Marilyn at the May Fair Hotel

As reported here recently, three of Marilyn’s movie costumes (including this Travilla gown she wore to sing ‘River of No Return’). plus her black cocktail dress worn at a 1958 press conference to announce filming of Some Like It Hot, will be on display at London’s May Fair Hotel from September 24 – October 21, before going under the hammer at Julien’s on November 1. More details on the exhibit (including a series of film screenings) have now been revealed by Forbes.

“The four movies these outfits feature in are also to be screened at the hotel’s own cinema, May Fair Theatre. See a screening of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on the evening of September 27th; catch There’s No Business Like Show Business on October 11th; book a ticket for River of No Return on October 15th; and finally, take a seat for Some Like It Hot on October 18th.  

Tickets to these screenings are available as a part of dinner and drinks packages, following the movie with limited-edition cocktails in May Fair Bar and perhaps including dinner at the hotel’s Mediterranean restaurant May Fair Kitchen before you find your way to the theatre.”

Julien’s Announce Marilyn Auction for November

Costumes from River Of No Return, There’s No Business Like Show Business, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Julien’s Auctions are holding a one-day sale featuring 115 Marilyn-related lots (including several movie costumes) on November 1st, as part of their Legendary Women of Hollywood event. These items will be also be showcased in the lobby of London’s May Fair Hotel from September 24 until October 21. A catalogue for this auction, Property From the Life and Career of Marilyn Monroe, is now available to order here, for $75 plus shipping.

Black cocktail dress worn by Marilyn during a 1958 press conference for Some Like It Hot

Marilyn’s Glamour Tips in ‘My Weekly’

Marilyn gets a double-page spread in the latest issue of UK magazine My Weekly (dated August 13-20 – watch out for TV presenter Ruth Langsford on the cover), with fashion and beauty tips plus a hair makeover starring tribute artist Suzie Kennedy, all from Michelle Morgan’s newly-published The Little Book of Marilyn.

And talking of glamour girls, Marilyn’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes co-star Jane Russell graces the latest cover of the Weekly News.

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Marilyn Flies High in White Stilettos

Pictured here en route to celebrating the centenary of Abraham Lincoln’s historic visit to Bement, Illinois during the summer of 1955, Marilyn makes the front page of today’s Guardian, with an article inside about travelling in style.

“Air travel was nothing if not a photo opportunity for Marilyn Monroe, one of Hollywood’s first jet-setters. A tiny clutch bag suggests a seat in first class (no lugging a jumper and snacks around), while carrying a book about a former president implies an aspirational approach to in-flight entertainment. Ever checked your step-count after a day in the air? You may have crossed oceans, but you’ll walk mere metres – meaning white stilettos aren’t as impractical as they may at first appear.

Style tip: Dress for the flight you want, not the flight you are booked on.”

Leah Harper

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Marilyn: America’s Lusty Blonde

Marilyn by Eve Arnold, 1960

The Village Voice is no longer in print, but much of its illustrious archive remains online – including ‘Blond Lust‘, a piece by Teresa Podlesney from 1993, questioning whether blondness still signified the white feminine ideal, or an increasing freedom of choice.

“Like every other choice we have in the supposedly ‘color-blind’ United States, the choice to be blond should be made so as to prove that one can make it, to prove that one is American. Today’s more effective hair coloring, and the continued main­streaming of wigs, enable blondness to be achieved by those with even the most resis­tant hair. Yet the democratization of blondness is not simply the story of perfected cosmetic technology. Blondness is where our changing notions of race and gender come together.

The blondness that attracts media atten­tion today is a blondness that blatantly conjures up images of the 1950s. Madonna and Linda Evangelista, the Kikit and Guess models, are/were all one-tone bleached blonds, their attraction lying precisely in their display of the obviously artificial. This is the key: bottle blonds are not simply women with fair hair. Bleached blonds are a complete and excessively visible package of a femininity considered ‘conventional’ since the height of its expression on the movie screens of the 1950s: dramatic make­up, usually with dark lashes and red lips; large or prominently displayed breasts; highly coded fetish-sexy attire; and, just as taken for granted but ostensibly lying out­side of the realm of constructed characteris­tics, white skin.

The feminine woman was once opposed to the sexual woman, sexuality in this con­text rendered too savage, too animal-like, the realm of those nonwhite races that had yet to assimilate Christian cultural values. In the ’50s, however, fascination with fe­male sexual behavior — driven by the popu­larization of Freudian psychoanalysis, the Kinsey report, and the secularization of so­ciety — allowed a conflation of femininity with sexuality. For an increasingly image­-organized culture, femininity was defined in terms of what was visible, and visibly sexual. Blonds were assured their promi­nence in this visual reinvention of feminin­ity in 1953, when Marilyn Monroe graced the pages of the first issue of Playboy.

Marilyn Collector’s Advice to Fans

Monroe expert and friend of this blog Scott Fortner has been interviewed by the New York Post, giving tips to other Marilyn collectors.

“According to Scott Fortner, a top collector of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia who works as a health-care executive, bodily fluids are an enhancement. ‘I have a dress of Marilyn’s with a sweat stain on the under­arm,’ said the 50-year-old Bay area resident. ‘That personal touch makes the dress . . . more valuable to collectors.’

Another gambit for increasing the worth of Fortner’s 200-plus-item Monroe collection: Putting together multiple elements to create documented ensembles. He had a mink collar, purchased in 2006 as part of a lot that went for $10,000, and sought the jacket to go with it. He ‘spent forever’ looking for the piece. In 2016, he bought it at auction for $10,000. Combined, the outfit would now sell for $50,000 to $60,000.

He does what he can to keep the value and the threads intact. ‘I [store] everything in a temperature-controlled environment,’ said Fortner. ‘I’m happy to not touch anything. Putting [these garments] on mannequins would stress the fabric.’ With that in mind, he adds that accessing the Monroe collection is beside the point. ‘I’m happy to know that I have it and to have the photos.'”

Marilyn: the Pencil Skirt’s Best Friend

No history of the pencil skirt is complete without reference to Marilyn, as Rosalind Jana writes for Australian Vogue.

“The pencil skirt became a defining garment of the 1950s and early 1960s. It could be luxuriously smart, as seen in lime green on Grace Kelly in Rear Window. It could exude sex appeal, as demonstrated by Sophia Loren who paired it with strappy tops and tightly tailored jackets. It could be chic in black on Audrey Hepburn. For Marilyn Monroe, perhaps the most famous wearer of the pencil skirt, it came to define an entire aesthetic: one predicated on a particularly voluptuous projection of femininity, complete with tight sweaters, crisp white shirts and an overarching emphasis on her hourglass figure. Like the hobble-skirt, it required a very particular way of walking—see Monroe’s famous wiggle epitomised in Some Like It Hot, her wide-eyed character Sugar Kane sashaying provocatively in the skin-tight skirt.”

The Mystery of Marilyn’s Gingham Dress

In 2010, artist Yury Toroptsov photographed fans across the world posing with a blue-and-white gingham summer dress from Marilyn’s private collection, for an exhibition and accompanying book, Marilyn & I. However, no images of Marilyn herself wearing the dress were found – until this week, when Eric Patry posted this newspaper clipping on the Facebook group, MM Fanclub Belgium.

Although the publication and date have not been established, the photo is thought to have been taken in the summer of 1960, while Marilyn was en route to Reno, Nevada to shoot The Misfits. With her face and hair partly covered, it’s hard to identify her as Monroe – except by that radiant smile. (The belt worn with the dress is not her usual style, so perhaps she removed it.)

Oleg Cassini’s Marilyn: High Style and Low Talk

This Cassini gown, first seen on ex-wife Gene Tierney, scandalized Hollywood when worn by Marilyn

The estate of fashion designer Oleg Cassini went under the hammer at Doyle’s Auctioneers in New York today, with all 755 lots sold for a total $1.3 million. Cassini, who died in 2006, was recently described as a ‘notable rogue’ in the New York Times. He was married to actress Gene Tierney, engaged to Grace Kelly, and worked extensively with Jacqueline Kennedy during her time as First Lady. He also designed two gowns worn by Marilyn, and would claim in his 1987 memoir, In My Own Fashion, that they were lovers.

“Ever concerned with his image, Cassini only wanted to be seen with what he called, ‘top top girls.’ Wholesome and glamorous, Grace Kelly was a ‘top girl,’ so was Jacqueline Kennedy who he said had ‘a hieroglyphic figure.’ However Marilyn Monroe, one of Cassini’s many conquests, did not make the cut. In his book he described her as ‘the world’s most marvelous marshmallow.’ According to [Maureen] Orth, he told journalist Joe Klein, that she was just ‘a little show pony.'”

Tate Delloye, Mail Online
Another Tierney cast-off, worn by Marilyn to the ‘Monkey Business’ premiere.

Interestingly, there were no Marilyn-related lots in today’s auction; and there is no corroborating evidence of Cassini’s claim. At the very least, his disparaging remarks suggest the great lothario was also a snob. (At worst, one might wonder if he ever really slept with Marilyn at all!)

Whatever the truth about their relationship, Marilyn loved Cassini’s gowns, praising their “taste and imagination” in an article for Modern Screen.