Category Archives: Art and Photography

Fake News: Marilyn, Yves and a ‘Secret Pregnancy’

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A series of gorgeous colour photos taken by Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull, whose incredible archive of candid snapshots were auctioned at Julien’s in November 2016, were published in yesterday’s Daily Mail. The images show Marilyn arriving for test shots for The Misfits in New York in July 1960.

Unfortunately – and all too predictably – the pictures are accompanied by a salacious and frankly unbelievable story. Marilyn’s belly is rather prominent in the photos, and Tony Michaels – a Las Vegas casino croupier who befriended the late Frieda Hull, and purchased the images at auction – claims that Marilyn was secretly pregnant at the time, by her Let’s Make Love co-star Yves Montand.

That Marilyn and Yves had an affair is not in doubt, and of course they were both married to other people. However, a pregnancy at this time has never been mentioned, and Marilyn’s daily routine is extremely well-documented. To casual observers her protruding tummy may look like a baby bump, but seasoned fans have noticed many similar images of her over the years.

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Furthermore, Marilyn was a very private person and it would be out of character for her to have confided in a teenage fan. Frieda Hull never sought publicity and it seems all too convenient that such a story would emerge only after her death. It has also been debunked by Scott Fortner, who helped to catalogue the recent Julien’s sale in which these photos were featured, on his MM Collection blog; and by Immortal Marilyn.

Could this be an early frontrunner for the most ridiculous Marilyn headline of 2017? It is interesting to note that the Daily Mail was recently blacklisted by Wikipedia for ‘poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication.’

Marilyn in Love (and Art…)

8523930E-AA83-4863-91F9-D6D2AA080306-1091-0000008949CE46A8_tmpMarilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller is featured in a new book, The Art of the Affair: An Illustrated History of Love, Sex and Artistic Influence. Her platonic friendships with Truman Capote and Ella Fitzgerald are also mentioned. The Art of the Affair is a collaboration between novelist Catherine Lacey and illustrator Forsyth Harmon.

Gordon Parks: Marilyn on the Flipside

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I AM YOU: Selected Works 1942-1978 is a new book showcasing  the work of American photographer Gordon Parks, published by Steidl. The upper image as shown above, from his little-known 1956 shoot with Marilyn, is included. However, fans will notice that the photo appears to have been flipped, as her famous beauty spot is on the wrong side. As well as his celebrity portraits, Parks was famed for chronicling the civil rights movement, and later as a pioneering black filmmaker. A four-volume boxset, Gordon Parks: Collected Works, was released in 2012.

Milton Krasner: Marilyn and Her Cameraman

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A photographic archive from the estate of legendary Hollywood cameraman Milton Krasner will be auctioned at Laidlaw’s in Carlisle, England on March 25, the Daily Mail reports. As the full catalogue has not yet been published, it is unclear how many photos feature Marilyn, other than the image shown above (with Krasner standing behind director Howard Hawks.) However, the star and her four-time lensman were photographed together during their earliest collaboration on All About Eve; and Sam Shaw captured them on the set of their penultimate project, The Seven Year Itch. (Krasner also filmed ‘The Ransom of the Red Chief’ for the portmanteau film, O. Henry’s Full House, though he was uncredited. Marilyn appeared in another segment.)

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“An official photograph taken on the set of the 1950s classic, Monkey Business, featuring Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant in roller skates is a noteworthy picture that offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Krasner’s work.

A program from the 23rd Annual Academy Awards – when Krasner’s movie All About Eve received a record-breaking 14 nominations – and a signed Christmas card from American costume designer Charles LeMaire are just one of the rare pictures from Krasner’s archive that will be on sale.
The two had worked together on All About Eve and would go on to work together on The Seven Year Itch.

Krasner’s work with Marilyn Monroe and their shared filmography includes All About Eve, Monkey Business, O. Henry’s Full House, The Seven Year Itch and Bus Stop.”

Parreno’s Marilyn in Melbourne

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Multimedia artist Philippe Parreno’s 2012 video installation, Marilyn – based on her own writings as collected in the 2010 book, Fragments, and originally exhibited in Switzerland –  is featured in a new retrospective of his work in film, Philippe Parreno: Thenabouts, on display at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne until March 13, as Christopher Allen reports for The Australian.

“The most successful and memorable work in the exhibition was devoted to Marilyn Monroe, a figure who for half a century has been a kind of cultural palimpsest: the original actress, talented, intelligent, tragic, is overlaid with ­Warhol’s adoption of her as emblematic of the way that the modern mass media turns celebrities into two-dimensional patterns akin to brands or logos.

Parreno has recreated the hotel room at the Waldorf Astoria that Monroe occupied in New York in 1955. The camera pans around the room while the actress’s voice describes its design and furnishings: wall coverings, sofas, desks, coffee-table, ornaments. And then the camera switches to a close shot of a fountain pen writing on hotel stationery: we seem to be watching Monroe’s own pen forming her own words in her own handwriting.

But the voice is disembodied and we do not see the hand holding the pen, for all is done through computerised robotic movements. The speech is synthesised from recordings of the star’s voice, and the handwriting robot has been programmed to reproduce samples of her script. As both voice and handwriting routines are repeated, we realise that something mechanical is going on, and this is confirmed as gradually the camera takes a longer view, progressively revealing parts of the illusion.

First we see bits of scaffolding, then gradually we are shown the mechanism holding and moving the pen. And then the camera pans out to reveal that the whole room had really been a set built in a studio. Marilyn Monroe, as it turned out, had not only been reduced to a brand in her own day, but could now be synthetically reproduced, mechanically cloned as it were; a reflection, perhaps, on the further reduction of the actor, in the mass media world, to a consumer product.

The ending was interesting from another point of view too, because it was almost cliched in its use of the trope of illusion revealed. But it was also significant in being one of the few clear endings in a body of films mostly with little sense of starting or finishing.

Watching Parreno’s lengthy and not always gripping body of work, I couldn’t help reflecting that Aristotle was on to something with his conception of plot as the basic structuring device for stories.

At least the Marilyn Monroe film conformed perfectly to his definition of an ending: an action that implies something before it but nothing after it.”

Marilyn Impersonator Slams Unauthorised Stamps

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In one of this month’s more peculiar stories, Page Six reports that Marilyn impersonator Jimmy James has threatened legal action over a series of stamps issued in the Central African Republic, supposedly depicting Marilyn but using images of Jimmy, who impersonated her during the 1980s and 90s. James is much admired within the Monroe fan community, and was a guest speaker at the 2014 memorial service. Images of impersonators have been used before on unofficial Marilyn-themed merchandise, much to the frustration of fans – but Jimmy James is the first impersonator to respond publicly to this growing problem.

“The image on the stamp of James as Marilyn in a pair of glasses seems to be taken from a 1991 ad James did for the brand L.A. Eyeworks. (The cool 1980s and 1990s campaign included 200 others such as the actual Grace Jones, Frank Zappa, John Lydon, RuPaul, David Hockney and Bryan Ferry.)

As far as the image on the African stamp, James’ power attorney Mark Jay Heller told us: ‘Although the recognition and inclusion of a transgender model in this collection of [Monroe] stamps is appreciated . . . the publisher . . . has not only failed and omitted to secure’ James’ consent, ‘but has also failed to compensate him.’

Reps for Monroe’s estate, L.A. Eyeworks and the Central African Republic’s New York consulate did not get back to us. The image in question seems to have been taken down from a website for the country’s stamps.”

Here are some other examples of the stamps, featuring artwork of Marilyn. Another series shows her with Elvis Presley, though it is still unclear whether they ever met.

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Buddy Greco 1926-2017

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Marilyn with Buddy Greco, 1962

Buddy Greco, the jazz pianist and lounge singer, died in Las Vegas last week aged ninety.

Armando Greco was born into a musical family in Philadelphia in August 1926, and began piano lessons at four years old. He turned professional in his teens, and had his first hit single in 1948. He was hired by Benny Goodman, and accompanied a young Marilyn Monroe during an audition for the band (she didn’t get the job.)

In 1951, Greco launched a solo career as a nightclub artist. He also released albums and appeared on television. His 1960 version of ‘The Lady is a Tramp’ sold over a million copies. He regularly performed alongside Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and other Rat Pack luminaries at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas.

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On the weekend of July 29, 1962, Greco was playing with Sinatra at the Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe. One of Sinatra’s guests was Marilyn Monroe. Buddy reminded her of their earlier meeting, and took a series of snapshots featuring himself with Marilyn, Sinatra, and Peter Lawford. These photos are believed to be the last ever taken of Marilyn, who died just a week afterward.

Greco enjoyed his British tours so much that he bought a house at Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex, while also maintaining a home in Palm Springs, California. He is survived by his seven children and his fifth wife, Lezlie Anders, whom he married in 1995.

You can read Buddy Greco’s account of the Cal-Neva weekend here.