Marilyn at the Chateau Marmont

Shawn Levy is the author of several books about the entertainment in the 1950s and ’60s, including Rat Pack Confidential, which became a bestseller on its release twenty years ago. Marilyn’s association with the Rat Pack was covered in this entertaining book, but Levy’s style is gossipy and speculative.

In his latest tome, The Castle On Sunset, Levy explores the history of one of Hollywood’s most fabled hotels, the Chateau Marmont. Levy isn’t the first author to tackle the subject; Raymond Sarlot and Fred E. Basten beat him to it with Life At the Marmont back in 1987.

Marilyn stayed there while filming Bus Stop in 1956, although her official residence was a rented house in Beverly Glen. She most likely used Paula Strasberg’s suite for convenience, not to mention her secret trysts with Arthur Miller, who was waiting out his divorce in Nevada. (Miller’s legal battle with the House Un-American Activities Committee was hotting up at the time, and rather disturbingly, the FBI tracked the couple to the hotel.)

Levy also mentions that journalist Brad Darrach interviewed Marilyn there for her Time magazine cover story. This may seem a little odd, as the article’s author was Ezra Goodman. However, Darrach was apparently part of a team which assembled the piece. He first shared his memories with Anthony Summers for Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe in 1984. Here’s the original account, as related by Summers…

“When Time magazine mounted its first cover story on Marilyn, during the shooting of Bus Stop, its researchers began uncovering a good deal about Marilyn’s parentage. This was a vulnerable area because of her various deceptions. As a result, one of Time‘s youngest reporters, Brad Darrach, was granted a personal interview, in bizarre circumstances.

Darrach collected Marilyn at Fox at 11:00 A.M., and drove her to her hotel, the Chateau Marmont. Marilyn, herself a fast driver, asked the reporter to drive slowly. She seemed to him to be afraid, not of his driving, but ‘generally frightened.’ Once in her suite Marilyn soon declared she was tired, and asked if they could do the interview in her bedroom.

So it was that Darrach ended up, he laughingly remembered, ‘spending ten hours in bed with Marilyn Monroe’. She lay down with her head at one end of the bed. He settled at the foot, and there they talked until long after dark.

‘She was Marilyn, and reasonably pretty,’ Darrach remembered. ‘And of course there were those extraordinary jutting breasts and jutting behind. I’ve never seen a behind like hers; it was really remarkable, it was a very subtly composed ass. Yet I never felt for a moment any sexual temptation. There was nothing about her skin that made me want to touch it. She looked strained and a little unhealthy, as though there was some nervous inner heat that dried the skin. But there was no sexual feeling emanating from her. I am sure that was something that she put on for the camera.'”

Marilyn Book Signing in Savannah, GA

Author Amanda Konkle will be signing copies of her new book, Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe, at E. Shaver Booksellers in Savannah, Georgia on Saturday, May 18, from 1 – 3 pm EDT. Amanda, who is an assistant professor of film studies and English at Georgia Southern University, has written a dynamic study of how Marilyn’s screen performances both reflected and pushed the boundaries of attitudes towards women and sex in 1950s America. (I’m currently working on a review of Some Kind of Mirror, and I thoroughly recommend it!)

Marilyn: A Beauty Icon in Shades of Red

An excerpt from Rachel Felder’s new book, Red Lipstick: An Ode to A Beauty Icon, detailing Marilyn’s make-up secrets, is published today by InStyle.

“A crimson mouth was an essential component of Marilyn Monroe’s bombshell identity; her pursed, full lips and the soft, sulky voice that emerged from between them oozed sex appeal and a magnetic, ultra-womanly allure. Along with her platinum blond hair, red lipstick was the cosmetic equivalent of the slinky, low-cut dresses and high heels that were her sartorial trademark.

But it was more than that: red lipstick served to enhance many of the characters she played. In roles like Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Cherie in Bus Stop, red lipstick was the ideal accessory to underscore her characters’ femininity and seductiveness.

The application of red onto Monroe’s lips on film sets was methodical and strategic: her makeup artist, Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder, used several shades of the color at a time, with a darker iteration near the edges of the lips and lighter versions toward the center to create an intensely accentuated pout. But the actress’s seductive persona wasn’t limited to just her movie roles: even o duty, a staple of her look was a liberal application of her favorite shade, Max Factor’s Ruby Red. Although that brand is no longer available in America, it’s still popular in Europe, where four wearable versions of red were introduced in 2016 as the Marilyn Monroe Lipstick Collection. One of the options is her beloved Ruby Red.”

Marilyn and the ‘Hollywood Liars’

Hollywood Menteur (or Hollywood Liar) is a new comic book inspired by The Misfits, from the French cartoonist Luz. As you may recall, a despairing Marilyn calls her cowboy friends ‘liars’ during her furious speech in the desert. It’s also the subject of an exhibition in Paris, as Jacques LeRoux tells Marilyn Remembered.

“Today in Paris, I stumbled by accident on the new show at Huberty Breyne Gallery (specialist in Comics Art). It’s the first show ever of caricaturist Luz, who just released his latest comic book … The exhibition presents the original comic strips for show and sale.

You might not have heard about Luz but here in France he is very well know because of his provocative Charlie Hebdo covers and because he is one of the few survivors of the January 7, 2015 terrorist attack and killings at Charlie Hebdo. Shortly after the attack, he decided to quit his work as a newspaper caricaturist and receded into anonymity, guarded 24/7 by government security agents.

Today, I started chatting with the gallery’s owner who told me Luz was at the opening of the show last Thursday (he came heavily guarded, what a life…) and when asked : ‘Why Marilyn?’, he said he became obsessed by Marilyn and The Misfits shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Watching the movie again and later reading all he could about its stars and the filming, he felt he could relate to the anguish and pain Marilyn was going through at the time (and that himself still goes through, for a whole different reason). And that he felt in love with her all over again.

Hollywood Menteur shows a very violent and disturbing image of Marilyn (and Monty, and Clark, and John…). Marilyn is a woman fighting for her own survival among a team of colleagues, some of them also on their way to extinction. Luz did not want to draw Marilyn in a realistic way but as a metaphor for fright and anger. Just what Luz still feels, 4 years after the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Isn’t it intriguing and moving that Luz found in a screaming Marilyn Monroe his own way of expressing his frustration over the ordeal he went through on that dreadful day at Charlie Hebdo?

One room in the show is all devoted to 8 expressionist portraits of Marilyn. Blood red.

Very intense and powerful stuff indeed…”

Marilyn’s Fans Keep the Flame Alive

In an era where the Marilyn fandom is increasingly centred online, it’s refreshing to find that some clubs have maintained their print-based model. Among these is Some Like It Hot,  a German fan club founded in 1992, which still offers subscribers a regular newsletter in German and English, Marilyn Today. For more information, contact Benjamin Meissner here or via Instagram.

Meanwhile in Spain, the artist, museum curator and Marilyn scholar Frederic Cabanas has published a short booklet, Marilyn in New York: Side by Side, comparing familiar images of her NYC haunts with photos of the locations today. The text is in Catalan, but the visuals are the main attraction. If you’re interested in purchasing this, visit the Cabanas Foundation website or drop a line to museu@fundaciocabanas.org

Thanks to Michelle Morgan

Badman’s Marilyn Bio Set for TV Dramatisation

British author Keith Badman’s 2010 book, The Final Years Of Marilyn Monroe, is being adapted for television, Variety reports. While the book contained some valuable research, there were also some parts I felt were flawed (you can read my review here.)

“The final months of Marilyn Monroe’s life are set to be dramatized in a new series from BBC Studios that will explore her relationship with Hollywood studios and with public figures such as JFK and Bobby Kennedy.

BBC Studios, the BBC’s production and commercial arm, has teamed up with Dan Sefton and Simon Lupton’s U.K. indie producer Seven Seas Films to develop the new show. It has the working tile The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe and will be based on parts of Keith Badman’s book The Final Years of Marilyn Monroe: The Shocking True Story.

Monroe, who died in 1962 at age 36, remains the subject of enduring fascination. The producers said the series would cover a period in which her behavior became increasingly erratic as her dependence on alcohol and medication caused her glittering film career to plunge.

Sefton – whose credits include Jodie Whittaker series Trust Me, ITV drama The Good Karma Hospital, and Sky comedy Delicious – will pen the series. ‘Marilyn’s desire to be taken seriously as an actress and her battle with the powerful men who control the studio system is sadly as relevant today as it ever was,’ Sefton said.

Badman’s book tells Monroe’s story from various perspectives. The series will adopt a similar approach … No broadcaster or platform is attached to the project, but the writing and producing team, and proven source material about an enduring icon, make for a strong package, with U.S. and international appeal.”

Mimmo Rotella’s Marilyn Manifesto

The ‘décollage’ artist who drew upon torn posters of Marilyn is the subject of a new book, Mimmo Rotella: Manifesto, as Christian House reports for the Telegraph. (FYI, the book’s text is in Italian.)

“In 1954, the Calabrian artist Mimmo Rotella moved to Rome, and discovered his muse in the city’s post-war, pockmarked streets. ‘One evening, as I was leaving my studio, I was attracted to the colours and the boldness of the torn posters that were hanging from the walls,’ he recalled. ‘They were living things that stirred strong emotions in me.’

Rotella began to roam the capital, tearing down sheets of paper heralding the talents of Marilyn Monroe, ministers and circus acts. Passers by were aghast …. At his atelier near Piazza del Popolo, the fragments of posters were glued, layer upon layer, on to canvas, before being ripped, torn and scraped to create ‘new, unpredictable forms.’

Rotella’s arrival in Rome coincided with the golden age of Italian posters. This was the era of Cinecittà (the studio nicknamed ‘Hollywood on the Tiber’), an influx of American tourists and Italy’s ‘economic miracle’. Rotella would come to see his compositions as metaphors for the fluctuating fortunes of his country.

Rotella called his own art of erosion ‘décollage’ – the opposite of collage. When he tired of layering ephemera, he turned the posters around to show their plaster-flaked, mouldy versos. ‘I liked material subjected to bad weather, I liked being able to take it as it was and showing it. It was a theft of reality,’ he said.

Since his death in 2006, this rootless interrogator of consumer culture has become a high-end brand himself … There is a nostalgic pleasure for film buffs and europhiles – the Cinema Paradiso effect – to be had from all the torn glimpses of starlets and matinee idols.”

‘Blonde’ and the Hollywood Novel

Following reports that Cuban actress Ana de Armas will star in a big-screen adaptation of Blonde, Karina Longworth – author of a new Howard Hughes biography, and podcaster at You Must Remember This – lists Joyce Carol Oates’ epic novel among the best Hollywood-inspired fictions in an article for the Wall Street Journal. While Karina believes Oates’ liberal attitude towards the facts is forgivable, I think there are many better novels based on Marilyn’s life (including Doris Grumbach’s The Missing Person, Adam Braver’s Misfit, and Sean O’Hagan’s Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog.)

“The magic of Joyce Carol Oates’s epic imagining of the life of Norma Jeane Baker (aka Marilyn Monroe) lies not in its realism or accuracy but the quality of its fabrication. All of the characters around the orphan-turned-bombshell feel not like ‘real people’—even though most of them are, or were—but like characters in a novel, each with an inner life as richly drawn as the protagonist’s. The star herself remains an enigma, which feels more true to life than any biography that has tried to psychoanalyze or explain this woman who seemed at best a fragmented puzzle to herself. Ms. Oates heartbreakingly juxtaposes the construction of the Marilyn image with its meaning, evident in a snapshot from the set of The Seven Year Itch: “She’s been squealing and laughing, her mouth aches. . . . Her scalp and her pubis burn from that morning’s peroxide applications. . . . That emptiness. Guaranteed. She’s been scooped out, drained clean, no scar tissue to interfere with your pleasure, and no odor. Especially no odor. The Girl with No Name, the girl with no memory.'”