Remembering Lurene Tuttle in Indiana

Publicity shot for ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’

Actress Lurene Tuttle, who appeared in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) and Niagara (1953), will be the subject of a presentation by Elten Powers of the Steuben County Genealogical Society at the Carnegie Public Library in Angola, Indiana on Monday, September 17 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm, KPC News reports.

Born into a family with theatrical connections in nearby Pleasant Lake in 1907, Lurene Tuttle became a radio actress in the 1930s, and made her movie debut in 1947. In Don’t Bother to Knock, Lurene plays Ruth Jones, who is staying in a  hotel with her husband during a business conference, when the elevator operator suggests they hire his niece, Nell Forbes (played by Marilyn) to babysit their young daughter.

It soon becomes clear that Nell is a troubled young woman, and after Ruth leaves her alone with the little girl, Nell puts on Ruth’s negligee, jewellery and perfume. Towards the end of the film, Ruth returns to find her daughter bound and gagged in the bedroom, and a struggle ensues in which Ruth ultimately overpowers Nell.

This brief scene was recreated in a rather lurid series of publicity photos featuring Lurene and Marilyn. They did not appear together in Niagara, in which Lurene plays Mrs Kettering, the cheerful, long-suffering wife of honeymooning ad-man Ray Cutler’s loquacious boss. Her character mirrors that of Polly Cutler (played by Jean Peters.)

Elisabeth Moss Inspired by Marilyn

Actress Elisabeth Moss – whose performances in Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale won widespread acclaim – has told IndieWire that Marilyn was among the troubled stars who influenced her latest role as a self-destructive rock singer in Her Smell, which just premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and is currently seeking a US distributor.

“I watched any music documentary I could get my hands on, honestly. All the usual suspects, ‘Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck,’ which I’d already seen but now I’ve seen a million times, ‘Amy,’ the Amy Winehouse documentary. And also things on Marilyn Monroe, like that kind of thing, just to get a grasp of that fame and that addiction. Anything I could find about somebody who was incredibly famous or successful, but also dealing with addiction, was very helpful.”

Marilyn, Jayne Mansfield and a Hollywood Taboo

Bathing Blondes: Marilyn in 1962 (left), and Jayne Mansfield in 1963 (right)

In 1962, Marilyn was set to become the first American actress to appear nude in a mainstream movie since Pre-Code days – but following her untimely death, that honour went to another blonde star, Jayne Mansfield, in a film released just a year later, produced independently with Tommy Noonan (who had played Marilyn’s love interest a decade earlier in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.) And as with Marilyn’s shelved nude scene, Jayne’s big moment would make the cover of Playboy.

Although Jayne would reveal more than Marilyn did, both scenes showed the stars bathing (Marilyn in a pool, Jayne in a tub), and discovered by a shy, bespectacled man (Phil Silvers and Noonan respectively.) Kristin Hunt reports on the story behind a Hollywood watershed for Vulture – and if you’d like to learn more about Jayne, read Puffblicity, an illustrated biography by April VeVea, author of MM: A Day in the Life.

Marilyn in ‘The Misfits’ (left) and ‘Something’s Got to Give’ (right)

“Monroe filmed two nude scenes — one for 1961’s The Misfits and one for 1962’s Something’s Got to Give — but neither made it into theaters in one piece. The first scene was cut and the second was a mere fragment of an unfinished movie … The Something’s Got to  Give scene was a little more intentional. Monroe’s character Ellen is supposed to swim nude, as a means to entice her estranged husband Nick from his hotel room. The footage of Monroe skinny-dipping in a pool is now available in multiple YouTube clips, but the movie never screened for era audiences, since Monroe was fired and then died before filming wrapped.

Either scene would’ve made Monroe the first American star to go nude in a Hollywood movie in decades. But in Monroe’s absence, it was Jayne Mansfield who shattered the long-standing tradition. Like Monroe, Mansfield was a buxom blonde with a complicated reputation — but unlike Monroe, she craved the industry’s constant spotlight, and frequently used her body to get it.

While onscreen nudity certainly existed before 1962, it had been outlawed in the U.S. for decades under the Production Code … It was against that backdrop that Mansfield made her topless debut in the 1963 swingers cruise-ship comedy Promises! Promises! The actress was in a bit of a career slump at the time … Mansfield had always been famous for her crass publicity stunts, which often involved her ‘accidentally’ losing her clothing … Those blatant headline grabs had launched Mansfield’s career, landing her a star-making role in the 1956 comedy The Girl Can’t Help It, and they also made her distinct from her blonde-bombshell rival Monroe, who generated tabloid fodder without really trying.

Shortly after Monroe’s 1962 death, The New York Times ran an article explaining why each ‘successor’ to Monroe was an inadequate replacement: Ava Gardner was too reclusive, Kim Novak too serious, Natalie Wood too slight. But the newspaper reserved some of its meanest comments for Mansfield. ‘Jayne Mansfield, whom 20th Century Fox was building as a Love Goddess nominee, suffers from too much publicity and too few roles,’ The New York Times wrote. ‘She has become rather a caricature — like Mae West — and alienates the segment which takes sex seriously.’

If she was already a caricature, it made sense for Mansfield to seek out the absurdity of a sexploitation film. Promises! Promises! was a translation of Edna Sheklow’s 1960 play The Plant, about two couples on a cruise ship who swap partners in a drunken haze, and then have to figure out who fathered which pregnancy. Actor Tommy Noonan purchased the film rights after nearly starring in the stage show, planning to write, direct, produce, and act in the movie.

Tommy Noonan co-starred with both Jayne and Marilyn

Noonan would’ve known as well as anyone the risks of including a nude scene, even within the context of this racy plot … But a code violation didn’t carry the weight it once did, because by 1963, the entire system of censorship was running on life support … Mansfield’s nude scene arrives fairly early into Promises! Promises!, soon after the couples have settled into their cabins. Her screen husband Jeff (Noonan) has just been to see the ship’s medic about his sperm. When he returns — in high spirits, after receiving a placebo from the doctor — he finds Sandy (Mansfield) stepping out of a bath, where she was just cooing the song I’m in Love under a blanket of bubbles. She appears in the doorway, patting down her torso with a towel that does nothing to obscure her chest. The shot lingers for a few seconds before she closes the bathroom door to dress.

As the crew filmed, a photographer for Playboy took extra shots to run in the magazine, pocketing them for the eventual publicity campaign. Despite Mansfield’s name, Promises! Promises! was a B-film to its core, shepherded by an actor-turned-auteur who was not quite a household name and who harbored no artistic pretensions. The movie entered markets without MPAA approval or studio backing, which meant it had to rely solely on advertising. You can guess what the publicity team focused on.

Marilyn and Jayne’s nude scenes were (un)covered by Playboy

Playboy published its behind-the-scenes images in the June 1963 issue, promising ‘The Nudest Jayne Mansfield’ on the cover. Enterprising movie exhibitors were only too happy to join in the ogling … But in many cities, the exploitative advertising and lack of MPAA approval were a liability, with censorship boards in Maryland, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and other markets attempting to keep the film out. When the Playboy issues hit newsstands, Hugh Hefner was arrested and hauled into Chicago court for ‘publishing and distributing an obscene magazine.’ The city based its complaint on two ‘particularly obscene’ images showing Mansfield lying naked on a bed with a fully clothed man. The case ended in a mistrial, letting Hefner off the hook.

Though Promises! Promises! made money, it was too crass and too indie to recoup Mansfield’s struggling stardom — and her career never bounced back to its 1950s heights. Critics savaged the film, with Variety calling it unsuitable for ‘anyone whose mentality surpasses that of a 5-year-old.’ But the topless scene did indicate where films were heading in respect to the policy against nudity. The following year in 1964, The Pawnbroker challenged the Production Code with a much more artistic — and much more upsetting — use of nudity through a Holocaust flashback sequence. The film had a celebrated director in Sidney Lumet and a serious method star in Rod Steiger, and due to this pedigree, it had more of a lasting impact than Promises! Promises! could, setting a precedent that would make it easier for movies to include nude scenes.”

Burt Reynolds 1936-2018

Burt Reynolds, one of the most popular actors of the 1970s and beyond, has died aged 82. Born in Lansing, Michigan in 1936, he came from a military family and his father later became a chief of police. Burt attended Florida State University on a football scholarship, and when injuries ruled out a sporting career, his interest turned to acting. He moved to New York to pursue his new career, where as Vanity Fair reports, he caught his first glimpe of stardom.

“The actor’s life was brimming with stories like this, close brushes with some of the most famous women in the film industry. Reynolds also had a particularly bittersweet anecdote about taking an acting class with Marilyn Monroe as an up-and-comer in the late 1950s. He would walk with her from 58th Street to the Actors Studio, he said, surprised by the blonde icon’s quietude. ‘She didn’t say much, but she didn’t have to,’ he recalled in a March interview with Conan O’Brien. He was also surprised to see that one of the most famous women in the world wasn’t getting swarmed on the street. ‘How come they don’t jump up and down?’ he asked her, referring to the people breezing past her. ‘She said, “Oh—do you wanna see her?”’ And with that, the actress threw her shoulders back and started strutting with purpose. Within 20 feet, she was ‘surrounded by about 40 people,’ Reynolds said. ‘I liked her so much . . . she was so real and sweet and kind.'”

This is a familiar tale, similar to anecdotes shared by Eli Wallach, Sam Shaw and others – but Burt’s comments are warm and sensitive. He began to make his name during the 1960s, with appearances on television shows including Gunsmoke. His big-screen breakthrough was in Deliverance (1970), proving he had more to offer than just good looks. He famously posed nude for Cosmopolitan in 1972, the magazine’s first male centrefold. Over the next two decades, he juggled blockbuster hits with more dramatic roles, and branched out into directing.

Like Marilyn Monroe, Burt’s racy image meant that he wasn’t always taken seriously, though he would win a Golden Globe – and Oscar nomination – for Boogie Nights (1997.) He was married to actresses Judy Carne and Loni Anderson (a blonde bombshell in her own right), but by his own admission, his greatest love was Sally Field. In 2014, he faced bankruptcy. Burt Reynolds died of cardiac arrest, and his final movie was fittingly entitled The Last Movie Star.

Christopher Lawford 1955-2018

Christopher Lawford, the son of actor Peter Lawford and wife Patricia ‘Pat’ Kennedy, has died aged 63.  He had suffered a heart attack while at a yoga studio in Vancouver.

Christopher was born in 1955, a year after his parents’ marriage. He had three younger sisters, and was raised at the Lawfords’ beachfont home in Santa Monica.

Marilyn grew close to both Peter and (especially) Pat after returning to Los Angeles in 1961. Christopher shared a childhood memory of Marilyn in his autobiography…

“There were a lot of beautiful people hanging around our backyard pool on the beach in Santa Monica. Marilyn Monroe was there in her scarf, trying to stay out of the sun. She had a quiet voice, would smile at me and head out to walk on the sand with my mom. My mother told me Marilyn was like ‘her little sister.’ It surprised her that Marilyn was so open with her. My mom didn’t come from a background where emotions and feelings were openly shared. Marilyn Monroe trusted my mother’s love for her. There was nothing Marilyn had that my mom needed.”

After his parents divorced in 1966, Christopher moved to New York with his mother.  Unfortunately, he developed a serious drug problem in adulthood, and was forced to confront his demons when his cousin David died of a drug overdose in 1984.

Having earned qualifications in both law and psychiatry, in 1988 Christopher decided to follow in his father’s footsteps, acting on television (including a 3-year stint in the soap opera, All My Children.) He also worked as an independent film producer, and tried unsuccessfully to make a film about the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. His memoir, Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption, was published in 2005.

Christopher was also politically active, working for the Democratic National Committee and for his uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy. He also worked tirelessly to help people suffering from addiction.

Married three times, Christopher is survived by a widow and three children. You can read more about Marilyn and the Lawfords here.

Jemima Kirke: Reading With Marilyn

Jemima Kirke, the New York-based artist and actress (best-known as Jessa Johansson in TV’s Girls) has revealed some of her favourite books in an interview for Vulture.

“André De Dienes: Marilyn by André De Dienes
Some of the most important pictures taken of Marilyn Monroe throughout her career with a memoir to go along with it. She and De Dienes were lovers and longtime friends. She would often visit him and take pictures purely for the catharsis of it.”

‘Cold War’ Star Inspired by Marilyn

In Cold War, the new film from Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski, Joanna Kulig plays Zula, a folk singer who begins a doomed love affair with a pianist in the aftermath of World War II. In an interview for The Guardian, Joanna reveals the inspirations behind her acclaimed performance.

“In Cold War, the narrative is fragmented, the actors more than unusually responsible for the film’s emotional continuity as the action leaps forward several years at a time. ‘With each instalment she is different: sometimes she’s a street urchin and bad girl, sometimes she’s melancholy and then she can be sarcastic with dry wit,’ Pawlikowski says. ‘Joanna has wit but she’s not sarcastic, she’s got a very kind disposition. It was a huge challenge and it didn’t come easily, but I knew she had all these different colours in her.’

Indeed, Cold War requires a dizzying range of emotions to play across that mutable face, which can switch from blunt and defiant one moment to pinched and wounded the next. Kulig is a fine-grained actor, never more so than in those instances when she is conveying layers of contradictory feelings from beneath a showbiz veneer. One scene in particular, in which she must register from the stage her recognition of a familiar face in the audience, and then, after the interval, react to the shock of the now-vacated seat, all while persevering cheerfully with her musical number, is an unbeatable example of the performer as plate-spinner or high-wire walker.

What is she thinking of when she sings? ‘It depends,’ she says. ‘Sometimes I thought about Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, how theirs was maybe a similar relationship. Or it helped to think about Amy Winehouse and her personality. I feel Zula has something of that: she is so nice and talented but at the same time she wants to destroy something.’ Whatever the situation, Kulig feels at her most charged when she is singing. ‘The emotions are closer to the surface. It is all there. Agata Trzebuchowska, who played Ida, told me: “Joanna, I love your acting, but you act the most wonderfully when you are singing.”‘”

Did Elizabeth Taylor Reach Out to Marilyn?

In Charles Casillo’s new biography, Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon – due out this month – he claims that Marilyn’s alleged rivalry with Elizabeth Taylor was a myth, as Closer reports.  His source isn’t named here but hopefully the book will tell us more, as it’s a nice story. (And you can read my tribute to  Marilyn and Elizabeth here.)

“They were two of the biggest female sex symbols of the 50s and early 60s, but Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor didn’t consider each other competitors. ‘In many ways [they] were pitted against each other by the press,’ Charles Casillo writes. ‘In reality, they barely knew each other, and the two had no animosity toward each other.’

Quite the opposite! Casillo writes of an incident in 1962, when 20th Century Fox was bleeding money on Liz’s over-budgeted extravaganza Cleopatra. The studio simultaneously fired Marilyn for alleged absences from the set of her never-completed final film, the aptly titled Something’s Got to Give.

Marilyn felt she was being sacrificed so Fox could save on her salary and spend it on finishing the bloated Egyptian epic. Two decades later, Liz revealed to a friend that she had reached out to Marilyn to offer her support during this difficult period.

‘Liz told Marilyn she was willing to publicly demonstrate her solidarity,’ Casillo says, offering to quit Cleopatra unless Marilyn was rehired. ‘Marilyn was very moved by Liz’s kindness toward her, but she didn’t want to make matters worse for either of them,’ so she declined the generous offer.

Instead, Liz gave Marilyn an invaluable piece of advice. ‘No matter what they write about me, Marilyn, I never deny it,’ Casillo quotes Liz as saying. ‘I never confirm it. I just keep smiling and walking forward. You do the same.’ Tragically, Marilyn didn’t live long enough to put those words into action.”

Why Marilyn’s Still a Fan Favourite

Over at the New Statesman, celebrities are talking about their unusual collections – including writer and comedian David Baddiel, whose parental enthusiasm brought him more Marilyn than he bargained for…

“Both my parents were collectors. Some would say hoarders. My mum collected children’s books, then, for reasons anyone who has come to my stand-up show will know, golfing memorabilia. My dad, Dinky Toys. The whole place teemed with stuff. I wasn’t that bothered with collecting really, but my mother took anything I expressed an interest in and decided ‘Oh right, that’s David’s thing’, and for birthdays and Hanukkah would just buy me too much of that. I went through a few iterations of this: I remember a magazine called Look and Learn, which my mother bought me binders of, and later, Marilyn Monroe-abilia (she was still buying me photos and cards of her when I was in my forties).”

When Marilyn Met Tab Hunter

Actor Tab Hunter, one of the great Hollywood heartthrobs of the 1950s, has died aged 86. Born Arthur Andrew Kelm in New York, he moved to California with his mother as a child, and lied about his age to join the U.S. Coast Guard at fifteen. He began acting in 1950, winning his breakthrough role in wartime drama Battle Cry five years later. Rumours of his homosexuality were first reported in Confidential magazine, but didn’t dent his burgeoning career as a teen idol. Over the next four years he was Warner Brothers’ most popular male star, with roles in Damn Yankees (1958), and They Came to Cordura (1959.) He also enjoyed a No. 1 hit single with ‘Young Love’ in 1957, and was given his own TV show.

From the 1960s onward Hunter also acted onstage, and starred in spaghetti westerns before returning to Hollywood in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972.) He later became a favorite of independent filmmaker John Waters, and made two films with legendary drag queen Divine. In his 2005 memoir, Tab Hunter Confidential, he spoke openly about the challenges he faced as a gay actor under the Hollywood studio system. The book inspired a documentary of the same name, and a biopic is currently in development.

Cover to Cover: Tab Hunter and Marilyn in the Chilean magazine, ‘Ecran’ (1957))

Just five years younger than Marilyn, Tab Hunter was also judged by his striking good looks during his early career and had to struggle to prove his talent ( a 2016 article on The Wow Report website even describes him as ‘the male Marilyn Monroe’.) In  2011, Tab spoke to Monroe expert Scott Fortner about (among other things) an encounter with Hollywood’s other favourite blonde, as recalled on the MM Collection Blog:

“I of course asked Mr. Hunter if he’d ever met Marilyn Monroe, and their paths did cross in the early 1950s at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Both were there for a Hollywood event, and upon meeting, Mr. Hunter told Marilyn, ‘I loved you in Clash By Night. No one wears a pair of Levis like you,’ to which Marilyn replied, (spoken in Mr. Hunter’s best Marilyn impersonation) ‘Thank you, Tab.'”