The Original Sugar Kane Dies Aged 100

Actress Kathryn Kane has died aged 100, the Telegraph reports. She was one of the inspirations behind Sugar Kane, the character played by Marilyn in Some Like It Hot. (Another was Helen Kane, the singer who first popularised ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’, which Marilyn performed in the movie.)

“Kathryn Kane, often billed as ‘Sugar Kane’, was a blonde, blue-eyed model and actress who was promoted by Warner Bros as the female answer to MGM’s Mickey Rooney, and for a few years in the 1930s her wholesome, girl-next-door appeal gave her a taste of stardom.

In 1935, while working as a model, she was spotted by a Warner Bros talent scout and put on a train to California. The studio publicity department changed her name to ‘Sugar Kane’ and cast her in a series of musical shorts to publicise her singing voice, including The Magic of Music and A Great Idea (both 1935).

She was loaned out to Paramount for her first feature, the comedy Love on Toast (1937) in which she played second fiddle to Stella Adler. She followed it the following year with the backstage burlesque crime drama, Sunset Murder Case, which was banned in some American cities due to its racy content.

That year she was also in the musical short, Swingtime in the Movies (as Katherine Kane), but was then dropped by Warner Bros. She signed to Universal and took her best role to date, playing the female lead, Snookie Saunders, in the musical comedy Swing, Sister Swing, about a dance craze, ‘The Baltimore Bubble’.

She followed it with The Spirit of Culver (1939), a drama designed to rejuvenate the flagging careers of former child stars Jackie Cooper and Freddie Bartholomew. The same year she appeared in the comedy short Quiet, Please, in which she played an actress in a relationship with a fellow movie star (played by Larry Williams); the pair are in love for the camera but at each other’s throats in real life.

After the war she appeared on stage in one of Earl Carroll’s musical variety shows and in 1947 she made a fleeting return to films with an uncredited part in That Hagen Girl, starring Shirley Temple and Ronald Reagan.

By 1959 her film career was long over, but Billy Wilder used her sobriquet in Some Like it Hot, casting Marilyn Monroe as the carefree Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, singer and ukulele player in Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators.”

Barbara Eden Remembers Marilyn

Actress Barbara Eden is best-known for her zany role in the 1960s sitcom, I Dream Of Jeannie. She also starred in the TV spin-off of How to Marry a Millionaire, which ran from 1957-59.  Her ditzy character, ‘Loco Jones’, was a blend of the roles played by Marilyn and Betty Grable in the 1953 movie. And as Barbara revealed in a recent interview for Studio 10, she would later meet Marilyn in the flesh.

Marilyn and her stand-in, Evelyn Moriarty

“She eventually met Monroe, as they both shared the same stand-in – Evelyn Moriarty. Recalling the meeting, Eden said: ‘Marilyn was over there doing wardrobe tests. I’m standing there with [Evelyn], and Marilyn came out and [Evelyn] said, “Marilyn, I want you to meet my other star”.’

Monroe was filming her last movie at the time and Evelyn later confided in Barbara following the famous actress’ death, claiming she never believed the reports at the time.

‘Evelyn said, ‘”She would never take her own life”. I just feel it was probably an accident,’ Eden said. ‘She wanted to get to sleep, and took too many [pills]… I hope that’s what it was.'”

The Other ‘Seven Year Itch’ Girl

Travilla’s designs for Marilyn in The Seven Year Itch were legendary, but the costumes worn by other actresses in the film are also spectacular. This beautiful green number, worn by Dorothy Ford in the train station scene, is now part of the Western Costume Company collection. Dorothy, who also played the Indian girl, was a statuesque former model and showgirl signed by MGM in the 1940s, who studied at the Actors’ Lab, was a comedic foil to Abbott and Costello, and played John Wayne’s love interest in Three Godfathers (1948.)

Thanks to Matt at Marilyn Remembered

Celebrating Marilyn in Derby

Attention, Midlanders: two Monroe movies are to be screened at Derby’s QUAD Centre, with The Seven Year Itch set for tomorrow, March 24, at 3 pm; and Bus Stop at 2:30 pm on Sunday, April 7. It’s a tie-in with Marilyn, a free exhibition based on photographer Emily Berl’s stunning images of Monroe lookalikes (see here), at the nearby Déda Gallery until April 14 as part of the Format Festival. (The gallery is closed on Sundays, however, so you’ll have to see them on different days.)

Thanks to Lorraine at Marilyn Remembered

At 20th Century Fox, It’s All About Marilyn

All About Eve is (rightly) included in Indiewire‘s list of 40 films that defined 20th Century Fox, which has now officially merged with Disney. However, I think Marilyn’s string of hits at the studio – such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Seven Year Itch, to name just two – also merit consideration.

“Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (1950) made 20th Century Fox the crown jewel of Oscar players when it nabbed a record 14 Academy Award nominations and won six prizes, including Best Picture. The drama is the first film to earn nominations in all six major Oscar categories: Director, Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress.”

Another Elvis: Dick Dale in ‘Let’s Make Love’

Richard Anthony Monsour was born in Boston, of Lebanese and Polish-Belarusian descent. His family moved to Quincy, Massachusetts when he was a child, and he had learned to play several musical instruments before buying a guitar from a friend (paying back the $8 cost in instalments.) In 1954, his father began working for the Hughes Aircraft Company and the family moved to El Segundo, California. At 17, the aspiring musician began playing at country bars, where TV presenter ‘Texas Tiny’ suggested he adopt the name Dick Dale.

Born left-handed, Dale played the guitar upside-down, and later partnered with Leo Fender to test new equipment. His love for Arabic music inspired him to use Middle-Eastern scales in his compositions, and his experiments with reverberation would make him a pioneer of surf rock.

But in 1956, Dick Dale was just like every other teenage boy who wanted to be the next Elvis Presley; and that year, he won an Elvis Sound-A-Like Contest in Los Angeles.

This led to an uncredited bit part in Let’s Make Love (1960.) In a short scene just after Marilyn sings ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’, a group of Elvis impersonators audition for a part in a revue. Dick Dale, wearing a red jacket, is the first to perform and by far the best. (You can watch the clip here.)

But the role is won by another impersonator, played by 16 year-old John Gatti Jr., who dons the red jacket for his cameo in Marilyn and Frankie Vaughan’s duet, ‘Specialization.’

John Gatti Jr. as another Elvis Presley lookalike

In 1961, Dale began playing surf guitar with his new band, the Del-Tones, at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa. His first hit single was ‘Let’s Go Trippin’’. They appeared on TV’s Ed Sullivan Show, and in two of the popular Beach Party movies, and released two seminal albums. Among his many fans was a young Jimi Hendrix. As the British Invasion put an end to the surf craze, Dale battled cancer for the first time. He later returned to music and became an environmental activist.

Dale’s career enjoyed a resurgence when his early hit, ‘Misirlou’, was featured in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film, Pulp Fiction. A teetotaller and vegetarian, Dale also practiced karate. In later years, he continued touring to pay his medical bills. Dick Dale died in Lorna Linda, California,  on March 16, aged 81.

Thanks to Fraser Penney 

Ana de Armas Tipped to Play Marilyn in ‘Blonde’

30 year-old Cuban actress Ana de Armas, whose screen credits include Blade Runner 2049, may be cast as Marilyn in Andrew Dominik’s long-mooted big-screen adaptation of Blonde, Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 novel loosely inspired by Marilyn’s tumultuous life, Collider reports – although Netflix have yet to confirm this. Naomi Watts and Jessica Chastain are among the big names previously suggested for the role. Dominik first announced his intention to direct Blonde back in 2010, but his pet project has endured many setbacks. A television adaptation starring Poppy Montgomery aired in 2002, to mixed reviews. While Blonde was a major literary success, many Monroe fans (myself included) feel that it takes too many liberties with the facts.

Anita Loos: From Lorelei to Marilyn

‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ was first filmed in 1928

In an article for Silent London, Pamela Hutchinson traces the career of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes author Anita Loos.

“In 1925, Loos published her masterpiece, first as short stories in Harper’s Weekly and then as a full-length novel. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a comic tour de force, and no less than Edith Wharton called it ‘The great American novel’. This breathless and ungrammatical text is presented as the no-holds-barred diary of one Lorelei Lee, a beautiful blonde gold-digger from Little Rock, Arkansas, and her adventures in pursuit of a diamond tiara with her friend Dorothy, a brunette with a one-track mind.

As Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was a hit novel and play, of course it had to be filmed. The film was a hit too, but sadly it is now lost. The 1928 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes had impeccable comic credentials, being directed by Keystone alumnus Mal St Clair, and starring two more former employees of Mack Sennett: Ruth Taylor and Ford Sterling.

Anita Loos with Marilyn’s idol, Jean Harlow (1932)

When the talkies came in, Loos was hired by Irving Thalberg to work for MGM … Who better than Loos, for example to write a script for Jean Harlow, the 1930s ultimate Lorelei Lee type, breathless, blonde and babyishly naïve? Except she was adapting a book by Katharine Brush called Red-Headed Woman, which was a cue for plenty of promotional jollity.

Anita Loos with Carol Channing at a Broadway rehearsal (1949)

After this, Loos went back to New York, and wrote for the stage – not without success. She wrote the book for a musical adaptation of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which was a little milder than the novel and starred Carol Channing and Yvonne Adair as Lorelei and Dorothy.

Then, of course, 20th Century-Fox and Howard Hawks came for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It remains a great joy to see two great comediennes, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, both of whom were exploited by Hollywood in their turn, enacting this superb comic revenge on stupid men. The 1953 film has some great moments, but it’s a little sluggish in between times. Never mind: the song Diamonds are Girl’s Best Friend is the best possible tribute to Loos’s satirical pen, and the staging of Isn’t There Anyone Here for Love? in which Russell cavorts among an entire male Olympic team, must surely have tickled her. But Loos had nothing to do with the production, having struggled with her writing partner on the stage version. She did, however, say that Monroe was sublime casting. And of course, she was 100% right.”