2019: A Year In Marilyn Headlines

With a new decade just days away, let’s look back at some of the biggest Marilyn-related stories of 2019. (You can read recaps from previous years here.)

In January, Marilyn was featured in the BBC documentary series, Icons: The Story of the 20th Century. The Palm Springs adventures of Marilyn and other Hollywood legends inspired a cover story for Inland Empire magazine; and UK nostalgia magazine Yours Retro went behind the scenes of The Misfits. Also this month, Fleet Street photographer Horace Ward, film critic Jonas Mekas, plus Broadway legend Carol Channing – the original Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – and Babs Simpson, the fashion editor who oversaw Marilyn’s 1962 Vogue shoot with Bert Stern, all passed away.

In February, Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe, an academic study of Marilyn’s filmography by Amanda Konkle, was published. A Week With Marilyn – an exhibition of photos by Ed Feingersh – and a stage adaptation of All About Eve opened in London. Also this month, Joe DiMaggio’s souvenir album from his trip to Japan with Marilyn sold for $12,000 at Heritage Auctions. 270 Monroe impersonators gathered at the annual Marilyn Jetty Swim for cancer research in Adelaide, Australia. And John Bailey, who created the iconic Marilyn mural in Washington D.C., died aged 78.

March 29th marked 60 years since the premiere of Some Like It Hot. Also this month, Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio’s ‘Hollywood hideaway’ sold for $2.727 million. Spanish artist and curator Frederic Cabanas revisited Marilyn’s New York haunts in a new booklet, Marilyn Monroe: Side By Side; and an exhibition featuring photographer Emily Berl’s portraits of Monroe impersonators, opened in Derby. Retro-style singer Haley Reinhart referenced Marilyn in ‘Honey, There’s the Door’; and Ariana Grande covered ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ on tour. Actress Kathryn Kane (an inspiration behind Sugar Kane’s name in Some Like It Hot) and guitarist Dick Dale, who played an Elvis impersonator in Let’s Make Love, both passed away.

In April, Hollywood Liar, French cartoonist Luz’s graphic novel inspired by The Misfits, was published; and Norma Jeane Baker of Troy – poet Anne Carson’s restaging of Euripides’ Helen – opened in New York. Waiting For The Miracle To Come, a movie starring Charlotte Rampling as an MM impersonator, was released. A print of Richard Avedon’s melancholy portrait of Marilyn sold for $75,000 at Sotheby’s.And celebrity make-up artist Kim Goodwin, a lifelong Monroe fan who created a series of highly collectable dolls, died.

In May, Don Murray reminisced about working with Marilyn on Bus Stop in a cover story for Closer magazine. Monroe biographer Gary Vitacco-Robles presented a 5-part vodcast series, American Icon: Where Healing Meets Life,exploring Marilyn’s mental health issues. This month also marked 70 years since Marilyn posed for her notorious nude calendar. And Doris Day, one of Marilyn’s most famous peers, died aged 97.

In July, two new books were published: Michelle Morgan’s The Little Book Of Marilyn, and Marilyn & Me (aka The Starlet and the Spy), a novel by Korean author Ji-Min Lee. Divine Marilyn, an exhibition featuring 200 images by various photographers, opened in Paris; and a Monroe-themed pink gin was launched by Burleigh’s in the UK. Also in July, Marilyn graced the covers of France’s New Literary Magazine and Australian Women’s Weekly. Marilyn’s only half-sister, Berniece Baker Miracle, celebrated her 100th birthday; and Canadian crime writer Howard Engel, who began his career with a bit part in Niagara, died aged 88.

August marked the 57th anniversary of Marilyn’s death, with a 3-part TV investigation, Scandalous, and a podcast series. Also this month, Marilyn made the cover of Ireland’s Social & Personal magazine, and the Atlanta Jewish Times. The Munro clan of Moray revealed DNA evidence of Marilyn’s Scottish heritage, while cabaret artist Viviana Zarbo staged a musical tribute to Marilyn at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

September marked 65 years since Marilyn filmed the iconic ‘subway scene‘ from The Seven Year Itch. Also this month, The Goddess and the Girl Next Door – John William Law’s book about the making of Something’s Got to Give – was published, and Marilyn graced the cover of an all-star monograph, Hollywood Book Club. She was ranked No. 1 in a British magazine special, 100 Greatest Movie Icons, while four of her iconic film costumes were displayed at London’s May Fair Hotel, and featured in The Lady magazine. An adaptation of her unfinished memoir, Marilyn: Confession Inachevée, was staged in Paris. And film historian Rudy Behlmer (author of A Memo to Darryl F. Zanuck), photographer Robert Frank, and actress Carol Lynley all passed away.

In October, Marilyn took eighth place in the annual Forbes Top-Earning Dead Celebrities poll, with her estate declaring a $13 million profit this year. A new picture book, Biographic: Marilyn, was published; and rock star Debbie Harry revealed how Marilyn influenced Blondie in her memoir, Face It. A staged reading of Marilyn, Mom & Me – Luke Yankee’s play about Marilyn’s friendship with Bus Stop co-star Eileen Heckart – was held in Los Angeles, while Prism, Terry Johnson’s play about Marilyn’s favourite cameraman, Jack Cardiff, toured theatres in the UK. Also this month, Diahann Carroll – the trailblazing singer and actress who performed alongside Marilyn at the star-studded gala for President Kennedy – and Robert Evans, who missed out on a part in Let’s Make Love before reinventing himself as one of Hollywood’s greatest producers, both died.

In November, Marilyn’s ‘Heat Wave’ costume from There’s No Business Like Show Business was sold for $280,000 in a dedicated sale at Julien’s Auctions. Also at Julien’s this month, a baseball signed by Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio fetched $137,500; and in New York, her Jewish menorah was sold for $90,000. An exhibition of Marilyn’s personal property – including items from the collections of Greg Schreiner and Scott Fortner – was held at the Blancpain boutique in Manhattan, and a Marilyn figurine was launched at Funko Pop‘s new Hollywood store.

Also in November, a special edition of All About Eve was released by the Criterion Collection, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was included in the Musicals! season at London’s BFI. The Seven Year Itch was featured in a TCM book, Cinematic Cities: New York, and a mural inspired by Warhol’s Marilyn was unveiled in Chicago. On the magazine front, Military History Quarterly published a cover story about Marilyn’s 1954 tour of Korea; and she was also profiled in UK quarterly The Chap. And veteran character actor Michael J. Pollard, who worked with Marilyn at the Actors Studio, passed away.

And finally, in December Yours Retro published a cover story about Marilyn’s first marriage. The elegant brown suit worn by Marilyn in Love Nest was sold for $30,000 at Profiles in History, while rare modelling photos of a 19 year-old Norma Jeane, taken by Paul Parry in 1946, went under the hammer at Bonham’s. US clothing brand L’Agence launched a range inspired by Bert Stern’s images of Marilyn. Film historian Cari Beauchamp wrote about the Hollywood Studio Club, where Marilyn lived as a starlet, for Vanity Fair. And actress Natalie Trundy – the wife of Marilyn’s press agent, Arthur P. Jacobs – and director Jack Garfein, another friend from the Actors Studio, both died in December.

Mitchum Goes West With Marilyn

The Western Films of Robert Mitchum, a new book by Gene Freese, focuses on the actor’s many roles as ‘Hollywood’s cowboy rebel’ from the 1940s-70s, including his collaboration with Marilyn.

River of No Return opposite iconic sex symbol Monroe is one of Mitchum’s most popular and enduring titles, not a classic by any means but an entertaining, entirely pleasant and colourful film to view. It was a 20th Century Fox loan-out, shot in CinemaScope and stereophonic sound in the heart of the Canadian Rockies … Otto Preminger was an odd choice to direct the picture. It was his sole Western.

Regarding his chemistry with Monroe, the film relies on their growing desire for one another as they begin to see the other in a different light. That wasn’t good enough for Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck, who requested that Preminger add a body massage and an aggressive kissing scene that appears out of character for the extremely laid-back Mitchum … Already out of his element on the film and on to another project, Preminger refused to film the scene. Director Jean Negulesco helmed the footage of physical contact between the two stars in the late fall of 1953 … ‘She actually bit me in our little wrestle scene,’ Mitchum said. ‘I didn’t mind it.’

Monroe was impressed by Mitchum and talked of their passionate embrace in the film’s pressbook: ‘This is a brand new experience for me. I have never had a romantic love scene with a rugged he-man. It’s quite enjoyable’ … Monroe was happy for the opportunity to wear shoes on the film due to Mitchum’s height. She usually had to go barefoot because of being paired with short male co-stars, but Mitchum towered above her throughout. She expounded on Mitchum in the pressbook, revealing, ‘He’s one of the most fascinating men I’ve ever met. He’s a man’s man, the outdoor he-man type, but he possesses a great inner strength … I had always heard he was one of the nicest guys in the business. It was wonderful to discover that the legend was not only true – but an understatement.’

Mitchum had known Marilyn Monroe back when she was a teenager named Norma Jeane Baker and married to his Lockheed pal Jim Dougherty … Fox no doubt wanted to play up the smouldering physical attraction between sex symbols Mitchum and Monroe, but for some of the filming Monroe’s baseball player boyfriend Joe DiMaggio was present. Mitchum maintained that he never found Monroe sexy despite her screen image. To him, she was a sad and confused soul.

If 20th Century-Fox was unable to play up a love affair between the two stars, they could emphasise the dangers of the location … At one point on the river, Monroe’s wading boots filled up with water and Mitchum had to rescue her from drowning, to the delight of the publicists. On another occasion, the stars were on a raft that became lodged on the rapids after a safety cable snapped. Stuntman Norman Bishop had to go out in a lifeboat and rescue the actors … but Monroe wouldn’t get on the boat unless the ill Mitchum did at the same time. Publicists again attributed the rescue to Mitchum. Finally, Monroe slipped on a stone in the riverbank and sprained an ankle. When she was outfitted with a leg cast, Mitchum started calling her Hopalong.

Back in Hollywood, the film’s action was redone in close-up with the principals in a studio water tank … Mitchum played up the CinemaScope danger for the press, saying, ‘… I’ve done things in this picture which would give some stuntmen the shivers. The amazing thing is how Marilyn and Tommy Rettig, who plays my son, have done them … I was so struck with admiration for my two companions. I almost forgot to be frightened for myself …’

Feeling that Monroe had a personality that was too fragile for Hollywood, Mitchum tried to look out for her in other ways. The greatest hurdle for Monroe to overcome on the film was a constant reliance on instruction and positive analysis from acting coach Natasha Lytess … As Preminger and the studio-approved Lytess were at great odds, Mitchum and assistant director Paul Helmick became go-betweens for Monroe and the director … Throughout the extended delays, [Mitchum] tended to drink, even wandering off for a beer with the locals at times …

‘She was very shy, very pleasant, very sweet,’ Mitchum said of Monroe in a 1980s WEDU TV interview. He continued: ‘But she was not too comfortable around people because I suppose her background had not prepared her for sort of easy sociality. She was convinced that she was not terribly pretty or sexy … At that time, I didn’t think she knew too many people who were very friendly to her. Growing up in that atmosphere of agents, directors and journalists, she seemed like a lost child … Her position in this atmosphere was like Alice in Wonderland. The whole thing was through the looking glass and she could not believe that anyone was very serious about her.'”

Marilyn’s Blonde Brew at M&S

One of Marilyn’s early modelling assignments was for Pabst Beer; and in the 1980s, footage from Some Like It Hot was used in a TV commercial for Holsten Pils lager. Now the Anarchy Brew Co. are using Marilyn’s image to promote their ‘Blonde Star‘ ale, described as ‘light in body but certainly not in flavour’, now available from UK retailers including the decidedly non-anarchic Marks & Spencer.

Thanks to Hazel at Marilyn Remembered

Marilyn’s ‘Love Nest’ Suit Sold for $30,000

An elegant brown wool peplum skirt suit with velvet shawl lapel, designed by Charles LeMaire and worn by Marilyn for her opening scene as Roberta in Love Nest (1951), was sold for $30,000 last week at Profiles in History. (Marilyn may have sported a different lapel in the movie, however.)

This lovely photo, inscribed by a young Marilyn to ‘Grace and Daddy‘ (the Goddards), also fetched $30,000. There were around fifty Monroe-related lots in the Hollywood – A Collector’s Ransom auction but many went unsold, including costumes from A Ticket to Tomahawk and Don’t Bother to Knock, and Marilyn’s annotated screenplay for The Seven Year Itch.

Marilyn’s ‘Mirror’ Review Goes to Print

My review of Amanda Konkle’s excellent book, Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe, is featured in the latest issue (#38) of UK fanzine Mad About Marilyn, alongside articles about Marilyn’s arduous promotional tour for the final Marx Brothers movie, Love Happy (1949); ‘A New Marilyn Comes Back’, first published by Movie Spotlight in 1956; and a profile of photographer Bruno Bernard, aka ‘Bernard of Hollywood’.

If you’d like to subscribe to Mad About Marilyn, please email Emma: emmadowning@blueyonder.co.uk

Ellen Burstyn Inspired by Marilyn

Ellen Burstyn is one of America’s most respected actresses. Now 87, she won Oscars for her work in The Last Picture Show and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and also enjoyed a distinguished stage career, winning the Sarah Siddons Award. She joined the Actors Studio in 1967, and is now a co-president. Ellen has long been an admirer of Marilyn, praising Carl Rollyson’s biography, A Life of the Actress, and appearing in documentaries like The Mortal Goddess and Love, Marilyn. As a new interview with Vulture‘s Matt Zoller Seitz reveals, Ellen still holds a torch for Marilyn today.

All around us are pictures commemorating her experiences as an actress, a mother, a grandmother, an arts administrator, a producer, and a performer. Burstyn’s face is instantly recognizable, and she has been one of our finest actors for decades, but despite her eventful life and career, she has managed to avoid the kind of notoriety that might have limited her freedom, talent, and generosity. Among the pictures in her apartment is a black-and-white close-up of Marilyn Monroe from the early 1960s [not shown]. ‘I didn’t know her, but I adored her,’ she explains. ‘And she was so troubled and vulnerable because she had what I call scary fame, the kind that jumps out like this,’ she says, snarling like a predator and clawing at the air. ‘I never had that kind of fame.'”

Marilyn’s Struggle in ‘Bus Stop’

Marilyn filming Bus Stop in Sun Valley, Idaho (Photo by Al Brack)

Bus Stop is one of my favourite Monroe films: an evocative character piece with an outstanding performance from Marilyn. However, many now find its gender politics – and Bo’s manhandling of Cherie – outdated and sexist. On the Culled Culture blog today, Genna Rivieccio considers why Bus Stop ‘didn’t do justice to how Marilyn Monroe fought to break free of the studio’s stereotype of her.’ (In her recent book, Some Kind of Mirror, Amanda Konkle takes a more positive view, noting that Cherie resists Bo’s advances until he learns to satisfy her desires.)

“Marilyn Monroe had spent months waiting out her unprecedented studio battle with 20th Century Fox. After fleeing to New York from Los Angeles like some sort of blonde haloed fugitive, Marilyn refused to ever turn back. To ever succumb to any of the dumb sexpot roles Darryl Zanuck wanted her to make in perpetuity. Yet the choice of ‘Chérie’–ultimately pronounced Cherry by the one who ‘wrangles’ her–in William Inge’s play, Bus Stop, didn’t seem to do much to distance herself from the image she so strongly claimed to detest. But maybe a part of her was terrified to shed it completely. For the thought of losing her adoring fans–the only source of true love in her life–was likely just as scary as forever being typecast. So it is that she went with the “just daring enough” role of Chérie … there is a meta tongue-in-cheek moment in which Chérie talks about her big plan to make it to Hollywood where ‘you get treated with a little respect.’ It’s an overt dig at Zanuck and 20th Century Fox (which Marilyn famously called 19th Century Fox for its backward treatment of female stars) …

Yet like Chérie, she can’t help but look to men for salvation. The two prototypes that would be her most tumultuous romances (and marriages), Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, are both apparent in Beau. Outwardly, his rough-hewn tactlessness makes him a closer match to DiMaggio … Upon learning of her ‘sordid’ past (a.k.a. that she’s been with a few men to further accent the fact that Beau hasn’t–Miller, too, was rather virginal, having only ever been with his first wife before Marilyn), Beau finds the key to unlocking her heart by telling her, ‘Well, I’ve been thinkin’ about them other fellas, Cherry, and, well, what I mean is, I like you the way you are, so what do I care how you got that way?’ Miller told her pretty much the same thing, never chastising her the way DiMaggio did for parading her sexy persona, which is a primary reason why she fell in love with him …

Once again in this film (as in life), Monroe is a little girl lost, who is put back on the right path by a male savior. This was not a departure by any means from what she had done in the past with the studio, and made one wonder how the accolades came in so readily for a movie such as this, when past roles in Clash By Night, Don’t Bother to Knock and Niagara provided her far more opportunity for dramatic range.

Bus Stop is still billed as somewhere in between a comedy and drama, though it very much falls into an almost screwball comedy genre (for that’s kind of how one has to look at a movie so overtly dripping with misogyny and the suppression of the female will). Marilyn would only make four more movies after this, among them being one of the most praised of her career, Some Like It Hot (with another two, The Prince and the Showgirl and Let’s Make Love, being largely panned), a film in which, you guessed it, Marilyn relies on the comedic sex symbol shtick that launched her into the spotlight in the first place.”