David Krauss has given a rave review to the Criterion Collection’s new edition of The Asphalt Jungle (available on DVD and, for the first time, BluRay) over at High Def Digest.
“Though MGM produced many all-star pictures in the past (Grand Hotel and Dinner at Eight chief among them), The Asphalt Jungle was its first true ensemble film. Sterling Hayden and Louis Calhern receive top billing, but neither were big stars at the time, nor were Sam Jaffe, James Whitmore, Jean Hagen (who two short years later would make her biggest splash – and receive an Oscar nomination – as squeaky-voiced silent star Lina Lamont in Singin‘ in the Rain), or a gorgeous young actress by the name of Marilyn Monroe, who makes a huge impression in two brief scenes as Emmerich’s nubile mistress. (Much of the movie’s poster art showcases Monroe to make her seem like the star, but nothing could be further from the truth.) Harold Rosson, who was married to another blonde bombshell, Jean Harlow, 15 years before, beautifully photographs the 24-year-old Marilyn, bringing out both her innocence and allure, and under John Huston’s tutelage she files an affecting portrayal that belies her inexperience. The Asphalt Jungle would prove to be Monroe’s big break, and the actress herself cited the performance as one of her career highlights.”
Marilyn’s hilarious performance as the wide-eyed trickster Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is lauded today in ‘100 More Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy’, a virtual timeline for the Vulture website.
“Dumb-blonde jokes can be traced back as far as the 18th century, but it was Marilyn Monroe’s portrayal of Lorelei Lee that cemented them in modern pop culture. During this big dance number, Monroe’s iconic look, bleached-blonde and adorned in a thick diamond choker with a tight bright-pink dress, creates the prototype for a dumb blonde. She needs to be flamboyantly feminine, and speak softly and vapidly. As she says in the movie, ‘I can be smart when it’s important, but most men don’t like it.’ Monroe’s quick quips of feigned ignorance are supported by the groundedness of Dorothy Shaw, played by Jane Russell, in a rare-for-the-time female comedy duo. Helmed by Howard Hawks, a director famous for his ‘Hawksian’ tough-talking woman, the movie demonstrates comedy through the actress’s use of sexual agency. Monroe’s femininity is not an object but a tool to get what she wants — famously, diamonds. The sheer size of Monroe’s performance defined this fundamentally American archetype. Without her, there would be no Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Cher in Clueless, or Elle Woods of Legally Blonde.”
I AM YOU: Selected Works 1942-1978 is a new book showcasing the work of American photographer Gordon Parks, published by Steidl. The upper image as shown above, from his little-known 1956 shoot with Marilyn, is included. However, fans will notice that the photo appears to have been flipped, as her famous beauty spot is on the wrong side. As well as his celebrity portraits, Parks was famed for chronicling the civil rights movement, and later as a pioneering black filmmaker. A four-volume boxset, Gordon Parks: Collected Works, was released in 2012.
A photographic archive from the estate of legendary Hollywood cameraman Milton Krasner will be auctioned at Laidlaw’s in Carlisle, England on March 25, the Daily Mail reports. As the full catalogue has not yet been published, it is unclear how many photos feature Marilyn, other than the image shown above (with Krasner standing behind director Howard Hawks.) However, the star and her four-time lensman were photographed together during their earliest collaboration on All About Eve; and Sam Shaw captured them on the set of their penultimate project, The Seven Year Itch. (Krasner also filmed ‘The Ransom of the Red Chief’ for the portmanteau film, O. Henry’s Full House, though he was uncredited. Marilyn appeared in another segment.)
“An official photograph taken on the set of the 1950s classic, Monkey Business, featuring Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant in roller skates is a noteworthy picture that offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Krasner’s work.
A program from the 23rd Annual Academy Awards – when Krasner’s movie All About Eve received a record-breaking 14 nominations – and a signed Christmas card from American costume designer Charles LeMaire are just one of the rare pictures from Krasner’s archive that will be on sale.
The two had worked together on All About Eve and would go on to work together on The Seven Year Itch.
Krasner’s work with Marilyn Monroe and their shared filmography includes All About Eve, Monkey Business, O. Henry’s Full House, The Seven Year Itch and Bus Stop.”
That iconic scene from The Seven Year Itch – and the dress worn by Marilyn as she stood over the subway grate – is constantly being referenced in popular culture. One recent example is this magazine ad for the Marilyn-themed Sexy Hair brand.
On Immortal Marilyn this week, Marijane Gray unravels the mystery of what happened to that dress, designed by Marilyn’s regular costumer, Travilla.
“The white pleated halter dress that Marilyn Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch is always described in superlatives: most iconic, most recognized, most recreated, most expensive. It can also be called the most mysterious: how many copies of the dress were there? Is there another one in existence, hidden away all these years? Did Marilyn herself own a copy of the dress, and if so, where did it end up? And perhaps most intriguing: was a copy of the dress really stolen back in 1993?”
Also this week, Keena Al-Wahaidi reviews the movie that started it all for The Medium, the student magazine for the University of Toronto. (Incidentally, the campus is based at Mississauga, which is also home to a skyscraper complex whose curvaceous design has earned the nickname The Marilyn Monroe Towers.)
“The most notable aspect of The Girl is her obliviousness towards her own allure …. The most dubious fixture of this film is the lack of identity in Monroe’s character. The reason for her ambiguity is because she’s nameless … However, Monroe’s lack of identity contributes to the mystery of the film’s plot. Regardless of the immorality of the situation, we find ourselves rooting for Richard and The Girl. Despite the futility of their relationship, or perhaps owing to it, their fling is undeniably enthralling.”
Some Like It Hot will be screened at 8pm on St February 14 at the Old Market in Hove, East Sussex. Its connection to the most romantic day of the year is an unlikely one, as the story begins in Chicago, on the night of the St Valentine’s Day massacre. But Empire magazine’s Angie Errigo describes the 1959 farce as ‘a joyful classic which delivers on comedic value no matter how many times you’ve seen it.’
Multimedia artist Philippe Parreno’s 2012 video installation, Marilyn – based on her own writings as collected in the 2010 book, Fragments, and originally exhibited in Switzerland – is featured in a new retrospective of his work in film, Philippe Parreno: Thenabouts, on display at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne until March 13, as Christopher Allen reports for The Australian.
“The most successful and memorable work in the exhibition was devoted to Marilyn Monroe, a figure who for half a century has been a kind of cultural palimpsest: the original actress, talented, intelligent, tragic, is overlaid with Warhol’s adoption of her as emblematic of the way that the modern mass media turns celebrities into two-dimensional patterns akin to brands or logos.
Parreno has recreated the hotel room at the Waldorf Astoria that Monroe occupied in New York in 1955. The camera pans around the room while the actress’s voice describes its design and furnishings: wall coverings, sofas, desks, coffee-table, ornaments. And then the camera switches to a close shot of a fountain pen writing on hotel stationery: we seem to be watching Monroe’s own pen forming her own words in her own handwriting.
But the voice is disembodied and we do not see the hand holding the pen, for all is done through computerised robotic movements. The speech is synthesised from recordings of the star’s voice, and the handwriting robot has been programmed to reproduce samples of her script. As both voice and handwriting routines are repeated, we realise that something mechanical is going on, and this is confirmed as gradually the camera takes a longer view, progressively revealing parts of the illusion.
First we see bits of scaffolding, then gradually we are shown the mechanism holding and moving the pen. And then the camera pans out to reveal that the whole room had really been a set built in a studio. Marilyn Monroe, as it turned out, had not only been reduced to a brand in her own day, but could now be synthetically reproduced, mechanically cloned as it were; a reflection, perhaps, on the further reduction of the actor, in the mass media world, to a consumer product.
The ending was interesting from another point of view too, because it was almost cliched in its use of the trope of illusion revealed. But it was also significant in being one of the few clear endings in a body of films mostly with little sense of starting or finishing.
Watching Parreno’s lengthy and not always gripping body of work, I couldn’t help reflecting that Aristotle was on to something with his conception of plot as the basic structuring device for stories.
At least the Marilyn Monroe film conformed perfectly to his definition of an ending: an action that implies something before it but nothing after it.”
Showbiz impresario Sid Luft was married to Judy Garland from 1952-1965. He died in 2005, leaving behind an unfinished memoir, which is now being published as Judy and Me. As Liz McNeil reveals in an article for People, the book also mentions Judy’s friendship with Marilyn.
“According to Luft, Monroe’s death was ‘especially troubling to Judy since Marilyn had been one of Judy’s telephone pals during her years of insomnia.’
The book also includes an excerpt from an article written by Garland about Monroe for Ladies Home Journal in 1967, in which she revealed a haunting conversation she’d once had with the star.
In the article, Garland described a Hollywood party one evening in which Monroe followed her ‘from room to room.’
‘I don’t want to get too far away from you,’ she said. ‘I’m scared!’
I told her, ‘We’re all scared. I’m scared, too!’
“If we could just talk,” she said, “I know you’d understand.”
I said, “Maybe I would. If you’re scared, call me and come on over. We’ll talk about it.”
They never did.
As Garland wrote: ‘That beautiful girl was frightened of aloneness — the same thing I’d been been afraid of. Like me, she was just trying to do her job — garnish some delightful whipped cream onto some people’s lives, but Marilyn and I never got a chance to talk. I had to leave for England and I never saw that sweet, dear girl again. I wish I had been able to talk to her the night she died.’
‘I don’t think Marilyn really meant to harm herself,’ Garland continued, in an eerie foreshadowing of her own death from an accidental drug overdose in 1969.
‘It was partly because she had too many pills available, then was deserted by her friends. You shouldn’t be told you’re completely irresponsible and be left alone with too much medication. It’s too easy to forget. You take a couple of sleeping pills and you wake up in 20 minutes and forget you’ve taken them. So you take a couple more, and the next thing you know you’ve taken too many.’
Luft’s memoir also describes how Monroe would visit their home and play with their young children, Lorna and Joey Luft.
‘She’d sit by the fire, not talking much, a quiet presence,’ Luft writes. ‘Marilyn was sweet and very unhappy. She’d chat with Judy and play with the children, hang out. She was separated from one of her husbands [whom Luft doesn’t name] whom she complained was a nice person but said didn’t know how to make love to a woman. She’d hoped this pattern would change when they married. She was frustrated and disappointed.’
Now 61, their son Joey Luft, has sweet memories of Monroe, whom he remembers would sport jeans and eyeglasses for her casual visits.
‘She kind of looked like a really pretty schoolteacher,’ Joey recalls to PEOPLE. ‘That’s what I was thinking to myself. This can’t be like one of the huge sex symbols! My sister had just explained to me who she was before she walked in. My dad and mom were talking to her about movies and things and directors and people. I couldn’t figure it out. She came over the second time and she did the same thing and she only stayed for about 20 to 25 minutes. The next day or following day, I turn on the TV and I see Marilyn Monroe singing to President Kennedy, Happy Birthday. I put it together. I thought, Oh, that’s right! Now I get it.'”
Marilyn’s old studio, Twentieth Century Fox, is launching a line of fragrances named after her most famous movies, and a promotional video has been created for the first perfume, How to Marry a Millionaire, reports Wales Online.
“Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products developed a new collection based on the portfolio of 12 Hollywood film titles featuring Marilyn Monroe.
Bristol-based fragrance specialist Designer Fragrances then launched the How to Marry a Millionaire inspired women’s fragrance and gift sets in stores across Europe.
Luminous Media director Martin Downes, from Pontypool, said: ‘It is a massive honour for a local Welsh company to be able to produce a video for a product like this.’
‘As you can imagine, there are very strict guidelines for using images of a Hollywood legend like Marilyn Monroe. We came up with a storyboard for the motion graphic video that drew on elements from the movie as well as showcasing the fabulously designed fragrance bottle.'”