Milton Greene’s ‘Essential Marilyn Monroe’

This is the final cover for the standard edition of The Essential Marilyn Monroe – Milton Greene: 50 Sessions, now making its way to readers in the UK and beyond. (Big spenders can also order a limited edition, boxed version with a print for £1,500.)

The first review has already been posted on Amazon by Fraser Penney:

“An absolutely amazing book on Marilyn’s and Milton Greene’s photo sessions. This book has many unpublished and alternate shots of the classic images we’ve all come to know. There’s also some funny ones of Marilyn clowning in front of camera in a playful way, showing the warmth the two shared during their years of friendship.

The book is a joy from start to finish with a few pages of text by Joshua Greene, film producer Jay Kanter and another of Marilyn’s photographers, Douglas Kirkland.

With a brief introduction to each of the 50 sessions, offering an insiders insight, it’s the most spectacular homage to Marilyn and Milton’s collaboration, friendship and professional relationship.

In the words of Marilyn’s assistant (how she’s described in book) Pat Newcomb, writes, ‘This is a truly authentic look into Monroe’s life, and the best collection of photographs of the world’s most glamorous star by someone who really knew her.'”

An example of colour restoration in ‘The Essential MM’
Joshua Greene at work (via Iconic Images)

Joshua Greene has spoken to the Hollywood Reporter about this epic project:

“‘The first time I released unseen images was in 1993, with Milton’s Marilyn. It was our early days of restoration, and if you go through that book, the color work is really inconsistent,’ he explains. “We also ran images to look like contact sheets, so many were very small, and it just wasn’t impactful. I was really disappointed in the outcome of that project. This time around, I wanted to make sure that what had happened there would never happen again.’

‘I look at this as the last hurrah, because I would like to retire,’ says Joshua, who’s 63. Of the book’s 284 images, 160 are — you guessed it — never before seen. ‘I started working on this about five years ago, originally with about 600 images,’ Joshua says. ‘The restoration work is very tedious; some photos took as much as 60 hours per frame. I would love to have included more images, but we also did what was best for the layout and formatting of this book.’

Joshua believes his father would approve of both the choice and quality of the images. ‘Milton was a maverick in the darkroom; nobody knew printing techniques better than he did,’ he says. ‘I started working with him in the darkroom when I was 11 years old. If the old man was alive today, I know he would have embraced today’s digital technology.’

Also key to the selection was to convey the ease and intimacy of his father’s friendship with an enigmatic woman who continues to captivate the public’s imagination. ‘They were very comfortable with each other, and she trusted him, and you see that in these photos,’ Joshua notes. ‘Ultimately he’d be thrilled with what we’ve created this time around. I’ve kept this fire burning for a long time, but with this, I know he’d be proud.'”

Marilyn’s Co-Stars From A to Z

David Alan Williams is the author of a series of self-published books profiling the various actors who worked with classic Hollywood stars. His latest volume, Marilyn Monroe’s Film Co-Stars From A to Z, runs to 600 pages (which may explain the hefty price tag.) Although probably not for the casual fan, this may be of interest to diehards as a reference tool.

“No film or television program would be complete without co-stars and supporting players. This book pays homage to those over 650 individuals who acted with Marilyn Monroe in her thirty films from 1947 through 1961. I hope you enjoy learning more about those hard working men, women, and children who were honored to work with this beautiful lady on the big screen.”

That Girl Marilyn: An Unlikely Feminist?

Michelle Morgan, author of several acclaimed books about Marilyn, has revealed that her next release will be the intriguingly titled The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist, due for publication by Running Press in May 2018.

“With an in-depth look at the two most empowering years in the life of Marilyn Monroe, The Girl details how The Seven Year Itch created an icon and sent the star on an adventure of self-discovery and transformation from a controlled wife and contract player into a businesswoman and unlikely feminist whose power is still felt today.

When Marilyn Monroe stepped over a subway grating as The Girl in The Seven Year Itch and let a gust of wind catch the skirt of her pleated white dress, an icon was born. Before that, the actress was mainly known for a nude calendar and one-dimensional, albeit memorable, characters on the screen. Though she again played a ‘dumb blonde’ in this film and was making headlines by revealing her enviable anatomy, the star was now every bit in control of her image, and ready for a personal revolution.

Emboldened by her winning fight to land the role of The Girl, the making of The Seven Year Itch and the eighteen months that followed was the period of greatest confidence, liberation, and career success that Marilyn Monroe lived in her tumultuous life. It was a time in which, among other things, she:

     – Ended her failing marriage to Joe DiMaggio and later began a relationship with Arthur Miller;

– Legally changed her name to Marilyn Monroe, divorcing herself from the troubled past of Norma Jeane;

– Started her own production company;

– Studied in private lessons with Lee and Paula Strasberg of the Actors Studio and became a part of the acting revolution of the day.

The ripple Marilyn’s personal revolution had on Hollywood and in trailblazing the way for women that followed will both surprise and inspire readers to see Marilyn Monroe — and perhaps themselves — in an entirely new light.”

Marilyn Book News: Directors and Co-Stars at Fox

Just published is Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment, Michael Troyan’s mammoth study of Marilyn’s home studio. It’s 736 pages long, with 150 photos in a landscape-size hardback.

Anne Bancroft, who made her screen debut in Don’t Bother to Knock and shared a dramatic scene with Marilyn, is the subject of two new biographies: one by Peter Shelley, and another by Douglass K. Daniel.

And one of Marilyn’s favourite directors, Jean Negulesco (How to Marry a Millionaire), is given the biographical treatment in a new study by Michelangelo Capua.

Coming in September is the much-anticipated Milton Greene retrospective, The Essential Marilyn Monroe (a German version and special edition are also available.) And in November, Marilyn graces the paperback cover of Cecil Beaton: Portraits and Profiles.

Looking further ahead, two intriguing new titles will be hitting our shelves in 2018: Colin Slater’s Marilyn Lost and Forgotten: Images from the Hollywood Photo Archiveand Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon, a biography by Charles Casillo. And Elizabeth Winder’s Marilyn in Manhattan will be released in paperback.

55 Years Ago: The Many Meanings of Marilyn

Marilyn in ‘Let’s Make Love’, 1960

Academic website JSTOR Daily is exploring its archive for perspectives on Marilyn’s enduring fame, featuring quotes from Susan J. Hubert, Gloria Steinem, Lois Banner and Lore Segal (whose essay, ‘Sexy and Her Sisters’, was also published in the 2002 anthology, All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader.)

“Marilyn’s mature comedies trust us to have internalized both myths, so that our expectations can be at once satisfied and mocked. In Let’s Make Love, sexy Marilyn is so sweet and good, she sympathetically coaches the newest member of the cast, who has been hired because he looks so much like the millionaire the play is going to make fun of. Luckily for the plot, her innocent decency keeps her from catching on to the fraud: her protege is the actual millionaire, hanging around to make love to her. But Marilyn’s specialty was to conflate the good girl and bad girl into the one and only Marilyn. It is the neatest trick.”

Marilyn’s Secret Career Genius

Marilyn in Manhattan author Elizabeth Winder has written an excellent article for Marie-Claire about Marilyn’s escape to New York and triumphant battle with Hollywood. It’s well worth reading, and a great preview of the book. (However, as MM: A Day in the Life author April VeVea points out, Marilyn wasn’t, as is sometimes claimed, the first woman in Hollywood to start her own production company – the Talmadge Sisters, Rita Hayworth and Ida Lupino all preceded her.)

“Years ahead of her time, and dead at the age of 36 in 1962, Monroe wouldn’t live to see the changes she made possible. But her reach went far beyond the machinations of Hollywood and shifted the way women around the world viewed themselves: Bra-less and never in girdles, Monroe didn’t apologize for her raw sensuality and frankly admitted to posing nude in the past; she’d been a penniless starlet and whose business was it anyway? At the same time, she wasn’t afraid to appear ‘unsexy.’ She loved being photographed in grimy boas and ripped fishnets, or puffy-eyed and makeup free, hair tangled from hours of fitful sleep. Monroe wanted to express herself, no matter the risk.”

Barbara Marx Sinatra 1927-2017

Barbara Marx Sinatra, the widow of Frank Sinatra, has died aged 90. A former model and Las Vegas showgirl, she was married to Zeppo Marx from 1959-73, and to Sinatra from 1976 until his death in 1998. As well as overseeing most of his his estate, Barbara was also a philanthropist and children’s campaigner. In her 2011 memoir, Lady Blue Eyes, she recalled meeting  Marilyn during the 1950s:

“Palm Springs was a celebrity circus where Clark Gable would pop his head over her hedge for a chat. She befriended Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. She played doubles matches with Bobby Kennedy and met Marilyn Monroe, who visited Sinatra and reportedly liked to walk around his house naked.

Once when Monroe was staying at the Compound, Barbara’s son Bobby, ‘who had the worst crush on Marilyn,’ insisted Barbara secure an invitation so he could meet the star. ‘So I called Dorothy, Frank’s secretary, and told her my problem and Frank called and said have him come over. Bobby met her and he was totally in love.’

On another occasion Barbara met the ‘beautiful and funny’ Monroe, then married to Arthur Miller, at the Palm Springs Racquet Club. ‘I could see why she’d attract the likes of Mr Sinatra, among others. But her dependence on drugs and alcohol left her vulnerable. We had a casual conversation and she seemed sweet, but we were never going to be close. A few years later she was dead.'”

Icon Vol. 2: Marilyn’s Biography on Kindle

Icon: The Life, Times, and Films of Marilyn Monroe: Volume 2: 1956 to 1962 and Beyond, the second volume of Gary Vitacco Robles’ excellent 2014 biography, is now available via Kindle from Amazon stores worldwide. You can also purchase the first volume as an ebook here.

Norman Mailer, Marilyn and the FBI

Over at the MudRock website, JPat Brown looks back at the FBI’s abandoned attempt to ‘fact-check the factoids’ about Monroe and the Kennedys in Norman Mailer’s 1973 bestseller, Marilyn. Did the FBI think Mailer’s claims were too outrageous to be believed? Or were they content to let him smear Camelot? (Incidentally, longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover – who kept tabs on Marilyn, and led the official investigation into President Kennedy’s assassination – passed away a year before Mailer’s book was published.)

“FBI files released to Conor Skelding reveal that the Bureau was sufficiently alarmed about author Norman Mailer’s accusations about their role in Marilyn Monroe’s death, leading them to investigate if they had, in fact, wiretapped the actress phone.

The incident, near the end of Mailer’s sizable file, began in 1973, when the former agent in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, William Simon, received a call from Lloyd Shearer, the editor of Parade. Shearer had received an advance copy of Mailer’s upcoming book, which contained some fairly salacious gossip regarding the Bureau and the Blonde Bombshell.

Simon’s response was a pretty unequivocal ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’

While it’s unclear how believable Shearer found Simon’s protestations of innocence, the Bureau apparently found the charges alarming enough to inquire if they did actually know what Shearer was talking about.

The Bureau’s attitude changed completely, however, when they actually got ahold of an advance copy.

Mailer had apparently taken some of the more lurid theories surrounding Monroe’s death and ran with them, positing a joint CIA-FBI murder plot as retaliation against the Kennedys for being mad at them for bungling the Bay of Pigs invasion.

The FBI, releasing the futility of fact-checking someone who was openly challenging the very concept of truth … and who would no doubt capitalize on the controversy, decided to just let the matter rest here.

What’s the takeaway here? If you’re going to lie about the FBI, make it big.”