Jean Howard’s Marilyn in Wyoming

Starlet turned photographer Jean Howard first met Marilyn at the home of her husband, Hollywood agent Charles Feldman. In 1954, Feldman produced one of Marilyn’s most successful films, The Seven Year Itch, and her ‘birdcage sitting’ with Jean was probably shot at this time. The Jean Howard archive is now held at the Wyoming Public Media & American Heritage Centre, and her photos of Marilyn are the subject of their latest podcast, Archives on the Air #183.

“Marilyn arrived in a form-fitting dress and began the usual seductive poses expected of her. But Jean had other ideas. After adding a modest black jacket to Marilyn’s outfit, Jean recalled that the resulting photographs revealed the true spirit and soul of that beautiful, gifted girl. Later at a party Marilyn said something that surprised the photographer: ‘Jean took the best pictures of me I’ve ever had.'”

Eternity With Marilyn (for $475k)

In 2017, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was buried in the vault next to Marilyn’s at Westwood Memorial Park. Now an adjacent space is being offered for $475,000, as Steve Lopez reports for the Los Angeles Times. (The photo shows Marsha Ebert, whose parents are also buried in a less expensive plot at Westwood, guiding Lopez to Marilyn’s final resting place. In keeping with these difficult times, Marsha removed her face-mask only when the photo was taken.)

“‘Be buried adjacent to Marilyn Monroe and Hugh Hefner,’ said an ad that ran in the L.A. Times a couple of weeks ago. ‘The last prominent bench estate location in Westwood Village Memorial Park. Accommodates four people.’

I called the number in the advertisement and a gent named John Thill answered the phone in Florida, where he now lives. Thill, 66, writes textbooks in the business field. He told me he has lived in Los Angeles and San Diego, and that one of his favorite Marilyn Monroe movies was Some Like It Hot, which was filmed at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego.

Now that Thill’s in Florida, he told me, the plot lost some of its appeal. He first listed it last year at $790,000 and then dropped the price recently. He’s gotten several nibbles, and said he stands to make ‘a little money’ if he can sell near the list price.”

Gable and Marilyn’s Misfit Best

The Misfits, which proved to be the last film completed by either Marilyn or Clark Gable, ranks 4th among his 10 highest-rated movies on IMDB, as Screen Rant reports. (Interestingly, Gone With the Wind – one of the most famous movies ever made – is tied with Gable’s 1934 comedy, It Happened One Night, for first place.)

Virtual Viewing Party, With Added Sugar

If you needed an excuse to watch Some Like It Hot again, Tony and Manohla at the New York Times are hosting a virtual viewing party all weekend – leave your feedback here.

“Everyone could use a little candy right now, and we can’t think of a sweeter way to spend time than with Sugar and her pals Jo and Daphne watching Some Like It Hot.

Even if it’s your first encounter with this 1959 comedy — directed by Billy Wilder from a script that he wrote with I.A.L. Diamond — it spoils nothing to know that Jo and Daphne are really Joe and Jerry, and are played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. Marilyn Monroe, at the height of her comedic powers, is Sugar, who sings ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ (and she is) and whose walk Jerry likens to ‘Jell-O on springs.’

Do movie lovers still like it hot — do you? In his review in The New York Times, A.H. Weiler warned that ‘a viewer might question the taste of a few of the lines, situations and the prolonged masquerade.’ That may still be true, though perhaps for different reasons than Weiler thought. Nobody’s perfect.

And here’s another taste from the Times’ 1959 review…

“As the hand’s somewhat simple singer-ukulele player, Miss Monroe, whose figure simply cannot be overlooked, contributes more assets than the obvious ones to this madcap romp. As a pushover for gin and the tonic effect of saxophone players, she sings a couple of whispery old numbers (‘Running Wild’ and ‘I Wanna Be Loved by You’) and also proves to be the epitome of a dumb blonde and a talented comedienne.”

UK Press Says ‘Hello, Goodbye’ to Marilyn

After 165 years in print, the final issue of Scotland’s Weekly News has just been released, naming Marilyn among its top ten newsmakers.

Meanwhile, the latest issue of Yours Retro includes a feature about the Fox blondes – from Shirley Temple to MM – and reader Gerry Dougherty names Gentlemen Prefer Blondes among her favourite movies.

And coming in next month’s issue, Monroe biographer Michelle Morgan will write about Marilyn’s star-crossed romance with Joe DiMaggio.


Alfred Hayes: Marilyn’s ‘Clash by Night’ Screenwriter and Novelist

In 1951, Alfred Hayes adapted Clifford Odets’ play Clash by Night for the big screen, giving Marilyn one of her first dramatic roles. Hayes was also an accomplished novelist who is finally getting his due, as Scott Bradfield reports for the Los Angeles Times. Although Bradfield understates his contribution, Hayes crucially expanded the subplot involving Joe Doyle (Keith Andes) and his feisty girlfriend Peggy, allowing Marilyn to give one of her strongest, most natural performances.

“After a brief early success in 1946 with his first novel, All Thy Conquests, based on his military experiences in Italy during World War II, Hayes wrote on some of the most successful Italian neorealist films of the postwar period, such as Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief (1948) and Roberto Rossellini’s Paisan (1946), for which he received an Oscar nomination. His subsequent move from New York to California was both financially lucrative and artistically unrewarding. While he continued fitfully producing the occasional novel and collection of verse (his best known poem, ‘Joe Hill’, became a protest song for Pete Seeger and Joan Baez), his film work was either uncredited (Nicholas Ray’s The Lusty Men) or uninteresting (A Hatful of Rain, a Fred Zinnemann ‘message’ film about drug addiction). Even his biggest project, Fritz Lang’s moodily intense Clash by Night (which in 1952 featured Marilyn Monroe in one of her first major roles), was little more than a competent alteration to a Clifford Odets play.

Over the last 15 years, however, Hayes the novelist has been rescued from anonymity by the canny revivalists at New York Review Books. Over the last few years, they have reissued a loosely defined ‘trilogy’ of Hayes’ short, powerful, first-person novels about a young writer (like Hayes) who moves to Hollywood (like Hayes) and lives to tell about it (like Hayes).

Hayes has been unfairly forgotten for many reasons; the biggest one was probably that he wasn’t writing the types of books that were being praised in the postwar era — the ones written by the likes of Mailer, Barth, Bellow and Roth. Those writers aspired to produce big books with big themes, big books about a big country. But like John Fante, another Hollywood-based novelist who suffered a similar eclipse of reputation, Hayes didn’t write those kinds of books. Rather, his novels explored the ways in which small souls sought to cut their own safe path across the world’s unforgiving bigness.”

Marilyn’s Still In Vogue, In White

Marilyn tops French Vogue‘s list of Iconic White Dresses in Cinema (with Elizabeth Taylor’s lacy slip from Cat On a Hot Tin Roof and Sharon Stone’s turtle-neck dress from Basic Instinct also making the grade.)

“Among the iconic dresses of the cinema, the white dress remains one of our favorites. When it is not the traditional and classic uniform of the bride, the white dress has a sexy look, immortalized on screen by some of the greatest actresses of all time … When we say ‘white dress at the movies’, we immediately think of the one worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, which is a myth in itself. All it took was one scene to shape the Marilyn legend. At the end of a film session, Richard Sherman and his beautiful neighbor stop above an air vent between Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street in New York City when the hot air from the subway lifts the young woman’s dress. At the age of 29, Marilyn gained legend status with this pleated white cocktail dress designed by costume designer William Travilla, nicknamed the ‘subway dress.'”

Joan Bayley: Dancer Who Tutored the Stars Turns 100

Photo by Milton Greene, posted on the Westside Ballet School website

Joan Bayley, shown here coaching Marilyn for There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954), has just celebrated her 100th birthday, the Los Angeles Times reports. (Although uncredited on the film, Joan was probably assisting choreographer Jack Cole.)

“The two lines of cars — about 50 in all, decorated with posters, streamers and balloons — were parked in L.A.’s Mar Vista neighborhood as family and neighbors in masks congregated outdoors for a birthday celebration, the kind that’s come to be a national ritual during the coronavirus outbreak.

At 2 p.m. the parade began, with drivers honking and shouting birthday wishes to the woman of the hour: Joan Bayley, a former ballet instructor who worked in Hollywood musicals alongside Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Marilyn Monroe.

Born in Canada, Bayley moved to Los Angeles at age 6 and began dancing at a neighborhood school when she was 7 or 8.
Her first experience on stage was performing in a 1934 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Hollywood Bowl. As a teenager, she trained and performed with noted choreographer Carmelita Maracci, who blended ballet with Spanish dance.

Bayley moved to New York to continue dancing with Maracci and later worked in nightclubs, performing flamenco solos for dinner guests. She returned to L.A. to pursue film work during World War II because ‘there was no touring, so companies disappeared.’

In her early years as a studio dancer, Bayley performed in ballet scenes and worked with modern choreographer Lester Horton on films including 1943’s Phantom of the Opera and 1945’s Salome, Where She Danced.

While working on the 1939 film adaptation of On Your Toes, choreographed by George Balanchine, Bayley met the man who would become her husband, Ray Weamer.

In the 1950s, Bayley began working with commercial choreographer Robert Alton — known for his discovery of Gene Kelly and his collaborations with Fred Astaire — and later became his assistant. She then worked as a choreographer herself, creating dances for television series.

She said she wanted her birthday festivities to raise awareness for the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica, where she taught for more than 30 years — until last year. The school is fighting for survival in the pandemic and has launched a community fundraiser to stay afloat. “

Lana Del Rey Mentions Marilyn in Poem

Singer Lana Del Rey has referenced Marilyn several times in her lyrics and music videos (see here.) The latest reference appears in ‘patent leather do-over‘, a spoken-word poem posted on Instagram this week, and to be featured in Lana’s forthcoming book, behind the iron gates – insights from an institution (due in 2021.)

“Sylvia, Marilyn, Violet, Diana
All of my kind women who came before me, blonde
I dyed my hair black for you
I turned my back on that black pond
I swear I won’t stop ’til I’m dead
And here I am at 34 – And what for?”