John Gilmore Interview

“Marilyn was one of the most important individuals in my life. She is a kind of fulcrum at gut’s level. There wasn’t a major hullabaloo after her death, as there is now. I did not even want to write about her. I was talked into it by the French Connection Press, in Paris, people there I am dearly close to. However, while a book was planned, we couldn’t come to terms and another publisher grabbed the project, and that’s how my look at her came into reality. I speak each year at her Memorial in Westwood, California, where her body is entombed, and the 50th will be up in a couple years. I might end my yearly contribution after the 50th, as actually and in a real sense, it leaves me too pained to drag it on.”

Gilmore talks to Haarten Bouw

Read excerpt from Inside Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn and the History of Celebrity

Marilyn in 1956

“Of these, it is Monroe who emerges as the star among stars; her ‘irresistible erotic presence’ and ‘brightly lit courage’ entranced ‘people, even the people’ and, most of all, Inglis himself. Indeed, Inglis is so entranced that he takes on the suave voice of a 1950s male lead, condemning the term ‘sex object’ as a ‘damned cliche’ as he melts into the heart of a star who brought ‘new radiance’ to the concept of celebrity. Inglis is more likable when he’s slavering over Monroe than when he’s disapproving of’ ‘a pert little group of girlie singers called the Spice Girls’. But in both cases, the book’s wider questions seem to have been laid aside. Perhaps this is the problem for scholars investigating celebrity: they are overpowered by the brightness of the stars.”

Lara Feigel reviews A Short History of Celebrity by Fred Inglis in The Observer

‘Maf the Dog’ Movie Plans

Eric Skipsey, 1961

Plans are afoot to bring Andrew O’Hagan’s comic novel, The Life and Thoughts of Maf the Dog and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe, to the big screen, it is confirmed in today’s Daily Telegraph, ahead of a live reading from his book at the Southbank Centre this Sunday.

The movie plans were first reported in the Scottish Herald in May:

“At the time of writing, O’Hagan reports that director Stephen Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven) is in the frame. They are even negotiating sequel rights for reasons we shall come to later. Meanwhile, rumour has it that George Clooney wants to play Frank Sinatra – Ol’ Blue Eyes gave Marilyn Maf, short for Mafia Honey, in November 1960 – opposite Scarlett Johansson as the angel of sex herself, although O’Hagan confides that his own heart is set on the ‘delicious’ Christina Hendricks (Joan in Mad Men). We agree, however, that Maf, who was Marilyn’s constant companion for the last two years of her life, who ‘breathed the secrets of her pillow’, should be voiced by only one actor, O’Hagan’s friend Ewan McGregor.”

This sounds promising, though I do wonder if the book’s subtle whimsy will translate on film. Judging by some of the reader reviews on Amazon, not everyone was as charmed by Maf the Dog as me.

But I suspect this all depends on your preconceptions about Marilyn (O’Hagan is positively rapturous about her), and your willingness to suspend disbelief and accept a canine narrator.

Two other MM-related movies are currently in the works: an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde, starring Naomi Watts; and My Week With Marilyn, based on Colin Clark’s memoir, with Michelle Williams.

Who knows how these projects will turn out, but I’ve read all the books that they’re based on, and Maf’s story is easily my favourite of the three!

Marilyn by John Vachon

“In 1953, John Vachon, then a photographer for LOOK magazine, snapped dozens of candid shots of Marilyn Monroe in the Canadian Rockies — only two were ever published. This beautiful hardcover collects those unseen photographs for the first time, capturing the sex symbol in intimate, unguarded moments: lounging poolside, riding a ski lift, and snuggling Joe DiMaggio. Includes facsimiles of handwritten letters by Vachon and insightful original essays. 100 duotone photos.” – Infibeam

Publication date: September/October 2010. Now listed at The Book Depository

Thanks to Chris at Club Passion Marilyn

David Marshall at Borders, San Francisco

Author David Marshall, who has written two acclaimed books about Marilyn Monroe, will be reading at Borders, Union Square in San Francisco, on August 5th – a date which also marks the 48th anniversary of Monroe’s death.

The DD Group: An Online Investigation into the Death of Marilyn Monroe is a definitive study of the mystery surrounding the star’s final days. Life Among The Cannibals: The Life and Times of Marilyn Monroe 1962-2003 is a unique work of bio-fiction, speculating on how Marilyn’s fate might have been very different had she lived to old age.

Read my Ten To One interview with David Marshall

Louis Gossett Jr

Louis Gossett Jr, who won an Emmy for his role in Roots and an Oscar for An Officer and a Gentleman, recalls working with Marilyn Monroe in his recently published memoir, An Actor and a Gentleman:

“The person I considered the most talented actor in my class was Marilyn Monroe. She would walk into class with Arthur Miller’s shirts tied at her waist, her feet in flip-flops, the sweet musky smell of Lifebuoy soap wafting after her. Her hair, pulled back with a rubber band, was always a little wet, as if she’d just stepped out of a shower. If she’d stayed with Miller, I believe she would easily have won five Academy Awards.

One afternoon I was sitting in my place on the Lower East Side when my phone rang. I picked it up, and a voice said, ‘Hi, Lou. It’s Marilyn.’ ‘Marilyn who?’ I answered, and when she said, ‘Marilyn from class,’ I had a genuine fit. She was asking me to be in her love scene from Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo at her next class. She was probably being nice to me because I wasn’t one of the stellar students in the class, like Sidney Poitier, and nobody else was asking me to do love scenes. But here she was, inviting me to play the sailor to her hot-blooded Serafina delle Rose.

I was a kid then, full of juice. I considered myself to be hot to trot, but I knew there was no way on earth I could play that scene. I was so starstruck, I wouldn’t have gotten out one word onstage. I must have stammered something, because she got off the line pretty fast, and I think it was Marty Landau who ended up playing that scene. (I happen to think Mr Landau is one of the most consummate actors I have ever seen on the stage or screen.) To this day, if I catch a whiff of Lifebuoy soap, my olfactory senses take over and I am undeniably aroused.”


Fragments: An Update

More details about the publication of Marilyn Monroe’s collected writings and artwork, due for release in September, from the US Macmillan website.

Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters

By Marilyn Monroe; Edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9/28/2010
ISBN: 978-0-374-15835-4, ISBN10: 0-374-15835-5,
7 11/16 x 10 inches, 256 pages, 5-Color Throughout

Synopsis

Marilyn Monroe’s image is so universal that we can’t help but believe that we know all there is to know of her. Every word and gesture made headlines and garnered controversy. Her serious gifts as an actor were sometimes eclipsed by her notoriety—and the way the camera fell helplessly in love with her.

But what of the other Marilyn? Beyond the headlines—and the too-familiar stories of heartbreak and desolation—was a woman far more curious, searching, and hopeful than the one the world got to know. Even as Hollywood studios tried to mold and suppress her, Marilyn never lost her insight, her passion, and her humor. To confront the mounting difficulties of her life, she wrote.

Now, for the first time, we can meet this private Marilyn and get to know her in a way we never have before. Fragments is an unprecedented collection of written artifacts—notes to herself, letters, even poems—in Marilyn’s own handwriting, never before published, along with rarely seen intimate photos.

These bits of text—jotted in notebooks, typed on paper, or written on hotel letterhead—reveal a woman who loved deeply and strove to perfect her craft. They show a Marilyn Monroe unsparing in her analysis of her own life, but also playful, funny, and impossibly charming. The easy grace and deceptive lightness that made her performances so memorable emerge on the page, as does the simmering tragedy that made her last appearances so heartbreaking.

Fragments is an event—an unforgettable book that will redefine one of the greatest stars of the twentieth century and which, nearly fifty years after her death, will definitively reveal Marilyn Monroe’s humanity.

RELATED POST: Commentary from Sarah Churchwell, author of The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe