Marilyn’s Subway Scene at 65

Marilyn with co-star Tom Ewell

On the night of September 15, 1954 – 65 years ago today – Marilyn filmed the iconic ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch to an adoring crowd. It is also said to have ended her marriage to Joe DiMaggio, though in truth they were already heading for a split. Over at Marilyn Remembered, Lorraine Nicol recalls one of the greatest promotional stunts of all time, with input from Fox publicist Roy Craft, and crewman Paul Wurtzel, who operated the industrial fan beneath the grate – and the many imitations which still abound in popular culture. (You can read a selection of past ES Updates posts on the ‘subway scene’ here.)

“The post-midnight hours of September 15th 1954, outside of the Trans-Lux Theatre near 52nd Street on Lexington Avenue, a luminous Marilyn wearing a white pleated halter dress, stepped over a subway grating. With a crew member operating a powerful fan positioned below the grille, the stage was set for a legendary scene. Hordes of reporters and spectators (estimates range from several hundred to five thousand) watched the crew film take after take of history-making moment.

The postscript of the film of this New York sequence was unusable. Her skirt had flown up to her waist, and the cheers of the crowd were clearly audible. The famous scene’s true setting was the controlled atmosphere of a Twentieth Century FOX soundstage. Unlike the iconic images that exsist, in the finished film Marilyn’s skirt billows up only slightly above her knees and a full body shot is never shown. Back in New York, a fifty-two foot high picture of The Girl with the upswept skirt was mounted above the marquee of Loew’s State Theatre at Times Square.”

57 Years On: Fans Pay Tribute to Marilyn

Online fansites including Marilyn Mexico posted visual tributes on the 57th anniversary of her death, while All About Marilyn joined the well-wishers at Westwood Memorial Park.

A Passion for Marilyn shared archival materials surrounding her tragic death, including personal reminiscences from John Huston and Sophia Loren.

Artist Alejandro Mogollo took inspiration from Marilyn’s last, unfinished movie, Something’s Got to Give.

In my hometown, the anniversary coincided with this year’s Brighton Pride.

Many fans, including biographer Michelle Morgan, paid eloquent tribute on social media.

And impersonator Jimmy James also had warm words for Marilyn.

Marilyn Remembered at Westwood

Marilyn’s annual service was held at Westwood Memorial Park yesterday, hosted as always by Greg Schreiner of Marilyn Remembered. Speakers included Margaret Kerry (the model for Disney’s Tinkerbell); Jeff Arden, grandson of cinematographer Sol Halperin; Scott Morrow, photographer and child actor; Megan Carey, granddaughter of actor Macdonald Carey (Let’s Make It Legal); actress Kathleen Hughes, widow of River of No Return producer Stanley Rubin; Luke Yankee, son of Marilyn’s Bus Stop co-star Eileen Heckart; Edward Lozzi, publicist for actress Renee Taylor (who met Marilyn during her Actors Studio days); and Blue Book model Lydia Reed. You can watch the webcast here.

Photos by Scott Fortner

57 Years Ago…

“You know, she would stop whatever she was doing to wave to truck drivers and cabbies who yelled ‘Marilyn!’ to her. She had a lot of their standards … That’s the element, the quality, which every young girl in America could recognise.

I think the major reason for her myth becoming larger and larger every day, for the legend growing on such a gigantic scale, is not the tragedy of her life. It’s the joy of the girl; she presented the joyous moment of a vibrant woman.

More important, she represents the freedom which kids have today. Only, she was fifteen or twenty years ahead of the times, so she paid the price for her freedom.

Anyway, I want to show the nice moments in her life. I think in my own way I don’t gloss over what we look upon as vicious in life. What the hell! You’ve got to be tough to survive in the movie world. And in individual relationships with people. In the emotional life.”

Sam Shaw, The Joy of Marilyn in the Camera Eye

Remembering the Real Marilyn

Marilyn by Milton Greene, 1956

As we reach the 57th anniversary of Marilyn’s death, Megan Monroe reminds us of her true legacy in a timely blog post.

“So many people and society tend to view Marilyn as a victim, passed around from man to man and used throughout her lifetime. This both angers and frustrates not just me, but many fans, who have spent years taking the time to research legitimate sources and find out who Marilyn herself was. Often her death is viewed as a conspiracy-fueled, gossip-loving debate, so much so that she ends up no longer seeming like a young woman anymore, but an object of fascination.

It seems to me that it’s easier for people to believe in the distasteful lies and conspiracies that surround not just Marilyn, but many other celebrities and icons before and after her. People cannot comprehend someone as beautiful, talented and loved as her to have any demons or hardships … In the end Marilyn ends up being turned into a former shadow of her true self, which is just not acceptable to me and so many others – therefore, I will continue to try and dispel the lies and bring back her true character.

Furthermore, Marilyn’s death does not define her – intended or accidental it is still and will always be a tragedy, but, it does not take away from her 36 years of life and the achievements she made during and after her lifetime … Ultimately, this was the real Marilyn, the person that so often gets lost in the publicity of hearsay and money making headlines. “

Happy 100th Birthday, Berniece Miracle

Berniece Baker Miracle, Marilyn’s half-sister, turns 100 years old today. (This photo, taken in 1994, showed Berniece aged 75.)

Berniece was born on July 30, 1919, to John ‘Jap’ Baker and his wife Gladys in Venice, California. She was their second child, Robert (or ‘Jackie’) having been born in 1917. Baker was sixteen years older than Gladys, who had married him aged just fifteen. The marriage was not a happy one, and in 1923, they separated. After the divorce, Baker abducted both children and returned to his hometown of Flat Lick, Kentucky. Gladys followed them there, but was unable to recover her children. She eventually returned to Los Angeles and after another failed marriage, became pregnant with Norma Jeane who was born in 1926.

In 1933, Berniece’s brother Robert tragically died aged sixteen. Two years later, Gladys suffered a nervous breakdown and would spend much of her later life under psychiatric care. Berniece, who believed her mother was dead, received a letter from Gladys in 1938 and also learned of her half-sister’s existence for the first time. The two ‘sisters’ began a warm correspondence. At nineteen, Berniece had just graduated from college and was about to marry her long-term boyfriend, Paris Miracle. Their daughter, Mona Rae Miracle, was born in 1939, and the family moved north to Detroit, Michigan.

Berniece and Norma Jeane, 1944

In 1944, Norma Jeane travelled to Detroit where she finally met Berniece in person. Two years later, Berniece – now living in Oak Ridge, Tennessee – visited her half-sister, now a successful model and aspiring actress under her new name of Marilyn Monroe, in Los Angeles.

Berniece with Marilyn, Gladys and Mona Rae in 1946

In 1951, Berniece moved to Gainesville, Florida, and would later work as a bookkeeper at the University of Florida, while Mona Rae qualified as a schoolteacher in 1957 and was married a year later.

Although the sisters stayed in touch throughout Marilyn’s rise to fame, they would not meet again until 1961, when she asked Berniece to stay with her in New York as she recuperated from gallbladder surgery. Sadly this would be their last reunion, and in August 1962, Berniece was one of the first to hear of Marilyn’s death from her ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio. She travelled to Los Angeles to help Joe and Inez Melson (Marilyn’s business manager, and legal guardian to Gladys) and attend her sister’s funeral. She and Mona Rae were among the beneficiaries of Marilyn’s will.

Berniece at Marilyn’s funeral, 1962
Berniece with her daughter, Mona Rae Miracle

In 1967, Gladys left Rockhaven Sanitarium in California, and moved to Florida to live with her daughter. A few years later, she entered a nursing home. Gladys survived until 1984, and was joined in death by Paris Miracle six years later. My Sister Marilyn, co-written by Berniece and Mona Rae, was published in 1994. It is one of the most tender and intimate books ever written about Marilyn, and an essential read for anyone seeking a truthful account of her family background.

Marilyn and Arthur’s Crossed Destinies

This week marks 63 years since Marilyn married Arthur Miller, and the newlyweds (as photographed by Jack Cardiff a few weeks later) Grace the cover of Le Nouveau Magazine Litteraire‘s summer double-issue (#19), as part of a feature on ‘Literary Couples and Crossed Destinies’, with a short profile inside by Philippe Labro. The magazine is now available from the Newsstand website for £7.78.

Thanks to Eric Patry and Fraser Penney

Birthday Tributes to Marilyn

At home in Finland, Everlasting Star’s Sirkku is celebrating Marilyn’s 93rd birthday with “some bubbly and of course Gentlemen Prefer Blondes …”

Flowers placed beside Marilyn’s crypt at Westwood Memorial Park, LA, by well-wishers and fan clubs including Marilyn Remembered (bouquet at left)

“Happy birthday to the myth, the icon, the girl. Who can forget her first appearance in The Seven Year Itch?”

– Alejandro Mogollo
Tributes from All About Marilyn and Marilyn Remembered
Greetings from the USA…
The UK…
… and Japan.
Photographers pay tribute…
And authors…
Blogger and film historian Lara G. Fowler shares her feelings…
While beauty blogger Megan is also holding a good thought for Marilyn today.

The Bluffer’s Guide to Marilyn

Paul Donnelley, author of Pocket Essentials: Marilyn Monroe (2000), has written a list of trivia for the UK’s Daily Star, in advance of what would be Marilyn’s 93rd birthday this Saturday, June 1st. Here are a few selections…

“Marilyn was born in Los Angeles as Norma Jeane Mortenson. She was not named for fellow blonde bombshell Jean Harlow despite numerous reports to that effect – when Marilyn was born, Harlow was only 15 and at least two years away from her film debut.”

“Marilyn’s half-sister, Berniece Miracle, will celebrate her 100th birthday on July 30. Her half-brother, Robert, died in 1933, aged 15.”

“Marilyn has a reputation for being promiscuous but she was choosy about who she bedded. Groucho Marx confessed he spent $8,000 wining and dining her, trying to get her into bed but was unsuccessful. Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, tore up her contract because she wouldn’t sleep with him.”

“In 1953, the town of Monroe, New York changed its name for one day to Marilyn Monroe, New York in tribute to Marilyn.”

Marilyn’s Nude Calendar at 70

Today, May 27, marks seventy years since a little-known actress posed nude for photographer Tom Kelley. The photos were sold to a calendar company, and three years later, someone recognised the model as Marilyn Monroe. Against studio advice, she admitted it and the public loved her for it. Lorraine Nicol tells us the full story today, over at Marilyn Remembered.