Marilyn’s 20th Century Fox Sold to Disney

Marilyn with the cast of ‘Something’s Got to Give’ on her 36th birthday – and her final day’s work at Fox

Last December, it was reported (here) that Disney had bought Twentieth Century Fox’s assets from its most recent owner, Rupert Murdoch. And on July 27, as Variety reports, the Fox-Disney merger went ahead with a $71.3 billion buyout. Marilyn’s films for her home studio will be included in the purchase. As many commentators wonder what this will mean for the venerable Fox brand, the Hollywood Reporter looks back on its colourful past with a series of articles including the fraught relationship between longtime studio head Darryl F. Zanuck and the biggest star of all – Marilyn – during 1951-62, a period described as the ‘Monroe Years’ (preceded by ‘Eve’s Gold Rush’ in 1950, a reference to the Oscar-laden All About Eve in which Marilyn had a small part.) Firstly, film historian Leonard Maltin offers a eulogy for Fox, and the personalities who made it great.

Marilyn with Darryl F. Zanuck in 1954

“Zanuck always had someone waiting in reserve in case one of his stars became uncooperative. Betty Grable was hired as a threat to musical star Alice Faye and soon surpassed her as Fox’s premier attraction (and No. 1 pinup) of the 1940s. Faye grew tired of Zanuck’s belittling behavior and walked off the lot one day without saying goodbye. (Zanuck wouldn’t have survived in the #MeToo or Time’s Up era. He was notorious for taking advantage of starlets.)

Zanuck reigned until 1956, when he resigned from Fox and moved to France to become an independent producer. In the fractious years that followed, the studio wooed him back for projects more than once, even allowing him to cast his mistresses (Bella Darvi, Juliette Greco, et. al) in leading roles. But while movie attendance soared during the years following World War II, it sank nearly as quickly with the introduction of television. Fox’s response was to unveil a widescreen process called CinemaScope and its aural equivalent, stereophonic sound. Films like the biblical epic The Robe drew people back to theaters. So did Fox’s newest star, blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe.

It was believed the wildly expensive epic Cleopatra — which paid Elizabeth Taylor an eye-popping $1 million salary — nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox, but president Spyros Skouras already was selling off the company’s valuable backlot (now known as Century City) before the movie’s budget ballooned to $44 million. Facts aside, Cleopatra became a scapegoat for all of the studio’s ills.

In a final coup, Darryl F. Zanuck returned to Fox in the early 1960s and named his son, Richard Zanuck, president … Then, in 1970, Zanuck Sr. fired his son and sparked an Oedipal family feud that sucked in Zanuck’s ex-wife — Richard’s mother, a major shareholder — and ended with the elder Zanuck being pushed out of the studio he co-founded. Repeated changes of regime and ownership in the ensuing years took their toll on the company that had once put its distinctive imprint on such classics as LauraMiracle on 34th StreetTwelve O’Clock High and All About Eve.”

Marilyn with her ‘Bus Stop’ co-star, Don Murray

In another article, ‘Life in the Foxhole‘, Mitzi Gaynor describes the working atmosphere at Fox as ‘like a family’, while Don Murray recalls his movie debut at the studio, and his mercurial leading lady…

“Zanuck loathes Marilyn Monroe (‘He thought I was a freak,’ Monroe once said) and nearly tears up her first contract after her nude Playboy cover comes out. But by 1953, Monroe has three of the studio’s biggest hits — NiagaraGentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire — and rene­gotiates a new contract paying $100,000 a picture and giving her creative approval. Her first film under the new deal is 1956’s Bus Stop, co-starring Don Murray. ‘I’d never done a feature before,’ says the actor, now 88, ‘so I didn’t know what to expect. From what others on the set told me, Marilyn was on her best behavior. She’d just been to the Actors Studio, and she really wanted to concentrate on her acting. But even so, she was late every day. She’d get to the studio on time, but then she’d spend hours dawdl­ing in her trailer, getting the nerve up to act. She was trying hard — she would sometimes do 30 takes in a scene — but she was very anxious about her acting. She would actually break out in a rash before the cameras would start filming. The cameras gave her a rash.'”

Finally, you can read Marilyn’s take on Fox, and Zanuck – as told to biographer Maurice Zolotow – here.

Marilyn’s Estate Sues Clothing Company

Representatives of Marilyn and Elvis Presley’s estates are suing a clothing company for a total of $353,500 in royalties and penalties, the New York Post reports. Central Mills, under its Freeze Apparel division, manufactured a range of tops featuring Marilyn’s image, such as the sweater shown above. TapouT LLC is a clothing division of Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate. The two companies parted ways in December 2017.

Stern Heirs Fight for Marilyn Photos in Court Case

Marilyn’s image is caught up in yet another legal dispute after Bert Stern’s widow sued his heirs (with whom he had worked for many years and was also romantically involved, according to the New York Post) for the right to his work, reports ABC News. And as Courthouse News Service reports, the heirs’ online sales of ‘bedazzled’ versions of Stern’s photos have also raised questions of authorship.

“A federal judge (Paul Engelmayer) in New York ruled Friday that Stern’s heirs are the rightful owners of the copyright interests in the ‘Last Sitting’ photographs.

The issue arose in a lawsuit Stern’s widow, Shannah Laumeister Stern, filed against Lisa and Lynette Lavender, twin sisters who were Stern’s assistants. The lawsuit claimed copyright infringement involving the reproduction and online sale of modified versions of certain Monroe images.

The Lavenders counter-sued, claiming Stern never owned the rights to the photographs.

Instead the sisters said the copyright belonged to Conde Nast, which hired Stern to photograph Monroe for Vogue. The Lavenders also claimed Stern authorized them to make, modify and sell copies of Monroe photographs following his death.

The judge found that Stern was, and his heirs are, the rightful owners of the copyright to the photographs. Whether the Lavender sisters infringed the judge said will have to be decided at trial.”

M.Monroe: Marilyn Inspires Jewellery Collection

Jewellery designer Yunjo Lee is launching a new Marilyn-inspired collection, ‘M.Monroe‘, as Anthony DeMarco reports for Forbes.

“In her new role, she said she did a great deal of research into all aspects of Marilyn Monroe’s life, her mystique and the real person, and came up with four collections that reflect the star’s essence: Whisper, Aura, Stellar, and a high jewelry collection. Prices begin at $350 with most of the jewels are priced in the $2,000 to $4,000 range. The high jewelry items are far more expensive, as one would expect.

The Aura collection speaks to Monroe’s ‘inner strength and the power of emotion using colors that Monroe uses to describe her dreams,’ such as ‘scarlet and gold and shining white, greens and blues,’ Lee said. ‘Maybe she was thinking of a rainbow so I wanted to evoke the same feeling you get when you see a rainbow. It’s the color of the light. It’s the color of your emotion. I literally hinted at pastel colors that are accentuated with boldness.'”

The Stellar range is based on a slight misquote: Marilyn did not say, ‘We are all stars and deserve to twinkle.’ The exact wording (from a telegram declining an invitation during her battle with Fox in 1962) is ‘All we demanded was our right to twinkle.

Whatever you may think of the designs, a quick glance at the M.Monroe Facebook page suggests the presentation will be quite tasteful. On April 13, it was announced that M.Monroe has partnered with Girls Write Now, a New York-based writing and mentorship organisation for high-school girls, ‘the next generation of Modern Marilyns making their own mark on the world.’

Marilyn’s Estate Sues Chinese Company for $22 Million

Marilyn’s estate is suing a Chinese merchandising company for $22 million over a botched licensing deal, The Blast reports.

“According to court documents obtained by The Blast, the estate says they reached a licensing agreement with Alba Longa Concepts in 2016. The deal called for the production and manufacturing of a ‘line of defined consumer products, including sunglasses, watches, luggage, bags, leather accessories scarves, footwear, apparel, dinnerware, drinkware, barware and flatware, in China.’

The estate says the deal was to run for 10 years and promised them a ‘Guaranteed Minimum Royalties’ payment of $1,000,000 the first year, $1.5 million the second, and $2 million for each year thereafter.

According to the suit, the estate says they had the right to terminate the deal if they breach the contract by not making a scheduled payment within 10 days of being served notice that a payment is overdue.

Here’s where the big money comes in: Marilyn Monroe’s estate says that the deal provides that in the event of any breach by Alba Longa Concepts, all ‘Guaranteed Minimum Royalties’ payments for the length of the contract would become immediately due.

Monroe’s estate says Alba Longa Concepts breached the agreement on December 1, 2016 when they failed to make a payment. The estate says over the next year, they notified Alba Longa Concepts several times about the breach, but nothing was done.

Now the estate is suing, claiming they are owed $18.5 million for the missed royalties payments, plus another $4.48 million they claim they are owed in missed payments related to licensing the trademark.

They are seeking the money they are owed, plus 1% interest per month.”

Marilyn’s Hollywood Haunts Targeted in Ponzi Scheme

Marilyn photographed by Milton Greene at Joe Schenck’s estate in 1953

Mercer Vine, the brokerage firm whose listings included the Holmby Hills  estate where Fox mogul Joe Schenck once lived, and Marilyn’s last home in Brentwood, has closed after its financier, Robert H. Shapiro, was recently implicated in a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme, as Peter Kiefer writes for the Hollywood Reporter. (Schenck befriended Marilyn in the late 1940s, and she sometimes stayed in his guest cottage. Milton Greene also photographed her in Schenck’s mansion, known today as Owlwood. The article gives no further details on Marilyn’s home at Fifth Helena Drive, which was sold for $7.25 million in 2017.)

Garden view of Marilyn’s final home in Brentwood, Los Angeles

“Two years. That’s all it took for luxury brokerage firm Mercer Vine to establish itself as a major player in L.A.’s cutthroat luxury real estate market. Eight-figure listings. Pedigreed listings like Marilyn Monroe’s former home in Brentwood.

Just months after it launched in 2016, Mercer Vine grabbed headlines for representing Shapiro in the $90 million purchase of the Owlwood Estate, a 12,200-square-foot property at 141 South Carolwood Drive, which once was owned by Tony Curtis and later by Sonny and Cher. At the time, it was the second priciest residential sale in L.A. history behind the Playboy Mansion. What was even more astounding was when Shapiro and Mercer Vine relisted Owlwood a mere nine months later for $180 million without having done a single lick of work on the estate.”

Marilyn and the Presidents Club Scandal

Images of Marilyn have been used to promote a controversial gala held last night at London’s Dorchester Hotel for the Presidents Club, a men-only organisation, as Martin Belam reports for The Guardian. Female staff at the most recent ball have complained of groping and sexual harassment, leading to calls for better protection of workers in the hospitality trade. It’s unclear whether the use of Marilyn’s image has been approved by her estate, but regardless, this is yet another example of corporate branding at its most crass.

However, Monroe impersonator Suzie Kennedy, who has performed at a past gala, takes a different view, as she told LBC Radio‘s Shelagh Fogarty today…

“It was three years ago. It’s rich men having a night out. They are usually very powerful in business and are very generous to the charities. The charities need these balls to happen.

Everybody at that job was told what the job is. It’s a businessman’s night out. Everyone’s going to drink, they are going to have cigars, they are going to have fun.

I didn’t see any of the girls thinking ‘Oh no, I have to wear this’. They were fine with wearing it. In nightclubs in London, girls are wearing a lot less.”

Milton Greene and the Business of Marilyn

Following the publication of The Essential Marilyn Monroe, Joshua Greene talks to the Siuslaw News about what the future might hold for the Archives. It’s a very interesting take on ‘the business of Marilyn’ and the challenges facing preservationists in the digital age, from licensing issues to copyright and the growing problem of ‘fake art.’

“‘Future generations won’t care about pictures of Marilyn Monroe or Frank Sinatra,’ Greene said. ‘That kind of thing is probably going to fade away.’

In the old studio system, stars like Monroe were under long-term contracts. The image of the stars was just as much a commodity to the system as the films they were in. Therefore, the studios were extraordinarily careful as to how the stars were portrayed to the public.

Compared to the Golden Age of Hollywood, stars themselves have been marginalized … For the most part, modern audiences choose films for what they are about, not who is in them. While stars like Jennifer Lawrence do have professional studio shoots, they are dwarfed by the extraordinary volume of paparazzi photographs that fill the internet.

Online digital images represent one of the biggest battlegrounds for The Archives. While it frequently put its photographs online for promotion and educational purposes, unauthorized uploads can become a huge drain on its resources, both through loss of sales and hunting down images.

That’s not to say that The Archives is against all uses of Milton’s images. ‘We’re very close with the Marilyn fan base,’ Greene said. ‘That’s been very important to us. All those fan sites that people have, use our pictures with our graces.’ All they ask is that those websites give credit to Milton and The Archives, and people are generally more than happy to do it.

Another problem is artists stealing Milton’s work and incorporating it into their own art, what Greene calls ‘derivative work’ … Greene said the business has both gotten harder and changed since he created The Archives. ‘Even with the release of brand new pictures in our book, I had to surrender to getting publicity versus getting the money. The exposure became more important than that money,’ Greene said.

Unfortunately, high art photographs are becoming the purview of the rich … That tough business has led Greene and The Archives to reevaluate what their true purpose is. ‘The dance is getting tired for me,’ Greene said. ‘I want to consolidate Marilyn. I’m trying to sell her off for enough money that I won’t have to worry.’

The goal is to package the Monroe photographs, along with other merchandising rights Greene holds for her, and sell them to one bidder, like Getty Images.”

2017: A Year In Marilyn Headlines

In January, amateur footage from the set of The Seven Year Itch was uncovered, and Twentieth Century Fox launched a perfume range inspired by Marilyn’s movies. Buddy Greco – the jazz pianist and singer believed to have taken the last snapshots of Marilyn – passed away aged 90.

In February, Marilyn appeared in a TV ad for Cadillac, first aired during the 2017 Oscar ceremony. A new memoir by Patricia Bosworth, including reminiscences of Marilyn at the Actors Studio, was published. And New York’s iconic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where Marilyn lived in 1955, finally closed its doors.

In March, Marilyn in Manhattan, Elizabeth Winder’s book about Marilyn’s first year in New York, was published. The All About Marilyn fan club launched a new weekly podcast, while film historian Karina Longworth presented a three-part special on Marilyn for her popular series, You Must Remember This. Marilyn’s infamous spat with Joan Crawford was recreated in TV’s Feud: Bette and Joan. Julien’s Auctions held an online photo sale, ‘Marilyn Through the Lens.’ Supermodel Karlie Kloss recreated ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ for a Swarovski commercial, while Kendall Jenner posed Marilyn-style for Love magazine. James Rosenquist, one of the first artists to make Marilyn his muse, and Lola Albright, the first choice for Angela in The Asphalt Jungle, both passed away.

In April, Marilyn Monroe: Auction of a Lifetime – a documentary about the Julien’s sale of 2016 – was broadcast in the UK. Ella Queen of Jazz, a children’s book by Helen Hancocks about Ella Fitzgerald’s friendship with Marilyn, was published, marking the singer’s centenary. And Cecil Beaton’s 1956 portrait of Marilyn (her own favourite) was projected onto the Empire State Building, celebrating 150 years of Harper’s Bazaar.

In May, Marilyn made the cover of Yours Retro magazine, with an article inside by Michelle Morgan about her time in England. Actress Gillian Anderson appeared as Marilyn in TV’s American Gods. Unmissable Marilyn, an exhibition curated by collector Ted Stampfer, opened in Rome. Dinner With DiMaggio, a memoir of the baseball legend by Dr Rock Positano, was published; and James Spada, author of Monroe: A Life in Pictures, and Hollywood publicist Joe Hyams both passed away.

On June 1st, fans celebrated Marilyn’s 91st birthday. Also this month, her final home in Los Angeles was sold for $7.25 million. Some Like It Hot returned to theatres across the USA as part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, and Marilyn graced the cover of a Saturday Evening Post special on the golden age of Hollywood. Her final days at Twentieth Century Fox were examined in a new book by French film historian Olivier Rajchman, while in Finland, a new fiction anthology, Marilyn, Marilyn, was published. And Bill Pursel, who befriended Marilyn in the late 1940s, reporter Gabe Pressman, and British collector David Gainsborough Roberts all passed away.

In July, the beaded ‘nude’ dress worn by Marilyn when she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to President Kennedy – purchased by Ripley’s Entertainment in 2016 – started a world tour in Canada. Marilyn’s address books were published on Kindle. And actor Martin Landau, who befriended Marilyn in New York, plus Aleshia Brevard – the transgender impersonator who once performed for Marilyn herself – and film critic Barry Norman, who wrote and presented a 1979 documentary about Marilyn as part of his Hollywood Greats series, all passed away.

August marked the 55th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. In Los Angeles, Marilyn Remembered – the fan club which organises her annual memorial service at Westwood – celebrated its own 35th birthday with a series of events including a charity gala at Hollygrove, and a special screening of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the Chinese Theatre. The Immortal Marilyn fan club was also present, hosting a pool party for fans at the Avalon Hotel, and a toast to MM on Santa Monica Beach.

Also in August, original photographs of Marilyn by George Barris and others went under the hammer at dedicated auctions in New York and Los Angeles. Some Like It Hot topped a BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Comedy Films, and The Misfits was re-released in France. Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment, a mammoth study of Marilyn’s home studio was published, and she also made the cover of Reminisce magazine. And comedian Jerry Lewis, who befriended Marilyn when she appeared on his radio show in 1953, passed away.

In September, The Essential Marilyn Monroe, a new retrospective of her work with photographer Milton Greene, was published. Another weighty tome, Marilyn Monroe’s Film Co-Stars From A to Z by David Alan Williams, was also released. Prism, Terry Johnson’s new play about cinematographer Jack Cardiff, opened in London, and Marilyn also featured in a new documentary, Magnum Through the Camera Eye. Wolf Alice singer Ellie Roswell paid homage to Marilyn in the ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ video. Versace reinvented the iconic ‘Marilyn dress’; and Montblanc launched a range of Monroe-inspired pens. Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy empire, died aged 91, and was buried in the crypt next to Marilyn at Westwood Memorial Park.

In October, Marilyn (as Sugar Kane in Some Like It Hot) graced one of 100 covers of UK magazine Total Film, and her favourite red taffeta and black lace gown went on display at the French Embassy in New York. Terry Johnson’s play, Insignificance, was revived in London, and lookalike Suzie Kennedy made a cameo appearance in Blade Runner 2049.

In November, a pair of gold-plated earrings worn by Marilyn in promotional shots for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was sold at Julien’s Auctions for $112,500. Marilyn: Her Untold Story, a magazine special, was published in the US. And gossip columnist Liz Smith, a longtime champion of Marilyn, died aged 94.

And in December, 21st Century Fox Entertainment – including Marilyn’s cache of classic films – was purchased by Disney for $52.4 billion.  Photos of Marilyn by Sam Shaw, Bert Stern and others went on display at the Galerie De L’Instant in Paris. A brief guide to one of Marilyn’s earliest movies, Love Happy, was published; and Richard Havers, author of Marilyn: A Life in Words, Pictures and Music, passed away.

Disney Buys Fox From Murdoch

After months of speculation, the BBC has confirmed that 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets (including Marilyn’s many films for Twentieth) have  been bought by Disney for $52.4bn (£39 billion.) Previous owner Rupert Murdoch purchased Fox in 1985.