Liz Smith 1923-2017

Legendary New York gossip columnist Liz Smith, known as ‘doyenne of dish’, has died aged 94. I have posted a tribute here. As regular readers will know, she was one of the media’s most vocal champions of Marilyn – and you read can all of our Liz-related posts right here.

Hollywood Legends: Marilyn Magazine Special

Good news for North American fans: Marilyn – Her Untold Story, a Hollywood Legends Collectors’ Edition magazine special, is now available for $12.99 from stores across the US (and also in Canada.)  Readers tell me it’s a nice visual tribute and a fun collectible, but the text relies too much on rehashed gossip. You can view the contents page below – and if you’re outside the US, a few copies are surfacing on Ebay.

Thanks to Jackie and Fraser

Marilyn Brings Sugar to ‘Total Film’

The latest issue of UK magazine Total Film comes with 100 different covers, each featuring one of their 100 Greatest Movie Characters. Sugar Kane, the adorable ditz played by Marilyn in Some Like It Hot, is ranked at #49 – so if you’re hunting for this rare gem, good luck! (Sugar also ranked 10th among the magazine’s top 100 female characters back in 2011, while Marilyn was featured in a Classic Film special edition earlier this year.)

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Marilyn, ‘The Misfits’ and Nevada Magazine

The tumultuous filming of The Misfits has become part of the Desert State’s history, as Janet Geary, publisher of Nevada magazine, observed in a talk for the Fallon lecture series, ‘Pictures of the West’, this week at the Churchill County Museum, as Steve Ranson reports for Nevada Appeal.

“The 1980s began to offer more in-depth articles such as on the native Indians of Nevada; Nevada’s buckaroos, a black and white collection, and the state’s ranches; the golden anniversary of Hoover Dam with a spectacular night-time photo of the dam; the magazine’s 50th anniversary; the 25th anniversary of the filming of the movie, The Misfits, starring Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe; and the state’s 125th birthday in 1989. She said The Misfits from December 1986 was the most popular cover.”

Marilyn and the Hollywood Wolves

Following recent allegations of sexual harassment and assault against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, I’ve been thinking of Marilyn’s own experiences among the Hollywood ‘wolves’. (Incidentally, Weinstein produced the 2011 biopic, My Week With Marilyn.)

‘I met them all,’ Marilyn stated in her 1954 memoir, My Story. ‘Phoniness and failure were all over them. Some were vicious and crooked. But they were as near to the movies as you could get. So you sat with them, listening to their lies and schemes. And you saw Hollywood with their eyes – an overcrowded brothel, a merry-go-round with beds for horses.’

My Story was written with Ben Hecht, who may be responsible for some of the more elaborate metaphors, but he insisted it was true to the spirit of what Marilyn told him. It remained unpublished until long after her death, perhaps because it was too controversial.

When British writer W J Weatherby asked her whether the stories about the casting couch were true, Marilyn responded: ‘They can be. You can’t sleep your way into being a star, though. It takes much, much more. But it helps. A lot of actresses get their first chance that way. Most of the men are such horrors, they deserve all they can get out of them!’

This conversation also remained private during her lifetime. Sadly, Marilyn has been retrospectively punished for her outspokenness, with tales of her supposed promiscuity circulating to this day. Even film critic Mick LaSalle, who once defended her against lurid allegations by Tony Curtis, wrote this week, ‘Ever hear of Marilyn Monroe? Of course you have. Well, she said no to very few people.’

Her relationship with agent Johnny Hyde is well-known, and some believe her friendship with movie mogul Joe Schenck was more than platonic. But the rumours of her being a glorified call-girl are utterly baseless. Several men who dated Marilyn remember her being so cautious that she wouldn’t kiss them goodnight.

Perhaps one of the most important stories relating to Marilyn and the Hollywood ‘wolves’ is her refusal to spend a weekend alone with Columbia boss Harry Cohn on his yacht while she was under contract to him in 1948. He was furious, and quickly fired her. The story is almost identical to some of the allegations being made today.

Among the many stories making the rounds lately comes from actress Gretchen Mol, who was rumoured to have been promoted by Weinstein in exchange for sexual favours. In fact, she has never been alone with him, and yet this false rumour has unjustly tarnished her reputation.

Her story reminded me a lot of Marilyn, who has been endlessly ‘slut-shamed’ simply for being honest and open about her sexuality. In January 1953, she approved a story for Motion Picture magazine which is illuminating about the harassment she experienced – I have posted it below, courtesy of the Everlasting Star boards (please click on the files below to enlarge.)

What strikes me as sad is that she almost seemed to accept it as an occupational hazard.  Let’s hope that the buck won’t stop with Mr Weinstein, and that real changes will be made. Sexual exploitation is not unique to Hollywood, and until people stop blaming the victims, predators will continue to thrive.

Further Reading

Marilyn Warned Joan Collins About the Casting Couch

‘Norma Jean and Marilyn’ Stars Speak Out On Abuse

Marilyn Impersonator Reveals Sexual Harassment

Hugh Hefner 1926-2017

Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, has died aged 91.

In 1953, he acquired Tom Kelley’s nude calendar shot of Marilyn for the magazine’s first issue, also putting her on the cover. (You can read the full story here.) ‘She was actually in my brother’s acting class in New York,’ he told CNN. ‘But the reality is that I never met her. I talked to her once on the phone, but I never met her. She was gone, sadly, before I came out here.’

In 1960, Playboy published another laudatory feature headlined ‘The Magnificent Marilyn.’ If Marilyn sometimes resented others profiteering from her nude calendar – for which she had earned a flat $50 back in 1949 – by 1962 she was considering posing for Playboy‘s Christmas issue (although some sources indicate she changed her mind.)

Lawrence Schiller’s poolside nudes, taken during filming of the unfinished Something’s Got to Give, were published by Playboy in 1964, two years after Marilyn’s death.

The women’s rights campaigner Gloria Steinem, who would later write a biography of Marilyn, went ‘undercover’ as a Bunny Girl in a Playboy club for a magazine assignment durging the 1960s, and found the experience degrading – an opinion echoed by feminists today, as the BBC reports. Cultural historian Camille Paglia takes a different view, citing Hefner as ‘one of the principal architects of the social revolution.’

Marilyn has made many posthumous appearances on Playboy covers through the years. The magazine has also revealed rare and unseen images, such as Jon Whitcomb’s 1958 painting of Marilyn (based on a photo by Carl Perutz), and illustrator Earl Moran’s photos of a young Marilyn.

Many distinguished authors have written about Marilyn for Playboy, including John Updike, Roger Ebert, and Joyce Carol Oates. More dubiously, the magazine also published detective John Miner’s contested transcripts of tapes allegedly made by Marilyn for her psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson.

Since his death was announced earlier today, Twitter users and even some news websites have mistakenly posted a photo of Marilyn with Sir Laurence Olivier, confusing him with Hefner, as Mashable reports (a final absurdity that all three would probably have found hilarious.)

In 1992, Hefner reportedly purchased the crypt next to Marilyn’s in Westwood Memorial Park for $75,000. If he is buried there, it will either pave the way for extra security measures, or make Marilyn’s final resting place even more of a spectacle.

Marilyn Photo Collector Sues Vanity Fair

A collector of celebrity memorabilia is suing Vanity Fair for unauthorised use of this photo – showing Marilyn attending the Madison Square Garden concert where she famously sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to President Kennedy in 1962 – in their 2016 magazine special, Vanity Fair Icons: Marilyn Monroe, reports TMZ.

“In docs, obtained by TMZ, [Aric] Hendrix says he’s a collector of historical photographs and owns the photo AND the negative of Marilyn. He’s suing for damages in excess of $1 million. We’ve reached out to Vanity Fair, so far no word back.”

55 Years Ago: Newsweek Remembers Marilyn

Newsweek has republished two stories dealing with past anniversaries of Marilyn’s death. The first, from 1982, was originally entitled ‘Keeping the Monroe Memories Aglow‘ and focuses on  collectors and fans, some of whom are still active today. ‘The 24-Year Itch‘ dates from 1986, and features contributions from  feminist author Gloria Steinem, and Margaret Parton, one of the last journalists to speak at length with Marilyn.

“Monroe has mostly attracted male biographers. Probably few of them found it remarkable that an intelligent woman would talk like a breathless teenager or play a string of bimbos. Looking at Monroe’s life through the eyes of a contemporary feminist, Steinem now sees Norma Jeane Baker (the real name behind all the imagery) as a girl who never grew up. She was an early bloomer who spent her childhood shunted from one foster home to the next. She remained trapped inside the voluptuous Marilyn, forever seeking the love and approval she had missed as a kid. ‘She was just so vulnerable and unprotected,’ Steinem says.

The effect of social and sexual convention in shaping a tinseltown goddess’s behavior and attitudes is worth remembering. Steinem reminds us that in Monroe’s day a woman so spectacularly sexy was seen by other women primarily as a threat (that, of course, could never happen among the sisterhood today). When Margaret Parton, one of the few women journalists to cover Marilyn during her life, did a profile for the Ladies’ Home Journal, it was killed for being too favorable. Years later, when Ms. magazine ran a cover story on Monroe called ‘The Woman Who Died Too Soon,’ it became one of the magazine’s best-selling issues … In a feminist age, it is easier for women to respond with sympathy to the way Monroe was treated.”