Marilyn and Clifford Odets

‘Clash by Night’ (1952)

One of Marilyn Monroe’s strongest early film roles was as Peggy, the feisty cannery worker in Clash by Night (1952), based on a play by Clifford Odets.

Marilyn knew Odets quite well and later played Lorna Moon in a scene from his most famous play, Golden Boy, at the Actor’s Studio during the late 1950s. She later considered starring in Odets’ screenplay, The Story on Page One (1959), but that role went to Rita Hayworth, and was directed by Odets himself.

Always competitive with Miller, Odets took a rather dim view of The Misfits (1960), Monroe’s last completed film, which Miller wrote and John Huston directed.

Odets was the leading New York playwright of the 1930s and 40s, and his plays focussed on social injustice and the plight of the ‘little man’. He was also involved in the formation of the Group Theatre alongside Lee Strasberg.

Unlike Arthur Miller, the playwright who ultimately eclipsed him, Odets chose to ‘name names’ in the House Un-American Activities Committee trials of the early 1950s, a decision he would bitterly regret. He died in 1963.

In his essay on Monroe in the book, Who the Hell’s in It, director Peter Bogdanovich recalled, ‘Clifford told me that Marilyn Monroe used to come over to his house and talk, but that the only times she seemed to him really comfortable were when she was with his two young children and their large poodle. She relaxed with them, felt no threat. With everyone else, Odets said, she seemed nervous, intimidated, frightened. When I repeated to Miller this remark about her with children and animals, he said, “Well, they didn’t sneer at her.'”

Soon after Monroe’s death, Odets wrote, ‘One night some short weeks ago, for the first time in her not always happy life, Marilyn Monroe’s soul sat down alone to a quiet supper from which it did not rise. If they tell you that she died of sleeping pills you must know that she died of a wasting grief, of a slow bleeding at the soul.’

One of Odets’ later plays, The Country Girl (filmed in 1954 with Grace Kelly) is currently being revived in London. Walt Odets has spoken to the Jewish Chronicle about his famous father and his memories, and mentioned, rather unfavourably, the marriage of Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe:

“The Strasberg version of the marriage was that Arthur treated Marilyn badly. So I grew up with bad feelings about Miller. I met Arthur a few times and he was a very hard, cold man. He was the kind of guy who doesn’t like children or dogs. And for a child that is immediately perceptible.”

The Kennedy Detail

Former FBI agent Gerald Blaine, one of the security staff who witnessed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, is the author of a new book, The Kennedy Detail, which is also the title of an upcoming Discovery Channel documentary.

Regarding the rumour that Kennedy had an affair with Marilyn Monroe, Blaine says that there were only two occasions on which they were known to be together – on May 19, 1962 after she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ at his 45th birthday celebration in New York, and once the previous year, at the home of his sister and brother-in-law, Patricia and Peter Lawford.

Mr Blaine says Monroe attended a party after the birthday celebration at the Carlyle Hotel – but left before the other guests.

The Australian

Bruce Conner’s ‘Marilyn Times Five’

Arline Hunter

Bruce Conner was an avant-garde artist, and his work has been celebrated in a new documentary, Bruce Conner: The Art of Montage. The film includes a short clip called ‘Marilyn Times Five’, which purportedly shows a semi-naked Monroe, fondling – wait for it – an apple, and a Coca Cola bottle.

However, it has long since been established that the woman in the clip is not Monroe, but actress and glamour model Arline Hunter.

James Haspiel, who got to know Monroe as a teenage fan, is now considered an expert on the actress. In his 1991 book, Marilyn: The Ultimate Look at the Legend, Haspiel noted that Hunter had recreated Marilyn’s famous nude calendar pose for Playboy in 1954. Hunter had appeared in several ‘stag films’, which were falsely marketed as featuring a young Monroe.

Marilyn in court, 1952

Marilyn had appeared in court in 1952 to testify that pornographic photos sold by mail order were not of her. These pictures, too, were of Hunter.

Haspiel noted that one of Hunter’s blue movies, The Apple-Knockers and the Coke, was screened in a New York cinema in 1970, with Marilyn Monroe incorrectly billed as its star.

‘Ultimately,’ Haspiel commented, ‘Hunter’s Monroe masquerade in that nudie short resulted in a box-office bonanza for those theatres daring enough to utilise the Monroe name and image in their advertisments.’

Marilyn’s Internet Quotes: ‘Consider the Source’

Photo by Ben Ross

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

This quote has been attributed to Marilyn countless times on the internet in recent years. However, I have never been able to find the source: not in any biography, memoir or interview.

Therefore, I consider this quote to be dubious at best. However, a writer at Gender Agenda has posted a feminist critique, no less, entitled (with no apparent irony) ‘Women Who Just Don’t Get the Point.’

“If you haven’t heard this quote before then you must acquaint yourself with all the right people. The women who use and adopt this quote (it is almost invariably women), I am sure, do it in the spirit of GIRL POWER. Women do this, and like this, and act like this; and, if you can’t deal with it, then tough. Women get emotional, women can be erratic – and if you won’t handle our cons then you can’t get our pros. I think that this detrimentally misses the point of feminism, which I believe to be gender diversity, equality and acceptance.”

As I was unable to log into the site, I could not point out that this quote was probably not said by Monroe. However, I see that another reader has commented, quite eloquently, on the matter in hand.

“While I think that you fundamentally have a good point, I would disagree with you on your assessment of Monroe’s quote; I don’t believe that there is any sort of broad base for the quote, it is intended to be entirely personal. Monroe was known for having personal issues, at the same time as being the most desired woman of her era.

In the same way as I might comment on my own personal problems, we do not assume this to extend across all of male-dom. If I say I have issues with anger, or drink, or self-esteem, or the colour blue, I am not taken as the mouthpiece of all men, all Asians, all scientists, or any other demographic. This is reflected in the structure of her sentence-’I’; it appears more as an affirmation of self-worth, if you cannot cope with the negative aspects of her character, then she has no reason to let you experience the side of her that she likes and appreciates. People desired the ideal of Marilyn Monroe, but her quote indicates a refusal to grant them this ideal, if they didn’t want to/couldn’t handle having the real, 3D, human, Marilyn Monroe, née Norma Jeane Mortenson, at the same time, as irrevocably intertwined were the two.”

Marilyn’s Thanksgiving Recipe

Among other writings, Fragments includes several recipes, and the New York Times suggests Marilyn’s stuffing may be perfect for Thanksgiving:

The image of a bombshell cooking her way to nirvana may seem old-hat now, thanks to Nigella, Giada, Padma and the like. But back in the 1950s, a Hollywood starlet was not expected to squander her talents (or risk her manicure) chopping onions.

A new book, however, includes a recipe in Marilyn Monroe’s handwriting that suggests that she not only cooked, but cooked confidently and with flair.”

Although the editors of Fragments date this recipe to the late 1950s, these culinary experts suggest that Marilyn may have learned to cook this Italian-style stuffing during her marriage to Joe DiMaggio. (Marilyn and Joe spent time with his sister, Marie, in San Francisco, and she may have shared secrets of Italian cuisine with her famous sister-in-law.)

Introducing ‘MM: Personal’

This upcoming book by Dr Lois Banner is an illustrated look at ‘the Inez Melson files’, collected by Melson, Marilyn Monroe’s business manager, from filing cabinets at Monroe’s home immediately after her death in 1962.

The collection, photographed by Mark Anderson, was the subject of a Vanity Fair cover story, ‘The Things She Left Behind’, in 2008.

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Abrams (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810995875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810995871

Sandy Denny Sings ‘Candle in the Wind’

Sandy Denny was an English folk singer, and first found fame as a member of Fairport Convention. Her songs include ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes?’ and ‘The Battle of Evermore’ (with Led Zeppelin.)

In 1977, Denny recorded a cover of Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind’, a song about the tragic life of Marilyn Monroe, for her last solo album, Rendezvous. It was released as a single. Miss Denny died a year later, aged 31.

‘Candle in the Wind’ is ranked #347 in Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It has also been covered by Kate Bush, and Elton John recorded an altered version after the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

Nonetheless, I personally consider Sandy Denny’s version of ‘Candle in the Wind’ to be the best by far. It was an unusual choice for her, given that she rarely ventured into pop. Perhaps Sandy was a fan (of either the song, or Marilyn), and certainly her brief and troubled, but brilliant career could be compared to Monroe’s.

Joyce Carol Oates on ‘Fragments’

“Like all serious artists, Marilyn Monroe lived – lives – in her art. Fugitive pieces like those of Fragments will resonate most with those who know her extraordinary films. Here is a female artist for whom work was salvation, or might have been if circumstances had been slightly different; if, for instance, Monroe had remained in New York at the Actor’s Studio, and had not returned to Hollywood, in 1960, to make The Misfits. In an interview of 1959, as if in rueful acknowledgement of her impending fate, Monroe said, ‘I guess I am a fantasy’ – a luminous phantom in the lives of others.”

From the December issue of US Playboy – read in full here