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.'”
Australian actress Margot Robbie, currently starring in the Oscar-nominated I, Tonya, has revealed her thoughts on Marilyn and her era, The List reports. “I love old films,” Margot says, “but my heart breaks when I watch Marilyn Monroe’s, because the characters she plays are so misogynistic and degrading that it’s mind-boggling that that was the norm. The same with Bonnie and Clyde; parts of it make my blood boil.” (I mostly agree with this, although I would add that it’s a testament to Marilyn’s talent that she was able to rise above or at least subvert her ‘dumb blonde’ typecasting. And sadly, sexism in movies is far from being a thing of the past.)
Black-Eyed Peas singer Fergie has been widely mocked for ‘trying to do a Marilyn Monroe’ with her jazzy, slowed-down performance of the Star-Spangled Banner at the recent NBA All-Star game. As the BBC reports, public criticism has been so fierce that the beleaguered star has now issued a public apology.
Personally, I thought Fergie was probably aiming for a soulful, rather than outright sexy interpretation, although she may have overreached herself in the attempt. But while Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ raised a few eyebrows at the time (and has done so ever since), it ultimately succeeded on its own terms as a playfully flirtatious skit for an informal, if glitzy occasion. Whereas America’s national anthem (not to mention the NBA) has proved to be a far riskier proposition.
Burlesque queen and beauty maven Dita Von Teese has just released her first album, Soundtrack for Seduction. “I’m not a singer,” she tells PAPER magazine. “I am not looking to break into music. I’m not even used to talking about my music and my voice. Still, I’ve always had this fantasy about recording some songs. I remember when I was 18 or 19 and first started posing for vintage style pin-ups, I discovered a compilation record with all of these bombshells on it: Brigitte Bardot, Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe. I loved the idea of doing something like that too. I remember hearing that Marilyn Monroe used to record just one line at a time, that she couldn’t really sing either … That kind of gave me the idea that maybe I could do that too.”
“I’m more attracted to glamour than natural beauty,” Dita told The Guardian in 2007. “The young Marilyn Monroe was a pretty girl in a sea of pretty girls. Then she had her hair bleached, fake eyelashes, and that’s when she became extraordinary. It’s that idea of what you’re not born with, you can create.” Dita has also expressed her admiration for Marilyn on Twitter.
However, I don’t agree with Dita that Marilyn ‘couldn’t really sing.’ Unlike many other movie stars of her day (such as Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Kim Novak and Natalie Wood), Marilyn performed her own songs. Her vocal talents were highly rated by leading musicians, including Lionel Newman and Hal Schaefer. But her range was technically limited, and for the most part, her singing was an extension of her acting. In fact, a lot of her movies were made in much the same way – line by line – a process that evolved more from her innate perfectionism than any default in her abilities.