The annual Hollywood Legends auction at Julien’s, set for April 29, features a number of Marilyn-related items, including a 1961 check book which, as UK tabloid The Mirror reports, shows she was overdrawn at the time.
Here are some of the more unusual lots…
“A Marilyn Monroe novelty game night set. The Brown & Bigelow set contains two decks of playing cards, one showing Monroe in the ‘A New Wrinkle’ pose and one of Monroe in the ‘Golden Dreams’ pose from her 1949 Red Velvet photo session with Tom Kelley, and a set of four tin coasters showing Monroe in the ‘Golden Dreams’ pose and ‘Marilyn Monroe’ printed on each. Contained in a black flocked presentation box, stamped with an image of Monroe and branded text that reads ‘Always First/ with the Best Figures/ T D F CO.’ at lower right.”
Rare photos taken by Bruce Davidson during filming of Let’s Make Love.
A number of items related to photographer John Florea, including this contact sheet from the ‘Heat Wave’ number in There’s No Business Like Show Business.
A personal note from photographer Zinn Arthur to Marilyn and Milton Greene, probably penned during filming of Bus Stop.
Posing as Marilyn is becoming a rite of passage for ex-Disney starlets: following Dove Cameron’s recent lead is Bella Thorne, in a new shoot by Mona Kuhn for Harper’s Bazaar, channeling Douglas Kirkland’s legendary 1961 session. Madonna and Christina Aguilera are among earlier stars who’ve paid homage; Kirkland has himself recreated the scene with Angelina Jolie. Over at Yahoo Style, Hayley Fitzpatrick looks back on other celebrity tributes to Marilyn, both in and out of those silky sheets.
A four-page spread is devoted to Marilyn in Classic Film: Your Essential Guide to Retro Cinema, a one-off special from UK magazine Total Film. “Though she may be plastered on everything from commemorative plates to clothes, Monroe is worth checking out on celluloid,” the article begins. “An underrated comedienne, a seductive on-screen femme fatale and a mesmerising star, she left an indelible impression on cinema and popular culture. Miss Monroe, we salute you!”
Released last month, you can still buy it at good newsagents or online (I found it here.) The large-format edition looks back at more than a century of movie history, although the focus is mainly on the 1950s onwards. There are some interesting quotes about Marilyn from her directors and co-stars, as well as more recent acolytes like Michelle Williams and Naomi Watts. Unfortunately, two of the quotes attributed to Marilyn are fake – can you spot them?
An original review of Maurice Zolotow’s 1961 biography of Marilyn – the first detailed study of her life – is republished today in The Guardian, with critic Richard West proving that highbrow condescension is nothing new. (The above dedication was penned by Zolotow for teenage superfan James Haspiel, with Marilyn adding her two cents below.)
“The British intelligentsia are suckers for the Cinderella myth. Show them a pin-up girl turned movie star and they will rush to recognise her as a ‘natural actress,’ ‘a born comedienne,’ or ‘artlessly touching.’ One can think of at least three beautiful women, with no acting capabilities whatsoever, who have been acclaimed as actresses by the serious British critics. The same critics had very probably jeered at these same girls when they were merely ‘sex symbols.'”
Blogger Caroline Colvin takes a closer look at Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in her RomCom of the Week series, arguing that its portrayal of female sexuality is far more progressive than early critics realised.
“When the film first came out, critics berated Lorelei and Dorothy (and by extension, Monroe and Russell) for their sexual confidence. Their forwardness, by modern standards, however, is considered praiseworthy. It’s two sides of the same coin: either the women’s sexiness makes them solely objects for male consumption or their fearless sex appeal is a mark of empowerment, making them subjects, autonomous, active players in their own adult lives.
Are Dorothy and Lorelei villains of female sexuality, preying on and victimizing men? Or are they modern-day heroes for finessing the patriarchal, capitalist framework they’re living in?
Often, the process of unpacking gendered implications in film is like looking for a diamond in the rough. And as seen with with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, sometimes, it takes a little extra sifting.”
Following news that the American pop artist James Rosenquist has died aged 83, here’s a closer look at one of his most celebrated works, from The Art Story.
“Marilyn Monroe, I (1962)
James Rosenquist painted this inverted and fragmented portrait of Marilyn Monroe just following her unexpected death in 1962. Like fellow Pop artist Andy Warhol, Rosenquist transformed Marilyn’s iconic image. But whereas Warhol used well-known photographs of the celebrity sex symbol repetitiously, Rosenquist chose to present her in a manner that denied immediate recognition, while preserving her coquettishness. He achieved this by breaking apart her eyes, lips, and hand, reassembling the pieces into a seemingly random configuration, and boldly overlaying letters that are themselves fragments of her name.
Below the lettering appears a fragment of the word ‘Coca-Cola’ in the soda’s trademark script. Through this association with branding, mass-production, and popular culture, the artist draws attention not so much to Monroe as a person as to how she was packaged in the mass media and marketed based on her sex appeal, here synecdochically referred to through images of her smiling mouth and attractive blue eyes artistically repackaged. Rosenquist’s painting of Marilyn Monroe is one of countless others painted by his contemporaries, including Andy Warhol and Willem de Kooning, that attest to the increasing power of mass media and its impact on art production during the 1960s.
Oil and spray enamel on canvas – Museum of Modern Art, New York”
Ella Queen of Jazz is a new children’s book by Helen Hancocks, recounting the famous story of Marilyn’s friendship with Ella Fitzgerald. Although its historical accuracy has been questioned and some of the details may be embellished, the anecdote came from Ella’s own lips. What we can be sure of is that Marilyn helped Ella to secure a nightclub engagement in Hollywood, and that she attended her show on at least one occasion. Marilyn considered Ella her own greatest musical influence, and the women remained friendly until her death. A Christmas card sent by Ella to Marilyn was auctioned at Julien’s last year, and they would both perform at President Kennedy’s birthday gala in 1962. Although we may quibble over the details, it’s an empowering tale of female friendship overcoming social barriers and is rendered colourfully in this charming book.
In an interesting article for Broadly, Mitchell Sunderland explores the bizarre phenomenon of #ThugMarilyn – the images of a tattooed, gun-toting MM which adorn unofficial t-shirts, phone covers and social media pages, yet are the antithesis of the real Marilyn’s sweetly sexy persona and her gentle, introspective private self. While some fans clearly feel this makes her more relatable, to me #ThugMarilyn is as mythical as the ‘dumb blonde’ character she sometimes played in movies. Furthermore, I’m not sure Marilyn would have wanted to be associated with violence and crime.
“Marilyn Monroe has lost her edge. Her sexual roles and nude Playboy pictorial made her one of the most controversial women of the 20th century, but the masses turned her once forbidden image into a backdrop for inspirational quotes posted on Pinterest and Instagram.
#ThugMarilyn posts cover Monroe in a 20th century aesthetic that opposes the sanitized version of her that appears on dorm room posters and alongside inspirational quotes, but it’s questionable how the hashtag associates tattoos and basketball jerseys with a dangerous coolness.
But the images of Monroe and Los Angeles have always been open to interpretation: Monroe played comedic roles while suffering from depression in her off time, and the underground has always lurked under the surface and around the corner from movie studio lots … Despite the dull quotes that millennials now attribute to her name, the underworld and hustling has always defined Monroe as much as her movie stardom—just like Los Angeles itself.
As much as #ThugMarilyn drawings rely on glaring stereotypes, their creators believe they’re bringing authenticity to Monroe’s life and legacy, which contain multitudes and contradictions. Monroe never flashed guns or paid for a tattoo sleeve, but her public persona consisted of playing dumb blonde comedic roles while navigating a tragic personal life and a sexuality the public deemed controversial.”