Marilyn Inspires Female Filmmakers

Sophia Sebiskveradze in ‘The Confession’

Marilyn’s iconic role in Some Like It Hot is referenced in Georgian filmmaker Zaza Urushadze’s The Confession, which has just premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival, as Daniel Hensel reports for Michigan Daily.

The Confession follows a preacher, Giorgi, and his assistant, Valiko,  as they fill in at a church in a town after the local preacher dies. They bring with them American DVDs and a projector to show in the church, believing that if the townspeople come for the movies, they’ll come to church.

The film series begins with Some Like It Hot, the 1959 Billy Wilder classic with Marilyn Monroe, leading a number of the villagers to note that one of the women in the village, a music teacher named Lili (Sophia Sebiskveradze, My Dad’s Girlfriend), looks an awful lot like the blonde bombshell herself. And sure enough, though she is far from identical, Lili’s styled platinum blonde hair makes a compelling case. Lili and Father Giorgi become friendly, with the preacher encouraging her to come to a confession, where she notes not her sins but rather her place in the village: since her husband’s death, many men lust after her, but she’s not interested in loveless sex.”

Meanwhile, Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn’, is featured in Angels Wear White, a new film from Chinese director Vivian Qu, the Straits Times reports.

“The sexual assault of two 12-year-old girls sets off a harrowing chain of events in the film Angels Wear White (2017). Despite the premise, there is nothing lurid or sensationalistic in Chinese film-maker Vivian Qu’s second directorial feature.

In the film, contemporary society is fraught with dangers and temptations for the young given the corrupting force of money. Qu says: ‘When everything is up for sale, how can a young girl find the right answer for herself and move forward? This has all gotten a lot more complicated.’ She was calling from London where the film was being screened at the BFI London Film Festival.

Qu notes that there are seven female characters in her film, including a giant statue of screen legend Marilyn Monroe. Though they are at different stages of life and have different attitudes towards it, she is essentially writing about women.

But it is not a reductive portrayal along the lines of ‘men are bad and women are to be pitied’. Qu says: ‘We are already in the 21st century, and yet the value of women is something that has not been been really thought about.'”

‘Insignificance’ at the Arcola

The first London revival of Terry Johnson’s Insignificance in 25 years has just opened at the Arcola Theatre, running through to November 18. Here’s a selection of quotes from the first-night reviews:

“The case for a revival of Terry Johnson’s flight of fancy on the nature of fame is clear. More so than in 1982, when Insignificance was written, the worlds of celebrity and politics have elided. Fame is political, and the most powerful politicians are the ones with the most followers.

That’s not to say that David Mercatali’s revival is a big, hammer-you-over-the-head Trump metaphor. Its significance is more subtle than that: everyone’s a bit scared and messed up, whether you’re Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe or just some random on the street.” – The Stage

“Alice Bailey Johnson is super as Marilyn, intellectually hungry, frustrated as an artist and a woman, the carapace of confidence cracking to show the fragile self-esteem as her voice goes from the sexualised Little Bo-Peep tones to that of a woman trying to make her way in a man’s world under the most male of male gazes. That element of the play shouldn’t be relevant 60 years on from the time in which it is set and 35 years on from its writing – alas, of course, it very much is.” – Broadway World

“Monroe becomes the centre of David Mercatali’s production, lending it a feminist bent, and Alice Bailey Johnson (daughter of the playwright) artfully suggests the way she slips into a constructed identity with coy shoulder-shimmies and flirtatious raised eyebrows. Her legacy, perhaps, is to leave an imprint on her gender – still out-influenced 60 years on.

Mercatali’s production never finds the requisite slipperiness. Since Max Dorey’s suite is so flimsy and fake – its walls wobbling with every knock on the door, its window looking out onto the Arcola’s brick wall – we’re never allowed to forget that this is a fiction being performed. That brings the impersonations into view, instead of the personalities, only serving to up our scepticism. Johnson’s play needs the opposite: a way of persuading us of its possibility until we submit to a fantasy that’s too tantalising to resist. Without that wooziness, it seems strangely flat – a stage show, little more – and so loses the lightness this fancy needs to take flight.” What’s Onstage

“Alice Bailey Johnson expertly captures the essence of Marilyn – her breathy voice, her star quality and her aspiration to be taken seriously, while Simon Rouse is spectacular as the awkward academic, who is baffled yet intrigued to find the movie goddess bursting into his bedroom in the middle of the night. The discussion about the theory of relativity between an eager-to-learn Monroe and a naturally nurturing Einstein is surprisingly joyful. At the heart of the tale is Einstein and Marilyn’s unlikely but believable friendship. Although the setting is fictitious, all audience members will know the four main characters to some degree.

Oliver Hembrough projects DiMaggio’s despair and frustration convincingly, and the way the couple steer Einstein into the role of marriage counsellor adds humour to the sense of desperation. Tom Mannion as the threatening senator Joseph McCarthy is suitably dastardly, especially in his dealings with Monroe. As he manhandles and humiliates the actress who seems unsure of how to respond, it’s shameful to acknowledge that over 60 years later, this behaviour is alive and well in Hollywood.” – Camden New Journal

“This is a play that embraces its surrealism with wanton abandon. Veering between tacky pastiche and weighty meditation – and sometimes both at once – it is something of a curious curate’s egg. The main question that persists is ‘why?’ Why are we being told this tale? The narrative itself seems unsure as to what it is, and this only leads to uncertainty. To borrow from the title, it would be too pejorative and damning to call Insignificance ‘insignificant’, but it stops short of being substantial. It is, however, visually arresting and interspersed with a number of witty, sharp quips to garner a hearty chuckle or three.” Islington Gazette 

“There’s more to Insignificance than a simple rumination on fame and its impact, and it’s these other themes – marital alienation, the intellectual stymieing of women, and yes, the insignificance of celebrity in the face of personal anguish – that this successful production draws out.

Fully deserving of her recent nomination for Best Female by stage awards The Offies, Alice Bailey Johnson initially plays Marilyn with speedily unwinding energy … adding in notes of cold anger when she feels like she’s being patronised and scalding sexuality when she reaches the theory’s climax.

All four main actors are excellent at bouncing off each other and maintaining their distinctive characters through Insignificance‘s many threads, spelling out the misfiring interpersonal dynamics between them with real emotion.” – Hackney Citizen

Elle Fanning Goes ‘InStyle’ With Marilyn

19 year-old actress Elle Fanning makes no secret of her love for Marilyn – so it was no surprise to see her paying homage to her idol in a Warhol-inspired Versace gown last night at the InStyle Awards where she accepted a Breakthrough Style prize, as People reports.

“Fanning hit the carpet wearing a bright multicolored pop art gown from Versace’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection featuring renderings of Andy Warhol’s iconic Marilyn Monroe painting and crystal accents at the top of the bodice.

The star admitted the ensemble was ‘a bit unusual for me,’ but that didn’t stop her from knowing right away it was the perfect look for the occasion after seeing it on the runway at Milan Fashion Week.

‘This was kind of a no-brainer, I must say. [When I saw it] I was like, I have to wear this,’ Fanning said. ‘It has Marilyn Monroe on it and I’m obsessed with her. It’s Halloween soon, so I was kind of also doubling as Barbie.'”

Marilyn’s Spirit Lingers in ‘Ray Donovan’

Marilyn plays a recurring, symbolic role in Ray Donovan, the Showtime series starring Liev Schreiber as a troubled Hollywood fixer. Her haunting presence is prominent in a recent instalment (Series 5, Episode 9, ‘Mister Luck’), as Brian Tallerico reports for Vulture. Samantha Winslow, the studio boss who enlists Ray’s services,  is played by Susan Sarandon – who starred as Gladys in Lifetime’s 2015 mini-series, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe – while Ray pursues a doomed romance with actress Natalie James (Lili Simmons), who suffers a fate not unlike Marilyn’s.

“The image of Marilyn Monroe’s garbage-strewn star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame could serve as a poster for Ray Donovan, a show about the people who clean the trash off the world’s most image-conscious people. While Ray’s journey to the dark side of Hollywood results in the death of someone close to him in ‘Mister Lucky,’ the entire Donovan clan is spiraling out of control.

Chronologically, the episode takes place months after the death of Abby Donovan, so it’s interesting that the structure of the season placed it right after the flashback episode in which we saw her die. All of the Donovans seem unmoored, slipping into their worst habits and flirting with violence. Abby was the rock of this group, and they are now adrift without her.

We pick up where ‘Horses’ ended: Terry just revealed that he helped Abby take her life and Ray knocked him to the floor. Ray pours a drink and then takes the bottle to a booth as Terry gets to his feet … After the encounter with his brother, Ray thinks he sees Abby walking down the street. He follows her to Marilyn Monroe’s star. He pays a male escort nearby to keep it clean …

A series of minor beats follow: Bridget and her dying boyfriend, Ray looking at a Marilyn Monroe painting in his apartment … The next major event comes when Ray gets a call from Lena to turn on the TV. A TMZ-esque show called Stalkerazzi has footage of Natalie and Ray together. Their affair is out in the open, and Natalie’s ex is watching the story in a bar … Most important, Ray gets to work with Natalie and she wonders if they can go public now. Natalie seems to be reaching out to Ray and he doesn’t see it. Given the episode’s tragic end, one wonders if she could have been saved if Ray simply paid attention.

While his father is having his own sexual adventure, Ray stops by a club called the Fist, where Lena discovered George has been hiding. It’s an underground gay sex club, and Ray finds George sitting in the front row for a show (which happens to co-star the escort in front of Marilyn’s star). George tells Ray that he’d make an excellent James Bond and then tells stories about Marilyn and Cary Grant.

Violence marks the end of ‘Mister Lucky’ … Ray comes back to the apartment to find Natalie’s ex on the pavement. He rushes upstairs and sees the aftermath of what looks like a murder-suicide. Natalie’s strangled corpse is on the bed. Another woman in Ray Donovan’s life has died.”

Thanks to Carl Rollyson

Marilyn Brings Sugar to ‘Total Film’

The latest issue of UK magazine Total Film comes with 100 different covers, each featuring one of their 100 Greatest Movie Characters. Sugar Kane, the adorable ditz played by Marilyn in Some Like It Hot, is ranked at #49 – so if you’re hunting for this rare gem, good luck! (Sugar also ranked 10th among the magazine’s top 100 female characters back in 2011, while Marilyn was featured in a Classic Film special edition earlier this year.)

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Marilyn, ‘The Misfits’ and Nevada Magazine

The tumultuous filming of The Misfits has become part of the Desert State’s history, as Janet Geary, publisher of Nevada magazine, observed in a talk for the Fallon lecture series, ‘Pictures of the West’, this week at the Churchill County Museum, as Steve Ranson reports for Nevada Appeal.

“The 1980s began to offer more in-depth articles such as on the native Indians of Nevada; Nevada’s buckaroos, a black and white collection, and the state’s ranches; the golden anniversary of Hoover Dam with a spectacular night-time photo of the dam; the magazine’s 50th anniversary; the 25th anniversary of the filming of the movie, The Misfits, starring Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe; and the state’s 125th birthday in 1989. She said The Misfits from December 1986 was the most popular cover.”

Marilyn and Emily Dickinson Inspire Swedish Poet

Marilyn and the 19th century American poet, Emily Dickinson, are the dual inspirations for I tvillingarnas tecken (In the Characters of the Twins), a 2015 collection by Eva-Stina Byggmastar, a Swedish poet living in Finland.

‘She surprises us readers with poems addressed to Marilyn Monroe and Emily Dickinson,’ a review notes. ‘Monroe and Dickinson become trustworthy guides through the wandering of the soul’s landscape – a walk towards acceptance of an honest, more sensitive and more lively self.’ Unfortunately, the book is not available in English.

While on the surface, the two women may appear to be polar opposites (Emily was famously reclusive), Marilyn had more in common with her than meets the eye, as she also wrote poetry and owned a volume of Dickinson’s selected works, as catalogued by Christie’s in 1999.

Thanks to Jerker Bergstrom at Immortal Marilyn