Beaton’s Marilyn in the Sotheby Archive

The Sotheby’s blog takes a look at Cecil Beaton’s extraordinary portraits of Marilyn today. The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive is located at the London auction house.

“Cecil Beaton had only one shoot with Marilyn Monroe, which took place at the Ambassador Hotel in New York in February 1956. The actress turned up at his suite 90 minutes late and in his diary Beaton admitted that he was: ‘startled, then disarmed, by her lack of inhibition’.

Marilyn shot to fame playing dumb yet witty blondes in films … Beaton acknowledged that while it was likely ‘press agentry or manufactured illusion’ that had helped her find success, it was ‘her own weird genius that [had] sustained her flight’ .

Prophetically, his diary entry ends, ‘It will probably end in tears’.”

When Marilyn Met Tab Hunter

Actor Tab Hunter, one of the great Hollywood heartthrobs of the 1950s, has died aged 86. Born Arthur Andrew Kelm in New York, he moved to California with his mother as a child, and lied about his age to join the U.S. Coast Guard at fifteen. He began acting in 1950, winning his breakthrough role in wartime drama Battle Cry five years later. Rumours of his homosexuality were first reported in Confidential magazine, but didn’t dent his burgeoning career as a teen idol. Over the next four years he was Warner Brothers’ most popular male star, with roles in Damn Yankees (1958), and They Came to Cordura (1959.) He also enjoyed a No. 1 hit single with ‘Young Love’ in 1957, and was given his own TV show.

From the 1960s onward Hunter also acted onstage, and starred in spaghetti westerns before returning to Hollywood in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972.) He later became a favorite of independent filmmaker John Waters, and made two films with legendary drag queen Divine. In his 2005 memoir, Tab Hunter Confidential, he spoke openly about the challenges he faced as a gay actor under the Hollywood studio system. The book inspired a documentary of the same name, and a biopic is currently in development.

Cover to Cover: Tab Hunter and Marilyn in the Chilean magazine, ‘Ecran’ (1957))

Just five years younger than Marilyn, Tab Hunter was also judged by his striking good looks during his early career and had to struggle to prove his talent ( a 2016 article on The Wow Report website even describes him as ‘the male Marilyn Monroe’.) In  2011, Tab spoke to Monroe expert Scott Fortner about (among other things) an encounter with Hollywood’s other favourite blonde, as recalled on the MM Collection Blog:

“I of course asked Mr. Hunter if he’d ever met Marilyn Monroe, and their paths did cross in the early 1950s at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Both were there for a Hollywood event, and upon meeting, Mr. Hunter told Marilyn, ‘I loved you in Clash By Night. No one wears a pair of Levis like you,’ to which Marilyn replied, (spoken in Mr. Hunter’s best Marilyn impersonation) ‘Thank you, Tab.'”

‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ at 56

This rare photo was taken by a fan after Marilyn sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden, 56 years ago today.  Marilyn looks far younger than her thirty-five years, and the dress worn by her loyal publicist Pat Newcomb can be seen close behind. Over at Getty Images, Bill Ray – the LIFE magazine photographer who covered the event – shares memories of that legendary evening.

“A quick scan of the program for ‘New York’s Birthday Salute to President Kennedy’ on May 19, 1962, reveals a veritable who’s who of Old Hollywood: Jack Benny, Ella Fitzgerald, Henry Fonda, Danny Kaye. And there, nestled between Peter Lawford and Jimmy Durante, an unmissable entry: Marilyn Monroe. No explanation. No footnote.

‘You could have heard a pin drop,’ recalls Bill Ray … who made the now-iconic image of the actress from behind. ‘I think people were stunned when she finished.’

Due to the disparate lighting conditions — Monroe in a bright spotlight, Kennedy in total darkness — Ray’s dream of getting the two in the same picture didn’t come to fruition. ‘If I’d been luckier, there would have been a tiny bit of light that would have spilled onto Kennedy, who was over her shoulder between the podium and her head.'”

RUMOUR: Marilyn and the Bubblegum King

There are more rumours (often unfounded) about Marilyn’s love life than any other actress. Today, the Stockton Record names Andy Paris – whose latex-based bubblegum empire made him a millionaire at 29 – as an early contender for her affections. (He is also the subject of a 2010 documentary, Andy Paris: Bubblegum King.)

“Hollywood recruited Paris to teach 10-year-old Natalie Wood to blow bubbles for her famous scene with Kris Kringle in the 1947 classic, Miracle on 34th Street.

They hit it off, said John Paris. ‘She said to my dad, “Mr. Paris, I really love you. You’re too old to be my boyfriend. I want you to meet this friend of mine,” and it was Marilyn Monroe,’ an up-and-coming starlet.

Paris dated Marilyn Monroe. Other starlets, too. It didn’t hurt that he was rich, charming, movie-star handsome himself and always dressed to the nines.”

Natalie Wood (left) and Marilyn (centre) with June Haver (right) in ‘Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!’

Although now considered a classic Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street was first released in June 1947. Three months previously, Natalie had filmed  Scudda Hoo! Scudda HayThe film is remembered today as Marilyn Monroe’s Hollywood debut. She and Natalie briefly appear together in one scene, leaving church with June Haver.

Natalie would speak fondly of Marilyn in later years, but did she really know her that well at the time? It’s possible that Mr. Paris may have met Marilyn, though he hasn’t been mentioned in any biographies to date.

We’ll file this one under ‘Rumours’…

Marilyn, From Korea to Connecticut

A recent obituary for a Korea veteran in the Hartford Courant includes a reference to Marilyn’s 1954 visit. (I wonder if he ever bumped into Marilyn after she moved to Connecticut with Arthur Miller in 1956?)

“Gordon Thomas Calano died peacefully in his sleep in Hobe Sound, Florida, on April 9, 2018 …  Gordon was born on July 1, 1929, in Hartford, Connecticut. He graduated from East Hartford High School in 1947 and from the University of Connecticut in 1951, leaving soon after for Korea, where he served in the army for two years as a war correspondent and earned a Purple Heart. One of his most treasured memories was acting as Marilyn Monroe’s personal escort while she entertained the troops. Following military service, Gordon taught English and history at East Hartford High before launching Calano Furniture … “

Elsewhere in Connecticut, Greenwich Time reports on a new book by local author Matthew Bernard,  Victorian Summer: The Historic Houses of Belle Haven Park, which also has a link to Marilyn, Arthur, and the producer of The Misfits.

Frank Taylor (centre) with the Millers on location for ‘The Misfits’

“The house he grew up in, for instance, was previously owned by Frank Taylor, publisher of Playbill magazine and a Broadway and film producer. Taylor entertained major creative talents at the home, including Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller…”

Marilyn’s Misfits at the Christmas Tree Inn

Photo by Eve Arnold

The former Christmas Tree Inn & Casino in Nevada, where Marilyn and the Misfits crew partied on October 17, 1960 – will reopen under new management and a new name, as Jonathan L. Wright reports for the Reno Gazette-Journal.

“Chef Colin and MaryBeth Smith are heading for the hills. The couple, owners of Roundabout Catering … just purchased Tannenbaum Event Center, tucked in the pines halfway up Mount Rose Highway.

The business, to be called Tannenbaum by Roundabout, occupies a landmark property where the Christmas Tree restaurant sat for nearly 60 years before being reborn as Tannenbaum in 2005 after extensive renovations.

The Christmas Tree opened as a bar in 1946; it became a restaurant in 1947. The place became known for its panoramic views of Washoe Valley, its warm fire and its steaks grilled over mahogany. In the 1950s and early 1960s, celebrities visiting or performing in Reno and at Lake Tahoe frequently stopped by the Christmas Tree.

From the mid-1960s on, the Christmas Tree experienced a fire and rebuilding, a foreclosure, a reopening after sitting empty for a bit, and several changes of ownership. The restaurant closed for good in 2003. The next year, the Nobis family purchased the property and remade it into Tannenbaum Event Center.

MaryBeth Smith recalled eating at the Christmas Tree in the late 1990s when she first moved to the area. ‘They had the mahogany steak on the menu, so we might do some pop-up restaurants here that serve the mahogany steaks. It will be our remembrance of the Christmas Tree.'”

As Gary Vitacco-Robles writes in Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, this was the Millers’ last public outing as a married couple, and so the memories were bittersweet.

“The company hosted a surprise birthday party for Miller, turning forty-five, and Monty Clift, five years younger, on the following Monday evening at the Christmas Tree Inn & Casino. The event also served as a wrap party. Clift told [Ralph] Roberts that the evening was a highlight of his life, and sadly, this was a true statement. Within two years, Clift experienced a major depressive episode and lived virtually as a hermit …

Marilyn, in a pearl dress from the party she hosted for Yves Montand before the start of Let’s Make Love, sat beside Clift and expertly twirled fettuccini alfredo on a spoon as only the former wife of an Italian-American could. Russell Metty made the toast: ‘… Why don’t you wish [Arthur] a happy birthday, Marilyn? This truly is the biggest bunch of misfits I ever saw.’ Marilyn smiled but shook her head in negation. After dinner, the party gambled in the casino. At the roulette table, Marilyn teamed with Eve Arnold. [John] Huston handed Marilyn a pair of green dice.

‘What should I ask the dice for, John?’ she asked.

‘Don’t think, honey, just throw,’ Huston replied. ‘That’s the story of your life. Don’t think, do it.'”

Carol Richards: Singing With the Stars

Carol Richards (1922-2007) was an American singer who also dubbed many stars in classic Hollywood films. She began her career at a radio station in Indianapolis. After winning a Bob Hope talent contest, she moved to Hollywood and appeared in many television shows. Best-known for her duet with Bing Crosby, ‘Silver Bells’, she was also a vocal double for actresses Vera Ellen in Call Me Madam, and Cyd Charisse in Silk Stockings, among others.

Marilyn rehearsing a number for ‘Some Like It Hot’

Interviewed for SeaCoastOnline, Carol’s grandson, Michael Scharff, claims she also worked with Marilyn:

“Richards was hired to dub for Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot, but instead convinced Monroe to do her own songs, and trained her to ‘act the song,’ Scharff says.

The lesson shared with Monroe informs his own work as a singer and vocal teacher, ‘acting as singing,’ he says. ‘I say every song is a monologue set to rhythm with melody. It’s a singer’s job to interpret those lines. It comes right from my grandmother.'”

Personally, I find it unlikely that Marilyn ever seriously considered being dubbed. She had already proved herself in several musicals, released hit records and performed live. Marilyn also worked closely with the Matty Malneck Orchestra for Some Like It Hot. Furthermore, the film is not among Carol’s credits.

However, Some Like It Hot was Marilyn’s first movie in two years, so she have needed to brush up her vocal skills; and with the possible exception of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, her songs as Sugar Kane are probably the most ‘in character’. So while unconfirmed, it’s possible that Carol did help to coach her for the role.

Marilyn Returns to ‘Battleground Korea’

Battleground Korea: Songs and Sounds of America’s Forgotten War is a deluxe 4-CD box set from Bear Family Records. Among those featured on this ultimate soundtrack to history are artists who performed for US troops, and news broadcasts from the era.

Unfortunately, Marilyn’s performances aren’t included (perhaps full recordings aren’t available), but her 1954 visit is covered in an accompanying hardback book, with nine pages of photos showing Marilyn among her greatest fans.

Thanks to A Passion for Marilyn

Barbara Rush Remembers Marilyn

Actress Barbara Rush has shared memories of her long career with Stephanie Nolasco for Fox News. Born in 1927, she met a young Marilyn Monroe in the late 1940s, while both were residents at the Hollywood Studio Club, a home for aspiring actresses.

‘Oh yes, we were friends,’ she said. ‘We were in the studio club together. At least with me, when you first come to Hollywood, and I went to Paramount, they put me immediately in the studio club. It’s kind of like a sorority house. And Marilyn Monroe was there. I loved her. Marilyn was such a darling lady. She was very sweet and nice. All the girls in the studio club just had a good time.’

In 1954, Barbara won the Golden Globe award as ‘Most Promising Newcomer – Female’ for her role in the sci-fi classic, It Came From Outer Space. She was then married to actor Jeffrey Hunter. She played the wife of James Mason in Bigger Than Life (1956.) Director Nicholas Ray, a mutual friend of Marilyn, offered the star – who was filming Bus Stop on another soundstage at Twentieth Century Fox – a cameo role in his film, but due to Marilyn’s nerves, it never transpired.

In The Young Lions (1958) Barbara starred opposite Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, who would later work with Marilyn on her last completed movie, The Misfits.

Barbara married Hollywood publicist Warren Cowan in 1959. As Marilyn’s biographer Gary Vitacco Robles tells me, ‘Warren Cowan was part of a publicity firm (Rogers & Cowan) that had merged with Arthur P. Jacobs’ Company. I believe the two firms separated again around 1959. Both had represented Marilyn.’

Barbara still remembers her disbelief at hearing of Marilyn’s death three years later. ‘It was in the middle of the night when we got the call,’ she recalled. ‘My husband, who handled her, was very shocked. So shocked. I just kept hearing him go, Oh my God, over and over… We were all just very disturbed by it.’

During this time Barbara also worked in television, including a memorable role as the devious Nora Clavicle in Batman. She also appeared in the Rat Pack musical, Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), and with Paul Newman in the 1967 Western, Hombre.

In 1970, Barbara won the prestigious Sarah Siddons Award (referenced in All About Eve) for her stage role in Forty Carats. She would later star in a one-woman Broadway show, A Woman Of Independent Means. She returned to her sci-fi roots with a recurring part as Lindsay Wagner’s mother in TV’s The Bionic Woman. Since 1997 she has lived at the Harold Lloyd Estate in Beverly Hills, where Marilyn was photographed by the former silent movie comedian back in 1953.

Barbara’s most recent screen credit was in 2007, when she appeared in several episodes of another television series, Seventh Heaven. She is still active, having just made a short film and attending a Hollywood Museum exhibition, Batman ’66.

Marilyn Goes Back to Burlap

‘What makes your hometown weird?’ Mey Valdivia Rude asks over at Autostraddle. Her hometown of Blackfoot is also the home of the Idaho Potato Museum, which ‘houses things like a life size pin-up of Marilyn Monroe in a dress made from a potato sack and the world’s largest potato crisp.’

The museum’s website includes ‘Movie Star in Burlap‘, an article revealing how Marilyn came to wear an Idaho potato sack, and souvenirs are available in the gift shop. (You can see more photos from the shoot with Earl Thiesen here.)

“In the early days of her struggle to attract the attention of the Hollywood community and the media, Norma Jeane wore a sexy and revealing red dress to a 1951 holiday-season party. A columnist commented in a print about the incident and observed that Marilyn’s stunning figure would look good even if she wore a potato sack. The remark prompted her publicity agent to have a dress made from a burlap bag obtained at the local produce market, which Marilyn wore for a photographic session. The bag had been packed at Long Produce in Twin Falls, Idaho, and displayed the Idaho identification and Long’s Sawtooth brand as never before.

The Longs wrote to Marilyn and thanked her for the publicity and she graciously responded with an autographed picture that was displayed on the office wall and reproduced for advertising and promotional purposes.

When Long Produce ceased business in the late 50’s, the prized autograph disappeared. Another print, however, was found recently at a garage sale in Minneapolis and purchased by a Union Pacific Railroad executive who presented the Idaho Grower-Shippers Association with two copies for their use. Reproduction of the picture by the Association in their yearbook publication captured the fancy of a new generation of fans.”