David Gainsborough Roberts, owner of one of the world’s largest collections of Marilyn’s film costumes, memorabilia and personal effects, has died in Jersey aged 73 after a short illness, BBC News reports. A true admirer, he wore clothing emblazoned with Marilyn’s image to public events and shared his treasures with fellow enthusiasts in numerous exhibitions across the UK and beyond. In 2005, I visited a show at Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire (the enchanting family home of Marilyn’s poet friend, Dame Edith Sitwell.) It was a very touching experience, and like many other fans, I will always be indebted to David for his generosity. In November 2016, his collection was sold for £1.5 million at Julien’s Auctions.
You can read a selection of posts about David here.
Marilyn featured heavily in Bonhams’ Modern & Contemporary Prints & Multiples auction this week, with a dye-transfer print for Tom Kelley’s ‘red velvet‘ nude calendar shot, mounted on illustration board and signed by Hugh Hefner, fetching $37,500 (£29,406.) Other photographers included Philippe Halsman, Andre De Dienes, Alfred Eisenstaedt, George S. Zimbel, Cecil W. Stoughton, George Barris, William J. Carroll, Laszlo Willinger, and Bert Stern. Some of the photos in this auction were previously displayed in 17 Years, Marilyn: The Making of a Legend, at the Andrew Weiss Gallery in Los Angeles.
Marilyn’s final home at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, Los Angeles has been sold for $7.25 million after being listed in April, reports the L.A. Times. (And in auction news, Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio’s wedding certificate has sold for $122, 500 at Goldin Auctions.)
Over at Atlas Obscura, Eve Kahn explores the darker side of celebrity memorabilia, and the market for medical items such as pillboxes, prescriptions and X-Rays of stars like Marilyn who died in unusual circumstances.
“Scott Fortner, a major buyer and scholar of Marilyn Monroe’s former possessions who loans widely to museums, owns bottles for her prescription eye drops and anti-allergy pills. He has bought related paperwork, too … Because of his focus on objects that she owned, he says, he is not much interested in medical records such as her chest x-rays that hospital staff may have taken home. And he would firmly draw the line against acquiring anything invasive, prurient and morbid …
Fortner points out that there is plenty of other illuminating and emotionally powerful material to collect instead, which she would have wanted her fans to know about. Throughout her tumultuous career, while shedding husbands and movie personas again and again, she somehow remembered to preserve her own memorabilia down to the drugstore receipts and eyedroppers. ‘She saved everything,’ Fortner says. ‘She didn’t throw anything away.'”
My review of the recent Channel 4 documentary, Marilyn Monroe: Auction of a Lifetime, is posted today at Immortal Marilyn. At the time of writing, the programme is still available to watch online (UK only.) And if you’re looking for a more detailed view of the sale, it’s right here.
The annual Hollywood Legends auction at Julien’s, set for April 29, features a number of Marilyn-related items, including a 1961 check book which, as UK tabloid The Mirror reports, shows she was overdrawn at the time.
Here are some of the more unusual lots…
“A Marilyn Monroe novelty game night set. The Brown & Bigelow set contains two decks of playing cards, one showing Monroe in the ‘A New Wrinkle’ pose and one of Monroe in the ‘Golden Dreams’ pose from her 1949 Red Velvet photo session with Tom Kelley, and a set of four tin coasters showing Monroe in the ‘Golden Dreams’ pose and ‘Marilyn Monroe’ printed on each. Contained in a black flocked presentation box, stamped with an image of Monroe and branded text that reads ‘Always First/ with the Best Figures/ T D F CO.’ at lower right.”
Rare photos taken by Bruce Davidson during filming of Let’s Make Love.
A number of items related to photographer John Florea, including this contact sheet from the ‘Heat Wave’ number in There’s No Business Like Show Business.
A personal note from photographer Zinn Arthur to Marilyn and Milton Greene, probably penned during filming of Bus Stop.
Julien’s Auctions has announced an online-only sale of photos featuring Marilyn, ending on March 26 – more details here.
“The sale will feature over 100 Marilyn Monroe photographs by the most significant photographers of the era who captured the pop culture icon, including George Barris, Andre de Dienes, Douglas Kirkland, Milton Greene, Joseph Jasgur, Bruno Bernard, Richard Avedon and more.
The featured photographs spanning Marilyn’s career include early images of Norma Jean Baker captured by Joseph Jasgur before her transition to Marilyn Monroe. Rare highlights include photographs by Bruce Davidson of Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits, a John Bryson photograph of Marilyn Monroe with her husband Arthur Miller, Nat Dillinger photographs of Marilyn dancing on the set of Let’s Make Love, and Bruno Bernard photographs of Marilyn on the set of Niagara. The sale also features a selection of rare and recognizable movie stills and publicity photos from Marilyn’s most significant acting roles.
Notable portions of the sale include over 25 photographs taken by Douglas Kirkland during the famous ‘Nude In White Silk Sheet’ photoshoot from November 17th, 1961 … The sale also features a collection of over 25 photographs of Marilyn Monroe taken by George Barris just weeks before the legend’s untimely passing.
A selection of photographs from historic appearances, including a group of 8 images sold with copyright from Marilyn’s arrival in Korea to support and perform for the US troops abroad, as well as a Robert H. McKinley photograph of Marilyn addressing the troops from atop an army tank in Korea. Also offered are personal and introspective photographs of Marilyn including Eve Arnold’s image of Marilyn Monroe sitting quietly reading a favorite book under a tree outdoors.”
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.)
“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.”
Debbie Reynolds, star of Singin’ in the Rain and other classic Hollywood musicals, has died after suffering a stroke, aged 84 – just one day after her famous daughter, Carrie Fisher, also passed away.
She was born Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas in 1932. As a child she moved with her family to Los Angeles, and was crowned Miss Burbank in 1948. She began her career at Warner Brothers, where she was renamed Debbie.
In Three Little Words (1950), a nostalgic musical about the heyday of Tin Pan Alley, she played Helen Kane, the singer famed for her 1928 hit, ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You‘ (later revived by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.)
After moving to MGM, Debbie’s big break came when she was cast in her first dancing role, as chorus girl Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), recently named as the all-time Greatest Movie Musical (and fifth-greatest movie overall) by the AFI. She went on to star in Frank Tashlin’s Susan Slept Here (1954), and with Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap (1955.)
In 1956, she played a bride-to-be in The Catered Affair. That year, her marriage to singer Eddie Fisher was feted by Hollywood’s fan magazines as the dawn of a new, all-American golden couple. They were swiftly paired in Bundle of Joy, with Debbie playing a shopgirl who takes in an abandoned baby.
Their daughter Carrie was born in 1956, followed by son Todd in 1958. He was named after Eddie’s mentor, theatrical impresario Mike Todd, who died in a plane crash soon after. The Fishers’ seemingly idyllic life was shattered in 1959, when Eddie left Debbie for Mike Todd’s widow, Elizabeth Taylor. The scandal rocked Hollywood, although the two women resumed their friendship after Taylor divorced Fisher a few years later. Debbie married the millionaire businessman, Harry Karl, in 1960.
Debbie was the best-selling female singer of 1957, thanks to her hugely popular theme from Tammy. She later released an album, and went on to appear in Henry Hathaway’s How the West Was Won (1962), and opposite Tony Curtis in Goodbye Charlie (1964), in a role first offered to Marilyn Monroe.
In later years, Debbie would claim that evangelist Billy Graham approached her in 1962, after experiencing a premonition that Marilyn’s life was in danger. As Debbie did not know Marilyn well, she instead contacted a mutual friend, hairdresser Sydney Guilaroff, who allegedly spoke with Marilyn by telephone just hours before her death.
“She was a gentle, childlike girl who was always looking for that white knight on the white horse,” Debbie said of Marilyn, adding, “And why not? What sex symbol is happy?” Debbie also claimed that they attended the same church, although no further details have been uncovered.
Throughout the 1960s, Debbie played a three-month residency in Las Vegas each year. Her performance in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) earned her an Oscar nomination. Her second marriage ended in 1973. Four years later, her daughter Carrie Fisher found fame In her own right as Princess Leia in Star Wars.
Carrie would later become an acclaimed author. Postcards From the Edge, a novel about her close, if occasionally fractious relationship with her celebrated mother, was filmed by Mike Nichols in 1990, with Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine in the leading roles. Todd Fisher has also worked extensively in film, as well as assisting his mother with her business ventures.
The Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio opened in Los Angeles in 1979, and is still thriving. Her third marriage, to real estate developer Richard Hamlett, ended in 1996. She starred in several Broadway musicals and appeared in numerous television shows, including The Love Boat, Hotel, The Golden Girls, Roseanne, and Will & Grace. A former Girl Scout leader, she has also worked tirelessly for AIDS and mental health charities.
Debbie played herself in The Bodyguard (1992), and was reunited with Elizabeth Taylor for a 2001 TV movie, These Old Broads. One of her final roles was as Liberace’s mother in Behind the Candelabra (2013.) Her memoir, the aptly-titled Unsinkable, was published in 2015; and a new documentary, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, premiered at Cannes in 2016, and has since been acquired by HBO.
Debbie Reynolds will also be remembered fondly for her efforts to preserve the legacy of Hollywood’s golden age, which began when she purchased costumes from classic films (including many made for Marilyn) at an MGM auction in 1970. Her dream of opening a movie museum was sadly never realised, and in 2011, she relinquished her collection.
Among the many Marilyn-related items sold in a two-part event at Profiles in History was the cream silk halter-dress designed by Travilla, and worn by Marilyn as she stood over a subway grate in an iconic scene from The Seven Year Itch. The dress sold for $4.6 million, a sum surpassed only by the sale of Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ dress at Julien’s last month for $4.8 million.
Although the buyer was not named, the Seven Year Itch dress is rumoured to have been purchased by Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the Canadian company which is the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate.