Category Archives: Celebrities

Alice Denham Remembers Marilyn

Alice Denham, who died last year aged 89, was armed with a master’s degree in literature when she came to New York in 1953, hoping to be a writer and supporting herself by nude modelling. Within three years, she was a Playboy centrefold – the magazine also published her short story, ‘The Deal’, in the same issue. Like other independent women of her era, however, Alice’s promising career stalled while her male peers triumphed.

Forty years later she published a sensational memoir, Sleeping With Bad Boys: A Juicy Tell-All of Literary New York. In it, she wrote of her encounters with James Dean, Marlon Brando, Sam Spiegel, Norman Mailer and Hugh Hefner, among others. She also spoke admiringly of Marilyn, and described a brief sighting of her at the El Morocco nightclub in Manhattan.

Marilyn at El Morocco, 1954

“We table-hopped and Harry introduced me to Cary Grant and Esther Williams, Jack Benny, and both Gabors. Out on the floor again, I danced past Marilyn Monroe in a plain black short gown with spaghetti straps. Marilyn looked incredibly beautiful and bored, as she danced with a fat short producer, then returned to her table where there were three other short fat producers in tux. Marilyn was far more gorgeous than her photos.”

Bella Thorne Mimics Kirkland’s Marilyn

Posing as Marilyn is becoming a rite of passage for ex-Disney starlets: following Dove Cameron’s recent lead is Bella Thorne, in a new shoot by Mona Kuhn for Harper’s Bazaar, channeling Douglas Kirkland’s legendary 1961 session. Madonna and Christina Aguilera are among earlier stars who’ve paid homage; Kirkland has himself recreated the scene with Angelina Jolie. Over at Yahoo Style, Hayley Fitzpatrick looks back on other celebrity tributes to Marilyn, both in and out of those silky sheets.

Marilyn and ‘Ella, Queen of Jazz’

Ella Queen of Jazz is a new children’s book by Helen Hancocks, recounting the famous story of Marilyn’s friendship with Ella Fitzgerald. Although its historical accuracy has been questioned and some of the details may be embellished, the anecdote came from Ella’s own lips. What we can be sure of is that Marilyn helped Ella to secure a nightclub engagement in Hollywood, and that she attended her show on at least one occasion. Marilyn considered Ella her own greatest musical influence, and the women remained friendly until her death. A Christmas card sent by Ella to Marilyn was auctioned at Julien’s last year, and they would both perform at President Kennedy’s birthday gala in 1962. Although we may quibble over the details, it’s an empowering tale of female friendship overcoming social barriers and is rendered colourfully in this charming book.

Kendall Jenner Shows ‘Love’ For Marilyn

After a recent mini-movie starring Kate Upton, UK fashion magazine LOVE has unveiled another Marilyn-inspired clip, featuring the model and young Kardashian sister, Kendall Jenner. Shot by photographer Rankin and apparently inspired by Marilyn’s late collaboration with Bert Stern, the effect is more Lolita than Let’s Make Love; but Kendall exudes a playful innocence here, keeping her hair brunette a la Norma Jeane, and (perhaps wisely) miming to Marilyn’s voice rather than attempting a full impersonation.

She’s not the first in the Kardashian clan to be linked with MM – eldest sister Kim was compared to Marilyn by husband Kanye West (of course, he’s biased), while Khloe received some iconic Monroe prints from the family matriarch, Kris Jenner, last Christmas. ‘What would Marilyn Monroe have made of it?‘ asks WWD‘s Samantha Conti – and that, of course, is anyone’s guess.

Marilyn by Bert Stern, 1962

Lola Albright 1924-2017

The actress and singer, Lola Albright, has died in Toluca Lake, California aged 92, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Lola Jean Albright was born in Ohio in 1924. Her parents were gospel singers, and she became an accomplished pianist. After performing on the radio in Cleveland, she moved to Hollywood and worked as a model. In 1949, she won her first important film role opposite Kirk Douglas in Champion.

Albright was director John Huston’s initial choice to play Angela Phinlay, the young mistress of a crooked businessman, in his 1950 heist movie, The Asphalt Jungle. However, the part ultimately went to another blonde. Some have suggested that Albright thought the role was too minor, or that she wanted a higher salary. Others claimed that MGM’s Lucille Ryman campaigned on behalf of her latest protégée, Marilyn Monroe. Huston later said that Marilyn got the job ‘because she was damned good.’

In 1952, Albright married actor Jack Carson, whom had been her co-star in Tulsa (1949.) She worked with Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap (1955), and began to make her mark on television. In 1958, she secured her best-known role, as nightclub singer Edie Hart in the popular detective series, Peter Gunn. She was signed up by Columbia Records, and recorded two albums with Henry Mancini’s orchestra. In 1961 she married Bill Chadney, who played piano on the show.

She continued working in both television and movies, starring in A Cold Wind in August (1961), and playing love interest to Elvis Presley in Kid Galahad (1962.) In 1964, she appeared with Jane Fonda and Alain Delon in Rene Clement’s Joy House. A year later, she replaced an ailing Dorothy Malone for fourteen episodes of the TV soap opera, Peyton Place. Albright was named Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival for her role in Lord Love a Duck (1966.) She was reunited with Kirk Douglas in The Way West (1967), and played David Niven’s wife in The Impossible Years (1968.)

Her penultimate movie role was in the 1968 Doris Day comedy, Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? Albright would make frequent cameo appearances on television until her retirement in 1984. In later years, she enjoyed single life and caring for her pets, and never missed the spotlight.

Danica Kennedy: ‘I Was a Marilyn Lookalike’

In an interview for Cosmopolitan, TV presenter Danica Kennedy looks back on her stint as a Marilyn lookalike at Universal Studios.

“For wardrobe, all of the Marilyn impersonators always wore that classic white dress from The Seven Year Itch. That includes pantyhose, Spanx shorts for when the fan blew up our skirts, and this corset bustier that was totally crazy … I would step on a platform and a fan would blow my skirt up. Then I’d have to say, ‘Oops!’

When you play somebody for two years, sometimes their characteristics can blur into your personal life accidentally. If I’m out and drinking champagne, which was Marilyn’s favorite, I’ll accidentally slip into using my sexy baby voice. It’s so awkward, especially since I’m not trying to be Marilyn.

I don’t think playing Marilyn has affected my psyche, but that’s probably because I never took playing the character too seriously. But when people want to debate with me about how she died or what she was like, I find myself standing up for her … We have all been through tough times, and her story is so tragic yet relatable.”

Karlie Kloss as Marilyn for Swarovski

Supermodel Karlie Kloss has recreated Marilyn’s ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ (from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) in a new commercial for Swarovski Crystal, reports Marie-Claire. (In another clip, Karlie imitates Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.)

“What I love most about icons like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe is the confidence they bring to every scene and character they played. Like many of my role models, they’ve shown that a woman who is confident and strong-willed will always be in style … being able to evoke their iconic movie scenes and add a modern spin was such a fun experience.”

Marilyn, Joan and the ‘Feuding’ Dress

Screenshots by Patrick at Immortal Marilyn
Screenshots by Patrick at Immortal Marilyn

As reported by ES Updates last week, Marilyn’s spat with Joan Crawford was recreated in the opening scene of FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan, although the date (and the dress) has been changed. In an article for Vanity Fair, Joanna Robinson explores the true story, which unfolded at the Photoplay Awards back in 1953.

There’s still some confusion, though – while Robinson concedes that Marilyn won a Golden Globe for Some Like It Hot in 1960, not ’61 as depicted in Feud, she goes on to say that both Crawford and MM were ‘intoxicated’ that evening. It’s not entirely clear which year she is referring to, but her source is Golden Globes veteran Judy Solomon.

In fact, Marilyn did not attend the 1961 ceremony. She returned in ’62, however, to collect an award as ‘World Film Favourite’. The red dress worn by actress Alisha Soper as MM in Feud appears to be inspired by the ‘nude’ gown she wore to sing ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ a few months later.

Marilyn at the Golden Globes in February 1962 (left); and at President Kennedy's birthday gala in May (right)
Marilyn at the Golden Globes in February 1962 (left); and at President Kennedy’s birthday gala in May (right)

Marilyn, Joan and a Hollywood ‘Feud’

Marilyn at the Photoplay Awards in 1953 (bottom left); and at the Golden Globes in 1960 (bottom right)
Clock’s ticking: Joan Crawford ‘watches’ over Marilyn at the Photoplay Awards in 1953 (bottom left); and at the Golden Globes in 1960 (bottom right)

The upcoming TV series, Feud: Bette and Joan, stars Susan Sarandon as Davis and Jessica Lange as Crawford, the rival actresses whose mutual enmity peaked when they collaborated on Robert Aldrich’s 1961 shocker, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

As Carolyn L. Todd reveals in an article for Refinery 29, Crawford also bore a grudge against Marilyn, which will be depicted in the show’s opening scene. The older star decried Marilyn’s daring attire – the iconic gold lamé dress – when she accepted a Photoplay award as most promising newcomer. However, while the basic story is true (as recorded by columnist Bob Thomas – more details here), the producers have transposed the event to an occasion closer to their main storyline. In this telling, Crawford makes her dig at Marilyn at the 1960 Golden Globes, where she was named Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for Some Like It Hot.

However, Marilyn’s appearance on this occasion was relatively demure and while Joan’s original remarks had drawn criticism because Marilyn was, in 1953, a rising star, by 1960 she was a far more established figure. After the public backlash, Joan had made no further comments on Marilyn’s later career. Citing her attack on Marilyn’s overt sexuality as an early example of ‘slut-shaming’, Todd seems unaware that the chronology has been altered.

While switching the date may fit the Feud narrative more neatly, it is also anachronistic and leaves one wondering how many other ‘alternative facts’ will be presented to viewers. Feud will have its premiere on Sunday, March 5, on the US cable channel FX, so for better or worse, we’ll soon find out.