Marilyn’s Fire Island Days

During the summer of 1955 – Marilyn’s first year in New York – she spent many weekends at the Strasbergs’ holiday home on the resort of Fire Island, and also visited with the Rostens. In a 2013 article for the Long Island Press, Spencer Rumsey reported that Marilyn said of Fire Island, ‘What a lovely place this is—it’s got water all around it.’ (If true, this may be one of those deceptively simple ‘Monroeisms’ – Marilyn clearly knew what an island was, having lived on Catalina Island in 1943!)

Today, publisher Alan Chartock recalls his boyhood encounters with Marilyn on Fire Island in the Legislative Gazette. (Photos found on the Pines History website.)

“Of course, the Fire Island of today is hardly the beach I grew up in when the ‘daddy boat’ that came in around six o’clock returned all the working stiffs to their families. I earned some pin money by ‘wagoning’ — I would meet the boat and take people to their homes for anywhere between a quarter and a buck. I was small but I had some very prestigious clients, the most recognizable of whom was Marilyn Monroe who visited quite frequently. As it turns out, she came to visit the Strasberg family. Susan and Lee were among the most famous of that group. That was just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, most of the very famous literati and thespians moved on to other places like the Hamptons and, years later, to the Berkshires where I now live.”

Sashaying Down the Aisle With Sugar

Dublin actress turned novelist Deirdre Purcell reveals why Some Like It Hot is her favourite movie in an interview with the Irish Independent today.

“With its peerless performances, not least by Jack Lemmon, it never fails to entertain and for me, now, represents a wonderful lesson in how to script a movie. It was from this I learned that the classic turning point of almost any movie comes 28 minutes in. In this one, it occurs when the two lads, Lemmon and Tony Curtis, clap eyes on Marilyn Monroe sashaying down the railway platform. The destination of the movie is now set. I hired a print of it and showed it at the Strand Cinema in Fairview to entertain our wedding guests. Of course we went there in CIE’s wedding bus.”

Vaccaro, Rizzo and the Marilyn Connection

Tony Vaccaro began his career in photography while serving in the US Army on the battlefields of Europe during World War II. Aged 97, he is now the subject of an HBO documentary and a new retrospective, Tony Vaccaro: La Dolce Vita, at the Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s telling that along with Pablo Picasso, Marilyn heads up the impressive list of celebrities he photographed, though she appears not to be featured in the exhibition.

The photo shown above right, taken in Canada during filming of River Of No Return, has been attributed to Vaccaro by the QNS website. (Canadian photographer John Vachon was also present at the shoot, as featured in his book, Marilyn, August 1953: The Lost Look Photos.)

One of Marilyn’s last photo shoots is also mentioned in connection with an ongoing Paris retrospective, Willy Rizzo: Pop! Once again, though, it’s unclear if Marilyn is featured in the exhibit, other than in a 1996 photo taken at the home of supermodel Stephanie Seymour, with Andy Warhol’s iconic portrait adorning the wall.

Donna Corcoran: Marilyn’s Child Co-Star

Donna Corcoran, the former child actress who, aged nine, played a girl terrorised by her babysitter in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), was one of eight children born to William and Kathleen Corcoran. Donna and several of her siblings (including Noreen Corcoran, who died in 2016) entered the movie industry after the family moved to Santa Monica in 1947, and their father was appointed head of maintenance at MGM. The Corcorans are the subject of a major article in the latest issue of Classic Images magazine.

After making her debut in Angels of the Outfield (1951), starring Paul Douglas and Janet Leigh, Donna had an uncredited role in Love Is Better Than Ever (1952), starring another former child actress, Elizabeth Taylor. Donna appeared in two films starring ‘bathing beauty’ Esther Williams, Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) and Dangerous When Wet (1953). She also had roles in Jean Negulesco’s Scandal at Scourie (1953) and Fritz Lang’s Moonfleet (1955.) In her penultimate film, Gypsy Colt (1954), Donna had top billing. She continued working in television until 1963.

Although Marilyn often befriended her young co-stars, little is known about her interaction with Donna. Admittedly their onscreen relationship wasn’t ideal, with Marilyn’s disturbed character Nell almost pushing Bunny out of a hotel window before tying her up and locking her in the bedroom. It would be interesting to hear Donna’s memories of making Don’t Bother to Knock (she is now 77 years old.)

Incidentally, I have often wondered if Bunny Corcoran, the [young adult] murder victim in Donna Tartt’s 1992 novel, The Secret History, might have been named after Donna Corcoran’s performance as Bunny Jones. It’s a long shot, I’ll admit – but not entirely impossible, as each of Donna Tartt’s three books contain passing references to Marilyn and her movies.

A ‘Collector’s Ransom’ for Marilyn

Over 50 Marilyn-related lots will go under the hammer at on December 17-19, as part of the Hollywood – A Collector’s Ransom auction at Profiles in History. Marilyn’s costumes from A Ticket to Tomahawk, Love Nest, and Don’t Bother to Knock, and her fishnet tights from Bus Stop – which went unsold at last year’s Essentially Marilyn event – are back for a second chance.)

As Simon Lindley reports for Just Collecting, Marilyn’s personal annotated screenplay for The Seven Year Itch is also on offer, with a reserve of $60-80K. (The photo shown above, taken on location in New York, is sold separately.)

“In the film Monroe’s character is known simply as ‘The Girl’, an aspiring actress who serves as the object of the husband’s desires.

But behind her on-screen persona as the blonde sex symbol, Monroe’s extensive handwritten annotations reveal her dedication to her craft.

Throughout the script she has written notes to herself such as ‘Look first indecisive – pause – hesitation – little smile’ and ‘My body into his – sliding into him as if I want to sleep with him right then & there. Swing hips again’.

This preparation and complete understanding of the role in evident in her notes for the famous ‘Subway’ scene, which helped cement her place as a genuine Hollywood icon.

The energy and sexuality which Monroe portrays may seem effortless, but her script notes show she though very carefully about how to play the moment: ‘Child w/a woman. Direct & fem[inine]. Open… This is everything there is in the world. Light & easy. Everything flies out of her. Newborn – the baby looking at the moon for the first time.'”

And now, let’s take a closer look at what else is on offer…

“Vintage original 8 x 10 in. photograph taken of 13 year-old Norma Jeane on a trip to Yosemite with ‘Aunt’ Anna Lower and other family members. And sold separately, a vintage original 2-page printed 6.25 x 9 in. Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior High School Class of Summer 1941 commencement program. The printed program contains itinerary including music, speeches, and songs. Listed alphabetically in the ‘Graduating Class, June 1941 Girls’ roster of graduates is ‘Baker, Norma Jeane’.”

“Vintage original gelatin silver 8 x 10 in. photograph of Marilyn with her junior high school glee club, smiling in the center of the group. The verso is copiously inscribed with messages to Norma Jeane by her girlfriends, including, ‘To a beautiful, sweet, charming, and darling, adorable Norma Jean’ and ‘I hope your ambition will come true – to stay an old maid all your life’.”

“A 2-page letter to ‘Cathy’ handwritten in pencil and signed, ‘Norma Jeane’. Written during a period of major transition in her life, Norma Jeane mentions a leave of absence from her job as a parachute inspector at Radioplane. She had recently been ‘discovered’ by US Army Air Force First Motion Picture Unit photographer David Conover while working at the plant, and through his connections, had been able to get freelance work as a pin-up model. She writes in full: ‘Thursday. My dearest Cathy, thank you for your sweet little note, why of course of course I like you dear very much, you know that. If I seem a little neglectful at times its because I’m so busy I don’t seem to have any time to catch up on my correspondence, but I promise after this, I shall, do better, honestly I will. Jimmie arrived about three weeks ago and you can imagine how thrilled I was. I only wish he didn’t have to go back. Jimmie and I went up to Big Bear Lake for a week and had a grand time I hope you and Bud will be down soon because I would love for you both to meet him. I’ve been on leave of absence from Radioplane. I shall tell you all about it when I see you honey or I shall write to you later. I have so many things I have to do so I had better close for now but I shall write soon. Tell Bud Hello for me. Love, Norma Jeane.'”

Vintage original 8 x 10 in. cast & crew photo from Marilyn’s first movie, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! She is in the third row, just above leading lady June Haver.

“Vintage original gelatin silver 7 x 8.75 in. double weight matte photograph, inscribed and signed in black ink at lower right, ‘To Grace and Daddy Always Lovingly Norma Jeane 12/25/46′. The ‘daddy’ to whom Norma Jeanne inscribed this early headshot is Erwin ‘Doc’ Goddard, a research engineer and the husband of Norma Jeanne’s legal guardian, Grace Goddard.  And sold separately, two oversize glamour portrait photographs of Marilyn Monroe in character as ‘Miss Caswell’ in All About Eve. The first is credit stamped by Ray Nolan with studio snipe, and the other, seen at right, attributed to Ed Clark.” [A poster for the film, signed by Bette Davis, Joseph Mankiewicz, and Celeste Holm, is being sold separately.]

Two vintage calendars including a 1950 wall calendar measuring 8.5 x 14.5 in., and featuring paintings by Earl Moran, six featuring Marilyn, alongside cute, risque poems like, ‘What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice, Perfume that smells nice, Jewels and furs, To attract attention, And other good things Too obvious to mention’, and a wall calendar featuring unique topless ‘cowgirl’ images of Marilyn not seen elsewhere. Sold separately, a 16 x 32 in. pin-up 1952 wall calendar titled, ‘The Lure of Lace‘. Featuring Marilyn Monroe in her famous Tom Kelley nude kneeling pose, but with a black lace teddy ‘overprint’.” 

“Two original studio production 8 x 10 in. negatives of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, each modeling wardrobe by designer William Travilla. [Russell wore a blonde wig to impersonate Marilyn in a courtroom scene.] Each includes within image a ‘shot-board’ documentation of production, scene, and change numbers. Also included are two original wardrobe documentation green pages detailing costumes [Monroe page describes a different costume, for the opening ‘Little Rock’ number.] At some point in time a positive copy print of the Monroe negative was made for archive continuity, but is not original to the production.”

“11 x 14 in. portrait by Ed Clark of Marilyn in the gold lame gown from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for LIFE magazine. Signed in black ink on Marilyn’s skirt by the photographer, ‘Edmund Clark Life’.” 

“Photo of Marilyn at the Photoplay Awards in 1953, part of a 1750-image archive for celebrity snapper J.B. Scott. And sold separately, an award plaque presented to Marilyn by a County Fair ‘Sugar Queen’, engraved, ‘To the Sweetest Girl in Motion Pictures, Marilyn Monroe, 20th Century-Fox Films Star Presented by 1953 Yolo County Fair Sugar Queen’.” 

“Elois Jenssen costume sketch for Lucille Ball as ‘Lucy Ricardo’ as ‘Marilyn Monroe’ from I Love Lucy. Elois Jenssen was Lucille Ball’s designer of choice, who is credited with creating the ‘Lucy Look’. This dress design was created for the I Love Lucy Episode: ‘Ricky’s Movie Offer’, which aired on Nov. 8th, 1954. In the episode, ‘Lucy’ transforms herself into Marilyn Monroe to try to win a role in Ricky’s (Desi Arnaz) new Hollywood film. This costume was then repurposed into a showgirl costume for two subsequent episodes.” [Elois Jenssen’s costume sketches for Marilyn in We’re Not Married are being sold separately.]

“Ten 8 x 10 in. photographs of Marilyn Monroe in scenes from films, including the earliest title which depicts her on any of its publicity, Dangerous Years. Other highlights include Ladies of the ChorusThe Asphalt JungleRight Cross [to our knowledge, this still is the only original release paper to depict Marilyn], Let’s Make it Legal, and [shown above] Bus Stop.

“A set of fourteen 7 x 8.5 in. to 8 x 10 in. photographs, a mix of portraits, candids, and scenes, including stills from The Seven Year Itch and Let’s Make Love [at left] and a candid by Al Brack [at right], showing Marilyn on location for Bus Stop in Sun Valley, Idaho.”

“Two exhibition photos signed by Marvin Scott, of Marilyn performing at a circus benefit in 1955; and sold separately, another set including this photo of Marilyn arriving at Los Angeles in 1958 for the filming of Some Like It Hot.

“A candid photo taken by Milton Greene at Marilyn’s wedding to Arthur Miller; and sold separately, two address books from her estate, including typed and annotated entries for contacts including Actor’s Studio, Jack Benny, Eve Arden, George Cukor, Montgomery Clift, Jack Cardiff, Joe DiMaggio, Henry Fonda, John Huston, Hedda Hopper, Designers, makeup artists, Ben Gazzara, Gene Kelly, Jack Lemmon, Yves Montand, Arthur Miller, Robert Montgomery, Jane Russell, Jean Negulesco, Lee and Paula Strasberg, David Selznick, Carl Sandburg, Frank Sinatra, Eli Wallach, Shelley Winters, Clifford Odets, Peter Lawford, JAX, Richard Avedon, Louella Parsons, and more. Annotations not attributed to Monroe.”

And finally, a set of nine photos from Marilyn’s last completed film, The Misfits (1961.)

‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ A Sellout On Southbank

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes will be screened at the BFI on London’s Southbank tomorrow, as part of the ongoing Musicals! season, and with an introduction by programmer Robin Baker. Unfortunately it’s now sold out, which is surely a testament to its enduring popularity – so for any readers lucky enough to get tickets, enjoy!

“Monroe (as gold-digging Lorelei) and Russell (as man-eating Dorothy) are the smartest, sassiest leads found in any musical. Monroe has the boys eating out of her pink silk gloves in the joyfully cynical ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, but Russell almost meets her match in ‘Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love?’ as she tackles a gym full of semi-naked men. A wondrous Technicolor tonic.”

Warhol’s Marilyn in Chicago

Muralist Jeffrey Zimmerman has recreated Andy Warhol’s portrait of Marilyn outside the Chicago Institute of Art on Michigan Avenue and Erie Street, as part of a retrospective, Andy Warhol – From A to Z and Back Again, on display until January 26, 2020. (It’s an interesting counterpoint to Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture of MM, which made its own debut on the ‘Magnificent Mile’ back in 2011, before finding its forever home in Palm Springs. )

Thanks to Mikael at Marilyn Remembered