Martin Turnbull is the author of the ‘Garden of Allah’ series of novels set during Hollywood’s golden age. Previous books have covered the making of such classic films as Gone With the Wind and Citizen Kane; historic events from World War II to the Red Scare; and threats to the movie capital from television and gossip rags. Now Marilyn’s conflict with Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck is featured in the just-published eighth instalment, City of Myths. Although his books are fictional, Turnbull has an encylopedic knowledge of Old Hollywood, and City of Myths begins, Marilyn is re-shooting scenes for River of No Return with Jean Negulesco (seen in the above photo), after clashing with director Otto Preminger. City of Myths is available in paperback or via Kindle – and it’s also on offer as part of an Amazon ebook bundle with Turnbull’s other novels.
“When you live in a city built on shifting sands of myth, it can be hard to know which way is up. Kathryn Massey spends her days spreading rumors and keeping secrets. Losing herself one headline at a time has left Kathryn’s personal identity scattered—and dumps her at the narrow end of the bargaining table with the man she trusts the least. Gwendolyn Brick has simpler aspirations. As a costume designer, her sights are set on glamour, not heights of fame. But her friendship with Marilyn Monroe puts her directly into the crosshairs of studio head, Darryl Zanuck—and he’s someone you don’t say no to. Marcus Adler is stuck in a much more precarious situation. Exiled in Rome but under the spell of an unexpected romance, he’ll have to learn to say goodbye to everything he’s accomplished in order to give love a chance. In City of Myths the road through Hollywood bears sharply to the right as those who dare to play its game can easily become lost in its intoxicating glow.”
The gulf between Marilyn’s private and public personae is explored in a new video essay created by Lara Mubayadeen and Luke Jamieson for Film School Rejects. The short film’s title, ‘Actress Must Have No Mouth’, is lifted from Marilyn’s private journals, collected in the 2010 book, Fragments. Other quotes are superimposed onto archival footage of Marilyn talking to the press, but unfortunately, some of her actual responses to reporters’ questions – often intelligent and witty – have been cut out, giving the footage a retrospective note of tragedy.
The first photo of Gemma Arterton in It’s Me, Sugar, the new TV comedy recreating the troubled production of Some Like It Hot, has been posted at Deadline (so at least they’ve got Marilyn’s orange robe right), along with a few more details: firstly, it’s produced by UK satellite channel Sky Arts; secondly, that Billy Wilder will be played by James Purefoy; and thirdly, it is just 30 minutes long and will be aired later this spring. You can read Gemma’s comments on the role here.
Michael Colby is a songwriter and the grandson of Ben and Mary Bodne, who owned Manhattan’s famed Algonquin Hotel from 1946-1987. In an interview with the New York Post‘s Barbara Hoffman, Colby recounts a somewhat risque tale of Marilyn.
“‘Marilyn Monroe used to come in at lunchtime and get a Beefeater martini,’ says Michael Colby, striding past the bar in the Algonquin Hotel on West 44th Street. And it was just down the street, at Fifth Avenue, that his grandmother once spotted her wearing a white mink coat.
‘If you think that’s something,’ the actress told her, perhaps after a few too many martinis, ‘you should see what’s underneath!’
Yes, Colby tells the Post, leaning against a portrait of hotel regular Tallulah Bankhead: His granny got flashed by Monroe.”
As fans will know, Marilyn was proud of her body, often went out sans underwear and thought nothing of wandering round her apartment or dressing room nude. Sam Shaw and Yves Montand have also told of similar encounters; but tales of Marilyn have a way of growing so that practically anyone vaguely connected to her will claim to have experienced the same.
Monroe biographer Carl Rollyson considers it ‘possible’, but points out that the Algonquin was not known as one of Marilyn’s more regular haunts, and that particular brand of exhibitionism was more commonly associated with the outrageous Tallulah Bankhead.
Anticipating this year’s Oscar ceremony, the current issue of Entertainment Weekly (dated February 23-March 2) features extensive coverage of the Academy Awards’ 90-year history. Of course, Marilyn never won an Oscar, nor was she even nominated. But her role in Some Like It Hot, which won her a Golden Globe, is mentioned in a list of legendary ‘Oscar disses.’
Although Some Like It Hot is her best-known film, Marilyn’s screen time was less than her co-stars. Were it not for her top billing, her performance would arguably be more suited to the Best Supporting Actress category. Marilyn’s bombshell image and flair for comedy both worked against her being taken seriously by the Hollywood establishment. But perhaps the most decisive factor was her rebellion against Twentieth Century Fox.
After winning her contractual battle with the studio, her acclaimed comeback in Bus Stop (1956) was overlooked by the Academy – a snub she never forgot. Her next performance, in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), won awards in Europe, while her last completed film, The Misfits (1961), was also her most mature dramatic role. But at the time, neither were particularly well-received in the US.
In 1964, columnist Sheilah Graham petitioned unsuccessfully for Marilyn to be given a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. However, this is not standard practice within the Academy and thus is highly unlikely to happen now. Nonetheless, Marilyn’s films remain hugely popular and for many, she is the most enduring symbol of movies and glamour – proof, if proof were needed, that you don’t need an Oscar to be a legend.
Writing for the California Sun, Noah Smith recalls Marilyn’s brief reign as the inaugural Artichoke Queen of Castroville in 1948 (and the festival is still going strong.)
“Few entertainers were ever more in demand than Marilyn Monroe.
However, when she was 22 years old, Monroe was not even the first choice to be the inaugural Artichoke Queen in Castroville, a farming community about 15 miles northeast of Monterey and a few miles off the coast.
What Monroe lacked in name recognition, however, she made up for in being available, and the honorary title was bestowed upon her this week in 1948.”
You can read more posts about Marilyn’s artichoke adventures here.
Designer Jeremy Scott has always been fascinated by pop culture. In his fall 2018 ready-to-wear collection for Moschino, unveiled yesterday at Milan Fashion Week, he draws on the many myths about Marilyn and the Kennedys, adding his own farcical spin that Jackie Kennedy was really an alien, and the killer of both Marilyn and JFK. It’s fun to imagine what Marilyn would have worn in the 1960s – she was very fond of Pucci – and Scott’s designs are a sort of postmodern blend of the Space Age and Pop Art. In terms of his Marilyn-esque designs (as modelled here by Bella Hadid), I think the evening gowns work best. But although the concept is meant to be humorous, I do wish Scott had bypassed these tired old tropes which tend to turn Marilyn into what she most feared becoming (a joke.)
While Marilyn had fraught relationships with many of her directors, one of the few who gained her abiding trust was Jean Negulesco. After guiding her through a brilliant comedic performance in How to Marry a Millionaire, he helped to reshoot scenes from River of No Return and The Seven Year Itch, and was later mooted to replace George Cukor on the ill-fated Something’s Got to Give.
In his 1984 memoir, Things I Did … And Things I Think I Did, the Romanian-born Negulesco revealed a striking pen portrait of Marilyn from 1953 – and before coming to America in the 1930s, he had been an artist in Paris. This still-life painting from 1926 was featured in The Artist Sees Things Differently, on display until April 29 at Princeton University Art Museum, alongside works by Paul Cézanne, Georges Braque and Georgia O’Keeffe.
“FINAL preparations are underway a special event that aims to re-create the golden era of cinemas in Chester – complete with usherettes, ice-cream trays and a full length classic feature film.
The event, ‘An Evening at The Movies’, will take a nostalgic look back at the long-gone picture palaces that Cestrians used to flock to.
Taking place at Upton Village Hall on Sunday (February 25) from 7.15pm, the venue will include a display of memorabilia from some of the much loved Cinemas in Chester including The Regal, Odeon, Gaumount, The Classic and The Musical Hall.
One of the event organisers, Peter Davies, who worked at The ABC, Classic and Odeon Cinemas in Chester over a fifty two year period, said: ‘We are aiming to re-create what many regard as the golden era of cinema complete with many of the features that made ‘going to the flicks’ special.
We will be screening ‘Cinemas that Chester had…then lost’ which is formed around a radio interview. The film contains so much film footage and photographs of cinemas from the Picturedrome to Storyhouse that are unique and tell the story of the great picture palaces in Chester. During the interval we will be bringing back the trimmings of footlights, curtains, usherettes and ice cream trays. Then we are screening the classic film Some Like It Hot.
It’s going to be a very special evening, full of nostalgia. we have even acquired the original ticket machine from the ABC Regal, and together with one of the original cashiers from the Cinema, we will bring it back into use on the night. Many of our helpers on the day are former staff members from the old Chester picture houses and I’m sure the event will bring back many happy memories.'”