Mystery Solved: Marilyn on New Year’s Eve, 1948

This stunning photo is part of a set taken by Peter Stackpole for LIFE magazine during a party at the Beverly Hills home of producer Sam Spiegel on New Year’s Eve, 1948, posted on Twitter. Marilyn was still a long way from stardom, having only two bit parts and a lead in a B-movie (Ladies of the Chorus) to her name. It is thought that Spiegel invited her as a pretty starlet, probably at the instigation of Marilyn’s well-connected friends, John Carroll and Lucille Ryman, who were managing her career.

Among the guests were some of Hollywood’s biggest names: James Mason, Glenn Ford, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, Edward G. Robinson, Shirley Temple, Danny Kaye were among them, as well as George Sanders (Marilyn’s future co-star in All About Eve), his wife-to-be Zsa Zsa Gabor, and four of Marilyn’s future directors; John Huston, Henry Hathaway, Jean Negulesco, and Otto Preminger.

Huston wanted to test Marilyn for We Were Strangers (1949), but Spiegel vetoed it, opting for the more bankable Jennifer Jones instead. The director would later give Marilyn her breakthrough role in The Asphalt Jungle (1950.)

In the photo shown above, Marilyn wears the strapless gown seen in her brief appearance in Love Happy (1949), and a separate set of photos taken by J.R. Eyerman for LIFE in 1949, showing her rehearsing with vocal coach Phil Moore. She had also worn the dress in March 1948, during her performance in Strictly for Kicks, a revue staged at Twentieth Century Fox. Notably, she was one of the only female guests at Spiegel’s party not wearing any jewellery (suggesting that for Marilyn, ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ was just a song.)

Two other photos from the party (found by another fan on the Getty Images website) show Marilyn dancing in a crowd, and chatting with Spiegel.

Here’s Marilyn with Spiegel again; plus another dancefloor photo with Marilyn to the left, Danny Kaye in the middle and George Sanders on the right (possibly with Zsa Zsa!)

Another photo shows Marilyn dancing with her former beau, musician Fred Karger. Their stormy romance, which began on the Ladies of the Chorus, was coming to an end, but Marilyn remained close to the Karger family for the rest of her life. Interestingly, his watch may have been Marilyn’s Christmas present to him, which took her two years to pay off. She left her name off the engraving so his next girlfriend wouldn’t know it came from her.

It has been said that Marilyn met agent and lover Johnny Hyde that night (although photographer Bruno Bernard has claimed they were introduced a few months later, in Palm Springs.) I haven’t found any photos of him with Marilyn at the party; however, he can be seen in the photos shown above. (They would be snapped together at another New Year’s Eve party a year later.)

And finally, here’s the LIFE article about the party, although Marilyn isn’t featured in it. In 1957, Peter Stackpole would photograph Monroe again at the peak of her fame, with husband Arthur Miller at the ‘April in Paris Ball’ in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.)

Thanks to Everlasting Star

Eve’s Misfit Marilyn in the FT

Seven years after Eve Arnold’s death aged 99, Josh Lustig looks at her photos from The Misfits in today’s FT Weekend magazine (sold with the Financial Times.)

“Unlike many photographers who spent time with Monroe, Arnold was rooted firmly in documentary and photojournalism … Arnold’s photographs are striking for the way she captures these legends of the silver screen as lonely, troubled individuals. She strips away their movie stardom and reveals them as fragile, vulnerable. Even when photographed together, everyone seems to inhabit their own world, disconnected from one another, lost in the desert.”

Marilyn’s ‘Mirror’ Review Goes to Print

My review of Amanda Konkle’s excellent book, Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe, is featured in the latest issue (#38) of UK fanzine Mad About Marilyn, alongside articles about Marilyn’s arduous promotional tour for the final Marx Brothers movie, Love Happy (1949); ‘A New Marilyn Comes Back’, first published by Movie Spotlight in 1956; and a profile of photographer Bruno Bernard, aka ‘Bernard of Hollywood’.

If you’d like to subscribe to Mad About Marilyn, please email Emma: emmadowning@blueyonder.co.uk

Marilyn at Bonham’s, From London to New York

Marilyn will be featured in two separate auctions in different locations, hosted by Bonham’s, this Tuesday, December 17. Firstly, vintage magazines and photographs by Andre de Dienes, as featured in Marilyn Monroe: A British Love Affair, the 2012 exhibition at London’s National Portrait Gallery curated by Terence Pepper (and reviewed here), will go under the hammer in Knightsbridge as part of an Entertainment Memorabilia sale. And this 1954 portrait of Marilyn during filming of The Seven Year Itch, taken by Elliott Erwitt, is among the lots on sale in New York, as part of A Wonderful Life: Photographs From the Peter Fetterman Collection.

UPDATE: The NPG archive was sold for £1,785, and the Andre de Dienes photo of Norma Jeane ‘on the road’ fetched £2,040 in London on Tuesday. In New York, however, the Erwitt portrait went unsold.

Marilyn Covers ‘Yours Retro’ for Christmas

Marilyn graces the cover of UK nostalgia magazine Yours Retro (Issue 21). It’s her third Yours Retro cover, making her their most popular cover star. And let’s not forget, she also topped the list in their recent special issue, 100 Greatest Movie Icons.

Inside, there’s a four-page feature by Michelle Morgan, ‘Marilyn … Becoming Mrs. Dougherty,’ about the teenage Norma Jeane’s first marriage and the beginning of her modelling career. To learn more on this topic, read Michelle’s excellent book, Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years, now available in paperback.

Donna Corcoran: Marilyn’s Child Co-Star

Donna Corcoran, the former child actress who, aged nine, played a girl terrorised by her babysitter in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), was one of eight children born to William and Kathleen Corcoran. Donna and several of her siblings (including Noreen Corcoran, who died in 2016) entered the movie industry after the family moved to Santa Monica in 1947, and their father was appointed head of maintenance at MGM. The Corcorans are the subject of a major article in the latest issue of Classic Images magazine.

After making her debut in Angels of the Outfield (1951), starring Paul Douglas and Janet Leigh, Donna had an uncredited role in Love Is Better Than Ever (1952), starring another former child actress, Elizabeth Taylor. Donna appeared in two films starring ‘bathing beauty’ Esther Williams, Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) and Dangerous When Wet (1953). She also had roles in Jean Negulesco’s Scandal at Scourie (1953) and Fritz Lang’s Moonfleet (1955.) In her penultimate film, Gypsy Colt (1954), Donna had top billing. She continued working in television until 1963.

Although Marilyn often befriended her young co-stars, little is known about her interaction with Donna. Admittedly their onscreen relationship wasn’t ideal, with Marilyn’s disturbed character Nell almost pushing Bunny out of a hotel window before tying her up and locking her in the bedroom. It would be interesting to hear Donna’s memories of making Don’t Bother to Knock (she is now 77 years old.)

Incidentally, I have often wondered if Bunny Corcoran, the [young adult] murder victim in Donna Tartt’s 1992 novel, The Secret History, might have been named after Donna Corcoran’s performance as Bunny Jones. It’s a long shot, I’ll admit – but not entirely impossible, as each of Donna Tartt’s three books contain passing references to Marilyn and her movies.

Marilyn Gets Dandy With ‘The Chap’

Marilyn has been profiled in countless magazines, but Sunday Swift’s piece for UK quarterly The Chap‘s Winter 2019 issue (#102, with comedian Vic Reeves on the cover) looks at the paradox of MM/Norma Jeane from a different angle – as a female dandy, or ‘dandizette’.

“Norma Jeane played the character of Marilyn with just enough exaggeration so that anyone who tried to imitate her would fail. If someone played it with too much camp, it would look caricature-ish – and if they didn’t play it with enough, it would not look genuine … Even she saw a duality in herself that she wasn’t sure what to do with – Marilyn, the sex bomb dumb blonde who had affairs with powerful and famous people, and Norma, a brilliant, nervous, scared little girl who wrote poetry and was too timid to speak up in acting class.”

Marilyn Brings Back the Blonde in ‘Yours Retro’

Marilyn is a regular favourite in UK magazine Yours Retro, having recently topped the list in a special edition, 100 Greatest Movie Icons, and scores a hat trick in the current issue (#20.) Alongside original bombshell Jean Harlow, she heads up a feature on the tragic fates of Hollywood’s classic blonde, with Peg Entwhistle, Carole Lombard, Veronica Lake, Barbara Payton, Barbara Loden, and Jayne Mansfield bringing up the rear.

Marilyn also pops up in an article about Coco Chanel, and a pictorial preview of the newly-published Hollywood Book Club.