Last night, Marilyn was featured alongside Charlie Chaplin, Billie Holiday and David Bowie in the entertainment segment of the BBC series, Icons: The Story of the 20th Century. The episode was presented by actress Kathleen Turner, with biographer Sarah Churchwell and photographer Douglas Kirkland among the guests. Marilyn was nominated as an icon of beauty, glamour and sexuality; or in Turner’s words, ‘the sex symbol who took on Hollywood.’
Her frank admission to having posed for a nude calendar, and later on her triumphant battle with Twentieth Century Fox and setting up her own production company, were cited as exemplifying her refusal to be bound by the limitations imposed on her by an industry which failed to recognise that she could be both sexy and intelligent. Sarah Churchwell praised her ability to spoof feminine stereotypes, with clips from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes showcasing her comedic skill.
The public vote was won by David Bowie, who will now be featured in the series finale. Viewers in the UK (with a current TV licence) can watch the full episode here.
Thanks to Fraser Penney
Marilyn is one of just 28 people nominated by an expert panel for the new BBC TV series, Icons: The Story of the 20th Century. This 8-parter invites viewers to vote for the greatest icon of them all. Also in the entertainment category are Charlie Chaplin, Billie Holiday and David Bowie. All four will be featured in the second episode, on BBC2 at 9 pm on Tuesday, January 15, with actress Kathleen Turner among the advocates; and the result will be announced the following day on The One Show (on BBC1 at 7 pm.) The live final is scheduled for February 5 at 9 pm on BBC2.
In an article for the Washington Post, Sarah L. Kaufman names ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, Marilyn’s signature number from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, as one of the greatest dance scenes in movie history.
“That hot-pink dress, that cherry-red backdrop, those long, long gloves. Marilyn Monroe is glamorous perfection in this scene, choreographed by the great Jack Cole. He brilliantly played up her strengths, focusing on those beautiful bare shoulders with a shimmy here, an arm extension there, a lot of shaking and — whoopee! — a well-timed gesture to her back porch. Restrained in vocabulary and uninhibited in style and spirit, this witty dance is an exuberant celebration of the female assets, performed by one of the most vibrant bodies in cinematic history.”
With the new 4K restoration of Some Like It Hot heading to UK cinemas next month, Marilyn’s role as Sugar Kane has been ranked sixth in a poll of the Sexiest Female Characters, conducted by movie website Chili, reports The Sun.
On July 8, 1953, Frank Powolny photographed Marilyn wearing one of the world’s largest diamonds, the so-called ‘Moon of Baroda’. It was then owned by Meyer Rosenbaum, a jeweller from Detroit, and was loaned to Marilyn for the shoot, in which Sidney M. Brownstein, president of the Jewellery Academy, presented her with a special award for her role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, proclaiming her ‘the best friend a diamond ever had.’
But as the Times of India reports today, the Barodian royal family want their precious jewellery – also including the world’s most expensive pearl carpet, the ‘Star of the South’ – to be returned home for a public exhibition.
The Moon of Baroda was last displayed at the Antwerp World Diamond Centre in 2008. In 2012, a ‘Mr Matsuki’ appeared on a Japanese television show with what he claimed was the legendary gem. It was authenticated and valued at 150 million yen.
The Mad About Marilyn fan club chronicled the Moon of Baroda’s history in 2013, including a bizarre rumour that Marilyn fell victim to the diamond’s curse.
Marilyn may never have won an Academy Award, but she is so intrinsic to Hollywood lore that fans can usually find a Monroe reference or two on Oscar night. This year, a brief glimpse of Marilyn singing ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ in Some Like It Hot was featured in the opening ceremony’s roll-call of all-time greatest movies.
On the red carpet, Irish actress Saoirse Ronan – nominated for her role in the delightful Lady Bird – wore a beautiful pink sheath with spectacular bow, designed for her by Raf Simons, creator-in-chief at Calvin Klein. As some commentators have noted, the dress echoes the famous Travilla gown worn by Marilyn when she sang ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Blade Runner 2049 – which features a cameo appearance by impersonator Suzie Kennedy as a futuristic Monroe clone – won Englishman Roger Deakins this year’s Oscar for Best Cinematography.
And finally, The Shape of Water – in which Marilyn’s long-lost song, ‘How Wrong Can I Be’, is heard in full for the first time – was the night’s big winner. taking home four gongs, including Best Picture and Best Original Score.
Anticipating this year’s Oscar ceremony, the current issue of Entertainment Weekly (dated February 23-March 2) features extensive coverage of the Academy Awards’ 90-year history. Of course, Marilyn never won an Oscar, nor was she even nominated. But her role in Some Like It Hot, which won her a Golden Globe, is mentioned in a list of legendary ‘Oscar disses.’
Although Some Like It Hot is her best-known film, Marilyn’s screen time was less than her co-stars. Were it not for her top billing, her performance would arguably be more suited to the Best Supporting Actress category. Marilyn’s bombshell image and flair for comedy both worked against her being taken seriously by the Hollywood establishment. But perhaps the most decisive factor was her rebellion against Twentieth Century Fox.
After winning her contractual battle with the studio, her acclaimed comeback in Bus Stop (1956) was overlooked by the Academy – a snub she never forgot. Her next performance, in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), won awards in Europe, while her last completed film, The Misfits (1961), was also her most mature dramatic role. But at the time, neither were particularly well-received in the US.
In 1964, columnist Sheilah Graham petitioned unsuccessfully for Marilyn to be given a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. However, this is not standard practice within the Academy and thus is highly unlikely to happen now. Nonetheless, Marilyn’s films remain hugely popular and for many, she is the most enduring symbol of movies and glamour – proof, if proof were needed, that you don’t need an Oscar to be a legend.
Writing for the California Sun, Noah Smith recalls Marilyn’s brief reign as the inaugural Artichoke Queen of Castroville in 1948 (and the festival is still going strong.)
“Few entertainers were ever more in demand than Marilyn Monroe.
However, when she was 22 years old, Monroe was not even the first choice to be the inaugural Artichoke Queen in Castroville, a farming community about 15 miles northeast of Monterey and a few miles off the coast.
What Monroe lacked in name recognition, however, she made up for in being available, and the honorary title was bestowed upon her this week in 1948.”
You can read more posts about Marilyn’s artichoke adventures here.
Should Marilyn have won an Oscar for Some Like It Hot? For sheer comic pizzazz, she should have been a shoo-in,’ Ryan Gilbey writes in The Guardian, ‘although she wasn’t nominated – for that or anything else.’ (She did win a Golden Globe for her role, however.)
As this year’s awards season gets underway, the Hollywood Reporter looks back at the ‘Henrietta’, Marilyn’s first major acting award, which she collected on January 8, 1952. Escorted by Fox publicist Roy Craft, Marilyn wore her notorious Oleg Cassini dress, and was the belle of the ball. The photo shown above was taken by Loomis Dean for Life magazine – and here’s a few more…
“The actress had only starred in a dozen or so minor movies when she received the award from the now-defunct Foreign Press Association of Hollywood in 1952.
In 1950, what’s now called the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had a split-off group called the Foreign Press Association of Hollywood. (The dispute was over some of the original organization’s members not being professional journalists.) The FPAH is now mostly forgotten, save for one memorable act: It gave Marilyn Monroe her first major award in 1952 at Santa Monica’s Club Casa del Mar. (That seaside brick building is now the Hotel Casa del Mar.)
The Henrietta — named after FPAH president Henry Gris — was shaped like a tall, nude woman holding a flower. The group had the prescience to choose Monroe for its International Stardom Award, given to the ‘best young box-office personality.’ (They gave the same award that night to Tony Curtis.) Monroe, then 25, had done a dozen or so minor films, with her standout turn being a small role in John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle.”