Lebanese Film Festival Embraces Marilyn

In 2012, Marilyn was the face of Cannes – and the Champs-
Élysées Film Festival uses images of her every year. Now her star will shine over the Middle East, as The 961 reports. (With an impersonator striking a classic Seven Year Itch pose, the LIFF artwork seems inspired by LIFE magazine.)

“Believing that art should have a certain message, the Lebanese International Film Festival (LIFF) chose to fight against the stigma that is attached to mental health issues by collaborating with Embrace, the leading organization that raises awareness about mental issues. 

For that particular reason, LIFF opted this year for the image of the iconic renowned superstar Marilyn Monroe as she is an ideal example of a successful woman that was fighting her own battle with mental health. ”

Jimmy James Plans Documentary On His ‘Marilyn Years’

Although he hung up his blond wig back in 1997, Jimmy James remains one of the most beloved Marilyn impersonators. He talks about his plans for a documentary about ‘the Marilyn years,’ and more, in an interview for Instinct magazine.

“I did an L.A. Eyeworks ad (it was banished under threats of lawsuits from ever being seen for twenty two years until the internet set it free around 2012. Now I can sell the Limited Edition prints with mine and Greg Gorman’s signatures). It has become the most mis-identified photo of Marilyn Monroe in the world. It was actually even made into an African stamp by mistake, and juxtaposed with real images of Marilyn Monroe!”

Waiting For A Miracle With Marilyn

Country singer Willie Nelson and British actress Charlotte Rampling are an unlikely couple, and having Ms Rampling play a Marilyn impersonator is even more surprising. But that’s exactly what you’ll see in their offbeat new movie, Waiting For the Miracle to Come, as Joe Leydon reports for Variety. (It’s available in the US from today on DVD and streaming.)

Waiting for the Miracle to Come is the first dramatic feature written and directed by Lian Lunson, previously best known for such musical documentaries as Willie Nelson: Down Home … With help and encouragement from mentors and former collaborators — including Bono and Wim Wenders, who are credited among the executive producers, and Leonard Cohen, whose song provides the movie with its title — she mounted this small-budget labor of love with the obvious intent of telling a simple yet resonant story unbound by specifics of time and continuity, but infused with strains of melancholy, regret, and unreasonable hope. Call it a dream play, and you won’t be far off the mark.

Supernatural undercurrents sporadically reach flood level as Adeline Winter (Sophie Lowe), a young woman who dreams of performing as trapeze artist and tightrope walker, takes heed of a letter left by her recently deceased father (Todd Terry), and follows his directive to visit a ranch in Ransom, Calif., where she might find a goldmine. What she finds instead are the aforementioned ex-vaudevillians, Jimmy (Nelson) and Dixie Riggs (Rampling), owners and operators of ‘The Beautiful Place’ — hardly a gold mine, but rather a haven for abandoned horses, a home for two trailer park residents, and a place where Dixie occasionally dolls herself up like her idol, Marilyn Monroe, and sings for locals in a small theater near their memento-stuffed, Christmas-light-bedecked house.”

Marilyn, Drew, JFK Jr. and a Notorious Cover Story

Over at Esquire, Kate Storey reports on George, the political magazine launched by John F. Kennedy Jr. in the 1990s. While some were shocked by the 1996 cover featuring actress Drew Barrymore as Marilyn, the original idea – to have ex-girlfriend Madonna pose as John’s mother, Jackie Kennedy – was even more daring, and a step too far even for the pop superstar. So why was John so willing to send up his own family myths? As the article reveals, it seems that Junior was ahead of his time in exposing fake news…

“With Madonna out, the September cover took a decidedly different turn—instead of referencing his mom, Kennedy chose to nod at another well-known woman in his dad’s life: Marilyn Monroe.

Drew Barrymore was posed in a nude-colored cocktail dress and platinum wig, with a mole perfectly placed on her left cheek. The idea came from George’s executive editor, Elizabeth Mitchell, who suggested it as a fiftieth-birthday tribute to President Bill Clinton. The reference: In May 1962, in front of fifteen thousand people during a Democratic-party fundraiser at Madison Square Garden, Monroe had famously serenaded Kennedy’s father ten days before his forty-fifth birthday with a breathy, seductive ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President.’ The subtext to the song, of course, is that the president and the actress were rumored to have had an affair.

That photograph might seem a strange choice for a man who adored his mother—even stranger than asking Madonna to impersonate her—but the thing was, according to Mitchell, Kennedy never believed anything had happened between his dad and Monroe. ‘He just thought it was sort of tweaking the expectations of the public,’ she says all these years later.”

Another aspect to this story is that Drew Barrymore is a lifelong Marilyn fan. As a teenage starlet, she was photographed in her bedroom, surrounded by Monroe posters. In a 2010 interview, Drew named Marilyn among her fantasy dinner guests; and in 2014, she filmed an introduction to Bus Stop with TCM host Robert Osborne.

Madonna as Marilyn, 1993

And while Madonna’s fascination with Monroe is well-known, she had already pipped George to the post by singing ‘Happy Inauguration Mr. President’ on TV’s Saturday Night Live in 1993, marking Clinton’s electoral victory.

Marilyn Jetty Swim Returns to Adelaide

Blonde wigs were sold out across the state as the annual Marilyn Jetty Swim was held at Brighton Beach in Adelaide, Australia this weekend, as Lauren Ferri reports for the Daily Mail, with men participating for the first time among  270 swimmers breaking the Guinness World Record for most MM impersonators gathered in one place, raising $65,000 so far for cancer research (it’s expected to reach $100,000.)

Remembering Nicolas Roeg, and ‘Insignificance’

Britain’s greatest arthouse filmmaker, Nicolas Roeg, has died aged 90. Born in London in 1928, he began his career in 1947 as a humble tea-boy at Marylebone Studios. By the 1960s, he was cinematographer for Lawrence of Arabia, Fahrenheit 451 and Far From the Madding Crowd.

In 1970, Roeg made his directorial debut with Performance, which starred Mick Jagger and has become a cult classic. Roeg followed it with Walkabout, Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth (starring David Bowie), Bad Timing, Eureka, Castaway, Track 29, The Witches, and Cold Heaven. His final film was released in 2007.

Roeg is also known to Monroe fans for Insignificance, the surreal comic fantasy based on Terry Johnson’s play, and starring Roeg’s then-wife, Theresa Russell, as ‘The Actress’, a character based on Marilyn.  It is one of the more successful films to feature Marilyn as a character. The story is set on the fateful night in September 1954 when Marilyn filmed her famous ‘skirt-blowing scene’ on a New York subway grate. Other characters included ‘The Professor’ (Albert Einstein), ‘The Ballplayer’ (Marilyn’s soon-to-be ex-husband Joe DiMaggio, played by Gary Busey.) In an ironic twist, ‘The Senator’, based on Joseph McCarthy, was played by Tony Curtis, Marilyn’s co-star in Some Like It Hot.

Film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum reviewed Insignificance for the Chicago Reader:

“Nicolas Roeg’s 1985 film adaptation of Terry Johnson’s fanciful, satirical play has many detractors, but approached with the proper spirit, you may find it delightful and thought-provoking. The lead actors are all wonderful, but the key to the conceit involves not what the characters were actually like but their cliched media images, which the film essentially honors and builds upon … But the film is less interested in literal history than in the various fantasies that these figures stimulate in our minds, and Roeg’s scattershot technique mixes the various elements into a very volatile cocktail—sexy, outrageous, and compulsively watchable. It’s a very English view of pop Americana, but an endearing one.”

When Insignificance got the Criterion Collection treatment in 2011, Rosenbaum revisited the movie in an essay, which he has now posted to his blog:

“Insignificance pointedly doesn’t sort out the differences between fact and fancy; it’s more interested in playfully turning all four of its celebrities into metaphysicians of one kind or another … All this sport, to be sure, has specifically English inflections. These crazed American icons are being viewed from an amused and bemused distance, and much of the talk qualifies as fancy mimicry.

‘I didn’t write Insignificance because I was interested in Marilyn Monroe,’ [Terry] Johnson avowed in a 1985 interview with Richard Combs for the Monthly Film Bulletin (August 1985). This film occasioned an extensive rewrite and expansion of the original by Johnson, but even then he couldn’t be sure whether or not he’d ever seen The Seven Year Itch … One perk of his lack of interest in Monroe is complicating and confounding the popular notion of her as a dumb blonde — a stereotype that she’d helped to create herself — in order to shape and justify his outlandish plot.

The play stays glued over its two acts to Einstein’s hotel room. The film adds crosscutting and incidental characters … The new locations include not only the Trans-Lux Theater, but also a bar where McCarthy and DiMaggio nurse their separate grudges, and the shop where Monroe buys her demonstration toys. Perhaps the most significant additions are the brief, telegraphic, and sometimes cryptic flashbacks pertaining to the respective youths of Monroe, Einstein, and DiMaggio, and last but not least, the Elephant in the Room, the H-Bomb itself — which one might say puts in a crucial, last-minute appearance as the celebrity to end all celebrities, dwarfing and making irrelevant all of the others.”

Prada’s ‘Neon Dream’ of Vegas, Marilyn

Actress Sarah Paulson – best-known for her roles in American Horror Story, The People Vs. O.J. Simpson, and Ocean’s 8 – appears in a new short film advertising Prada’s Fall and Winter Collection. Neon Dream follows a mysterious woman (Amanda Murphy) driving into Las Vegas, where a rather sinister troop of Marilyn Monroe clones led by RuPaul’s Drag Race diva Violet Chachki are waiting. She catches the eye of a parking valet (Paulson) who follows her, morphing into Marilyn a la Seven Year Itch, and a rollerskating waitress.

Emily Berl’s Multitude of Marilyns

Hanna Nixon, UK (after Earl Baron’s Marilyn)

Los Angeles-based photographer Emily Berl has been working with Marilyn lookalikes in Tinseltown and far beyond for several years (see here.) Her portraits are now collected in a stunning monograph, and Monroe fans will notice many familiar faces striking classic poses in new settings, and a selection of images posted today on The Cut shows that there was a great deal more variety to Marilyn’s style than is generally acknowledged. Marilyn is quite an expensive book ($98) but the quality is well worth the price, for collectors and art-lovers alike.

“One of the things I have had to come to terms with this project is that it kind of dances with a lot of clichés, like the Hollywood dream, but I’ve realized I’m into that. I think even though they’re clichés, they’re kind of important. They’re not necessarily a bad thing.”

Nadine Banville, Canada (soon to appear in a new movie, ‘Reliving Marilyn’)

Debra Bakker, Netherlands (wearing a dress similar to Marilyn’s in ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’)