It May Be ‘IKONICK’, But Did Marilyn Really Say It?

“It stirs up envy, fame does. People you run into feel that, well, who is she who does she think she is, Marilyn Monroe? They feel fame gives them some kind of privilege to walk up to you and say anything to you, you know, of any kind of nature and it won’t hurt your feelings.” – Marilyn talks to Richard Meryman of LIFE Magazine, 1962

As first reported here, ABG – the licensor of Marilyn’s estate – has commissioned a range of canvas wall art through the Los Angeles-based company IKONICK. Proclaiming Marilyn as “one of the truest Woman Hustlers out there,” the images feature quotes commonly attributed to her, but only one of them (shown above) is genuine. Once again, it seems that very little thought has been put into this product which boasts official endorsement. In their cringeworthy efforts to ‘modernise’ Marilyn, fake quotes like “You can try baby but you’ll never do it like me” distort who she really was.

Marilyn, Fox and the End of an Era

‘Seven Year Itch’-inspired mural on the Fox lot in Los Angeles

Following last year’s Disney buyout, 20th Century Fox was officially dissolved this month, as Peter Bart reports for Deadline. While Marilyn’s feelings for her home studio were mixed at best, it’s a bittersweet moment in movie history.

“Hollywood endured a big setback this month, and it had nothing to do with the Oscars. A major studio, 20th Century Fox, officially disappeared into the mist, instantly transforming a once robustly competitive industry into a Disney oligopoly. The ultimate cost in jobs could range as high as 10,000, but the real cost will be in opportunity and competitive zeal.

Fox’s history, like MGM’s, has wallowed in melodramatic triumphs and scandals –the corporate intrigues of Warner Bros and its corporate parents (AT&T) or Universal (now a child of Comcast) seem pedestrian compared with Fox’s operatic struggles: Marilyn Monroe’s mysterious demise in the middle of Something’s Got to Give; Elizabeth Taylor’s over-the-top theatrics in Cleopatra; Darryl F. Zanuck’s eight-hour stockholder speeches and stormy battles with his son and successor, Richard (fired in 1971); the eleventh-hour brink-of-disaster deal for Star Wars; the fierce tug of war over Titanic and its overages [overspend].

Given its history, it’s fitting that this is the only studio immortalized in a rock ‘n’ roll classic (‘Twentieth Century Fox’), performed with drugged-out vigor by Jim Morrison and The Doors.

Even Fox’s beginnings are cloudy: It may, or may not, date back to 1915 with the birth of Fox films, but also to 1935 when the mysterious Spyros Skouras orchestrated the first of several mergers. Darryl Zanuck, who felt he was a bigger star than his actors, gave sizzle to the studio with signings of Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, Alice Faye and Betty Grable but also gave it gravitas with such well-intentioned movies as Gentleman’s AgreementThe Razor’s Edge and Wilson. Production of The Longest Day in 1962 was the ultimate Zanuck epic — a long, lugubrious account of the D-Day Invasion with just about every star in the world popping up in bit roles (John Wayne and Kirk Douglas among them).

True to studio tradition, it remains unclear how much of the Fox identity may emerge following Disney’s $71.3 billion seizure … If Fox filmmakers feel angst, it is understandable. Disney accounted for 26% of the box office last year and that could rise to 40% this year … Darryl Zanuck is no longer around to bark, and no one seems to be mounting a new Cleopatra, but somewhere on the emptying Fox lot fragments of history still reside.”

Living It Up in Marilyn’s Beverly Hills Hotel Bungalow

The Beverly Hills Hotel bungalow where Marilyn stayed with husband Arthur Miller while filming Let’s Make Love in 1960 (her co-star Yves Montand and his wife, Signoret, were neighbours) has been revamped with a Monroe-inspired theme, as Forrest Brown reports for CNN.

“It’s part of a years-long restoration project of 21 out of its 23 bungalows, the hotel says in a news release. Five take on celebrity-specific themes — bungalows that salute Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra made their bows in 2016, and fifth that takes its cues from Charlie Chaplin is set to come in July.

Born Norma Jeane Mortenson, Marilyn Monroe became the ultimate symbol of glam and youth. The design of the bungalow reflects the Southern California lifestyle she liked so much, the hotel says.

The space has a strong feminine vibe. Guests will find sensuous, curvy furniture, bright and abstract floor coverings and gold-leafed ceilings.

A few of the amenities that come with the 1,670-square-foot space for the main suite:

— A library featuring Monroe books and films, including the musical comedies Some Like It Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
— A Chanel No. 5 perfume bar (Monroe once said the iconic fragrance was the only thing she wore to bed) as well as bath amenities.
— A bubble bath inspired from Some Like it Hot.

You can even enjoy a meal inspired by some of Monroe’s favorites: Prawn Cocktail, Heirloom Carrot Salad, DiMaggio’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (that would be named after her former husband, baseball legend Joe) and Grilled New York Steak.

The Montands dine with the Millers in their bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. (Photographed by Bruce Davidson, 1960)

The bungalow is priced starting at $8,500 a night for the main suite. Contact the hotel about adjoining rooms. Both the Monroe and [Howard] Hughes bungalows were designed by Champalimaud Design of New York. The hotel first opened in 1912, and its bungalows were built three years later for families that requested more space and privacy, the hotel says.

The hotel is known for its lush grounds and pink-and-green decor … The front entrance has a red carpet, which makes you feel like a celebrity just by walking in the door, and the palm frond-printed wallpaper reminds you that you’re in perennially sunny SoCal.

Its restaurant, The Polo Lounge (aka The Pink Palace) is one of those LA places that even locals go to and has a major pop culture presence, with roles in everything from the Bret Easton Ellis novel Less Than Zero to the real-life scandal called Watergate.”

 

Marilyn’s Estate Makes Gains in Brand Dispute

Marilyn’s estate has been given the green light to pursue trademark infringement claims against merchandiser A.V.E.L.A. Inc. by the Southern District of New York, as Bloomberg Law reports. This legal battle has been brewing for several years, with A.V.E.L.A recently contending that Marilyn’s brand was ‘too generic’ for copyright protection.

“The court rejected A.V.E.L.A. Inc.’s contention that persona rights of deceased celebrities are limited to family, direct heirs, or ‘the actual estate.’ Although the estate purchased the rights, an ‘unbroken chain of title’ extends from Monroe to the estate, the court said.

The court also shot down A.V.E.L.A.’s defenses based on the First Amendment, fair use and the estate’s alleged failure to take timely action.

But the court declined to award Monroe’s estate summary judgment on trademark infringement or trademark dilution claims since material facts are still in dispute. The court also denied judgment on unfair competition despite ‘bad-faith behavior of the A.V.E.L.A. is clear’ since doing otherwise required an infringement finding.

Both sides submitted surveys reaching opposing conclusions on consumer confusion. A.V.E.L.A. moved to toss the estate’s report, but the court said its methodology objections ‘are better addressed through cross-examination’ before a jury.”

Marilyn Slept Here: Sinatra, Crosby Homes for Sale

Unlike her celebrity peers, Marilyn preferred to live modestly. Nonetheless, you may recall that a Los Angeles home she shared with Joe DiMaggio was recently put on the market (see here) – and it has now been joined by two luxury estates with connections to Marilyn. As reported in Architectural Digest, Frank Sinatra’s former Los Angeles home is on sale for $12.5 million.  (It was last put up for sale in 2012, as reported here.)

Marilyn stayed in Sinatra’s guesthouse (shown at top) in 1961. They were having an on-off relationship, and Frank was abroad on tour. She later spent a few months renting an apartment in the Doheny Drive complex he owned, as a neighbour to his secretary, Gloria Lovell.

“Old Blue Eyes himself lived in the sprawling home in the 1950s and 60s and frequently hosted his famous friends … the home seems preordained to shelter celebrities from the Hollywood hullabaloo, as it rests at the end of a near mile-long driveway atop a private promontory that overlooks the vast 1,325-acre Chatsworth Reservoir nature preserve.

Constructed in 1949 by William Pereira, Byrdview is only one of four homes the famed architect designed. Sitting on seven acres, the midcentury-modern house comprises three structures: the main house, a guest house (with its own pool), and a cabana … Outdoors, beyond the pool, there’s a parking space for 100 cars and enough agricultural-zoned acreage that, should the new owners like their wines, a vineyard could be built.”

Secondly, the Rancho Mirage estate of Bing Crosby (near Palm Springs), where Marilyn and John F. Kennedy were among the weekend guests during the March 1962 Democratic Convention, is on sale for $5 million ( although the property has been available for some time, as reported here.) This is the only verified occasion when Marilyn and the president spent a night at the same address, and rather predictably, it’s being promoted as ‘the tryst house’, according to Bloomberg. (Incidentally, Sinatra had hoped to host Kennedy and was reportedly furious that he chose Crosby, a Republican, instead!)

“The 6,700-square-foot estate, spread across more than an acre, was built for the crooner and his second wife, Kathryn, in 1957. The single-story home, with a 1,400-square-foot master suite along with four other en-suite bedrooms, has been on and off the market since 2010, when it was first listed for $3.4 million. It’s also been available for rent through Airbnb for $3,400 a night.”

‘Essentially Marilyn’: Hit Or Miss?

The most surprising aspect of last week’s Essentially Marilyn auction at Profiles in History was how many valuable items from the Maite Minguez-Ricart collection and others (including movie costumes) went unsold, while others only reached the lower estimate. In a post for his MM Collection blog, Scott Fortner goes as far as to call it a flop – and noting the high prices reached at Julien’s only last month, he argues that poor organisation was to blame, rather than a lack of interest. Here’s a selection of items that sold well, and others that didn’t: you can find the full list over at iCollector.

Photo of Norma Jeane aged five, with her ‘first boyfriend’, Lester Bolender ($10,000)

Wedding photo of Norma Jeane and Jim Dougherty ($15,000)

Seven photos from Norma Jeane’s first assignments with the Blue Book Modelling Agency, 1945 ($11,000)

Marilyn’s personally inscribed photo with Ben Lyon ($37,500 – more info here)

Black silk cocktail dress with oversize white bow, designed by John Moore and worn by Marilyn in 1958 ($40,000)

Gold pleated halter gown designed by Travilla for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ($100,000)

Crème-coloured gown by Travilla for How to Marry a Millionaire ($100,000)

Crème and blue gown by Travilla for There’s No Business Like Show Business ($70,000)

Pink and purple satin pantsuit with train, designed by Charles LeMaire for The Seven Year Itch ($100,000)

Silver cigarette box inscribed by Marilyn to Billy Wilder, 1954 ($10,000)

Sheer tan dress by JAX, worn by Marilyn in 1958 ($20,000)

Patterned wool overcoat, worn by Marilyn in 1961 ($30,000)

Marilyn’s personal key to Warner Brothers, 1956 ($10,000)

Red halter dress by JAX, worn by Marilyn in her final photo session with Milton Greene, 1957 ($100,000)

Certificate of nomination from the Golden Globe Awards for Some Like It Hot, 1959 ($10,000)

Black address book ca 1960-62 ($17,000)

John Bryson’s candid photo of Marilyn and Arthur Miller on the set of Let’s Make Love, signed by both ($8,00)

Pucci silk blouse, worn by Marilyn in 1962 ($95,000)

White Ferragamo pumps, worn by Marilyn in Something’s Got to Give ($16,000)

Marilyn’s original grave marker from Westwood Memorial Park ($38,400)

Period costume by Rene Hubert for A Ticket to Tomahawk (UNSOLD)

Brown Skirt Suit by Charles LeMaire for Love Nest (UNSOLD)

Costume sketches by Eloise Jenssen for We’re Not Married (UNSOLD)

Green dress by Travilla for Don’t Bother to Knock (UNSOLD)

Marilyn’s personally owned Ceil Chapman dress (UNSOLD)

Unreleased studio master for ‘Down Boy’ (UNSOLD – more info here)

Showgirl costume by Travilla for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (UNSOLD)

Charles Feldman’s archive regarding The Seven Year Itch (UNSOLD)

Pearl encrusted gown, one of several copies made for The Prince and the Showgirl (UNSOLD)

Two address books, ca. 1950s-60s (UNSOLD)

Various exhibition prints by Milton Greene (UNSOLD)

Marilyn and Joe’s Hollywood Hideaway

Any property with a connection to Marilyn, however spurious, will always make headlines when it goes on the market.  And as Curbed LA reports, this 4-bed, 4-bath hillside home at 2393 Castilian Drive – now on sale from Coldwell Banker at $2.4 million – served as a hideaway for Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio when their much-publicised romance began in 1952.

Joe visits Marilyn on the ‘Monkey Business’ set, 1952

Although not her official address – Marilyn moved several times in that year alone – the house (which was considerably larger than her usual bachelorette-style residences) gave her some privacy to spend time with Joe whenever he came to town. It is situated near the Hollywood Bowl in the exclusive Outpost Estates suburb, and rent checks signed by Marilyn in September 1952 and January 1953 have since made their rounds on the auction circuit.

Marilyn may also have been reminded of a previous house near the Hollywood Bowl, at 6812 Arbol Drive. It was the first home seven year-old Norma Jeane shared with mother Gladys in 1933. Unfortunately Gladys’ finances were overstretched when she bought the property, and while both were happy there at first, it would not be the dream home they both hoped for. Arbol Drive was later razed to make way for an extension of the Hollywood Bowl gardens,  but Selma Elementary School, which Norma Jeane attended at the time, is still open today.

UPDATE: The property has been sold for $2.727 million (exceeding the asking price by around $300K.)

Secrets of the Marilyn ‘Lollapalooza’

Marilyn on The Jack Benny Show, 1953

In an article for ValueWalk, Mark Tobak applies superinvestor Charlie Munger’s ‘Lollapalooza’ concept to explain Marilyn’s enduring popularity.

“How has this remarkable woman and icon of the 1950s cast a worldwide spell that is still undiminished more than fifty years after her tragic death? Her image and persona earned a reported $27 million in 2011 (according to Forbes), just behind Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. While Elvis and Michael primarily market lucrative recordings, Marilyn earns millions with nothing but an image, a voice and a singular human presence in a small ouevre of movies, newsreels and television appearances.

Could she be a Lollapalooza? Yes! Witness six of Charlie’s cognitive distorting powers that combine to help Marilyn cast her delightful spell:

  1. 1)The Power of Incentive: Marilyn offers the untroubled love of a spectacular beauty to all who behold her, young or old, never rejects and never hurts.
  2. 2)The Power of Social Proof: Who would not be swept up in the adoring crowds, both male and female, who flocked to Marilyn’s film and public appearances?
  3. 3)The Power of Availability: In the 1950s Marilyn was everywhere: film, ads, photos, books, magazines, public, radio and TV appearances, and her famous USO tour.
  4. 4)The Power of Liking/Loving and Reciprocation Tendency: Most professional beauties seem elite and untouchable. But Marilyn seemed more like a deity who loves us all. Who would not love her back?
  5. 5)The Power of Pavlovian Association: Marilyn is pictured with all things good: beaches and pools, Coca-Cola, public events and celebrations, jewelry, gowns, new cars, vacations, and other celebrities basking in her glow.
  6. 6)The Power of Excessive Self-Regard: Marilyn appeals to the narcissism of every man who thinks he could win her, and inflates his ego with an illusory near-miss. Still he does not envy the high status males who did win her; they are his proxies. Women have often admired her without envy, devoted fans who may even see a bit of themselves in her, and her in them. Indeed a new book by Michelle Morgan, The Girl, notes that Marilyn was a businesswoman, and ‘an unlikely feminist.’
  7. Each of these six of Charlie’s powers, together with Marilyn’s extraordinary beauty, talent, intelligence, courage, fierce ambition and hard work, combined to make her a singular superstar, and to remain one to this day. And despite Hollywood’s formidable ability to concoct stars using plastic surgery, artifice, dress and makeup, lighting, writing, directing and cutting, there have never been any that reach the iconic status of Marilyn Monroe. Even those the studios promoted as ‘the next Marilyn Monroe.’
  8. As Charlie Munger has noted, unmasking these cognitive distorting powers does not diminish their efficacy. No one can halt a Lollapalooza. Take a look for yourself at Marilyn in her glory: romancing the hopelessly unlovable pennypincher, Jack Benny (see powers 1, 4 & 6 above) in a dream sequence on his 1953 TV program at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWdtCYWkwKM. Or entertaining spellbound and delighted US troops in Korea in 1954 (see powers 1,2,4 and 6 above) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDA0084gZWc. Certainly Charlie’s right: in this case, the whole has proven far greater than the parts — and longer-lasting as well.”