Was 1955 Hollywood’s Greatest Year?

As another year draws to a close, the Washington Post‘s critics are debuting what was the greatest year for movies.  For Scott Tobias, it’s 1955: and while he doesn’t mention The Seven Year Itch, it was one of the year’s biggest hits – and a shining example of the Cinemascope era.

“In the story of world cinema, the 1950s may seem like a transitional decade between Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’ and the more troubled, revolutionary visions of the French New Wave or the American film-brat renaissance of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. But it was an extraordinarily vibrant moment, steeped in post-war cynicism and emotional intensity as well as the eye-catching showmanship of VistaVision, Technicolor and CinemaScope. And no year crystallized these developments quite like 1955 … Above all, 1955 stands out for bright, expressive colors, when filmmakers took advantage of film stocks and processes that could render emotion with visual pop … There was no fuller year to be a moviegoer.”

Marilyn’s Misfits in ‘Yours Retro’

Marilyn is featured again in the latest issue of UK nostalgia magazine Yours Retro, with ‘The Curse of The Misfits’, a two-page article by Hannah Last, included with other pieces about Elvis Presley and his mother, the greatest Hollywood musicals, and cover girl Natalie Wood. (My only criticism of the article is that it repeats the unfounded allegation that Arthur Miller became involved with his third wife, Inge Morath, on the Misfits set. In fact, their relationship began with a chance reunion in New York in 1961.)

Thanks to Fraser Penney 

Did Rock Hudson Reach Out to Marilyn?

In some ways, Rock Hudson was Marilyn’s male counterpart as a misunderstood sex symbol of 1950s Hollywood.  They partied together at the How to Marry a Millionaire premiere in 1953, and in 1962 Rock would present Marilyn with her final award at the Golden Globes. Sadly they never worked together, but Rock was the initial favourite for her leading man in Bus Stop; and in 1958, she was considered for Pillow Talk before deciding to make Some Like It Hot instead. (Doris Day got the part, the beginning of a great comedy partnership with Rock.)

Until now, it has been unclear how well the two stars knew each other (although a recent hack tome made the unlikely claim that Marilyn and Rock were lovers – as we now know, Hudson was gay.) In a critically praised new biography, All That Heaven Allows, author Mark Griffin draws on interviews with Rock’s secretary, Lois Rupert, who claims they often spoke on the phone. Although the frequency of their conversations may be questioned, the obvious affection of their Golden Globes photos combined with this information could suggest that Rock was one of the few Hollywood figures trusted by Marilyn in her final months – and Griffin also reveals that Hudson generously donated his fee for narrating the 1963 documentary, Marilyn, to a cause very close to her heart.

“It was while he was on location for A Gathering Of Eagles that Rock received word that a friend had died. As Lois Rupert recalled, ‘Rock met me at his front door with the news … “Monroe is dead” is all he said.’

Only five months earlier, Rock and Marilyn Monroe had posed for photographers at the annual Golden Globes ceremonies. In images captured of the event, Monroe, who was named World Film Favourite, is beaming as Hudson enfolds her into a protective embrace. With a shared history of abuse and exploitation, it was inevitable that these two should be drawn to each other. Recognising that he posed no sexual threat to her, Monroe had latched on to Hudson and had lobbied for Rock to co-star with her in Let’s Make Love as well as her uncompleted final film, Something’s Got to Give.

Lois Rupert remembered that in the early 1960s, Rock regularly received late-night distress calls from Monroe as well as another troubled superstar. ‘If it wasn’t Marilyn Monroe crying on his shoulder, then it was Judy Garland,’ Rupert recalled. ‘It was almost like they took turns. Marilyn would call one night and Judy the next. He was always very patient, very understanding with both of them, even though he wasn’t getting much sleep. I think he liked playing the big brother who comes to the rescue.’

Within ten months of Monroe’s death, 20th Century-Fox would release a hastily assembled documentary entitled Marilyn. Fox had initially approached Frank Sinatra about narrating, but when the studio wasn’t able to come to terms with the singer Hudson stepped in. Hudson not only provided poignant commentary – both on and off camera – he donated his salary to help establish the Marilyn Monroe Memorial Fund at the Actors Studio.”

Marilyn and the BBC Icons

Marilyn is one of just 28 people nominated by an expert panel for the new BBC TV series, Icons: The Story of the 20th Century.  This 8-parter invites viewers to vote for the greatest icon of them all. Also in the entertainment category are Charlie Chaplin, Billie Holiday and David Bowie. All four will be featured in the second episode, on BBC2 at 9 pm on Tuesday, January 15, with actress Kathleen Turner among the advocates; and the result will be announced the following day on The One Show (on BBC1 at 7 pm.) The live final is scheduled for February 5 at 9 pm on BBC2.

Marilyn Slept Here: Sinatra, Crosby Homes for Sale

Unlike her celebrity peers, Marilyn preferred to live modestly. Nonetheless, you may recall that a Los Angeles home she shared with Joe DiMaggio was recently put on the market (see here) – and it has now been joined by two luxury estates with connections to Marilyn. As reported in Architectural Digest, Frank Sinatra’s former Los Angeles home is on sale for $12.5 million.  (It was last put up for sale in 2012, as reported here.)

Marilyn stayed in Sinatra’s guesthouse (shown at top) in 1961. They were having an on-off relationship, and Frank was abroad on tour. She later spent a few months renting an apartment in the Doheny Drive complex he owned, as a neighbour to his secretary, Gloria Lovell.

“Old Blue Eyes himself lived in the sprawling home in the 1950s and 60s and frequently hosted his famous friends … the home seems preordained to shelter celebrities from the Hollywood hullabaloo, as it rests at the end of a near mile-long driveway atop a private promontory that overlooks the vast 1,325-acre Chatsworth Reservoir nature preserve.

Constructed in 1949 by William Pereira, Byrdview is only one of four homes the famed architect designed. Sitting on seven acres, the midcentury-modern house comprises three structures: the main house, a guest house (with its own pool), and a cabana … Outdoors, beyond the pool, there’s a parking space for 100 cars and enough agricultural-zoned acreage that, should the new owners like their wines, a vineyard could be built.”

Secondly, the Rancho Mirage estate of Bing Crosby (near Palm Springs), where Marilyn and John F. Kennedy were among the weekend guests during the March 1962 Democratic Convention, is on sale for $5 million ( although the property has been available for some time, as reported here.) This is the only verified occasion when Marilyn and the president spent a night at the same address, and rather predictably, it’s being promoted as ‘the tryst house’, according to Bloomberg. (Incidentally, Sinatra had hoped to host Kennedy and was reportedly furious that he chose Crosby, a Republican, instead!)

“The 6,700-square-foot estate, spread across more than an acre, was built for the crooner and his second wife, Kathryn, in 1957. The single-story home, with a 1,400-square-foot master suite along with four other en-suite bedrooms, has been on and off the market since 2010, when it was first listed for $3.4 million. It’s also been available for rent through Airbnb for $3,400 a night.”

Cast Announced for ‘Norma Jeane Baker of Troy’

Earlier this year, it was reported here that Norma Jeane Baker of Troy, a new performance piece by poet Anne Carson, would make its debut at The Shed, a new multi-arts centre in Hudson Yards, NYC, when the venue opens in spring of 2019. Carson wrote the play – which is part-spoken, part opera, and inspired by the parallels between Marilyn and Helen of Troy – specifically for English actor Ben Whishaw and soprano Renee Fleming, with Katie Mitchell directing and music by Paul Clark. And while Ben won’t be singing, in a novel piece of casting it seems that he will indeed be playing Marilyn herself! “Norma Jeane Baker was Monroe’s real name and the play’s about Marilyn Monroe – and I play her … sort of,” he tells the Daily Mail‘s Baz Bamigboye (click on the photo below to read at full size.)

Thanks to Nicola at Marilyn Remembered

2018: A Year in Marilyn Headlines

With high-profile auctions, global exhibitions, plus new biographies and movie restorations, music and theatre, 2018 has been another busy year for Marilyn fans – and we’ve reported it all here at ES Updates..,

In January, Making Sense of Marilyn by Dr Andrew Norman was published, and Arthur Miller’s archives were acquired by the University of Texas. How to Marry a Millionaire was screened at Picturehouse cinemas across the UK, and plans for a TV mini-series based on Sebastien Cauchon’s novel, Marilyn 1962, were announced. Also in January, Dr Mathilde Krim – a pioneering AIDS researcher who hosted the party after President Kennedy’s birthday gala in 1962 – and actress Greta Thyssen, who began her career as Marilyn’s body double in Bus Stop, both passed away.

In February, ‘How Wrong Can I Be’, a little-known track recorded by Marilyn in 1948, was featured in the Oscar-winning film, The Shape of Water. Feminist art historian Griselda Pollock gave a lecture in Madrid about Marilyn’s relationship with Arthur Miller, and Bus Stop, the William Inge play upon which Marilyn’s 1956 hit movie was based, was reissued in paperback. And Marilyn was portrayed in a new Venice Beach mural by street artist Jonas Never.

In March, Don’t Bother to Knock was released on Blu-Ray, and a new documentary, Arthur Miller: Writer, had its premiere on US television. Marilyn was also featured in Battleground Korea, a box-set tribute to America’s forgotten war. In France, she graced the covers of two magazine specials: a Paris Match retrospective on the year she died, 1962; and Elle’s Women Who Changed History. Alfred Newman’s instrumental score for The Seven Year Itch was released on vinyl, and Anglo-Irish band Warsaw Radio released an MM-inspired single, ‘Ms. Monroe’. And perhaps Marilyn’s most eminent admirer, the world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking died aged 76.

In April, It’s Me, Sugar – a short comedy depicting Marilyn’s travails on the set of Some Like It Hot – made its debut on UK television, and film scholar Mary Wild taught a three-part course, Projecting Marilyn, at London’s Freud Museum. Rare snapshots of a young Marilyn were sold at Heritage Auctions, and Marilyn, photographer Emily Berl’s monograph of lookalikes, was published. The Grammy-winning British singer Ed Sheeran covered ‘Candle in the Wind,’ and rock supergroup A Perfect Circle also referenced Marilyn. And Art Paul, who designed the first Playboy cover, died aged 93.

In May, The Girl – Michelle Morgan’s new book presenting Marilyn as an ‘unlikely feminist’ – was published. An exhibition of photos by Milton Greene, Up Close With Marilyn, opened in London. And Hollygrove, formerly the orphanage where Marilyn stayed as a child, hosted their 7th annual Norma Jean Gala, raising $400,000 for their youth projects in Los Angeles. And MM scholar Donald McGovern’s book, Murder Orthodoxies: A Non-Conspiracist’s View of Marilyn Monroe’s Death, was published.

June 1st marked what would be Marilyn’s 92nd birthday. Also this month, Marilyn Monroe: Timeless, a photographic exhibition, opened in Suffolk; and Ted Stampfer’s remarkable collection of Monroe’s personal property and memorabilia came to Finland. A black wool dress owned by Marilyn was sold at Julien’s Auctions, raising $50,000 for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn, caused a stir in Stamford, Connecticut. Marilyn graced the covers of Yours Retro and American History, and was also featured in David Wills’ latest book, Hollywood Beach Beauties. Let’s Make Love was released on Blu-Ray, and There’s No Business Like Show Business was screened at Picturehouse cinemas across Britain. On the stage, Hollywood blacklist drama Fellow Travelers won praise in the Hamptons; Finishing the Picture – Arthur Miller’s last play, about the filming of The Misfits – had its European premiere in London; and Marilyn! The New Musical was launched in Las Vegas, but folded after just three weeks.  

In July, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes turned 65 as the acquisition of Twentieth Century Fox by Disney was finalised at $71.3 billion. Actress Sarah Paulson played a Monroe lookalike in a Prada commercial, and a New York bakery created a life-size cake inspired by Marilyn’s nude calendar pose.

In August, fans commemorated the 56th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. Charles Casillo’s new biography, Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon, was published. And Essentially Marilyn, an exhibition of Marilyn’s clothes and movie costumes, opened at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles, ahead of a major auction.

In September, a 4K restoration of Some Like It Hot premiered at the Venice Film Festival, alongside M – Anna Eriksson’s horror film inspired by the Monroe myth – and Goodbye Marilyn, an animated short from Marie de Razza. The Misfits was staged for the first time at the Dublin Theatre Festival. Tommy Redolfi’s graphic novel, Marilyn’s Monsters, and Confidential Confidential, Samantha Barbas’ exposé of the notorious 1950s gossip  magazine, were published. ABG, the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate, purchased rights to ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ for $50,000. Also this month, actress Laurie Mitchell – a member of Sweet Sue’s band in Some Like It Hot – and Christopher Lawford, son of Peter and Patricia Kennedy Lawford, both passed away.

In October, film historian Cari Beauchamp retold the story behind Marilyn’s 1953 photo shoot with Harold Lloyd in an in-depth article for Alta Journal. Marilyn was also profiled in UK magazine History Revealed, and her penchant for Emilio Pucci’s colourful designs was featured in Yours Retro. Elisa Jordan’s book about Rockhaven, the pioneering California women’s sanatorium who treated patients including Marilyn’s mother Gladys, was published. A documentary about Henri Dauman – who photographed Marilyn during her New York years – premiered at the Hamptons Film Festival. And James Karen, once a classmate of Marilyn at the Actors Studio, died aged 94.

In November, Marilyn’s 1962 Golden Globe was sold for a record-breaking $250,000, and her black Ford Thunderbird for $490,000, as part of the Hollywood Icons and Idols sale at Julien’s. In New York, Marilyn-related correspondence was auctioned at Bonham’s; and Marilyn’s ‘Siddur’ (Jewish prayer book) sold for $26,000. The legendary Moon of Baroda diamond, modelled by Marilyn in 1953, sold for $1.3 million at Christie’s in China. Also this month, Marilyn graced the cover of ReMIND magazine. A special edition of Some Like It Hot was released on DVD and Blu-Ray by the Criterion Collection; and Marilyn’s performance was featured in a California exhibit, Coronado’s Golden Age of Film. And filmmaker Nicolas Roeg – whose acclaimed 1985 movie, Insignificance, featured his then-wife Theresa Russell as Marilyn – died aged 90.

Finally, in December the extensive collection of Maite Minguez Ricart went under the hammer at Profiles in History. A dedicated online sale featuring photos of Marilyn from 1945-62 was hosted by Julien’s Auctions. Ted Stampfer’s collection arrived in Speyer, Germany for the latest stop in a touring show, Marilyn Monroe: The Unknown. And Merry Marilyn, a festive exhibition, opened at the National Cinema Museum in Turin, Italy.