‘Norma Jean and Marilyn’ Stars Speak Out On Abuse

Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino, who both starred in the 1996 HBO biopic, Norma Jean and Marilyn, have both spoken out recently about sexual abuse in Hollywood. While this rather inaccurate and sensationalist TV movie isn’t highly regarded by fans (and seems unconnected to the incidents in question), it’s both inspiring and poignant to see these brave women come forward about experiences not dissimilar to Marilyn’s.

Marilyn Warned Joan Collins About the Casting Couch

Actress Joan Collins has told the Daily Mail about her early experiences in Hollywood, and how Marilyn warned her about sexual harassment. It’s not a new story – Joan has told it many times, including in her autobiography – but in light of recent allegations, it makes for an interesting read. (Another star from Marilyn’s era, Rita Moreno, has also spoken out about how Fox executives preyed on young women.)

“Shortly after arriving in Hollywood aged 21, under contract to 20th Century Fox, I attended a party at Gene Kelly’s house. The star of An American In Paris and Singin’ In The Rain hosted a weekly gathering for an eclectic group of movie industry power-brokers, A-list actors and actresses, intellectuals and his friends. It was where I first met Marilyn Monroe.

At first I didn’t recognise the blonde sitting alone at the bar until she turned to me and said rather ruefully: ‘They wanted me for the lead in Red Velvet Swing, but I’m too old.’

The part of Evelyn Nesbit in The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing was one of my first lead roles in Hollywood, but I knew it had originally been intended for Monroe.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that the woman in front of me was the legendary figure herself. We started chatting and after a couple of martinis, Marilyn poured out a cautionary tale of sexual harassment she and other actresses endured from ‘the wolves in this town’.

I replied that I was well used to ‘wolves’ after a few years in the British film industry. I decided it definitely wasn’t something I’d put up with. I told Marilyn I was well prepared to deal with men patting my bottom, leering down my cleavage and whatever else.

She shook her head. ‘There’s nothing like the power of the studio bosses here, honey. If they don’t get what they want, they’ll drop you. It’s happened to lots of gals. ‘Specially watch out for Zanuck. If he doesn’t get what he wants, honey, he’ll drop your contract.’ It was a timely warning, because days later, Darryl Zanuck, vice-president of production at 20th Century Fox, pounced.

Marilyn and Joan Collins in the audience at a studio screening of ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’, 1954

Hollywood studio bosses considered it their due to b*** all the good-looking women who came their way and were notorious for it. Harry Cohn at Columbia Pictures, for example, had no qualms about firing any starlet who rejected him. He was totally amoral.

Another role I coveted was that of Cleopatra. The head of 20th Century Fox at the time, Buddy Adler, and the chairman of the board — [Spyros Skouras], a Greek gentleman old enough to be my grandfather — bombarded me with propositions and promises that the role was mine if I would be ‘nice’ to them. It was a euphemism prevalent in Hollywood. I couldn’t and I wouldn’t — the very thought of these old men was utterly repugnant. So, I dodged and I dived, and hid from them around the lot and made excuses while undergoing endless screen tests for the role of Egypt’s Queen.

At one point, Mr Adler told me at a party that I would have ‘the pick of the scripts’ after Cleopatra and he would set me up in an apartment he would pay for as long as he could come to visit me three or four times a week. Running out of excuses, I blurted out: ‘Mr Adler, I came here with my agent, Jay Kanter. Why don’t we discuss the deal with him?’

‘Honey, you have quite a sense of humour,’ he spluttered.

‘And a sense of humour is all you’ll ever get from me,’ I murmured as I left. In due course, Elizabeth Taylor got the role.

But it wasn’t just studio bosses and producers who were predatory. Many actors I worked with considered it their divine right to have sex with their leading lady … Anyone naive enough to believe the era of the casting couch had been consigned to history will have been shocked by the Weinstein scandal and the predatory institutional sexism of Hollywood power brokers it has revealed.

But it’s not just the film industry that’s been complicit in sanctioning this appalling behaviour, and it’s not just actresses subjected to it. It may occur in any business dominated by powerful, ruthless and misogynistic men, and it’s women (sometimes men) in subservient positions who are unfortunate enough to have to deal with them.”

Miranda Hart, Sophie Monk Inspired by Marilyn

Marilyn in London, 1956

British comedienne Miranda Hart has named Colin Clark’s The Prince, the Showgirl and Me among her six favourite books in the Express today. Although its sequel, My Week With Marilyn (after which the 2011 biopic was named), is believed by many fans to be bogus, the first book is quite a good read.

“I was always fascinated by fame. Not the desire to become famous, although I was intrigued by what it might be like, but by the unique quality and lifestyles of true icons. They don’t get more iconic than Marilyn Monroe so I found this diary of a young man becoming her assistant riveting.”

Meanwhile in other celebrity news, Sophie Monk – who played Marilyn in a 2004 TV movie, The Mystery of Natalie Wood, and is currently starring in The Bachelorette in Australia – tells the Brisbane Courier & Mail of an earlier turn as MM :

“My first job was … at Movie World (Gold Coast) as Marilyn Monroe. I got it when I was 17 after I left school and started when I was 18.”

Hugh Hefner 1926-2017

Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, has died aged 91.

In 1953, he acquired Tom Kelley’s nude calendar shot of Marilyn for the magazine’s first issue, also putting her on the cover. (You can read the full story here.) ‘She was actually in my brother’s acting class in New York,’ he told CNN. ‘But the reality is that I never met her. I talked to her once on the phone, but I never met her. She was gone, sadly, before I came out here.’

In 1960, Playboy published another laudatory feature headlined ‘The Magnificent Marilyn.’ If Marilyn sometimes resented others profiteering from her nude calendar – for which she had earned a flat $50 back in 1949 – by 1962 she was considering posing for Playboy‘s Christmas issue (although some sources indicate she changed her mind.)

Lawrence Schiller’s poolside nudes, taken during filming of the unfinished Something’s Got to Give, were published by Playboy in 1964, two years after Marilyn’s death.

The women’s rights campaigner Gloria Steinem, who would later write a biography of Marilyn, went ‘undercover’ as a Bunny Girl in a Playboy club for a magazine assignment durging the 1960s, and found the experience degrading – an opinion echoed by feminists today, as the BBC reports. Cultural historian Camille Paglia takes a different view, citing Hefner as ‘one of the principal architects of the social revolution.’

Marilyn has made many posthumous appearances on Playboy covers through the years. The magazine has also revealed rare and unseen images, such as Jon Whitcomb’s 1958 painting of Marilyn (based on a photo by Carl Perutz), and illustrator Earl Moran’s photos of a young Marilyn.

Many distinguished authors have written about Marilyn for Playboy, including John Updike, Roger Ebert, and Joyce Carol Oates. More dubiously, the magazine also published detective John Miner’s contested transcripts of tapes allegedly made by Marilyn for her psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson.

Since his death was announced earlier today, Twitter users and even some news websites have mistakenly posted a photo of Marilyn with Sir Laurence Olivier, confusing him with Hefner, as Mashable reports (a final absurdity that all three would probably have found hilarious.)

In 1992, Hefner reportedly purchased the crypt next to Marilyn’s in Westwood Memorial Park for $75,000. If he is buried there, it will either pave the way for extra security measures, or make Marilyn’s final resting place even more of a spectacle.

When Marilyn Came to Nyack

Writing for Nyack News & Views, Mike Hays tells the story of Marilyn and Arthur Miller’s visit to novelist Carson McCullers’ home on February 5, 1959. (What the article doesn’t mention, however, is that Marilyn and Carson had been friends since 1955, when they were both residents of Manhattan’s Gladstone Hotel. And although Arthur didn’t recall Marilyn having read any of Carson’s books, she did own a copy of The Ballad of the Sad Cafe.)

“As a transplanted New Yorker and a famous author, McCullers had close friendships with the famous, including Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote. She had always wanted to meet Isak Dinesen, the author of one of her favorite books, Out of Africa. McCullers met Dinesen at a dinner party following an arts awards in New York City.

Learning that Isak wanted to meet Marilyn Monroe, she asked Marilyn’s husband at the time, Arthur Miller, who was seated at a table nearby if the ‘Millers’ would come to lunch on February 5, 1959. Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe picked up the 74-year old Dinesen and drove to Nyack. Monroe, 33, had just finished Some Like It Hot. She arrived dressed in a black sheath and fur stole. Isak wore a scarf wrapped around her head as a turban. The guests were fashionably late.

They dined on oysters, white grapes, champagne and a soufflé. They were all smokers including Monroe, although no ashtrays can be seen in the luncheon photos.

Marilyn told a story about once trying to make pasta. She was late, as usual, and the pasta was undercooked, so she tried to complete her attempt at cooking by heating the pasta with a hair dryer. Frail Dinesen told many stories and enjoyed talking to Ida Reeder, Carson’s housekeeper.

Towards the end of the afternoon, as the story goes, Carson put a record on the phonograph and invited Marilyn and Isak to dance with her on a marble table. They took a few steps in each other’s arms. Carson remembers that this was the ‘best’ and ‘most frivolous’ party she had ever given, and she expressed ‘pleasure and wonderment at the love, which her guests seemed to express for each other.’

It is improbable that the frail and ill Carson McCullers, her muscles shriveled, did much dancing and certainly not on a table. But she retold the story again and again over the rest of her life, perhaps telling the story the way she would have wanted it if she were not ill.

Others don’t remember the dancing although they do remember the lunch. Some time later, Miller said that Marilyn had never read anything by Carson, although she may have seen her play, A Member of the Wedding. He did sense a spontaneous sympathy between the women. Miller doesn’t remember the dancing, a story that seemed to have a life of its own in the media.”

Tommy Hilfiger to Sell Marilyn’s Jeans

Ahead of the Icons & Idols event in November, Marilyn will also figure in the Tommy Hilfiger sale at Julien’s Auctions on October 21, as People reports.

“Designer Tommy Hilfiger has a slew of celebrity fans and frequently references pop culture in his designs, so it shouldn’t surprise you to find out that he’s got an enormous collection of memorabilia worn by some of the most iconic celebrities of all time … A pair of Foremost JCP Co. blue jeans worn by Monroe in the 1954 film River of No Return are available and can be yours if you’ve got a ton of disposable income just lying around (they’re estimated to sell up to $40,000). Hilfiger previously owned two other pairs of the jeans worn by Monroe, but gifted them to Britney Spears and Naomi Campbell (#nobigdeal).”

As well as Marilyn’s jeans, the Hilfiger collection also includes this screenprint by pop artist Steve Kaufman.

Lady Gaga on Pain, Fame and Marilyn

Pop star Lady Gaga has often referenced Marilyn in her work, sometimes with insight and sympathy (as in her past interviews with Vanity Fair and Google, and her ‘Dance in the Dark‘ lyric, ‘Marilyn, Judy, Sylvia/Tell ’em how you feel girls!’) At other times, however, she has depicted MM in a shallow, even crass manner (her ‘Government Hooker‘ song and ‘Do What U Want‘ video.) While she has also experienced the dark side of fame at first hand, her knowledge of Marilyn’s life and character seems rather limited.

Nonetheless, her latest comments about Marilyn – and other stars who died before their time – are quite intriguing, as Olivia Truffaut-Wong reports on the new Netflix documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two, for Bustle.

“Speaking in her new documentary, Lady Gaga reveals that her wacky fashion choices come out of a desire for control in an industry that loves to take control away from its artists … ‘What I’ve done is that when they wanted me to be sexy or they wanted me to be pop, I always f*cking put some absurd spin on it that made me feel like I’m still in control,’ she says.

In the film, Gaga opens up about how the music industry and Hollywood treats women, particularly how men in positions of power, producers for example, think that female artists are there for their entertainment. ‘That’s not why I’m here. I’m not a receptacle for your pain,’ she says. ‘I’m not just a place for you to put it.’

To counteract those expectations of what a pop star should look like Gaga explains how she decided to show ugliness in fame while performing. ‘If I’m gonna be sexy on the VMAs and sing about the paparazzi,’ she says, ‘I’m gonna do it while I’m bleeding to death and reminding you of what fame did to Marilyn Monroe, the original Norma Jean, and what it did to Anna Nicole Smith.'”

Wolf Alice Gets ‘Unconventional’ With Marilyn

The British alt-rock band Wolf Alice has just released the video for ‘Beautifully Unconventional’, the latest single from their Visions Of Life album, with singer Ellie Roswell seemingly taking style inspiration from Marilyn, as MXDWM reports.

Marilyn at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, 1953

“Perhaps the idea of the video gets at how a culturally ultra-conventional icon like Marilyn Monroe is actually an unconventional individual. To be conventional would one would have to be anything other than an American icon. To be conventional is to be part of the cultural masses—going to work, raising a family, having normal things to talk about. Monroe’s life was hardly normal, and she would stick out ‘sorely’ in a regular, everyday context. Convention is normal, beautiful unconventionality is someone who sticks out not like a sore thumb, but like Marilyn Monroe.”

Gwendoline Christie Inspired by Marilyn

Gwendoline Christie, the English actress who plays Brienne of Tarth in TV’s Game of Thrones, has revealed that Marilyn was a formative influence on her chosen career. “I remember seeing Marilyn Monroe in Bus Stop on television and thinking, what she was doing was so incredibly extraordinary,” Christie told People magazine. “I didn’t come from an acting background, but I just knew —that’s what I want to to do.”