Marilyn Gets ‘Lazy’ With Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin (left) with Earl Wilson and Marilyn in 1954

The great American songwriter was born on this day in 1888, and lived to the grand old age of 101. To celebrate this musical anniversary, Matt Micucci has posted a playlist featuring Marilyn’s version of ‘Lazy’ (as performed in the 1954 movie There’s No Business Like Show Business, an all-star tribute to Berlin), and ‘You’d Be Surprised’, as well as Ethel Waters’ original 1933 version of ‘Heat Wave’ and other Berlin classics, over at the JAZZIZ website.

Marilyn’s Girl Power in ‘Some Like It Hot’

Another 60th anniversary tribute to Some Like It Hot, this time from Simi Horowitz at the Hollywood Reporter.

“Yet at its core, the film is about sexual relations and attraction, and to judge by some of the film’s 1959 reviews it was pushing the good-taste envelope. Repeatedly, our two very heterosexual leads are suppressing their arousal as they’re flanked on all sides by nubile female musicians. In one legendary snippet, these nightie-clad instrumentalists are frolicking about in a train berth with Jerry/Daphne, for whom the experience is by turns delightful and tormenting.

And how’s this for a bit of convention-defying vulgarity? The women are heavy-duty drinkers and sexually schooled, and not feeling unhappy about it at all. On the contrary, they’re boisterous, living out loud and having a hell of a time reveling in their agency.

Admittedly, Sugar Kane has been exploited by love’em-and-leave’em saxophone players. But make no mistake: She milks her victimization for all it’s worth. Like Monroe herself, Sugar is an embodiment of the male fantasy (breathless, helpless and in need of saving), and employs it to her advantage. When Joe, in the guise of Junior, who is trying hard to evoke Cary Grant, says he likes classical music, Sugar lies outright, proclaiming she studied at the Sheboygan Conservatory. The film is a heady celebration of play-acting.

Manipulation and deception are the name of the game, and everyone indulges with impunity. Even at the end, when Jerry admits to Sugar that he’s a lying louse, just another one of her abusive saxophone players, he hasn’t really changed and neither has she. But true to movie tradition, heterosexual love conquers all — or does it?

Wilder’s universe is far too nuanced for anything as obvious as that. Here, homoerotic twists are everywhere — not least the full mouth-on-mouth kiss between Sugar and Josephine. It’s the turning point when Sugar realizes that Josephine and Junior are one and the same. The line straddling best female bud and male lover is fluid; Sugar adores both sides of that mask, conceivably loving Josephine even more, while Joe has virtually disappeared in the melee of disguises.”

Marilyn Haunts the Front Pages

Following a recent cover story in Yours Retro magazine,  the 60th anniversary of Some Like It Hot also makes the front page of the latest Weekly News, plus a centrefold tribute from Craig Campbell.

On the weird side of Marilyn fandom, in Take A Break: Fate & Fortune‘s May issue, Emma Pearce of Cornwall shares her belief that MM is haunting her home – via a reproduction of a painting by Renato Casaro which she found in a rubbish tip (depicting Marilyn as Jesus, with Bogart and Elvis among her disciples, in a pastiche of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.) Maybe the ghost isn’t Marilyn, but an angry critic?

Further afield, the second issue of German magazine Nostalgie features a lovely Monroe cover. Sadly, the usual conspiracy theories about her death are trotted out inside.

Thanks to Fraser and Johan

‘Some Like It Hot’ at 60

Some Like It Hot opened at cinemas across the US sixty years ago today, on March 29, 1959. In an article for Perth Now, Troy Lennon celebrates the diamond anniversary of one of the most beloved movies in history.

“The press were out in force at Marcus Loew’s newly refurbished Capitol Theatre on Broadway in New York to cover one of the biggest film premieres of the year. It starred matinee idol Tony Curtis and up-and-coming comic talent Jack Lemmon, best known from comedy hits Mr Roberts and Bell Book And Candle.

The support cast of actors was also stellar, with big names from classic gangster films … Quirky, sexy, slightly subversive and the work of one of the most in-demand directors at the time, Billy Wilder, it had hit potential. But what really made Some Like It Hot such a big deal was that it was Marilyn Monroe’s first film in nearly two years. Monroe had been taking time off to focus on her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller.

On the night of the premiere, March 29, 1959, 60 years ago today, Monroe, accompanied by Miller, told reporters Lemmon was the ‘funniest man in the world’ and like the rest of the audience laughed all the way through the film. Critics also loved it and Some Like it Hot is now regarded as one of the all-time great film comedies.

The film was inspired by a 1935 French farce titled Fanfare d’Amour (Fanfare Of Love), about two musicians, Jean (Fernand Gravey) and Pierre (Julien Carette) … Gravey’s love interest, bandleader Gaby, was played by Australian actor Betty Stockfeld.

The story and screenplay were co-written by German screenwriters Michael Logan and Robert Thoeren, who had fled Germany in 1933 after the Nazis came to power. After the war they returned to Germany and in 1951 remade the film as Fanfaren der Lieben.

For the leads Wilder wanted Frank Sinatra as musician Joe and singer Mitzi Gaynor as bandmember Sugar. But Sinatra never turned up for the audition and when Monroe discovered Wilder was doing the film she wanted to play Sugar … having Monroe as a drawcard gave Wilder a freer hand with the rest of the casting. He had already asked Tony Curtis to play Jerry, but without Sinatra he instead cast him as Joe and Lemmon as Jerry.

The director was fastidious about the look of the film. It was to be shot in black and white, because it was a period piece and a tribute to gangster films, also so that it would be easier to pass off Curtis and Lemmon as women. Famous Australian-born designer Orry-Kelly worked on the costumes (winning the film an Oscar).

During filming, Monroe was as difficult as ever … Curtis did his best to disguise his irritation but Lemmon was sympathetic, trying to calm Monroe’s nerves.

But the result was screen magic. From the moment Monroe sashays past Lemmon at a train station causing him to utter ‘That’s just like Jell-O on springs’ the farce hardly ever lets up.

It won three Golden Globes, an Oscar and a BAFTA and made bigger stars of Curtis and Lemmon, but was arguably Monroe’s last truly great role.”

Movies, Makeovers and Marilyn in UK Press

The latest issue of UK magazine Yours Retro includes a four-page cover story celebrating 60 years of Some Like It Hot. Marilyn is also featured alongside fellow bombshells Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth and Lana Turner in a separate article about Hollywood makeovers.

In the current issue of Scotland’s Weekly News, her role as short-sighted Pola in How to Marry a Millionaire is mentioned in an article about wearing glasses. (And don’t forget her recent spot in Country Life magazine.)

Thanks to Fraser Penney 

66 Years Ago: Marilyn Wows Hollywood in ‘Niagara’

Niagara was released in the U.S. 66 years ago, on January 21, 1953. Despite its success at the box-office, Marilyn would never play such a villainous role again. But while Niagara is now considered an important film noir – in the genre’s latter phase, and one of the few made in Technicolor – the Hollywood Reporter‘s original review, reposted here, was one of the first to recognise Marilyn’s dramatic achievement.

Thanks to A Passion for Marilyn

“Around the scenic splendor of Niagara Falls, Charles Brackett has produced and co-scripted a gripping murder melodrama that is loaded with sex and suspense. With Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten and Jean Peters turning in superb performances that help maintain a mood of dynamic tension, Niagara should pile up huge grosses for 20th-Fox.

Henry Hathaway makes wonderful use of the falls to heighten the suspense and to add pictorial beauty to the production which gains additional exploitation value by its locale, never before used as the focus for a motion picture plot. Those who have never been to Niagara will be fascinated by the exciting shots of the falls, the awesome grandeur of which has been thrillingly captured by Joe MacDonald’s fine photography.

Hathaway draws splendid performances from his cast and maintains a taut, spicy tempo that grips the attention consistently. Miss Monroe turns in her finest acting performance yet, adding to her acting laurels by playing a sexy tart with a provocative abandon that has a powerful impact … Sol Kaplan’s music, directed by Lionel Newman, helps heighten the mood of suspense, with other technical functions on the high-quality level one expects from 20th-Fox productions.”

Dear Mr. Gable: Hollywood’s Misfit King

Although The Misfits gave us one of Marilyn’s finest performances, it’s hard not to recall it without sadness. This is even more true for fans of Clark Gable, who died on November 16, 1960 (58 years ago this week), having suffered a heart attack two days after filming wrapped.

Gable had been Marilyn’s childhood idol (and an imaginary stand-in for her absent father.) He was probably her favourite leading man, and although her delays on the set often frustrated him, he remained a supportive friend to her throughout.

She was heartbroken by his death, and while some journalists blamed her for it, his widow would invite her to the christening of their only son in April 1961. Here’s a review from fansite Dear Mr. Gable, who are marking the King of Hollywood’s anniversary with Misfits-related posts on their Facebook page.

Gable on the ‘Misfits’ set with wife Kay

The Misfits is an apt title for this film, not only fitting for its group of wandering cowboys and recent divorcee, but for the cast portraying them: The King of Hollywood, Clark Gable, who at age 59 was in no shape to be playing a 40-something-year-old cowboy in the hot Nevada desert. In fact, he failed his first physical for production insurance. After giving up alcohol temporarily and crash dieting to lose 35 lbs, he passed. And celebrated with whiskey and a steak.

Clark is paired as the unlikely romantic interest for the 34 year old Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn was in a dark place at the time … This film to me is just sad. I wonder if I would feel the same way if it wasn’t Clark’s swan song and if he didn’t look so terrible in it. I’m not sure though; it’s just a bleak film. The screenplay is very poetic, full of perfectly executed prose that at times seems overdone … It’s unfortunate for us all that we never got to see Marilyn attempt to play such a dramatic role again.

His wife Kay recalled: ‘Most of The Misfits was shot on a blistering hot dry lake bed 50 miles from Reno. The thermometer generally registered 135 degrees by mid-afternoon. Many members of the cast and crew became ill. But Clark outrode and outwalked men half his age.He did take after strenuous take roping a wild stallion singlehanded … Clark explained they had filmed a scene in which he was dragged on a rope behind a truck going 30 miles an hour. I was appalled. “Why are you doing those scenes?” I asked. “You’ve got a stunt man who’s supposed to do them.” Clark confessed that he’d found the waiting so demoralizing he’d volunteered to do the scenes just to keep occupied.’

On November 4, 1960, production wrapped on the film as the final scene was shot: Clark and Marilyn, alone in the car, surrounded by darkness.

‘How do you find your way back in the dark?’ she asks.

‘Just head for that big star straight on. The highway’s under it, it’ll take us right home,’ he says.

Those were the final words either of them would utter onscreen. There were no end credits, no ‘The End’ on the screen; it just faded to black. You can’t get more poetic than that.”

Marilyn’s ‘Millionaire’ Turns 65

On November 4, 1953, one of Marilyn’s most popular movies – How to Marry a Millionaire – opened in Beverly Hills. It was Marilyn’s first big premiere, and she was dazzling that night. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen earlier this year, and you can read my review here. Over at Marilyn Remembered, Lorraine shares some facts about the movie.