Orry, a tribute to the Australian-born costume designer Orry-Kelly (who won an Oscar for Some Like It Hot), written and performed by Paul Hardcastle, is playing at the Lee Strasberg Theatre in Los Angeles until November 11.
“You’re invited to the funeral of three-time Oscar winner and Hollywood legend, costume designer Orry-Kelly. Don’t expect a little thing like death to stop the whip tongue and quick wit of the unapologetically gay Australian rascal who dressed and heard the secrets of stars like Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Merle Oberon, Ingrid Bergman and Mae West – just to name a few. Fearless, funny and outspoken, Orry-Kelly lived life to the fullest, from his childhood in Kiama, to reveling in Sydney’s underworld nightlife, to chasing his dreams of acting in New York, to Hollywood. Based on his memoir Women I’ve Undressed – found in a pillowcase in suburban Sydney nearly 51 years after his death – Orry incorporates music, dance, vaudeville routines, puppetry, digital art, special effects and a taste of those incredible gowns to share his irresistible story. Anyone who loves classic movies, fashion, gossip and Cary Grant will love Orry.”
Yet another Kardashian sister made her love for Marilyn public this week, as Kylie Jenner recreated her ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ look for Halloween. (Of course, unlike most of us when we party in fancy dress, Kylie had a stylist on call, as Elle reports.)
Looking onward to Christmas, singer Mariah Carey – arguably the doyenne of celebrity Monroe fans, and the owner of Norma Jeane’s white grand piano since the Christie’s sale of 1999 – has put her own sartorial stamp on another Travilla creation from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, wearing a red gown similar to Marilyn’s in the opening song, ‘Two Little Girls From Little Rock’, in a festive ad for Walker’s Crisps.
Incidentally, Marilyn’s original ‘Little Rock’ costume sold for $250,000 at Julien’s Auctions yesterday …
Among those who attended the opening night of the Marilyn exhibit at Blancpain in Manhattan this week was Australian actress Naomi Watts, who shot to fame as a fragile Hollywood starlet in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001), and was the initial favourite to play Marilyn in filmmaker Andrew Dominik’s long-mooted adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde. After nearly a decade’s gestation, the film went into production this year with Ana de Armas in the lead role. Nonetheless, Naomi’s love for Marilyn is still strong, as she told Fashion Week Daily after arriving at Blancpain yesterday.
“Why did you want to be a part of tonight?
A New York night. Like any actress, I’m fascinated by Marilyn’s story.
What are your first memories of her?
I think she was there before I saw her films because she was everywhere. I was probably too young to know the films. She was just a glamour symbol. Then as I got to see her on film and then become an actor and get inside of her story. It was a wonderful discovery. Some of her work in the later part of her life was particularly extraordinary. Knowing what she had gone through as well. She was one of a kind.
Did you ever have any desire to play her in a biopic?
There was a moment where I nearly did quite a while ago. I’m too old now. I’m aged out. Yes, it was something I considered and I was talking to a filmmaker for a period of time. It was a dark piece.
Do you have a favorite Marilyn Monroe movie?
The Misfits. I love the rawness of that. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is another. The Seven Year Itch! There are so many!”
Robert Evans, who has died aged 89, is best-known as the producer who saved Paramount Studios from ruin in the 1960s and ’70s with a string of hits, including The Odd Couple, Rosemary’s Baby, True Grit, Love Story, The Godfather, The Great Gatsby, and Chinatown. His fortunes changed for the worse in 1980 when he was convicted of drug trafficking, and the spiralling budget of The Cotton Club (1983) accelerated the downturn in his career, although he continued producing films sporadically for another twenty years.
Born Robert J. Shapera in 1930, Robert grew up on New York’s Upper West Side and began his career promoting his brother’s fashion company, Evan-Picone, and doing voice work on radio. In 1956, actress Norma Shearer spotted Bob by the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and suggested him for the role of her deceased husband, legendary Hollywood producer Irving Thalberg, in Man Of a Thousand Faces, a Lon Chaney biopic starring James Cagney.
It was not his first movie role – he had already played a minor part in Jean Negulesco’s Lydia Bailey (1952), and an uncredited bit part in The Egyptian (1954), both at Twentieth Century Fox. (The studio’s top female star, Marilyn Monroe, had been tipped for the role of Nefer in this expensive biblical epic, until head of production Darryl F. Zanuck cast his girlfriend Bella Darvi instead.)
After shooting Man Of A Thousand Faces at Universal, Evans returned to Fox at Zanuck’s behest, to play bullfighter Pedro Romero in a star-studded adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises. He was second-billed in The Fiend Who Walked the West (1958), and worked again with director Negulesco on what would be Evans’ final acting role for many years, as Dexter Key in The Best of Everything (1959), starring Hope Lange and Joan Crawford.
In his best-selling 1994 memoir, The Kid Stays in the Picture, Evans described how missing out on the chance to co-star with Marilyn in Let’s Make Love (1960) put paid to his hopes of stardom, and ultimately changed the course of his life. (He was first suggested for the role of Tony Danton by producer Jerry Wald, before losing out to the British singer Frankie Vaughan.)
“From the moment we met, Jerry Wald and I became fast friends. Jerry was by far the most entrepreneurial producer in Hollywood. No one had a greater flair with both industry and press. Best of all, he even respected me as an actor and wasn’t shy in telling anyone. From the Saturday Evening Post to Photoplay, to television, radio and print, the industry was well aware that I was Jerry Wald’s pick as ‘the romantic rage’ of the sixties.
It didn’t happen. As a bullfighter, the head of a studio, or a crazy killer, at the very least, I was believable. Playing myself, I was a dud. Why? I was a better imitator than actor.
Jerry Wald felt different. Maybe because he had already gone out on a limb announcing me for the second male lead in The Billionaire, opposite Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand. Who was I to argue?
The title is not the only thing that got changed. Now called Let’s Make Love, principal photography kept getting pushed back and back. Monroe was being her usual indecisive self. Meanwhile, Jerry Wald offered me a co-starring part in Return to Peyton Place. What could be worse than being in a sequel to a piece of shit? Playing the same part I had just finished, that’s what. Only this time it was ‘Dexter Key Goes to New England.’
‘No thanks,’ I said.
‘Fine,’ said Lou Schreiber, who ran business affairs at Twentieth. ‘You’re on suspension.’
Dumb move, Evans. Being on suspension, Twentieth cast someone else in the Monroe film.”
“A page likely removed from a magazine and then glued to a piece of black construction paper, depicting MM posing by the ocean, signed in blue fountain pen ink on the left side ‘To Linda, / Love and Kisses, / Marilyn Monroe’ — Linda being child actress Linda Bennett who had the star sign a number of items for her.”
SOLD for $4,480
“A vintage fan magazine, and (sold separately) a three-page handwritten letter from a fan by the name of Irene Nagy, in which Nagy offers advice to Marilyn Monroe on how to become a serious actress. The letter, dated November 18, 1952, reads in part, ‘If you’re going to be a dramatic actress and hope to be one, you certainly can’t expect to wear frilly thin nighties or low cut gowns all the time.’ While criticism is offered based on the clothing Monroe wears, the fan also offers encouragement and support: ‘I like you also as a person. I love to see you with your blonde short curly hair-do, you’re very pretty, you’ve got pretty eyes and when you laugh whole-heartedly you sound like lots of fun.’ Overall, a very interesting look into the type of mail Monroe received from fans. The original envelope is also included.”
Pin-Ups magazine SOLD for $1,920; fan letter SOLD for $125
“A framed photo of Marilyn visiting Brady Airbase, Japan; and sold separately, a three-page handwritten letter from the mother of a United States soldier stationed in Korea who had recently seen Marilyn Monroe perform for the troops there as part of a USO tour. The February 25, 1954, letter reads, ‘This morning I received a letter from my son in Korea. I think you should know what he says about your appearance there. I save all of his letters, or I would enclose it. This is what he wrote. Two days ago, Marilyn Monroe played before 12,000 men of this division. It was a sunny, cold day but true to the standards that have been set for her, she appeared in a low cut, sheathe dress of purple glittery sort of material. She is certainly beautiful!!! When she appeared on the stage, there was just a sort of gasp from the audience – a single gasp multiplied by the 12,000 soldiers present, what quite a gasp. The broadcasting system was extremely poor, and had I not seen the movie from which the songs were taken, I’m not too sure I would have known what she was singing. However, it didn’t matter. Had she only walked out on the stage and smiled, it would have been enough. I might add, that she is certainly making a lot of friends here. Everyone realizes that there is no reason she is here except to entertain. She doesn’t need the publicity, and she is not being paid. Too, unlike lesser entertainers, after the show she autographed, chatted, and posed for pictures. Then thru all the trucks and jeeps she rode perched on top of the seat of her jeep, smiling and waving. All in all I think it was pretty wonderful that she came to Korea at all, and doubly so that she came to the divisions that have been so long on the line, and by-passed the easy duty in Seoul, Inchon and the southern cities. You are a real soldier. I know what that trip cost you. But you didn’t disappoint those boys. In our hearts we thank you for your wonderful generosity and kindness to our son. Your friends, Mr. and Mrs. N. T. Rupe, 6315 So Yakima, Tacoma, Wash.'”
Photos SOLD for $896; letter SOLD for $448.
A group of 4 candid photos, showing Marilyn on top of a military tank with soldiers surrounding her during her 1954 tour of Korea for American troops.
SOLD for $448
A group of six colour slides and corresponding photographs of Marilyn Monroe in Korea. Copyrights to these images will be transferred to the winning bidder.
SOLD for $1,562.50
A framed photo of Marilyn; and, sold separately, a two-page document on plain white paper, no date but circa 1955, penned in blue ballpoint ink, ‘To the Men of the Thule Air Base / Greenland,’ apologizing to them for not being able to visit, signed on the second page ‘I love you all / Happy New Year / Marilyn Monroe.'”
Photo SOLD for $1, 024; letter SOLD for $7,500
“A negative image of Marilyn Monroe taken while the actress signed an autograph book for a fan in New York City circa 1955. Together with a black and white photograph printed from the negative, believed to have been previously unpublished.”
SOLD for $576
“A typed letter from Shirley Potash Clurman from TIME Incorporated regarding Marilyn Monroe’s appearance at ‘the official kickoff for the opening of the Sidewalk Superintendents Club for the construction of the new Time-Life Building.’ The June 20, 1957, letter reads in part, ‘Marilyn Monroe, naturally, was the unanimous favorite of Time-Life staffers to officially get our new building rolling by setting off a facsimile fire-cracker.’ The letter continues, ‘As I told you, our company plane would be delighted to pick up Miss Monroe wherever she is out of town and deliver her home again.’ Monroe did appear at this event on July 2, 1957, and she did light the aforementioned firecracker.”
SOLD for $256
“A handwritten letter from actress Julie Harris. The December 2, 1957, letter reads, ‘Dear Miss Monroe, Through the kindness of Joe Wolhandler we sent you, Manning Gurian and I, Julie Harris, a play, The Warm Peninsula. Well, it’s as simple as that! We hoped you would love it and would want to play the part of June de Lynn. If you are at all interested and would like to talk to us about it we would be overjoyed. We asked you – with a faint hope in our hearts – knowing how busy you are – but if you are at all interested please let us know. With all good wishes, Julie Harris.’ A carbon copy of the letter sent in response, dated December 4, 1957, reads, ‘After receiving your note I called my agent, Mort Viner, At MCA. Unfortunately, through some mix-up at their office the script had never been delivered to me. However, I now have it, and I’m reading it. I’m a slow reader, but I’ll let you know as soon as I finish. Please accept my apologies for such a delay.’ The letter’s signature line reads ‘Warm Regards.'”
SOLD for $384
“An undated typed letter on ‘Who’s Who of American Women‘ letterhead referencing Marilyn Monroe’s listing in the 1958 publication. The letter reads in part, ‘Active compilation of the First Edition of the newest Marquis reference work, WHO’S WHO OF AMERICAN WOMEN, is now under way’ and ‘I enclose – for what additions you wish to make – the sketch of you just prepared for the new “Who’s Who in America,” in which you are of course also being listed.’ A carbon copy of a letter from Monroe’s secretary, dated December 4, 1957, reads in part, ‘Enclosed herewith is the sketch of Marilyn Monroe to be inserted in the next edition of Who’s Who in America. Please make the following corrections: The name in parenthesis should be Norma Jean Mortenson. The name of her first husband is Jim Daugherty [sic], her second Joe DiMaggio, from both of whom she was divorced. She is now married to Arthur Miller. The title The Sleeping Prince should be eliminated inasmuch as that is the name of a stage play in which Miss Monroe did not appear.’ Also included is a pre-publication order form for Who’s Who of American Women.”
SOLD for $256
“A six page document, dated ‘Feb. 7, 1958,’ outlining an agreement the star had with MCA Artists, Ltd. for that organization to act as her agent for television work, signed in blue fountain pen ink on the last page ‘Marilyn Monroe.'”
SOLD for $3,750
“A one-page letter to Marilyn Monroe from Private First Class Don L. Miller of the United States Army. The May 16, 1958, letter reads in part, ‘On 24 April at three p.m. I called at your New York apartment, hoping you could spare five minutes then or could possibly arrange an appointment for the following day. It took two weeks of my leave before I was able to find out your New York address, which left but two days before I had to return to active duty here in Texas. Please forgive the delay, which I surely caused in your appointment with Mrs. [Hedda] Hopper. After following your screen career closely since its birth as the chorus girl-daughter of Adele Jergens many years ago [in Ladies of the Chorus, 1948] it has been somewhat of a project of mine to meet you. It was disappointing to be close enough to hear your voice yet still have the first encounter to anticipate.'”
SOLD for $192
“A group of four letters related to possible acting roles for Marilyn Monroe. One letter, dated May 26, 1958, is from Jerry Webb, former test director at Twentieth Century-Fox. Webb proposes to Monroe a project titled Papa Married a Mormon and suggests that Monroe play the role of ‘Tena.’ Another letter, dated February 24, 1959, is from George Cayley, who sent Monroe a script for The First Chewinks and suggested it would start on Broadway that spring. The third letter, dated March 11, 1957, is from Tony Award winning Broadway producer Edward Padula, who suggests that Monroe consider Lie Down in Darkness, the novel by William Styron, ‘both for its theatrical and motion picture possibilities.’ The fourth letter, dated August 12, 1958, is from Julian Olney asking if Monroe would be interested in playing Nell Gwynn in a new stage production of In Good King Charles’ Golden Days by George Bernard Shaw. “
SOLD for $384
A signed George Barris photo; and, sold separately, a handwritten letter to Marilyn Monroe from a fan by the name of William Perez. The heartfelt letter reads, ‘I would appreciate it so very much if you would kindly autograph this picture I had the pleasure of taking a few years back when you were filming Seven Year Itch in New York [not included here]. If you’ll address it to Bill, and leave it in your lobby I will pick it up in a few days. I work right around the corner and have spent so many lunch hours and coffee breaks in front of your building hoping to see you that I’ve become a laughing stock in my office. I don’t mind it, because you’ve given me so many hours of pleasure in your movies. Your [sic] my favorite star, and I hope you’ll continue to make more and more movies.’ This February 10, 1959, letter is signed ‘Thank you so much for your patience and understanding. Sincerely, William Perez.'”
Photo SOLD for $1,250; letter SOLD for $192
“An October 11, 1961, memo to Marilyn Monroe’s attorney Aaron Frosch from Howard O. LeShaw regarding balance sheets for Monroe and for Marilyn Monroe Productions. The statements clarify Monroe’s cash on hand, together with receivables and liabilities. As of October 10, 1961, Monroe’s net worth, according to these statements, was $716,791.74, an astonishing amount of money for the time. Also included is a one-page Schedule L balance sheet for ‘Year Ended November 30, 1960.’ Five pages total.”
SOLD for $768
“A two-page handwritten letter dated May 29, 1962, from Blanche Neubardt, Arthur Miller’s aunt. The letter reads in part, ‘Happy birthday to you! We wish you many, many more happy birthdays. We saw Dad Sunday and of course you were the topic of conversation. Dad told us you were having a birthday.’ ‘Dad’ in this case is Isidore Miller, Arthur Miller’s father. Marilyn often referred to him as ‘Dad,’ and he even signed his letters to her that way. Sadly, this would be Monroe’s final birthday as she would pass away in the coming August. The letter continues, ‘We want to thank you for the perfectly wonderful time we had at the President’s birthday. And you made all this possible. It is something we shall never forget, and we are thrilled that you thought of us. We loved your performance, it was delightful, and I’m sure the President never had anyone sweeter sing Happy Birthday to him. Your gown was magnificent. You looked like a dream walking.’ The letter is signed, ‘Keep well and stay as sweet as you are. Love, Blanche and Sam.’ Records from Monroe’s archives show that she purchased five tickets to the JFK birthday gala held on May 19, 1962. It is documented that Monroe’s date was her former father-in-law, Isidore Miller. Publicist Pat Newcomb also accompanied Monroe to the event. However, it has never been known for whom the other two tickets were purchased. This letter indicates that Monroe likely bought them for Samuel and Blanche Neubardt, who lived at 550 East 21st Street in Brooklyn. Photos of the July 1 Monroe/Miller wedding published in the July 16, 1956, issue of LIFE magazine show that Blanche was present for the nuptials. The original envelope, addressed to Monroe at her Fifth Helena Drive home in Brentwood, California, is included.”
The singer and actor Mandy Patinkin, perhaps best-known for his role as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, describes his first, and rather frightening encounter with the world of celebrity in The Guardian today.
“When I was four, we were at Midway airport in Chicago, and there was a large crowd of people surrounding a lady – everyone was screaming at her, lights were flashing. It was scary. I later learned she was Marilyn Monroe.”
Marilyn flew into Chicago Midway at least twice: in 1955, en route to Bement, Illinois, to celebrate Abraham Lincoln; and again in 1959, while promoting Some Like It Hot. And on both occasions, she drew a crowd, As Mandy was born in 1952, the former incident seems most likely to be the time he saw her. (Marilyn also visited Chicago in 1949, but that was before his time!)
“Actually, Chicago was just a layover for Monroe. Her final destination would be the little town of Bement, Illinois, not far from Champaign and famous for being the site of one of the seven Lincoln-Douglas debates. The tiny town of Bement was having an art exhibition to celebrate its one-hundred-year anniversary, and a member of the National Arts Foundation had approached Monroe asking her to make an appearance at the exhibit. To the surprise of just about everyone there, she readily agreed, and with her hairdresser and personal photographer in tow, they had left that morning from New York.
Meanwhile, back at Chicago Midway Airport, after he was given just twenty minutes’ notice of her arrival, Mike Rotunno wrote, ‘As I rushed down the corridor, people would ask me, “Who’s coming in?” I yelled back, “Marilyn Monroe!” By the time I got to the gate a huge crowd had gathered … There was a slight drizzle as the [airplane] door opened and here was Marilyn with the umbrella in front of her. I shouted, “Marilyn, pull the umbrella back of you [sic] and let us see you.” She cheerfully obliged, and gave me several different poses.’
Since she had a two-hour layover before boarding a plane to fly to Champaign, the photographers suggested that Monroe go upstairs to the Cloud Room … According to Jim O’Hara, whose father was a beat cop at the airport, Rotunno got a good shot of Monroe’s posterior as she sashayed up the stairs – the picture was pinned outside the Metro News office later that week and no doubt sold briskly.
Once upstairs in the air-conditioned elegance of the Cloud Room, Marilyn was immediately recognised by a gaggle of sailors dining there. According to Rotunno, they started ‘yelling, whistling and screaming. They came to our table and got her autograph.’ Marilyn talked with the excited sailors, obliging them with her attention. Rotunno remembered that the assembled photographers ‘decided to make her a member of the famous “Pastafazula Club”, whose members are Italian news photographers or descendants. The scroll which was presented to Marilyn contained honorary members of the White House and of the movie industry.’ There is a photo of Rotunno standing to Marilyn’s right, camera in hand, as she signs the scroll, while the Chicago Tribune photographer Dan Tortorell stands to her left. Marilyn laughs while signing this document, as important as the Magna Carta to the photographers. Rotunno wrote that ‘Marilyn got a big kick out of the initiation and we sent her a copy. Marilyn was very photogenic and showed it.’
After waving to the photographers at Midway and flying on to her appointment downstate in Bement, Monroe’s flight out of Champaign was grounded due to bad weather. In order to catch their eleven o’clock flight out of Chicago, the governor’s office gave permission for Marilyn Monroe’s car to be escorted by two Illinois motorcycle troopers, wailing at top speed, all the way back to the airport at Chicago. At Midway, the governor’s men even held the plane for ten minutes so that Marilyn Monroe could board her flight back to LaGuardia.”
Of all the performers influenced by Marilyn’s style, few have paid homage with as much panache as Blondie singer Debbie Harry – albeit with a punk rock edge all her own. In the first of two extracts from her new memoir, Face It, Debbie looks back to her childhood days with her adoptive New Jersey family, when Marilyn was her idol. (UPDATE: you can read my second post here.)
“By the time I was fourteen, I was dyeing my hair. I wanted to be platinum blond. On our old black-and-white television and at the theater where they screened Technicolor movies, there was something about platinum hair that was so luminescent and exciting. In my time, Marilyn Monroe was the biggest platinum blonde on the silver screen. She was so charismatic and the aura she cast was enormous. I identified with her strongly in ways I couldn’t articulate. As I grew up, the more I stood out physically in my family, the more people that I felt I related to in some physical way. With Marilyn, I sensed a vulnerability and a particular kind of femaleness that I felt we shared. Marilyn struck me as someone who needed so much love. That was long before I discovered that Marilyn had been a foster child.”
Later on, Debbie describes how she incorporated her fascination with Marilyn’s image into her own stage performances with Blondie.
“Iggy Pop apparently described me once as ‘Barbarella on speed’ … Our band shared its name with a cartoon character, after all. And I was playing at being a cartoon fantasy onstage. But the mother of that character was really Marilyn Monroe. From the first time I set eyes on Marilyn, I thought she was just wonderful. On the silver screen, her lovely skin and platinum hair were luminescent and fantastic. I loved the fantasy of it. In the fifties, when I grew up, Marilyn was an enormous star, but there was such a double standard. The fact that she was such a hot number meant that many middle-class women looked down on her as a slut. And since the publicity machine behind her sold her as a sex idol, she wasn’t valued as a comedic actor or given credit for her talent. I never felt that way about her, obviously. I felt that Marilyn was also playing a character, the proverbial dumb blonde with the little-girl voice and the big-girl body, and that there was a lot of smarts behind that act. My character in Blondie was partly a visual homage to Marilyn, and partly a statement about the good old double standard.
The ‘Blondie’ character I created was sort of androgynous. More and more lately, I’ve been thinking that I was probably portraying some sort of transsexual creature … A lot of my drag queen friends have said to me, ‘Oh, you were definitely a drag queen.’ They didn’t have problems seeing it. It was the same thing with Marilyn really. She was a woman playing a man’s idea of a woman … My Blondie character was an inflatable doll but with a dark, provocative, aggressive side. I was playing it up but I was very serious.”
The Brothers Mankiewicz, a dual biography of screenwriters Joseph and Herman Mankiewicz, has just been published. Herman, the elder brother, boasted credits for Dinner at Eight, The Wizard of Oz, and Citizen Kane; while Joe, eleven years his junior, also worked as a producer and director, and gave a little-known actress a big break.
In 1950, Marilyn won a minor role in All About Eve. As an ambitious starlet, notes author Sydney Ladensohn Stern, she had “unusually good lines,” and given her subsequent rise, the performance has “unintended retrospective importance.” Stern then claims that she was hired “mostly as a favour to her mentor/lover, William Morris agent Johnny Hyde.” While Hyde’s influence may have helped, Joe Mankiewicz would later say he had chosen Marilyn after seeing her in The Asphalt Jungle, noting that she had “a sort of glued-on innocence” which made her ideal for the part.
Stern also claims that the story about Marilyn and Joe Mankiewicz discussing Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, which she had picked up in a bookstore, is unreliable because she had actually been given the book by her acting coach, Natasha Lytess. But however Marilyn may have acquired the book (and she already had a charge account at a Los Angeles bookstore), both her telling of the story, and Joe’s, emphasise her understanding of its themes. Her personal copy was auctioned by Christie’s in 1999.
In 1954, Marilyn contacted Mankiewicz expressing her wish to play nightclub singer Miss Adelaide, the long-suffering fiancee of Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra), in his upcoming musical, Guys and Dolls. Producer Sam Goldwyn also wanted Marilyn to star, but the role went to stage actress Vivian Blaine. According to Stern, Mankiewicz joked that “he couldn’t imagine [Marilyn] waiting fourteen years for a guy.” (You can read more about Guys and Dollshere.)
However, Monroe biographer Barbara Leaming believed the rejection was rather more personal, while Mankiewicz would later make disparaging remarks about her to another author, Sandra Shevey. He dismissed outright the notion that Marilyn was a victim of Hollywood, although he was no stranger to industry disputes and volatile stars.
In 1961 Mankiewicz became mired in Fox’s notoriously fraught production of Cleopatra, which took him two more years to complete, and almost bankrupted the studio. In fact, the Cleopatra debacle is thought to have indirectly caused Marilyn to be fired from her final movie, Something’s Got to Give. (During his brief, inglorious tenure as studio boss, Peter Levathes also sacked Elizabeth Taylor from Cleopatra. She was swiftly re-hired, but Marilyn would pass away before negotiations for her own reinstatement were realised.)
While The Brothers Mankiewicz contains little new information about Marilyn, it’s a valuable resource about two men who shaped Hollywood’s golden age. In her 1954 memoir, My Story, Marilyn praised Joe as “a sensitive and intelligent director”, and in 2010 she was featured on the cover of a French tome, Joseph L. Mankiewicz and His Double.
Founded in 1969, Andy Warhol’s Interview was the magazine to be seen in for nearly forty years. Although it ceased publication last year, Interview still has an online presence and earlier this week, a snippet from the past was discovered.
“As a notable admirer of Marilyn Monroe’s, Andy Warhol was sure to get some of the juiciest gossip in his celebrity circle. While he was still Editor-in-Chief of Interview, alongside Paul Morissey and Fred Hughes, he buried a drama bomb of information in the ‘Small Talk’ section of the June 1973 issue involving Marlene Dietrich and M.M herself. However, not one of the contributing editors took credit for the gossip; they instead chose to keep the source anonymous … According to the ‘Small Talk’ column, Dietrich attended a screening of one of Monroe’s earlier films and talked through every one of her scenes, mumbling: ‘So this is what they want now. This is what they call sexy.'”
Eve Arnold, who photographed Marlene at work in a recording studio for Esquire magazine in 1952, recalled that when she later met Marilyn, the subject of Dietrich came up: “Marilyn asked – with that mixture of naïveté and self-promotion that was uniquely hers – ‘If you could do that well with Marlene, can you imagine what you could do with me?'”
Another photographer who worked with Dietrich was Milton Greene, who later became Marilyn’s business partner. In 1955, he invited Marlene to a New York press conference to announce the formation of their new company, Marilyn Monroe Productions.
Like all stars (Marilyn included), Dietrich was naturally competitive. But although she may have briefly ‘thrown shade’ in Marilyn’s direction – to use a term that didn’t exist back then – there’s no sign of any rancour between them in these photographs.
In 1957, Marilyn was offered the lead role in a remake of The Blue Angel, which had made Marlene a global star many years before. That never came to pass, but a year later, Marilyn would recreate the character in her ‘Fabled Enchantresses’ photo session with Richard Avedon, although out of respect for Dietrich, she later asked the photographer to withdraw the images and they were not made public until long after Marilyn died.
Marilyn would take a leaf out of Marlene’s playbook again in 1962, asking costumer Jean Louis to recreate the beaded ‘nude’ dress he had made for Dietrich to wear during nightclub performances. Monroe’s version became immortalised that May, when she sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden.
Whatever Marlene’s initial thoughts on Marilyn may have been, she would remember her admiringly, writing in her 1987 memoir: “Marilyn Monroe was an authentic sex symbol, because not only was she ‘sexy’ by nature but she also liked being one – and she showed it.”
A special edition of Yours Retro magazine, 100 Greatest Movie Icons, is now available in the UK – and Marilyn tops the list! Her Monkey Business co-star Cary Grant takes second place, with Bette Davis (All About Eve) coming 7th, Sir Laurence Olivier (The Prince and the Showgirl) 18th, Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot) 19th, and Clark Gable (The Misfits) 20th. Ginger Rogers (also in Monkey Business) is at #29, Jack Lemmon (also in Some Like It Hot) at #32, Lauren Bacall (How to Marry a Millionaire) at #36, Robert Mitchum (River Of No Return) at #46, Donald O’Connor (There’s No Business Like Show Business) at #58, and Mickey Rooney (The Fireball) is 60th. Bringing up the rear are Montgomery Clift (also in The Misfits) at #73, Claudette Colbert (Let’s Make It Legal) at #87, and last but not least, the great Barbara Stanwyck (Clash By Night) is ranked 90th.
Of all Marilyn’s illustrious co-stars, her good friends Jane Russell (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and Betty Grable (How to Marry a Millionaire) are perhaps the most notable omissions. Marilyn’s 3-page spread is only slightly marred by a couple of misattributed quotes (can you spot them?) Overall, though, it’s a great read for lovers of classic film. Interestingly, The Prince and the Showgirl – which features one of Marilyn’s best performances, but is often neglected – is named here among her top 5 movie highlights. Yours Retro: 100 Greatest Movie Icons is available now from UK newsagents, or to order online from Great Magazines.