Henri Dauman: Looking Up, a documentary about the French-born photojournalist, will be released in the US on March 6, Deadline reports. And Los Angeles gallery KP Projects is hosting a month-long retrospective, with Dauman himself (who photographed Marilyn on several occasions) attending the opening night on February 29.
Back in 2018, Camila Cabello referenced ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ while performing her hit song, ‘Havana’, at the iHeart Radio Awards (see here.) Now in the video for her latest single, ‘My Oh My’, Camila plays a vintage movie star who ditches her studio bosses (and her Monroesque blonde bombshell image) to party with bad boy rapper DeBaby.
The Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar has referenced Marilyn before – in Broken Embraces (2009), Lena, an actress played by Penelope Cruz, impersonates both Monroe and Audrey Hepburn (see my review here.)
Ten years on, Almodovar has once again called on his cinematic muses in Pain and Glory, chosen by Time magazine as its film of the year in 2019. Antonio Banderas plays Salvador Mallo, a filmmaker plagued by ill-health and depression. In one scene, actor Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia) visits him at home. After they smoke heroin together, Salvador falls asleep and Alberto reads a document on his computer, entitled ‘Addiction’. As Alberto sits at Salvador’s desk, you may notice Donald Spoto’s 1992 book, Marilyn Monroe: The Biography, on the shelf behind him (to the left – open gallery below.)
Alberto then begins to read the text, and imagines performing it onstage. In it, Salvador remembered his first encounter with the magic of Hollywood, when he was a poor boy living in the Spanish village of Paterna.
“My idea of cinema was always linked to the breeze on summer nights. We only saw films in the summer. The films were projected on an enormous wall that had been whitewashed. I particularly remember the films where there was water: waterfalls, beaches, the bottom of the sea, rivers or springs. “
We then see a clip from Elia Kazan’s Splendour in the Grass (1961) projected onto an imaginary screen, with Natalie Wood swimming in a river. This image sparks an amusing memory…
“Just hearing the sound of water gave all the kids a tremendous desire to urinate and we did it right there, on both sides of the screen. In the cinemas of my childhood it always smells of piss, and of jasmine, and of the summer breeze.”
He then projects a seemingly rain-spattered clip of Marilyn in Niagara (1953), singing along to her favourite song, ‘Kiss’ (“Take me, take me in your arms…”)
Unlike the Natalie clip, however, in this one Marilyn goes full-screen, and the raindrops disappear. Salvador awakes, and asks what Alberto is doing. ‘Reading you,’ he replies. Salvador allows him to perform ‘Addiction’, so long as he remains anonymous. We then watch Alberto continue the story in a theatre, a blank screen behind him. A handsome man (played by Leonardo Sbaraglia) goes inside, and is moved to tears as Alberto re-enacts the story of Marcelo, Salvador’s lost lover from many years before.
“Under the whitewashed wall where the films of my childhood were projected. I prayed that nothing would happen to the leading ladies, but I didn’t succeed, neither with Natalie Wood or Marilyn. Then I tried to save Marcelo and myself. If Marcelo was saved, it was far away from me. As for me, I stayed in Madrid and the cinema saved me.”
It’s interesting that he gives Natalie Wood’s full name, but not Marilyn’s – perhaps because one need only say her first name for the audience to know who he means. In Splendour in the Grass, Natalie played a sensitive young woman who breaks down when forbidden to marry the boy she loves (Warren Beatty.) In Niagara, for the only time in her career, Marilyn played a woman who is murdered for her adulterous desires.
Both women seem out of their element. Splendour in the Grass (a line from a poem by W.B. Yeats) conjures the beauty of the land, but here we see our heroine in the water. Natalie, who was terrified of water, found the scene traumatic; and in 1981 (the same year in which Salvador and Marcelo’s affair began), Natalie died by drowning when she apparently fell from the deck of her husband Robert Wagner’s boat (named Splendour in her honour.)
Niagara is named after the famous waterfall, but Marilyn’s character Rose – with her hot pink dress and signature red lipstick, singing of lust – seems more akin to fire. Marilyn also died before her time, and like Marcelo, she had battled addiction. In her first film – Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay, in which a nine-year-old Natalie starred – Marilyn’s tiny role was mostly cut, but the two women would meet again, just days before Marilyn died in 1962, when Natalie attended a party with her Splendour co-star, Warren Beatty (see here.)
Earlier that year, Natalie had spoken to Redbook‘s Alan Levy about Marilyn, and her words echo Salvador’s wish to protect them both.
“When you look at Marilyn on the screen, you don’t want anything bad to happen to her. You really care that she should be all right … happy.”
In a second extract from Charles Jerry Juroe’s memoir, Bond, the Beatles and My Year With Marilyn (read the first here), the veteran movie publicist recalls the rival factions on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, and a narrowly averted tragedy.
“Between [Arthur] Miller, one of the most difficult people I’ve ever encountered, and Paula Strasberg, wife of Actors Studio guru Lee Strasberg and the lady I called the ‘Wicked Witch of the East’, I very quickly found myself the one American from the Monroe camp who was on the side of [Laurence] Olivier. Believe it or not, some of the Monroe camp put the seed in her mind that Olivier was out to destroy her career.
This greatest English-speaking actor and superb prize-winning director was, after all was said and done, in her company’s employ, but Marilyn’s paranoia and persecution complex knew no bounds. She and her close entourage (led by Strasberg) made his life hell on and off the set, and this lovely man was brought to his knees by this psychologically challenged, most famous woman in the world.
One night during production, at about 3 in the morning, my London phone rang. I sleepily answered to hear the urgency in Milton Greene’s voice … Some fifteen minutes later, we were in Milton’s car, driving westward toward TROUBLE! Arthur Miller had called Milton to say he had called an ambulance to take a comatose Marilyn to a local medical facility. We arrived to find that ‘Miss Baker’ had already been pumped out and was recovering in a private room. Our star was on call for filming at Pinewood in a few hours’ time, and it was obvious she wouldn’t just be late, she wouldn’t be there at all.
However, on that ‘star-crossed production, what was another hundred thousand dollars or so to a cost sheet already way over budget.
From my standpoint, that eventful night was not all bad, as not one single word of it ever appeared in the media. No typical London tabloid banners screamed ‘Marilyn in Death Dash’ etc., ad nauseam. Those British medical practitioners of the fifties respected the privacy of those they were attending. However, if Milton passed around a few well-placed ‘tips’, they never knew and didn’t want to!
It was, however, an exhausting few hours, and the title of The Beatles’ song/film of a few years in the future perfectly captured what for me had truly been ‘a hard day’s night.'”
David Crow digs deep into the ‘Diamonds’ homage in Birds of Prey, the new Harley Quinn movie produced by and starring Margot Robbie, over at Den of Geek.
“Robbie’s Marilyn Monroe homage has been at the center of Warner Brothers’ Birds of Prey marketing, from trailers to official clips. After all, what else says this ain’t your typical superhero movie than a ‘50s inspired musical number? And while it’s only a brief sequence in the finished film, it’s also one of the movie’s best moments. Tied up at the nightclub owned by Roman Sionis, the villainous Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), Harley has been captured simply because he believes she’s more vulnerable after her breakup with the Joker…
But Harley is neither silly or in need of protection. She quickly realizes that Black Mask is after a MacGuffin of great importance—a diamond, in fact—and Harley will be just the gal to retrieve it for him. Because Harley is resourceful, Harley is smart… and Harley is also a wee bit nuts. Hence when Sionis smacks her in the face, Harley vanishes into a musical fantasy where she gets to go into full Marilyn mode, vamping in pink attire and bejeweled accessories while singing ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.’ McGregor even shows up in the fantasy to dance along before shooting up the scene much too quickly.
But this is more than just an homage to a Marilyn Monroe scene or the abject cynicism of her song …. In the original movie, the song is a third act statement of intent by Monroe’s character, Lorelei Lee … Breaking into Hollywood because of her beauty and sudden success as a pin-up model during World War II, Monroe eventually signed multiple contracts with Fox before she became the defining image of a 20th century blonde bombshell and movie star sex symbol.
She didn’t necessarily want to be that—or certainly only that. Having a contentious relationship with studio head Daryl F. Zanuck, who disliked Monroe and her desire to be more than the dumb blonde gold digger in musical comedies, she was suspended in 1954 for refusing to do The Girl in Pink Tights. She eventually made up with Fox, but she also started her own production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions …
During this era, Monroe also struggled in her private life, including her marriage to Joe DiMaggio, the world famous baseball player …. Again the press took a disdainful sniff at the movie star who let the strong man get away—just as they sneered when she then married intellectual playwright Arthur Miller.
… The story of Monroe’s fight for credibility, both in association with 20th Century Fox or with Joe DiMaggio, and away from these men, is the kind of real world struggle Birds of Prey strives to reflect, even in its gonzo funhouse mirror … everyone, including other women, define Harley by her relationships to men, and view her to be, as one man says early in the film, ‘a dumb slut.’ These insults are hurled even though she has a PhD and, as she displays throughout the film, a rather quick witted intellect in which she can psychoanalyze her friends and foes alike.
Through it all, she struggled for legitimacy and respect as an actress when executives were content to just see her singing ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’: a male fantasy in which a beautiful woman purports the only thing she wants in this world are the presents powerful men can bestow on her.
In her lifetime, Monroe was likewise defined by the men in her life and what they could give her …
Nevertheless, playing that game gave Monroe the tools to eventually make movies she was proud of, like Bus Stop, and to form her own production company—which was a crack in Fox’s power over her and another crack in the slowly crumbling Hollywood studio system…
That is exactly what Margot Robbie did after she realized the potential of the Harley Quinn character. Perfectly cast as the jester moll, Robbie’s Harley was the sole redeeming quality of Suicide Squad (2016), even as director David Ayer’s camera seemed to most value her for all the lingering shots of her skintight (or nonexistent) clothing. Nonetheless, Suicide Squad gave Robbie a lot more clout as a producer …
Robbie herself revealed last year that she actually loathes when journalists, usually men, describe her as a bombshell. ‘I hate that word,’ Robbie told Vogue in June. ‘I hate it — so much. I feel like a brat saying that because there are worse things, but I’m not a bombshell.’
One might suspect that in her time, Monroe thought similarly as Fox kept trying to cast her in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes type roles … But using the tools Monroe pioneered, Robbie is able to take preconceptions audiences might have for her, or for Harley Quinn after Suicide Squad, and blow them away.”
In his 2018 memoir, Bond, the Beatles and My Year With Marilyn, veteran movie publicist Charles ‘Jerry’ Juroe devotes an entire chapter, ‘Life With Marilyn’, to his memories The Prince and the Showgirl, filmed in England in 1956. He had previously worked with Sir Laurence Olivier in Hollywood, and was also acquainted with Marilyn’s press agent, Arthur P. Jacobs, and photographer Milton Greene, co-founder of Marilyn Monroe Productions. In the first of three posts, Juroe describes how after an exceptionally promising start, the shoot quickly became a nightmare for everyone involved.
Marilyn’s arrival in Britain and her first press conference at London’s Savoy Hotel caused a sensation – “not because of my organisational handling,” Juroe writes, “but because of her wit, charm and intelligence … It was the last time that I found myself to be in complete favour with Monroe.”
“When one was on the set and watched Marilyn do a scene, you saw movement and dialogue, but nothing that caused goosebumps. But! – in the screening room, when seeing the rushes, it was something else. By some mysterious process of osmosis, between the live action, the camera’s lens, the film, the processing, and then the projection onto a screen, something somewhere in all that – magic happened! What you saw on the set was not what you observed in the screening room. I will never know the answer because I’m not sure there is one. This charisma was what audiences all over the world paid for and saw from their cinema seats. This was what, for those years as Queen of the Hill, set her very much apart and kept her at the pinnacle of the Hollywood Heap.”
Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, an American producer living in London, invited Marilyn and friends to watch his film starring Alan Ladd (possibly 1953’s The Red Beret) at a screening room on Audley Square. Several years later, he and Juroe would begin their association on the James Bond movie series. Broccoli remembered Marilyn from the late 1940s when she was dating Hollywood agent Johnny Hyde. “I am sure Hyde’s death was certainly one of many contributory factors to her fragility,” Juroe writes.
“Before too long, life on the film became unbearable. I found I could not recommend or offer any suggestion or give an opinion because her mindset became such that whatever I suggested was inevitably never in her best interest. One cannot work under such a condition for long, so survival became the name of the game. In fact, I was privately offered $5000 (no small amount then) by someone at the famous French magazine Paris Match if I got her to Paris for a weekend. I never considered this because even though it would have in fact been a great opportunity, it would also have been a fiasco. To get her there in the first place, plus the demands on her time, it would never have worked!”
Film historian F.X. Feeney has died aged 66, The Wrap reports. As well as being movie critic for LA Weekly, Feeney was an expert on Orson Welles and contributed to a number of books from art publisher Taschen, including their compact ‘Movie Icons‘ series, writing an introductory essay, Marilyn Monroe: Enchantress, for her 2006 monograph featuring images from the Kobal Collection – as reviewed by Sirkku on the Monroe Book Blog.
One of Hollywood’s most legendary stars, Kirk Douglas, has died aged 103.
He was born Issur Danielovitch to Belarusian immigrant parents in New York. His father was a ragman, and he and his six sisters grew up in poverty. He was known as Izzy Demsky, and began acting at high school, graduating from St. Lawrence University in 1939. He then studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts where his classmates included Betty Joan Perske, who later found fame as Lauren Bacall.
After joining the US Navy in 1941, he changed his name to Kirk Douglas. He was medically discharged in 1944, having sustained injuries while fighting in World War II. Back in New York he worked in the theatre and radio, until his old friend Bacall recommended him to movie producer Hal B. Wallis.
In 1947, Kirk starred with Robert Mitchum in a classic film noir, Out of the Past. Three years later, he played a character based on jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke in Young Man With a Horn. When starlet Jean Spangler, who had a small part in the film, vanished in 1951, her purse was found in Griffith Park, Los Angeles with a note addressed to ‘Kirk’. Douglas approached the police, stating that he was not the man Spangler was writing to, and that he was in Palm Springs at the time of her disappearance. His explanation was accepted, but the mystery remains unsolved.
In his 2007 memoir, Let’s Face It, Kirk recalled a brief encounter with a young Marilyn Monroe – probably dating back to the late 1940s.
“I remember the first time I met Marilyn, at the home of producer Sam Spiegel. The only woman in the room, she sat quietly in a chair watching Sam playing gin rummy with his friends and hoping that he’d get her a job in movies. I felt sorry for her. I tried to talk with her, but it wasn’t much of a conversation.
On the screen Marilyn came to life. She was a different person.”
Kirk’s eight-year marriage to Diana Dill, mother of his sons Michael and Joel, ended soon after. He would marry producer Anne Buydens in 1954, and despite his rumoured infidelities, their union was one of Hollywood’s happiest and most enduring. They had two more sons, Peter and Eric, who sadly died of a drugs and alcohol overdose in 2004.
In 1951, Kirk starred in Billy Wilder’s first film as a writer/producer, Ace in the Hole. In 1952, he earned the second of three Oscar nominations for The Bad and the Beautiful. Three years later he formed an independent production company, with his first project, Paths to Glory (1957), launching the career of director Stanley Kubrick. Although not a box-office success, it is now considered one of the finest anti-war films ever made.
One of Kirk’s most memorable roles was as the artist Vincent Van Gogh in Lust for Life (1956.) In 1960, he reunited with Kubrick for his greatest role as Spartacus, with his insistence on giving screenwriter Dalton Trumbo full credit helping to end the Hollywood blacklist. He also made several Westerns, including Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) with his frequent co-star Burt Lancaster, and his personal favourite, Lonely Are the Brave (1962.)
In June 1961, Kirk and Anne celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary with a party at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Among the guests was Marilyn, photographed gazing at her new beau Frank Sinatra onstage. Singer Eddie Fisher was also present with then-wife Elizabeth Taylor, plus Dean Martin and wife Jeanne.
In Let’s Face It, Kirk visited Marilyn’s final resting place at Westwood Memorial Park.
“In this cemetery there is a structure composed of vaults, one placed upon another, with the names of the deceased on small plaques. It’s always easy to recognise the vault containing Marilyn Monroe. Joe DiMaggio, the famous baseball player and one of Marilyn’s ex-husbands, arranged for fresh flowers to be placed in the metal urn attached to her vault every day [actually every week, for twenty years.] Every time I walk by, visitors are looking at the name Marilyn Monroe. Poor Marilyn, she never found the happiness that her fame denied her.”
After buying the rights to Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Kirk adapted it into a 1963 play, marking his return to the stage. He later gave the rights to his son Michael, who produced the Oscar-winning 1975 film adaptation starring Jack Nicholson.
In 1969, Kirk starred in Elia Kazan’s The Arrangement. A year later, he appeared with Henry Fonda in There Was a Crooked Man …, the penultimate film from writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. He teamed up with Burt Lancaster again in the 1988 crime comedy, Tough Guys, and continued working in film for another two decades. In 2009, he capped off his career with a one-man show at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles.
During a 2007 visit to France, Kirk saw an exhibition featuring photos of Marilyn shortly before she died. “She will forever be thirty-six years old,” he wrote. “Here I am, staggering into my nineties, hard of hearing, hard of seeing, with replaced knees and an impaired voice. If I had died forty years ago, would I be remembered as the Viking dancing across the oars? Maybe.”
“It’s hard to make friends in Hollywood,” Kirk had written almost twenty years earlier, in The Ragman’s Son (1988.) “It’s a cruel, unhappy town, and success is even more difficult to handle than failure. You look around and you see what’s happened to Marilyn Monroe, John Belushi, James Dean, Freddie Prinze, Bobby Darin, and so many others.”
In 2012, a blind item on a gossip blog inferred that Kirk Douglas may have sexually assaulted actress Natalie Wood as a teenager during the 1950s. However, there is little corroborating evidence to support this claim; and in fact, they were photographed together several times at public events during the same period. While such grave allegations should always be taken seriously, it will probably remain a mystery.
The lives of Kirk Douglas and his illustrious family – a true Hollywood dynasty – is chronicled in the 2010 documentary, It Runs in the Family. Kirk’s last public appearance was at the Golden Globes in 2018, with daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta Jones, where he received a standing ovation.
Kirk Douglas, who died at home in Beverly Hills of natural causes on February 5, 2020, is survived by his wife Anne, now 100, and his three sons and grandchildren. Their 66-year marriage is documented in the 2017 book, Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter and a Lifetime in Hollywood.
Fashion designer Agnès B has assembled a group of creatives to put different spins on her classic black ‘snap cardigan’ for a new exhibition, opening in Manhattan this weekend and on display until March 1st, Flaunt reports. Among them is photographer William Strobeck, who has put the cardigan on a lifesize cutout of Marilyn in Bus Stop. A Monroe fan herself, Agnès B has said she was touched by the simple elegance of Marilyn’s possessions during a private view of The Personal Property of MM at Christie’s in 1999.
Roger Kahn, considered America’s greatest baseball writer, has died aged 92, the Los Angeles Times reports. His most famous book was The Boys of Summer (1972), in which he recalled his early days as a Dodgers fan. He also published Joe and Marilyn: A Memory of Love in 1986. The first stand-alone book on the explosive DiMaggio romance, it was a bestseller – although his portrayal of Marilyn was considered sleazy by some readers and critics, and her renewed friendship with Joe in her final years is omitted entirely.
“The problem with Joe & Marilyn is basically a problem with Joe and a problem with Marilyn. She slipped away, leaving friends who still protect her and others who gossip about her, and he has declined to speak from his heart.
As a young reporter, Mr. Kahn had an entire clubhouse of athletes, sitting in front of their lockers, day after day, telling their stories. In this book, subtitled ‘A Memory of Love,’ Mr. Kahn had to rely too often on second-hand stuff – the cottage industry of books about Miss Monroe as well as ‘people in DiMaggio’s close circle’ and ‘persistent reports’ and ‘stories’ and ‘legends.’
Roger Kahn did meet her once, at an impressionable age, during a publicity party for one of her movies. When he mumbled something about having covered the Yankees for a newspaper, she looked right through him, he recounts. That brief encounter inspired Mr. Kahn to describe her frequently as a sexually compelling woman, ‘that phenomenon of innocence and lust, blond hair and parted lips, the squirming nude on the calendar who aspired to play a Dostoevski heroine.’
He traces her path through the seamy casting calls, repeating the gossip that Marilyn did this or that for certain Hollywood figures, and repeating the saucy lines that Marilyn may or may not have said … Mr. Kahn also finds an ‘attractive, dark-haired New York lady who had dated Joe’ to tell this story: ‘Before we went out, mutual friends gave me a little list of things I was never to bring up. Marilyn, of course. Sinatra. The Kennedys. Johnny Carson.’
Toward the end, Mr. Kahn writes: ‘What went so wrong so quickly? He was neat. She was sloppy. He was repressed. She was hyperactive. Each was willful. Each had a temper. Each was a star. Stars in collision.’
At another point, Mr. Kahn defines the problem in rather turgid prose: ‘Exactly what happened to the abandoned child called Norma Jeane in the casual way stations where she had to live carries us onto the turf of novelists.’ The critic and observer in Mr. Kahn may sense that it is time to leave Miss Monroe and Mr. DiMaggio to the novelists and the poets.”George Vecsey, New York Times, November 24, 1986