Rediscovering Marilyn’s Movies

Filming ‘Monkey Business’, 1952

Thanks to the continuing Marilyn! season in Brooklyn, some of Marilyn’s lesser-known movies are being reassessed. AltScreen devotes an entire post to critical analysis of Monkey Business, while over at Slant, Joseph Jan Lanthier compares Marilyn’s portrait of a disturbed young woman in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) to the character played by Catherine Deneuve in Roman Polanski’s classic 1965 chiller, Repulsion.

“I remain touched most indelibly by a single theatrical gesticulation of Marilyn’s—at the end of Don’t Bother to Knock, when she timidly hands over her concealed blade to an avuncular Richard Widmark. She appears truly frightened by what harm she could manage with such an innocuous, household object in a manner that predicts the predatory nature of her iconolatry. She seems, in that moment, to be reaching out of the screen, across that divide between her and her audience, in order to surrender a token of her desire to melodramatically entertain. It was the last time she would give up anything in the movies.”

‘Forgotten Hollywood’ reviews What a Way to Go, the 1964 movie starring Shirley MacLaine that would probably have been Marilyn’s next film if she had completed Something’s Got to Give.

And finally, Jose Solis Mayen writes for PopMatters about Insignificance, an unusual, Marilyn-inspired movie from 1985, now available as a Criterion DVD:

“As the characters meet, the film subtly plays with their well known back stories. We see how the Actress longs to be a mother (an ominous Picasso painting seen throughout the film reflects both this yearning and also the film’s own cubist structure) but has had enough of her brute husband: the Ballplayer.

The film’s melancholy and fear is best summed up in an exchange between the Professor and the Actress. As she points out her image in a huge billboard outside the hotel, the wise man says ‘I prefer to look up,’ as he points to the stars. ‘They make me feel sad and lonely,’ replies the Actress. ‘All who look up feel small and lonely,’ he says. A movie star talking about feeling lonely with other stars? It’s absolutely no coincidence.”

Meeting Bert Stern in Toronto

Over at The Mmm Blog, Melinda Mason recounts her meeting with photographer Bert Stern – now 82 – at his ‘Jewels’ exhibition in Toronto’s Izzy Gallery.

“Marilyn fans the world over have fawned over Stern’s photographs that he took in July 1962 shortly before her death.  Regardless of your view on whether he should have published photos that Marilyn herself had X’d out there is no denying his photographs are truly legendary.  I am personally a big fan of this time period and Marilyn style and The Complete Last Sitting is one of my favourite books.”

Gallery owner Izzy Sulemanji was interviewed in Canada’s National Post:

“‘This is the top of the mountain to get Bert,’ Sulejmani says. ‘The biggest thing is that he’s coming, because if it’s not New York or a big museum, he doesn’t go for his openings.’

Now in his eighties, Stern rarely accepts interviews and makes few public appearances. But there was something about the friendly gallery owner that he liked. Sulejmani says that after remaining largely silent during a New York City business lunch two months ago, the photographer said at the very end, ‘You’re OK, Izzy. I like you. I’ll see you in Toronto.’ After signing the contract, Stern left.”


Marilyn in the Blogosphere

May 19 marked the 49th anniversary of Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday’ performance for President Kennedy at Madison Square Garden, as Garrison Keillor noted in his Writers’ Almanac. (Unfortunately, while he reports on the event well, he has added three spurious quotes attributed to MM via the internet. )

Given all the confusion out there, it was refreshing to find a sound, intelligent analysis of some verified Monroe quotes from Jason Cuthbert over at MadeMan.

And talking of the eternal rumour mill, Lady Gaga – who really should know better – tweeted yesterday that ‘Government Hooker’, a track from her new album, Born This Way,  “was inspired by Marilyn Monroe + political mistresses. I wonder what they were privy to + what they affected.”

An Actress Prepares, a recreation of Marilyn’s last interview by Irina Diva, is coming to the New End Theatre in Hampstead, London, playing from June 14-July 10.

The Seven Year Itch is one of Marilyn’s most enduringly popular films, yet for some reason it is rarely included in cinema revivals (Some Like it Hot, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Misfits are all frequently shown.) So I was glad to hear of a recent outdoor screening via the San Diego Reader.

Over at Pop Matters, Oscar-watcher Matt Mazur challenges the Academy in Best Actress Rewind: 1959. Contending that Elizabeth Taylor deserved to win for Suddenly Last Summer, he also states that Marilyn should have been nominated for Some Like it Hot. (Actually, Marilyn won a Golden Globe. Simone Signoret won the Oscar that year for Room at the Top, while Marilyn was filming Let’s Make Love with her husband, Yves Montand.)



Marilyn in the Blogosphere

Marilyn on the marquee at Grauman’s, 1955

First, some sad news: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is to be sold, reports Melinda at The MMM Blog.

Dressing Marilyn, an illustrated tribute to William Travilla’s costume designs for Marilyn, will be released in October. By Andrew Hansford and Karen Homer, to be published by Goodman Books, 192pp. More details at MM Collection Blog

And for French-fluent readers, Blonde a Manhattan is a newly published collection of Ed Feingersh‘s photos, taken over one week with Marilyn in March 1955, 216 pp, with text by Adrien Gombeaud; the book’s release is accompanied by an exhibition in Paris.

Top 10 Classic Hollywood Actors

Marilyn comes in 3rd, after Orson Welles and Humphrey Bogart, on this list from Screen Junkies. Along with Bette Davis, she is the only woman on the list – and she appeared in All About Eve alongside Davis, as well as Cary Grant (Monkey Business), Groucho Marx (Love Happy), and her idol, Clark Gable, in The Misfits – the last film either completed.

“There were many early Hollywood sex symbols, but Marilyn Monroe brought sexy to a whole new level. Her most famous movies were Niagara (1953), Some Like it Hot (1959) and Seven Year Itch (1955).”

Marilyn in the Blogosphere

Marilyn: The Last Sessions, which aired on More4 this week, was not well-received by fans. Among the errors was the inclusion of a stag film starring Arline Hunter, wrongly identified as Marilyn. Antii Alanen, film programmer at Finland’s National Audiovisual Archive, comments: ‘There is a lot of rare authentic footage in this film [eg from Mexico in 1962], as well as fabrications and simulations.’

The Savvy Reader rates Fragments, last year’s collection of Marilyn’s personal writings, third on its Top 10 Coffee Table Books:

“The beautiful photographs can stand on their own, but the book also sheds some light on the woman behind the fame with her handwritten letters, notes and poems. This is one we keep going back to, glimpsing at a photo and reading a fragment every time.”

Marilyn in the Blogosphere

‘Norma Jeane’ is the latest offering from Marilyn Wines. The photo on the label, of a young Marilyn, was taken by John Engstead in 1950. He said later, ‘Her pretty face was all that impressed me and I still wonder what transformed this sweet young thing into the superstar and sex symbol of a generation.’

This week marks the 12th anniversary of Joe DiMaggio’s death. He graces the cover of this month’s Sports Illustrated, and is the subject of several new books. ‘Today’s true baseball “heroes” are few and far between,’ writes Liz Smith, ‘and I don’t think they’d cut the mustard with this man who made the game a craze 70 seasons ago.’

Over at Watertown Patch, MA, Dennis Noonan remembers some childhood pets with glamorous names who met an untimely end:

‘Growing up, we always had cats in the family. Most cats were free, mixed breed and outdoor in those days. On Robbins Road in 1954,  someone gave us a pair of kittens from the same litter – a female and a male. Mom named them “Marilyn” and “Joe” after the famous celebrity couple of the day – Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. The celebrity marriage lasted less than a year;  the cats didn’t last much longer either. Joe got hit by a car, and a year later Marilyn caught some evil disease called cat typhus and had to be put down.’

On her Work in Progress book blog, Dani Torres reports that there is currently a display at her local library with the theme, ‘Are You as Well Read as Marilyn Monroe?’

A trailer for The Smurfs movie reveals a reference to Marilyn’s famous ‘skirt-blowing’ subway scene from The Seven Year Itch. ‘Nothing like a cool breeze through my enchanted forest,’ says Gutsy (Scottish) Smurf who’s letting a vent blow cold air up his kilt.

‘Palaces of Montezuma’, the latest single from Grinderman II (Nick Cave’s side-project), contains a curious reference to Marilyn Monroe and JFK.

Okay. Well, one of the most beautiful songs on the CD is “Palaces of Montezuma”…
Jim Sclavunos: It’s amazing how much this song is coming up.
Nick Cave: Every second journalist talks about that song.

…But then there are these lines about JFK and Marilyn Monroe: “The spinal cord of JFK/Wrapped in Marilyn Monroe’s negligee/I give to you.” That’s a really vivid and disturbing image to deposit two thirds of the way through this lovely track.
JS: It’s a variation on the classic, “I’ll give you the moon and the stars,” kind of thing. Only this one’s full of very odd curiosities and phantasmagorical, fetishistic things, like a spinal cord and a negligee. But it is a classic type of love song.
NC: I quite like the unsuspecting lyric, or line. You’re sitting listening to a song and it’s going along and suddenly there’s that, “F—, did he just say that?” kind of thing. I guess that’s just become one of the things I kind of do. It suddenly changes the trajectory of the lyric.

Entertainment Weekly

You can read those lyrics in full here

Marilyn in the Blogosphere

Andy Warhol’s Nine Multi-Colored Marilyns (Reversal Series) (1979-86) sold for £3.2 million at Sotheby’s, London, last Tuesday, after the auction was interrupted by protesters campaigning against cuts to public services, including the arts.

John Reznikoff, of University Archives, has spoken publicly for the first time about the Cusack Papers, a series forged documents relating to Marilyn and John F. Kennedy, which surfaced during the 1990s. The papers initially duped many people, including certain biographers, until they were exposed as fakes by ABC News. For more details, and to listen to the interview, visit MM Collection Blog.

Meanwhile, over at The MMM Blog, Melinda reviews the current exhibition, ‘Marilyn in Canada’, at the McMichael, Toronto.

Vachon Reviewed at MM Book Blog

ES staffer Sirkku Aaltonen has reviewed John Vachon’s Marilyn, August 1953: The Lost ‘Look’ Photos, in Finnish and English, over at her Marilyn Monoe Book Blog.

“All the pictures are black and white, which goes well with the style of the book. Vachon’s photos show Marilyn in love with Joe DiMaggio, talking on the phone, in the arms of a stuffed bear and by the swimming pool. The book also has information on Vachon as well as his letters to his wife. This isn’t a very big book, but a very nice addition if you’re interested in Marilyn photos.”