MM superfan Sirkku Aaltonen is a 31 year-old Home Economics teacher living in Helsinki, Finland. She is also one of Everlasting Star’s original members and an esteemed moderator. Sirkku wrote the ES Updates biography of Marilyn, and maintains a Monroe Book Blog in both Finnish and English.
For several years, Sirkku has been writing a thesis about Marilyn’s relationship with food, as part of her ongoing studies at the University of Helsinki. An interview with Sirkku – all about Marilyn, and cookery – has now been published by Savon Sanomat. (And if you don’t know any Finnish, there’s always Google Translate!)
In January, Marilyn was named as the ‘new face’ of Max Factor cosmetics. Also this month, Joe Franklin (Marilyn’s first biographer) and Anita Ekberg, a fellow blonde bombshell of the fifties, both passed away.
In February, New York Fashion Week included a Fall 2015 collection from Max Mara, inspired by Marilyn’s 1960s style. A hologram of multiple Marilyns appeared in the Oscars opening ceremony. Also this month, Richard Meryman – the last person to interview Marilyn – passed away.
In March, Marilyn was featured in a vintage-inspired ad campaign for Coca Cola. In book news, the long-awaited first volume of Holding A Good Thought For Marilyn, a two-part biography by Stacy Eubank, was published.
On June 1 – Marilyn’s 89th birthday – the British Film Institute launched a month-long retrospective of Marilyn’s movies, and a nationwide reissue of The Misfits. Menswear designer Dries Van Noten used iconic images of Marilyn in his Spring 2016 collection. A benefit performance of Bombshell (the Marilyn-inspired musical subject of TV’s Smash) spurred plans for a full Broadway run. And Marilyn Monroe: Missing Moments, a summer-long exhibit, opened at the Hollywood Museum.
On June 29, Julien’s Auctions held a Hollywood Legends sale dedicated to Marilyn, and her floral dress from Something’s Got to Givesold for over $300,000. Sadly, it was also reported that the ‘Dougherty House’ in North Hollywood, where Marilyn lived from 1944-45, has been demolished – despite protests from local residents. And George Winslow, the former child actor who appeared in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, passed away.
In August, the Marilyn Remembered fan club’s annual memorial service was held at Westwood Memorial Park, marking the 53rd anniversary of Marilyn’s death. It was reported that hip hop producer Timbaland would sample ‘Down Boy’, a ‘lost’ song recorded by Marilyn for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. And the Daily Express published rare photos of a young Marilyn in Salinas.
She is also an extremely modest and generous lady, always willing to share her wisdom. Holding a Good Thought for Marilyn is a project she has been working on throughout the eleven years that I’ve known her, and The Hollywood Years is its first fruition. A second volume, The New York Years, is also planned after Stacy takes a well-earned break.
Some may compare this book to Gary Vitacco-Robles’ two-part biography, Icon. But Stacy is truly in a league of her own. She previously served as a research assistant for Lois Banner, and I’m sure Dr Banner would say the same as author Maurice Zolotow once did about James Haspiel – that Stacy could have written an even better biography than hers.
Fortunately, Stacy has risen to the challenge, using her extraordinary collection of vintage magazines and newspapers as the basis of her work. There are no photographs inside the book, but Stacy has instead provided her own illustrations – she is also a talented artist, and was previously featured in Roger Taylor’s Marilyn in Art.
Marilyn herself admitted that she owed her stardom in part to the men who served in Korea, and 5% of the profits from sales of this book will be donated to the Korean War Memorial Veterans Foundation. Holding A Good Thought for Marilyn is available now in paperback from Amazon (UK, £14.58; US, $24.95.)
UPDATE: here is my review…
“This 562-page tome covers Marilyn Monroe’s tumultuous early life and rise to fame. What makes it different to most biographies is the in-depth focus on how her career was chronicled in the media. The wealth of material on how Marilyn was perceived in her own time is unprecedented, and even the most well-read Monroe fan will learn many significant facts that have been overlooked by other authors. The reader is also able to understand how Marilyn’s public image shifted from one-dimensional sex object to beloved American icon in just a few years. And the private Marilyn – sensitive and intelligent – is not neglected. A full chapter is devoted to her trip to Korea, to entertain the US troops who helped to make her a star. Reading the many tales of her kindness and generosity, one is impressed by her being clearly so at ease with ordinary men – much more so, in fact, than she would ever be in Hollywood. Fittingly, a percentage of the profits from sales of this book will be donated to Korean War veterans. The book is illustrated with drawings of Marilyn, giving it a unique charm. An accomplished artist herself, Stacy also examines Marilyn’s work with still photographers. Having started out as a model, she was more confident, and able to take control in a way that simply wasn’t possible on the sets of her movies. While some of her early photo shoots were formulaic, with her best photographers – including Andre de Dienes, Philippe Halsman, and Milton Greene – Monroe posed for images that would establish her as one of the 20th century’s defining beauties. A second volume, covering ‘the New York years’ – is forthcoming, but while this might be a heavy read for new or more casual fans, ‘Holding a Good Thought for Marilyn’ deserves to be known as one of the best, and most fully-researched volumes ever published about the ultimate screen goddess.”
Ray was filming 55 Days at Peking in Spain when he heard the news. (The magazine cover above shows a rather gossipy Confidential article about Marilyn and Ray from 1956, available to read at Everlasting Star.)
“The first week of August brought the bulletin that Ray’s old flame Marilyn Monroe had been found dead in the bedroom of her Brentwood home. More than Humphrey Bogart’s death, Monroe’s sudden passing, at thirty-six, seemed a personal augury to Ray. He had loved the blond sex symbol, for her obvious qualities but all the more for her elusiveness; now he would never have the chance to direct her in a motion picture. Monroe’s death left Ray ‘deeply shocked and grieved,’ according to news accounts, but the director could not leave the high-pressure filming in Spain and had to content himself with sending a floral display to her funeral.”
In later years, Ray criticised John Huston’s direction of The Misfits:
“In interviews, Ray himself tended to denigrate certain filmmakers by name. Though, for example, he praised Marilyn Monroe’s last picture, ‘The Misfits’, directed by John Huston, Ray said it was ‘not as good as The Lusty Men,’ his rodeo film.”
ES staffer Sirkku Aaltonen has reviewed John Vachon’s Marilyn, August 1953: The Lost ‘Look’ Photos, in Finnish and English, overat her Marilyn Monoe Book Blog.
“All the pictures are black and white, which goes well with the style of the book. Vachon’s photos show Marilyn in love with Joe DiMaggio, talking on the phone, in the arms of a stuffed bear and by the swimming pool. The book also has information on Vachon as well as his letters to his wife. This isn’t a very big book, but a very nice addition if you’re interested in Marilyn photos.”
Thanks to Angel aka ‘timetravelangel’ at Everlasting Star for her review of the Bus Stop revival at Newcastle-Under-Lyme’s New Vic Theatre.
‘I have seen some truly wonderful theatre at the New Vic over the years and so I was thrilled when I found out my local professional theatre was doing ‘Bus Stop” by William Inge. Though I love all Marilyn Monroe movies, I must confess that certain scenes in the movie ‘Bus Stop’ grate on my nerves – mostly Bo Decker’s persistent whooping and some of his more moronic moments.
However, a Marilyn movie is a Marilyn movie and I was very excited about the opportunity to see the original theatrical version. Would it be better? Would it be different?
Comparisons between play and movie…In the play, there are eight characters. As in the movie we have Bo Decker and his friend, the guitar-strumming Virgil Blessing, Chérie (just “Chérie” – one name is all a chanteuse needs!), Elma Duckworth – the scholarly young waitress, Grace the owner of the diner and the bus-driver Carl. Two characters who do not appear in the movie are the sheriff and the professor (more on them later).
In the movie, I don’t think anyone could disagree that Chérie and Bo are at the heart of the story. Bo’s journey into maturity and Chérie’s journey to learning what love really is are the meatiest character developments.
But in the play Elma features a lot more. In fact, it appeared that Elma was the central figure. Her naivety is like the prism through which we see the other characters. She mediates between the other characters on several occasions, and it is she who persuades Chérie to get on a table and sing ‘That Old Black Magic.’
The play focuses on the theme of one persons need for another: even an individualist rancher, an itinerant night-club singer, a long-distance driver,or a lonely diner-owner. Virgil’s loneliness is particularly poignant especially at the end of act two when the diner has closed, the bus has left and he is left alone in the snow. Though he is alone, Virgil had mentioned that it has been his own choice to remain so.
This character has more depth in the play and I felt that this was the character with whom the playwright most identified; the outsider, the traveller, the wandering minstrel. In this production the final image was Virgil, alone on the stage with his guitar and a stream of snowflakes falling onto his widebrimmed cowboy hat. It was very effective. Perhaps the movie missed a trick in leaving out this angle?
On reflection, this theme of the need for another’s company being central to the human condition has been better dealt with by other American writers, for example, in ‘Of Mice And Men’ by Steinbeck. In fact, I kept thinking that the play had a second-hand feel to it and that it was a minor work.
There is something about the freshness of Marilyn Monroe’s performance that makes the work seem more original than it is – and I don’t think I’m saying that only because I am a devoted fan. She brings an emotional truth and a depth to the piece that I had appreciated before, but never so much as I do now.
It is a one-set play, the one set being Grace’s Diner. The snow storm forces these eight people to spend the night at the diner, even the telephone lines are down so the only interaction is between these eight people holed up at this bus stop.
The scenes which we see in the movie showing other locations, such as Bo’s ranch, the ‘Blue Dragon’ night spot, the parade and rodeo etc., are only experienced through reported speech. So, as you can imagine, act one is heavy on the exposition and it takes quite a bit of time to really get going.
Naturally, due to the constraint of one set, it lacks the spectacle of the film and I really began to appreciate what a fine job the screenwriter (George Axelrod) did in ‘opening out’ the play into the many locations we see in the movie.
Grace, the worldly owner of the diner is pretty much the same as in the movie and Grace’s lover, Carl the bus driver is present too. As I mentioned, two characters not seen in the movie are Sheriff Will Masters, the face of law and order and the professor, Dr. Gerald Lyman.
From what I could tell, in the movie version the sheriff’s role was merged with the role of Carl the bus driver. In the play it is the sheriff who stands up to Bo, beats him in a fight and insists he make his apology to Chérie.
Dr. Lyman’s loneliness has caused him to become a drunkard and a serial seducer of young girls. During the night at the bus stop, he faces up to his past misdeeds and as proof he has turned over a new leaf he even releases Elma from the date he had made with her.
The role of Dr. Gerald Lyman is completely absent from the film, but I don’t think the film is any the worse for it. I kept thinking of Blanche DuBois from ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, another character that looks for love in all the wrong places, and I kept thinking how much better Tennessee Williams’ treatment of that theme is.
I think the movie was right to concentrate on Bo and Chérie and their development. (To be fair though, there is a moment in act two when Lyman and Elma re-enact the balcony scene from ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and Lyman is reciting Romeo’s pledge that if Juliet will swear love for him he will henceforth be Romeo no more. At this moment, Lyman is struck by the realisation that love might transform him into a better man and that he might leave behind his shame. This moment serves as testament to the transforming power of theatre/ performance too. It was skilfully acted and one of the most affecting moments in the play.)
In the screenplay, a major improvement is made to character of Chérie. It is her dream of getting to Hollywood (“Hollywood and Vine!”) which is so exuberantly expressed by Marilyn Monroe that helps flesh out Chérie – gives her aims in life, hopes and dreams, albeit impossible dreams. This extra dimension is absent in the play.
Also, the movie Chérie is less shallow than her theatrical counterpart. In the play it is Elma who tells her that her name means ‘dear one’, Chérie responding that she picked the name because she just thought it sounded pretty.
The scenes in the ‘Blue Dragon’ definitely add to the character. It is so much better to actually see Chérie sing there, to get a sense of how far she is from achieving her dream, and to see Bo adoring her. Learning of it through reported speech just isn’t the same.
In the play, it is also reported that Bo and Chérie have “had relations” (as he puts it) before he abducts her. I’m guessing this was axed from the movie because of the Hays Code censorship. However, I don’t think the movie suffers because of that.
The play had the effect of making me love the movie more. When I think of all the stand-out moments: that first image of Marilyn sitting in the window; Marilyn purposely singing badly with such courage and conviction, warbling ‘That Old Black Magic’ in the mermaid costume and casting a wink at Bo; Marilyn telling Bo he is “real beau regard”; Marilyn’s monologue on the bus; Marilyn trying to reach out to Bo when he gets beat; Marilyn’s sensitivity when she attempts to lessen Bo’s heartache by telling him she has led a wicked life and perhaps he’s better off without her; Marilyn getting into Bo’s warm coat – a metaphor for the warmth and protection true love affords.
If you have seen the movie but not the play, I think you have seen the best of this work. If you have seen the play but not the movie, I’d say see the movie. And if you have seen both you come away thinking- that Marilyn Monroe- wow! She was gooood and extremely underrated. And she is very much missed.
This production…All of the actors were excellent and their Mid-West American accents were spot-on. Each character was defined and memorable. Throughout the play, most of the characters remained onstage meaning that they had to find some stage business to do. This was easy for the actress playing Elma – she could brush up, wipe down tables etc.
But the poor actress playing Chérie (Louise Dylan) was given nothing to do but get out her compact and reapply her make-up – which she did like, ten times. It made her character less sympathetic because she appeared vain and shallow. I think the director should have given her something else to do.
That said, they all stayed in character and gave very detailed performances. As I stated before, Virgil and Lyman both provided poignant moments. Elma was clear, youthful chirpy and Grace provided the biggest laugh by barging on to the stage to watch the brawl- but with serious bedhair, thus giving away what she and Carl had been up to upstairs.
Bo gave just the right amount of brash chauvinism, beautifully countered by insecurity and bewilderment. His entrance gave a much-needed boost of energy to act one.
The set design is always incredible at the New Vic and ‘Bus Stop’ is no exception. It was detailed and practical to the extent of cooking eggs on a griddle! The aroma filled the theatre making me wish I could put in an order myself.
A large, three-dimensional ‘Bus Stop’ sign in chrome and blue light hung over the centre of the stage and a period jukebox provided some background music and added to the atmosphere at key moments.
I don’t think it is the greatest play ever written and I came away wondering why they chose to do it at all. That said, the production was faultless and it was a good night out.’