Kathleen Hughes Remembers Marilyn

Perhaps best known for her role in It Came From Outer Space (1953), Kathleen Hughes was married for sixty years to River Of No Return producer Stanley Rubin, who died in 2014 (see here.) She is also a regular guest at the annual memorial services for Marilyn.

Kathleen Hughes with husband Stanley Rubin

In an interview with Stephanie Nolasco for Fox News, Kathleen looks back on her career, and shares memories of Marilyn dating back to the first time she saw her perform in Strictly For Kicks, a revue staged at 20th Century Fox in March 1948 – many months after Marilyn’s first contract with the studio lapsed. (You can hear the Glenn Miller Band’s version of the song Marilyn performed here.) Kathleen’s cousin, Diana Herbert, had briefly appeared with Marilyn in her first movie, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! Both were uncredited.

Kathleen also mentions testing for a role ‘a short time after’, which involved dancing, and losing the part to Marilyn. This could be Ladies of the Chorus, a low-budget 1948 musical filmed at Columbia Pictures in April 1948. The black gown worn by Marilyn in Strictly For Kicks was a costume from the movie.

Marilyn sings ‘I Never Took a Lesson in My Life’ in the Fox revue Strictly For Kicks (1948)

“My cousin Diana Herbert was taking acting lessons when I was already under contract. She was in a show at the studio club. Every studio in those days had a studio club and it consisted of all the people behind the scenes – the mailroom people, the secretaries – everybody but the actors. They would put on a show every year. My cousin was going to be in one of these shows.

The day before the show, she said, ‘They took my song number away from me and they gave it to a girl named Marilyn Monroe who had been under contract at the studio for six months — they had just dropped her! But now they’re giving her the song. I’m still in the show and you still have to come and see me.’ Well, I went to see it and Diana did her number. She was very, very good. But then Marilyn came on. Oh my God, she was fantastic. She did a song called “I Never Took a Lesson in My Life.” She was wearing this slinky black dress. I just couldn’t believe they dropped her.

She was incredible. She was just a star. I just thought if anyone from the studio saw the show, they would realize they made a terrible mistake and sign her back again. A short time later, the casting office called me and they said, ‘Can you dance?’ They got me with this poor, patient man of a dance director. He tried hour after hour after hour to teach me one simple step. Years later I was able to pick it up, but I could not learn this step at the time. At the end of the day, as it was getting dark, he said, ‘Forget it! We’ll get someone else.’ That someone else was Marilyn.”

Fox News

Thanks to Jonathan Montrell

The Sandusky Roots of Sugar Kane

Sugar Kane, as played by Marilyn in Some Like It Hot, is actually Sugar Kowalczyk from Sandusky, Ohio – as Matt Westerhold notes in a piece for the Sandusky Register about his hometown’s movie connections.

“I enjoy it when Sandusky is the center of attention, and always get geeked when I hear mention of our city on TV shows and films. I loved it the first time, and ever since, when I heard Marilyn Monroe in the movie Some Like It Hot, say, ‘Imagine me, a smalltown girl from Sandusky, Ohio, (marrying the heir to the Shell Oil Co.).'” 

He’s got the gist of it, but here’s the exact dialogue from the scene in which, after singing ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ in a Florida hotel, Sugar receives a bouquet from her admirer and eagerly shares the news with her best pals, Daphne and Josephine…

SUGAR: Josephine, just imagine. Me, Sugar Kowalczyk from Sandusky, Ohio, on a millionaire’s yacht. lf my mother could only see me now.

DAPHNE: l hope my mother never finds out.

Marilyn: The Pretty Funny Girl

In a blog post for the 25 Years Later site, J.C. Hotchkiss looks back at Marilyn’s comedic roles in Monkey Business, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot.

“The ‘dumb blonde’ has more depth than you would first think. As someone who has played this ingénue of a character, the ‘ditzy’ blonde needs to know herself. She needs to know the jokes but is NOT the joke. She needs to command the scene, but not be so childlike that the audience stops rooting for her and gets annoyed with her immaturity. Marilyn navigated this fine line throughout her career …

Marilyn fought for a long time to be taken seriously in the acting arena in which she desperately wanted to excel and to be a true actress, not just a pretty face.  I believe all these performance showcase that brilliance … To me, she was more than just a beauty. In fact, the internal struggles she was fighting throughout her life made these performances even that much more poignant …

Marilyn was a trendsetter without even trying to be. She just wanted to make people happy, sometimes at the detriment of her own well-being. At least we have her bright smile and contagious laughter on celluloid whenever we need to laugh and remember just how funny and beautiful she was; to remind us of who Marilyn Monroe was and the legacy she wanted us to remember. “

Wednesdays With Marilyn in Palm Springs

The Palm Springs Cultural Centre is hosting a summer season of Marilyn’s movies each Wednesday at 7 pm, with Niagara on July 10; followed by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on July 17, How to Marry a Millionaire on July 24, and Some Like It Hot on July 31. On Wednesdays at 7 through August, catch The Seven Year Itch, Bus Stop, Let’s Make Love and Monkey Business. And finally, the retrospective winds up in September with Don’t Bother to Knock and The Misfits.

Thanks to Eric at Marilyn Remembered

‘The Seven Year Itch’ in Norfolk, VA

The Seven Year Itch will be screened at 7 pm on Monday, August 19 at the Naro Cinema in Norfolk, Virginia, capping off ‘Mal’s Movies’, a summer season of Hollywood classics selected by film and theatre critic Mal Vincent.

“The star, of course, is Marilyn, and that’s all that needs to be said. Based on the Broadway play, Billy Wilder’s classic comedy is devoted to the premise that husbands reportedly get an ‘itch’ after seven years of marriage. Such frenzy is encouraged by the fact that the wife is away for the summer, and Marilyn Monroe, playing a model, lives upstairs. It’s the perfect comedy for the summer. Tom Ewell is hilarious as the befuddled middle-aged husband who doesn’t quite know what to do with Marilyn. She is most avid about Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto and cooling off her underwear in the fridge. Summertime galore! Monroe’s comic gift is proven throughout.”

After the show, viewers will vote for their top four performances of the series – and Marilyn will be competing against the likes of Doris Day, Maureen O’Hara, Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth for the Best Actress title!

Marilyn, the ‘Smart, Bubbly’ Blonde

“Beat for beat, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes just might be the single funniest film I’ve ever covered for this column,” Caroline Siede writes in the latest entry for her ‘When Romance Met Comedy’ series at AV Club.

“So much of what makes the filmwork ultimately comes down to just how fantastic Monroe and Russell are in it, both individually and as a duo. Russell was the bigger star at the time and commanded the higher salary, but this is one of the key films that launched Monroe into the Hollywood stratosphere and established her signature ‘dumb blonde’ persona. I could fill this whole column just listing off the genius comedic scenarios that [Howard] Hawks and [Charles] Lederer dream up, and that Monroe and Russell flawlessly deliver. One of my favorites is a sequence where Lorelei tries to escape a locked room via a porthole window, which becomes a great showcase for Monroe’s pitch-perfect comedic timing and Hawks’ clever eye for physical comedy.

Lorelei’s obsession with diamonds is both a funny comedic runner and the film’s most pointed piece of satirical commentary. As Lorelei sees it, if the world is going to objectify her anyway, she might as well get some financial benefit from it—especially since she’s learned firsthand that diamonds won’t betray her in the way that men so often do. 

Like the best satires, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes heightens cultural dynamics to the point where you can’t help but see the absurdity in them. Yet it does so in a way that always gives Lorelei and Dorothy the comedic upper hand, rather than forcing them to be the butt of the joke. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes imagines a world where women are allowed to be as open and unembarrassed about their desires as men—whether that’s Dorothy’s interest in ‘a beautiful hunk o’ man’ or Lorelei’s proclivity for wealthy beaus. They never waiver in their directness about asking for what they want, nor from their loyalty to one another. In the end, they’re rewarded for their ingenuity, not punished for it.

There’s a sort of loosely accepted myth that cultural progress is linear—that of course a movie made in 1953 would be more sexist than a movie made today. Yet once you lock into the satirical tone beneath its surface-level pleasures, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes refutes that idea in nearly every scene. It’s both an old-fashioned romp and a shockingly progressive ode to female independence, sexual agency, and camaraderie. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but—as this romantic comedy sees it—so is the woman who will happily throw on her finest evening wear and upend the patriarchy with you.”