Category Archives: Exhibitions

Parreno’s Marilyn in Melbourne

F96687CD-0D6C-4BFB-81F7-C1647168D1D8-1433-0000007B87FEA4C9_tmp

Multimedia artist Philippe Parreno’s 2012 video installation, Marilyn – based on her own writings as collected in the 2010 book, Fragments, and originally exhibited in Switzerland –  is featured in a new retrospective of his work in film, Philippe Parreno: Thenabouts, on display at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne until March 13, as Christopher Allen reports for The Australian.

“The most successful and memorable work in the exhibition was devoted to Marilyn Monroe, a figure who for half a century has been a kind of cultural palimpsest: the original actress, talented, intelligent, tragic, is overlaid with ­Warhol’s adoption of her as emblematic of the way that the modern mass media turns celebrities into two-dimensional patterns akin to brands or logos.

Parreno has recreated the hotel room at the Waldorf Astoria that Monroe occupied in New York in 1955. The camera pans around the room while the actress’s voice describes its design and furnishings: wall coverings, sofas, desks, coffee-table, ornaments. And then the camera switches to a close shot of a fountain pen writing on hotel stationery: we seem to be watching Monroe’s own pen forming her own words in her own handwriting.

But the voice is disembodied and we do not see the hand holding the pen, for all is done through computerised robotic movements. The speech is synthesised from recordings of the star’s voice, and the handwriting robot has been programmed to reproduce samples of her script. As both voice and handwriting routines are repeated, we realise that something mechanical is going on, and this is confirmed as gradually the camera takes a longer view, progressively revealing parts of the illusion.

First we see bits of scaffolding, then gradually we are shown the mechanism holding and moving the pen. And then the camera pans out to reveal that the whole room had really been a set built in a studio. Marilyn Monroe, as it turned out, had not only been reduced to a brand in her own day, but could now be synthetically reproduced, mechanically cloned as it were; a reflection, perhaps, on the further reduction of the actor, in the mass media world, to a consumer product.

The ending was interesting from another point of view too, because it was almost cliched in its use of the trope of illusion revealed. But it was also significant in being one of the few clear endings in a body of films mostly with little sense of starting or finishing.

Watching Parreno’s lengthy and not always gripping body of work, I couldn’t help reflecting that Aristotle was on to something with his conception of plot as the basic structuring device for stories.

At least the Marilyn Monroe film conformed perfectly to his definition of an ending: an action that implies something before it but nothing after it.”

Debbie Reynolds 1932-2016

IMG_2055

Debbie Reynolds, star of Singin’ in the Rain and other classic Hollywood musicals, has died after suffering a stroke, aged 84 – just one day after her famous daughter, Carrie Fisher, also passed away.

She was born Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas in 1932. As a child she moved with her family to Los Angeles, and was crowned Miss Burbank in 1948. She began her career at Warner Brothers, where she was renamed Debbie.

In Three Little Words (1950), a nostalgic musical about the heyday of Tin Pan Alley, she played Helen Kane, the singer famed for her 1928 hit, ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You‘ (later revived by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.)

Debbie Reynolds sings 'I Wanna Be Loved By You' to Carleton Carpenter in 'Three Little Words' (1951)
Debbie Reynolds sings ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ to Carleton Carpenter in ‘Three Little Words’ (1950)

After moving to MGM, Debbie’s big break came when she was cast in her first dancing role, as chorus girl Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), recently named as the all-time Greatest Movie Musical (and fifth-greatest movie overall) by the AFI. She went on to star in Frank Tashlin’s Susan Slept Here (1954), and with Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap (1955.)

In 1956, she played a bride-to-be in The Catered Affair. That year, her marriage to singer Eddie Fisher was feted by Hollywood’s fan magazines as the dawn of a new, all-American golden couple. They were swiftly paired in Bundle of Joy, with Debbie playing a shopgirl who takes in an abandoned baby.

Their daughter Carrie was born in 1956, followed by son Todd in 1958. He was named after Eddie’s mentor, theatrical impresario Mike Todd, who died in a plane crash soon after.  The Fishers’ seemingly idyllic life was shattered in 1959, when Eddie left Debbie for Mike Todd’s widow, Elizabeth Taylor. The scandal rocked Hollywood, although the two women resumed their friendship after Taylor divorced Fisher a few years later. Debbie married the millionaire businessman, Harry Karl, in 1960.

Debbie was the best-selling female singer of 1957, thanks to her hugely popular theme from Tammy. She later released an album, and went on to appear in Henry Hathaway’s How the West Was Won (1962), and opposite Tony Curtis in Goodbye Charlie (1964), in a role first offered to Marilyn Monroe.

Debbie With Tony Curtis in 'Goodbye Charlie' (1964)
With Tony Curtis in ‘Goodbye Charlie’ (1964)

In later years, Debbie would claim that evangelist Billy Graham approached her in 1962, after experiencing a premonition that Marilyn’s life was in danger. As Debbie did not know Marilyn well, she instead contacted a mutual friend, hairdresser Sydney Guilaroff, who allegedly spoke with Marilyn by telephone just hours before her death.

“She was a gentle, childlike girl who was always looking for that white knight on the white horse,” Debbie said of Marilyn, adding, “And why not? What sex symbol is happy?” Debbie also claimed that they attended the same church, although no further details have been uncovered.

Throughout the 1960s, Debbie played a three-month residency in Las Vegas each year. Her performance in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) earned her an Oscar nomination. Her second marriage ended in 1973. Four years later, her daughter Carrie Fisher found fame In her own right as Princess Leia in Star Wars.

With daughter Carrie Fisher in 2015
With daughter Carrie Fisher in 2015

Carrie would later become an acclaimed author. Postcards From the Edge, a novel about her close, if occasionally fractious relationship with her celebrated mother, was filmed by Mike Nichols in 1990, with Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine in the leading roles. Todd Fisher has also worked extensively in film, as well as assisting his mother with her business ventures.

The Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio opened in Los Angeles in 1979, and is still thriving. Her third marriage, to real estate developer Richard Hamlett, ended in 1996. She starred in several Broadway musicals and appeared in numerous television shows, including The Love Boat, Hotel, The Golden Girls, Roseanne, and Will & Grace. A former Girl Scout leader, she has also worked tirelessly for AIDS and mental health charities.

Debbie played herself in The Bodyguard (1992), and was reunited with Elizabeth Taylor for a 2001 TV movie, These Old Broads. One of her final roles was as Liberace’s mother in Behind the Candelabra (2013.) Her memoir, the aptly-titled Unsinkable, was published in 2015; and a new documentary, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, premiered at Cannes in 2016, and has since been acquired by HBO.

Debbie with her Hollywood costume collection
Debbie with her Hollywood costume collection

Debbie Reynolds will also be remembered fondly for her efforts to preserve the legacy of Hollywood’s golden age, which began when she purchased costumes from classic films (including many made for Marilyn) at an MGM auction in 1970. Her dream of opening a movie museum was sadly never realised, and in 2011, she relinquished her collection.

Among the many Marilyn-related items sold in a two-part event at Profiles in History was the cream silk halter-dress designed by Travilla, and worn by Marilyn as she stood over a subway grate in an iconic scene from The Seven Year Itch. The dress sold for $4.6 million, a sum surpassed only by the sale of Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ dress at Julien’s last month for $4.8 million.

Although the buyer was not named, the Seven Year Itch dress is rumoured to have been purchased by Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the Canadian company which is the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate.

2016: A Year In Marilyn Headlines

FA493B0C-8BFD-425A-9AEE-3BB7A1850CF2-2354-0000013A1572D1A0_tmp

In January, exhibitions featuring Milton Greene and Douglas Kirkland’s photographs of Marilyn opened in London and Amsterdam. In New York, the Museum of Modern Art paid tribute to Marilyn’s choreographer, Jack Cole. Also this month, James Turiello’s book, Marilyn: The Quest for an Oscar, was published. And Edward Parone, assistant producer of The Misfits, died.

F57E1FE9-E5F7-4AF3-9274-1DC047702DA6-2578-0000013D682C1196_tmp

In February, Marilyn ‘starred’ with Willem Dafoe in a Snickers commercial for the US Superbowl. Monroe Sixer Jimmy Collins’ candid photographs were sold at Heritage Auctions, and the touring exhibition, Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon, came to Albury, Australia.

82FCF158-49A0-4A1C-9035-C6AF852F5E0F-2578-0000013E950D4BF3_tmp

Another major Australian exhibition, Twentieth Century Fox Presents Marilyn Monroe, featuring the collections of Debbie ReynoldsScott Fortner, Greg Schreiner and Maite Minguez Ricart – opened at the Bendigo Art Gallery in March. And Barbara Sichtermann’s book, Marilyn Monroe: Myth and Muse, was published in Germany.

IMG_1943

In April, a special edition of Vanity Fair magazine – dedicated to MM – was published. A campaign to save Rockhaven, the former women’s sanitarium where Marilyn’s mother Gladys once lived – was launched. And actress Anne Jackson – wife of Eli Wallach, and friend to Marilyn – passed away.

9E281B10-370F-4C02-A9A0-5A26DB344123-2578-00000140B9BDBC82_tmp

In May, Marilyn graced the cover of a Life magazine special about ‘hidden Hollywood’, and Sebastien Cauchon’s novel, Marilyn 1962, was published in France. Cabaret singer Marissa Mulder’s one-woman show, Marilyn in Fragments, opened in New York, while Chinese artist Chen Ke unveiled Dream-Dew, a series of paintings inspired by Marilyn’s life story. The remarkable collection of David Gainsborough Roberts was displayed in London. Finally, Alan Young – the comedian and Mister Ed star, who befriended a young Marilyn – died.

7F97E0CB-4534-4E2D-A7F8-8BD182034491-2686-0000015F5FA69BCC_tmp

June 1st marked what would be Marilyn’s 90th birthday. Also in June, New Yorkers were treated to an Andre de Dienes retrospective, Marilyn and the California Girls. An exhibition of the Ted Stampfer collection, Marilyn Monroe: The Woman Behind the Myth, opened in Turin, Italy. A new documentary, Artists in Love: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, was broadcast in the UK, while Australia honoured Marilyn with a commemorative stamp folder, and genealogists investigated Marilyn’s Scottish ancestry.

36BBAA5B-4B61-4AA5-80CD-0B44A01DF0A2-2578-000001444908D23B_tmp

In July, the birthday celebrations continued in Marilyn’s Los Angeles hometown with tributes from painter David Bromley, and another Greene exhibition. A new musical, Marilyn!, opened in Glendale. Rapper Frank Ocean appeared alongside a Monroe impersonator in a Calvin Klein commercial. And Marni Nixon, the Hollywood soprano who sang the opening bars of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, passed away.

1F04CA9E-1A1F-4344-9834-82E6FCD24FFB-2578-00000146EAE34134_tmp

August 5th marked the 54th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. Also this month, it was announced that Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn’ sculpture may return permanently to Palm Springs. April VeVea’s Marilyn Monroe: A Day in the Life was published, and Marilyn’s role in Niagara was featured in another Life magazine special, celebrating 75 years of film noir.

A9B72469-B9EE-4813-A094-5395F29C367B-2578-000001465EC9B540_tmp

In September, Marilyn: Character Not Image – an exhibition curated by Whoopi Goldberg – opened in New Jersey. Terry Johnson’s fantasy play, Insignificance, was revived in Wales. Two locks of Marilyn’s hair were sold by Julien’s Auctions for $70,000. And author Michelle Morgan published The Marilyn Journal, first in a series of books chronicling the Marilyn Lives Society; and A Girl Called Pearl, a novel for children with a Monroe connection.

73480215-EE98-402B-81D0-642B1863806E-2686-0000014C4A376EB9_tmp

In October, Happy Birthday Marilyn – a touring showcase for the collection of Ted Stampfer – came to Amsterdam, while Marilyn: I Wanna Be Loved By You, a retrospective for some of her best photographers, opened in France. Marilyn Forever, Boze Hadleigh’s book of quotes, was published. Marilyn’s friendship with Ella Fitzgerald was depicted on the cult TV show, Drunk History. And on a sadder note, photographer George Barris, biographer John Gilmore, and William Morris agent Norman Brokaw all passed away this month.

CF83D751-8658-4AF4-AAF2-A5774A0FF52F-2686-0000014D401B7EB1_tmp

In November, Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President‘ dress was sold for a record-breaking $4.8 million during a three-day sale at Julien’s Auctions, featuring items from the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, the Lee Strasberg estate, and many others including the candid photos of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull. Also this month, comedienne Rachel Bloom spoofed ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in a musical sequence for her TV sitcom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. And Marilyn Monroe: Lost Photo Collection, a limited edition book featuring images by Milton Greene, Gene Lester and Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder, was published.

05E065FF-9E98-4677-8946-85623619BBF3-2686-0000014DE181D724_tmpFinally, in December the EYE Film Institute began a Marilyn movie season in Amsterdam. The Asphalt Jungle was released on Blu-Ray by Criterion. And actresses Zsa Zsa Gabor and Debbie Reynolds both passed away.

Marilyn at Amsterdam EYE

IMG_1519
Photo by Ralf at Immortal Marilyn

If you’re in Amsterdam this Christmas, don’t miss the Happy Birthday Marilyn: 90 Years Ms Monroe  exhibit (featuring the Ted Stampfer collection), on display at De Nieuwe Kerk until next February. And from next Thursday (December 22), the city’s EYE Film Institute will be screening seven of Marilyn’s best movies: Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Seven Year Itch, Bus Stop, Some Like It Hot and The Misfits.

Knowledge Bennett’s Pop Art Marilyn

D6518E9C-5119-498D-A835-C4DA11252B3F-24619-00000D8E6AA8B12B_tmp

Orange is the New Black is not just a TV prison drama, but also the title of Los Angeles-based artist Knowledge Bennett’s first solo exhibit in New York, tracing the history of race in modern America through a Pop Art perspective. The show includes a section devoted to Marilyn, Good Girl Gone Bad (also the title of an album by Rihanna, who is featured elsewhere.)

Bennett’s portraits of Marilyn pay homage to Andy Warhol, but crucially they add a sharp political edge to the ‘gangsta’ images of MM that adorn T-shirt stalls across the globe. The artist spoke about why he chose to depict Marilyn this way in an interview with Art ON!

03DE5164-3E4C-4F84-BDB8-5C469AB92A9F-24889-00000DA01B9CD8EE_tmp

“Quite often I seek to alter popular images in a very minimal way to tell a very different story. With my Marilyn Monroe series Good Girl Gone Bad, I simply added a tied bandana scarf around her head to make a statement of defiance and courage.

While researching the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, I was shocked to learn of Marilyn Monroe’s involvement and influence in helping to break the color barrier (in the entertainment industry) which existed during these times.

I developed a newfound respect for her and her contributions to society at large. To learn that this woman, who was mostly known only as a major film star and sex symbol, had the balls and compassion for others to go out on a limb and make this happen is something worth acknowledging.”

Publishing News: Marilyn’s Lost Photos, and More

IMG_1071

Limited Runs have produced a book based on their touring exhibit, Marilyn Monroe: Lost Photo Collection, featuring 21 images by Milton Greene, Gene Lester and Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder. Only 125 copies have been made, priced at $95. Hopefully it will be a high-quality product, but it still seems rather expensive for such a slim volume.

879F1606-47E6-4098-8BBC-7D3BC75C611A-COLLAGE

One of Marilyn’s best biographers and a friend of this blog, Michelle Morgan has recently published two new books via Lulu. The Marilyn Journal is the first in an anthology series, compiling newsletters of the UK Marilyn Lives Society, founded by Michelle in 1991. A Girl Called Pearl is a charming children’s novel – not about Marilyn as such, but it is set in the Los Angeles of her childhood, so it does have some interesting parallels, and would be a great Christmas gift for readers young and old (also available via Kindle.)

IMG_0912

Marilyn: I Wanna Be Loved By You, an 82-page catalogue (in French) accompanying the current exhibition at Aix-en-Provence, is available from Amazon UK for £8.44.

68FF8E09-8EF4-442F-8AD9-3A1F2F9A4D5F-22831-00000CE11A3295FE_tmp
Photo by Fraser Penney

In the November 19 issue of Scotland’s Weekly News (with Donny Osmond on the cover), Craig Campbell picks his Top 10 MM movies. Click the photo above to read the article in full.

FF5C873B-479E-442E-85A5-7EC6CBEED9C5-22831-00000CE4CE07BD92_tmp

Finally, Marilyn’s love of Chanel No. 5 is featured in an article about favourite perfumes in Issue 3 of UK nostalgia mag Yours Retro.

Marilyn at Julien’s in November

IMG_0710

The full catalogue for the upcoming Marilyn-only event at Julien’s Auctions is now online. Among the 1,015 items on offer are movie costumes from the collection of David Gainsborough Roberts; rare candid photos formerly owned by Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull; and personal property from the Lee Strasberg estate.

Some items were previously sold at Christie’s in 1999, while various  writings, drawings and correspondence have been published in books like Fragments, MM Personal and GirlWaiting. However, there is still a great deal of unseen material, yielding fresh insight into Marilyn’s life and times.

In advance of the auction in Beverly Hills on November 17 the Happy Birthday dress will be on display for one week only from tomorrow at the Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge Silverware in County Kildare, Ireland.

ES Updates will be covering all aspects of the sale, including a series of detailed posts about what’s on offer. You can also read an article about it on Immortal Marilyn now, while Scott Fortner will be interviewing Anna Strasberg at his MM Collection blog on November 1.

Marilyn Raises Millions in Bendigo

IMG_0160

Australia’s unofficial ‘year of Marilyn’ has been a resounding success, as the Bendigo Advertiser reports.

“Bendigo Art Gallery’s Marilyn Monroe exhibition brought more than $13 million into the region, Victorian government modelling has shown.

Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan announced on Wednesday $13.2 million in economic impact for Bendigo was derived from the four-month exhibition, exceeding the $11.2 million benefit forecast before the show opened.

‘We knew Marilyn Monroe would be a showstopper and it was,’ she said. ‘It demonstrates [the gallery] is a facility that brings many jobs, a significant amount of funds flowing into the Bendigo community.’

More than 140,000 visitors attended the ticketed exhibition in Bendigo between March and July this year. Almost half of those people were from Melbourne, travelling to central Victoria specifically to see the Hollywood-themed show.

The total cost of showing the Marilyn Monroe exhibition is unclear.

Ms Allan also said the strength of Bendigo’s gallery could inspire young people to choose an artistic career path, citing ‘strong’ art and design programs at La Trobe University as yet more evidence of the region’s creative strength.

But it was not only the Bendigo economy that benefitted from the blockbuster exhibition; the gallery’s curatorial manager Tansy Curtin said Marilyn challenged her institution artistically.

‘We went from working with fine art to working with contemporary culture.’

These new strings in her institution’s bow meant it was ‘re-defining’ what it meant to be a regional art gallery, no longer catering solely to a local audience but to national and international art-lovers as well.

Conservation work carried out during the exhibition also meant the gallery was ensure the longevity of Marilyn Monroe artifacts.

Because many of the items exhibited in the gallery were not normally showcased in a curated setting – many were kept inside the houses of their collectors before coming to Bendigo – Ms Curtin said many were returned to their owners in a better condition than when they arrived, having undergone conservation while housed in central Victoria.”