James Patterson holds the New York Times record for the most books by one author to top their list. His novels account for 6% of hardback fiction bought in the US, and he is the most-borrowed author in UK libraries. He works with numerous co-authors, most recently the former American president, Bill Clinton. Now Patterson has turned his hand to non-fiction, co-writing a biography of another political dynasty with journalist and TV producer Cynthia Fagen. An excerpt from House of Kennedy has been published in Town & Country magazine, covering the Madison Square Garden gala celebrating John F. Kennedy’s 45th birthday, when Marilyn topped a star-studded bill, singing ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President.’
In truth, there’s little here that isn’t already known (and what more can be said, really?) But I would like to point out that MC Peter Lawford’s running gag about ‘the late Marilyn Monroe’ was pre-rehearsed, and not an attempt to cover up for any tardiness on her part. It is also often noted that the First Lady did not attend the gala, but this was common practice. Regarding Jackie Kennedy, who never held any malice towards Marilyn, there are a couple of interesting quotes that are new to me at least, though the sources aren’t named here.
“‘It had been a noisy night, a very “rah rah rah” kind of atmosphere,’ recalls Life magazine photographer Bill Ray. ‘Then boom, on comes this spotlight. There was no sound. No sound at all. It was like we were in outer space. There was this long, long pause and finally, she comes out with this unbelievably breathy, “Happy biiiiirthday to youuuu,” and everybody just went into a swoon.’
Despite raised eyebrows, Jackie tells her sister, Lee, ‘Life’s too short to worry about Marilyn Monroe.’ Instead of attending Jack’s fundraiser, Jackie and the children are at the First Family’s Glen Ora estate outside Middleburg, Virginia, enjoying what she calls ‘a good clean life.’ As spectators, including her husband, ogle Monroe at Madison Square Garden, Jackie is winning a third-place ribbon at the Loudon Hunt Horse Show.
Jean Kennedy Smith and her husband, Stephen, are in attendance at the Madison Square Garden event as well as at Arthur Krim’s reception, where White House photographers also capture Stephen posing alongside Monroe.
The next day, Jackie is furious—not with the president, but with his brother. ‘My understanding of it is that Bobby was the one who orchestrated the whole goddamn thing,’ Jackie tells her sister-in-law over the telephone. ‘The Attorney General is the troublemaker here, Ethel. Not the President. So it’s Bobby I’m angry at, not Jack.'”
Crazy For You is a free online fanzine in French, devoted to eye-catching pictorials of Marilyn (and Madonna, who inspired its name.) The latest issue covers Marilyn’s appearance at the Golden Globes in 1960, where she won the Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical award for Some Like It Hot. Previous issues have covered the press party for Let’s Make Love; Marilyn’s notorious red dress by Oleg Cassini; and a glamorous shoot with John Florea. For updates, subscribe to the Paradise Hunter blog or follow on Instagram.
Phil Stanziola, who passed away recently, worked as a press photographer in New York, the Daily News reports. On September 9, 1954, Marilyn Monroe arrived in NYC to film exterior scenes for The Seven Year Itch. Over the next ten days, she posed for the Ballerina sitting at Milton Greene’s studio on Lexington Avenue; undertook numerous interviews and photo shoots, and hosted a press party at the St. Regis Hotel; took in Broadway shows, and dined out with husband Joe DiMaggio; and shot the movie’s iconic ‘subway scene’. With such a frantic schedule, it’s not surprising to see her kicking off her shoes in her hotel suite for Stanziola’s camera.
British artist Nina Mae Fowler just posted this on Instagram:
“A small drawing of Marilyn as she leaves the hospital, shortly after suffering an ectopic pregnancy. The press and the crowds waited outside so she was forced to put on makeup and a smile. The frame is handmade in aluminium and reminiscent of a surgical dish/tray …”
Nina often uses Hollywood iconography in her art, and has drawn Marilyn several times – I wrote about her work here.
In a third extract from movie publicist Charles ‘Jerry’ Juroe’s memoir, Bond, the Beatles and My Year With Marilyn, he describes his struggle to keep under wraps Marilyn’s increasingly toxic relationship with Sir Laurence Olivier, her co-star and director of The Prince and the Showgirl. (You can read the other posts here.)
“I managed to keep the degree of bitterness that developed between Monroe and Olivier out of the British press, even though our British unit publicist was fired after writing a behind-the-scenes story for one of the Sunday newspapers on what was really happening at dear old Pinewood Studios in leafy idyllic Buckinghamshire. Despite that, Milton Greene, who was ‘Piggy in the Middle,’ did appreciate what the publicity department was accomplishing. That he kept his sanity and laid-back charm was a miracle, and I held him in high esteem. The Milton Greene I knew was a talented and caring person, and I valued his friendship. His tenure at the head of Marilyn Monroe Productions was not to last long, though certainly longer than mine …”
“Arrangements were being finalised for the departure back to New York and it took all the persuasive powers of [Arthur] Jacobs, plus the head of Warner Bros. production in the UK and myself, to persuade Olivier that he had to be at [the airport] to be photographed giving Monroe a ‘going away present’ of a beautiful watch. Naturally, it was charged to the film’s overhead. It is a little short of amazing what so often ends up on a film’s budget that has so little to do with what ends up on the screen!”
“At the end of production, I returned to the States with Jacobs and saw out my duties on The Prince and the Showgirl when required. I continued working in concert with the New York publicity department of Warner Bros., particularly during the New York premiere. The most traumatic happening during that time was when Warners decided they needed a specially posed photo of Monroe and Olivier for the advertising campaign. I had to fly to London and accompany a very reluctant Larry to New York. We left the hotel to go to Greene’s studio where Olivier put on his costume, a polka-dotted silk robe. Madame arrived and after the briefest of greetings the session started. Two rolls of film later – only some twenty shots – our diva said, ‘That’s it!’ and left. As the saying goes, that was that!”
This somewhat inelegant shot of Marilyn on a pink elephant, taken by Arthur Fellig (aka ‘Weegee’) backstage during the Ringling Brothers circus at Madison Square Garden in March 1955 is featured in New York Stories: Vintage Postwar Photographs, on display at the Keith de Lellis Gallery on East 57th Street until March 27. (Some more of Weegee’s photos from the evening are posted below.)
Photographer George Rodriguez, who captured Los Angeles life for forty years – from Hollywood glitz to Chicano civil rights movement – is the subject of a retrospective, George Rodriguez: Double Vision, at the Vincent Price Art Museum in LA until February 29, We Are Mitú reports. (Rodriguez photographed Marilyn at the Golden Globes in 1962 with her date, Mexican screenwriter José Bolaños, though it’s unclear whether these images of part of the exhibition.)
In his 2018 memoir, Bond, the Beatles and My Year With Marilyn, veteran movie publicist Charles ‘Jerry’ Juroe devotes an entire chapter, ‘Life With Marilyn’, to his memories The Prince and the Showgirl, filmed in England in 1956. He had previously worked with Sir Laurence Olivier in Hollywood, and was also acquainted with Marilyn’s press agent, Arthur P. Jacobs, and photographer Milton Greene, co-founder of Marilyn Monroe Productions. In the first of three posts, Juroe describes how after an exceptionally promising start, the shoot quickly became a nightmare for everyone involved.
Marilyn’s arrival in Britain and her first press conference at London’s Savoy Hotel caused a sensation – “not because of my organisational handling,” Juroe writes, “but because of her wit, charm and intelligence … It was the last time that I found myself to be in complete favour with Monroe.”
“When one was on the set and watched Marilyn do a scene, you saw movement and dialogue, but nothing that caused goosebumps. But! – in the screening room, when seeing the rushes, it was something else. By some mysterious process of osmosis, between the live action, the camera’s lens, the film, the processing, and then the projection onto a screen, something somewhere in all that – magic happened! What you saw on the set was not what you observed in the screening room. I will never know the answer because I’m not sure there is one. This charisma was what audiences all over the world paid for and saw from their cinema seats. This was what, for those years as Queen of the Hill, set her very much apart and kept her at the pinnacle of the Hollywood Heap.”
Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, an American producer living in London, invited Marilyn and friends to watch his film starring Alan Ladd (possibly 1953’s The Red Beret) at a screening room on Audley Square. Several years later, he and Juroe would begin their association on the James Bond movie series. Broccoli remembered Marilyn from the late 1940s when she was dating Hollywood agent Johnny Hyde. “I am sure Hyde’s death was certainly one of many contributory factors to her fragility,” Juroe writes.
“Before too long, life on the film became unbearable. I found I could not recommend or offer any suggestion or give an opinion because her mindset became such that whatever I suggested was inevitably never in her best interest. One cannot work under such a condition for long, so survival became the name of the game. In fact, I was privately offered $5000 (no small amount then) by someone at the famous French magazine Paris Match if I got her to Paris for a weekend. I never considered this because even though it would have in fact been a great opportunity, it would also have been a fiasco. To get her there in the first place, plus the demands on her time, it would never have worked!”
As Shelby Rowe Moyer notes in her ‘History of the Polka Dot’ for South Sound magazine, Marilyn wore a number of polka-dot dresses (and a bikini) to great effect. Originally known as Dotted Swiss, the print took off during the Industrial Revolution and later renamed after the Polka, a Czech peasant dance popularised in the 1830s.
In 1926, the year Marilyn was born, Norma Smallwood seized victory in the Miss America contest wearing a polka-dot bathing suit, and launched a fashion craze. In 1952, Marilyn wore an ivory rayon Ceil Chapman dress with oversized red polka dots while visiting Atlantic City, where she greeted contestants in that year’s Miss America pageant. A year prior, she had caused sensation on the Love Nest set by sporting a bikini with hot pink polka-dots designed by Renié, and considered daring for the era.
The white cotton halter-neck sheath dress that Marilyn wore to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in 1953, designed by Dorothy Jeakins, wasn’t quite ‘polka-dot’ but spotted with eyelets. Marilyn makes her first entrance in The Seven Year Itch (1955) wearing a polka-dot dress, one of Travilla’s spectacular designs for the film. And finally, she wore a blue polka-dot sundress for a photo shoot with Sam Shaw in 1957.