Korea Veteran Remembers Marilyn’s ‘Prettiest Laugh’

84 year-old John Jeter of Alexandria, VA has shared his memories of serving in the Korean War with Town Talk.

“Sitting on his couch, his hands clasped between his knees, John Earl Jeter repeatedly diverts attention from himself to those ‘good men’ he served with during the Korean War.

He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on his 17th birthday. Boot camp had a profound effect on him.

‘The Marine Corps basic training helped me out in life,’ said Jeter. ‘Marine Corps basic training got me straight in life. It got me ready.’

He was still in Korea when the ceasefire was signed on July 27, 1953, at 10 a.m. That didn’t stop hostilities immediately, though.

While he downplays his experiences — ‘A lot of those men, probably right around here, went through hell a lot worse than I did.’ — he does light up when talking about seeing Monroe.

‘That woman had the prettiest laugh,’ said Jeter, who later worked for the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office. ‘That laugh, I can still remember that laugh.'”

Bruno Bernard’s Marilyn in Palm Springs

Marilyn with Bruno Bernard in Hollywood, 1953

Photographer Bruno Bernard (aka ‘Bernard of Hollywood’) collaborated with Marilyn on numerous occasions, from her early modelling days to the peak of her career in the mid-1950s. One of their photo sessions will be the subject of a lecture by the Palm Springs Historical Society, launching their ‘Let’s Talk’ series at the Palm Springs Cultural Centre on November 21 at 6 pm, as Tracy Conrad reports for the Desert Sun.

Marilyn poses for Bruno Bernard at the Racquet Club in Palm Springs, 1949

This piece raises a few questions, however. Firstly, Bernard photographed Marilyn at the Racquet Club in 1949, not ’47. Secondly, his claim to have introduced Marilyn to her agent and lover, Johnny Hyde, conflicts with other versions of events. Some believe it was a mutual friend, John Carroll, who introduced Marilyn to Hyde in early 1948, while others have suggested they met at a party in Sam Spiegel’s home. Nonetheless, the couple were photographed together by Bernard at the Racquet Club in 1949.

Marilyn at the Racquet Club with her agent and lover Johnny Hyde, photographed by Bruno Bernard (1949)

And finally, this photo dated 1961 does not, in fact, show Marilyn with Bernard. They had last worked together in 1954. Fraser Penney has suggested to me the lady may have been actress Paula Lane, who became a Monroe impersonator and later starred in the panned 1989 biopic, Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn. She died in 2015.

Bruno Bernard with unidentified Monroe lookalike (possibly Paula Lane, also seen on this 1980 magazine cover)

Robert Evans 1930-2019

Robert Evans as a young actor

Robert Evans, who has died aged 89, is best-known as the producer who saved Paramount Studios from ruin in the 1960s and ’70s with a string of hits, including The Odd Couple, Rosemary’s Baby, True Grit, Love Story, The Godfather, The Great Gatsby, and Chinatown. His fortunes changed for the worse in 1980 when he was convicted of drug trafficking, and the spiralling budget of The Cotton Club (1983) accelerated the downturn in his career, although he continued producing films sporadically for another twenty years.

Born Robert J. Shapera in 1930, Robert grew up on New York’s Upper West Side and began his career promoting his brother’s fashion company, Evan-Picone, and doing voice work on radio. In 1956, actress Norma Shearer spotted Bob by the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and suggested him for the role of her deceased husband, legendary Hollywood producer Irving Thalberg, in Man Of a Thousand Faces, a Lon Chaney biopic starring James Cagney.

It was not his first movie role – he had already played a minor part in Jean Negulesco’s Lydia Bailey (1952), and an uncredited bit part in The Egyptian (1954), both at Twentieth Century Fox. (The studio’s top female star, Marilyn Monroe, had been tipped for the role of Nefer in this expensive biblical epic, until head of production Darryl F. Zanuck cast his girlfriend Bella Darvi instead.)

After shooting Man Of A Thousand Faces at Universal, Evans returned to Fox at Zanuck’s behest, to play bullfighter Pedro Romero in a star-studded adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises. He was second-billed in The Fiend Who Walked the West (1958), and worked again with director Negulesco on what would be Evans’ final acting role for many years, as Dexter Key in The Best of Everything (1959), starring Hope Lange and Joan Crawford.

In his best-selling 1994 memoir, The Kid Stays in the Picture, Evans described how missing out on the chance to co-star with Marilyn in Let’s Make Love (1960) put paid to his hopes of stardom, and ultimately changed the course of his life. (He was first suggested for the role of Tony Danton by producer Jerry Wald, before losing out to the British singer Frankie Vaughan.)

Marilyn with Frankie Vaughan in Let’s Make Love (1960)

“From the moment we met, Jerry Wald and I became fast friends. Jerry was by far the most entrepreneurial producer in Hollywood. No one had a greater flair with both industry and press. Best of all, he even respected me as an actor and wasn’t shy in telling anyone. From the Saturday Evening Post to Photoplay, to television, radio and print, the industry was well aware that I was Jerry Wald’s pick as ‘the romantic rage’ of the sixties.

It didn’t happen. As a bullfighter, the head of a studio, or a crazy killer, at the very least, I was believable. Playing myself, I was a dud. Why? I was a better imitator than actor.

Jerry Wald felt different. Maybe because he had already gone out on a limb announcing me for the second male lead in The Billionaire, opposite Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand. Who was I to argue?

The title is not the only thing that got changed. Now called Let’s Make Love, principal photography kept getting pushed back and back. Monroe was being her usual indecisive self. Meanwhile, Jerry Wald offered me a co-starring part in Return to Peyton Place. What could be worse than being in a sequel to a piece of shit? Playing the same part I had just finished, that’s what. Only this time it was ‘Dexter Key Goes to New England.’

‘No thanks,’ I said.

‘Fine,’ said Lou Schreiber, who ran business affairs at Twentieth. ‘You’re on suspension.’

Dumb move, Evans. Being on suspension, Twentieth cast someone else in the Monroe film.”

The Boy (and Man) Who Saw Marilyn at Chicago’s Midway Airport

The singer and actor Mandy Patinkin, perhaps best-known for his role as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, describes his first, and rather frightening encounter with the world of celebrity in The Guardian today.

“When I was four, we were at Midway airport in Chicago, and there was a large crowd of people surrounding a lady – everyone was screaming at her, lights were flashing. It was scary. I later learned she was Marilyn Monroe.”

Marilyn flew into Chicago Midway at least twice: in 1955, en route to Bement, Illinois, to celebrate Abraham Lincoln; and again in 1959, while promoting Some Like It Hot. And on both occasions, she drew a crowd, As Mandy was born in 1952, the former incident seems most likely to be the time he saw her. (Marilyn also visited Chicago in 1949, but that was before his time!)

In his 2012 book, When Hollywood Landed at Chicago’s Midway Airport, author Christopher Lynch recounted photographer Mike Rotunno’s version of events.

“Actually, Chicago was just a layover for Monroe. Her final destination would be the little town of Bement, Illinois, not far from Champaign and famous for being the site of one of the seven Lincoln-Douglas debates. The tiny town of Bement was having an art exhibition to celebrate its one-hundred-year anniversary, and a member of the National Arts Foundation had approached Monroe asking her to make an appearance at the exhibit. To the surprise of just about everyone there, she readily agreed, and with her hairdresser and personal photographer in tow, they had left that morning from New York.

Meanwhile, back at Chicago Midway Airport, after he was given just twenty minutes’ notice of her arrival, Mike Rotunno wrote, ‘As I rushed down the corridor, people would ask me, “Who’s coming in?” I yelled back, “Marilyn Monroe!” By the time I got to the gate a huge crowd had gathered … There was a slight drizzle as the [airplane] door opened and here was Marilyn with the umbrella in front of her. I shouted, “Marilyn, pull the umbrella back of you [sic] and let us see you.” She cheerfully obliged, and gave me several different poses.’

Since she had a two-hour layover before boarding a plane to fly to Champaign, the photographers suggested that Monroe go upstairs to the Cloud Room … According to Jim O’Hara, whose father was a beat cop at the airport, Rotunno got a good shot of Monroe’s posterior as she sashayed up the stairs – the picture was pinned outside the Metro News office later that week and no doubt sold briskly.

Once upstairs in the air-conditioned elegance of the Cloud Room, Marilyn was immediately recognised by a gaggle of sailors dining there. According to Rotunno, they started ‘yelling, whistling and screaming. They came to our table and got her autograph.’ Marilyn talked with the excited sailors, obliging them with her attention. Rotunno remembered that the assembled photographers ‘decided to make her a member of the famous “Pastafazula Club”, whose members are Italian news photographers or descendants. The scroll which was presented to Marilyn contained honorary members of the White House and of the movie industry.’ There is a photo of Rotunno standing to Marilyn’s right, camera in hand, as she signs the scroll, while the Chicago Tribune photographer Dan Tortorell stands to her left. Marilyn laughs while signing this document, as important as the Magna Carta to the photographers. Rotunno wrote that ‘Marilyn got a big kick out of the initiation and we sent her a copy. Marilyn was very photogenic and showed it.’

After waving to the photographers at Midway and flying on to her appointment downstate in Bement, Monroe’s flight out of Champaign was grounded due to bad weather. In order to catch their eleven o’clock flight out of Chicago, the governor’s office gave permission for Marilyn Monroe’s car to be escorted by two Illinois motorcycle troopers, wailing at top speed, all the way back to the airport at Chicago. At Midway, the governor’s men even held the plane for ten minutes so that Marilyn Monroe could board her flight back to LaGuardia.”

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.”

Diahann Carroll 1935-2019

Diahann Carroll by Milton Greene, 1962

Diahann Carroll, the pioneering African-American singer and actress, has died aged 84 after a long battle with cancer. She was born in the Bronx, and studied at the LaGuardia High School for Music and Arts before modelling for Ebony magazine at fifteen. She later attended New York University, majoring in sociology.

At eighteen, she got her big break as a contestant on TV’s Chance of a Lifetime, where her performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Why Was I Born’ began a four-week victory lap. She then worked as a nightclub singer, making her film debut opposite Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones (1954.) She later appeared in Paris Blues (1961), a jazz film produced by photographer Sam Shaw. Originally offered to Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe, the lead roles were played by Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward.

In 1962, Diahann was part of the all-star line-up performing at Madison Square Garden in a birthday tribute to President John F. Kennedy. She met Marilyn backstage, and also sang for guests at the gala’s after-party. (In 2016, Diahann would host an opening party for Some Like It Hot, an exhibition featuring Milton Greene’s photos of Marilyn.)

“‘It was a very exciting night. Everybody in the world was there,’ Diahann remembered. ‘Marilyn was hysterical, but very good. It was good to watch her at work. I think we all enjoyed it.’ As for Kennedy, ‘he was extremely pleasant,’ she said. ‘He was a very entitled human being, but you had to forgive him for that.’

Diahann Carroll was previously interviewed by J. Randy Taraborrelli for his 2009 book, The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, telling him of her first encounter with MM in 1960, while singing at the Mocambo Club in Los Angeles.

Diahann was then pregnant with her daughter Suzanne, and knew of Marilyn’s struggle to have children. “I took her hand and put it on my stomach and said, ‘You pat right there, sweetheart, and say a prayer and a wish, and I hope with all my heart that your dream comes true.’ She looked at me with tears in her eye, and said, ‘Oh, I do, too. I do, too.’”

They met again in Mac Krim’s apartment in 1962. ‘It’s certainly her beauty I remember most,’ she told Taraborrelli. ‘As I sang, I distinctly remember being somewhat distracted by her gaze. Her tragic beauty, so vulnerable … so lost.’”

ES Updates
Marilyn watches Diahann performing at the JFK gala after-party in 1962

In 1969, Diahann won a Golden Globe for her role as a widowed nurse in Julia, a television sitcom which ran for three seasons. Back on the big screen, she would earn an Oscar nomination for the romantic comedy Claudine (1974), playing a struggling single mother.

Her later TV roles included the glamorous Dominique Devereaux on TV’s Dynasty and its spin-off, The Colbys. She joined an all-black cast in the acclaimed Eve’s Bayou (1997), and recreated Gloria Swanson’s role as fading star Norma Desmond in a Canadian production of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s stage musical based on Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard.

Her four husbands included singer Vic Damone, and she was also romantically linked to Sidney Poitier and David Frost. She was a founding member of the Celebrity Action Council, a volunteer group serving vulnerable women in Los Angeles.

With Joshua Greene at the Some Like It Hot exhibit in West Hollywood, 2016

‘Marilyn, Mom & Me’ in LA

A staged reading of Marilyn, Mom & Me – Luke Yankee’s new play about Marilyn’s “intense but short-lived” friendship with his mother, actress Eileen Heckart, during filming of Bus Stop (1956) – will be held at the Stella Adler Theatre in Los Angeles on October 16th. Another reading will follow at the Manhattan Theatre Club rehearsal space in New York on January 19th, 2020. Alisha Soper, briefly glimpsed in Feud: Bette and Joan (2017), will play Marilyn. A seasoned playwright, director and teacher of acting, Luke Yankee is also the author of Just Outside the Spotlight: Growing Up With Eileen Heckart (2006), now available in paperback and via Kindle.

“Like two strangers linked by fate on a Greyhound bus, the unlikely personal and professional friendship that developed between vulnerable, lost and emotionally needy Marilyn Monroe and crusty, maternal, no-nonsense Eileen Heckart on the western rodeo set of Bus Stop has now been preserved in amber by Luke Yankee as a stirring footnote to movie history you won’t want to miss. It’s a funny, dark, heartbreaking and unforgettable new play that wraps you in cashmere. Marilyn, Mom & Me is devastating!”

Rex Reed

Conversations With Marilyn’s Leading Men

Marilyn with Joseph Cotten during filming of Niagara

Among the many luminaries featured in James Bawden and Ron Miller’s book, Conversations With Classic Film Stars, are Joseph Cotten, who played Marilyn’s murderous spouse in Niagara; and Rory Calhoun, her roguish husband in River Of No Return; and Cary Grant, the unwitting object of her desire in Monkey Business.

Thanks to Gia at Immortal Marilyn

“I never met a girl as introverted as Marilyn. The whole fame explosion had just set in and whenever we filmed on location at Niagara Falls, great crowds gathered to see her. She couldn’t cope, retreated into her shell.

Director Henry Hathaway was a tough taskmaster at the best of times. He got so exasperated with Marilyn and her Russian acting coach [Natasha Lytess], he finally banned the woman from the set. I tried to keep her distracted. At night there’d always a party in my hotel suite, but she’d look in, say hi, and then go off with her instructress. We’d wait hours for her to show up. Hathaway started shooting rehearsals as backup and found she was less mannered there and actually used some of the footage.

I asked her about the nude photograph and she said, dead serious, ‘But I had the radio on.’ I’m glad I knew her before the troubles enveloped and destroyed her. I want to remember that superb girlish laughter when I told her an off-colour joke. One day Hathaway shouts at her and she yelled back, ‘After paying for my own wardrobe, my coach, my assistant, and God knows who else I barely have enough left over to pay my shrink!’ And the crowd watching applauded her!”

Joseph Cotten

“She was a phenomenon that I doubt like hell this town will see the likes of ever again. There have been a lot of people trying to copy her one way or another – and to me, they’re third-stringers.”

Rory Calhoun

“Howard Hawks says it’s wonderful we knew and worked with Marilyn before she got difficult. Because she was so winning and adorable in Monkey Business. When I drink that youth serum and am acting like a teenager, Marilyn really got into it. I’m diving off the high board and she’s giggling and waving me on. Years later she asked me to co-star in something called The Billionaire. It was a comedy and she said her husband Arthur Miller was reworking it. Arthur Miller a comedy writer? I ran away and so did Greg Peck, and the completed film, Let’s Make Love, showed she’d become all blurry and distant. It was sad.”

Cary Grant

Marilyn, Joan Crawford and a Catty ‘Letter From Hollywood’

Letters From Hollywood: Inside the Private World of Classic American Film-Making – compiled and edited by Rocky Lang and Barbara Hall, with an introduction by Peter Bogdanovich – is the latest coffee table book from Abrams, the publisher who brought us MM – Personal and more recently, Hollywood Book Club. Marilyn’s own correspondence isn’t included (although she was featured in another anthology, Dear Los Angeles.)

However, Letters From Hollywood does include a reference to the night in 1956 when Marilyn met Queen Elizabeth II in a letter from Joan Crawford, also present at the London gala. Clearly Joan hadn’t changed her opinion of Marilyn’s revealing attire since publicly slating her in 1953 (see here.) And once again, her censorious tone does seem rather hypocritical – maybe she was triggered by Marilyn’s gold lamé…

“The book includes her handwritten 1956 note to Hollywood biographer and novelist Jane Kesner Ardmore about a royal premiere in London. After gushing about meeting Queen Elizabeth, Crawford included a few jabs at sex symbols Marilyn Monroe and Anita Ekberg.

‘I was presented to the Queen last night — nearly died of excitement and fear,’ Crawford wrote. ‘Of course, I was not too happy about being presented with that group of people representing the Motion Picture Industry, such as Marilyn you-know-who, and Anita Ekberg. Incidentally, Marilyn and Anita were howled at because of their tight dresses — they could not walk off the stage. It was most embarrassing.'”

Los Angeles Times

The Queen meets Joan Crawford (top) and Marilyn (above)

Stirring the Pot: Marilyn, the Media and Celebrity Suicide

Immediately following Marilyn’s death in 1962, a spike in suicide among young American women was widely reported. Dr. Mary V. Seeman, now a Professor Emerita at the Institute of Medical Science in Toronto, has recalled how the news led her to make a rash decision as a young trainee doctor, in an article for the Psychiatric Times.

“I was a second-year psychiatry resident in New York City at the time, and I remember exactly where I was when I heard of her death. The sad news shook the staff and dazed the patients in our all-women’s hospital ward … The women patients for whom I was responsible were particularly devastated by the news of her death because they identified with her in so many ways. Many had experienced similar childhoods in foster care, had aspired to be film stars, and had suffered through difficult relationships. Like Marilyn, they often had suicidal impulses.

As it was summertime when this happened, the head of our ward was on vacation in Europe. This left me temporarily in psychiatric charge. Once I realized how deeply Marilyn Monroe’s death had affected my patients, I knew that some form of intervention was urgently needed. I immediately invited whoever wanted to do so to join a support group that I would lead … Our group of eight got off to a good start. We cried and shared our feelings. The women talked about their suicidal urges. ‘Her life was so great compared to mine,’ one woman said. Everyone agreed, as she added: ‘She was rich; she was beautiful; she was talented. Look at all the men who loved her!’

‘This group is a catharsis,’ I proudly pronounced to my fellow residents.

But this is what happened next. Three of the women in the group attempted suicide, one very seriously. Fortunately, all three survived. The head nurse, frightened by what had happened, contacted the head of our ward in Europe. He immediately cut his vacation short and returned to New York. The first thing he did was to stop the group. Then, he gave me the worst dressing down of my life. I thought it was the end of my residency, but he allowed me to stay. What came to an end was my early confidence in myself as a therapist. Since then, there has always been a seed of doubt when I see a patient. I now ask myself, ‘By stirring the pot, am I perhaps doing more harm than good?’

Human beings are very easily influenced. What my Marilyn Monroe group had done was to bring together eight vulnerable women who, with the complicity of their group leader, had laid fertile ground for intense behavioral contagion. I had unknowingly created a suicide cluster. Out of a mix of would-be Marilyn Monroes, raw emotions, media prodding, and myself as a greenhorn therapist, the belief had emerged that suicide was the answer to distress.

Today, this is called the Werther effect after the widespread emotional reaction to the 18th century novel The Sorrows of Young Werther by the famous German writer Goethe. The story is about an unhappy lover who ends his life with a pistol. At publication, the book precipitated a massive wave of imitative suicides throughout Germany and much of Europe. This response was not unlike what took place the month after Marilyn Monroe’s death when there was a 10% increase in suicides in the United States.

Are there lessons here for clinicians? I think there are. In the wake of a celebrity suicide, it is wisest to express neither shock nor surprise to one’s patients. Patients who are at risk need to be assessed, monitored, and seen often. Their grief needs to be acknowledged. They also need assurance that you understand, are available, and that there are ways, admittedly difficult, by which one can overcome adverse circumstances and survive anguish …

My own experience suggests that overzealous intervention is not a good idea and that it is best to check with elders in the field who are more experienced before leaping into unknown therapeutic territory. Sensitive topics such as thoughts of suicide need private one-on-one discussion, not group therapy. Membership in a group transforms a person and the results of such transformations can be difficult to foresee.”