Robert Mitchum was born 100 years ago, on August 6, 1917. During the early 1940s he worked at the Lockheed munitions plant with Jim Dougherty, and claimed to have met Dougherty’s pretty young wife, Norma Jeane, remembering her as ‘shy and sweet.’ (Dougherty has denied this early encounter between the two future stars occurred.)
One of Hollywood’s most celebrated tough guys, Bob starred with Marilyn in River of No Return (1954.) He and Marilyn remained friendly and worked well together, although neither got along with director Otto Preminger. Bob recalled that she didn’t take her ‘sex goddess’ image seriously, playing it as a kind of burlesque. He was later offered another chance to be her leading man in The Misfits, but was unimpressed by the script and the role went to Clark Gable instead.
Robert Mitchum died in 1997. River of No Return will be screened at this year’s New York Film Festival, as part of a major Mitchum retrospective. You can read more about the shoot here.
Newsweek has republished two stories dealing with past anniversaries of Marilyn’s death. The first, from 1982, was originally entitled ‘Keeping the Monroe Memories Aglow‘ and focuses on collectors and fans, some of whom are still active today. ‘The 24-Year Itch‘ dates from 1986, and features contributions from feminist author Gloria Steinem, and Margaret Parton, one of the last journalists to speak at length with Marilyn.
“Monroe has mostly attracted male biographers. Probably few of them found it remarkable that an intelligent woman would talk like a breathless teenager or play a string of bimbos. Looking at Monroe’s life through the eyes of a contemporary feminist, Steinem now sees Norma Jeane Baker (the real name behind all the imagery) as a girl who never grew up. She was an early bloomer who spent her childhood shunted from one foster home to the next. She remained trapped inside the voluptuous Marilyn, forever seeking the love and approval she had missed as a kid. ‘She was just so vulnerable and unprotected,’ Steinem says.
The effect of social and sexual convention in shaping a tinseltown goddess’s behavior and attitudes is worth remembering. Steinem reminds us that in Monroe’s day a woman so spectacularly sexy was seen by other women primarily as a threat (that, of course, could never happen among the sisterhood today). When Margaret Parton, one of the few women journalists to cover Marilyn during her life, did a profile for the Ladies’ Home Journal, it was killed for being too favorable. Years later, when Ms. magazine ran a cover story on Monroe called ‘The Woman Who Died Too Soon,’ it became one of the magazine’s best-selling issues … In a feminist age, it is easier for women to respond with sympathy to the way Monroe was treated.”
On Friday, August 3, 1962, Marilyn called her close friend Norman Rosten and talked about her plans to visit New York that fall, urging him joyfully, ‘Let’s start to live before we get old.’ By Sunday, the world was mourning her death. Norman wrote this poem while Marilyn was still alive, but she never had a chance to read it.
“We who spread the rainbow under glass
And weigh the most elusive sky and air,
Of that clan I come to track your heart –
But I’m baffled by those loose strands of hair.
You stand, finger at your lips, lost
In a long-abandoned heaven. No one within,
The angels gone, and all the harps undone.
What legend draws you there? O hurry down!
Surely your home’s with us, and not the gods.
Below your sealed window as you watch,
A river barge goes by, someone waves,
You laugh and throw a kiss for him to catch.
You’re not to be rescued wholly in this world.
It must be so. As many are saved,
That many drown. I see you clinging
To rooms, to phones, forgotten to be loved.”
In addition to the Marilyn Remembered itinerary for this year’s memorial week, sister group Immortal Marilyn is also organising a programme of events to commemorate the 55th anniversary of her death, including a pool party on August 2 at the Avalon Hotel (where Marilyn shot her famous Life magazine cover with Philippe Halsman back in 1952), and on August 4, a sunset dinner and toast at the Santa Monica Pier, a favourite haunt from childhood to one of her photo shoot with George Barris in 1962. There is also a tour of Marilyn’s Hollywood from LA Woman Tours on August 1, and of course, the annual service at Westwood Memorial Park on August 5 – more details here.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes will be screened at the TCL Chinese Theater (formerly Grauman’s Chinese) on Thursday, August 3, as part of the memorial week activities organised by Los Angeles-based fanclub Marilyn Remembered to commemorate the 55th anniversary of her death. George Chakiris, who danced with Marilyn in the classic musical comedy, will be a special guest. Tickets are going fast, so if you’d like to attend, book here.
Marilyn herself visited the Chinese Theater many times as a child, and famously signed her name in cement outside the venue alongside co-star Jane Russell shortly after the enormous success of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1953. The original, rather risqué costume for her signature ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ number, and another Travilla gown (not seen in the movie, but subsequently worn by Marilyn at public events) will be displayed on the night, courtesy of collector and Marilyn Remembered founder Greg Schreiner.
For more information on the Marilyn Remembered itinerary for this year’s memorial week, click here.
Today marks the 61st anniversary of Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller, on June 29, 1956. Over at History Buff, Mary Miller (no relation, I assume) looks back on a ‘tragically beautiful’ wedding, quoting a diary entry from Marilyn herself.
“I am so concerned about protecting Arthur I love him—and he is the only person—human being I have ever known that I could love not only as a man to which I am attracted to practically out of my senses about—but he [is] the only person … that I trust as much as myself—because when I do trust my- self (about certain things) I do fully.”
Marilyn is the perfect muse, so it’s no surprise that artists would pay tribute on her 91st birthday. David Bromley, whose paintings of MM were exhibited in Los Angeles last summer, had some wise words to offer on age and immortality in this Bert Stern-inspired tribute.
Daniel Acosta profiled Marilyn’s subtle transformation from role to role, while Alejandro Mogollo looked to near-sighted Pola in How to Marry a Millionaire for inspiration.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of the most influential pop albums ever made. The cover – a collage by artist Peter Blake – features the Fab Four lining up alongside more than sixty of the last century’s most iconic figures. Marilyn is there, as photographed by Ben Ross in 1953. BBC Music have compiled a mini-documentary for each one: Marilyn’s includes newsreel footage from her arrival in England to shoot The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956. You can watch the clip here.
The original Guardian review of Some Like It Hot – first published when it was released in the UK exactly fifty- eight years ago, on May 16, 1959 – is reposted today. The unnamed critic describes it as “a funny film with an odd flavour of humour,” reflecting director Billy Wilder’s acerbic style, and how provocative this comedy classic was for its time.
“Mr Wilder, whose films are successful and frequent, may have found that the flouting of our nicer susceptibilities is just what most of us want. Be that as it may, Some Like it Hot is a bit uncomfortable. Not that there is anything downright offensive … it is only that the vulgarity is a bit insistent – and persistent.
The women’s band includes Marilyn Monroe, even sweeter, more pathetic and, possibly, more Monroe-like than ever in her attire … Miss Monroe, as always, is irresistible, even when, as in this instance, she is being ruthlessly presented as a caricature of herself – another example of the Wilder touch.”