Cléo, Meet Marilyn (From 5 to 7)

In a tribute to filmmaker Agnès Varda, who died last week aged 90, Genna Rivieccio notes on her Culled Culture blog the parallels between Marilyn’s life and the tragic young heroine faced with a cancer diagnosis played by Corinne Marchand in Cléo From 5 to 7, the movie released just a few months before  Marilyn’s death, and which helped to launch the French New Wave.

“Although Cléo is beautiful and has a relatively successful singing career, the dark shadow potentially case by the reaper above her won’t go away, nor is it remedied by seeing a fortune teller at the outset of the movie, one who confirms all her worst fears about waiting for some potentially fatal test results from her doctor.

Distraught at first over the reading, Cléo insists to herself that ‘as long as I’m beautiful, I’m alive,’ because ‘ugliness is a kind of death’ so how can she be suffering from it if she’s not aesthetically hideous? Even so, she is aware that if she is dying, it’s only the inside that will matter now–not from a personality or ‘good person’ standpoint, but in terms of it affecting whether or not her demise is imminent. To that former notion, however, Cléo suddenly becomes hyperconscious of the vacuity of her life. Buying hats, lounging around, cursing men. What does it all mean? And what can she do to go on preserving that vacuous little life? Thus, she tells her maid, Angèle (Dominique Davray) that she’ll kill herself if it turns out to be cancer. Angèle does little to comfort her, noting that ‘men hate illness’ and that Cléo ought not to wear a new hat on Tuesday as it’s bad luck.

So, too, did Cléo, a singer who bemoans wanting to project more poignant lyrics but then grows filled with melancholy as she sings a new composition filled with too much death imagery to bear. She wants to remain as she always has been in order to survive, to feel somewhat happy: at the surface of things. Unfortunately, like Marilyn Monroe before her, the woman endlessly preoccupied with her image and looks ends up driving any potential for real and meaningful love away. And as we all know, especially Narcissus, a reflection can’t reciprocate anything, nor love or hate you as much as you do it. Cléo’s childlike [im]maturity, is, in fact, directly related to her self-obsession. In being faced with the reality that her death is imminent, however, she is forced to come to grips with certain truths both about herself and existence that she never would have otherwise.”

PS: And if you should doubt Marilyn’s influence on the nouvelle vague, this photo taken by George Barris just weeks before her death is glimpsed briefly  in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a 1964 musical directed by Varda’s husband, Jacques Demy, and starring lifelong MM fan Catherine Deneuve. (According to IMDB, the film is set in 1957 which makes it a goof.) And in Demy’s 1963 film Bay of Angels, Jeanne Moreau donned a Monroesque blonde wig to play an unhappy divorcee (not unlike Roslyn in The Misfits) who becomes addicted to gambling.

Marilyn Haunts the Front Pages

Following a recent cover story in Yours Retro magazine,  the 60th anniversary of Some Like It Hot also makes the front page of the latest Weekly News, plus a centrefold tribute from Craig Campbell.

On the weird side of Marilyn fandom, in Take A Break: Fate & Fortune‘s May issue, Emma Pearce of Cornwall shares her belief that MM is haunting her home – via a reproduction of a painting by Renato Casaro which she found in a rubbish tip (depicting Marilyn as Jesus, with Bogart and Elvis among her disciples, in a pastiche of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.) Maybe the ghost isn’t Marilyn, but an angry critic?

Further afield, the second issue of German magazine Nostalgie features a lovely Monroe cover. Sadly, the usual conspiracy theories about her death are trotted out inside.

Thanks to Fraser and Johan

Barbara Eden Remembers Marilyn

Actress Barbara Eden is best-known for her zany role in the 1960s sitcom, I Dream Of Jeannie. She also starred in the TV spin-off of How to Marry a Millionaire, which ran from 1957-59.  Her ditzy character, ‘Loco Jones’, was a blend of the roles played by Marilyn and Betty Grable in the 1953 movie. And as Barbara revealed in a recent interview for Studio 10, she would later meet Marilyn in the flesh.

Marilyn and her stand-in, Evelyn Moriarty

“She eventually met Monroe, as they both shared the same stand-in – Evelyn Moriarty. Recalling the meeting, Eden said: ‘Marilyn was over there doing wardrobe tests. I’m standing there with [Evelyn], and Marilyn came out and [Evelyn] said, “Marilyn, I want you to meet my other star”.’

Monroe was filming her last movie at the time and Evelyn later confided in Barbara following the famous actress’ death, claiming she never believed the reports at the time.

‘Evelyn said, ‘”She would never take her own life”. I just feel it was probably an accident,’ Eden said. ‘She wanted to get to sleep, and took too many [pills]… I hope that’s what it was.'”

Marilyn in Alan Moore’s ‘Cinema Purgatorio’

Comic book author Alan Moore (whose past creations include V for Vendetta and Watchmen) puts his own spin on Marilyn’s mysterious death in the final issue of his Cinema Purgatorio anthology – to be published on May 29, as Rich Johnson reports for the Bleeding Cool website.

“Cinema Purgatorio is the anthology that Alan Moore has been curating for the past two years for Bleeding Cool’s publisher, Avatar Press. Each perfect bound paperback volume begins with a comic by Moore and Kevin O’Neill that names the title, with someone trapped in a cinema in purgatory, watching classic films that have been twisted to reflect aspects of humanity of its history – especially that of movies. So we’ve had the tales of the Warner Brothers told using the Marx Brothers. Or corruption in cinema with the Keystone Kops.”

Gianni Russo Claims Affair With Marilyn

Actor Gianni Russo claims to have had an affair with Marilyn in his forthcoming memoir, Hollywood Godfather, as Michael Kaplan reports for the New York Post. Born in 1943, he began his career running errands for mobster Frank Costello. He made his screen debut as Carlo Rizzi, the abusive husband of Connie Corleone (Talia Shire), who is murdered by her brother Michael (Al Pacino) in The Godfather (1972.) Offscreen, Russo has released an album and a wine range, and was once a Las Vegas restaurateur.

Russo’s alleged affair with Marilyn rests on a snapshot taken at Frank Sinatra’s Cal-Neva Lodge near Lake Tahoe a week before her death in 1962. He identifies himself as the young man at her left (with singer Buddy Greco at right), which may be true although his face is conveniently hidden from view. Moreover, the photo in itself is no proof of anything more than a brief acquaintance (at best.)

Russo claims that the affair began when he was sixteen and Marilyn thirty-three, which would date it back to 1959. He adds that their affair lasted for four years, but Marilyn died three years later. (I also highly doubt that Marilyn would have dated a teenager, when all her significant relationships were with older men.)

Costello had asked Russo to spy on Marilyn when she began her affair with John F. Kennedy, he contends (in fact, she may not have met the future president until much later.) He also believes that Marilyn was a gangster’s moll for many years, and it was the Mob who moved her to New York during her 1955 dispute with Twentieth Century Fox. This is untrue, as Marilyn arranged the move with photographer Milton Greene.

Gianni Russo in ‘The Godfather’ (1972)

Predictably, Russo also claims to know the truth about how Marilyn died. Mobster Sam Giancana had arranged to film her in flagrante with President Kennedy and his brother Robert during her last visit to Cal-Neva, Russo says. However, there is no conclusive evidence that Giancana was there that weekend, and the Kennedys were both elsewhere. Marilyn was invited by Sinatra himself.

Finally, Russo says that Marilyn was murdered by injection administered by a mob-connected M.D., probably on the orders of Bobby Kennedy. For more information on the Mafia and Marilyn’s death, I can highly recommend Donald McGovern’s Murder Orthodoxies.

LA Coroner Craig Harvey On Marilyn’s Death

As recently announced here, the retired Los Angeles County coroner, Craig Harvey, spoke at length about Marilyn’s death during an LA Woman Tours/Dearly Departed event in October. Elisa Jordan has posted a full report on the Marilyn Remembered Facebook group.

“Craig Harvey has researched Marilyn’s passing more than anyone (literally) because of the public’s interest and media requests. Here are some take-away moments from Craig’s lecture and Q&A:

* Expert conclusion: suicide
* No signs of foul play
* A coroner investigation team did not exist until 1967. The investigation was as thorough as possible for 1962. NOTE: Because of this, the coroner’s office never entered the scene.
* In 1962, bodies were routinely removed to local funeral homes. If it was deemed necessary to have an autopsy performed, the body then went to the coroner’s office. In Marilyn’s case, she was taken to Westwood and then to the coroner’s office. In other words, this was an extra thorough investigation. The officers at the scene had determined suicide so an autopsy shows how thorough they were trying to be.
* The paper work indicates that only Marilyn’s body was removed from the scene. No artifacts from her home were taken—this includes any sort of diary.
* Lionel Grandison, who said he saw a red diary, would not have had access to any physical evidence, such as a diary. All he did was process paper work.
* No puncture marks were found on Marilyn’s body (extra: puncture wounds take about 24 hours to heal)
* Dr. Thomas Noguchi does not recall John Miner being present at the autopsy, but made the distinction (per my question) that he doesn’t recall being alone either. He made that clear but in other words, there is no record of John Miner being present. Today everybody attending an autopsy must sign a log.
* He has never known of a case in which enemas had administered a fatal overdose.
* Marilyn lived for quite a while after taking pills. Her body slowly shut itself down. This explains her empty stomach and body chemistry.
* Marilyn took between 25-40 pills. Today there is better technology to get a more exact estimate.
* Someone asked about Marilyn not throwing up. Answer: some overdoses vomit and some do not. Marilyn did not, nor was there foam around her mouth. Same with expelling the contents of bladder and colon—some people expel and others do not. Marilyn did not.
* Dr. Noguchi did not request any pictures of Marilyn be taken during the autopsy. The postmortem photo that Anthony Summers published was taken by someone in the LAPD. It was not authorized. NOTE: In the state of California, coroner photos are not ‘confidential’ but they *are* protected by law. In theory, they are not made public. They are sometimes stolen or leaked during a court trial, which doesn’t apply to Marilyn. But it does explain how that particular photo got out—it was a rogue in the LAPD.
* With toxicology, it is relatively easy to find which drugs are in the system and how much (especially these days). The hard part that takes a while to figure out is determining how said drugs would affect an individual’s body. It’s different for every person.
* Technically, anyone can request that a case be reopened. This explains the 1982 investigation.”

LA Coroner to Speak on Marilyn’s Death

On October 20, Craig Harvey, the recently retired Chief Coroner for Los Angeles County, will speak about Marilyn’s death and take questions from the audience, as part of a day-long ‘Through the Valley of Death‘ tour, visiting sites associated with Hollywood tragedies, and hosted by  Scott Michaels (Dearly Departed Tours) and Elisa Jordan of LA Woman Tours, who commented today…

“Craig is the recently retired lead investigator for the Los Angeles County Coroners Office and the leading authority on Marilyn’s passing. Because there have been so many investigations, news stories, books and questions (from people like me!), it has been Craig’s job to consult the actual case records, both coroner and police, to answer any and all questions accurately. Because of his position in the coroners office, he is also (obviously) an expert on procedure, including procedures that were in place in 1962. Craig isn’t a Marilyn fan and doesn’t have an agenda. He just happens to be the guy who ended up with this job. This may be our only chance to ask a person of this caliber questions about Marilyn so I wanted to make sure everyone knows.

Disclaimer 1: This is part of an *all day* event that is also filled with non-Marilyn stuff. So if you want to hear Craig, you have to attend the other stuff too (but the other stuff is really fun so you’ll want to go!)

Disclaimer 2: I helped plan this event, which means there will be no disrespect of Marilyn.”

Murder Orthodoxies: Sex, Lies and Marilyn

Marilyn’s tragic death  shocked the world in 1962, and over fifty years later, the rumours are still coming. In a new book, Murder Orthodoxies: A Non-Conspiracist’s View of Marilyn Monroe’s Death, author Donald McGovern unpicks the myths and searches for the truth. You can read my review here.

Scandals and Puzzles: Marilyn’s Latest Covers

Marilyn takes centre-stage in a new LIFE special, Deaths That Shocked the World, available via Amazon.

She also makes a rather odd appearance in this week’s National Enquirer, with the bizarre claim that Frank Sinatra was her killer. Fake news, anyone?

And on a lighter note, the latest issue of Take a Break’s Wordsearches Collection puts a Seven Year Itch spin on their regular cover character – although the brown bob and baseball cap are an unexpected twist on Marilyn’s bombshell style!

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Marilyn at the Edinburgh Festival

Marilyn is a hot topic in fringe theatre, though the results aren’t always stellar. At this year’s Edinburgh Festival, she’s the subject of two new shows, reviewed by Joyce McMillan for The Scotsman.

The Marilyn Conspiracy has grabbed a few headlines although Marilyn herself isn’t depicted – it’s set in the hours after her death, as some of the main players in her final months respond to the tragedy.

“The play is desperately confusing at first, and urgently needs to use its tableau-like opening moments to let the characters tell us exactly who they are … It’s a measure of the sheer power of the story, though, that the play rivets the attention nonetheless, as the two doctors in the room, and even Marilyn’s furious friend Pat Newcomb, are gradually worn down … “

However, another audience member – MM superfan Lorraine – told me, “The Marilyn Conspiracy had all the bogus theories – the ambulance, Bobby Kennedy, injections, enemas etc … I could hear people laughing a lot at some of the theories talked about … maybe the audience all knew better!” In his review for The Stage Paul Vale agrees, describing the play as a “stifling, under-developed drama that blurs fact and fiction.”

Theatregoers whom (like myself) aren’t enthralled by conspiracy theories may prefer the lighter option…

“JoJo Desmond’s cabaret show The Marilyn Monroe Story is a fragile little piece by comparison, a brief and simply staged hour of songs and biographical narrative tracing Marilyn’s remarkable life, not least through versions of some of her most famous and fabulous costumes. Desmond sings Marilyn’s songs beautifully, in a near-perfect imitation of her breathily gorgeous voice; and she, too, observes the link with the #metoo moment. Her script, though, never soars into anything like the brilliant writing a life like Marilyn’s invites and for all her charm, she is a long way from even beginning to capture the glowing charisma of the woman herself.”

Once again, Lorraine’s view was quite different to McMillan’s. “On the whole,” she says, “the show was well-researched and the costumes and mannerisms and performances of songs were spot on … the voice was accurate and she had some beautiful costumes (including a ‘Heat Wave’ replica outfit!), and you could tell that she had studied every single movement that Marilyn does in each of the musical performances.”

Where Marilyn is concerned, a diehard fan can be more perceptive than most theatre critics. Lorraine will be posting her full review of both shows soon on the Marilyn Remembered blog.