“Guitar Slim going down slow Play it for me and for Marilyn Monroe …”
One of our true living legends, Bob Dylan has just released his first original song in eight years. ‘Murder Most Foul’ is a seventeen-minute ballad about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and its lingering impact on the American psyche. Among the many cultural references within this extraordinary work is our MM, whom Dylan has long admired (see here.)
A new picture disc featuring fifteen of Marilyn’s songs – and gorgeous images by Sam Shaw and Baron – has been released by VinylArt via Amazon. (And while you’re there, pick up a copy of French magazine Reporters Sans Frontières‘ tribute to Philippe Halsman, including eleven pages of Marilyn.)
Back in 2018, Camila Cabello referenced ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ while performing her hit song, ‘Havana’, at the iHeart Radio Awards (see here.) Now in the video for her latest single, ‘My Oh My’, Camila plays a vintage movie star who ditches her studio bosses (and her Monroesque blonde bombshell image) to party with bad boy rapper DeBaby.
Rapper Eminem’s surprise new ‘horrorcore’ album, Music to Be Murdered By, is supposedly influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, but its violent, misogynistic themes are nothing new. In a post cataloguing the album’s cinematic references, Screen Rant‘s Q.V. Hough notes that among the new tracks, ‘Little Engine‘ includes a sampled intro from Hitch himself, plus a nod to murdered actress Sharon Tate and a drug-fuelled allusion to Marilyn (‘I’m losin’ control / Heroin and blow, Marilyn Monroe …’) Neither is very accurate, as Tate was stabbed to death, not shot as Eminem claims; and Marilyn never used heroin or cocaine (blow.) Both women deserve better.
Rappers Megan Thee Stallion & Normani collaborate on ‘Diamonds’, taken from the soundtrack to Birds of Prey, the new Harley Quinn movie due out in February. We have already seen Margot Robbie recreate Marilyn’s signature number from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in the upcoming film’s trailer.
Normani goes one step further in her video, though, reworking lyrics from the original song, ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, with a hip-hop twist, and vamping it up in pink. As Brooke Marine reports for W, this is the first time the song has been sampled – and we even hear Marilyn cooing ‘Tiffany … Cartier …’ at the fade-out.
Marilyn’s iconic role as Sugar Kane is one of the inspirations behind ‘Women in Love’, the new single from British indie-pop duo Summer Camp‘s upcoming second album, Romantic Comedy. Singer Elizabeth Sankey has also directed a documentary of the same name, which you can read about here.
“‘Women In Love’ is about falling for a woman who is packed full of idiosyncrasies and complexity. Obviously the manic pixie dream girl trope of rom coms has been discussed in great detail, but for us this song is less about those more modern heroines, and more about the classic rom com queens who completely befuddle and complicate the lives of the men who are attracted to them. It’s Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby, Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot, and Goldie Hawn in The Housesitter. It’s about how their love interests feel so lucky to be adored by such strange, complicated, and surprising women.'”
Film historian Jeanine Basinger is not a great fan of Marilyn – in her 2008 book, The Star Machine, she made the puzzling claim that Monroe was unpopular with filmgoers, though the statistics tell another story. Marilyn also rates a mention in Basinger’s latest book, The Movie Musical, in the context of Twentieth Century Fox’s long line of blonde musical stars.
“A discussion of Fox blondes, from [Alice] Faye to Monroe, defines the Fox musical factory system, but it has to begin with a blonde who started the trend but is seldom included in the pack. She’s a very little blonde: Shirley Temple. All the famous musical Fox blondes overlapped in film … [June] Haver appeared with Monroe in Love Nest (1951) and [Betty] Grable, the most famous musical star of them all, gave a boost to Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953.) The Fox blondes were powerhouses: Temple, Faye, Grable, and Monroe were all top-ten box office draws … Faye is closer in looks to Marilyn Monroe – the big, wide-set eyes, the lush mouth, and the vulnerable look combined with a zaftig body. [Grable was smaller, leaner and zippier – she gave off the energetic zeitgeist of the war years.)
Marilyn Monroe was neither a great singer or a great dancer, but she was good enough. Everyone accepted her breathy vocals as part of who she was, and her dancing was made into far more than it was by the great choreographer Jack Cole. Cole gave her hand gestures, hip movements, and head turns that had rhythm and attracted an audience’s eye …
Monroe was something of a challenge for Twentieth Century Fox. The studio apparently didn’t originally see her as a musical star … Monroe made only two pure musicals for Fox, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954.) She also sang in Niagara (1953), River Of No Return (1954), Some Like It Hot (1959), and Let’s Make Love (1960), usually with some dancing connection …
Monroe as a musical star in a typical Fox musical was not the Monroe who is usually defined as vulnerable, with a sad and wistful quality, a soul yearning for understanding while suffering the cruelties of an uncaring world … In both Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and There’s No Business Like Show Business, Monroe was self-confident, playing a woman who knew how to use men if she had to in order to achieve her career goals. Monroe has one enduring solo (with a chorus of men): her immortal ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ …
The best movie by which to evaluate Monroe as a musical performer is There’s No Business Like Show Business. She’s surrounded by top-drawer names who’ve each spent a lifetime in the game … Monroe doesn’t have the musical chops of a single one of these players. She is, however, Marilyn Monroe. What she’s got doesn’t necessarily need musical chops, and she’s not a terrible singer/dancer, just not a highly skilled one … Cole’s choreography is constructed to show off Monroe’s body and to use the audience’s established sense of her as a sex object, but without being offensive about it …
‘After You Get What You Want’ has a bold lyric that feigns innocence … [Monroe] looks nude, and she’s in the best shape of her life … She’s beautiful and young and lush, all pure sex, and yet despite all this, there’s a strange air of innocence about her. That was the thing Monroe had that made her famous. It wasn’t just sexiness, though she had that in abundance …
Monroe’s second song is a full-out production number with elaborate costumes and a chorus of dancers – a Cuban thing with costumes, bongo drums, and palm trees. There’s a full choreography for the ensemble, and it’s too much for Monroe … Monroe handles ‘Heat Wave’, but she didn’t need all the clutter around her.
‘Lazy’ is a PhD thesis. It’s played as a rehearsal for a number to be done by Monroe, [Donald] O’Connor, and [Mitzi] Gaynor. Monroe is dressed in tight capri pants, a low-cut V-neck top, and a brightly coloured cummerbund. She lolls on a chaise longue, singing the song in a languid style. While she sings, draping herself around the sofa … the other two dance around her … The less she does, just showing off her body, the more they do, showing off their superb dancing. It’s a musical contrast: sex vs. talent. And it’s devilishly clever from a business point of view …
Marilyn Monroe ended the Fox blonde cycle. She became too big for its limiting label, and the time for the concept was over, as the studio moved towards its death. She was never defined by her musical performances, and her career didn’t impact musical history much, but it did impact the career of the woman originally put under contract to become the next Fox blonde: the talented Sheree North, who is practically unknown today …”
Singer Ariana Grande, a longterm Marilyn fan (see here) has recorded a cover of ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy‘ as an interlude on her current Sweetener Tour. Although the song was penned by Cole Porter in 1938 and popularised by Broadway star Mary Martin, Ariana’s version closely resembles Marilyn’s breathy rendition in Let’s Make Love (1960.)
In our final post ahead of the November 14 event at Julien’s Auctions, A Southern Gentleman’s Collection, we focus on Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller and the last years of her life. (You can read all posts about this sale here.)
“A group of six audio recordings including: 1) a late 1950s-era 3-inch reel tape (Type 151) featuring interviews Monroe conducted with Look magazine and Chicago disc jockey Dave Garroway, housed in its original box with handwritten annotations reading in part ‘May Reis’ [Monroe’s longtime New York-based secretary]; 2) a 33 1/3 RPM record labeled “M. Monroe – Belmont / Side 1 / Side 2[her 1960 interview with Georges Belmont for Marie Claire]; 3) another 33 1/3 RPM record identical to #2 but sides 3-4; 4) another 33 1/2 RPM record identical to #2 but sides 5-6, content unknown on all; 5) a 78 RPM record on the RCA Victor label of the star singing ‘The River of No Return’ and ‘I’m Gonna File My Claim;’ and 6) a 45 RPM record same as the 78; further included with a CD of the reel tape; all originally from the Estate of May Reis. And sold separately, a publicity still from River of No Return, autographed by Marilyn.”
Recordings SOLD for $3,840; photo SOLD for $10,240
“A legal-sized financial document from Woodbury Savings Bank in Connecticut, two hole punch marks on left side, dated ‘Sept. 9, 1957,’ filled out in blue fountain pen ink by Arthur Miller, briefly outlining the couple’s finances, noting their annual income as ‘$50,000,’ interestingly, Miller adds that there is a ‘suit pending against M.M. Productions,’ both signed twice on the lower margin, with MM’s reading ‘Marilyn Monroe Miller;’ also included is a related photocopied document from the same bank.” And sold separately, a window card for The Prince and The Showgirl (1957.)
Document SOLD for $4,480; poster SOLD for $384
“Nine original snapshots depicting Marilyn at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn on May 12, 1957 as she makes a guest appearance at a soccer match between the U.S. and Israel. And sold separately, a medical insurance form from Associated Hospital Service of New York, entirely filled out in blue ballpoint ink by Miller when the couple was applying for insurance, noting their address on ‘Tophet Road, Roxbury, Conn.’ and noting Monroe’s health issues as ‘Appendix Removed / 5% (hearing) impairment, Ectopic Pregnancy,’ oddly, Miller checked off ‘no’ under ‘female trouble’ for his wife, signed by Miller on page 3 and further signed by Monroe right below but in different blue ballpoint ink.”
Photos SOLD for $1,024; document SOLD for $3,750
“Miscellaneous paperwork from 1958 including: an invoice from Carl Perutz Photography sent to Marilyn at her NYC address on ’18 June 1958;’ and four receipts from the Yellow Cab Company of Los Angeles ranging in date from July 14 to July 16, 1958, showing that MM was at the Hotel Bel Air, Saks Fifth Avenue, and a mysterious address at 8719 Bonner Drive; though her name does not appear anywhere on the receipts, they come from the same files as the Perutz invoice.”
SOLD for $512
“Telegram dated October 28, 1958, sent to Jack Lemmon by the producer of Some Like It Hot, reading in part ‘By reason of the illness of Marilyn Monroe, please be advised / that we hereby exercise the right to suspension…;’ and sold separately, a standard check from the ‘Marilyn Monroe Productions, Inc.’ account … matted under a 1970s-era re-issue soundtrack album from Some Like It Hot.”
Telegram SOLD for $768; check + album SOLD for $2,560
“A standard address book with navy blue leather covers and A to Z tabs, kept by May Reis [Monroe’s longtime New York secretary] on the star’s behalf for a number of years, inside pages contain Reis’ handwritten entries in pencil or various colors of ballpoint ink for Monroe’s personal and business contacts including (in alphabetical order): Rupert Allan, Elizabeth Arden, Richard Avedon, Kenneth Battale, Saul Bellow, Chateau Marmont, Michael Chekhov, Jack Cole, George Cukor, Lilly Daché, Agnes Flanagan, Bob Fosse, Ben Gazzara, Lotte Goslar, Sydney Guilaroff, Lillian Hellman, Hedda Hopper, Hotel Bel Air, John Huston, William Inge, Jax, Anne Karger, Marianne Kris, Leon Krohn, Ann Landers, Erno Laszlo, Jean Louis, Carson McCullers, Inez Melson, Isidore Miller, Berniece Miracle, Monroe Six, Eunice Murray, Jean Negulesco, Norman Norell, Clifford Odets, Louella Parsons, Lena Pepitone, The Plaza Hotel, Henry Rosenfeld, Hedda and Norman Rosten, Eva Marie Saint, Norma Shearer, Frank Sinatra, Sidney Skolsky, Allan Snyder, John Steinbeck, Paula Strasberg, Western Costume Co., Billy Wilder, and Shelley Winters, among a few others; also included are a few notes relating to the stars personal identification numbers as well as bank accounts; Reis’ ownership signature is penned on the second page next to a date of ‘1958;’ Monroe penciled in a note on the last page reading ‘Roxbury Conn. / Tophet Rd.'”
UNSOLD – reserve not met
“A single page of personalized stationery, dated ‘April 15, 1960,’ to ‘Mr. Ehrlich,’ reading in part ‘Will you please convey my sincere appreciation to the public and critics of Chile for awarding the Laurel de Oro as Best Actress of 1959,’ signed in black fountain pen ink in the lower right corner ‘Marilyn Monroe;’ with its original transmittal envelope. And sold separately, a contact sheet showing Marilyn in a scene from Some Like It Hot (1959.)”
Letter SOLD for $3,750; contact sheet SOLD for $768
“A small receipt from Gray Reid’s in Reno, Nevada noting a date of ’16 Aug 60′ and that ‘$6.07’ was spent, verso has a blue ballpoint ink handwritten annotation (not in MM’s hand) reading ‘Black / Umbrella’ — probably the umbrella that Marilyn bought for her acting coach, Paula Strasberg, during shooting of The Misfits.”
SOLD for $256
“A black silk and ostrich feather wrap with two black velvet arm straps, label reads ‘Made to Order / Rex / Inc. / Beverly Hills / California;’ displayed in a shadow box with a black and white image of the star wearing it during a 1960 photo shoot with Eve Arnold. Interestingly, this piece may have been used as a prop in MM’s last and unfinished 1962 film, Something’s Got To Give as a similar wrap can be seen in her tote bag in the sequence where she watches her children in the swimming pool.”
SOLD for $10,240
“A deep brownish-black mink fur stole, rectangular shaped with slightly flared ends, lined in a black and gold brocade textured raw silk, no labels present.” [Worn by Marilyn to the premiere of The Misfits in 1961.]
SOLD for $5,760
“A group of seven accessories including: 1) a pair of cat eye sunglasses with rhinestone detailing; 2) their case made of beige vinyl and brown plastic, stamped ‘Cosmetan / Sun Glasses;’ 3) a cordovan alligator eyeglass case stamped in part ‘Schilling;’ 4) a red cotton eyeglass case with a label reading in part ‘Devonaire of California;’ 5) a sterling silver shoe horn, stamped ‘Sterling’ on both sides; and 6-7) a pair of orange plastic shoe trees.”
SOLD for $7,500
“A two page hand-written note on light blue pieces of notepaper from the Los Angeles Institute for Psychoanalysis, penciled by the star in full “‘CR 12151 Western Union / Dear Marlon / I need your / opinion about a / plan for getting / Lee out here on more / than a temporary / basis please / phone me as soon / as possible / Time / is of the essence / Marilyn;’ evidently written for a telegram that she was sending to Brando about Actors’ Studio head Lee Strasberg. And sold separately, a telegram from Brando dated ‘1962 Jan 13,’ sent to Marilyn at her ‘882 North Doheny Apt 3’ address, reading in full ‘Tried to reach you by fone must leave city this weekend / sorry / Marlon,’ with a number of stamps and other handwritten delivery annotations evident; seeming to be Brando’s response to Monroe’s note.”
Marilyn’s note SOLD for $6,400; Marlon’s telegram SOLD for $2,560
“A standard postcard from the Fontainebleu Hotel in Miami, signed in blue ballpoint ink on the verso ‘To Gisele / Thank you / so much! / Marilyn Monroe.'” [Marilyn stayed overnight at the Fontainebleu in 1962 with her former father-in-law, Isidore Miller.]
SOLD for $2,500
“A large collection of approximately 130 loose-leaf ‘colored’ script change pages given to the star throughout the production of Something’s Got to Give, as the script was being revised on a regular basis, noting numerous and various dates in April and May of 1962, many pages are paper-clipped or stapled together by their revision date, a number of them have the star’s name penned in the upper right hand corner (though not in her hand) or small notes addressed to her, Monroe’s own handwritten annotations appear on a few pages, mainly as directions to herself such as ‘drop voice – / lean against post’ or additional dialogue she added such as ‘if you’d take it out’ and the like, she also circled her character’s name [“Ellen”] on many pages; two pink pages are torn with one having Monroe’s penciled annotation reading ‘No good one.’ And sold separately, an oversize colour photo taken during Marilyn’s 1962 session with Bert Stern for Vogue magazine, entitled ‘I Beg Of You‘.”
Script pages SOLD for $12,800; photo SOLD for $5,120
Sold separately, these contact sheets are among several lots featuring photos by Bert Stern.
Contact sheets SOLD for $1,152 and $896, respectively
“A telegram dated ‘1962 Jun 1 AM 9 55,’ sent to Marilyn at her Fifth Helena Drive address in Brentwood, CA, reading in full ‘Happy Birthday Hope Today And Future Years Bring You / Sunny Skies And All Your Heart Desires As Ever / Joe’ — most likely DiMaggio as it was sent from ‘Madrid Via RCA.'”
SOLD for $6,250
“A ticket reading in part ‘May 19, 1962 / Madison Square Garden / Gala All Star Show’ — the now-historic event celebrating President John F. Kennedy‘s 45th birthday, plus a photo of Marilyn during her performance of ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’. And sold separately, a group of four telephone bills, sent to “M. Monroe” from General Telephone Company, ranging in date from April 30 to July 30, 1962, listing all the long distance calls she made to cities noted on the bills as ‘NYC, Bkln, Queen, Wbury, Engla, Telav’ and, most interestingly, to ‘Wash’ a number of times in July — so maybe she was calling the Kennedys?”
Ticket + photo SOLD for $896; telephone bills SOLD for $4,375
“A 1960s-era Steno spiral-bound notebook filled with about 45 pages of notes and reminiscences penned in blue ballpoint ink that George Barris wrote down while he was working with the star in the summer of 1962; appearing to be taken verbatim from conversations the two had, the subjects mentioned are quite varied and range from Monroe’s favorite films to her health to people on her mind at that particular time such as President Kennedy, Arthur Miller, Joe DiMaggio, Cyd Charisse, Marlon Brando, Paula Strasberg, and Greta Garbo; other topics include living in California, nude scenes in films, her termination from her last film, sex, on being a sex symbol, marriage, children, and life philosophy in general; some of the notes appear to have been jotted down later or even after the star’s death but in any case, it’s a fascinating look into the star’s psyche as recounted by someone who closely worked with her at the very end of her life. And sold separately, a signed photo by Barris.
In his new memoir, Me, Elton John explains his decision to rework ‘Candle in the Wind’, his 1973 hit song about Marilyn, which he performed at Westminster Abbey for the state funeral of his friend Princess Diana in 1997.
“A couple of days after Diana’s death, Richard Branson called me. He told me when people signed the book of condolence at St James’s Palace, a lot of them were writing down quotations from the lyrics of ‘Candle In The Wind’. Apparently, it was being played a lot on the radio as well.
He asked if I’d be prepared to rewrite the lyrics and sing it at the funeral. I think he’d been contacted by the Spencer family, because they felt the funeral should be something that people would really connect to.
So I called Bernie [Taupin], who’d written the original lyrics. He was fantastic: he acted as if writing a song that the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury had to check through first was all in a day’s work and faxed the altered lyrics over the next morning.
I insisted on having a teleprompter by the piano, with Bernie’s new lyrics on it. Up until then, I’d been against their use … But this time, I relaxed the rules. It was a unique experience. There was a sense in which it was the biggest gig of my life — for four minutes, I was literally going to be the centre of the world’s attention — but equally, it wasn’t an Elton John moment, it wasn’t about me at all … I wasn’t suffering from stage fright, more a very specific fear: What if I went into autopilot and sang the wrong version?
I’d performed ‘Candle In The Wind’ hundreds of times. It wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility that I might lose myself in the performance, forget about the teleprompter and start singing the original lyrics. How bad would it be if I did that? Appalling. Huge chunks of the lyrics were completely inappropriate for the occasion. You’d have a hard time bluffing your way out of singing about Marilyn Monroe being found dead in the nude, or how your feelings were something more than sexual, at a state funeral.
After the funeral, I went straight to a studio in Shepherd’s Bush, where George Martin was waiting: they were going to release the new version of ‘Candle In The Wind’ as a single to raise money for a charity set up in Diana’s name. I sang it twice and went home.
That was when I finally broke down. I hadn’t felt able to show emotion all day. I’d had a job to do, and how I felt about Diana’s death might have interfered with my ability to do it.
The funeral version of ‘Candle In The Wind’ became the biggest-selling single since the charts began. There was part of me that couldn’t understand why anyone would want to listen to it. Under what circumstances would you play it? I never did. I listened back to it once at the studio to OK the mix and that was it: never again.
In the end, I started feeling really uncomfortable with the single’s longevity … The Diana version of ‘Candle In The Wind’ has never been included on any Greatest Hits album I’ve put out, and it’s never been re-released. I’ve always tried to avoid the topic with journalists. It wasn’t that I wanted to forget it — or her. I just wanted life to get back to some semblance of normality.”