Marilyn: A Lady of Fashion

Ahead of the exhibit at London’s May Fair Hotel, opening next week (details here), the four iconic garments worn by Marilyn up for sale at Julien’s Auctions in November – including three movie costumes designed by Travilla, and the black cocktail dress she wore to the press conference for Some Like It Hot, shown above – are the subject of a four-page article, followed a double-page spread featuring Marilyn-inspired fashions, in the current issue of The Lady (dated September 20.)

Thanks to Fraser Penney, and Lorenzo at Marilyn Remembered

UPDATE: You can read all my posts on the sale here.

Marilyn Goes From Hollywood to Poland

Marilyn graces the latest cover of Poland’s legal journal, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (dated September 13-15), accompanying an interview with filmmaker Andrzej Krakowski about sexual behaviour in Hollywood, in which he refers to her rumoured – and much exaggerated – affair with John F. Kennedy. The main headline apparently translates as ‘Women in Bed, Not in Politics.’ (Sex was probably the last thing on Marilyn’s mind in this 1952 photo, however, as it was taken at her bedside after being admitted to hospital for an appendectomy.)

Thanks to Marco at Marilyn Remembered

Robert Frank 1924-2019

Robert Frank, who was considered one of the most important photographers of all time, has died aged 94. Born in Switzerland, he moved to the United States in 1947. Perhaps his most famous work of photojournalism was a 1958 book, The Americans. Frank became an avant-garde filmmaker, capturing beatnik culture in Pull My Daisy (1959); and he also shot the cover of the Rolling Stones’ 1972 album, Exile On Main St.

Although Frank never photographed Marilyn, he shot these images of a child on the beach in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, reading the front page of the New York Daily News, headlined ‘Marilyn Dead’, while his family appears unconcerned, in August 1962. The first photo was featured in a 2004 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, I Wanna Be Loved By You: Photographs of Marilyn Monroe from the Leon and Michaela Constantiner Collection. Robert Frank died at home in Nova Scotia on September 9, 2019.

Atlanta Celebrates the Jewish Marilyn

Bob Bahr explores Marilyn’s spiritual side in a cover story for the Atlanta Jewish Times (dated August 30.)

“Monroe once told Paula Strasberg, her drama coach at the time, that she felt a special kinship with her newfound faith. ‘I can identify with the Jews,’ she said. ‘Everybody’s out to get them, no matter what they do, like me.’

On the front door of the home where she died, she had affixed a mezuzah with its tiny parchment scroll of sacred Jewish writings. She still had the prayer book with her personal notes written in its pages, a gift from Miller that had once belonged to the Brooklyn synagogue where he had had his bar mitzvah. On her mantle she kept a bronze menorah, which played ‘Hatikvah,’ the national anthem of the State of Israel. It was a present from Miller’s Yiddish-speaking mother.

Rabbi Robert Goldburg had worked with her during her conversion and provided her with a number of Jewish historical and religious works to study. About three weeks after her death, he wrote of his impressions of her at the time.

‘She was aware of the great character that the Jewish people had produced. … She was impressed by the rationalism of Judaism — its ethical and prophetic ideals and its close family life.’

When she rebelled against the exploitation of the Hollywood studio system, broke her contract with 20th Century Fox and fled Hollywood in 1954 for a new life in New York, it was at the urging of Milton Greene, a popular Jewish photographer with whom she founded Marilyn Monroe Productions. For a while she lived with Greene and his wife and helped take care of their year-old son.

Even before the move she lived and worked in what was largely a Jewish world. In Hollywood her agent and publicist and an early drama coach and mentor were all Jewish. She owed her early success, in part, to personal relationships with the powerful Jewish studio executive Joseph Schenck and the important talent agent Johnny Hyde, who had originally emigrated from the Jewish Ukraine. Her three psychiatrists were Jewish as well as many of her doctors. One of her closest journalistic confidants was the newspaper columnist Sidney Skolsky.

But all that accelerated when she moved to New York and enrolled in Lee and Paula Strasberg’s Actors Studio … She quickly fell in with their circle of friends, who made up the theatrical and literary elite of Jewish New York. She volunteered to be the star attraction at a United Jewish Appeal dinner.

The poet Norman Rosten and his wife and children were close friends. She was a regular at a summer of brunches and picnics and cookouts with the Strasbergs in Ocean Beach on Fire Island. She frequently dug into what Paula Strasberg called her ‘Jewish icebox’ there, with its salamis from Zabar’s on New York’s Upper West Side and the honey cakes and fancy European pastries from some of the bakeries started in New York by refugees from Nazi persecution.

It was, in the words of one Monroe biographer, ‘a year of joy,’ made even more joyful by a newfound romance with [Arthur] Miller … Gloria Steinem, the Jewish American essayist and feminist, wrote a perceptive analysis about the relationship and Monroe’s decision just before their marriage to convert to Judaism.

‘Miller himself was not religious, but she wanted to be part of his family’s tradition.”‘I’ll cook noodles like your mother,” she told him on their wedding day. She was optimistic this marriage would work. On the back of a wedding photograph, she wrote “Hope, Hope, Hope.”‘

Her public commitment to Judaism in the mid-50s was just one of the signs that Jews were winning new acceptance in America after the end of World War II and of the changes that the war had brought.

Although she’s been gone these many years, she is not forgotten. Time has treated the memory of Monroe with kindness. Her estate, most of which she left to the Strasberg family, has consistently earned tens of millions of dollars over the more than 50 years since her death … As for that prayer book that Arthur Miller took from his Brooklyn synagogue and Monroe kept to her dying day, it sold at auction last year for $18,000.”

Thanks to Marco at Marilyn Remembered

Marilyn Gets ‘Closer’ on TV and Podcast

Speculation about Marilyn’s death makes the pages of Closer in the USA this week (alongside cover star Meryl Streep.) If you’re wondering where all these stories are coming from, it’s partly the Fox News series Scandalous, but also a new podcast, The Killing of Marilyn Monroe. If conspiracy theories aren’t your thing, it might be worth waiting for Marilyn Monroe: Behind the Icon, an upcoming podcast from biographer Gary Vitacco-Robles.

Marilyn’s Irish Cover Story

So many fans have discovered Marilyn through a TV documentary or magazine spread – so it’s a pity that the information isn’t always accurate. Not so, however, if that article is written by respected author Michelle Morgan. This biographical piece first appeared in Emirates Woman back in 2012, and has now been reprinted – and lavishly illustrated – in Social & Personal magazine. Unfortunately, this publication is only sold in Northern Ireland, although Michelle has posted a sneak preview here.

Marilyn’s Glamour Tips in ‘My Weekly’

Marilyn gets a double-page spread in the latest issue of UK magazine My Weekly (dated August 13-20 – watch out for TV presenter Ruth Langsford on the cover), with fashion and beauty tips plus a hair makeover starring tribute artist Suzie Kennedy, all from Michelle Morgan’s newly-published The Little Book of Marilyn.

And talking of glamour girls, Marilyn’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes co-star Jane Russell graces the latest cover of the Weekly News.

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Marilyn Flies High in White Stilettos

Pictured here en route to celebrating the centenary of Abraham Lincoln’s historic visit to Bement, Illinois during the summer of 1955, Marilyn makes the front page of today’s Guardian, with an article inside about travelling in style.

“Air travel was nothing if not a photo opportunity for Marilyn Monroe, one of Hollywood’s first jet-setters. A tiny clutch bag suggests a seat in first class (no lugging a jumper and snacks around), while carrying a book about a former president implies an aspirational approach to in-flight entertainment. Ever checked your step-count after a day in the air? You may have crossed oceans, but you’ll walk mere metres – meaning white stilettos aren’t as impractical as they may at first appear.

Style tip: Dress for the flight you want, not the flight you are booked on.”

Leah Harper

Thanks to Fraser Penney