Usherette to the Stars


Marilyn with friends, comedian Milton Berle and singer Sammy Davis Jr, at the New York premiere of East of Eden (1955), a benefit for the Actor’s Studio.

Featured in Up From the Vault, an exhibition from the Warner Bros Photo Lab archives, running September 16 – December 30 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Los Angeles.

East of Eden, based on John Steinbeck’s novel and starring James Dean, was a Warners production, directed by another of Marilyn’s circle, Elia Kazan.

Marilyn herself appeared in just one Warners film, when the studio co-produced The Prince and the Showgirl (1957.)

Elliott Erwitt in London

Marilyn during filming of ‘The Seven Year Itch’, NYC, 1954

“Marilyn Monroe, on the other hand, I was able to take pictures of in an intimate situation rather than a public one. This was in her hotel room in 1956*, when I was covering the film she was making at the time, Some Like It Hot.* She may have been reading a script when I took it. It was just me and her, and she was going about her business. I like the atmosphere, and the fact that it’s a famous person being photographed in an ordinary way. And I found her very sympathetic, I must say. She was nice, smart, kind of amusing, and very approachable. Not a bimbo at all.”

Elliott Erwitt 

*Actually, Erwitt first photographed Marilyn in 1954, while she was filming The Seven Year Itch in Manhattan. They worked together again on The Misfits (1960.)

“Four of Elliott Erwitt’s most iconic images will be presented in the UK for the first time as editioned, large format platinum prints, in an exhibition of fine photographs spanning Erwitt’s distinguished career.”

September 15 – November 30, Magnum Print Room, London

Playing Cowboys and Indians with Marilyn

Marilyn with an unnamed little girl during filming of ‘The Misfits’, 1960

“Toni Westbrook-Van Cleave was only 6 at the time, but she still remembers Marilyn Monroe strapping on a toy gun belt and playing cowboys and Indians with her young brother during a break in filming of The Misfits.

Like other residents of the small northern Nevada town of Dayton, she had no clue of the demons that drove Monroe to be consistently late on the set, causing frustrating delays for director John Huston and co-stars Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift.

‘She was gorgeous, very sweet, naive,’ recalled Van Cleave, who was a $10-a-day extra during a rodeo scene. ‘She wasn’t snobby. She seemed real down to earth and friendly.'”

Canadian Press

Kay Winters Remembers ‘The Misfits’


With Dayton’s 50th anniversary tribute coming up this weekend, Kay Winters, now 90, remembers filming of The Misfits:

“Celebrating her 90th birthday soon, Kay recalls watching Hollywood’s favorite movie stars acting on Pike Street: ‘We watched it being filmed,’ she said of Marilyn’s famous paddle board scene taken in the Odeon’s Saloon. ‘That silk dress she wore was really tight,’ she laughed at the memory.”

Reno Gazette-Journal

Marilyn and Mae: Great Film Comics

Marilyn mimics Mae West in a deleted scene from ‘The Seven Year Itch’

“Austerlitz notes that his biographical chapters are intended to create a conversation among comedy’s most influential practitioners. Arranged in rough chronological order, the effect is cumulative. Mae West’s brazen sexuality primps the pillow for Marilyn Monroe’s bombshell self-awareness; unlikely bedfellows Jerry Lewis and Richard Pryor somehow manage to conceive Eddie Murphy.”

Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy by Saul Austerlitz, reviewed at the Boston Globe

‘Honoring the Horse’ in Nevada

Ernst Haas, 1960

“Fall 2010 is the 50th anniversary of the filming of The Misfits in Reno, Dayton and the Pyramid Lake area. The star-studded film, written by Arthur Miller and directed by John Huston, was the last movie appearance for both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, and also featured Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter and Eli Wallach.

However, other ‘stars’ in the movie were four-legged creatures – wild horses, rodeo horses and trained movie horses played prominent roles in the film. To pay homage to these horses, along with horses in general, which have played such an important role in Nevada’s history, the ‘Honoring the Horse’ exhibit will be featured in the University of Nevada, Reno’s Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center beginning Sept. 15.

The ‘Honoring the Horse’ exhibit will run through March 2011, and in February, the Knowledge Center will host a discussion and showing of ‘The Misfits’, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the film’s release.

For more information, go to www.knowledgecenter.unr.edu/specoll, or call 775-682-5665.”

Nevada News

Phoenix Ramada Demolition

In 1956, Marilyn Monroe stayed in a penthouse suite at the Sahara Motor Inn, downtown Phoenix, Arizona, while filming Bus Stop. More recently known as a Ramada Inn, the motel is currently being razed and will be used as the site of a new law school, reports AZCentral.com.

This demolition is going ahead despite protests from local heritage organisations.

“The Sahara Motor Inn, later called the Ramada Inn, is an urban oasis that rose from the sand like a mirage in Downtown Phoenix, complete with a sparking pool, restaurant, cafe, bar, 175 guest rooms, gift shop, two large terrace suites for hosting parties and meetings, and two apartment penthouses. There are also 8 possible spaces for retail. These mini-resorts defined Phoenix in the 1950s by bringing resort-style amenities to the middle class. These mini resorts even attracted celebrities. Marilyn Monroe herself lodged in one of the penthouse suites in the Sahara while filming ‘Bus Stop’. During the late 50’s people from all over the country passed through Phoenix and many of these people spent the night in one of these mini resorts. They experienced a taste of living in the desert, fell in love with Phoenix, and then moved here.

The Sahara was built by Del Webb, the namesake for ASU’s own School of Construction which boasts of its collaboration that creates ASU’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. ASU claims to be ‘the model of sustainability’ and the City promotes sustainable development, but in razing the Ramada, there is nothing that is sustainable, Earth-friendly, or revitalizing.”

Downtown Phoenix Blog

Alex North Centennial Salute

Alex North composed the haunting soundtrack to The Misfits, and other classic films including A Streetcar Named Desire, Cleopatra and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

A tribute to North, featuring a screening of The Misfits, will take place in the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre (the same venue where the Oscar nominations are announced each year), on Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, on Friday, September 24th at 7.30 pm.

As with all Misfits-related events, I wish I could be there. The soundtrack is available on CD.