June 1st, 2020 marks what would be Marilyn Monroe’s 94th birthday. On a personal note, it has also been ten years since I started this blog.
Artists Pegasus and Alejandro Mogollo both paid tribute, while superfan Megan Monroes has written a well-researched blog post listing 94 facts about MM, and a special edition of e-zine Crazy for You features a pictorial from Marilyn’s 34th birthday party on the Let’s Make Love set, 60 years ago.
Flowers were left at Marilyn’s graveside in Westwood Memorial Park by Scott Fortner (owner of the MM Collection) and the Los Angeles-based fan club, Marilyn Remembered.
Seventy years ago, in May 1950, Marilyn began filming her scenes as aspiring actress Claudia Caswell in the classic backstage drama, All About Eve – and while Miss Caswell may have failed her audition, for Marilyn the role was a major breakthrough on the road to stardom. This anniversary has prompted a pictorial issue from e-zine Crazy For You (the back cover image is new to me.)
Writing for The Independent, Geoffrey McNab explores why All About Eve, which turns seventy this year, is still relevant to audiences today. (You can read his recent piece about The Misfitshere.) The photo shown above was taken during a screening in Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library, as part of the HBO Film Festival in 2012. “10,000 people showed up to see Marilyn, 50 years after her death,” blogger Hans Von Rittenberg wrote here. “Marilyn lives eternal.”
“What makes All About Eve so irresistible is the malevolent wit and relish with which Mankiewicz tells his Darwinian backstage tale … Based on the celebrity New York drama critic George Jean Nathan, [Addison] DeWitt is as sharp in his dress as in his phrase-making but shows no pity for anyone. He happily discards Margo, the star he once championed and sneers with condescension at the naivety of his young companion Miss Caswell (a doe-like Marilyn Monroe) who is as star-struck as Eve but lacks her steel. He describes Caswell as ‘a graduate of the Copacabana school of the dramatic arts’ … All About Eve may be about narcissistic theatre folk but almost everyone watching it, regardless of their line of business, will have encountered their own Eve Harringtons. In business, sport, politics, playgrounds, and in just about every other form of human endeavour, there always comes a moment when the pushy newcomer tries to dislodge the established figure, often using underhand methods to do so. That is one reason why the film is as topical now as it was 70 years ago.”
One reader left this response: “A throwaway line by DeWitt is brilliant – he describes how he had met Miss Caswell (Marilyn Monroe), they had met ‘In passing.’ One guesses that it was de Witt who did the passing and (Caswell) who had been stationary – on the sidewalk. Quite …”
Marilyn’s first LIFE magazine cover, shot by Philippe Halsman, was published on this day, April 7, in 1952. Now, as The Guardian reports, this outtake is among over 120 ‘turning point’ images being sold by Magnum Photos for $100 each over the next five days to aid COVID-19 relief. Read more about the historic cover story at A Passion for Marilyn – and don’t forget, Marilyn also graces the cover (and eleven pages within) of a new Reporters Sans Frontières special issue on Halsman’s celebrity portraits.
Marilyn has been chosen as one of TIME‘s 100 Women of the Year, in a project marking the magazine’s centenary. She has been selected to represent 1954, the year in which she married Joe DiMaggio; entertained US troops in Korea; filmed There’s No Business Like Show Business and The Seven Year Itch; topped the hit parade with ‘I’m Gonna File My Claim’; and then she left it all behind to study acting, and form a production company in New York.
The photo shown above was taken two years previously by Frank Powolny, but remains one of the most iconic images of Marilyn. Other featured actresses include Anna May Wong, Lucille Ball and Rita Moreno. Aimee Semple McPherson, the evangelist said to have christened Norma Jeane, and Gloria Steinem, the feminist campaigner who wrote a book about Marilyn, are also listed.
“In 1954, Marilyn Monroe—already a sex symbol and a movie star—posed on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street in New York City, for a scene intended to appear in her 1955 film The Seven Year Itch. The breeze blowing up through a subway grate sent her white dress billowing around her, an image that lingers today like a joyful, animated ghost. Monroe was a stunner, but she was also a brilliant actor and comedian who strove to be taken seriously in a world of men who wanted to see her only as an object of desire. Today, especially in a world after Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, she stands as a woman who fought a system that was rigged against her from the start. She brought us such pleasure, even as our hearts broke for her.”
56 years years ago today, on January 23rd, 1964, Arthur Miller’s After the Fall, opened at the ANTA Theatre on Washington Square in New York, as Playbill Vault reports. Miller’s first new play in eight years, After the Fall proved controversial, not least in the casting of director Elia Kazan’s wife Barbara Loden as Maggie, a drug-addicted, suicidal pop singer, reminiscent of Arthur’s ex-wife, Marilyn Monroe. Maggie’s lawyer husband Quentin was played by Jason Robards, not Christopher Plummer (who would finally play Miller’s conflicted hero ten years later, opposite Faye Dunaway in a TV movie of the same.) After the Fall ran for 208 performances, and remains one of Miller’s more frequently revived plays. You can read more about the play and its links to Marilyn here.
Seven years after Eve Arnold’s death aged 99, Josh Lustig looks at her photos from The Misfits in today’s FT Weekend magazine (sold with the Financial Times.)
“Unlike many photographers who spent time with Monroe, Arnold was rooted firmly in documentary and photojournalism … Arnold’s photographs are striking for the way she captures these legends of the silver screen as lonely, troubled individuals. She strips away their movie stardom and reveals them as fragile, vulnerable. Even when photographed together, everyone seems to inhabit their own world, disconnected from one another, lost in the desert.”
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 exist, 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.”