When Warren (and Natalie) Met Marilyn

Warren Beatty with girlfriend Natalie Wood, circa 1962
Warren Beatty with girlfriend Natalie Wood, circa 1962

Hollywood legend Warren Beatty has given a rare interview to Vanity Fair‘s Sam Kashner, in which he revealed a brief encounter with Marilyn shortly before her death in 1962.

“Peter Lawford had invited him out to his house in Malibu for a night of tacos and poker, and Monroe was there. ‘I hadn’t seen anything that beautiful,’ Beatty recalls. She invited him to take a walk along the beach, which he did. ‘It was more soulful than romantic.’ Back in the house, he played the piano. (He’s a good pianist, by the way, enamored of jazz greats such as Erroll Garner.) Marilyn sat on the edge of the piano in something so clingy that Beatty could tell she wasn’t wearing underwear.

‘How old are you?’ she asked.

‘Twenty-five,’ he answered. ‘And how old are you?’ he asked cheekily.

‘Three. Six,’ she said, as if not wanting to bring the two numbers together. By then, the tacos had arrived, and no one really played poker that night. Warren noticed that Marilyn was already a bit tipsy from champagne, even before the sun had set.

The next day, the producer Walter Mirisch’s brother Harold called. ‘Did you hear?’ he asked. ‘Marilyn Monroe is dead.’ Warren was one of the last people to see Marilyn alive—a story that Beatty tells only reluctantly. He really is one of Hollywood’s most discreet people, in a town and an industry marinated in its own gossip.”

In his 1985 book, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Summers that he had contacted Beatty about the rumour of him meeting Marilyn at Lawford’s home just a few hours before she died. Beatty responded that this was true, but did not wish to speak further at that time.

By his own account, Lawford had invited Marilyn to his home that evening but she declined. It may be true that Beatty met Marilyn not long before she died, as she was a regular guest of Peter Lawford and his wife, Pat. However, it seems unlikely to have occurred on the night of her death.

In 1962, Beatty was dating actress Natalie Wood, whose biographer Suzanne Finstad gives a similar account of their meeting (including the conversation about age), but stated only that it occurred at some point over the summer, and most significantly, she added that Wood was also present.

UPDATE: An extract from the newly-published book, Natalie Wood: Reflections on a Legendary Life, is featured in People magazine this week. Taken from a previously unseen essay by Wood herself, it includes her thoughts on Marilyn’s death, and may shed new light on Beatty’s story as well. (A former child actress, Natalie had a featured role in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!, the 1947 film in which Marilyn made her screen debut.)

“‘I had known her and seen her days before her death,’ Wood writes. ‘Her beauty, charming wit, and joy of life seemed paradoxical to the tense loneliness which she faced in her life, and was to me, clearly apparent. I realized that her tragedy reminds us all how vulnerable we are, and I chose to try to be stronger.'”

And finally … ‘doyenne of dish’ Liz Smith has also questioned the timing of Beatty’s anecdote, in her latest column for New York Social Diary.

“Beatty places the meeting on the night before her death — or the night of, really. He says he received a call ‘in the morning’ from an agent, telling him Marilyn had died. But the facts say otherwise. MM actually refused an invite from Lawford the Saturday night she died.

It’s most likely that Warren, fiftysomething years on, just forgot the exact evening. It is a very tender and considerate memory, in any case. This gallantry is typical of Warren, whose exes almost always adored him, even as they became his exes.”

 

Drunk History: Marilyn and Ella

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The story of how Marilyn helped Ella Fitzgerald to secure a lucrative nightclub engagement is heart-warming (albeit much-mythologised.) In the latest episode of Comedy Central’s Drunk History the tale is retold, starring Juno Temple (who has described Marilyn as ‘a huge inspiration‘) and Gabourey Sidibe.  Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya has reviewed the segment for the AV Club website.

With 'Drunk History' host Derek Waters
With ‘Drunk History’ host Derek Waters

“But the best segment of the episode comes in the middle, with Tymberlee Hill retelling the story of Ella Fitzgerald’s friendship with Marilyn Monroe … Gabourey Sidibe and Juno Temple give heartfelt and truly compelling performances as Fitzgerald and Monroe, having fun with Hill’s drunken, quick dialogue but also bringing genuine emotion to their scenes. Both are hugely popular cultural icons, but by focusing on their friendship, the story humanizes and complicates these two legendary women. The story deals with broad ideas like racism in the music industry, but it does so through the very specific lens of these two women and their beautiful relationship. A famous white woman following through on true, selfless solidarity for a Black woman in her industry by using her own power to elevate a marginalized voice? That’s a story with a lot of present-day relevance—one that famous white women of today should listen to. ‘These two women, they literally need each other,’ Hill says, never once downplaying the intense emotions and complex relationship dynamics that make this an incredible story. She ends it by saying Fitzgerald ‘loved that lady,’ placing an emphasis on ‘loved’ that isn’t mere drunken exaggeration. It’s coming from her heart. And it looks like she says it through tears.”

George Barris 1922-2016

A tribute to George Barris and Marilyn by Fraser Penney
A tribute to George Barris and Marilyn by Fraser Penney

George Barris, one of the last photographers to work with Marilyn, has died aged 94,  Mike Barnes writes for the Hollywood ReporterHis photos of Marilyn revisiting her childhood haunt of Santa Monica Beach, wearing a Mexican-style sweater over her bathing costume, are among the most natural and poignant images from her final days.

“George Barris, the photojournalist … died Friday at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., his daughter Caroline told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 94.

Barris and Monroe became friends after they met on the set of The Seven Year Itch (1955).

‘When I first saw her, I thought she was the most beautiful, fantastic person I’d ever met,’ Barris told the Los Angeles Daily News in 2012. ‘She completely knocked me off my feet.’

Barris photographed the actress on a windswept beach in Santa Monica on July 13, 1962, about three weeks before she was found dead of a drug overdose at age 36. He moved to France after her death and remained there for two decades.

A native of New York City, Barris enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the office of public relations during World War II. He was Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal photographer for the welcoming Victory Parade in New York on June 19, 1945.

While on assignment for Cosmopolitan, Barris photographed Elizabeth Taylor while she filmed Cleopatra (1963) in Rome, and during his career he also shot such stars as Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, Sophia Loren and Walt Disney. His daughter also said that he photographed Chubby Checker for the singer’s ‘The Twist’ record cover.”

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Filming ‘The Seven Year Itch’, 1954

A more detailed biography, including a full account of his work with Marilyn, is available on the Cursum Perficio website.

He first met and photographed Marilyn in 1954 in New York where she was on location for the film The Seven Year Itch , where they became friends.

He was one of the last photographers to take Marilyn in pictures, between June 29 and July 1, 1962:

  • Friday 29 and Saturday 30, June, at Walter ‘Tim’ Leimert’s house, located 1506 Blue Jay Way, North Hollywood Hills
  • Sunday 1st, July, last day of the session, last pictures. It took place at the Santa Monica beach, near the Lawfords’ house.
  • Those pictures were to be published in Cosmopolitan magazine.
  • Some of those pictures were published in 1973 in Norman Mailer’s biography, and most of them in the book he wrote with Gloria Steinem in 1986 (Marilyn: Norma Jeane).
  • In 1995, he published Marilyn : Her Life in Her Own Words, whose text is composed of notes jotted after the picture sessions. Those notes should have produced an autobiography they had planned to write together.
Marilyn Monroe, subject of Liz Garbus’s LOVE, MARILYN. Court
George Barris photographs Marilyn in 1962

After returning to California with his family, Mr Barris became a respected member of the Monroe fan community, as Leslie Kasperowicz reports for Immortal Marilyn.

“George Barris attended many Marilyn memorials and events and was one of the most accessible of Marilyn’s photographers to fans from around the world.  He spoke frequently at the Memorial service held at Westwood and signed books and photos for fans at public and private events.  Immortal Marilyn was honoured to have him present at several of our own events.

George leaves behind his daughter Caroline, who was also a frequent presence at Marilyn events, another daughter Stephanie, his wife Carla, and legions of Marilyn Monroe fans who have spent nearly 55 years appreciating his work and his willingness to lend us his ear and tell us his stories of that summer of 1962.”

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George Barris celebrates Marilyn’s 36th birthday on the set of ‘Something’s Got to Give’

Fan Petition Saves Marilyn’s Hollywood Hallmark

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The former Grauman’s Chinese Theatre – renamed TCL Chinese Theatre by new owners in 2013 – was at the centre of an online controversy this weekend, after photos emerged of merchandising carts placed outside, where the handprints of Marilyn, Jane Russell and other movie greats are immortalised in cement. In an article for the Hollywood Reporter, Chris Gardner explains how a fan-led social media campaign led to the carts being swiftly removed – let’s hope the decision is permanent.

“The removal comes after a dust-up on social media kick-started by notable Hollywood documentarian Alison Martino and her Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page, which posted a photo on Sept. 30 taken by Brian Donnelly. The image showed a retail structure selling inexpensive hats and T-shirts while covering iconic cement blocks lining Hollywood Boulevard in front of the theater.

The post generated more than 750 comments and 530 shares and was enough to launch a Change.org petition requesting the removal of the vendor carts from the forecourt, as well as a news story on Curbed Los Angeles. The petition, signed by more than 2,600 supporters as of Monday afternoon, called for the removal of the carts out of respect for Hollywood history and the millions of tourists who flock to the block each year.

While it can be assumed that TCL opted to move the retail structures following the controversy, it’s not confirmed because a rep for TCL Chinese Theatres declined comment. It remains unclear where the vendor carts will go, though a source indicated they may be relocated to the nearby Hollywood & Highland mall.

Martino offered to talk, telling The Hollywood Reporter that she drove to the block on Monday once she heard that the carts were no longer in place. ‘It’s unbelievable — power to the people,’ she said, crediting Donnelly with the original image and Elena Parker for launching the petition. ‘I’ve been operating the Vintage Los Angeles page for five years and I’ve never seen a reaction like this. The outcry and outrage grew really fast. My VLA community really took it to heart. It was their passion and perseverance that drove this. Social media is an incredible force.'”

Slim Aarons: Photographing Marilyn

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A new book, Slim Aarons: Women, captures the Life  photographer’s elegant portraits of some of the twentieth century’s iconic beauties – including Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn, as Sean O’Hagan reports for The Observer.

“Marilyn Monroe, Beverly Hills, 1952, reading fan mail. ‘She was very nervous about posing,’ Slim said. ‘I reassured her, said all you had to do was think about the nicest possible thing that could happen to you – but think about it with your eyes, and let the rest of your face do what it wanted. Years later, I was on the set of The Seven Year Itch. She happened to walk by me, and I, not wanting to bother her, said nothing. But she stopped before me, looked up, and said, You don’t remember me, do you? I never forgot what you told me … think of the nicest thing possible.'”

The Man Who Bought Marilyn’s Hair

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Hair test for ‘Something’s Got to Give’ (1962)

Following recent news that two locks of Marilyn’s hair have been sold by Julien’s Auctions, the man who paid $37,000 for one of them has been interviewed by CNBC.

“The locks from the estate of Monroe super-fan Frieda Hull, who had obtained the hair from the Tinseltown starlet’s hairdresser, sold for a whopping $70,000 combined. Julien’s originally expected the hair to sell for only a few thousand dollars.

One of the bidders on Monroe’s golden tresses was Remi Gangarossa, a 31-year-old Chicago financial professional. Despite his relatively young age, Gangarossa told CNBC he’d been ‘infatuated’ with Hollywood and one of its most tragic icons for most of his life.

Fate may have intervened to grant Gangarossa one of his biggest wishes. He explained that Julien’s was originally scheduled to auction a slate of Monroe’s former property in November, but decided to auction just a few of her items off in a separate event, which took place last weekend.

The Chicago resident said he had already received offers to buy the hair, but ‘I said absolutely not,’ Gangarossa told CNBC. ‘It’s an interesting thing to know my investment was worth it, but it’s not for sale.'”