different star system today,’ Kirkland says. ‘Social media and the internet have produced more celebrities than at the beginning of my career and I’ve been doing this since the beginning of the ’60s.’

‘People like Elizabeth Taylor and Monroe were the giants then. Today you can only think of Angelina Jolie and another 20 or 30 with staying power but they are not as big as, say, Elizabeth was or Marilyn.’

‘Now, business is money driven, but the access to celebrities is much more limited and controlled. The people who work with stars want to say where they will be and when the photo will be used.'”

Speaking with Australian Vogue, Kirkland reflected on how his images of Marilyn have become iconic since they were taken 55 years ago.

What was it like to photograph Marilyn?

It was thrilling, frightening and exhilarating. I was very young and frankly I wondered if I was in over my head. The session was charged with sexual energy and the results all went into the camera, as the images can tell.

Were you expecting the reaction to the photograph that it received?

Actually the reaction to the Marilyn Monroe photographs came much later. I had no idea at the time that these would become some of my most iconic and sought after images.

Elizabeth Taylor, however, was the one who was instrumental in establishing my career as a celebrity photographer. I looked into her violet eyes and said to her ‘I am new with this magazine, could you imagine what it would mean to me if you gave me an opportunity to photograph you?’ She thought for a moment and nodded as said ‘Come tomorrow night at 7’oclock’.

She had not been seen for a while and the images from the cover session for Look magazine in 1961 went worldwide and catapulted my career.”

Marilyn Forever: Musings on an American Icon

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Marilyn Forever : Musings on an American Icon by the Stars of Yesterday and Today is a new collection of quotes about Marilyn, compiled by author Boze Hadleigh. Those who knew and worked with Marilyn are featured here, alongside a wide range of public figures from past to present. Marilyn Forever is illustrated with around twenty full-page photos, all well-known. Hadleigh has researched his subject thoroughly, as many of the comments in this book were new to me. Not all of these are flattering to Marilyn, and some are highly speculative, but overall the tone is sympathetic.

My main criticism is that Hadleigh, who has written several books about gays and lesbians in classic Hollywood, seems determined to include Marilyn in their number, though in reality the evidence of anything more than curiosity on her part is rather scant. He focuses in particular on her close relationship with drama coach Natasha Lytess. Hadleigh also devotes several pages to the scandal of Marilyn’s nude calendar, framing her as a pioneer of the sexual revolution. While this may be true, there are other remarkable aspects of her life which are lesser known.

Nonetheless, Marilyn Forever is not overly sensationalised. When discussing the rumours about Marilyn and the Kennedys, Hadleigh gives equal weight to those who believe the allegations and other, more sceptical opinions. A brief epilogue features quotes from Marilyn herself, and I was relieved not to see any of the misattributed remarks which have become so rife on the internet in recent years. Marilyn Forever is well worth adding to your library, and I hope Boze Hadleigh will now consider writing a sequel, based on Marilyn’s own words.

Publicist Shares Tales of Marilyn

Marilyn arrives in London, 1956
Marilyn arrives in London, 1956

Charles Foster, a former Hollywood publicist, has just published his memoir, CBC reports. Mr Foster claims to have accompanied Marilyn to England in 1956, for the shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl. I must confess to not having heard of him before, but as Marilyn’s own publicist, Arthur P. Jacobs, also came to England with her, perhaps Mr Foster was working for him in some capacity.

From Old Hollywood to New Brunswick: Memories of a Wonderful Life includes a chapter entitled ‘Smuggling Marilyn Into London’.  This is rather curious, as Marilyn actually arrived in London amid a blaze of publicity, and immediately embarked on a series of press conferences.

Foster’s memories of Marilyn are frankly, a little hard to believe, and seem remarkably similar to My Week With Marilyn author Colin Clark (whose lively account has also been disputed. )They include plenty of star temperament, not to mention some minor nudity with just a dash of Chanel No. 5. But Foster goes one better than Clark with the allegation that he introduced Marilyn to John F. Kennedy.

The proof is in the pudding as they say, so if you’ve read Mr Foster’s book, don’t hesitate to comment!