Today in Theatre History: After the Fall

56 years years ago today, on January 23rd, 1964, Arthur Miller’s After the Fall, opened at the ANTA Theatre on Washington Square in New York, as Playbill Vault reports. Miller’s first new play in eight years, After the Fall proved controversial, not least in the casting of director Elia Kazan’s wife Barbara Loden as Maggie, a drug-addicted, suicidal pop singer, reminiscent of Arthur’s ex-wife, Marilyn Monroe. Maggie’s lawyer husband Quentin was played by Jason Robards, not Christopher Plummer (who would finally play Miller’s conflicted hero ten years later, opposite Faye Dunaway in a TV movie of the same.) After the Fall ran for 208 performances, and remains one of Miller’s more frequently revived plays.

Marilyn Inspires Artist Dan Cooney

Comic book artist Dan Cooney, whose graphic novels include the upcoming second volume in his Tommy Gun Dolls series, has included this drawing of Marilyn (after a 1953 photo by Alfred Eisenstadt) among other portraits of Hollywood icons and book illustrations on display in Cooney’s first public exhibition at the Oak Bluffs Library in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, as Gwyn McAllister reports for the MV Times.

Marilyn Funko Pop Due in Spring

After launching a limited edition Marilyn figurine in their Hollywood store last year (see here), Funko Pop have announced a new model inspired by The Seven Year Itch to be launched this Spring as Sean Fallon reports for the Comic Book website. The black-and-white version, due in May, is also limited edition (pre-order here), but the colour doll will be mass-produced, and is available in April (pre-order here.)

Thanks to Megan

Marilyn and the Polka Dot

As Shelby Rowe Moyer notes in her ‘History of the Polka Dot’ for South Sound magazine, Marilyn wore a number of polka-dot dresses (and a bikini) to great effect. Originally known as Dotted Swiss, the print took off during the Industrial Revolution and later renamed after the Polka, a Czech peasant dance popularised in the 1830s.

In 1926, the year Marilyn was born, Norma Smallwood seized victory in the Miss America contest wearing a polka-dot bathing suit, and launched a fashion craze. In 1952, Marilyn wore an ivory rayon Ceil Chapman dress with oversized red polka dots while visiting Atlantic City, where she greeted contestants in that year’s Miss America pageant. A year prior, she had caused sensation on the Love Nest set by sporting a bikini with hot pink polka-dots designed by Renié, and considered daring for the era.

The white cotton halter-neck sheath dress that Marilyn wore to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in 1953, designed by Dorothy Jeakins, wasn’t quite ‘polka-dot’ but spotted with eyelets. Marilyn makes her first entrance in The Seven Year Itch (1955) wearing a polka-dot dress, one of Travilla’s spectacular designs for the film. And finally, she wore a blue polka-dot sundress for a photo shoot with Sam Shaw in 1957.

Bill Ray, Marilyn’s ‘Mr President’ Photographer, Has Died

LIFE magazine photographer Bill Ray, who got the scoop of a lifetime when he captured Marilyn’s singing ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ at Madison Square Garden in 1962, has died aged 83, the New York Post reports.

Born in Shelby, Nebraska, Bill joined the Omaha Camera Club aged eleven and built a professional darkroom in his family home. At seventeen, he got his first newspaper job in Lincoln; and in 1957, after excelling in a photographic workshop in Hannibal, Missouri, he moved to New York to work for LIFE. During the 1960s, he worked extensively in Paris and Hollywood.

Bill and his wife of 62 years, Marlys Ray, lived in an apartment overlooking Central Park in Manhattan. He died of a heart attack on January 8, 2020.

“‘It had been a noisy night, a very ‘rah rah rah’ kind of atmosphere. Then boom, on comes this spotlight. There was no sound. No sound at all. It was like we were in outer space. [Marilyn’s dress] was skin-colored, and it was skin-tight. It was sewn on, covered with brilliant crystals. There was this long, long pause … and finally, she comes out with this unbelievably breathy, ‘Happy biiiiirthday to youuuu,’ and everybody just went into a swoon. I was praying [that I could get the shot] because I had to guess at the exposure. It was a very long lens, and I had no tripod, so I had to rest the lens itself on the railing, and tried very, very hard not to breathe … If you got a picture from the front, everybody else would have it on the front page the next day and it wouldn’t be good for LIFE. You always needed something different. I had this idea that if I got way up I could shoot over Marilyn’s shoulder and have Kennedy in the picture. There was one slightly before that’s a little blurry because of the 300 mm lens. Shortly thereafter the lights went out and she disappeared, and the next thing I knew JFK was up on the stage. If I’d been luckier, there would have been a tiny bit of light that would have spilled onto Kennedy, who was over her shoulder between the podium and her head. ”

Bill Ray

Eminem References Marilyn, Hitchcock and Tate

Rapper Eminem’s surprise new ‘horrorcore’ album, Music to Be Murdered By, is supposedly influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, but its violent, misogynistic themes are nothing new. In a post cataloguing the album’s cinematic references, Screen Rant‘s Q.V. Hough notes that among the new tracks, ‘Little Engine‘ includes a sampled intro from Hitch himself, plus a nod to murdered actress Sharon Tate and a drug-fuelled allusion to Marilyn (‘I’m losin’ control / Heroin and blow, Marilyn Monroe …’) Neither is very accurate, as Tate was stabbed to death, not shot as Eminem claims; and Marilyn never used heroin or cocaine (blow.) Both women deserve better.

When ‘Rivals’ Meet: Marilyn and Jane in Semiahmoo, WA

When pin-up queens Marilyn and Jane Russell teamed up for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, reporters predicted a mighty feud – but they quickly struck up a close bond, onscreen and off, and many fans consider Jane the best co-star Marilyn ever had. As the Northern Light reports, at the Semiahmoo Resort near Blaine, Washington State on January 29 from 7-9 pm, Ron Miller, author of Conversations With Classic Film Stars, will consider their pairing in the second part of his free film series ‘When Rivals Meet’, alongside Fred Astaire vs Gene Kelly, Bette Davis vs Joan Crawford, and others.