Newsweek at the Movies

Michelle Williams, currently starring in Blue Valentine, has spoken to Newsweek about her role as MM in the forthcoming My Week With Marilyn. You can watch her here, along with James Franco and Nicole Kidman, discussing their own experiences of playing iconic, real-life characters such as James Dean and Virginia Woolf on the big screen.

Michelle is also cover girl for February’s Marie-Claire in the UK.

‘Blonde’: The Mini-Series


Blonde, a TV adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, was first aired in 2002, barely two years after the book’s publication. Directed by Joyce Chopra and starring Poppy Montgomery (Without a Trace) as Marilyn Monroe, it is currently available to watch for free online at Blinkbox.

Although Blonde is based on Monroe’s life, it plays fast and loose with the facts. Characters like ‘I.E. Shinn’, the fictitious agent, are amalgamations of several men who played significant roles in Monroe’s early career. Her first husband, James Dougherty, is renamed ‘Bucky Glazer’, while DiMaggio and Miller are referred to as ‘the Ballplayer’ and ‘the Playwright’.

This technique puts Monroe in the spotlight, and makes her brief, intense life seem much less complex than it really was. Vague, unconfirmed rumours about her relationship with peripheral figures, like Charlie Chaplin’s son, are distorted beyond recognition. While proclaiming that ‘she wasn’t blonde, and she wasn’t dumb’ (seemingly paraphrasing Dolly Parton), Marilyn is portrayed as a victim, passive and helpless.

Poppy Montgomery’s performance is actually quite good, but the other characters are little more than caricatures. Perhaps the most misleading scene of all shows Monroe exchanging sexual favours with Darryl F. Zanuck, head of Twentieth Century Fox, for a stock contract. This incident never occurred and, to me as a fan, it was offensive.

The first half of this two-parter mainly covers Monroe’s pre-Hollywood life as Norma Jeane Mortenson. Her mother is played rather stridently by Patricia Richardson. The costuming in the latter part is somewhat sloppy, playing on stereotyped images and not acknowledging how subtly Monroe transformed herself.

Blonde is reasonably watchable, but fails to rise above other two-dimensional portrayals of Marilyn’s life. It doesn’t match the attempted lyricism of Oates’ novel and fails to distinguish between fact and fantasy.

A new, big-screen version is now planned, to be directed by Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) and starring Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive, King Kong, The Painted Veil.)

Rare ‘Misfits’ Pics, Screening in Reno

“This 1960 photo of Marilyn and Eli Wallach was taken with a Kodak ‘Brownie’ box camera by Lisa Graeber at Quail Canyon near Pyramid Lake, while filming The Misfits in Nevada.

Lisa Graeber (then Lisa Stix) was home for the summer after her first year at college when the movie crew took over their house in Quail Canyon, near Pyramid Lake. Graeber and her mother moved into their guesthouse during the filming, and got to know several of the cast and crew members. Graeber took personal photos with her Kodak ‘Brownie’ box camera, which have not yet been seen publicly and will be displayed at a free screening of The Misfits, on February 13 at 2pm, Wells Fargo Auditorium, Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno.

‘There is something special about Lisa’s unstaged photos,’ said Donnelyn Curtis, head of the University’s Special Collections Department.

Curtis explained that Graeber’s brother, Dave Stix, a University alumnus and rodeo team member, was hired to be a night watchman for the Quail Canyon movie set, helped with the rodeo sets in Dayton, and found extras to be rodeo performers in the movie.

Film critic Robin Holabird will provide commentary and share stories about the various set locations at the Feb. 13 screening.

The screening is in conjunction with the “Honoring the Horse” exhibit, on display at the Knowledge Center through March. Since other “stars” in the movie were four-legged creatures – wild horses, rodeo horses and trained movie horses, the exhibit pays homage to these horses, and horses in general, which have played an important role in Nevada’s history.”

Nevada News

Re-Branding Joe DiMaggio

Following the recent licensing deal for Marilyn, it seems that her former husband, Joe DiMaggio, is also about to be ‘rebranded’. Morris Engelberg, DiMaggio’s longtime friend and attorney, became his trustee when the American sporting icon died in 1999.

In partnership with Moda Licensing and Dominant Players, Engelberg’s newly formed company, Joe DiMaggio LLC, will ‘energise, promote and license the DiMaggio brand’, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, a record that remains unbroken. ‘Joe’s last words to me were to protect his name and do the right thing,’ Engelberg says. ‘This new team will present the Joe DiMaggio brand to the public with the same class and style he epitomized on and off the field.’

In 2003, Engelberg published a personal memoir, Joe DiMaggio: Setting the Record Straight. Last year, Engelberg attempted unsuccessfully to prevent Yale University Press from using a photo of Joe with Marilyn on the cover of a forthcoming biography by author Jerome Charyn, Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil.

‘Bus Stop’ in the Midlands

Louise Dylan will play Cherie

“In his day, William Inge was as well-known and influential as his friend and mentor Tennesse Williams, with Broadway hits and Hollywood movies. He came from Kansas, writing about small town life and people.

In the UK productions of his work are rare so I’m delighted that we are presenting the in-the-round premiere of Bus Stop here in the Midlands.

Theresa Heskins, artistic director of the New Vic, Newcastle-Under-Lyme

This new production of Inge’s original play (which differs slightly from the famous MM movie) runs from January 28 until February 19, before transferring to the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.

The eight-strong cast includes Louise Dylan (Harriet Smith in the 2009 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma), Patrick Driver, Philip Correia, Abigail McKern and Beth Park.  James Dacre directs. Ticket prices range from £9.50 – £18.50.

Taschen Reissues De Dienes’ ‘Marilyn’

Art publisher Taschen is reissuing Andre de DienesMarilyn, one of the finest photography books on Monroe, in a compact, two-volume edition with slip-cover. Full price is £24.99 ($39.99) but it can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK for just £13.49 (or $23.75 on Amazon.com.)

Andre de Dienes first met the 19 year-old Norma Jeane Dougherty in 1945, only a few months into her modelling career. Their collaboration was, from the outset, an inspired one, and they were reunited for the classic Tobey Beach shoot in 1949, and a final session in 1953.

De Dienes was infatuated by Marilyn, and though (for the most part)  she kept him at bay, they remained friends for years afterward. In the accompanying text, ‘Reality Can Be Stranger Than Fiction’, De Dienes’ memories of  their time together are reproduced and they give a unique insight into the young Monroe.

De Dienes’ photographs of MM were first collected in the mostly black-and-white Marilyn, Mon Amour (1986.) In 2002, Taschen published a deluxe, limited edition boxset, including the book, Marilyn, a Kodak film box containing facsimile prints, a booklet featuring magazine layouts, and a complete reproduction of De Dienes’ manuscript.

The 240-page Marilyn has also been published separately, in hard-cover and paperback, as a more economic option, and it is this volume which is now being reissued in a new format. It includes both colour and monochrome shots, as well as De Dienes’ text.

This latest reissue was featured in The Independent last weekend, in an article titled, ‘Norma Jeane as We Never Knew Her’.

Thanks to Edgar Freire

Marilyn: The Norma Jeane Years

This DVD was released in 2010, but it is actually a reissue of a 1991 documentary, The Discovery of Marilyn Monroe. As the titles suggest, this 50-minute film focusses on Marilyn’s early career, including Norma Jeane’s ‘discovery’ by photographer David Conover while she was working at the Radio Plane munitions plant in Los Angeles in 1945, while her first husband, Jim Dougherty, was serving in the Navy during World War II.

This meeting, which inspired the 19 year-old Norma Jeane to pursue a modelling career, is reconstructed by actors. This early period is also touched upon in interviews with her foster sister, Eleanor ‘Bebe’ Goddard. Sketches that she and Norma Jeane made in their teens, including their own fashion designs, are shown here.

Dougherty, who became a policeman after divorcing Norma Jeane in 1946, is also interviewed. He is filmed arriving in Los Angeles, and driving a Ford Dodge car similar to the one he owned during their four-year marriage. He is reunited with two more famous names from his past, Jane Russell (whom he once dated while at high school, and later met at a dance with Norma Jeane) and Robert Mitchum (with whom Dougherty worked with at Lockheed, another munitions plant, soon after his wedding to Norma Jeane.)

Of these interviewees, it is Russell who seems the most realistic and empathetic with Monroe, with whom she would co-star in 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Of all the main interviewees, Russell is now the only one still living. Mitchum (who once visited the Dougherty home) was paired with Marilyn later the same year, in River of No Return.

Their memories of Norma Jeane/Marilyn suggest a sweet, shy young woman who was undone by her own vulnerability. It is interesting to observe the dynamic between the three old friends, as Dougherty had not seen either Mitchum or Russell for almost fifty years. Dougherty seemed upset that Mitchum had not replied to his letters.

Robert Slatzer, the Hollywood journalist who claimed to have secretly married Marilyn in 1952, also appears briefly. In recent years his claims have been much disputed by biographers like Donald Spoto. But Bebe Goddard calls him a friend in her footage, though they would not have known Marilyn at the same time. It’s more likely that Slatzer befriended Goddard after Monroe’s death.

Overall this is a slight but pleasant enough documentary, and the footage of Goddard and Russell is worth seeing. I was a little disappointed to realise that this is not a new documentary, and might not have bought it had I known. However this was not a film I have seen before so despite being rather misled, it was still quite an enjoyable experience.

You can also watch this documentary on Youtube

Gus Zernial 1923-2011

Gus Zernial, the left-fielder and right-hand batter who played in baseball’s Major League during the 1950s, has died aged 87. Along with Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, Zernial hit the most home runs during the decade.

Zernial is also known to MM fans because of the publicity photo he posed for with a young Marilyn in March 1951, while he was with the Chicago White Sox at spring training camp in Pasadena. (He is standing next to her in the picture above.)

‘I was really attracted to her beauty, but more than that,’ Zernial told author Michelle Morgan, as quoted in her 2007 book, Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. ‘She was attractive both inside and out – a beautiful person to talk to, and I also believe she had a lot more to offer than the way she was shown by Hollywood.’

The stunt was organised by press agent David March. After the pictures were published, none other than Joe DiMaggio asked, ‘Who’s the blonde?’

The story goes that in early 1952, when DiMaggio was visiting Los Angeles, March arranged a date with Marilyn. And the rest, as they say, is history…

Irreplaceable Marilyn

‘Hollywood’s a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul,’ Marilyn Monroe once said. ‘I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty cents.’

Since Canadian businessman Jamie Salter acquired the rights to license Marilyn Monroe’s image for $50 million from Anna Strasberg last week, there has been talk of Marilyn being ‘reanimated’ in future advertising and even movies.

This is not an entirely new idea – footage from Some Like it Hot was used in a Holsten Pils lager commercial back in 1987, replacing Tony Curtis with Griff Rhys-Jones. But Marilyn’s dialogue remained unaltered.

In a 2010 commercial for Citroen DS3, ‘Anti-Retro’, vintage news footage of Monroe was over-dubbed with promotional dialogue. Some journalists  mistakenly reported that the lines were Marilyn’s, although the original interview is well-known to fans and has appeared in several documentaries.

In December 2010, comedian and writer Mel Smith spoke of the Hollywood director George Lucas‘s plans to reanimate stars of yesteryear in new movies. ‘He’s been buying up the film rights to dead movie stars,’ said Smith of Lucas, ‘in the hope of using computer trickery to put them all together in a movie, so you’d have Orson Welles and Barbara Stanwyck appear alongside today’s stars.’

A Lucasfilm spokesperson denied the rumour as ‘completely false.’ However, Mark Roesler of CMG, the company that licenses the estates of many past celebrities, including – until recently – Marilyn Monroe, confirmed that he had been approached by Lucas.

MM will now be represented by Authentic Brands Group. ‘I had Marilyn Monroe locked up before he told the world he’d like to do a Marilyn Monroe movie,’ chairman Jamie Salter boasted last week, adding, ‘I’ll make him a better deal then he’d get with Angelina Jolie.’

Salter predicts that the first full-length film featuring a dead celebrity could be released within just two years. He insists that he will protect Monroe’s legacy: ‘When she’s on the set, we’ll manage her. She’s not taking off her clothes, I can tell you that!’

What concerns me most about this development is the distinct possibility that Marilyn’s image will be used in ways that she may not have approved had she still been alive. ‘These celebrities don’t talk back,’ Salter told reporters last week. ‘They don’t go out on the town late. They are ready to film every day.’

In 1962, shortly before her death, Marilyn said, ‘An actor is not a machine, no matter how much they want to say you are…everybody is always tugging at you. They’d all like sort of a chunk of you.’ Her words seem as relevant today as they did nearly fifty years ago.