‘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.

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.”

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.

Joe and Marilyn’s Japanese Photo Album

A souvenir album featuring 34 original photos taken during Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio’s trip to Japan in early 1954 – including Joe’s stint as a coach to the Japanese baseball league, and Marilyn’s solo jaunt to Korea – will go under the hammer at a sports memorabilia sale hosted by Heritage Auctions on February 23-24, as Simon Lindley reports for Just Collecting. First sold in the 2006 auction of the DiMaggio estate, it was most likely a parting gift from the newlyweds’ hosts.

UPDATE: The album has been sold for $12,000.

Marilyn’s Hair, By Kenneth

A lock of Marilyn’s hair – comprising around 35 strands, and preserved by Kenneth Battelle, her stylist from 1958-62 – is currently on offer from autograph dealer Moments in Time for $16,500, as TMZ reports.  It’s said Kenneth collected several locks as gifts for friends; and though undeniably peculiar, this sale is not unprecedented as two locks of Marilyn’s hair from the estate of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull were previously sold for $70,000 at Julien’s in 2016. (You can read my tribute to ‘Mr. Kenneth’ here.)

Marilyn and Kenneth, 1961 (photo by Eve Arnold)

‘Essentially Marilyn’: Hit Or Miss?

The most surprising aspect of last week’s Essentially Marilyn auction at Profiles in History was how many valuable items from the Maite Minguez-Ricart collection and others (including movie costumes) went unsold, while others only reached the lower estimate. In a post for his MM Collection blog, Scott Fortner goes as far as to call it a flop – and noting the high prices reached at Julien’s only last month, he argues that poor organisation was to blame, rather than a lack of interest. Here’s a selection of items that sold well, and others that didn’t: you can find the full list over at iCollector.

Photo of Norma Jeane aged five, with her ‘first boyfriend’, Lester Bolender ($10,000)

Wedding photo of Norma Jeane and Jim Dougherty ($15,000)

Seven photos from Norma Jeane’s first assignments with the Blue Book Modelling Agency, 1945 ($11,000)

Marilyn’s personally inscribed photo with Ben Lyon ($37,500 – more info here)

Black silk cocktail dress with oversize white bow, designed by John Moore and worn by Marilyn in 1958 ($40,000)

Gold pleated halter gown designed by Travilla for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ($100,000)

Crème-coloured gown by Travilla for How to Marry a Millionaire ($100,000)

Crème and blue gown by Travilla for There’s No Business Like Show Business ($70,000)

Pink and purple satin pantsuit with train, designed by Charles LeMaire for The Seven Year Itch ($100,000)

Silver cigarette box inscribed by Marilyn to Billy Wilder, 1954 ($10,000)

Sheer tan dress by JAX, worn by Marilyn in 1958 ($20,000)

Patterned wool overcoat, worn by Marilyn in 1961 ($30,000)

Marilyn’s personal key to Warner Brothers, 1956 ($10,000)

Red halter dress by JAX, worn by Marilyn in her final photo session with Milton Greene, 1957 ($100,000)

Certificate of nomination from the Golden Globe Awards for Some Like It Hot, 1959 ($10,000)

Black address book ca 1960-62 ($17,000)

John Bryson’s candid photo of Marilyn and Arthur Miller on the set of Let’s Make Love, signed by both ($8,00)

Pucci silk blouse, worn by Marilyn in 1962 ($95,000)

White Ferragamo pumps, worn by Marilyn in Something’s Got to Give ($16,000)

Marilyn’s original grave marker from Westwood Memorial Park ($38,400)

Period costume by Rene Hubert for A Ticket to Tomahawk (UNSOLD)

Brown Skirt Suit by Charles LeMaire for Love Nest (UNSOLD)

Costume sketches by Eloise Jenssen for We’re Not Married (UNSOLD)

Green dress by Travilla for Don’t Bother to Knock (UNSOLD)

Marilyn’s personally owned Ceil Chapman dress (UNSOLD)

Unreleased studio master for ‘Down Boy’ (UNSOLD – more info here)

Showgirl costume by Travilla for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (UNSOLD)

Charles Feldman’s archive regarding The Seven Year Itch (UNSOLD)

Pearl encrusted gown, one of several copies made for The Prince and the Showgirl (UNSOLD)

Two address books, ca. 1950s-60s (UNSOLD)

Various exhibition prints by Milton Greene (UNSOLD)

‘Merry Marilyn’ in Turin

Another new exhibition, Merry Marilyn: Natural Elegance, Magical Charm, is now on display at the National Cinema Museum in Turin, Italy until January 28, 2019. Shoes and other Marilyn-related items from the Salvatore Ferragamo collection are featured alongside film clips and vintage magazines, with a festive vibe befitting the season. Nine of Marilyn’s films will also be screened, including Niagara and Some Like It Hot. 

Thanks to Rick at Marilyn Remembered 

“She was ‘somewhere between Chaplin and James Dean’, according to François Truffaut, to underline the talent and instinct, physicality and sensibility of an actress whose image was based not only on the absolute beauty of a seductive woman, but also on the complex personality of an actress who challenged conventions and imposed a new model. Diva of modernity, feminist in her own way, Norma Jeane Mortenson Baker, aka Marilyn Monroe, helped to dictate the new rules of the Star System, anticipating the revolutions and social changes that in a few years would have transformed Hollywood.

It is no coincidence that Edgar Morin calls her ‘the last star of the past and the first without Star System’, which she attempted to rebel against to avoid the commodification of her own image. Capricious and humorous, but able to amaze directors like Henry Hathaway and Billy Wilder with her talent, Marilyn has been proclaimed by the American Film Institute the sixth greatest actress in the history of cinema.

An inexhaustible source of inspiration for artists and scholars: from the drama After the Fall (1964) in which the playwright Arthur Miller , her ex-husband, reflects in the balance between cynicism and guilt over the diva’s suicide, in the pages of Truman Capote in Music for Chameleons (1975), from the portrait of Andy Warhol who transforms Marilyn into a pop icon; to the recent Blonde novel by Joyce Carol Oates, who describes her as a ‘beautiful child’ with a thousand insecurities.

At the glow of celluloid of the great Hollywood diva, they finally act as a counterpoint to Elton John with Candle in the Wind and Pier Paolo Pasolini, who calls her ‘little sister’, asking: ‘It is possible that Marilyn, the little Marilyn, has shown us the road?’, in a poem that – not surprisingly – is one of the most moving moments of his film La Rabbia, released in 1963, a year after her controversial suicide.”

Marilyn’s White Gloves in Springfield, MA

Marilyn in court, 1954

A pair of Marilyn’s white gloves will be on display as part of Pop! Icons of American Culture at the Smithsonian, at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, MA from this Friday, December 7, until February 24, 2019, as Ray Kelly reports for Mass Live. (And if you’re wondering why there aren’t more substantial Monroe artefacts in the Smithsonian collection, it’s because they’re too expensive. Donations, anyone?)