Marilyn Goes Back to Burlap

‘What makes your hometown weird?’ Mey Valdivia Rude asks over at Autostraddle. Her hometown of Blackfoot is also the home of the Idaho Potato Museum, which ‘houses things like a life size pin-up of Marilyn Monroe in a dress made from a potato sack and the world’s largest potato crisp.’

The museum’s website includes ‘Movie Star in Burlap‘, an article revealing how Marilyn came to wear an Idaho potato sack, and souvenirs are available in the gift shop. (You can see more photos from the shoot with Earl Thiesen here.)

“In the early days of her struggle to attract the attention of the Hollywood community and the media, Norma Jeane wore a sexy and revealing red dress to a 1951 holiday-season party. A columnist commented in a print about the incident and observed that Marilyn’s stunning figure would look good even if she wore a potato sack. The remark prompted her publicity agent to have a dress made from a burlap bag obtained at the local produce market, which Marilyn wore for a photographic session. The bag had been packed at Long Produce in Twin Falls, Idaho, and displayed the Idaho identification and Long’s Sawtooth brand as never before.

The Longs wrote to Marilyn and thanked her for the publicity and she graciously responded with an autographed picture that was displayed on the office wall and reproduced for advertising and promotional purposes.

When Long Produce ceased business in the late 50’s, the prized autograph disappeared. Another print, however, was found recently at a garage sale in Minneapolis and purchased by a Union Pacific Railroad executive who presented the Idaho Grower-Shippers Association with two copies for their use. Reproduction of the picture by the Association in their yearbook publication captured the fancy of a new generation of fans.”

2017: A Year In Marilyn Headlines

In January, amateur footage from the set of The Seven Year Itch was uncovered, and Twentieth Century Fox launched a perfume range inspired by Marilyn’s movies. Buddy Greco – the jazz pianist and singer believed to have taken the last snapshots of Marilyn – passed away aged 90.

In February, Marilyn appeared in a TV ad for Cadillac, first aired during the 2017 Oscar ceremony. A new memoir by Patricia Bosworth, including reminiscences of Marilyn at the Actors Studio, was published. And New York’s iconic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where Marilyn lived in 1955, finally closed its doors.

In March, Marilyn in Manhattan, Elizabeth Winder’s book about Marilyn’s first year in New York, was published. The All About Marilyn fan club launched a new weekly podcast, while film historian Karina Longworth presented a three-part special on Marilyn for her popular series, You Must Remember This. Marilyn’s infamous spat with Joan Crawford was recreated in TV’s Feud: Bette and Joan. Julien’s Auctions held an online photo sale, ‘Marilyn Through the Lens.’ Supermodel Karlie Kloss recreated ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ for a Swarovski commercial, while Kendall Jenner posed Marilyn-style for Love magazine. James Rosenquist, one of the first artists to make Marilyn his muse, and Lola Albright, the first choice for Angela in The Asphalt Jungle, both passed away.

In April, Marilyn Monroe: Auction of a Lifetime – a documentary about the Julien’s sale of 2016 – was broadcast in the UK. Ella Queen of Jazz, a children’s book by Helen Hancocks about Ella Fitzgerald’s friendship with Marilyn, was published, marking the singer’s centenary. And Cecil Beaton’s 1956 portrait of Marilyn (her own favourite) was projected onto the Empire State Building, celebrating 150 years of Harper’s Bazaar.

In May, Marilyn made the cover of Yours Retro magazine, with an article inside by Michelle Morgan about her time in England. Actress Gillian Anderson appeared as Marilyn in TV’s American Gods. Unmissable Marilyn, an exhibition curated by collector Ted Stampfer, opened in Rome. Dinner With DiMaggio, a memoir of the baseball legend by Dr Rock Positano, was published; and James Spada, author of Monroe: A Life in Pictures, and Hollywood publicist Joe Hyams both passed away.

On June 1st, fans celebrated Marilyn’s 91st birthday. Also this month, her final home in Los Angeles was sold for $7.25 million. Some Like It Hot returned to theatres across the USA as part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, and Marilyn graced the cover of a Saturday Evening Post special on the golden age of Hollywood. Her final days at Twentieth Century Fox were examined in a new book by French film historian Olivier Rajchman, while in Finland, a new fiction anthology, Marilyn, Marilyn, was published. And Bill Pursel, who befriended Marilyn in the late 1940s, reporter Gabe Pressman, and British collector David Gainsborough Roberts all passed away.

In July, the beaded ‘nude’ dress worn by Marilyn when she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to President Kennedy – purchased by Ripley’s Entertainment in 2016 – started a world tour in Canada. Marilyn’s address books were published on Kindle. And actor Martin Landau, who befriended Marilyn in New York, plus Aleshia Brevard – the transgender impersonator who once performed for Marilyn herself – and film critic Barry Norman, who wrote and presented a 1979 documentary about Marilyn as part of his Hollywood Greats series, all passed away.

August marked the 55th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. In Los Angeles, Marilyn Remembered – the fan club which organises her annual memorial service at Westwood – celebrated its own 35th birthday with a series of events including a charity gala at Hollygrove, and a special screening of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the Chinese Theatre. The Immortal Marilyn fan club was also present, hosting a pool party for fans at the Avalon Hotel, and a toast to MM on Santa Monica Beach.

Also in August, original photographs of Marilyn by George Barris and others went under the hammer at dedicated auctions in New York and Los Angeles. Some Like It Hot topped a BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Comedy Films, and The Misfits was re-released in France. Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment, a mammoth study of Marilyn’s home studio was published, and she also made the cover of Reminisce magazine. And comedian Jerry Lewis, who befriended Marilyn when she appeared on his radio show in 1953, passed away.

In September, The Essential Marilyn Monroe, a new retrospective of her work with photographer Milton Greene, was published. Another weighty tome, Marilyn Monroe’s Film Co-Stars From A to Z by David Alan Williams, was also released. Prism, Terry Johnson’s new play about cinematographer Jack Cardiff, opened in London, and Marilyn also featured in a new documentary, Magnum Through the Camera Eye. Wolf Alice singer Ellie Roswell paid homage to Marilyn in the ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ video. Versace reinvented the iconic ‘Marilyn dress’; and Montblanc launched a range of Monroe-inspired pens. Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy empire, died aged 91, and was buried in the crypt next to Marilyn at Westwood Memorial Park.

In October, Marilyn (as Sugar Kane in Some Like It Hot) graced one of 100 covers of UK magazine Total Film, and her favourite red taffeta and black lace gown went on display at the French Embassy in New York. Terry Johnson’s play, Insignificance, was revived in London, and lookalike Suzie Kennedy made a cameo appearance in Blade Runner 2049.

In November, a pair of gold-plated earrings worn by Marilyn in promotional shots for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was sold at Julien’s Auctions for $112,500. Marilyn: Her Untold Story, a magazine special, was published in the US. And gossip columnist Liz Smith, a longtime champion of Marilyn, died aged 94.

And in December, 21st Century Fox Entertainment – including Marilyn’s cache of classic films – was purchased by Disney for $52.4 billion.  Photos of Marilyn by Sam Shaw, Bert Stern and others went on display at the Galerie De L’Instant in Paris. A brief guide to one of Marilyn’s earliest movies, Love Happy, was published; and Richard Havers, author of Marilyn: A Life in Words, Pictures and Music, passed away.

Inside the Coca Cola Archive With Marilyn

Marilyn and Coca Cola are among the most recognisable American cultural icons. In an article for the Daily Mail, Anna Hopkins visits the Coca Cola archive managed by Ted Ryan in Atlanta, Georgia and finds images of Marilyn sipping Coke by the pool at Greenacres, the Hollywood home of silent movie comedian turned 3D photographer Harold Lloyd (seen here wearing a blue suit and his trademark spectacles.) She visited in 1953 with Jean Negulesco, supposedly to film a dream sequence for How to Marry a Millionaire. This never transpired, but footage of a seductive Marilyn purring “I hate a careless man” was used in ‘Security Is Common Sense’, a PSA for the US Air Force, warning servicemen against revealing military secrets in letters home.

More shots taken by Harold Lloyd

Studio contract stars like Marilyn were routinely asked to endorse products, although she would do so less frequently in later years. Despite the Mail article’s claims, the Lloyd shoot does not appear to have been directly connected to Coca Cola – but the tacit promotional value was clearly  welcomed, and it has since become part of their glamorous legacy. In 1951, Marilyn was filmed drinking Coke in a scene from Love Nest.  And Edward Clark’s candid shot of Marilyn and co-star Jane Russell enjoying a Coke on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) was revived in a 2015 company ad campaign.

Marilyn’s Chocolate Box Mystery

Although she isn’t named, the lovely lady shown on this box of Belgian chocolate, illustrated by Jaak De Koninck of the Leuven-based interior design company, Starbrook Airlines (and spotted at Brussels Airport), looks very Marilyn-inspired – don’t you agree?

More info here.

Thanks to Liesl at Marilyn Remembered

UPDATE: These Belgian chocolate selections are also available at TK Maxx (spotted by Fraser)

Marilyn and the Golden Age of Radio

Marilyn by John Engstead, 1947

Marilyn’s earliest radio interview, recorded for Lux Radio Theatre on February 24, 1947, is featured in a three-hour special on BBC Radio 4Extra, The Golden Age of American Radio, as Kate Chisholm reports for The Spectator. You can listen to the clip here.

“They had money for radio in those days, the big brands sponsoring long-running shows, such as the Lux Radio Theater, when Hollywood stars reprised their film roles in adaptations that were broadcast live, with an interval, just like in the cinema. We heard Marilyn Monroe being interviewed in an intermission, stumbling over her words, giggling nervously, and dropping in a plug for the sponsor (Lux soap flakes).

‘Lux helps a lot,’ says her interviewer, clumsily introducing the subject of doing the washing.

‘That’s right, Mr Kennedy,’ says Monroe. ‘It’s my standby.’

‘Thousands of girls have been telling us for years how lovely the lingerie stays with Lux care?’

‘Any girl would prefer pretty undies than faded ones,’ Monroe simpers through what sounds suspiciously like gritted teeth.”

Facing the Future With Marilyn

Marilyn in ‘Niagara’ (1953)

Any longtime  Marilyn fan will know the challenges we face in preserving her true legacy, and two recent news stories suggest our troubles are only beginning. Toby Walsh, a professor of Artificial Intelligence (AI), believes that by 2050 – a century after she first found fame – Marilyn will be ‘starring in movies via an avatar program that talks and acts like her, with machines having learned her speech and mannerisms from her films,’ reports The Australian.

Even more alarming is an article in The Sun about the burgeoning popularity of sex robots. ‘Marilyn comes up quite often,’ says engineer Douglas Hines, of the public requests for celebrity lookalike dolls. ‘The caveat is we need the approval of the person or family. If you wanted a robot that looked like Marilyn Monroe, you would have to have her estate approve it.’ (The idea of a ‘Marilyn Monroebot‘ was first mooted – albeit in jest – on a 2001 episode of the animated series, Futurama.)

Fortunately, Marilyn’s estate has not granted permission for a robot MM, and hopefully they never will. But how long will it take until ‘bootleg’ sex dolls hit the market? And meanwhile, CGI ‘hologram‘ Marilyns have already been seen in TV ads, with her estate planning digitalised ‘live’ shows starring Marilyn and other dead icons. They can replicate her body, but not her soul, and Monroe fans of the future will have to be ever more vigilant against degrading misrepresentations.

Marilyn Flies High With United Airlines

This exuberant press shot of Marilyn arriving in Vancouver in July 1953 (en route to film scenes for River of No Return – more info herefeatures in a new display at the remodelled Global Services reception area for United Airlines’ elite customers at Los Angeles International Airport (L.A.X.), as Lewis Lazare reports for Chicago Business Insider. (She also flew from New York to Chicago with United Airlines when she visited Bement, Illinois to honour Abraham Lincoln in 1955.)

Photo by Eve Arnold, 1955

Joe Hyams 1926-2017

Legendary Hollywood publicist Joe Hyams (not to be confused with the reporter of the same name) has died aged 90, according to the L.A. Times. Born in New York, he served in the Marines during World War II. After a stint in journalism, he was hired as a unit publicist for From Here to Eternity and On the Waterfront. In 1956 he worked on Bus Stop, Marilyn’s acclaimed comeback following a year-long absence from the screen. Four years later, he was appointed national advertising and publicity director at Warner Brothers. He would remain at the studio for over forty years, overseeing major films like My Fair Lady, Bonnie and Clyde, Woodstock, The Exorcist, Blazing Saddles, A Star Is BornChariots of Fire, JFK and Eyes Wide Shut. Hyams also collaborated with actor-director Clint Eastwood on numerous films, including Every Which Way But Loose, Unforgiven and Hyams’ final project, the Oscar-winning Mystic River (2004.)

Karlie Kloss as Marilyn for Swarovski

Supermodel Karlie Kloss has recreated Marilyn’s ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ (from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) in a new commercial for Swarovski Crystal, reports Marie-Claire. (In another clip, Karlie imitates Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.)

“What I love most about icons like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe is the confidence they bring to every scene and character they played. Like many of my role models, they’ve shown that a woman who is confident and strong-willed will always be in style … being able to evoke their iconic movie scenes and add a modern spin was such a fun experience.”