Marilyn’s 90 Years Without Oscar

Anticipating this year’s Oscar ceremony, the current issue of Entertainment Weekly (dated February 23-March 2) features extensive coverage of the Academy Awards’ 90-year history. Of course, Marilyn never won an Oscar, nor was she even nominated. But her role in Some Like It Hot, which won her a Golden Globe, is mentioned in a list of legendary ‘Oscar disses.’

Although Some Like It Hot is her best-known film, Marilyn’s screen time was less than her co-stars. Were it not for her top billing, her performance would arguably be more suited to the Best Supporting Actress category. Marilyn’s bombshell image and flair for comedy both worked against her being taken seriously by the Hollywood establishment. But perhaps the most decisive factor was her rebellion against Twentieth Century Fox.

After winning her contractual battle with the studio, her acclaimed comeback in Bus Stop (1956) was overlooked by the Academy – a snub she never forgot. Her next performance, in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), won awards in Europe, while her last completed film, The Misfits (1961), was also her most mature dramatic role. But at the time, neither were particularly well-received in the US.

In 1964, columnist Sheilah Graham petitioned unsuccessfully for Marilyn to be given a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. However, this is not standard practice within the Academy and thus is highly unlikely to happen now. Nonetheless, Marilyn’s films remain hugely popular and for many, she is the most enduring symbol of movies and glamour – proof, if proof were needed, that you don’t need an Oscar to be a legend.

Spend St. Valentine’s Day With Marilyn

Some Like It Hot is free to stream on Amazon Prime today (US only.) But while it may have the perfect blend of love and laughs for St. Valentine’s Day, it was inspired by a very different event, as Jack Matthews writes for Gold Derby.

“Let’s face it, Valentine’s Day, more than just about any other day with a title, is a mass marketing scheme playing lovers for suckers, a bonanza for Hallmark Cards and Whitman’s Samplers and one that probably creates as much heartbreak as romantic goodwill. I’m not the sentimental type, but I do have an enormous fondness for one movie in which Valentine’s Day plays a prominent role.

It’s not about mass marketing, but mass murder, and based in fact.

In the early scenes of Some Like it Hot, the 1959 Billy Wilder masterpiece that is consistently chosen by critics and film people as the best comedy ever made, a pair of itinerant Depression Era musicians witness the gangland execution of seven men in a Chicago garage and spend the rest of the movie on the run from the mob.

In real life, the massacre resulted from a territorial feud between the Italian mob led by Al Capone and the Irish gang of Bugs Moran. In the movie, the shooting is carried out by the gang of Spats Colombo (George Raft), who coincidentally encounters the two witnesses, now undercover and in drag in an all girls’ band at a beachside resort in California.

Some Like it Hot received six nominations, including two for Wilder’s script and direction and one for Jack Lemmon as the bass player who gets all too comfortable in high heels. Tony Curtis, equally hilarious as the band member smudging his lipstick on the saxophone, should have received one, as well.

In fact, If time could actually fly, it would go back to 1960 and right the wrongs done to both Curtis and Marilyn Monroe, who is wonderful as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, a singer hoping to marry well but falling instead for Curtis’ Cary Grant-impersonating phony billionaire.”

Happy Birthday, Mister Lemmon

Marilyn with Jack Lemmon (centre) and Tony Curtis in ‘Some Like It Hot’

Jack Lemmon was born on this day in 1925. Today, Hannah Gatward has posted a selection of Lemmon’s best films on the BFI blog – and unsurprisingly, Some Like It Hot is right up there.

“The first of seven films with Billy Wilder, and Lemmon’s most iconic comedic performance. On the run after witnessing the St Valentine’s Day massacre, musicians Jerry (Lemmon) and his partner Joe (Tony Curtis) disguise themselves as women and escape in an all-girls band, befriending Marilyn Monroe’s magnificent Sugar Kane along the way. It’s timeless farcical fun, with every scene expertly executed. One of the film’s greatest joys is the way Lemmon immerses himself into his alter ego Daphne – his enthusiasm is infectious.”

Meanwhile, the ever-popular Some Like It Hot will be screened soon in two very different, yet fitting venues: firstly, at the Pickwick Theater in Chicago’s upscale Park Ridge district on February 13 (the movie’s storyline begins in Chicago); and secondly, at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, New Jersey on February 14 (Some Like It Hot also features the notorious St Valentine’s Day Massacre as a plot device.)

66 Years Ago: Marilyn at the Henrietta Awards

As this year’s awards season gets underway, the Hollywood Reporter looks back at the ‘Henrietta’, Marilyn’s first major acting award, which she collected on January 8, 1952.  Escorted by Fox publicist Roy Craft, Marilyn wore her notorious Oleg Cassini dress, and was the belle of the ball. The photo shown above was taken by Loomis Dean for Life magazine – and here’s a few more…

“The actress had only starred in a dozen or so minor movies when she received the award from the now-defunct Foreign Press Association of Hollywood in 1952.

In 1950, what’s now called the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had a split-off group called the Foreign Press Association of Hollywood. (The dispute was over some of the original organization’s members not being professional journalists.) The FPAH is now mostly forgotten, save for one memorable act: It gave Marilyn Monroe her first major award in 1952 at Santa Monica’s Club Casa del Mar. (That seaside brick building is now the Hotel Casa del Mar.)

The Henrietta — named after FPAH president Henry Gris — was shaped like a tall, nude woman holding a flower. The group had the prescience to choose Monroe for its International Stardom Award, given to the ‘best young box-office personality.’ (They gave the same award that night to Tony Curtis.) Monroe, then 25, had done a dozen or so minor films, with her standout turn being a small role in John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle.”


Merry Christmas to All Our Readers

“Marilyn flew East for Christmas with the Greenes. She was, in fact, escaping from Hollywood and Twentieth Century-Fox, with a bafford press in pursuit. ‘That put us into a little cadre of sort of road-company secret service agents,’ recalls [Judy] Quine, ‘because the whole thing was so hush-hush – where she was, how she was.’ Aware of Milton’s involvement, the press staked out his Lexington Avenue studio, his pied-a-terre on Sutton Place South and the Weston house on Fanton Hill Road. The Greenes outmanoeuvred them by meeting Marilyn’s flight and heading straight for Connecticut. They stopped outside the village of Weston, deposited their precious cargo in the trunk and smuggled her past the paparazzi crowding their driveway.”

From Milton’s Marilyn (1994)


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.

Marilyn in the Windy City

As Midway Airport turns 90, the Chicago Sun-Times has published this library photo of a windswept Marilyn landing there in March 1959 for a promotional jaunt including a press conference at the Ambassador East Hotel, and the roadshow premiere of Some Like It Hot.