Marilyn’s ‘Divorce Dress’ Up for Sale

A rather melancholy fragment of Hollywood history is going under the hammer at GWS Auctions in Beverly Hills on March 30, Newser reports.  This black wool turtleneck dress with zippered front is believed to have been worn by a distraught Marilyn on October 6, 1954, when alongside lawyer Jerry Giesler, she confirmed to reporters outside her home on North Palm Drive, Los Angeles that she was filing for divorce from husband Joe DiMaggio after nine months of marriage. Two copies of the dress were previously sold at Christie’s in 1999, and it is now expected to reach a maximum bid of $100,000 – $150,000.

Joe and Marilyn’s Japanese Photo Album

A souvenir album featuring 34 original photos taken during Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio’s trip to Japan in early 1954 – including Joe’s stint as a coach to the Japanese baseball league, and Marilyn’s solo jaunt to Korea – will go under the hammer at a sports memorabilia sale hosted by Heritage Auctions on February 23-24, as Simon Lindley reports for Just Collecting. First sold in the 2006 auction of the DiMaggio estate, it was most likely a parting gift from the newlyweds’ hosts.

‘Essentially Marilyn’: Hit Or Miss?

The most surprising aspect of last week’s Essentially Marilyn auction at Profiles in History was how many valuable items from the Maite Minguez-Ricart collection and others (including movie costumes) went unsold, while others only reached the lower estimate. In a post for his MM Collection blog, Scott Fortner goes as far as to call it a flop – and noting the high prices reached at Julien’s only last month, he argues that poor organisation was to blame, rather than a lack of interest. Here’s a selection of items that sold well, and others that didn’t: you can find the full list over at iCollector.

Photo of Norma Jeane aged five, with her ‘first boyfriend’, Lester Bolender ($10,000)

Wedding photo of Norma Jeane and Jim Dougherty ($15,000)

Seven photos from Norma Jeane’s first assignments with the Blue Book Modelling Agency, 1945 ($11,000)

Marilyn’s personally inscribed photo with Ben Lyon ($37,500 – more info here)

Black silk cocktail dress with oversize white bow, designed by John Moore and worn by Marilyn in 1958 ($40,000)

Gold pleated halter gown designed by Travilla for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ($100,000)

Crème-coloured gown by Travilla for How to Marry a Millionaire ($100,000)

Crème and blue gown by Travilla for There’s No Business Like Show Business ($70,000)

Pink and purple satin pantsuit with train, designed by Charles LeMaire for The Seven Year Itch ($100,000)

Silver cigarette box inscribed by Marilyn to Billy Wilder, 1954 ($10,000)

Sheer tan dress by JAX, worn by Marilyn in 1958 ($20,000)

Patterned wool overcoat, worn by Marilyn in 1961 ($30,000)

Marilyn’s personal key to Warner Brothers, 1956 ($10,000)

Red halter dress by JAX, worn by Marilyn in her final photo session with Milton Greene, 1957 ($100,000)

Certificate of nomination from the Golden Globe Awards for Some Like It Hot, 1959 ($10,000)

Black address book ca 1960-62 ($17,000)

John Bryson’s candid photo of Marilyn and Arthur Miller on the set of Let’s Make Love, signed by both ($8,00)

Pucci silk blouse, worn by Marilyn in 1962 ($95,000)

White Ferragamo pumps, worn by Marilyn in Something’s Got to Give ($16,000)

Marilyn’s original grave marker from Westwood Memorial Park ($38,400)

Period costume by Rene Hubert for A Ticket to Tomahawk (UNSOLD)

Brown Skirt Suit by Charles LeMaire for Love Nest (UNSOLD)

Costume sketches by Eloise Jenssen for We’re Not Married (UNSOLD)

Green dress by Travilla for Don’t Bother to Knock (UNSOLD)

Marilyn’s personally owned Ceil Chapman dress (UNSOLD)

Unreleased studio master for ‘Down Boy’ (UNSOLD – more info here)

Showgirl costume by Travilla for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (UNSOLD)

Charles Feldman’s archive regarding The Seven Year Itch (UNSOLD)

Pearl encrusted gown, one of several copies made for The Prince and the Showgirl (UNSOLD)

Two address books, ca. 1950s-60s (UNSOLD)

Various exhibition prints by Milton Greene (UNSOLD)

Jack Allen To Sell Marilyn’s ‘Down Boy’, and More

Marilyn By Moonlight author Jack Allen is selling off some items from his collection in the Essentially Marilyn auction on December 11 at Profiles In History – including photographs and the unreleased song, ‘Down Boy‘, as Mike Szymanski reports for The Art of Monteque. (The auction also features the spectacular collection of Maite Minguez Ricart – more details here.)

“When Jack Allen first fell in love with Marilyn Monroe, it was while watching her in the 1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes where she plays an ambitious showgirl … ‘Here was a girl full of naïve innocence and you could really tell that she loved performing and that she really wanted to make it,’ says Jack. ‘In a lot of ways that is the story of Hollywood.’

Jack worked on some of the photo displays and books with [Andre] de Dienes’s widow after he died in 1985, and as a payment for his work, he received some of his original photos.

‘I was most fascinated with the “End of Everything” photo session that he took near Zuma Beach in Malibu,’ Allen recalls. ‘She was troubled at the time, and it has an almost religious feeling to them.’

What the auction house doesn’t explain in the description of the photographs is why they will have a faint scent of dirt or earthiness to them. After a terrible rainstorm in Los Angeles in the 1950s, a mudslide buried and destroyed many of the photographer’s collection in his house, and out of frustration he simply buried most of his collection in the backyard. A year later, LIFE magazine editors asked about some Monroe photos, and he literally dug them up from his backyard, and in the middle of the mess, salvaged a few of the gelatin silver prints.

Marilyn with boxer Max Baer

In another signed 8×10 photograph expected to fetch between $6,000 and $8,000, Marilyn signed it to former Heavyweight Champion of the World Max Baer, writing: ‘To Max, My body guard, Love Marilyn Monroe.’ Baer was a fighter-turned-actor and longtime admirer of the starlet, and visited her on the set of Some Like it Hot.

When studios made movies, they often pressed a record — and it was usually one-sided — of each of the songs used in the film, so when dubbing or playback was necessary while they were filming, they could use the record. So, these records actually played while the stars recreated the scenes, or filmed the dance numbers or lip synced the songs.

Jack found the heavy 78 acetate records on eBay as part of an estate of a 20th Century-Fox craft service worker who took the 12-inch records when they were abandoned by the studio after the filming of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Jack bid on the records in 2005, thinking they would be a fun piece of Hollywood history to have to one of his favorite films. The records were stained and scratched, but kept in their vintage sleeves from the studio … But, Jack noticed a recording ‘Down Boy‘ also penned by the legendary Hoagy Carmichael that featured only Marilyn and a soft piano accompaniment.

‘I realized that this was a song that was actually mentioned in the script, but it was never used in the movie,’ Jack recalls. ‘It was like finding a treasure. No one had ever heard this recording of Marilyn before.’

The song is upbeat and whimsical and planned for when a diamond dealer played by Charles Coburn is getting fresh with Marilyn’s character Lorelei. She sings to the men like they are a pack of hungry dogs, saying ‘Down Boy‘ to them. Marilyn sang the song with a swing temp in the key of A and B-flat.”

Marilyn Photo Sale at Julien’s

Photos of Marilyn – signed by photographers William Carroll, Laszlo Willinger, Kashio Aoki, Milton Greene, Bert Stern and George Barris – plus paparazzi shots from events such as Ray Anthony’s ‘My Marilyn’ party, are up for bids at an online sale at Julien’s Auctions on December 10. A bathroom tile from her final home is also on offer, with an estimate of $2,000-$2,5000. (And don’t forget the Essentially Marilyn auction at Profiles in History on December 11.)

Laszlo Willinger, ca 1949
Arriving at the ‘My Marilyn’ party, 1952
Press conference at Los Angeles Airport, 1956
Bathroom tile from Marilyn’s Los Angeles home

Marilyn Featured in Julien’s Hefner Sale

There are several Marilyn-related items in the Property From the Collection of Hugh M. Hefner sale, set for auction at Julien’s this Friday (November 30.) A personal copy of Playboy‘s first issue – featuring Marilyn as cover girl and centrefold  – is estimated at $3,000 – $5,000. Other lots include the 1974 calendar seen above, a tie-in with Norman Mailer’s Marilyn; several photographic books about Marilyn (by Janice Anderson, George Barris, Bert Stern, Susan Bernard and Anne Verlhac); a box decorated with a painting of Marilyn by Tony Curtis; a Marilyn-themed bowling shirt and tie; prints by Bruno Bernard, Milton Greene and Jack Cardiff; and a rather silly ‘trick photo’ appearing to show Hef checking out Marilyn’s cleavage (though in reality, of course, they never met.)

UPDATE: Hefner’s copy of the first Playboy issue was sold for $31,250.

Marilyn by Jack Cardiff

Smithsonian to Screen ‘Marilyn for Sale’

Marilyn Monroe: Auction of a Lifetime, the documentary about the 2016 Julien’s sale (in which Marilyn’s ‘birthday dress sold for $4.8m) has been acquired by the Smithsonian Channel, and will be screened on December 23 at 9pm, as Daniele Alcinii reports for RealScreen. Originally produced by Oxford Film and Television and broadcast in the UK on Channel 4, the documentary has been renamed Marilyn Monroe For Sale. You can read my review here.

Letters to Marilyn at Bonham’s

A treasure trove of correspondence to Marilyn will be auctioned today at Bonham’s in New York, as part of TCM’s Dark Side of Hollywood sale.  Among the lots are an autographed napkin; notes to herself, jotted on the back of envelopes; letters from her mother Gladys, and members of Norma Jeane’s extended family, including Grace Goddard and Ana Lower; key figures in  Marilyn’s later life, such as Joe Schenck and Elia Kazan; and other lesser-known acquaintances. Here are some of the highlights:

Thanks to Caren and Hannah at Marilyn Remembered

Letters from Uncle Art and Aunt Allis, 1938-39

“San Jose, on ‘International Correspondence Schools’ letterhead and plain stationery. Norma Jeane was 12 years old when she received these letters from relatives of her guardian, Grace Goddard, and Grace’s aunt, Ana Lower. Though not related to her, they address themselves as Uncle Art and Aunt Allis, and in their separate letters to the child, they seem to know her well, calling her ‘Little Sweetheart’ and writing, ‘We all send love to our little girl.’ They often refer to their dog, Trinket, whom one may assume was adored by Norma Jeane, who had a soft spot for animals all her life. Despite the many difficulties Norma Jeane had to face as a foster child, it does seem that there were many caring people in her life, as Uncle Art writes, ‘I am sure you are happy because everyone there loves you, and wants you to be happy.'”

Family photo, 1946: with Berniece Miracle and daughter Mona Rae; Grace Goddard; Marilyn and Ana Lower; and Marilyn’s mother Gladys

Letters from Ana Lower, 1942-46

“In her first letter of 1942, Lower responds to 15-year-old Norma Jeane’s questions about her shyness: ‘Be your own sweet self and in time as you have more experience, you’ll be able to talk when you want to, and people will really pay attention to what you say because it will be something worthwhile.’ By 1946, Norma Jeane was obtaining a divorce from her first husband, James Dougherty (whom Lower adored) and was having financial difficulty. She had borrowed money from Lower, who was also allowing Norma Jeane’s mother, Gladys Baker, to live with her at the time. Her letter expresses disappointment in Norma Jeane’s decisions, quoting the Bible and giving advice. She also mentions that Gladys has been fired from her job at Griffith Park because she was ‘too melancholy to be around the patients.’ Lower gently but firmly warns Norma Jeane, ‘Well, precious, you may feel I am being severe, but it is not so meant. I love you dearly and you must not feel hurt because of this letter.'”

Letters from Ana Lower to Jim Dougherty, 1943-45

“Lower was extremely close to Dougherty, and in her letter, she expresses her concern about his joining up and what it means for Norma Jeane’s future. ‘Her welfare of course is uppermost in your thoughts. She is young and really needs to finish her education.’ Her love for the girl reveals itself often: ‘Norma is such a sweet dear girl. Everyone loves her.’ She also expresses gratitude for his caring ways: ‘I am grateful for your kindness to Norma and know she loves you as dearly as you do her.'”

Letter from Gladys Baker, 1945

“In 1945, Gladys went to Portland to attempt to live on her own with the help of her aunt, Dora. She had been living in institutions for 9 years, and the hope was that she would be able to care for herself. She writes of her transition: ‘I’ve only been here a few days [and] I am just getting acclimated to it. I’m taking it easy for a while.’ Gladys’ letter to Norma Jeane is surprisingly lucid and sweet. She is happy that Norma Jeane is married and hopes to meet her husband, James Dougherty (who was in the Merchant Marine at the time). She writes, ‘Seems only yesterday that you were just a wee tott [sic] & now you are married. I know you are very happy & perhaps some time soon I’ll see you.’ Norma Jeane was elated and eventually went to visit her with photographer Andre de Dienes. After leaving Portland, Gladys returned to Los Angeles and lived with Norma Jeane briefly but was ultimately forced to return to institutional life.”

Norma Jeane with husband Jim Dougherty, 1946

Letters from Ana Lower, 1946

“In the summer of 1946, Norma Jeane Dougherty was establishing residency in Las Vegas in order to divorce her first husband, James Dougherty, who was in the Merchant Marine at the time. She had begun a love affair with photographer Andre de Dienes, one that was much more serious than previously thought. In her letters, Ana Lower, who was the most loving adult figure in Norma Jeane’s life, remarks on the reactions she receives when she shows friends Norma Jeane’s photographs: ‘Everyone thinks your pictures are lovely, and I tell them not half so lovely as you really are.’ As she is traveling during the writing of these letters, Lower describes her experiences, most notably her visit with Norma Jeane’s amour, de Dienes. She found him both lovable and ‘temperamental, as most artists are.’ In her closing paragraph, she writes of Andre: ‘I kissed your sweetheart good-bye and I will love him, too–we joked about my being his mother-in-law. I do hope Jimmie [Norma Jeane’s soon-to-be ex-husband, whom Ana adored] is not too hurt by all this.'”

Letter from Grace Goddard, 1946

“Grace reveals that her aunt, Ana Lower, who was also a loving caregiver to Norma Jeane, is too easy on Dougherty: ‘I know what a softie [Aunt Ana] is toward any male, old or young, who makes a fuss over her. As for me, Doc [Grace’s husband], and all the rest of us, we look at situations through eyes of love for you, justice, and repayment for you being such an angel all your life. You deserve more than Jimmy is capable of giving you.’ In closing, she makes a veiled reference to Norma Jeane’s relationship with photographer Andre de Dienes and writes, ‘Of course no one but Doc and me know of your future plans. I am so in hopes you will let your heart rule you this time and not let anything keep you from taking the happiness that is being offered you.'”

Letters from Grace Goddard, 1946

“In the summer of 1946, Norma Jeane was residing in Las Vegas to obtain her divorce from her first husband, James Dougherty. During this time, she was ill, experienced financial difficulties, and was having problems with her car. Goddard’s letter is sympathetic: ‘I am heartsick over you,’ but firm when she scolds, ‘I do wish you had listened to Doc [Goddard’s husband] about your car.’ Additional difficulty arose when Dougherty refused to sign the divorce papers once Norma Jeane was in Las Vegas. Goddard gets a final jab at Dougherty in her closing remarks (even though she arranged their marriage) when she writes, ‘I never did think Jim would keep his promise to sign the papers.'”

Letter from Len Cormier, 1947

“Len Cormier was a young Navy pilot who dated Monroe (then Norma Jeane Dougherty) shortly after she divorced her first husband in 1946. They had at least 2 dates: one at Tommy Dorsey’s Casino Gardens in Santa Monica, and one where he took her flying (the only civilian he ever took up in a plane, he later recalled). In his letter from training camp, he writes, ‘I’ll have to admit that I don’t leave your picture out all the time, since nobody would get any work done if it were.’ He relays his experiences with flight operations and traveling, and ends his letter with a thoughtful message to his career-oriented friend: ‘I’ve still got my fingers crossed, hoping that all the breaks in the world come to you.'”

Holiday cards from Ana Lower, 1941-47

“Comprising a partial Autograph Letter Signed (‘Aunt Ana’), c.1947, to Marilyn Monroe, on plain stationery, discussing Christian Science. Together with 9 holiday cards, including a congratulatory wedding card celebrating her marriage to James Dougherty in which she writes, ‘To my dear / girl and boy / Love / Aunt Ana.'”

Letters from Howard Keel (‘Harry’), 1947-48

“Until these letters, little was known about film star Howard Keel’s relationship with Marilyn Monroe except that they had dated a few times. Keel had originally met Norma Jeane when she was 15 years old, as he relays in his letter: ‘I had quite a liking for you deep down inside but being a ripe old 22 or so I felt I was a little old for you.’ He is thrilled that they have reconnected and has a good laugh at seeing her crowned as ‘The Artichoke Queen’ in a publicity stunt. At some point between letters, the two got together, and Keel expresses his disappointment at not being able to see more of Monroe: ‘When I come home in June we’ll have to have some fun & find out what there is between us.’ Obviously, nothing came of the relationship, but Keel has sweet words about their reunion when he writes, ‘It was wonderful to find you the same sweet person I knew before.'”

Letter from Ana Lower to Berniece Miracle, 1948

“Lower refers to Marilyn (who is now no longer called Norma Jeane, even by her family), as she writes: ‘I am glad the clothes can be used. Marilyn will probably have more later.’ Marilyn often gave her clothes to Berniece when she was finished with them. Lower closes the letter with, ‘All is well with me and with Marilyn’s career.’ Ana Lower would die 4 days after this letter was written.”

Letters from Joe Schenck, 1948

“At the time of his letters to Marilyn, she had just signed a 6-month contract with Columbia Pictures, a major breakthrough in her career, which Schenck addresses: ‘I hope you will get your chance at Col and make good.’ Several months later, he writes, ‘Am very pleased to know you have a good part in a picture. Stick to your work and you will make good. Make your career your first consideration.’ Schenck either had a sense of humor or spelling problems, as he incorrectly spells Monroe’s name twice, writing both ‘Maryline’ and ‘Marrylene’ in his salutations!”

Marilyn as Dolly Madison, 1948

Letter from Gordon Provonsha, 1948

“Provonsha was a commercial artist who painted a portrait of Monroe for a Dolly Madison wine advertisement during her modeling days.”

Telegrams from Elia Kazan, 1951

“Kazan and Arthur Miller called Monroe ‘Miss Bauer’ based on a prank they played on Columbia boss Harry Cohn in which Monroe posed as a secretary by that name. Two of the Kazan telegrams allude to this pseudonym, with one signed ‘Bauer’ and the other signed simply ‘B.’ Though Monroe had affection for Kazan, she fell hard for Miller and the Kazan relationship fizzled out. From his messages, however, it appears that they were close: ‘Darling Just sit tight where you are and I’ll call for you about nine thirty.'”

Letters from Sid Ross, 1952

“Ross was a writer for Parade magazine whose brother, photographer Ben Ross, had photographed Monroe several times. Sid Ross fell head over heels in love with Monroe, who appears not to have returned his affection (or many of his letters, since his enclosed self-addressed stamped envelope for her convenience is still attached to his letter)! His letters are lyrical, poetic, and beautifully written, and he is clearly besotted: ‘The sheer joy of watching you–as you talk & sometimes crinkle up your brow … the sometimes pain in your voice and glance and gestures … the intensity that stirs not only you, but others.’ In April of 1952, Ross received a ‘Dear John’ letter from Monroe that he declared was ‘a blow. A terrific blow. It made me feel that the end of the world had come for me.’ He is clearly heartbroken and devastated. Interestingly, Ross closes one of his letters, ‘You may never be a “great” actress possibly but you’ll always be a so very beautiful girl…,’ a statement which may have been the very reason Monroe broke things off with Sid Ross.”

Correspondence Regarding Gladys Baker, 1935-52 

“Grace Goddard is clearly at the end of her rope, having spent the last 20 years trying to take care of Baker, and her exhaustion is palpable: ‘I have always loved her and her child, but I have a very bad heart condition brought on by a stroke caused by Gladys in Feb 1950. I have tried too many years to help her and I can no longer have her in my home.'”

UPDATE: Marilyn’s letter from Gladys sold for $2,750; and two letters from Ana (1942-46) sold for $2,500.

Marilyn’s Golden Globe Wins Again at Julien’s

Marilyn with Rock Hudson at the Golden Globes, 1962

Marilyn’s 1962 Golden Globe – as World Film Favourite – was sold for $250,000 at the Julien’s Icons & Idols auction yesterday – making it the highest selling Golden Globe to go under the hammer, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Additionally, Marilyn’s black Ford Thunderbird sold for $490,000; the black silk blouse worn at her 1956 Los Angeles Airport press conference for $43,750; and her checked trousers, worn in an early photo shoot with Andre de Dienes, reached $31,250. Surprisingly, her white beaded dress from There’s No Business Like Show Business went unsold. (And you can check out my favourite auction picks here.)