Marilyn and the Women Who Changed History

Marilyn is featured in this one-off special from Elle, joining Sarah Bernhardt, Ella Fitzgerald, and Brigitte Bardot among forty ‘Women Who Changed History‘. (Her photo was taken during a tour of Brady Airbase in Fukuoka, Japan in February 1954.) The magazine is available now in France for € 6.95.

Marilyn was also the subject of L’Autre là, la Blonde, a play starring Marie-Line Rossetti as an older Monroe, staged last week at the Balcony Theatre in Avignon.

Marilyn’s 90 Years Without Oscar

Anticipating this year’s Oscar ceremony, the current issue of Entertainment Weekly (dated February 23-March 2) features extensive coverage of the Academy Awards’ 90-year history. Of course, Marilyn never won an Oscar, nor was she even nominated. But her role in Some Like It Hot, which won her a Golden Globe, is mentioned in a list of legendary ‘Oscar disses.’

Although Some Like It Hot is her best-known film, Marilyn’s screen time was less than her co-stars. Were it not for her top billing, her performance would arguably be more suited to the Best Supporting Actress category. Marilyn’s bombshell image and flair for comedy both worked against her being taken seriously by the Hollywood establishment. But perhaps the most decisive factor was her rebellion against Twentieth Century Fox.

After winning her contractual battle with the studio, her acclaimed comeback in Bus Stop (1956) was overlooked by the Academy – a snub she never forgot. Her next performance, in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), won awards in Europe, while her last completed film, The Misfits (1961), was also her most mature dramatic role. But at the time, neither were particularly well-received in the US.

In 1964, columnist Sheilah Graham petitioned unsuccessfully for Marilyn to be given a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. However, this is not standard practice within the Academy and thus is highly unlikely to happen now. Nonetheless, Marilyn’s films remain hugely popular and for many, she is the most enduring symbol of movies and glamour – proof, if proof were needed, that you don’t need an Oscar to be a legend.

Girlfriends Forever: Marilyn and Jane’s Sister Act

Perhaps more than any other of Marilyn’s major films, the critical reputation of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and its subversive gender politics has grown in recent years, making it both a perfect satire of fifties femininity, and a strikingly modern sex comedy. Back in 1953, it was a box office smash though deemed mere Hollywood fluff, as Christina Newland notes in ‘Male Critics, Female Friendships on Film,’ over at the BFI blog.

“Even when beloved male auteurs turned their attention to female friendship, their films were often not spared. When it comes to women, objectification is more common than nuance. In Howard Hawks’ classic Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), the gold-digging comedy-musical sees its two showgirls turn men into ineffable fools. But a Time magazine reviewer misses the subtext in order to celebrate what he calls ‘the three-dimensional attractions of its two leading ladies’.”

Meanwhile, in the March issue of the BFI magazine, Sight & Sound (with Greta Gerwig on the cover), Hannah McGill’s article, ‘Sister Act’, takes another look at Blondes alongside other movies featured in next month’s ‘Girlfriends’ season at BFI Southbank (where it’s screening on March 1st, and 11th.)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) with its sugar daddies, its greedy women and its dressing-up games, positions its women as clever and dirty, not pure or mysterious; gives them strength specifically through the fact that they prioritise one another over sexual conquests; and plays on the idea that the absorption of stereotypes about women weakens men. The last thing the male characters expect is for Lorelei and Dorothy to team up and outsmart them, because women who look like them are expected to be both disloyal to each other, and unintelligent. ‘I can be smart when it’s important,’ Lorelei notes, ‘but men don’t like it.'”

‘Miss Buxley’ Creator Dies at 94

Mort Walker, the artist behind the long-running ‘Beetle Bailey’ comic strip (whose characters included ‘sexy secretary’ Miss Buxley, said to be inspired by Marilyn) has died aged 94, the Stamford Advocate reports.

“After a brief career in New York as a cartoonist for Dell Publishing Company, Walker’s childhood dream came true. He liked to tell the story that ‘Beetle’ was the final comic strip approved by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst.

‘Beetle Bailey’ was initially based on Walker’s years as a University of Missouri undergraduate, and specifically on a school pal, the late David Hornaday. A statue of ‘Beetle’ now lounges on the campus.

Beetle was drafted during the Korean War, but Walker feared the long-term appeal of an army strip and sent Beetle back home. Readers demanded Beetle re-enlist and he remains a private 60 years later.

The only occasional combat they saw was from readers. Walker wrote books addressing accusations of sexism (regarding the character of Miss Buxley, who was based on Marilyn Monroe); and racism (concerning Cpl. Yo and Lt. Flap). He even drew friendly fire, as Stars and Stripes once suspended publication of the strip, perceiving it as not supporting the American soldier.”

While Miss Buxley came to embody the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype that Marilyn tried to escape, she might  be smarter than she lets on…


2017: A Year In Marilyn Headlines

In January, amateur footage from the set of The Seven Year Itch was uncovered, and Twentieth Century Fox launched a perfume range inspired by Marilyn’s movies. Buddy Greco – the jazz pianist and singer believed to have taken the last snapshots of Marilyn – passed away aged 90.

In February, Marilyn appeared in a TV ad for Cadillac, first aired during the 2017 Oscar ceremony. A new memoir by Patricia Bosworth, including reminiscences of Marilyn at the Actors Studio, was published. And New York’s iconic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where Marilyn lived in 1955, finally closed its doors.

In March, Marilyn in Manhattan, Elizabeth Winder’s book about Marilyn’s first year in New York, was published. The All About Marilyn fan club launched a new weekly podcast, while film historian Karina Longworth presented a three-part special on Marilyn for her popular series, You Must Remember This. Marilyn’s infamous spat with Joan Crawford was recreated in TV’s Feud: Bette and Joan. Julien’s Auctions held an online photo sale, ‘Marilyn Through the Lens.’ Supermodel Karlie Kloss recreated ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ for a Swarovski commercial, while Kendall Jenner posed Marilyn-style for Love magazine. James Rosenquist, one of the first artists to make Marilyn his muse, and Lola Albright, the first choice for Angela in The Asphalt Jungle, both passed away.

In April, Marilyn Monroe: Auction of a Lifetime – a documentary about the Julien’s sale of 2016 – was broadcast in the UK. Ella Queen of Jazz, a children’s book by Helen Hancocks about Ella Fitzgerald’s friendship with Marilyn, was published, marking the singer’s centenary. And Cecil Beaton’s 1956 portrait of Marilyn (her own favourite) was projected onto the Empire State Building, celebrating 150 years of Harper’s Bazaar.

In May, Marilyn made the cover of Yours Retro magazine, with an article inside by Michelle Morgan about her time in England. Actress Gillian Anderson appeared as Marilyn in TV’s American Gods. Unmissable Marilyn, an exhibition curated by collector Ted Stampfer, opened in Rome. Dinner With DiMaggio, a memoir of the baseball legend by Dr Rock Positano, was published; and James Spada, author of Monroe: A Life in Pictures, and Hollywood publicist Joe Hyams both passed away.

On June 1st, fans celebrated Marilyn’s 91st birthday. Also this month, her final home in Los Angeles was sold for $7.25 million. Some Like It Hot returned to theatres across the USA as part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, and Marilyn graced the cover of a Saturday Evening Post special on the golden age of Hollywood. Her final days at Twentieth Century Fox were examined in a new book by French film historian Olivier Rajchman, while in Finland, a new fiction anthology, Marilyn, Marilyn, was published. And Bill Pursel, who befriended Marilyn in the late 1940s, reporter Gabe Pressman, and British collector David Gainsborough Roberts all passed away.

In July, the beaded ‘nude’ dress worn by Marilyn when she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to President Kennedy – purchased by Ripley’s Entertainment in 2016 – started a world tour in Canada. Marilyn’s address books were published on Kindle. And actor Martin Landau, who befriended Marilyn in New York, plus Aleshia Brevard – the transgender impersonator who once performed for Marilyn herself – and film critic Barry Norman, who wrote and presented a 1979 documentary about Marilyn as part of his Hollywood Greats series, all passed away.

August marked the 55th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. In Los Angeles, Marilyn Remembered – the fan club which organises her annual memorial service at Westwood – celebrated its own 35th birthday with a series of events including a charity gala at Hollygrove, and a special screening of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the Chinese Theatre. The Immortal Marilyn fan club was also present, hosting a pool party for fans at the Avalon Hotel, and a toast to MM on Santa Monica Beach.

Also in August, original photographs of Marilyn by George Barris and others went under the hammer at dedicated auctions in New York and Los Angeles. Some Like It Hot topped a BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Comedy Films, and The Misfits was re-released in France. Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment, a mammoth study of Marilyn’s home studio was published, and she also made the cover of Reminisce magazine. And comedian Jerry Lewis, who befriended Marilyn when she appeared on his radio show in 1953, passed away.

In September, The Essential Marilyn Monroe, a new retrospective of her work with photographer Milton Greene, was published. Another weighty tome, Marilyn Monroe’s Film Co-Stars From A to Z by David Alan Williams, was also released. Prism, Terry Johnson’s new play about cinematographer Jack Cardiff, opened in London, and Marilyn also featured in a new documentary, Magnum Through the Camera Eye. Wolf Alice singer Ellie Roswell paid homage to Marilyn in the ‘Beautifully Unconventional’ video. Versace reinvented the iconic ‘Marilyn dress’; and Montblanc launched a range of Monroe-inspired pens. Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy empire, died aged 91, and was buried in the crypt next to Marilyn at Westwood Memorial Park.

In October, Marilyn (as Sugar Kane in Some Like It Hot) graced one of 100 covers of UK magazine Total Film, and her favourite red taffeta and black lace gown went on display at the French Embassy in New York. Terry Johnson’s play, Insignificance, was revived in London, and lookalike Suzie Kennedy made a cameo appearance in Blade Runner 2049.

In November, a pair of gold-plated earrings worn by Marilyn in promotional shots for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was sold at Julien’s Auctions for $112,500. Marilyn: Her Untold Story, a magazine special, was published in the US. And gossip columnist Liz Smith, a longtime champion of Marilyn, died aged 94.

And in December, 21st Century Fox Entertainment – including Marilyn’s cache of classic films – was purchased by Disney for $52.4 billion.  Photos of Marilyn by Sam Shaw, Bert Stern and others went on display at the Galerie De L’Instant in Paris. A brief guide to one of Marilyn’s earliest movies, Love Happy, was published; and Richard Havers, author of Marilyn: A Life in Words, Pictures and Music, passed away.

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