Category Archives: Art and Photography

Marilyn at Julien’s: A Candid Feast

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“As far as Hollywood stories go, Marilyn Monroe‘s is generally seen as a tragic one,” Time magazine observes. “Knowing what would come later, it’s easy for her fans today to look at images of the actress and add their own overlay of sadness to the pictures.”

However, the article continues, candid photos from the Frieda Hull estate – up for bids at Julien’s Auctions this weekend – show a “lighter side” of Marilyn, suggesting that “the tragedy of her story does not mean that she lacked for moments of happiness—or at least moments when she appeared to be happy.”

The Frieda Hull collection ranges from approximately Lots 605-788 of the Julien’s sale, and is well worth a closer look. Time have featured some of the most striking images on offer, and I’ve posted a few more below.

Signed photo of Marilyn in New York, 1955
Signed photo of Marilyn in New York, 1955
Returning from her Jamaican honeymoon with Arthur Miller, 1957
Returning from her Jamaican honeymoon with Arthur Miller, 1957
Marilyn attends a screening of 'The Prince and the Showgirl', 1957
Marilyn attends a screening of ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’, 1957
Leaving her New York apartment in 1959, en route to meet Khrushchev in Hollywood
Leaving her New York apartment in 1959, en route to meet Khrushchev in Hollywood
Attending Josephine Baker's revue in Los Angeles, 1960
Attending Josephine Baker’s revue in Los Angeles, 1960

Frieda Hull also collected original memorabilia, including movie stills, studio portraits and lobby cards. She compiled scrapbooks and home movies, and even owned a scarf of Marilyn’s, and a Gladstone Hotel menu signed by MM and Arthur Miller – not to mention a Monroe Six badge!

This archive is so unique that it could easily fill a book. Although some images have been seen before, many have never been published, and some are extremely rare. Whatever her mood, Marilyn could always spare a smile for her fans. So let’s hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of these lovely pictures.

Marilyn at Julien’s: Style and Beauty

Marilyn in costume for 'The Prince and the Showgirl'
Marilyn in costume for ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’

“Marilyn Monroe famously sang ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,’” Sheila Gibson Stoodley writes for Robb Report, “but collectors of her memorabilia disagree. Seven of the 10 most-expensive Marilyn Monroe items sold at auction are dresses—mainly costumes that the late star wore in her films. The few that she donned outside of the studio earn their high sums thanks to period photographs that prove Monroe wore them.” And over at his MM Collection Blog, Scott Fortner – who helped to catalogue this week’s auction at Julien’s – takes a closer look at the ‘I’m Through With Love‘ dress from Some Like It Hot, and the ‘After You Get What You Want‘ dress from There’s No Business Like Show Business. Both costumes are from the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, and will go under the hammer tomorrow.

4B0C4B67-95B1-4697-9B6F-7F99625E3A20-16590-000008CBD9507BCC_tmpSeveral other items which contributed to Marilyn’s glamorous look are also among the lots. From her modelling days onward, Marilyn often wore her own clothing in photo shoots. These brown leather sandals date back to a 1950 session with photographer Earl Leaf, shot at the Hollywood home of her agent, Johnny Hyde.

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Unlike her cinematic alter-ego Lorelei Lee, Marilyn wasn’t really a material girl. These earrings, worn to the premiere of The Seven Year Itch, were made from simulated diamonds.

Green lace blouse, from 'Bus Stop'
Green lace blouse, from ‘Bus Stop’

Marilyn’s movie costumes were made in duplicates, with her name next to the Fox logo on a sewn-in label. This green lace bodice from Bus Stop was won in a contest by a lucky reader of the British fan magazine, Picture Show.

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These red satin platform shoes – designed by Annello & Davide – were born by Marilyn to the London premiere of Arthur Miller’s controversial play, A View From the Bridge.

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John Moore’s pencil sketches for the form-fitting mermaid gown worn by Marilyn to the premiere of The Prince and the Showgirl are also on offer.

Marilyn’s personal diet plan and skincare regime are available in full.

“A two-page, typed plan titled ‘Calorie Restricted Diet/ 1000 Calories/ 100 Grams Protein’ prepared for Monroe by Dr. Leon Krohn. The pages are undated, but some of the approved foods and meal plans are in line with the notations found in Monroe’s hand in the back of one of her notebooks from 1958. The diet put forth presents sound health advice even by today’s standards, recommending the restriction of sugar, fats and carbohydrates to whole wheat and ‘one small white potato boiled baked or riced’ as a substitution for one slice of bread.

Five sets of instructions, eight pages, from the Erno Laszlo Institute written out for Marilyn Monroe Miller, dated June 5, 6, 11, and 12, 1958, and July 3, 1958, outlining her constantly changing skincare regime in great detail. The instructions not only divide skincare into ‘Morning,’ ‘Evening if dressing,’ and ‘Evening before retiring,’ but also there are instructions on what not to eat: ‘Not one piece of any kind of nuts, olives, chocolate, clams and oysters.’ There are also separate instructions for California and ‘Instructions for Makeup While Making Films.'”

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These white leather shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo are just one of several pairs that she owned. (The spiked heels were 3 inches high, and the size was 7.5B.)

In the spring of 1958, Marilyn made plans to appear at the Cannes Film Festival. Simone Noir sent her an invitation to visit Christian Dior in Paris. Unfortunately, the trip was cancelled, but a separate invoice shows that Marilyn bought a dress and coat by Dior from a Park Avenue boutique.

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That Christmas, Marilyn’s longtime hairdresser, Agnes Flanagan, gave her a bottle of her favourite perfume, Chanel No. 5, purchased from I. Magnin in Beverly Hills.

04CE929F-E2C5-4041-B63B-5942E77CBE29-16590-000008F3381F1DE9_tmpFinally, a costume sketch by Bob Mackie for Something’s Got to Give. Based on a Jean Louis design, the red skirt suit with a swing jacket trimmed in leopard print, and matching hat, was intended as an ‘Outfit Worn on Day Off/Also in Courtroom Sequence.’ However, the ensemble was not worn by Marilyn during wardrobe tests, or any surviving footage from the ill-fated movie.

Marilyn at Julien’s: A Life In Art

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Items from Lee Strasberg’s estate will be auctioned at Julien’s this Friday. They include many of Marilyn’s notes, poems, ink and crayon  drawings and watercolours, previously published in the acclaimed Fragments and the French book, Girl Waiting. Some of the artworks purchased by Marilyn for home display are also up for bids.

Abigail Cain has written an insightful piece about Marilyn’s little-known artistic side for Artsy.net.

“‘Not only was she a voracious reader and a haunting poet, but, as several of these objects prove, Monroe was also deeply invested in both collecting and creating visual art. Among these items—many of which have never before been seen by the public—were the 1961 architectural plans for Monroe’s unrealized Manhattan apartment. In this drawing, a space was marked off for an art studio inside the three-story townhouse, located at 241 East 61st Street.

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In addition, a series of letters from the late 1950s show that Monroe was enrolled in a correspondence art course through the Famous Artists School in Westport, Connecticut. The recovered documents include a roster of instructors, a ‘Rate Yourself Progress Chart,’ and several pages explaining the logistics of the painting class and long-distance critiques.

Also included in the auction is a series of drawings by Monroe, done primarily in Conté crayon. Although these are not dated, Woolley said it’s possible they were completed as part of the correspondence art course.

Lithograph owned by Marilyn
Lithograph owned by Marilyn

Beyond her own sketches, Monroe was also a collector of art. Her tastes were varied—at the beginning of her career, she taped inexpensive reproductions of Albrecht Dürer, Fra Angelico, and Leonardo da Vinci to the walls of her Hollywood apartment. As she grew in both fame and fortune, she began to purchase originals instead.”

Marilyn in Holy Wood: A Graphic Novel

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Holy Wood : Portrait fantasmé de Marilyn Monroe, a new graphic novel, has been published in France. In an interview with Le Dauphine, author Tommy Redolfi reveals that he spent nine years creating this Gothic fairytale set in ‘Holy Wood’, a dark forest populated by circus freaks where a young dreamer called Norma Jeane seeks fame and fortune.

BD9FA6C0-719B-490B-A5EC-0CE82A2D4626-11394-000006B34AFAE240_tmp“I think she adhered to an image proposed to her. She was told: ‘If you’re like that, people will love you.’ So she agreed to be that person to be loved. She lacked love and recognition. That’s what she was looking for and that’s what we gave him, but not necessarily for the best reasons. She a little pact with the devil, although in this case, the devil is not really bad. And besides it is this ambiguity which I like. There are not really nice, not really bad … In the end, maybe it was just the wrong choice …”

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Sue Dunkley’s Pop Art Marilyn

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Marilyn inspired many within the Pop Art movement, including Andy Warhol, Richard Hamilton and Pauline Boty. Now another British artist of this period has come to light, with a recent exhibition and a profile in The Guardian. Sue Dunkley produced at least two paintings based on photographer John Bryson‘s 1960 cover story for Life magazine, and the private drama that unfolded between the Millers and the Montands during filming of Let’s Make Love.

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“This substantial series of Pop Art paintings on large canvas have recently been rediscovered in Dunkley’s London studio by her daughter and brother. The works in the series were produced between 1968 and 1972, and notably take as their subject the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, the female body, and human relationships, often touched by violence and betrayal. A large number of pastel studies for these works and independent sketches have also been discovered, many of which explore intimacy, sexuality and the role of women in changing eras.

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These works are often populated by numerous faces and figures, sometimes difficult to discern and placed in uneasy dialogue with one another. Dunkley herself often appears in the works, looking on or departing, merging the political and personal in both intimate and yet culturally significant works of art. These early works employ the bold and graphic language of Pop Art, referencing familiar media imagery and fashion photography. Recognisable images such as Ethel Kennedy’s screaming face and outstretched hand following Robert Kennedy’s assassination alongside images of Marylin Monroe recur, as if ghosts on the edge of these significant events and moments in history. Dunkley returned to Monroe often, fascinated by her seemingly irreconcilable sexuality and vulnerability, the impossible expectations placed on her to be both child and sex symbol.”

Marilyn at Julien’s: Happy Birthday Mr President

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The ‘nude’ beaded dress worn by Marilyn as she sang ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962 will be auctioned at Julien’s next month, with bids starting at $1 million. There are also several other items on offer from the historic gala, including Marilyn’s own ticket and program.

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Legendary costume designer Bob Mackie began his career as a sketch artist for Jean Louis, and his drawings of Marilyn’s dress are also up for sale. At the time of his first attempt, Mackie didn’t know who the dress was for (although he was already working with Jean Louis on Marilyn’s costumes for Something’s Got to Give.)

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Five colour photos from the collection of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull, and an eight-minute film comprised of clips from the night’s entertainment, take us back to the events of 1962.

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Illustrator LeRoy Neiman captured Marilyn’s unforgettable performance in art.

E1D9E973-EEE9-4F5F-A0D4-B3E6DAAAE45D-9504-000005C0FA06B634_tmpProducer Clive David kept a commemorative tile signed by various stars in attendance, including Marilyn, Ella Fitzgerald, Jack Benny and Maria Callas. It would be Marilyn’s last major public appearance, triggering over fifty years of rampant speculation.

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UPDATE: The ‘Happy Birthday’ dress was sold at Julien’s for $4.8 million on November 16, 2016, making it the most lucrative dress in auction history. The buyer is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, who plan to showcase the dress in future exhibitions. Read a full report from Scott Fortner on his MM Collection Blog.

Marilyn Raises Millions in Bendigo

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Australia’s unofficial ‘year of Marilyn’ has been a resounding success, as the Bendigo Advertiser reports.

“Bendigo Art Gallery’s Marilyn Monroe exhibition brought more than $13 million into the region, Victorian government modelling has shown.

Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan announced on Wednesday $13.2 million in economic impact for Bendigo was derived from the four-month exhibition, exceeding the $11.2 million benefit forecast before the show opened.

‘We knew Marilyn Monroe would be a showstopper and it was,’ she said. ‘It demonstrates [the gallery] is a facility that brings many jobs, a significant amount of funds flowing into the Bendigo community.’

More than 140,000 visitors attended the ticketed exhibition in Bendigo between March and July this year. Almost half of those people were from Melbourne, travelling to central Victoria specifically to see the Hollywood-themed show.

The total cost of showing the Marilyn Monroe exhibition is unclear.

Ms Allan also said the strength of Bendigo’s gallery could inspire young people to choose an artistic career path, citing ‘strong’ art and design programs at La Trobe University as yet more evidence of the region’s creative strength.

But it was not only the Bendigo economy that benefitted from the blockbuster exhibition; the gallery’s curatorial manager Tansy Curtin said Marilyn challenged her institution artistically.

‘We went from working with fine art to working with contemporary culture.’

These new strings in her institution’s bow meant it was ‘re-defining’ what it meant to be a regional art gallery, no longer catering solely to a local audience but to national and international art-lovers as well.

Conservation work carried out during the exhibition also meant the gallery was ensure the longevity of Marilyn Monroe artifacts.

Because many of the items exhibited in the gallery were not normally showcased in a curated setting – many were kept inside the houses of their collectors before coming to Bendigo – Ms Curtin said many were returned to their owners in a better condition than when they arrived, having undergone conservation while housed in central Victoria.”

Marilyn Statue Missing in Auckland

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A statue of Marilyn has been stolen in New Zealand, as Meghan Lawrence reports for Auckland Now. (Marilyn-related art thefts are not uncommon: an English  statue was stolen in 2011, while a Canadian mural vanished in 2014, and was found in a dumpster two weeks later. Sadly, it was stolen again in 2015.)

“Farm Cove’s iconic mascot has gone walkabout.

A six-foot tall (1.82m) statue of Marilyn Monroe was taken from a Fisher Parade residence in East Auckland on the night of October 13.

Maria Ross says the statue is part of a collection of rock n’ roll and pop-culture memorabilia that decorates her home. Ross purchased the statue of Marilyn Monroe a year ago, after she had been looking to add the American actress to her collection for a number of years.

She has stood in the front garden ever since, for passersby to bask in her glory.

‘She was loved and admired by all. Some more than others,’ she says. ‘People who drive past will stop and take photos with her. It’s so cool because you get to know the neighbourhood. She is just famous in Farm Cove.’

Ross says she’s ‘really gutted’ that the statue was stolen, but there would be no questions asked if she was returned.

‘I do believe someone is going to see her. There is not a lot of them in New Zealand. I think there is only one other, so it will stand out like a sore thumb.’

‘It would just be so awesome if she was returned.'”

UPDATE: The statue has now been returned almost two months after its disappearance – albeit a little worse for wear, reports the Auckland Times.

“The statue of Marilyn Monroe, a former Hollywood screen siren and model, stands at more than 1.8m (6 feet) and weighs around 80kg.

‘It would have taken two or more people to get her into a truck or trailer,’ she said.

On Sunday night Ms Ross posted on social media: ‘OMG!!!!! Marilyn was dropped off tonight and as promised…No Questions Asked!!’

‘Reward Requested and I paid it.’

She said the statue was a little bit worse for wear, with eyelashes cut off and a ‘few cuts n bruises’.

‘She is split down one side. They have obviously dropped her,’ Ms Ross said.”

More Marilyn Book News

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First published in 2013 (and reviewed here), Marilyn: Her Life in  Pictures, edited by Martin Howard and Oliver Northcliffe, is now available in French.

Two academic studies make significant references to Marilyn this autumn. From Reverence to Rape, Molly Haskell’s feminist critique of Hollywood, is now in its third edition. Haskell writes well about how typecasting hindered Marilyn’s career. In Modern Acting: The Lost Chapter of American Film and Theatre, Cynthia Baron considers the influence of the Method on her performances. Adrienne L. McLean also mentions Marilyn at the peak of her glamour in Costume, Makeup and Hair, the latest in Rutgers’ Behind the Silver Screen series.

On a lighter note, Marilyn is among the bevy of bombshells featured in Richard Koper’s Fifties Blondes, and the stories behind some of herfavourite Hollywood haunts are revealed in L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants, a coffee-table tome by George Gerry.

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And finally… I Met Marilyn , a new collection of interviews with friends and associates by Neil Sean, is out in paperback and via Kindle. Here’s a synopsis:

“Having been a fan of the legend that is Marilyn Monroe since an early age, it seemed whoever I interviewed had either met / worked and known something about her during my journalistic career. As the years went on I noticed this even more, to the point I was lucky enough to meet and interview some very famous people whom have not had their ‘Marilyn’ stories told before. I started with a trusty cassette player, which along the way had me meeting the likes of Sir Lawrence Oliver, Charlton Heston and even Sir Norman Wisdom. What is fascinating when reviewing the tapes – along with never broadcast interviews with Tony Curtis, Mickey Rooney and Debbie Reynolds to name just a few – is how revealing the whole conversations are. I urge everyone to take a look at the book if you’re a true Marilyn fan, as it will give you a rare insight into her final months: and as Ricci Martin (Son of Dean) who met Marilyn many times told me, ‘it’s the biggest story in the world of showbiz ever and yes I was party to it in many ways which is frightening.'”