‘Finding Marilyn’: A Glimpse Inside the Strasberg Home

Scott Fortner of the Marilyn Monroe Collection blog has detailed his visit to the home of Anna Strasberg, widow of Actors Studio founder Lee Strasberg and heir to Marilyn’s estate, in a 3-part article, ‘Finding Marilyn Monroe.’ Among his many fascinating discoveries, Scott reveals that pictures of Marilyn still adorn the Strasberg family home;  Lee was unaware that he would be the main beneficiary in her will; and that Marilyn had admired her future husband, Arthur Miller, since the late 1940s. It’s essential reading for all fans of MM.

Barbara Eden Remembers Marilyn

Actress Barbara Eden is best-known for her zany role in the 1960s sitcom, I Dream Of Jeannie. She also starred in the TV spin-off of How to Marry a Millionaire, which ran from 1957-59.  Her ditzy character, ‘Loco Jones’, was a blend of the roles played by Marilyn and Betty Grable in the 1953 movie. And as Barbara revealed in a recent interview for Studio 10, she would later meet Marilyn in the flesh.

Marilyn and her stand-in, Evelyn Moriarty

“She eventually met Monroe, as they both shared the same stand-in – Evelyn Moriarty. Recalling the meeting, Eden said: ‘Marilyn was over there doing wardrobe tests. I’m standing there with [Evelyn], and Marilyn came out and [Evelyn] said, “Marilyn, I want you to meet my other star”.’

Monroe was filming her last movie at the time and Evelyn later confided in Barbara following the famous actress’ death, claiming she never believed the reports at the time.

‘Evelyn said, ‘”She would never take her own life”. I just feel it was probably an accident,’ Eden said. ‘She wanted to get to sleep, and took too many [pills]… I hope that’s what it was.'”

Remembering Marilyn in Hemet

In this week’s Valley Chronicle, Mark Lentine looks at Marilyn’s connection to the California town of Hemet. Although she was named Norma Jeane Mortensen at birth (after her mother Gladys’ estranged husband, Edward Mortensen) it is widely believed that her real father was C. Stanley Gifford. He and Gladys had a relationship while working at Consolidated Film Industries in Los Angeles.

Over the years, Marilyn made many attempts to contact Gifford, without success. Gifford had remarried and managed the Red Rock Dairy in Hemet. It is believed he did not want to upset his wife and children by letting Marilyn into his life.

Marilyn’s half-sister Berniece Miracle has claimed that they finally met in the year before Marilyn passed, and it has been reported that in 1965, a dying Gifford confessed to his pastor, Reverend Don Liden of the First Presbyterian Church, that he was indeed Marilyn’s father. Gifford was buried in the San Jacinto Valley Cemetery.

“Monroe was seen many times in the Hemet area, most times staying at the Soboba Hot Springs. She was seen making clandestine calls or stopping at bars (most frequently mentioned in the reminiscences of locals is Chappies Bar) and asking for a Charles Stanley Gifford.

‘My dad and mom were out at the Soboba Hot Springs for dinner, a very upscale dining spot in town. My dad started to get out of the car but was stopped by someone who looked familiar. The gentleman had gone to dad’s side of the car to let a woman out of the car. When the woman stepped out of the car, dad realised why the man had looked familiar; it was Joe DiMaggio, and he was holding the door open for his wife, Marilyn Monroe …’, said a smiling former Hemet mayor, Robert Lindquist.

I asked Lindquist if he believed that Gifford was indeed Monroe’s father. ‘Oh yes, it was quite well-known here in town. I delivered newspapers and was a child at the time, but I clearly remember Mr. Gifford very well; he was always very neat and had a small mustache; very debonair …'”

Goodbye Norma Jeane, Hello Jack (and Marilyn)

Goodbye Norma Jeane, a new play opening in the Studio Theatre at Above the Stag in Vauxhall, South London tomorrow, is seemingly not about Marilyn per se (despite the title – well, at least her name’s spelt correctly), but a tribute to her favourite choreographer, Jack Cole – starring Tim English, with Rachel Stanley playing Monroe and other screen goddesses.

“Jack Cole taught Hollywood to dance.

Now he’s writing a weekly column for Dance Magazine. Or trying to. Young men splash and yell in his swimming pool outside, and as the afternoon wears on a parade of his former muses arrives at his front door – Betty Grable, Jane Russell and Rita Hayworth among them. And each is determined to have the last word.

Liam Burke’s fascinating and inventive play shines a spotlight on one of Hollywood and Broadway’s most influential gay heroes, and the actresses he helped transform into cinema’s brightest stars.”

John Steinbeck’s Fan Letter to Marilyn

A letter sent by author John Steinbeck to Marilyn in April 1955 (kept in her personal archive, and sold for $3,250 at Julien’s in 2016) has resurfaced on social media in recent days, and is the subject of an article by Karen Strike on the Flashbak photo blog today.

Steinbeck narrated O. Henry’s Full House, the anthology film in which Marilyn appeared in 1952. In March 1955, a month before Steinbeck wrote to Marilyn, she was a ‘celebrity usherette’ at the premiere of East of Eden, the big-screen adaptation of his novel, directed by Elia Kazan and starring James Dean. It was at the after-party where Marilyn’s romance with Arthur Miller began.

Steinbeck wrote to her on behalf of his nephew, Jon Atkinson, an ardent fan. Whether Marilyn granted his request for an autographed photo is unknown, but she clearly appreciated the letter enough to keep it until her dying day. Incidentally, three of Steinbeck’s books were part of her extensive personal library: The Short Reign of Pippin IV, Once There Was a War, and Tortilla Flat, set in Monterey where she had filmed Clash By Night in 1952. (Steinbeck was only one of many eminent figures who corresponded with Marilyn; to learn more, I recommend Lois Banner’s MM – Personal.)

“In my whole experience I have never known anyone to ask for an autograph for himself. It is always for a child or an ancient aunt, which gets very tiresome as you know better than I. It is therefore, with a certain nausea that I tell you that I have a nephew-in-law … he has a foot in the door of puberty, but that is only one of his problems. You are the other. …  I know that you are not made of ether, but he doesn’t. … Would you send him, in my care, a picture of yourself, perhaps in pensive, girlish mood, inscribed to him by name and indicating that you are aware of his existence. He is already your slave. This would make him mine. If you will do this, I will send you a guest key to the ladies’ entrance of Fort Knox.”

Rockhaven’s Future at Risk as City Scraps Plans

The future of Rockhaven Sanitarium, formerly a pioneering clinic for women suffering from mental illness where Marilyn’s mother Gladys lived for 14 years, is once again in jeopardy, as Lila Seidman reports for the Los Angeles Times. (You can read my review of Elisa Jordan’s book about Rockhaven here.)

“Plans to turn the former Rockhaven Sanitarium in north Glendale into a park and boutique-commercial center have been scrapped, with city officials recently severing ties with the local developer heading up the project.

Following closed-session deliberations on Feb. 5, City Council members decided not to extend a contract with Gangi Development that was first initiated at the end of January 2017, city spokesman Dan Bell confirmed on Tuesday.

The council’s decision disheartened Matthew Gangi, the project’s principal lead, who said he still hasn’t given up on the vision the council approved in November 2016.

According to Matthew Gangi, the city had asked him and his family associates to personally guarantee yet-unspecified improvement requests to the site, which some family members would not do because they felt they were already offering substantial money and effort to improve the city-owned property, Gangi said.

Under the original proposal, businesses and nonprofits would have moved into the former sanitarium’s 14 buildings that Gangi Development had planned to rehabilitate.

Prospective tenants included a farm-to-table restaurant, a sustainable winery, a hatha yoga studio, creative lounge and native-plant-seed shop, Matthew Gangi said.

Remaining space on the property that’s been designated a historic district would have become a park, with a planned performance stage and several demonstration gardens, he added.

The roster of businesses was selected, in part, as an homage to the property’s original incarnation when it opened in 1923 as a progressive women’s mental-health facility, according to Matthew Gangi.

The Gangi project was supported by Friends of Rockhaven, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the property.

‘Naturally, we’re devastated,’ said Joanna Linkchorst, president of Friends of Rockhaven. ‘We’d hoped we had found the solution. We thought that finding someone who would [handle the project] privately, that the city would be willing to have a park there — a remarkable park.’

Speaking for the nonprofit, Linkchorst said the organization is convinced the city will now attempt to sell off the 3.5-acre property it purchased for $8.25 million in 2008.”

When Marilyn Came to Forest Hills

In an article for Forest Hills Connection, Ann Kessler looks back at Marilyn’s week-long stay in the Washington suburb while husband Arthur Miller was on trial for contempt of Congress in May 1957.

“Monroe wanted to support her husband by coming to DC, but didn’t want to stay at a hotel where she would be constantly mobbed by the press and fans. For that same reason she couldn’t actually attend any of the court sessions.

Miller contacted his lawyer, Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., a widely respected civil rights attorney and co-founder of the Americans for Democratic Action, to ask his suggestions for housing in DC. Joe Rauh invited Miller and Marilyn to stay on the sofa bed in the den of his house at 3625 Appleton Street NW. The next day Rauh’s son Carl, a junior at Wilson High School, drove to Union Station to pick up a woman ‘wearing a dark wig, a head scarf, and sunglasses.’ That was Marilyn Monroe.

Monroe spent the next week at Rauh’s house with Olie Rauh, Joe’s wife. She bicycled around the neighborhood (wearing sunglasses and pedal pushers), sat at the Rauhs’ backyard pool, read books and followed the trial as closely as she could from afar. The neighbors had no idea that Monroe was still present, having assumed she had only briefly visited the Rauhs. In reality, Monroe and Miller had left the Rauh home and then returned for their extended stay.

On the last day of her week’s visit someone tipped an Evening Star reporter to Monroe’s presence and the lawn was soon full of representatives of the press. Monroe held a brief news conference. When asked what she thought of Washington, she said, ‘I love your city. I think it’s the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. I’ve never been here before.’ Soon after, Monroe and her husband, as scheduled, left for Union Station to catch a train to New York.”

‘Making Montgomery Clift’ in Glasgow

Marilyn with Montgomery Clift at the ‘Misfits’ premiere, 1961

Making Montgomery Clift will have its UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival, screening at the Everyman on Thursday, February 28, and Friday, March 1, following rave reviews in the US. (As yet, it’s unclear whether Monty’s friendship with Marilyn features in the documentary, but The Misfits was one of his most important films, and likely to be mentioned.)

Thanks to Fraser Penney

“Co-director Robert Clift is the film’s onscreen searcher, heard in incisively written voiceover and seen poring over an astounding, and often poignant, assortment of Clift family memorabilia, items that go well beyond the usual photo albums and home movies … the film unravels the accepted wisdom that Clift’s life was one of inner conflict and painfully guarded truths. In footage of him at leisure, his joy and exuberance light up the screen. He might not have been ‘out’ — who was in those benighted times? — but his intimates testify that he was anything but closeted. By refusing to sign a studio contract, he was not only maintaining his artistic independence but protecting his private life from the kind of show marriage, like Rock Hudson’s, that the Hollywood publicity machine insisted on for gay stars.” – Sherri Linden, Hollywood Reporter 

“That ‘secret’ – that Clift was gay during an impossible era (the 1930s through the 60s) – led many interpreters to conclude that the actor must have led a life riddled with fear and shame. It hardly helped lend nuance to that reading that Clift was a well-known and long-time abuser of pain killers and alcohol, actions which likely sped his death from a heart attack at 45 in 1966 … In fact, the attitudes he and his family held towards his relationships with men were strikingly modern.

[Robert] Clift asserts that the actor’s use of alcohol and prescription drugs stemmed, primarily, from a near-fatal car accident in 1956. He used them to numb his physical pain. The accident changed his appearance, and many biographers assumed Clift felt ruined by it and, so, drank more.

Many of the myths surrounding Clift sprang from two biographies: a salacious one by Robert LaGuardia and another flawed work by Patricia Bosworth, titled A Life. The film-makers interviewed Bosworth extensively for the movie, but they contrast her words with old taped conversations she had with the actor’s brother. He pleaded with her to make changes to her book to correct the mischaracterizations. While she sounds apologetic, the changes were never made.

As to why Bosworth drew on the gay-self-hate narrative, and why that view took hold, the directors blame the homophobia of the time the book was written, in the 1970s. ‘The view then about queer people was that they would be inherently conflicted or tormented about their sexuality,’ said [Hillary] Demmon. ‘If you have a story that tracks along that line, that will feel true to people. Which gives that narrative a lot of traction. Now we’re at a historical point in mainstream queer discourse where that story seems less viable.'” – Jim Farber, The Guardian 

“And an alternative version of Monty, laid out by Making Montgomery Clift: Montgomery Clift was open about his sexuality. He was not ‘tormented’ by it. The man even had a sense of humor! Some of his favorite work came after that crash. Montgomery Clift’s story is not a tragedy of self-loathing, but a tale of a man who refused to be put in a box by the Hollywood system—only to be put into a different sort of box after his death, when he was no longer around to counter the narrative that began to calcify soon after his passing.” – Rebecca Pahle, Film Journal

Letters From Marilyn in Los Angeles

Dear Los Angeles: Letters and Diaries 1542-2017, edited by David Kipen, is a new anthology featuring two missives from Marilyn herself among its assorted diary entries and correspondence. The first – dated February 2nd, 1962 – is extracted from a letter to her stepson, Bobby Miller, recounting her meeting with the Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy during a dinner party at Peter Lawford’s home. (You can read it in full by clicking on the images below.)

The second – which she wrote just over two weeks later, on February 17 – is a brief note to the German Consul, Mr. Volkmar von Fuehlsdorff.

Marilyn was also mentioned by director Elia Kazan (her friend and former lover) in a tongue-in-cheek letter dated July 27, 1955. It’s unclear who Kazan was addressing, but his words are clearly in jest (Marilyn was in New York at the time.)

Marilyn’s Letter to Greenson in the ‘Enquirer’

Thanks to A Passion for Marilyn

Marilyn’s 1961 letter to Dr Ralph Greenson, written while she was recuperating in New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital after a period of depression led to a brief and terrifying stay in the psychiatric ward at Payne Whitney, is the subject of an article in this week’s National Enquirer. Author Mark Bego, who has written biographies of Madonna and others, brought the letter to the magazine’s attention.

Unusually for the Enquirer, the story is fairly accurate, if sensationalised – and not, as they claim, a ‘blockbuster exclusive’. The letter was first published in its entirety by Donald Spoto in 1992, and is also featured in Fragments, the 2010 collection of Marilyn’s personal writings. (You can also read it on the Letters of Note blog.)

You can find the Enquirer article in the latest issue, dated January 28 (with Lisa Marie Presley on the cover.) However, as noted by All About Marilyn today, the same article also appears in the current issue of the National Examiner (with Betty White on the cover), although the Examiner is currently available in the US only.