‘Some Like It Hot’ at 60

Some Like It Hot opened at cinemas across the US sixty years ago today, on March 29, 1959. In an article for Perth Now, Troy Lennon celebrates the diamond anniversary of one of the most beloved movies in history.

“The press were out in force at Marcus Loew’s newly refurbished Capitol Theatre on Broadway in New York to cover one of the biggest film premieres of the year. It starred matinee idol Tony Curtis and up-and-coming comic talent Jack Lemmon, best known from comedy hits Mr Roberts and Bell Book And Candle.

The support cast of actors was also stellar, with big names from classic gangster films … Quirky, sexy, slightly subversive and the work of one of the most in-demand directors at the time, Billy Wilder, it had hit potential. But what really made Some Like It Hot such a big deal was that it was Marilyn Monroe’s first film in nearly two years. Monroe had been taking time off to focus on her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller.

On the night of the premiere, March 29, 1959, 60 years ago today, Monroe, accompanied by Miller, told reporters Lemmon was the ‘funniest man in the world’ and like the rest of the audience laughed all the way through the film. Critics also loved it and Some Like it Hot is now regarded as one of the all-time great film comedies.

The film was inspired by a 1935 French farce titled Fanfare d’Amour (Fanfare Of Love), about two musicians, Jean (Fernand Gravey) and Pierre (Julien Carette) … Gravey’s love interest, bandleader Gaby, was played by Australian actor Betty Stockfeld.

The story and screenplay were co-written by German screenwriters Michael Logan and Robert Thoeren, who had fled Germany in 1933 after the Nazis came to power. After the war they returned to Germany and in 1951 remade the film as Fanfaren der Lieben.

For the leads Wilder wanted Frank Sinatra as musician Joe and singer Mitzi Gaynor as bandmember Sugar. But Sinatra never turned up for the audition and when Monroe discovered Wilder was doing the film she wanted to play Sugar … having Monroe as a drawcard gave Wilder a freer hand with the rest of the casting. He had already asked Tony Curtis to play Jerry, but without Sinatra he instead cast him as Joe and Lemmon as Jerry.

The director was fastidious about the look of the film. It was to be shot in black and white, because it was a period piece and a tribute to gangster films, also so that it would be easier to pass off Curtis and Lemmon as women. Famous Australian-born designer Orry-Kelly worked on the costumes (winning the film an Oscar).

During filming, Monroe was as difficult as ever … Curtis did his best to disguise his irritation but Lemmon was sympathetic, trying to calm Monroe’s nerves.

But the result was screen magic. From the moment Monroe sashays past Lemmon at a train station causing him to utter ‘That’s just like Jell-O on springs’ the farce hardly ever lets up.

It won three Golden Globes, an Oscar and a BAFTA and made bigger stars of Curtis and Lemmon, but was arguably Monroe’s last truly great role.”

Blandon Carpenter Remembers Marilyn in Korea

Marilyn in Korea, 1954

Despite her glamorous appearance, Marilyn required no special treatment during her 1954 military tour of Korea.  Nonetheless, U.S. troops did their utmost to make their special guest comfortable throughout her stay, as this amusing tale from the Reading Eagle reveals.

“When Marilyn Monroe visited American troops in Korea in 1954, Arthur ‘Kip’ Bowers of Blandon was tasked with providing the movie star a key necessity.

‘I’m the only carpenter in the United States that built Marilyn Monroe an outside toilet,’ Bowers said. ‘She needed her own private toilet. We had no facilities and I’m a damn good carpenter.’

Bowers, 87, told that story Thursday immediately after receiving the Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal at the Paul R. Gordon Veteran Social Center in Reading, PA.

Bowers used his job as an Army military police officer to get the wood by setting up a speed trap and stopping Army vehicles.

‘Every guy that was carrying water I stopped if he was over 50 miles an hour,’ Bowers explained. ‘And I said we can do this two ways … I was as straight a cop as could be, but in this case, I needed lumber … I said we can take one of your stripes or you can bring me a load of lumber. Every one of them brought me a load of lumber.’

After the latrine was built, there was a lot of wood left over and Bowers’ skills were proved. He was moved from MP to carpenter for the rest of his service.”

UPDATE: Another memory from Bowers is quoted on the WFMZ website. “She came to put on a show,” he told fellow veterans. “She swung her hip two feet this way and hit me on the head, and then she swung two feet the other way and hit my buddy.”

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.”

Photographer Horace Ward Has Died

Fleet Street photographer Horace Ward, who captured Marilyn and many other celebrities on film, has died. Ward photographed Marilyn at London Airport on November 20, 1956, during a final press conference before she and husband Arthur Miller departed for New York. Sir Laurence Olivier and his wife, Vivien Leigh, were also present. The atmosphere was far more muted that day than when Marilyn had arrived to film The Prince and the Showgirl four months previously, perhaps because of her fractured relationship with the British press (not to mention Olivier.) “What I do remember vividly, the coldness that night standing on the tarmac,” he wrote later. “I was frozen to the ground – just glad the flashbulbs went off.”

Horace was interviewed by author Michelle Morgan for the 2012 edition of her definitive biography, Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed.  He recalled: “I remember a crowded press conference in the old tin-hut terminal with dreadful drab green curtains they had up as a backcloth, which everyone moaned about. There were hardly any fans about; it was mostly airport staff and a few police.”

In his bio for EPhotoZine, Horace noted that he began taking photographs in 1949. Self-taught, his first newspaper picture was published that year. After serving in the army, he worked in the photographic department of a national airline. By the early 1960s, he had moved to Fleet Street, with up to five pictures published each day. As well as Marilyn, he captured other blonde bombshells including singer Kathy Kirby, plus actresses Brigitte Bardot, Jayne Mansfield and Vera Day (who had earlier dyed her hair red to play Marilyn’s friend Betty in The Prince and the Showgirl.)

He was commissioned to photograph the legendary dance troupe, The Tiller Girls, for London’s Evening Standard in 1960. The British Music Hall Society has featured his photographs of Adam Faith, Alma Cogan, Anthony Newley, Kathy Kirby (a glamorous blonde singer whose looks were compared to Marilyn’s), Charlie Drake, Bernard Bresslaw, and Cliff Richard on their website.  He also photographed Vera Day (who played  on The Prince and the Showgirl) many visiting entertainers, including Pat Boone and Connie Francis.

Among his most famous subjects were Winston Churchill, Bob Hope, and Marilyn’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes co-star, Jane Russell. Horace later became chief glamour photographer for a leading magazine. Further examples of his work can be found on the personal website of the Belgian actress Bettine Le Beau, who died in 2015. In later years he preferred to photograph steam trains (his father had worked for the Great Western Railway.)

“Horace was a brilliant photographer and a wonderful friend,” Michelle Morgan wrote today. “I knew Horace for fourteen years and he was always so kind, funny and supportive. I’ll always remember him with great warmth and affection.” You can read her tribute here.

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.

Amherst Veteran Remembers Marilyn in Korea

Marilyn sings for US troops in Korea, 1954

An 86 year-old Korean War veteran from Amherst, Massachusetts has shared his memories of Marilyn with the Buffalo News.

“Robert W. Fisher was glad for anything to break up the monotony of his Army service in post-war South Korea.

So he was excited when officers said the troops would get a show that day in January 1954 [actually, Marilyn visited in February.] Fisher said a few thousand men marched to a field, where they saw a helicopter parked next to a stage.

‘So can you picture all these men, with their winter parkas on, and out on the stage comes Marilyn Monroe, in a sleeveless gown,’ Fisher said. ‘I couldn’t believe it. Everybody was in an uproar.’

After the bombshell movie star said hello and waved to the cheering crowd, she sang ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.’

‘Oh, it was great,’ Fisher said in an interview in his Amherst apartment, the memory undimmed by the passage of 65 years.”

Marilyn Faces West (With Flowers)

This joyful photo of Marilyn – taken by San Francisco Examiner staff photographer Bryant at her City Hall wedding to Joe DiMaggio – is featured in Facing West: Camera Portraits from the Bancroft Collection, a new free exhibition at the Bancroft Library in the Doe Annex of UC Berkeley, on display until March 15, 2019. “There were many photos of the couple together,” says curator Jack Von Euw, “but we liked this one that focused on Marilyn … It’s like an homage to Hollywood stardom.”

Marilyn and Joe in Japan

Over at Japan Today, Patrick Parr looks back at the newlywed Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio’s eventful trip to the Far East in 1954, where he attended a baseball junket and she entertained US troops in Korea. (They’re photographed here with the manager of Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel, where they stayed during their visit.)

“For Monroe, this was now her life when visiting other countries. As she puts it in her abbreviated as-told-to Ben Hecht autobiography, My Story: ‘My travels have always been of the same kind. No matter where I’ve gone or why I’ve gone there, it ends up that I never see anything. Becoming a movie star is living on a merry-go-round… you don’t see natives or new scenery. You see chiefly the same press agent, the same sort of interviewers and the same picture layouts of yourself… ‘

Before heading out to support the troops in South Korea, Monroe first visited soldiers who had been fighting over in Korea and were now recuperating in Japanese hospitals. Always under heavy security detail, on Feb 11 she visited the Iwakuni City military base south of Hiroshima and then on the Feb 14 traveled to Osaka. She also visited a Tokyo medical center for wounded soldiers.

At the time, she was being treated by Tokujiro Namikoshi, the ‘founder of modern shiatsu,’ for ‘chronic endometriosis,’ a painful condition that can affect the female reproductive system. During this downtime, Monroe always had on hand her favorite perfume.  According to writer Pauline Torin, back in 2009 a bottle of Monroe’s Chanel No. 5 was found sewn into a pillowcase by a housekeeper and dated ‘Feb. 5 1954.’

When Monroe returned to Japan, she came down with the flu and remained mainly in the Imperial Hotel. She and DiMaggio did eat in Ginza once, at Irene’s Hungaria Restaurant, an ‘elegant’ place to dine. One of the cooks there, Yoshimasa Saito, remembered the couple coming in for a bite in a May 2006 interview with Judit Kawaguchi for The Japan Times: ‘Mon-chan, as we called her, was more beautiful in person than on film. I only got a glimpse of her because I was busy cooking.'”

Rare Colour Footage Shows Marilyn in Chicago

Major news outlets (who really ought to know better) frequently trumpet ‘rare, unpublished’ images of Marilyn which are usually nothing of the kind. With that in mind, what a lovely surprise to wake up this morning and find genuine unseen colour footage of Marilyn arriving at Chicago’s Midway Airport to begin her promotional tour of Some Like It Hot on March 17, 1959, posted to the Marilyn Monroe Video Archives account on Youtube.

Moments in Time: Marilyn and the Kennedys

The only photo of Marilyn and the Kennedy brothers is coming up for auction in a rare original print. Bidding at Lelands‘ will start at $2,500, ending on August 17.  Olivia B. Waxman explores the backstory over at Time.

“The image shown here was taken that night at an after-party at the Manhattan townhouse of Hollywood exec Arthur Krim, by official White House photographer Cecil Stoughton. A print of that image is now for sale, which the auction house Lelands says it was discovered after Stoughton died in 2008; Lelands claims it could be the only surviving version of the photo that Stoughton printed himself from the original negative.

Also pictured are the President’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, on the viewer’s left, and Harry Belafonte, who sang ‘Michael Row the Boat Ashore’ that night, in the center back. The bespectacled smiling man on the right is the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who admitted later that he was indeed as starstruck as he looks. Monroe had also brought her ex-father-in-law Isidore Miller, playwright Arthur Miller’s father, to meet the President that night. ‘I thought this would be one of the biggest things in his life’ as an ‘immigrant,’ a 1964 LIFE magazine feature reported her saying.

‘[I]t was Marilyn who was the hit of the evening,’ according to TIME’s recap of the concert in 1962. ‘Kennedy plainly meant it when he said, “I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.”‘

The performance added to rumors that both Kennedy brothers were having affairs with the actor … According to another biographer, Donald Spoto, Monroe and JFK met four times between October 1961 and August 1962. Their only ‘sexual encounter‘ is believed to have taken place two months before the concert in a bedroom at Bing Crosby’s house on Mar. 24, 1962, her masseur Ralph Roberts has said.

So, while rumors of their affair may have ramped up after her performance at Madison Square Garden, their interest in each other may have been winding down at that point, Roberts has claimed. Referring to their March encounter, he said, ‘Marilyn gave me the impression that it was not a major event for either of them: it happened once, that weekend, and that was that.’

And yet, especially given Monroe’s death and Kennedy’s assassination not too long after, the idea of their relationship still holds its grip on many Americans’ imaginations.”