Remembering Marilyn’s Nikon Moment

This lovely photo of Marilyn holding a Nikon F camera – shot by Bert Stern in 1962 – has been used for an advertising campaign to celebrate the Japanese company’s centenary. You can read the backstory at Wired.

“IN THE SUMMER of 1962, Bert Stern arrived at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles to shoot Marilyn Monroe with the last camera anyone expected — the Nikon F … Tough, portable and the most advanced camera of its day, the F would be used to capture everything from overseas battles to NASA space missions to the Super Bowl — but Stern would use it to revolutionize the world of celebrities …’On the Nikon, you’re looking right through the lens, so the shutter goes black when the picture is taken,’ he later said. ‘At that perfect moment, you just have to close your eyes and jump — you have to grab it.’

While Nikon continues to send cameras to the far corners of the galaxy, expanding the possibilities of photography, it remains Stern who first popularized them in another field — celebrities. In 1962, he had been waiting for hours in the Bel-Air when the world’s most famous actress suddenly arrived. ‘She was alone wearing a scarf and green slacks and a sweater,’ Stern later wrote. ‘She had no makeup on. I said, “You’re beautiful” and she said, “What a nice thing to say”‘ … ‘There have been many beautiful women since Marilyn Monroe,’ he later said. ‘But who is there that has her total magic? Nobody has that vulnerability anymore.'”

And here are some more images from this delightful sitting…

Thanks to Johann

Richard C. Miller’s Norma Jeane Portfolio

A vintage carbro print of Richard C. Miller’s ‘wedding portrait’ of 19 year-old Norma Jeane Dougherty – which made the cover of True Romances magazine in 1946 – is up for sale at Santa Monica Auctions on October 7 with an estimated price of $60,000-$80,000, as LA Weekly reportsThe young model wore her own wedding dress for the shoot, and borrowed a bridal prayer book from Miller’s wife Margaret.

The prayer book is included in the lot, as well as a signed model release form, a linen clamshell box containing twelve more prints, and a photo of the newly blonde Norma Jeane and ‘Dick’ at work on a later beach session. Miller’s remarkable colour images capture the transformation from Norma Jeane to Marilyn, although ironically, her own first marriage would end in divorce just months after the ‘wedding portrait’ was published. Miller met Marilyn again in 1959, on the set of Some Like It Hot. You can read my tribute to him here.

Marilyn’s Black Thunderbird For Sale

Marilyn’s black Ford Thunderbird – which she later gave to John Strasberg as a birthday gift – will be auctioned at Julien’s as part of their annual Icons & Idols sale on November 17, with an estimated price of $300,000-$500,000 (approximately £190,000 -£380,000 in British currency.) More details on the auction to follow…

“A published report at the time suggests that Monroe and Miller drove this vehicle to their civil wedding ceremony on June 28, 1956 and likely their private wedding on June 30, 1956. It was a powerful car for its time, with a 225 horsepower V-8 engine and a top speed of 113 MPH. The car features a complete dual, through the bumper exhaust system, giving a deep throaty roar at speed–adding to its ‘va-va voom’ personality.”

Reinventing Marilyn’s ‘Misfits’ in Dublin

A stage adaptation of The Misfits is set to open at the Dublin Theatre Festival on September 27. Ahead of the premiere, Donald Clarke surveys the production for the Irish Times. As the photos indicate, the cast and crew are not going to replicate the 1961 movie (Aoibhinn McGinnity, who will play Roslyn Tabor, hasn’t seen it.) This is probably a wise decision as the original is so iconic – however, director Annie Ryan has much to say about it, and Marilyn’s performance.

“The picture has an awkward position in film history. It is remembered for a famously disordered production … Most poignantly, the last scene in The Misfits, showing Monroe and Gable sharing the front seat of a truck, stands as a farewell to both those imperishable stars.

Elements of the picture deserve celebration … Monroe really does make something of a dramatic role. Working with Paula Strasberg, one of the era’s great acting coaches, she managed to excise almost all traces of the breathy comic persona that helped her to superstardom.

‘The work in it,’ Ryan sighs. ‘You can really feel Paula Strasberg right behind the camera. She is going for a moment-to-moment method acting truth, but what I see there is the effort in every scene. I watch it thinking: that poor woman. From an acting perspective, it is absolute torture.’

The Misfits is something different. Even before we sit down, Ryan, her Chicagoan accent still largely intact, is giving out about the way Thelma Ritter is underused and about how uncomfortable she is with Miller’s attempts to ‘save’ Marilyn through art.

‘This isn’t a great film. It’s a really flawed film,’ she says. ‘I came upon it because it’s in his collected plays. My impulse came before the 2016 election. There isn’t a strong narrative, but there could be something to it. And it only has five people. I can’t afford a bigger cast than that unless I partner with a bigger company. Part of my thinking was: Can this work?’

She mentions the 2016 US presidential election. Obviously, all American art is now about Donald Trump. You can’t get away from him. The Misfits finds Monroe’s Roslyn, in Reno for a divorce, meeting three very different, but equally damaged, hunks of cowboy masculinity and then following them as they hunt mustangs in the nearby desert. Over 50 years ago, these characters were already complaining that the world had passed them by.

‘I suspect 60 or 70 per cent of those going in won’t have seen the film,’ Ryan says. ‘But they’ll know the iconography. They’ll have seen the photographs. Everyone knows about The Misfits even if they haven’t seen it. The image of the expanse. The image of Marilyn in the hat and the shirt. They are famous images. You have to accept they are in the room.’

It helps that Ryan is not working from the original script. Her production of The Misfits is officially an adaptation of a novella that Miller published to tie in with the release of the film.

‘That’s what I have the rights to cut,’ she says. ‘It’s very hard to get the rights to a film because the film company owns the rights.’

‘I think Miller did [Marilyn] a disservice by writing a version of herself,’ Ryan says. ‘He did this as a gift. But there’s no mask. She has an innocence. She has a compassion for all living things, which comes from Marilyn. She has an incredibly dysfunctional family background, which comes from Marilyn. Men are falling over each other to be next to her. There is a lot of language in the text about “the golden girl” arriving. No actor can play themselves. Most actors can’t face speaking in public, They just can’t bear it.’

Echoes of the #MeToo movement creep into The Misfits. The production will have much to do with how men interact with (and sometimes ignore) women in social engagements. Marilyn Monroe suffered more from those abuses than most. You see it in her films. You read about it in her life.

‘We see how she has become expert at saying “no” in a really nice way,’ Ryan says of Roslyn. ‘We have all been there to some degree. What would it be like to imagine that character now without sexing her up?’

 Some reclaiming and revaluating is in order.

‘I feel that we are doing this for Marilyn’s ghost in some way.'”

Marilyn and Joe at the Tides Motel

Gary Vitacco-Robles, author of Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, has posted the first installment of an in-depth, 2-part article about Marilyn’s March 1961 holiday with ex-husband Joe DiMaggio in Florida – focusing on the complex love story behind their stay at the Tides Motel – on his Tampa Bay Author blog today.

“When DiMaggio and Marilyn reconnected during the Christmas holidays of 1960, following her separation from playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn felt validated by DiMaggio’s insightful comment that, after progressing in therapy, he realized he would have divorced a man like himself, had he been in her shoes.

DiMaggio deeply loved Marilyn, and  her attraction to him remained strong. ‘Marilyn knew where she stood with him,’ publicist Lois Weber Smith said. ‘He was always there, she could call on him, lean on him, depend on him, be certain of him. It was a marvelous feeling of comfort for her.’

In late march, Marilyn and DiMaggio escaped the hectic pace of their public and professional lives and the cold of New York and together traveled to Tampa Bay’s Suncoast … The couple registered in separate guest rooms across from each other in the main building of the exclusive Tides Resort & Bath Club on the Gulf of Mexico … Eventually, the resort’s management relocated the famous couple to the rooftop for more private sunbathing … In the evenings, the couple dined intimately at the Wine House Restaurant, later the Wine Cellar, on Gulf Boulevard, located next to the Zebra Lounge.”

Gene Lester’s Marilyn: Rare Outtakes Unveiled

Gene Lester (1910-1994) began his career as a radio singer before moving into photography. He opened a studio in Hollywood in 1940, and became the Saturday Evening Post‘s West Coast correspondent for the next thirty years.

He first photographed a young Marilyn in 1947, and thereafter on the set of There’s No Business Like Show Business in 1954, and on several occasions in 1956, in which her business partner Milton Greene was also present: including a glamour shoot for the Post‘s famous Pete Martin interview, plus snaps outside the Beverly Glen home Marilyn rented while filming Bus Stop, and her first photo-call after meeting co-star Don Murray.

A number of previously unseen photos by Gene Lester are now available to view on the Getty Images website. Enjoy!

‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’

Marilyn with Milton Greene

With Don Murray in ‘Bus Stop’

‘Face to Face’ With Marilyn in The Hague

Marilyn is featured in Face to Face, a new exhibition at the National Archives in The Hague, Netherlands until January 6, 2019.

“The way we look at history is always shaded by our own background. With every narrative, we have to ask: What are we looking at? Whose story is being told? And from whose perspective has that story been recorded? The exhibition FACE TO FACE uncovers both well known testimonies and hidden stories from the holdings of the National Archives, the largest photography collection in the Netherlands.

Thanks to Sacha at Marilyn Remembered

Marilyn Auction News: Calendars, Letters and More

A letter written to Marilyn by Pat Newcomb, her publicist and close friend for the last two years of her life, is among the items on auction in the UK tomorrow (Saturday, September 22), as Fox News reports.

Henry Aldridge & Sons, based in Devizes, Wiltshire, is offering several lots from the estate of Monroe collector David Gainsborough Roberts, who died in 2016. Bidding opens at 10 am GMT, and bids can also be made online via The Salesroom or Invaluable (but you’ll need to register first.)

In the letter, Pat advises Marilyn on how to field intrusive questions from the acerbic Hollywood columnist, Hedda Hopper. “If you want to return her call … I think it would be a good idea and you can avoid answering anything you don’t want,” Pat writes. “When she asks what you did over the holidays you just say ‘nothing special’ – that gives her nothing to print. You ‘saw a few friends, whom she doesn’t know anyway’ and just relaxed.'” Probably referring to the latest dance craze, Pat makes a further suggestion: “You can tell Hedda you hear she’s quite a ‘Twister’ and she’ll do a monologue which will completely take her away from anything about you.”

Pat also mentions that “Harrison Cannall’s office called to say that Joe [DiMaggio] was in town and could I confirm it. I said I didn’t know and didn’t discuss your personal life in any case.” Pat refers to related matters, such as the title of an upcoming Redbook article. The letter has an estimated price of £300-£500.

Another letter from Marilyn’s psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson,  is dated June 30, 1962, billing her for services totalling $1,250, with an estimated price of £400-£600.

Two vintage movie posters are also available, plus a four-page 1955 calendar featuring a censored version of Marilyn’s famous nude photo by Tom Kelley and three other pin-up shots, complete with envelope (estimated at £600-£800.)