Marilyn will be honoured with an unusual double bill on Friday May 5 at the Britannia Panoptica Hall in Glasgow. Starting at 7:30 pm, one of her most obscure films, 1951’s Hometown Story (in which she appears only briefly, but makes a strong impression) will be followed by The Legend of Marilyn Monroe (1966), one of the first (and best) documentaries made about her – and all for just £5, so don’t miss out!
Today’s edition of U.K. Sunday newspaper, The Observer, includes a feature on the 70th anniversary of Magnum, focusing on the pioneering agency’s female photographers. Marilyn’s work with Eve Arnold is mentioned, and Inge Morath’s portrait of a warm, mature but still wistful Marilyn during the Misfits shoot is among Magnum’s many iconic images of Monroe. When Inge visited the Millers’ hotel suite in Reno on that fateful day in 1960, who could have predicted that within two short years Marilyn would die, and Morath would be Arthur’s wife?
The question of whether or not Marilyn had plastic surgery has long been controversial. Over at Immortal Marilyn, Marijane Gray sets the record straight.
“The truth of it is that Marilyn had extremely minimal work done- so minimal that it’s undetectable in before and after photos, so minimal that when her chin implant was reabsorbed it didn’t alter her stunning face in any perceptible way. However, even if every single claim of plastic surgery were true, it does not diminish Marilyn’s remarkable beauty … Let us appreciate her for how she chose to look without picking apart what was natural and what may have been enhanced, and let us stop trying to assuage our own insecurities by feasting on the flaws, real or imagined, of other women.”
Alice Denham, who died last year aged 89, was armed with a master’s degree in literature when she came to New York in 1953, hoping to be a writer and supporting herself by nude modelling. Within three years, she was a Playboy centrefold – the magazine also published her short story, ‘The Deal’, in the same issue. Like other independent women of her era, however, Alice’s promising career stalled while her male peers triumphed.
Forty years later she published a sensational memoir, Sleeping With Bad Boys: A Juicy Tell-All of Literary New York. In it, she wrote of her encounters with James Dean, Marlon Brando, Sam Spiegel, Norman Mailer and Hugh Hefner, among others. She also spoke admiringly of Marilyn, and described a brief sighting of her at the El Morocco nightclub in Manhattan.
“We table-hopped and Harry introduced me to Cary Grant and Esther Williams, Jack Benny, and both Gabors. Out on the floor again, I danced past Marilyn Monroe in a plain black short gown with spaghetti straps. Marilyn looked incredibly beautiful and bored, as she danced with a fat short producer, then returned to her table where there were three other short fat producers in tux. Marilyn was far more gorgeous than her photos.”
Film historian Karina Longworth, who recently devoted three episodes of her ‘You Must Remember This’ podcast to Marilyn (which I’ll be reviewing soon), has compiled a list of ‘9 Movies You Need to Watch To Understand Old Hollywood‘ for Harper’s Bazaar. All nine films can be streamed via Warner Archive. Her choices, including Jean Harlow’s Bombshell (1933), are interesting. Last on the list is The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), which is surprising because it’s not really a Hollywood film, and Longworth considers it ‘boring.’
She compares it unfavourably to Bus Stop, stating that Marilyn produced both films, but in fact, Showgirl was her company’s only production to date. Although rather slow-paced, ithas plenty of old-world charm, and even Sir Laurence Olivier would later admit that “Marilyn was quite wonderful, the best of all. So what do you know?”
“This is definitely one of my least favorite Marilyn Monroe films, but it’s a fascinating period in her life. It was a very troubled production … though she did it through her production company, she had a very difficult time wielding power … Because this was such a pivotal point in Marilyn’s career, this is the artifact that comes out of that—out of a lot of struggle and sadness … her performance in [Bus Stop] is super great, and she was really excited about it because it was a way of her depicting her struggle in this industry where men are objectifying her. To go from that to The Prince and the Showgirl is kind of a letdown.”
My interview with Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed, Marilyn’s Addresses and Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years, is spread over six pages in Issue 11 of Art Decades magazine, now available from Amazon and priced at £9.60 (UK) or $13 (USA.) Michelle has also written biographies of Madonna, Carole Lombard and Thelma Todd.
“I think the biggest myth about Marilyn is that she was a dumb blonde. She absolutely was not! Here is a woman who rebelled against the studio system; who set up her own film company and went to acting school when she was already at the top of her profession. She had a very intelligent head on her shoulders and I think that when people say she was a dumb blonde, it is revealing more about them than her. Yes, many times Marilyn played a dumb character on screen, but why should that mean she was that way in life?”
My review of the recent Channel 4 documentary, Marilyn Monroe: Auction of a Lifetime, is posted today at Immortal Marilyn. At the time of writing, the programme is still available to watch online (UK only.) And if you’re looking for a more detailed view of the sale, it’s right here.
Cecil Beaton’s ethereal 1956 portrait of Marilyn – which she kept framed in her New York apartment, on top of her famous piano – was one of many iconic images projected onto the Empire State Building this week, marking the 150th anniversary of Harper’s Bazaar magazine. Among her contemporaries, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn were also featured.
Marilyn also graces the cover of Cecil Beaton: Portraits and Profiles, one of many celebrities featured, out in paperback on October 5. This book was originally released in hardback (with Beaton on the cover) back in 2014.