Carol Lynley 1942-2019

Carol Lynley, 1960

Carol Ann Jones was born in Manhattan and worked as a child model, making the cover of LIFE magazine at fifteen. She made her Broadway debut as Carol Lynley in The Potting Shed (1957), which also starred Dame Sybil Thorndike (fresh from co-starring with Marilyn Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl.)

Carol went on to play the lead in Blue Denim (1958), a teen drama directed by Joshua Logan (who had made Bus Stop with Monroe two years previously.) The play deals with themes of unwanted pregnancy and abortion (which was then illegal in the US.) Carol would reprise her role in the 1960 movie of the same name, produced by Twentieth Century Fox, with Macdonald Carey among the cast. (Carey had worked with Marilyn in Let’s Make It Legal back in 1951.) Blue Denim earned Carol a second Golden Globe nominations as Most Promising Newcomer, having first been nominated for The Light in the Forest (1958.)

In 1960, the eighteen-year-old Carol married Michael Selsman, who was six years her senior and a publicist for the Arthur P. Jacobs Agency, who also represented Monroe. Selsman occasionally worked with Marilyn when Pat Newcomb was unavailable. In November 1961, he drove with Carol to Marilyn’s Doheny Drive apartment.

Marilyn was then 34 years old, and in the process of approving images from her photo shoot with Douglas Kirkland for Look magazine. As Selsman told biographer Michelle Morgan, she refused to let Carol come inside although she was heavily pregnant. This seems rather selfish and uncaring, but it’s possible that Marilyn distrusted the blonde starlet, sixteen years her junior and also under contract at Fox. Or perhaps she simply wanted to continue her work without interruptions. (Carol never commented on the story, so we have only Selsman’s word to go by.)

Their daughter Jill was born shortly afterwards. Carol worked both in television, and movies such as Return to Peyton Place (1961), and The Last Sunset, opposite Marilyn’s Niagara co-star, Joseph Cotten.

In 1963, Carol appeared in The Stripper (known in the UK as A Woman of Summer.) Adapted from William Inge’s play, A Loss Of Roses, it was originally pitched to Marilyn, but after her death in 1962, Joanne Woodard took her place as Lila, a former burlesque star who falls in love with a much younger man, Kenny (played by Richard Beymer, this was a role first offered to Warren Beatty.) Carol Lynley played Miriam Caswell, Kenny’s girlfriend and Lila’s unwitting rival. (Another curious coincidence: Marilyn had played Claudia Caswell in All About Eve, her breakthrough role at Fox.)

In 1963, Carol starred with one of Marilyn’s favourite leading men, Jack Lemmon, in a romantic comedy, Under the Yum Yum Tree. Also that year, Carol worked with one of Marilyn’s least favourite directors, Otto Preminger, in The Cardinal. John Huston, who had directed Marilyn twice, also acted in the movie, as did Tom Tryon, previously cast as Marilyn’s desert island companion in the shelved Something’s Got to Give.

Carol divorced Selsman in 1964, and later had a long affair with the British newscaster, David Frost. She starred alongside Lauren Bacall in the controversial Shock Treatment (1964.) This was followed by The Pleasure Seekers, pitting Carol with two other young beauties, Ann-Margret and Pamela Tiffin, and directed by Jean Negulesco (of How to Marry a Millionaire fame.)

Carol Lynley as Harlow (1965)

Marilyn Monroe had once considered playing her girlhood idol, Jean Harlow, in a biopic. It never came to pass, but in 1965 Carol starred as the original ‘platinum blonde’ in the low-budget indie, Harlow, shot over eight days, and with Ginger Rogers playing the domineering ‘Mother Jean’. The film was overshadowed by Paramount’s rival Harlow, starring Carroll Baker and released a month later. Neither were well-received, and the bizarre saga is recounted in Tom Lisanti’s 2011 book, Duelling Harlows: Race to the Silver Screen. (Carol also posed nude for Playboy that year.)

Carol’s next performance, as a young mother in Preminger’s Bunny Lake Is Missing, was one of her best. Her co-star was Sir Laurence Olivier, and she more than held her own. She then starred in The Shuttered Room and Danger Route (1967), Norwood (1970), and Cotter (1973), with Don Murray. Her greatest success was in The Poseidon Adventure (1972.)

For the rest of her career Carol worked mainly in television, making several TV movies and appearing in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Big Valley, Mannix, Quincy M.E., Kojak, Hawaii Five-O, The Love Boat, Charlie’s Angels, Hart to Hart, Hotel, and Fantasy Island. Her final short film, Vic, was released in 2006. Carol Lynley died aged 77 of a heart attack at home in Pacific Palisades, California on September 3, 2019.

Marilyn: America’s Lusty Blonde

Marilyn by Eve Arnold, 1960

The Village Voice is no longer in print, but much of its illustrious archive remains online – including ‘Blond Lust‘, a piece by Teresa Podlesney from 1993, questioning whether blondness still signified the white feminine ideal, or an increasing freedom of choice.

“Like every other choice we have in the supposedly ‘color-blind’ United States, the choice to be blond should be made so as to prove that one can make it, to prove that one is American. Today’s more effective hair coloring, and the continued main­streaming of wigs, enable blondness to be achieved by those with even the most resis­tant hair. Yet the democratization of blondness is not simply the story of perfected cosmetic technology. Blondness is where our changing notions of race and gender come together.

The blondness that attracts media atten­tion today is a blondness that blatantly conjures up images of the 1950s. Madonna and Linda Evangelista, the Kikit and Guess models, are/were all one-tone bleached blonds, their attraction lying precisely in their display of the obviously artificial. This is the key: bottle blonds are not simply women with fair hair. Bleached blonds are a complete and excessively visible package of a femininity considered ‘conventional’ since the height of its expression on the movie screens of the 1950s: dramatic make­up, usually with dark lashes and red lips; large or prominently displayed breasts; highly coded fetish-sexy attire; and, just as taken for granted but ostensibly lying out­side of the realm of constructed characteris­tics, white skin.

The feminine woman was once opposed to the sexual woman, sexuality in this con­text rendered too savage, too animal-like, the realm of those nonwhite races that had yet to assimilate Christian cultural values. In the ’50s, however, fascination with fe­male sexual behavior — driven by the popu­larization of Freudian psychoanalysis, the Kinsey report, and the secularization of so­ciety — allowed a conflation of femininity with sexuality. For an increasingly image­-organized culture, femininity was defined in terms of what was visible, and visibly sexual. Blonds were assured their promi­nence in this visual reinvention of feminin­ity in 1953, when Marilyn Monroe graced the pages of the first issue of Playboy.

Marilyn Book News: From Korea to Doris Day

Montage by MM Picture Page

Michelle Morgan’s latest, The Little Book of Marilyn, is now available and has been getting rave reviews from fans. It’s packed with well-chosen photos which aren’t often seen in print, plus chapters on why Marilyn continues to inspire, hair and make-up tutorials, fashion tips, and craft ideas.

Another tempting summer read is Ji-Min Lee’s Marilyn and Me, a novel set during Marilyn’s time in Korea. It’s next on my reading list, and hope to review both books at a later date.

Of related interest is Gravité Sur Billy Wilder, Emmanuel Burdeau’s French-language study of (arguably) Marilyn’s greatest director.

Coming in September, John William Law’s Goddess & the Girl Next Door compares Marilyn and that other fifties blonde, Doris Day. It’s a timely publication, arriving so soon after Ms Day’s passing (you can read my tribute to her here.)

And finally (for now), Biographic: Marilyn retells her story in infographics, coming in October from artist and author Katy Greenwood.

Marilyn and the Not-So-Dumb Blondes

Over at Refinery 29, Daniela Morsini looks at the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype so unfairly applied to Marilyn, and still a staple of lame jokes today. While I strongly agree that it’s an outdated, sexist trope, I’d like to add that in her movies, Marilyn often parodied those assumptions. Her characters were usually wiser than the men who flocked to them, and in reality, Marilyn was sensitive and intelligent. (Unfortunately, not everyone was smart enough to get the joke – then, or now!)

“Being blonde is loaded. You can be an expensive blonde like Gwyneth Paltrow. You can be rock’n’roll blonde like Debbie Harry. You can be sexpot blonde like Marilyn Monroe. Hell, you can be any kind of blonde you want – as long as you’re a dumb one.

Of course, of all the stereotypes women face, the ‘dumb blonde’ is a mild one, especially considering how harmful and dangerous the hair stereotypes faced by women of colour can be. But it is curiously persistent … I’ve never forgotten a date in 2016, after having what I believed to be pleasant chatter with a man for an evening, him uttering the immortal words: ‘Well, you don’t look clever.’

Historians roundly agree that the notion of blondes being dumb dates back to a play performed some 250 years ago, titled Les Curiosités de la Foire, based on the misdemeanours of the legendary courtesan Rosalie Duthé, which established blondes as both stupid and sexually available. Duthé took long pauses before she spoke, leading people to believe she was literally dumb, as well as stupid. Fast forward to 1953, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes hit the box office with Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei, epitomised as the dumb blonde. Portrayed as absent minded, slightly scatty and interested in marrying solely for money, some of Lorelei’s most famous lines only serve to emphasise the stereotype: ‘I can be smart when it’s important, but most men don’t like it.’

Over time, the dumb blonde trope has morphed into the ‘beauty and brains’ dichotomy, which at least allows a whole other crop of women to have their intelligence questioned. This is not a step forward, even if it does represent inching away from Western beauty ideals. Calling a blonde ‘dumb’ is a surprisingly effective way to curb someone’s appetite for life and confidence in their own abilities, effective enough to render them docile so they can’t unlock their powers.”

The Original Sugar Kane Dies Aged 100

Actress Kathryn Kane has died aged 100, the Telegraph reports. She was one of the inspirations behind Sugar Kane, the character played by Marilyn in Some Like It Hot. (Another was Helen Kane, the singer who first popularised ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’, which Marilyn performed in the movie.)

“Kathryn Kane, often billed as ‘Sugar Kane’, was a blonde, blue-eyed model and actress who was promoted by Warner Bros as the female answer to MGM’s Mickey Rooney, and for a few years in the 1930s her wholesome, girl-next-door appeal gave her a taste of stardom.

In 1935, while working as a model, she was spotted by a Warner Bros talent scout and put on a train to California. The studio publicity department changed her name to ‘Sugar Kane’ and cast her in a series of musical shorts to publicise her singing voice, including The Magic of Music and A Great Idea (both 1935).

She was loaned out to Paramount for her first feature, the comedy Love on Toast (1937) in which she played second fiddle to Stella Adler. She followed it the following year with the backstage burlesque crime drama, Sunset Murder Case, which was banned in some American cities due to its racy content.

That year she was also in the musical short, Swingtime in the Movies (as Katherine Kane), but was then dropped by Warner Bros. She signed to Universal and took her best role to date, playing the female lead, Snookie Saunders, in the musical comedy Swing, Sister Swing, about a dance craze, ‘The Baltimore Bubble’.

She followed it with The Spirit of Culver (1939), a drama designed to rejuvenate the flagging careers of former child stars Jackie Cooper and Freddie Bartholomew. The same year she appeared in the comedy short Quiet, Please, in which she played an actress in a relationship with a fellow movie star (played by Larry Williams); the pair are in love for the camera but at each other’s throats in real life.

After the war she appeared on stage in one of Earl Carroll’s musical variety shows and in 1947 she made a fleeting return to films with an uncredited part in That Hagen Girl, starring Shirley Temple and Ronald Reagan.

By 1959 her film career was long over, but Billy Wilder used her sobriquet in Some Like it Hot, casting Marilyn Monroe as the carefree Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, singer and ukulele player in Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators.”

Angie Dickinson Talks Hollywood, Marilyn and Men

Angie Dickinson began her career in television before making her movie breakthrough opposite John Wayne and Dean Martin in Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959.) Early in her career, she dyed her hair honey blonde instead of platinum to avoid the comparisons to Marilyn Monroe which dogged many of her peers.

In his memoir, baseball player Yogi Berra recalled taking Angie out to dinner one night, and she was the centre of attention – until Marilyn arrived. After roles in classic films like Ocean’s Eleven (1960) and Point Blank (1967), she found further success in the 1970s TV series Police Woman, and made a big-screen comeback in Dressed to Kill (1980). She also appeared in Captain Newman, M.D., the 1963 movie based on the wartime experiences of Marilyn’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson. Her most recent screen role was in a 2009 TV movie, Mending Fences.

Angie was a friend of the Rat Pack and later married songwriter Burt Bacharach; but while her name was linked with some of the same men as Marilyn, she has lived to tell her side of the story. Now 87, Angie has shared her memories of Hollywood’s Golden Age in a new interview for CBS.

“She admitted to correspondent Mo Rocca that she enjoyed being a sex symbol very much but ‘I wouldn’t want to be known only as a sex symbol. I wanted to be known as an actress, equally or, even more so. Like Marilyn Monroe. She was known as the greatest – rightly rightly so – sex symbol of all time, Boy, try to do Shakespeare after that!’

Dickinson was always more down to Earth, rough-and-tumble than Marilyn, willing to go mano-a-mano with a tough guy like Lee Marvin in Point Blank.

Rocca asked, ‘Do you consider yourself more of a broad, a dame, or a gal?’

‘Oh, all of the above!’

In 1960, she co-starred with the Rat Pack in Ocean’s 11. She ended up dating Frank Sinatra. ‘We got very close to getting married in 1964,’ she said.

But Sinatra’s late-night lifestyle wasn’t for her. ‘And he said, “You know, I’m not going to marry an actress.” And I said, “Well, I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”‘

‘And I actually didn’t want to marry him. So, I didn’t want him to ask me to marry him. ‘Cause I didn’t wanna say no to Frank Sinatra!’

There have long been rumors that Dickinson and President John F. Kennedy had an affair, rumors she’s consistently denied. ‘There was no reason or no grounds for thinking that I was seeing him, and I wasn’t,’ she said.

‘Then can I just ask: did he ever put the moves on you?’

‘No!'”

Beverley Owen 1937-2019

Beverley Owen, the first actress to play Marilyn Munster in TV’s The Munsters, has died aged 81. Born in Iowa, Beverley studied with the prestigious acting teacher Sanford Meisner and completed a degree at the University of Michigan before landing a role in the classic sitcom in 1964.

Named after Marilyn Monroe (who had died two years before), Marilyn Munster was a cousin to the ghoulish Munster clan. Although a beauty by conventional standards (Beverley donned a blonde wig for the part), she is an object of pity among her oddball relatives, who consider her hopelessly plain. Nonetheless, Marilyn adores them and seems unaware of their strangeness.

Unfortunately, the show was not a happy experience for Beverley, who was pushed into it as part of her studio contract. She also desperately missed her fiance in New York. She was let go after fourteen episodes and replaced by Pat Priest. Later that year, Beverley married the writer and producer Jon Stone, and they had two daughters before divorcing in 1974.

Beverley gained a master’s degree in Early American Studies in 1989. She remained close to actor Fred Gwynne (who played Herman Munster) and attended a 25th anniversary celebration of the show.

Marilyn Jetty Swim Returns to Adelaide

Blonde wigs were sold out across the state as the annual Marilyn Jetty Swim was held at Brighton Beach in Adelaide, Australia this weekend, as Lauren Ferri reports for the Daily Mail, with men participating for the first time among  270 swimmers breaking the Guinness World Record for most MM impersonators gathered in one place, raising $65,000 so far for cancer research (it’s expected to reach $100,000.)

Carol Channing 1921-2019

Carol Channing, the legendary Broadway star who originated the role of Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, has died aged 97.

Born in Seattle in 1921, Carol and her parents moved to San Francisco when she was two weeks old. Her mother Adelaide was of German Jewish descent and her father George was part African-American (on his mother’s side.) A newspaper editor by profession, George was also a Christian Science practitioner and teacher.

At sixteen, Carol left home to major in drama in Bennington College in Vermont. In 1941, she won her first Broadway part as Eve Arden’s understudy in a revue, Let’s Face It! That year she was married for the first time, to writer Theodore Naidish. They divorced after five years.

In 1948, Carol won a Theatre World Award for her featured role in another revue, Lend An Ear. Stacy Eubank noted in Holding A Good Thought For Marilyn: The Hollywood Years, that on June 16, a little-known starlet, 22 year-old Marilyn Monroe, attended the opening night at the Las Palmas Theatre in Hollywood, where she was photographed with director Bill Eythe and actor Bill Callahan.

Marilyn at the ‘Lend An Ear’ LA premiere, 1948

Illustrator Al Hirschfeld published a caricature of Carol as a flapper in the show, the first of many portraits to come. She even credited his artwork with helping her win the part of Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Al Hirschfeld’s artwork for ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1949)

Jule Styne’s musical adaptation of the 1926 novel by Anita Loos opened at the Ziegfeld Theatre in December 1949, running for almost two years. In her 2002 memoir, Just Lucky I Guess, Carol wrote that Loos had told Styne, ‘That’s my Lorelei!’ after seeing Lend An Ear in New York. Styne promptly wrote a new song for Carol, ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.’

Carol as Lorelei Lee

In January 1950, Carol made the cover of Time magazine. She was married again that year, to footballer Axe Carson, and they had a son, Channing Carson. After her third marriage to manager and publicist Charles Lowe in 1956, he was renamed Chan Lowe and went on to become a successful cartoonist.

Darryl F. Zanuck swiftly acquired the film rights to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for Twentieth Century Fox. Carol was duly invited to Los Angeles for a screen test, but it was generally assumed that Betty Grable, the studio’s reigning blonde star of musical comedy, would get the part. In any case, Carol had already decided to take the show to London after the Broadway run ended.

Marilyn in New York, circa 1951

In mid-June of 1951, Marilyn Monroe flew to New York, where she spent several days.  Columnist Dorothy Manners would report that she had been given tickets by Fox to see Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – perhaps as a warning to Grable, who was then on suspension. ‘Physically, Marilyn fits the bill,’ Manners noted, ‘but whether she is experienced enough to take on a top comedy performance remains to be seen.’

In her autobiography, Carol claimed that Marilyn was instructed to see the play every night for a month, which is doubtless an exaggeration given Marilyn’s busy schedule. Chronically shy, Marilyn never ventured backstage. “Our orchestra never saw anyone that beautiful before,” Carol recalled. “For the first time they were all looking at Marilyn instead of our conductor…”

That November, after Blondes finally closed, the New York Post‘s Earl Wilson reported that Marilyn hoped to play Lorelei on the screen. In his 1992 biography of Monroe, Donald Spoto wrote that Fox informed Marilyn the part was hers on June 1, 1952 (her 26th birthday.) Nonetheless, the studio kept up the intrigue for several weeks before announcing it to the press, still claiming that Grable would star, with Marilyn turning brunette to play Lorelei’s friend Dorothy.

When the news broke on June 23, Hedda Hopper wrote that Carol had responded with a 200-word telegram to Fox, while Grable denied asking Zanuck for the part. Marilyn was now the studio’s rising star, but as Stacy Eubank observes, she was still on a standard contract and would cost Fox far less than either Grable or Channing.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was a golden opportunity for Marilyn, and a huge success when it opened in 1953. “I was heartsick over the whole thing, of course,” Carol admitted, and she also felt that Jack Cole’s flamboyant choreography “completely upstaged” the lyrics.

Carol with Yvonne Adair as Dorothy

“I do think it was one of her best movies,” Carol reflected on Marilyn’s performance. “Not funny, however. They didn’t use one word of Anita’s original book, which was hilarious and which was what constantly kept the stage musical on a higher level. Anita didn’t write the musical’s book. So where they didn’t insert the original book it was mundane. It was the stock formula for a dated Broadway musical. I followed Anita’s original Lorelei character ferociously…”

“You can cast Lorelei two ways,” Loos explained. “With the cutest, prettiest, littlest girl in town, or with a comedienne’s comment on the cutest, prettiest, littlest girl in town. I wrote her as a comedy, and Broadway is attuned to satire.” Carol’s broader interpretation was perfect for the stage, whereas Marilyn brought a softer, more innocent quality to Lorelei.

During the 1950s, Carol replaced Gracie Allen as a comedy foil to George Burns. “Finding roles that suit the strange and wonderful charms of Carol Channing has always been a problem to Broadway showmen,” a 1955 cover story for LIFE read. “She looks like an overgrown kewpie. She sings like a moon-mad hillbilly. Her dancing is crazily comic. And behind her saucer eyes is a kind of gentle sweetness that pleads for affection.”

Her next great role was in Hello, Dolly! (1964.) She befriended Broadway newcomer Barbara Streisand, only to lose out again when the younger actress was cast in the film adaptation. A registered Democrat, Carol campaigned for Lyndon B. Johnson and was a favourite of his wife, Lady Bird. In 1966, she won the Sarah Siddons Award, and finally achieved movie stardom alongside Julie Andrews in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), winning a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actress, and an Oscar nomination.

In 1970, Carol became the first celebrity to perform at a Super Bowl halftime. Three years later, she was revealed to have been on disgraced president Richard Nixon’s Master List of Political Opponents – which she quipped was the highest accolade of her career.

With Peter Palmer in ‘Lorelei’, 1974

The 53-year-old revisited her early success in Lorelei (1974), a reworking of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes featuring songs cut from the original play, and broke box-office records by selling out for six consecutive days in just 24 hours. She also frequently appeared on television, including a 1987 Jules Styne special in which she performed ‘Little Girl From Little Rock.’

Carol Channing in 2013

In 1998, Carol separated from her husband of forty years, Charles Lowe. He passed away shortly afterwards. She would marry once more in 2003, after rekindling her romance with high-school sweetheart Harry Kullijian. He died in 2011. Carol maintained her faith in Christian Science, followed a strict organic diet and swore off alcohol.

Marilyn (left) and Carol (right), by Al Hirschfeld

A much-loved resident of Rancho Mirage, California, Carol had a star dedicated to her on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in 2010. She returned two years later to honour Marilyn Monroe, praising her “brilliant and unique” performance in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  Carol also attended a farewell party for Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn‘, when it left Palm Springs for the East Coast in 2014.