Parreno’s Marilyn in Melbourne

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Multimedia artist Philippe Parreno’s 2012 video installation, Marilyn – based on her own writings as collected in the 2010 book, Fragments, and originally exhibited in Switzerland –  is featured in a new retrospective of his work in film, Philippe Parreno: Thenabouts, on display at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne until March 13, as Christopher Allen reports for The Australian.

“The most successful and memorable work in the exhibition was devoted to Marilyn Monroe, a figure who for half a century has been a kind of cultural palimpsest: the original actress, talented, intelligent, tragic, is overlaid with ­Warhol’s adoption of her as emblematic of the way that the modern mass media turns celebrities into two-dimensional patterns akin to brands or logos.

Parreno has recreated the hotel room at the Waldorf Astoria that Monroe occupied in New York in 1955. The camera pans around the room while the actress’s voice describes its design and furnishings: wall coverings, sofas, desks, coffee-table, ornaments. And then the camera switches to a close shot of a fountain pen writing on hotel stationery: we seem to be watching Monroe’s own pen forming her own words in her own handwriting.

But the voice is disembodied and we do not see the hand holding the pen, for all is done through computerised robotic movements. The speech is synthesised from recordings of the star’s voice, and the handwriting robot has been programmed to reproduce samples of her script. As both voice and handwriting routines are repeated, we realise that something mechanical is going on, and this is confirmed as gradually the camera takes a longer view, progressively revealing parts of the illusion.

First we see bits of scaffolding, then gradually we are shown the mechanism holding and moving the pen. And then the camera pans out to reveal that the whole room had really been a set built in a studio. Marilyn Monroe, as it turned out, had not only been reduced to a brand in her own day, but could now be synthetically reproduced, mechanically cloned as it were; a reflection, perhaps, on the further reduction of the actor, in the mass media world, to a consumer product.

The ending was interesting from another point of view too, because it was almost cliched in its use of the trope of illusion revealed. But it was also significant in being one of the few clear endings in a body of films mostly with little sense of starting or finishing.

Watching Parreno’s lengthy and not always gripping body of work, I couldn’t help reflecting that Aristotle was on to something with his conception of plot as the basic structuring device for stories.

At least the Marilyn Monroe film conformed perfectly to his definition of an ending: an action that implies something before it but nothing after it.”

Marilyn and Judy Garland

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Marilyn chats with Judy Garland at a concert, 1962

Showbiz impresario Sid Luft was married to Judy Garland from 1952-1965. He died in 2005, leaving behind an unfinished memoir, which is now being published as Judy and Me. As Liz McNeil reveals in an article for People, the book also mentions Judy’s friendship with Marilyn.

Marilyn and Judy arrive at a Hollywood luncheon for President Khrushchev of Russia, 1959
Marilyn and Judy arrive at a Hollywood luncheon for President Khrushchev of Russia, 1959

“According to Luft, Monroe’s death was ‘especially troubling to Judy since Marilyn had been one of Judy’s telephone pals during her years of insomnia.’

The book also includes an excerpt from an article written by Garland about Monroe for Ladies Home Journal in 1967, in which she revealed a haunting conversation she’d once had with the star.

In the article, Garland described a Hollywood party one evening in which Monroe followed her ‘from room to room.’

‘I don’t want to get too far away from you,’ she said. ‘I’m scared!’

I told her, ‘We’re all scared. I’m scared, too!’

“If we could just talk,” she said, “I know you’d understand.”

I said, “Maybe I would. If you’re scared, call me and come on over. We’ll talk about it.”

They never did.

As Garland wrote: ‘That beautiful girl was frightened of aloneness — the same thing I’d been been afraid of. Like me, she was just trying to do her job — garnish some delightful whipped cream onto some people’s lives, but Marilyn and I never got a chance to talk. I had to leave for England and I never saw that sweet, dear girl again. I wish I had been able to talk to her the night she died.’

‘I don’t think Marilyn really meant to harm herself,’ Garland continued, in an eerie foreshadowing of her own death from an accidental drug overdose in 1969.

‘It was partly because she had too many pills available, then was deserted by her friends. You shouldn’t be told you’re completely irresponsible and be left alone with too much medication. It’s too easy to forget. You take a couple of sleeping pills and you wake up in 20 minutes and forget you’ve taken them. So you take a couple more, and the next thing you know you’ve taken too many.’

Luft’s memoir also describes how Monroe would visit their home and play with their young children, Lorna and Joey Luft.

‘She’d sit by the fire, not talking much, a quiet presence,’ Luft writes. ‘Marilyn was sweet and very unhappy. She’d chat with Judy and play with the children, hang out. She was separated from one of her husbands [whom Luft doesn’t name] whom she complained was a nice person but said didn’t know how to make love to a woman. She’d hoped this pattern would change when they married. She was frustrated and disappointed.’

Now 61, their son Joey Luft, has sweet memories of Monroe, whom he remembers would sport jeans and eyeglasses for her casual visits.

‘She kind of looked like a really pretty schoolteacher,’ Joey recalls to PEOPLE. ‘That’s what I was thinking to myself. This can’t be like one of the huge sex symbols! My sister had just explained to me who she was before she walked in. My dad and mom were talking to her about movies and things and directors and people. I couldn’t figure it out. She came over the second time and she did the same thing and she only stayed for about 20 to 25 minutes. The next day or following day, I turn on the TV and I see Marilyn Monroe singing to President Kennedy, Happy Birthday. I put it together. I thought, Oh, that’s right! Now I get it.'”

Fox to Launch ‘Millionaire’ Marilyn Fragrance

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Marilyn’s old studio, Twentieth Century Fox, is launching a line of fragrances named after her most famous movies, and a promotional video has been created for the first perfume, How to Marry a Millionaire, reports Wales Online.

“Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products developed a new collection based on the portfolio of 12 Hollywood film titles featuring Marilyn Monroe.

Bristol-based fragrance specialist Designer Fragrances then launched the How to Marry a Millionaire inspired women’s fragrance and gift sets in stores across Europe.

Luminous Media director Martin Downes, from Pontypool, said: ‘It is a massive honour for a local Welsh company to be able to produce a video for a product like this.’

‘As you can imagine, there are very strict guidelines for using images of a Hollywood legend like Marilyn Monroe. We came up with a storyboard for the motion graphic video that drew on elements from the movie as well as showcasing the fabulously designed fragrance bottle.'”

Marilyn Impersonator Slams Unauthorised Stamps

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In one of this month’s more peculiar stories, Page Six reports that Marilyn impersonator Jimmy James has threatened legal action over a series of stamps issued in the Central African Republic, supposedly depicting Marilyn but using images of Jimmy, who impersonated her during the 1980s and 90s. James is much admired within the Monroe fan community, and was a guest speaker at the 2014 memorial service. Images of impersonators have been used before on unofficial Marilyn-themed merchandise, much to the frustration of fans – but Jimmy James is the first impersonator to respond publicly to this growing problem.

“The image on the stamp of James as Marilyn in a pair of glasses seems to be taken from a 1991 ad James did for the brand L.A. Eyeworks. (The cool 1980s and 1990s campaign included 200 others such as the actual Grace Jones, Frank Zappa, John Lydon, RuPaul, David Hockney and Bryan Ferry.)

As far as the image on the African stamp, James’ power attorney Mark Jay Heller told us: ‘Although the recognition and inclusion of a transgender model in this collection of [Monroe] stamps is appreciated . . . the publisher . . . has not only failed and omitted to secure’ James’ consent, ‘but has also failed to compensate him.’

Reps for Monroe’s estate, L.A. Eyeworks and the Central African Republic’s New York consulate did not get back to us. The image in question seems to have been taken down from a website for the country’s stamps.”

Here are some other examples of the stamps, featuring artwork of Marilyn. Another series shows her with Elvis Presley, though it is still unclear whether they ever met.

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Marilyn’s ‘Bus Stop’ in Waupaca

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Bus Stop will be screened at the Waupaca Area Public Library in Wisconsin on February 2 at 1:30 pm, kicking off a month-long film series on the theme of ‘Going Places’, reports the Waupaca County News. Dr Jack Rhodes, who will provide an introduction, chose the 1956 movie, filmed partly on location in Arizona and Idaho, because of Marilyn’s ‘breakthrough performance as an actress, William Inge’s creation of several memorable characters, and the appropriateness of this romantic film for the approach of Valentine’s Day.’

Marilyn’s ‘Niagara’ Comes to Glasgow

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Niagara will be screened on February 22 at the Glasgow Film Theatre, as part of Dangerous Dames, a season celebrating the women of film noir. Admission is free, but must be booked in advance. (Incidentally, another vintage poster for Niagara adorns the cover of The Red and the Black: American Film Noir in the 1950s, a new book by Robert Miklitsch.)

Marilyn and Miguel Ferrer

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Miguel Ferrer, the accomplished character actor whose many screen credits include Robocop and Twin Peaks, died last week aged 61, The Guardian reports.

He was born on February 7, 1955 to singer Rosemary Clooney and her husband, actor Jose Ferrer. Among his impeccable Hollywood connections (his cousin is George Clooney), Miguel enjoyed an early  encounter with Marilyn Monroe which reveals a great deal about her love of children.

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In her 1999 autobiography, Girl Singer, Rosemary recalled throwing a party at her New York home in the winter of 1955, shortly after Miguel was born. Film director John Huston came with Marilyn, who had recently moved to the city. Rosemary had only met her once before, but Marilyn immediately asked if she could see the baby. Without even brushing the snow off her fur coat, Marilyn headed upstairs to the nursery. About an hour later, Huston asked Rosemary, ‘What the hell’s she doing up there?’ She replied that Marilyn was ‘playing with the baby.’

Before his death, Miguel reprised his role as the gruff FBI forensic pathologist, Albert Rosenfeld, in the forthcoming new series of Twin Peaks. He is not the only cast member with a connection to Marilyn, as her Bus Stop co-star Don Murray will also be making a cameo appearance.

Marilyn’s Estate Sues Lingerie Brand

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Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate, is suing a clothing company for copyright infringement over a lingerie line, reports IP Watchdog. (This is not to be confused with Marilyn Monroe Envy, an officially approved franchise, which was launched by ABG in 2014.)

“Defendant Fashion Central is a New York City-based manufacturer and wholesaler of intimate apparel, which includes undergarments. In their undergarment packaging, tags, and other branding, defendant utilized Marilyn Monroe’s image alongside phrases that alluded to famous quotes by Ms. Monroe. The defendant does not have a license to use Marilyn Monroe’s likeness or to use the registered trademarks for marketing/branding purposes.

On August 8, 2016, plaintiff became aware of defendant’s unauthorized use of the Marilyn Monroe marks and likeness and sent a cease and desist letter. Defendant continued with their allegedly unauthorized activities, leading to the filing of the complaint that starts this legal dispute. It is worth noting, however, that the defendant did not use the name Marilyn Monroe in any of its marketing, packaging, or other branding. Any association to Marilyn Monroe is based solely on defendant’s use of her visual likeness.

The fact that the Marilyn Monroe name does not appear on any of defendant’s potentially infringing products does not mean there is not a viable trademark infringement case or theory … According to the plaintiff, the Marilyn Monroe trademarks are highly recognizable and distinctive due to her enduring fame. Therefore, both federal and state law dilution claims have also been brought against the defendant.”