When Marilyn Met Marlene

Founded in 1969, Andy Warhol’s Interview was the magazine to be seen in for nearly forty years. Although it ceased publication last year, Interview still has an online presence and earlier this week, a snippet from the past was discovered.

“As a notable admirer of Marilyn Monroe’s, Andy Warhol was sure to get some of the juiciest gossip in his celebrity circle. While he was still Editor-in-Chief of Interview, alongside Paul Morissey and Fred Hughes, he buried a drama bomb of information in the ‘Small Talk’ section of the June 1973 issue involving Marlene Dietrich and M.M herself. However, not one of the contributing editors took credit for the gossip; they instead chose to keep the source anonymous … According to the ‘Small Talk’ column, Dietrich attended a screening of one of Monroe’s earlier films and talked through every one of her scenes, mumbling: ‘So this is what they want now. This is what they call sexy.'”

Marlene Dietrich by Eve Arnold, 1952

Eve Arnold, who photographed Marlene at work in a recording studio for Esquire magazine in 1952, recalled that when she later met Marilyn, the subject of Dietrich came up: “Marilyn asked – with that mixture of naïveté and self-promotion that was uniquely hers – ‘If you could do that well with Marlene, can you imagine what you could do with me?'”

Mariene Dietrich by Milton Greene, 1952

Another photographer who worked with Dietrich was Milton Greene, who later became Marilyn’s business partner. In 1955, he invited Marlene to a New York press conference to announce the formation of their new company, Marilyn Monroe Productions.

Like all stars (Marilyn included), Dietrich was naturally competitive. But although she may have briefly ‘thrown shade’ in Marilyn’s direction – to use a term that didn’t exist back then – there’s no sign of any rancour between them in these photographs.

In 1957, Marilyn was offered the lead role in a remake of The Blue Angel, which had made Marlene a global star many years before. That never came to pass, but a year later, Marilyn would recreate the character in her ‘Fabled Enchantresses’ photo session with Richard Avedon, although out of respect for Dietrich, she later asked the photographer to withdraw the images and they were not made public until long after Marilyn died.

Marilyn poses as Marlene for photographer Richard Avedon, 1958

Marilyn would take a leaf out of Marlene’s playbook again in 1962, asking costumer Jean Louis to recreate the beaded ‘nude’ dress he had made for Dietrich to wear during nightclub performances. Monroe’s version became immortalised that May, when she sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden.

Whatever Marlene’s initial thoughts on Marilyn may have been, she would remember her admiringly, writing in her 1987 memoir: “Marilyn Monroe was an authentic sex symbol, because not only was she ‘sexy’ by nature but she also liked being one – and she showed it.”

Tale of a Tutu: From Marilyn to Leslie Caron

As was common practice in old Hollywood, several of Marilyn’s movie gowns were repurposed for other actresses; and earlier in her career, she had often worn gowns borrowed from the studio’s wardrobe department to glitzy public events. Here we see Leslie Caron wearing an adjusted variant based on Marilyn’s tutu – or ‘snake costume’ – from Bus Stop (1956) in The Man Who Understand Women, which as the Western Costume Company notes, was released sixty years ago, on this day in 1959. Written by Nunnally Johnson (How to Marry a Millionaire), this romantic comedy also starred Henry Fonda. And although Charles Le Maire (All About Eve) was credited as costume designer, this tutu had been created for Marilyn by Travilla.

Gene London Brings Marilyn to Allentown, PA

This green lace blouse and black pencil skirt ensemble, created by Travilla for Marilyn’s role as down-at-heel showgirl Cherie in Bus Stop (and topped with a black fedora she wore in the Arizona sun), is among many iconic movie costumes on display in Designing Hollywood, an exhibit showcasing the extensive collection of Gene London, opening on September 29 until December 22 at the Allentown Museum of Art in Pennsylvania, as WFMZ reports. Previous exhibits from London’s archive have also included costumes from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch and The Prince and the Showgirl.

Marilyn: A Lady of Fashion

Ahead of the exhibit at London’s May Fair Hotel, opening next week (details here), the four iconic garments worn by Marilyn up for sale at Julien’s Auctions in November – including three movie costumes designed by Travilla, and the black cocktail dress she wore to the press conference for Some Like It Hot, shown above – are the subject of a four-page article, followed a double-page spread featuring Marilyn-inspired fashions, in the current issue of The Lady (dated September 20.)

Thanks to Fraser Penney, and Lorenzo at Marilyn Remembered

UPDATE: You can read all my posts on the sale here.

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. (You can read all my posts on the sale here.)

“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. (You can read all my posts on the sale here.)

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