“In an age where women’s hair skewed complex and baroque, Marilyn showed up to movie premieres looking fluffed-up and windblown, in platinum pompadours more tousled than James Dean’s. Friends begged her to brush out her bedhead, which she did rarely, and then only with a gold-plated hairbrush given to her by Frank Sinatra. She hated anything fussy or prissy, refused to wear jewelry, and stuck to a neutral palette — an invisible backdrop to her own pearly beauty. In the wasp-waisted, Dior-dominated ‘50s, Marilyn went back to basics: she went braless, skipped girdles, and commissioned custom-made, simple black slips from a beloved tailor in New York City. She found a template she liked and ordered copies by the dozen, in identical forms and varying fabrics, some matte, some faille, some velveteen, all in black.”
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.
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.)
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.
Actress 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.
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.
That iconic scene from The Seven Year Itch – and the dress worn by Marilyn as she stood over the subway grate – is constantly being referenced in popular culture. One recent example is this magazine ad for the Marilyn-themed Sexy Hair brand.
On Immortal Marilyn this week, Marijane Gray unravels the mystery of what happened to that dress, designed by Marilyn’s regular costumer, Travilla.
“The white pleated halter dress that Marilyn Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch is always described in superlatives: most iconic, most recognized, most recreated, most expensive. It can also be called the most mysterious: how many copies of the dress were there? Is there another one in existence, hidden away all these years? Did Marilyn herself own a copy of the dress, and if so, where did it end up? And perhaps most intriguing: was a copy of the dress really stolen back in 1993?”
Also this week, Keena Al-Wahaidi reviews the movie that started it all for The Medium, the student magazine for the University of Toronto. (Incidentally, the campus is based at Mississauga, which is also home to a skyscraper complex whose curvaceous design has earned the nickname The Marilyn Monroe Towers.)
“The most notable aspect of The Girl is her obliviousness towards her own allure …. The most dubious fixture of this film is the lack of identity in Monroe’s character. The reason for her ambiguity is because she’s nameless … However, Monroe’s lack of identity contributes to the mystery of the film’s plot. Regardless of the immorality of the situation, we find ourselves rooting for Richard and The Girl. Despite the futility of their relationship, or perhaps owing to it, their fling is undeniably enthralling.”
Marilyn’s old studio, Twentieth Century Fox, is launching a line of fragrances named after her most famous movies, and a promotional video has been created for the first perfume, How to Marry a Millionaire, reports Wales Online.
“Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products developed a new collection based on the portfolio of 12 Hollywood film titles featuring Marilyn Monroe.
Bristol-based fragrance specialist Designer Fragrances then launched the How to Marry a Millionaire inspired women’s fragrance and gift sets in stores across Europe.
Luminous Media director Martin Downes, from Pontypool, said: ‘It is a massive honour for a local Welsh company to be able to produce a video for a product like this.’
‘As you can imagine, there are very strict guidelines for using images of a Hollywood legend like Marilyn Monroe. We came up with a storyboard for the motion graphic video that drew on elements from the movie as well as showcasing the fabulously designed fragrance bottle.'”
Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate, is suing a clothing company for copyright infringement over a lingerie line, reports IP Watchdog. (This is not to be confused with Marilyn Monroe Envy, an officially approved franchise, which was launched by ABG in 2014.)
“Defendant Fashion Central is a New York City-based manufacturer and wholesaler of intimate apparel, which includes undergarments. In their undergarment packaging, tags, and other branding, defendant utilized Marilyn Monroe’s image alongside phrases that alluded to famous quotes by Ms. Monroe. The defendant does not have a license to use Marilyn Monroe’s likeness or to use the registered trademarks for marketing/branding purposes.
On August 8, 2016, plaintiff became aware of defendant’s unauthorized use of the Marilyn Monroe marks and likeness and sent a cease and desist letter. Defendant continued with their allegedly unauthorized activities, leading to the filing of the complaint that starts this legal dispute. It is worth noting, however, that the defendant did not use the name Marilyn Monroe in any of its marketing, packaging, or other branding. Any association to Marilyn Monroe is based solely on defendant’s use of her visual likeness.
The fact that the Marilyn Monroe name does not appear on any of defendant’s potentially infringing products does not mean there is not a viable trademark infringement case or theory … According to the plaintiff, the Marilyn Monroe trademarks are highly recognizable and distinctive due to her enduring fame. Therefore, both federal and state law dilution claims have also been brought against the defendant.”
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.)
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.
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.
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 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.
“Marilyn Monroe famously sang ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,’” Sheila Gibson Stoodley writes for Robb Report, “but collectors of her memorabilia disagree. Seven of the 10 most-expensive Marilyn Monroe items sold at auction are dresses—mainly costumes that the late star wore in her films. The few that she donned outside of the studio earn their high sums thanks to period photographs that prove Monroe wore them.” And over at his MM Collection Blog, Scott Fortner – who helped to catalogue this week’s auction at Julien’s – takes a closer look at the ‘I’m Through With Love‘ dress from Some Like It Hot, and the ‘After You Get What You Want‘ dress from There’s No Business Like Show Business. Both costumes are from the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, and will go under the hammer tomorrow.
Several other items which contributed to Marilyn’s glamorous look are also among the lots. From her modelling days onward, Marilyn often wore her own clothing in photo shoots. These brown leather sandals date back to a 1950 session with photographer Earl Leaf, shot at the Hollywood home of her agent, Johnny Hyde.
Unlike her cinematic alter-ego Lorelei Lee, Marilyn wasn’t really a material girl. These earrings, worn to the premiere of The Seven Year Itch, were made from simulated diamonds.
Marilyn’s movie costumes were made in duplicates, with her name next to the Fox logo on a sewn-in label. This green lace bodice from Bus Stop was won in a contest by a lucky reader of the British fan magazine, Picture Show.
These red satin platform shoes – designed by Annello & Davide – were born by Marilyn to the London premiere of Arthur Miller’s controversial play, A View From the Bridge.
John Moore’s pencil sketches for the form-fitting mermaid gown worn by Marilyn to the premiere of The Prince and the Showgirl are also on offer.
“A two-page, typed plan titled ‘Calorie Restricted Diet/ 1000 Calories/ 100 Grams Protein’ prepared for Monroe by Dr. Leon Krohn. The pages are undated, but some of the approved foods and meal plans are in line with the notations found in Monroe’s hand in the back of one of her notebooks from 1958. The diet put forth presents sound health advice even by today’s standards, recommending the restriction of sugar, fats and carbohydrates to whole wheat and ‘one small white potato boiled baked or riced’ as a substitution for one slice of bread.
Five sets of instructions, eight pages, from the Erno Laszlo Institute written out for Marilyn Monroe Miller, dated June 5, 6, 11, and 12, 1958, and July 3, 1958, outlining her constantly changing skincare regime in great detail. The instructions not only divide skincare into ‘Morning,’ ‘Evening if dressing,’ and ‘Evening before retiring,’ but also there are instructions on what not to eat: ‘Not one piece of any kind of nuts, olives, chocolate, clams and oysters.’ There are also separate instructions for California and ‘Instructions for Makeup While Making Films.'”
These white leather shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo are just one of several pairs that she owned. (The spiked heels were 3 inches high, and the size was 7.5B.)
In the spring of 1958, Marilyn made plans to appear at the Cannes Film Festival. Simone Noir sent her an invitation to visit Christian Dior in Paris. Unfortunately, the trip was cancelled, but a separate invoice shows that Marilyn bought a dress and coat by Dior from a Park Avenue boutique.
That Christmas, Marilyn’s longtime hairdresser, Agnes Flanagan, gave her a bottle of her favourite perfume, Chanel No. 5, purchased from I. Magnin in Beverly Hills.
Finally, a costume sketch by Bob Mackie for Something’s Got to Give. Based on a Jean Louis design, the red skirt suit with a swing jacket trimmed in leopard print, and matching hat, was intended as an ‘Outfit Worn on Day Off/Also in Courtroom Sequence.’ However, the ensemble was not worn by Marilyn during wardrobe tests, or any surviving footage from the ill-fated movie.
Film critic David Thomson is not Marilyn’s biggest fan. “Monroe wasn’t a serious actress,” he once wrote. “I don’t think she could really carry more than a line or two at a time.” Nonetheless, he seems drawn to her image, having penned a snarky introduction to Marilyn Monroe: A Life in Pictures (2007.) In anticipation of the November 16 auction at Julien’s, Thomson has written another gossipy article for The Guardian about the Jean Louis dress worn by Marilyn as she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to President John F. Kennedy in 1962. (You can see a gallery of fans posing with the dress over at Immortal Marilyn.)
“You can say that only demonstrates her victimhood and makes her wishing more wistful. But then you have to see the plain delight with which she did these preposterous things, these moments, as if she could not resist or do without the comfort that came with the gasps and the whistles at Madison Square Garden when she came into the platinum light, shrugged off her wrap and stood there, with her massed blonde waves jutting off to one side, like the control on tower an aircraft carrier, in a dress that could have been painted on her. And she did not seem like the hesitant neurotic of fame and constant lateness when she broke into the birthday song. Just take a look. She seems happy, and an actress is hired to give us some sort of good feeling. This is maybe her greatest moment – the most reckless – and she knows it, even if the summer of 1962 is her hell.”
UPDATE: The ‘Happy Birthday’ dress was sold at Julien’s for $4.8 million on November 16, 2016, making it the most lucrative dress in auction history. The buyer is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, who plan to showcase the dress in future exhibitions. Read a full report from Scott Fortner on his MM Collection Blog.