Mahfouz Doss Remembers Marilyn

Mahfouz Doss, the Egyptian-American film critic and former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, has recalled meeting Marilyn and Rock Hudson, who presented her with the ‘World Film Favourite’ award at one of her final public appearances, the Golden Globes in February 1962. He shared his memories  – though not his much-prized photo – with actress Jenna Elfman  (best-known for her role in TV’s Dharma and Greg) during a panel discussion at a ceremony to rename part of California State University, Northridge the HFPA Wing, as Broadway World reports.

“‘I remember the event with Marilyn Monroe and Rock Hudson. As a matter of fact, someone took a picture of me. It was me, Marilyn Monroe and Rock Hudson. The three of us together.’ When Elfman asked if he still had the photo, Doss responded, ‘Yes, I still have it. I show it to people from time to time.’ Elfman joked, ‘If you get pulled over by the police, just pull that out.’ As the room erupted with laughter, Doss replied, ‘That’s what I’ll do.'”

Jerry Lewis 1926-2017

One of the most popular American comedians of the last century, Jerry Lewis has died of heart disease aged 91.

He was born Joseph (or Jerome) Levitch to Russian Jewish parents in Newark, New Jersey, in 1926. His father was a vaudeville performer, and his mother played piano. He joined them onstage at an early age, and dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. A heart murmur rendered him ineligible for military service in World War II. Already a prankster at 15, he developed a ‘Record Act’, exaggeratedly miming the lyrics to popular songs. He married singer Patti Palmer in 1944, and they would raise six sons together.

In 1946, he formed a comedy partnership with crooner Dean Martin. Over the next ten years, they graduated from nightclub act to the internationally celebrated stars of radio, television and movies.

On February 9, 1953, Marilyn Monroe met Lewis and Martin for the first time, at the annual Photoplay Awards at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She was wearing the revealing gold lame dress fleetingly glimpsed in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Actress Joan Crawford would later speak witheringly of Marilyn’s ‘vulgar display’ as she collected the award for Fastest Rising Star. “The audience yelled and shouted, and Jerry Lewis shouted,” Crawford told reporter Bob Thomas. “But those of us in the industry just shuddered. It reminded me of a burlesque show.” At twenty-six, Marilyn was the same age as Jerry Lewis, and part of Hollywood’s new vanguard. Crawford, a star from a prior generation, later apologised for her remarks amid widespread criticism.

On February 24, Marilyn appeared on the Martin and Lewis Radio Show, accepting an award from Redbook magazine, and sparring with the comedy duo in an eight-minute sketch, ‘So Who Needs Friends.’ Columnist Sidney Skolsky, who accompanied her that day, wrote about it in his 1954 book, Marilyn.

“Jerry Lewis visited her dressing room and said, ‘I know you’re scared. Don’t be. I was awfully nervous when I went on the radio for the first time, with Bob Hope.’ He pressed her hand. ‘You’ll be great,’ he said, and left the room. This brief talk and vote of confidence from Lewis helped Marilyn considerably. Marilyn was great on the program. After it, Jerry said to me, ‘She’s got nothing to worry about. She knows more about sex than I do about comedy.’ Which is the highest compliment a comedian could bestow on an actress who is selling glamour.”

Marilyn became good friends with both Jerry and Dean Martin. Sensing her loneliness, they often invited her to dinner alongside fellow pal Sammy Davis Jr. A lifelong insomniac, Marilyn would sometimes call them in the small hours and ask to meet up at all-night diners.

On October 18th, columnist Sheilah Graham published an interview with Marilyn in which she named the ten most fascinating men in the world, including future husbands Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, her River of No Return co-star Robert Mitchum, Asphalt Jungle director John Huston, close friends Marlon Brando and Sidney Skolsky, acting coach Michael Chekhov, photographer Milton Greene, and India’s Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru (the only one she hadn’t met.) And the last man on her list was Jerry Lewis…

“I think that Jerry has a lot of sex appeal. It might have something to do with his vitality. I can’t figure out what it is. He makes funny faces because he thinks people want him to make funny faces. But behind it all there’s something serious and very sexy. I just think he’s sexy.”

On December 6, Hedda Hopper reported that Jerry and Dean had called upon friends to donate items for a charity auction for muscular dystrophy. “They asked Marilyn Monroe for something personal – anything close to her. What they got was a copy of Tolstoy’s War and Peace autographed by Marilyn.”

After Marilyn moved to New York in early 1955, the men-only Friars’ Club broke code and invited her to their annual roast, compered by Milton Berle in Martin and Lewis’s honour. When Berle called her to the podium, Marilyn blew a kiss and whispered, “I love you, Jerry.”

Lewis remembered Marilyn with great affection in his 2005 memoir, Dean & Me: A Love Story…

“To my vast regret, the one actress we never performed with was Marilyn Monroe – and how great she would have been in a Martin and Lewis picture. She had a delicious sense of humour, an ability not only to appreciate what was funny but to see the absurdity of things in general. God, she was magnificent – perfect physically and in every other way. She was someone anyone would just love to be with, not only for the obvious reasons but for her energy and perseverance and yes, focus. She had the capacity to make you feel that she was totally engaged with whatever you were talking about. She was kind, she was good, she was beautiful, and the press took shots at her that she didn’t deserve. They got on her case from day one – a textbook example of celebrity-bashing.”

In 1956, the Martin and Lewis collaboration ended as Dean, tired of being the ‘straight man’, decided to pursue a solo career. Jerry was heartbroken but his partner was adamant, and despite occasional public appearances together, the pair were estranged for thirty years.

In 1958, Jerry was offered the chance to star opposite Marilyn as jazz musician and ‘bosom pal’ Jerry/Daphne in Billy Wilder’s classic drag farce, Some Like It Hot. Unsure of his ability to convincingly impersonate a woman, he declined and the part went to Jack Lemmon. In 1959, Lewis signed a groundbreaking deal with Paramount Pictures, earning $10 million plus 60% of the profits for 14 films over the next 7 years. In partnership with director Frank Tashlin, Jerry also produced and co-wrote his movies, including his greatest success, The Nutty Professor (1962.)

Shortly before her death in 1962, Marilyn had been filming Something’s Got to Give with Dean Martin, who refused to work with another actress after Monroe was fired. Many of the rumours surrounding her demise have focused on her alleged affair with John F. Kennedy, but in a 2002 interview with GQ magazine, Lewis – himself a friend of the president – quipped that it wasn’t true, because Marilyn was having an affair with him. This bizarre remark – possibly a joke – nonetheless made headlines, but a sexual liaison at this time seems unlikely.

By the mid-1960s, Jerry’s popularity was fading, though he became a cult figure in France, where he was hailed as a comedic auteur. In 1966, he hosted the first of 44 annual US telethons for muscular dystrophy on Labour Day weekend. His long marriage to Patti Palmer ended in 1982, and a year later he married 30 year-Old stewardess San-Dee Pitnick. They later adopted a daughter.

His performance in Martin Scorsese’s King of Comedy (1983), as a television host stalked by obsessive fans, hinted at a darker side to the Lewis persona and established him as a serious actor. He played further acclaimed roles in Arizona Dream (1994), Funny Bones (1995.)

In recent years he suffered from increasingly poor health. Tragedy struck in 2009 when his 45 year-old son Joseph died of a drug overdose, and in 2010, Lewis began raising funds to build a facility for vulnerable and traumatised children in Melbourne, Australia. In a recent television interview, he spoke candidly about his fear of dying. He continued working until the end, playing the titular role in Max Rose (2016.) Jerry Lewis died at home in Las Vegas on August 20, 2017.

Further Reading

Holding a Good Thought for Marilyn: 1926-1954 – The Hollywood Years by Stacy Eubank (2015)

‘Jerry Lewis: the knockabout clown with a dark and melancholy inner life’ by Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, August 20, 2017

‘Marilyn, Jerry Lewis and Some Like It Hot’ by Tara Hanks, ES Updates, October 8, 2015

‘Jerry Lewis and Marilyn Monroe: Inside the Comedy King’s Story of His Secret Affair With the Sexy Screen Siren’ by Victoria Miller, The Inquisitr, August 21, 2017

‘My Two Days With Jerry Lewis’ by Amy Wallace, GQ, August 21, 2017

Gabe Pressman 1924-2017

Gabriel ‘Gabe’ Pressman, a reporter for New York’s WNBC-TV for over 50 years, has died aged 93. Born and raised in the Bronx, he covered events ranging from the assassination of Malcolm X to 9/11. Among his many interviewees were Harry S. Truman, Elvis Presley, Fidel Castro and, of course, Marilyn. Gabe is at her left in the above photo, as she confirmed her engagement to Arthur Miller in 1956. In a recent Facebook post, he paid tribute to Marilyn.

“She was effervescent. She was beautiful and she transfixed the reporters who interviewed her one day in New York. I was one of them.

I remember the main topic of the conversation. It was her new boyfriend who later became her husband, playwright Arthur Miller.

Marilyn was in a good mood. She laughed and she made us laugh. I asked her: ‘What do you see in this guy?’ And she trilled in a dreamy, soft voice: ‘Have you seen him?’ She rolled out the seen word in a mischievous way.

And she made us all laugh. She was charming and made us all part of the fun.”

Gabe Pressman (left) with Marilyn at Rockefeller Centre, 1957

Marilyn Flies High With United Airlines

This exuberant press shot of Marilyn arriving in Vancouver in July 1953 (en route to film scenes for River of No Return – more info herefeatures in a new display at the remodelled Global Services reception area for United Airlines’ elite customers at Los Angeles International Airport (L.A.X.), as Lewis Lazare reports for Chicago Business Insider. (She also flew from New York to Chicago with United Airlines when she visited Bement, Illinois to honour Abraham Lincoln in 1955.)

Photo by Eve Arnold, 1955

Korea Veteran Takes the Cake With Marilyn

A veteran army cook has spotted himself in a photo with Marilyn in Korea during her 1954 tour, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Jerry Karthauser at top left, plus other photos taken during Marilyn’s visit to Seoul, South Korea

“If an Army cook meets Marilyn Monroe and doesn’t have a photo to prove it, did it really happen?

For 63 years now, Jerry Karthauser has been insisting it’s true. He fed lunch to the stunning starlet when she showed up in Korea to entertain the troops.

His wife, Mary, has heard the tale plenty of times. ‘He had a kiss from her, he cooked for her, and for all these 60-plus years, people were just sort of yeah, yeah, yeah,’ she said.

Well, now the 85-year-old Thiensville man finally has photographic evidence of their meeting, and it came in dramatic style during a Stars and Stripes Honor Flight from Milwaukee to the war memorials in Washington, D.C., last Friday.

Jerry’s son, Brad of Kansas City, tracked down the photo on the internet where it was hiding in plain sight. He had it framed and placed in the mailbag that each veteran on the Honor Flight receives on the ride home.

Turns out Jerry was embellishing a bit. ‘I always claim I got a kiss on my right cheek, but I think that’s a fable,’ the retired wholesale florist now admits.

Knowing the Honor Flight was coming up, Brad widened his search and found the photo of Jerry, Marilyn and another soldier. They’re all eating cake in the black-and-white pic.

‘She’s looking at me directly, and I’m looking at her,’ Jerry told me.

‘She’s actually flirting with him. It’s really quite a picture,’ Mary said.

Jerry was single at the time, February of 1954, and assigned to headquarters company 2nd Infantry Division near Seoul, South Korea. The mess hall denizens had sent Marilyn a hand-drawn invitation to lunch.

Many photos of that tour exist. Jerry, who grew up in Thiensville, was told the one taken of him would be sent to his hometown newspaper, but he doesn’t think it ever ran around here. Jerry captured a few snapshots of Marilyn during the visit, but he’s not in them because selfies were not a thing yet.

Jerry remembers Marilyn as friendly, accommodating and ‘really beautiful.’

‘She stood outside on a Jeep and signed autographs for a long, long time. It was a cold day. I remember that. She had a flight jacket on,’ he said.

Stunned by receiving the elusive photo on the Honor Flight, Jerry passed it around for others to see. Now, it will have a place of honor at home, and Mary denies she’s the slightest bit jealous when she looks at her husband and Marilyn Monroe making eyes.

‘It’s a nice story because it’s 60-plus years in the making,’ she said.”

UPDATE: In 2016, MM expert Scott Fortner purchased the hand-drawn invitation to Marilyn from the 2nd Infantry Division mentioned in the article. More info here.

Another day, another cake!

Yours Retro: Marilyn in the UK

Yours Retro is a great read for lovers of all things vintage, and after several prior appearances, Marilyn finally graces the cover of the latest issue, available now in UK newsagents and via Newsstand. ‘When Marilyn Met Larry ‘, a four-page article by biographer Michelle Morgan, focuses on Marilyn’s time in England filming The Prince and the Showgirl, and there are also pieces of related interest about Cyd Charisse, Picturegoer magazine, and Hollywood censorship. If you collect magazines featuring MM, this is a must-have. (Yours Retro has recently been launched in Australia; however, it is several issues behind, so the UK version is your best bet.)

Marilyn, Joan and the ‘Feuding’ Dress

Screenshots by Patrick at Immortal Marilyn
Screenshots by Patrick at Immortal Marilyn

As reported by ES Updates last week, Marilyn’s spat with Joan Crawford was recreated in the opening scene of FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan, although the date (and the dress) has been changed. In an article for Vanity Fair, Joanna Robinson explores the true story, which unfolded at the Photoplay Awards back in 1953.

There’s still some confusion, though – while Robinson concedes that Marilyn won a Golden Globe for Some Like It Hot in 1960, not ’61 as depicted in Feud, she goes on to say that both Crawford and MM were ‘intoxicated’ that evening. It’s not entirely clear which year she is referring to, but her source is Golden Globes veteran Judy Solomon.

In fact, Marilyn did not attend the 1961 ceremony. She returned in ’62, however, to collect an award as ‘World Film Favourite’. The red dress worn by actress Alisha Soper as MM in Feud appears to be inspired by the ‘nude’ gown she wore to sing ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ a few months later.

Marilyn at the Golden Globes in February 1962 (left); and at President Kennedy's birthday gala in May (right)
Marilyn at the Golden Globes in February 1962 (left); and at President Kennedy’s birthday gala in May (right)

Marilyn, Joan and a Hollywood ‘Feud’

Marilyn at the Photoplay Awards in 1953 (bottom left); and at the Golden Globes in 1960 (bottom right)
Clock’s ticking: Joan Crawford ‘watches’ over Marilyn at the Photoplay Awards in 1953 (bottom left); and at the Golden Globes in 1960 (bottom right)

The upcoming TV series, Feud: Bette and Joan, stars Susan Sarandon as Davis and Jessica Lange as Crawford, the rival actresses whose mutual enmity peaked when they collaborated on Robert Aldrich’s 1961 shocker, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

As Carolyn L. Todd reveals in an article for Refinery 29, Crawford also bore a grudge against Marilyn, which will be depicted in the show’s opening scene. The older star decried Marilyn’s daring attire – the iconic gold lamé dress – when she accepted a Photoplay award as most promising newcomer. However, while the basic story is true (as recorded by columnist Bob Thomas – more details here), the producers have transposed the event to an occasion closer to their main storyline. In this telling, Crawford makes her dig at Marilyn at the 1960 Golden Globes, where she was named Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for Some Like It Hot.

However, Marilyn’s appearance on this occasion was relatively demure and while Joan’s original remarks had drawn criticism because Marilyn was, in 1953, a rising star, by 1960 she was a far more established figure. After the public backlash, Joan had made no further comments on Marilyn’s later career. Citing her attack on Marilyn’s overt sexuality as an early example of ‘slut-shaming’, Todd seems unaware that the chronology has been altered.

While switching the date may fit the Feud narrative more neatly, it is also anachronistic and leaves one wondering how many other ‘alternative facts’ will be presented to viewers. Feud will have its premiere on Sunday, March 5, on the US cable channel FX, so for better or worse, we’ll soon find out.

Remembering Marilyn at the Waldorf

Posted by Kevin at Marilyn Remembered
Posted by Kevin at Marilyn Remembered

This clipping from the UK’s Sunday Times, posted by Kevin at Marilyn Remembered, marks the closure of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. One of the city’s landmarks, it is being converted into private apartments after more than a century in business. The article incorrectly states that Marilyn lived there with Arthur Miller. However, her 1955 residency coincided with the beginning of their romance.

She also met FBI head J. Edgar Hoover at the Banshee Luncheon in the hotel that year. Ironically, Hoover closely monitored her relationship with Miller. Many of Marilyn’s personal writings, later published in Fragments, were written on the Waldorf’s headed notepaper.

After her marriage in 1956, she used the suite as an office for her production company. She continued to make public appearances at the Waldorf, including a rare radio interview following the premiere of Baby Doll in December 1956, and a turn on the catwalk at a fundraiser for the March of Dimes in January 1957. The photo above shows Marilyn dining with Miller and financier Winthrop Aldrich at the April In Paris Ball, also held at the Waldorf in 1957.