Category Archives: Celebrities

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.

Oscars 2017: Marilyn Takes a Cadillac to La La Land

Photo by Scott at Marilyn Remembered
Photo by Scott at Marilyn Remembered

Marilyn may never have won an Oscar, but she continues to make her presence felt at the world’s glitziest awards ceremony. Last night’s broadcast included a new Cadillac commercial, featuring vintage photos of famous faces and their cars – headed up by Marilyn, photographed by Milton Greene in 1954. You can watch the Cadillac ad here, and see more of Marilyn and her cars here.

Marilyn presents an Oscar for 'All About Eve', 1951
Marilyn presents an Oscar for ‘All About Eve’, 1951

One of this year’s biggest movies was La La Land, the nostalgic musical which tied with All About Eve and Titanic for the most nominations in Oscar history. All About Eve was a breakthrough role for Marilyn, and she would present soundman Thomas Moulton with an award at the 1951 ceremony (the only time she attended.)

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Screenshots by Daniel at Immortal Marilyn

Packed with Old Hollywood references – including this street mural – La La Land was named as best picture by Warren Beatty (who recently shared his memories of Marilyn.) However, it appears he was given the wrong envelope, as it was announced shortly afterward that this year’s winner was, in fact, Moonlight.

F5AAA0A7-4BCD-4C5A-8D96-36B4F1431236-COLLAGEActress Charlize Theron wore a gold lamé dress (and diamond earrings), designed by Christian Dior and strikingly similar to the iconic Travilla gown worn by Marilyn to the Photoplay Awards in 1953. Charlize was once mooted to star in an MM biopic (which was never produced), and appeared alongside a digitally recreated Marilyn – in her original gold lamé – for a J’Adore perfume ad in 2011.

Michelle Williams, nominated as best actress in 2011 for My Week With Marilyn, was up for best supporting actress this year in Manchester By the Sea, losing again to Viola Davis in Fences. As Immortal Marilyn member Phil noticed, Fences –  directed by, and starring Denzel Washington – apparently uses the same ‘New York Street’ set from the Twentieth Century Fox lot, as seen in Love Nest some 66 years ago.

Photo by Phil at Immortal Marilyn
Montage by Phil at Immortal Marilyn

Dove Cameron Inspired by Marilyn

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Disney Channel star Dove Cameron, 21, appears in a new cover story for Galore magazine. Shot by Prince and Jacob, the spread captures a 1950s starlet vibe and features Dove reading and exercising in a variety of poses reminiscent of Marilyn’s ‘at home’ photo shoots. (And as Minou Clark writes for the HuffPost, Dove has opted for an MM-inspired ‘long bob’.) But whereas the original images, however contrived, did genuinely represent Marilyn’s offscreen pastimes, this artful  ‘homage’ – all tiger skin rugs and Monroe memorabilia  – is strictly for kitsch.

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Anna Nicole: Death of a Famous Fan

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Ten years after Anna Nicole Smith’s fatal overdose, Sarah Marshall looks back at the reality TV star’s often scandalous and finally tragic life in an article for Buzzfeed. Anna was a huge fan of Marilyn, and even rented her idol’s final home in Brentwood, Los Angeles for a while. Although she frequently emulated Marilyn’s voluptuous blonde image – most notably in her retro-style ad campaign for Guess – Smith was less an icon of Hollywood than a modern-day tabloid phenomenon. Nonetheless, the parallels between their Cinderella stories are both striking and sad – and if nothing else, Anna Nicole’s untimely demise highlights the emptiness of celebrity worship.

“For the Hollywood origin stories we know to be satisfying, the heroine in question must have no idea she is worthy of such attention until she is suddenly rescued from obscurity. Especially if she is to be remade as America’s next great sex symbol — as Anna Nicole Smith was in 1993, when she suddenly saturated American media, appearing on magazine covers, billboards, and screens of all kinds, and found herself touted as her decade’s Marilyn Monroe.

She also had not just one dream home, but as many as she wanted — though she was never clear on how she was able to afford them, or why her rise to fame had been so lucrative. She moved into a new house in Houston, but city life was still an adjustment (‘When she could not sleep,’ Dan P. Lee wrote in New York magazine, ‘she’d have her favorite sheep brought there from the ranch to cuddle with’). And when Anna went to Los Angeles to meet with all the photographers and directors who suddenly wanted to work with her, she rented a house that Marilyn Monroe had once lived in.

From 1992, when she made her first appearance in Playboy, to her death on Feb. 8, 2007, Anna Nicole Smith occupied the story of the beautiful girl lifted up from the dust, and then the story of the beautiful woman destroyed, and sometimes both. ‘From the moment Anna Nicole got famous,’ reporter Mimi Swartz later wrote in Texas Monthly, ‘she told the world that her role model was Marilyn Monroe. It was a shrewd move, as it linked her image with one of the greatest American icons of all time, and it had a neat logic: one platinum-haired sex symbol taking after another, one poor, deprived child latching onto the success of another.’

‘I can just relate to her,’ Anna said of Marilyn Monroe. ‘Especially after I got my body — then I really could relate to her.’ She seemed to be following in Marilyn’s footsteps less by recreating her famous body than by realizing that a body could be created: that your physical self could be both the tool that rescued you from the world you knew and the shield that protected you from it.

The body that had been too much for the men of Houston was, in the pages of a magazine, suddenly just right. The Guess campaign also marked the moment when her new identity snapped into place, as it was Paul Marciano, Guess president, who rechristened her Anna Nicole. By emulating Marilyn Monroe, who herself seemed to embody her period’s idealized essence of feminine sexuality, Anna Nicole Smith had become, in the words of psychologist James Hollis, ‘an imitation of an imitation,’ unburdened by any troubling specificity.”