When ‘Rivals’ Meet: Marilyn and Jane in Semiahmoo, WA

When pin-up queens Marilyn and Jane Russell teamed up for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, reporters predicted a mighty feud – but they quickly struck up a close bond, onscreen and off, and many fans consider Jane the best co-star Marilyn ever had. As the Northern Light reports, at the Semiahmoo Resort near Blaine, Washington State on January 29 from 7-9 pm, Ron Miller, author of Conversations With Classic Film Stars, will consider their pairing in the second part of his free film series ‘When Rivals Meet’, alongside Fred Astaire vs Gene Kelly, Bette Davis vs Joan Crawford, and others.

Normani Brings ‘Diamonds’ to Harley Quinn

Rappers Megan Thee Stallion & Normani collaborate on ‘Diamonds’, taken from the soundtrack to Birds of Prey, the new Harley Quinn movie due out in February. We have already seen Margot Robbie recreate Marilyn’s signature number from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in the upcoming film’s trailer.

Normani goes one step further in her video, though, reworking lyrics from the original song, ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, with a hip-hop twist, and vamping it up in pink. As Brooke Marine reports for W, this is the first time the song has been sampled – and we even hear Marilyn cooing ‘Tiffany … Cartier …’ at the fade-out.

Natalie Trundy 1940-2019

Actress Natalie Trundy has died aged 79, the Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

The daughter of an insurance executive, Natalie made her Broadway debut at twelve years old, and modelled and acted on television as a teenager. She met the press agent Arthur P. Jacobs on the set of her first film in 1956, and went on to star with Dean Stockwell in The Restless Ones (1957.) She also appeared in episodes of TV’s Bonanza and The Asphalt Jungle, a series based on the 1950 movie.

After her first marriage was annulled, Natalie was cast in Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962), a family film produced at Twentieth Century Fox, starring James Stewart and Maureen O’Hara, with a script by Nunnally Johnson (How to Marry a Millionaire) and directed by Henry Koster (O. Henry’s Full House.) It is believed that she became engaged to Jacobs, who was eighteen years her senior, at around this time, although they would not marry until 1968.

On August 4th, 1962 – the eve of her 22nd birthday – Natalie was celebrating at a concert at the Hollywood Bowl with Jacobs, plus director Mervyn LeRoy and his wife. (At first it was thought to be a Henry Mancini concert, but it since emerged that pianists Ferrante & Steicher were performing there on that night.) According to Natalie, a messenger came to their box at around 10:30 pm, bringing news to Jacobs that his client of seven years, Marilyn Monroe, was either dead or dying at her home in Brentwood. Jacobs asked the LeRoys to drive Natalie home to her apartment on Canon Drive, just a few doors away from where Marilyn’s publicist, Pat Newcomb (then part of Jacobs’ company), lived.

Marilyn with Arthur P. Jacobs, 1955

Interviewed by author Anthony Summers, Natalie said she thought the call came from Newcomb. She later told another biographer, Donald Spoto, that she ‘had the distinct impression’ that the message was actually from Marilyn’s lawyer, Milton Rudin. ‘Arthur said it was horrendous,’ she recalled. ‘He never gave me any details, and I never asked him. He said only that it was too dreadful to discuss.’ She didn’t see him again for two days. Natalie’s account has been added to the many controversies surrounding Marilyn’s time of death.

Natalie and Arthur

In January 1963, Natalie appeared in an episode of The Twilight Zone. A few months later she was hit by a car and suffered a ruptured disc in her back, and would spend the next year recovering in a back brace. She went on to play roles in four of the Planet of the Apes movie series, which Jacobs produced. He died in 1973, and Natalie took over his production company and sold the franchise rights to Fox.

In 1974, she married Gucci executive Roberto Carmine Foggia, and they had two children, Alessandra and Francesco. Her last screen credit was a 1978 episode of Quincy, M.E. She would marry twice more, and spent years volunteering at Mother Theresa’s hospice in Calcutta, India.

Jack Garfein 1930-2019

Jakob Garfein was born into a Jewish family in the former Czechoslovakia in 1930. While he was still a boy, his entire extended family was killed in the Holocaust. After being detained in 11 concentration camps, he was liberated at Bergen-Belsen and in 1946, was one of the first five Holocaust survivors to arrive in the US.

Jack, as he was known, lived with an uncle in New York and studied acting at the Dramatic Workshop. He later joined the American Theatre Wing to study directing with Lee Strasberg. In 1955, he joined the Actors Studio where he met his future wife, actress Carroll Baker. (In 1956, Baker found stardom as Baby Doll, a role Marilyn had wanted. Bearing no ill will, Marilyn helped to promote the film.)

He directed two films: The Strange One (1957), and Something Wild (1961), starring Carroll Baker as a young rape victim held captive by the man who rescued her from suicide. The couple, who had two children, divorced in 1969. Garfein had two more children from his second marriage.

Garfein with his first wife, Carroll Baker (Photo by Peter Elinskas)

Garfein became director of the Actors’ Studio’s Los Angeles branch (which opened in 1966.) In 1978, he founded the Harold Clurman Theatre in New York. He also taught method acting for more than forty years, including at Le Studio Jack Garfein in Paris, and published several books about acting. In 2010 he appeared in The Journey Back, a documentary exploring his wartime experiences.

In August 2019, the 89-year-old Garfein married 42-year-old pianist Natalia Replovsky. The couple had been living together for four years. He died of complications of leukaemia on December 30, 2019.

Garfein shared his memories of Marilyn Monroe in a 2014 interview with film writer Kim Morgan (which you can view here), revealing that Marilyn had approached him at the Actors Studio after Lee Strasberg suggested he accompany her to buy new clothes. She asked Jack to take her hand, but fearing recognition, he declined. After they had stopped in a coffee shop and went unnoticed, he changed his mind.

While trying on clothes in a boutique, Marilyn teased Jack, constantly asking him to zip or button up the dresses. This made him very nervous, but he admitted to Morgan that Marilyn was not being ‘directly seductive’ but merely having fun, ‘a woman enjoying life.’ (She was not involved with Arthur Miller yet, Jack said.)

Marilyn at the East of Eden premiere, 1955

She then walked him home, and when he rather awkwardly said goodbye, she laughed and asked him to call her a taxi. She then kissed him lightly and left. She later asked him to escort her to the East of Eden premiere, but he was unable to do so. He subsequently met her numerous times, the last time being several years later, when she was dining at the La Scala restaurant in Beverly Hills with her publicist, Pat Newcomb.

Jack remarked that he was surprised to see her without a date on a Saturday night. ‘What do you want me to do, Jack?’ she replied. He encouraged her to go to Paris and escape the Hollywood whirl. ‘Would you leave your wife and go with me?’ she asked, and he said no.

She then recalled their trip to the boutique and something he said that day which had stayed with her. ‘Do you remember what it was?’ she asked him. He did not, but pretended he did. ‘You’re lying, Jack,’ she said. He was travelling back from Europe to the US some time later when he heard that Marilyn had died, and his first thought was to wonder again what he had said to her that day. Over the years, friends encouraged him to seek help from a hypnotist, but he never recalled it.

‘She loved the mystery between a man and a woman,’ he said of Marilyn over fifty years later, with fond amusement. Interestingly, Carroll Baker recounted another version of the final encounter with Marilyn – although she didn’t mention Jack being there. However, she did remember an earlier meeting at the Actors Studio, when all the men present (her husband included) swarmed around Marilyn.

Mitchum Goes West With Marilyn

The Western Films of Robert Mitchum, a new book by Gene Freese, focuses on the actor’s many roles as ‘Hollywood’s cowboy rebel’ from the 1940s-70s, including his collaboration with Marilyn.

River of No Return opposite iconic sex symbol Monroe is one of Mitchum’s most popular and enduring titles, not a classic by any means but an entertaining, entirely pleasant and colourful film to view. It was a 20th Century Fox loan-out, shot in CinemaScope and stereophonic sound in the heart of the Canadian Rockies … Otto Preminger was an odd choice to direct the picture. It was his sole Western.

Regarding his chemistry with Monroe, the film relies on their growing desire for one another as they begin to see the other in a different light. That wasn’t good enough for Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck, who requested that Preminger add a body massage and an aggressive kissing scene that appears out of character for the extremely laid-back Mitchum … Already out of his element on the film and on to another project, Preminger refused to film the scene. Director Jean Negulesco helmed the footage of physical contact between the two stars in the late fall of 1953 … ‘She actually bit me in our little wrestle scene,’ Mitchum said. ‘I didn’t mind it.’

Monroe was impressed by Mitchum and talked of their passionate embrace in the film’s pressbook: ‘This is a brand new experience for me. I have never had a romantic love scene with a rugged he-man. It’s quite enjoyable’ … Monroe was happy for the opportunity to wear shoes on the film due to Mitchum’s height. She usually had to go barefoot because of being paired with short male co-stars, but Mitchum towered above her throughout. She expounded on Mitchum in the pressbook, revealing, ‘He’s one of the most fascinating men I’ve ever met. He’s a man’s man, the outdoor he-man type, but he possesses a great inner strength … I had always heard he was one of the nicest guys in the business. It was wonderful to discover that the legend was not only true – but an understatement.’

Mitchum had known Marilyn Monroe back when she was a teenager named Norma Jeane Baker and married to his Lockheed pal Jim Dougherty … Fox no doubt wanted to play up the smouldering physical attraction between sex symbols Mitchum and Monroe, but for some of the filming Monroe’s baseball player boyfriend Joe DiMaggio was present. Mitchum maintained that he never found Monroe sexy despite her screen image. To him, she was a sad and confused soul.

If 20th Century-Fox was unable to play up a love affair between the two stars, they could emphasise the dangers of the location … At one point on the river, Monroe’s wading boots filled up with water and Mitchum had to rescue her from drowning, to the delight of the publicists. On another occasion, the stars were on a raft that became lodged on the rapids after a safety cable snapped. Stuntman Norman Bishop had to go out in a lifeboat and rescue the actors … but Monroe wouldn’t get on the boat unless the ill Mitchum did at the same time. Publicists again attributed the rescue to Mitchum. Finally, Monroe slipped on a stone in the riverbank and sprained an ankle. When she was outfitted with a leg cast, Mitchum started calling her Hopalong.

Back in Hollywood, the film’s action was redone in close-up with the principals in a studio water tank … Mitchum played up the CinemaScope danger for the press, saying, ‘… I’ve done things in this picture which would give some stuntmen the shivers. The amazing thing is how Marilyn and Tommy Rettig, who plays my son, have done them … I was so struck with admiration for my two companions. I almost forgot to be frightened for myself …’

Feeling that Monroe had a personality that was too fragile for Hollywood, Mitchum tried to look out for her in other ways. The greatest hurdle for Monroe to overcome on the film was a constant reliance on instruction and positive analysis from acting coach Natasha Lytess … As Preminger and the studio-approved Lytess were at great odds, Mitchum and assistant director Paul Helmick became go-betweens for Monroe and the director … Throughout the extended delays, [Mitchum] tended to drink, even wandering off for a beer with the locals at times …

‘She was very shy, very pleasant, very sweet,’ Mitchum said of Monroe in a 1980s WEDU TV interview. He continued: ‘But she was not too comfortable around people because I suppose her background had not prepared her for sort of easy sociality. She was convinced that she was not terribly pretty or sexy … At that time, I didn’t think she knew too many people who were very friendly to her. Growing up in that atmosphere of agents, directors and journalists, she seemed like a lost child … Her position in this atmosphere was like Alice in Wonderland. The whole thing was through the looking glass and she could not believe that anyone was very serious about her.'”

Ellen Burstyn Inspired by Marilyn

Ellen Burstyn is one of America’s most respected actresses. Now 87, she won Oscars for her work in The Last Picture Show and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and also enjoyed a distinguished stage career, winning the Sarah Siddons Award. She joined the Actors Studio in 1967, and is now a co-president. Ellen has long been an admirer of Marilyn, praising Carl Rollyson’s biography, A Life of the Actress, and appearing in documentaries like The Mortal Goddess and Love, Marilyn. As a new interview with Vulture‘s Matt Zoller Seitz reveals, Ellen still holds a torch for Marilyn today.

All around us are pictures commemorating her experiences as an actress, a mother, a grandmother, an arts administrator, a producer, and a performer. Burstyn’s face is instantly recognizable, and she has been one of our finest actors for decades, but despite her eventful life and career, she has managed to avoid the kind of notoriety that might have limited her freedom, talent, and generosity. Among the pictures in her apartment is a black-and-white close-up of Marilyn Monroe from the early 1960s [not shown]. ‘I didn’t know her, but I adored her,’ she explains. ‘And she was so troubled and vulnerable because she had what I call scary fame, the kind that jumps out like this,’ she says, snarling like a predator and clawing at the air. ‘I never had that kind of fame.'”

Marilyn and Ella on French TV

Marilyn’s friendship with Ella Fitzgerald is featured tomorrow on the France 2 channel’s 8:30 p.m. Saturday, a magazine show presented by Laurent Delahousse. The story of Marilyn helping Ella to secure a nightclub engagement in Hollywood (as recalled by the great jazz singer after Marilyn’s death) has already been depicted in a stage play, a children’s book and even an episode of Drunk History. But although the respect and affection between them was genuine, a recent article by Dan Evon for Snopes suggests the facts are more complicated than they appear.

“This is a genuine photograph of Monroe and Fitzgerald. It’s also true that Monroe urged Mocambo’s owner Charlie Morrison to book Fitzgerald in 1955 … In sum, Fitzgerald was the not the first black singer to perform at the Mocambo. However, her performance at the West Hollywood hot spot would prove to be a breaking point in numerous ways.”

Anne Bancroft’s Shining Moment With Marilyn

Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) gave Marilyn her first dramatic lead role, and also marked the debut of future Oscar-winner Anne Bancroft. “It was a remarkable experience,” she said of working with Marilyn in the film’s powerful final scene. “Because it was one of those very few times in all my experiences in Hollywood when I felt that give and take that can only happen when you are working with good actors. There was just this scene of one woman seeing another woman who was helpless and in pain, and [Marilyn] was helpless and in pain. It was so real, I responded. I really reacted to her. She moved me so that tears came into my eyes.”

Anne, who died in 2005, is given a long-overdue retrospective in a new Region1/A Blu-Ray set from Shout Factory, with the approval of her husband Mel Brooks. “Not only was she truly gifted but she was smart in every way,” he tells the Chicago Sun-Times. “And these films are GREAT!”

Released today, The Anne Bancroft Collection includes Don’t Bother to Knock, The Miracle Worker, The Pumpkin Eater, The Graduate, Fatso, To Be Or Not To Be, Agnes of God, and 84 Charing Cross Road, plus bonus features and a 20-page booklet.

Incidentally, Don’t Bother to Knock – presented in 1080p High Definition (1.37:1) / DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, and accompanied by the original trailer plus isolated music score – was previously released as a stand-alone, limited edition Blu-Ray by Twilight Time Video in 2018.

Sashaying Down the Aisle With Sugar

Dublin actress turned novelist Deirdre Purcell reveals why Some Like It Hot is her favourite movie in an interview with the Irish Independent today.

“With its peerless performances, not least by Jack Lemmon, it never fails to entertain and for me, now, represents a wonderful lesson in how to script a movie. It was from this I learned that the classic turning point of almost any movie comes 28 minutes in. In this one, it occurs when the two lads, Lemmon and Tony Curtis, clap eyes on Marilyn Monroe sashaying down the railway platform. The destination of the movie is now set. I hired a print of it and showed it at the Strand Cinema in Fairview to entertain our wedding guests. Of course we went there in CIE’s wedding bus.”