56 Years Ago: Marilyn Remembered at Westwood

Yesterday, the Marilyn Remembered fan club hosted their annual service at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Among this year’s speakers were actresses Kathleen Hughes and Terry Moore; author Lois Banner; Juliet Hyde-White (daughter of Marilyn’s Let’s Make Love co-star, Wilfrid Hyde-White); Susan Bernard (author, and daughter of photographer Bruno Bernard); and the advice columnist Jeanne Phillips (known to millions as ‘Dear Abby’.)

You can re-watch the live stream here.

56 Years Ago: Goodbye, Marilyn

On August 4th, 1962 – a balmy Saturday evening not unlike this one – Marilyn Monroe bid her housekeeper goodnight and retired to the bedroom of her modest Los Angeles home. She would never wake again, and on Sunday morning, the world learned of her death. On this sad anniversary, here’s an ode to America’s dream girl from an indigenous poet.

“Marilyn Monroe

drives herself to the reservation. Tired and cold,
she asks the Indian women for help.
Marilyn cannot explain what she needs
but the Indian women notice the needle tracks
on her arms and lead her to the sweat lodge
where every woman, young and old, disrobes
and leaves her clothes behind
when she enters the dark of the lodge.
Marilyn’s prayers may or may not be answered here
but they are kept sacred by Indian women.
Cold water is splashed on hot rocks
and steam fills the lodge. There is no place like this.
At first, Marilyn is self-conscious, aware
of her body and face, the tremendous heat, her thirst,
and the brown bodies circled around her.
But the Indian women do not stare. It is dark
inside the lodge. The hot rocks glow red
and the songs begin. Marilyn has never heard
these songs before, but she soon sings along.
Marilyn is not an Indian, Marilyn will never be an Indian
but the Indian women sing about her courage.
The Indian women sing for her health.
The Indian women sing for Marilyn.
Finally, she is no more naked than anyone else.

–from Tourists, Part 3″

Remembering Barbara Bates

Barbara Bates, ‘All About Eve’

Among the cast of All About Eve (1950), three would die in tragic circumstances: Marilyn, George Sanders, and Barbara Bates, who appears as wannabe actress Phoebe in the final scene. Although her screen time was brief, it amounts to one of the greatest endings in Hollywood history. Interestingly, her part was reportedly considered for Marilyn before she was cast as Miss Caswell. Barbara also appeared in another early Monroe film, Let’s Make It Legal (1951).

Barbara as Phoebe in ‘All About Eve’
Barbara with Marilyn in a publicity shot for ‘Let’s Make It Legal’

Barbara was born in Denver on August 6, 1925, and came to Hollywood in her teens after winning a beauty contest. There she met Cecil Coan, a publicist for United Artists. They were married, and despite Barbara’s extreme shyness, she submitted to his designs to make her a star, appearing in such films as Johnny Belinda, June Bride and Cheaper By the Dozen. Like Marilyn, Barbara alternated between bit parts and posing for cheesecake, but her career didn’t take off as Marilyn’s did.

By the mid-1950s, Barbara’s emotional instability made her increasingly unreliable, and her last screen credit was in a 1962 episode of the British TV series, The Saint. After her husband was diagnosed with cancer, Barbara gave up acting to care for him, but the strain made her depression worse. A year after his death in 1967, Barbara was remarried to a childhood friend in Denver. But sadly this still wasn’t enough to turn her life around, and in early 1969, she was found dead by gas poisoning in a car inside  her mother’s garage.

‘Let’s Make It Legal’ cast photo – Barbara at left, Marilyn at right
Barbara and Marilyn with Macdonald Carey in a scene from the movie

Marilyn Fans Respond to Celebrity Deaths

This last week has seen at least three suicides among people in the public eye, including fashion designer Kate Spade, chef Anthony Bourdain, and Inés Zorreguieta, younger sister of the Dutch Queen. Perhaps inevitably, this tragic news has led to some rather irresponsible headlines about an alleged epidemic, with some journalists citing the reported spike in suicides among young American women shortly after Marilyn’s death.

Marilyn’s death was ruled a ‘probable suicide’, although wild rumours and conspiracy theories have abounded ever since. While I personally would never rule out any possibility, having studied the evidence over many years I consider it highly unlikely that Marilyn was murdered. (This is my own opinion, and I don’t presume to speak for the membership of Everlasting Star.)

The recent unfortunate events have led to some soul-searching within the Marilyn fan community, and a serious examination of the mental health problems she faced. At the same time, an excellent article in the latest issue of American History explores her addiction to prescribed drugs, now the leading cause of death in Americans aged under 50 (see here.)

Psychotherapist Gary Vitacco Robles, author of Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, discusses these issues in a new blog post, ‘Myth-Busting Suicide.’

“I hear the public reactions to a publicized suicide such as, ‘He seemed happy’ and ‘She was planning for the future.’ The suicide seems incongruent with a recent, apparently positive mood state. However, people are at higher risk when they appear to being doing well and planning for the future. They now have the energy to complete the suicide which they didn’t have when they were experiencing major depressive symptoms.”

Scott Fortner addresses Marilyn’s death specifically on his MM Collection Blog today:

“In spite of the evidence that proves she died of an overdose of prescription drugs consumed orally, conspiracy theories surrounding Marilyn’s death are plentiful … Sadly though, these conspiracy theories, in a way, help keep her legend alive. Fans simply can’t accept the fact it was either intentional or accidental, and I am regularly surprised at the frequency in which people I talk to bring up, and believe, the outrageous theories.”

Over at Immortal Marilyn, Leslie Kasperowicz believes that fans need to confront these issues openly to support those at risk and end the stigma of suicide.

“Marilyn’s death could have – should have – been one of the biggest blows to that stigma.  But instead, by choosing to look for conspiracies and murder, we took away her impact.  An impact that may have helped the people named above and so, so many others, had we let the blow fall.  Who were we protecting?  Not Marilyn. She is already beyond protection.”

How Marilyn’s Addiction Became America’s Scourge

Marilyn is on the cover of American History‘s latest issue (dated August 2018), with an article inside by Robert Dorfman, Emily Berquist Soule, and Sukumar Desai MD, about her struggle with addiction to prescribed drugs and ultimate death by overdose prefigured the national opioid crisis, which has now reached epidemic proportions. Although the subject matter is bleak, the piece is well-researched and insightful. You can also read it in full here.

“Then, as now, abuse of drugs was nationwide. But if prescription drug abuse had an epicenter in the 1950s, it was in Los Angeles at Schwab’s Pharmacy on Sunset Boulevard, where Orson Welles shopped, Ava Gardner worked the soda fountain, and F. Scott Fitzgerald reportedly had a heart attack buying cigarettes. At the pharmacy counter, celebrities and regular folks could get their prescriptions filled. In 1950s Hollywood, that meant barbiturates for nerves and amphetamines for energy and weight loss. One studio employee claimed that in those days most Hollywood actors were on prescription drugs.

In that era, when psychological treatment was the province of the very privileged or the very ill, pharmaceuticals seemed to hold great promise for treating mental illness. More patients got relief without undergoing lobotomy, previously the recommended treatment. But the medical community knew prescription pharmaceuticals were addictive. Studies in the 1950s showed the best treatment for such addictions to be hospital detox followed by inpatient psychological care. Those convicted under federal drug laws could be forced to undergo such treatment, but Marilyn’s drug use never became a criminal matter. Her treatments were strictly voluntary.

It is impossible to know whether Marilyn Monroe took her own life or was self-medicating and miscalculated. Many friends insisted she died by accident. But in her final interview, Marilyn called celebrity ‘only a temporary and partial happiness,’ adding in an aside on her career that ‘it might be kind of a relief to be finished.’ Days later, she was.”

Marilyn Book News: The Girl, Hollywood and More

2018 is shaping up to be another great year for Marilyn’s book-loving fans. Marilyn: Lost and Forgotten, featuring 150 images from Colin Slater’s Hollywood Photo Archive, is set for publication in October. For those who can’t get enough of those classic Hollywood beauties, a companion volume – Venus in Hollywood: Portraits from the Golden Age of Glamour – is due in November.

Michelle Morgan’s latest book, The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist, will be published in May. For the latest updates, follow Michelle’s blog here.

Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon, a full-scale biography by Charles Casillo, will follow in August.

Looking further ahead,  Amanda Konkle’s Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe, a scholarly look at her film performances, will be published in February 2019. (Only the Kindle version is available for pre-order as yet.)

In related interest, Marilyn graces the cover of Samantha Barbas’ Confidential Confidential: The Inside Story of Hollywood’s Notorious Scandal Magazine, due in September. (The notorious ‘Wrong Door Raid’ is also featured in Jim Heimann’s Dark City: The Real Los Angeles Noir, just published by Taschen.

Reno, a 2016 play by Roy Smiles about Marilyn’s conflicted relationships with husband Arthur Miller and director John Huston during the tumultuous filming of The Misfits, will be published shortly by Oberon Modern Playwrights (the Kindle version is currently available for pre-order.)

And finally, Elizabeth Winder’s Marilyn in Manhattan is now available in Turkish; and Marilyn Monroe: 1926-1962, a new study of her untimely death by Eva Enderström, has been published in Sweden.

Barbara Rush Remembers Marilyn

Actress Barbara Rush has shared memories of her long career with Stephanie Nolasco for Fox News. Born in 1927, she met a young Marilyn Monroe in the late 1940s, while both were residents at the Hollywood Studio Club, a home for aspiring actresses.

‘Oh yes, we were friends,’ she said. ‘We were in the studio club together. At least with me, when you first come to Hollywood, and I went to Paramount, they put me immediately in the studio club. It’s kind of like a sorority house. And Marilyn Monroe was there. I loved her. Marilyn was such a darling lady. She was very sweet and nice. All the girls in the studio club just had a good time.’

In 1954, Barbara won the Golden Globe award as ‘Most Promising Newcomer – Female’ for her role in the sci-fi classic, It Came From Outer Space. She was then married to actor Jeffrey Hunter. She played the wife of James Mason in Bigger Than Life (1956.) Director Nicholas Ray, a mutual friend of Marilyn, offered the star – who was filming Bus Stop on another soundstage at Twentieth Century Fox – a cameo role in his film, but due to Marilyn’s nerves, it never transpired.

In The Young Lions (1958) Barbara starred opposite Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, who would later work with Marilyn on her last completed movie, The Misfits.

Barbara married Hollywood publicist Warren Cowan in 1959. As Marilyn’s biographer Gary Vitacco Robles tells me, ‘Warren Cowan was part of a publicity firm (Rogers & Cowan) that had merged with Arthur P. Jacobs’ Company. I believe the two firms separated again around 1959. Both had represented Marilyn.’

Barbara still remembers her disbelief at hearing of Marilyn’s death three years later. ‘It was in the middle of the night when we got the call,’ she recalled. ‘My husband, who handled her, was very shocked. So shocked. I just kept hearing him go, Oh my God, over and over… We were all just very disturbed by it.’

During this time Barbara also worked in television, including a memorable role as the devious Nora Clavicle in Batman. She also appeared in the Rat Pack musical, Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), and with Paul Newman in the 1967 Western, Hombre.

In 1970, Barbara won the prestigious Sarah Siddons Award (referenced in All About Eve) for her stage role in Forty Carats. She would later star in a one-woman Broadway show, A Woman Of Independent Means. She returned to her sci-fi roots with a recurring part as Lindsay Wagner’s mother in TV’s The Bionic Woman. Since 1997 she has lived at the Harold Lloyd Estate in Beverly Hills, where Marilyn was photographed by the former silent movie comedian back in 1953.

Barbara’s most recent screen credit was in 2007, when she appeared in several episodes of another television series, Seventh Heaven. She is still active, having just made a short film and attending a Hollywood Museum exhibition, Batman ’66.

Arthur Miller’s Unseen Archives

In an article for the New York Times, Jennifer Schluesser reports on the dispute over Arthur Miller’s unseen archives, and sheds new light on his reaction to Marilyn’s death – including his decision not to attend her funeral.

“More than 160 boxes of his manuscripts and other papers have been on deposit for decades at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, uncataloged and all but inaccessible to scholars, pending a formal sale. Another cache — including some 8,000 pages of private journals — remained at his home in rural Connecticut, unexplored by anyone outside the intimate Miller circle.

Now, the Ransom Center has bought the entire archive for $2.7 million, following a discreet tug-of-war with the Miller estate, which tried to place the papers at Yale University despite the playwright’s apparent wishes that they rest in Texas.

‘Arthur wrote about everything in his journals,’ said Julia Bolus, Miller’s longtime assistant and director of the Arthur Miller Trust, who is coediting a volume of selections. ‘They were the place where all the elements of his life came together.’

Among the extensive unpublished material in the archive is an essay Miller began on Aug. 8, 1962, the day of the funeral of Marilyn Monroe, his second wife. ‘Instead of jetting to the funeral to get my picture taken I decided to stay home and let the public mourners finish the mockery,’ Miller wrote. ‘Not that everyone there will be false, but enough. Most of them there destroyed her, ladies and gentleman. She was destroyed by many things and some of those things are you and some of those things are destroying you. Destroying you now. I love as you stand there weeping and gawking, glad that it’s not you going into the earth, glad that it’s this lovely girl who at last you killed.’

Those journals are closed to researchers until after publication of that volume, by Penguin Press.

An inventory of the archive notes journal entries relating to Monroe. But it does not list any personal correspondence between her and Miller, the survival of which has been the subject of speculation over the years.

In a 2002 article in Talk Magazine, Andreas Brown, the dealer who arranged the earlier deposits to the Ransom Center, described coming across an odd bundle, which Miller told him held nearly 100 letters from Monroe. ‘It was all sealed and tied-up,’ Mr. Brown, who is now retired, recalled in a recent interview.

Miller’s memoir, Timebends, refers to correspondence with Monroe, and one of his passionate love letters to her fetched $43,750 at auction in Beverly Hills in 2014. ‘It was a really over-the-top Tom Cruise, jump-on-the-couch-kind of letter,’ Christopher Bigsby said.

But Mr. Bigsby is skeptical that a secret motherlode survives. ‘When I asked, he said he had no more than 4 or 5 of her letters,’ he said of Miller.”

 

Amy and Joshua Greene Remember Marilyn

In a new interview for the Hello Giggles website, Joshua and Amy Greene talk about Marilyn and their spectacular book, 50 Sessions: The Essential MM By Milton Greene.

“On meeting Marilyn for the first time at Gene Kelly’s house:

AG: So, I also have to tell you that very few people in Hollywood had ever seen Marilyn because she was almost a recluse. She got up, she went to work, and she came back. So Milton said, ‘I’m gonna get Marilyn’ and come back to Gene’s house, [and] that’s where I met her. She came walking in. She was wearing a big Polo coat and no makeup. Her hair looked good. I sort of waved at her and she waved at me. The first break, I went over to her and she threw her arms around me and said, I’m delighted to meet you, and I kissed her. It was lovely because we became girlfriends.

On finding out about Marilyn’s death:

AG: We were in France, in Paris. Milton was doing the collections for Life magazine, and there was a radio. I kept saying, ‘Well let’s try to get some music or something.’ All we got was news, news, news, and neither one of us could understand French that well. All of a sudden, the words Marilyn Monroe came on. We didn’t know what it was. So, we went to [Château de] Fontainebleau, had a wonderful picnic lunch, drove back to Paris, and the first thing we heard—the telephone was ringing off the wall. It was Arthur Jacobs, who was her publicist trying to get us all day. And he said Marilyn’s dead. […] I collapsed. Milton was staggering. That was the last thing we expected.

On the subconscious feminism of Marilyn and Marilyn Monroe Productions:

JG: When you look at the history of what she was up against, what she did—she knew exactly what she was doing with men, and she knew exactly what she wanted to do for herself. With the right help [and] the right people, she was able to change and break the chain, break the glass ceiling, for someone with essentially no power and no money in the ‘50s as a woman. You gotta look at it through those rose-colored glasses. There’s movements that were created based on her life path—things that she wasn’t necessarily doing for that reason—she was just fighting for her freedom.”