Why Marilyn Wasn’t ‘Always at the Carlyle’

Marilyn with Isadore Miller (1962)

Always At The Carlyle, a new documentary about one of New York City’s legendary hotels, puts paid to the enduring myth that Marilyn and John F. Kennedy enjoyed a romantic tryst in the Presidential Suite after the 1962 gala where she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to him.  ‘Much is made of a story about how John F. Kennedy smuggled Marilyn Monroe through a tunnel to the Carlyle,’ the Times reports, ‘but then the idea is pretty convincingly debunked.’ In fact, at the end of the evening Marilyn accompanied her elderly former father-in-law Isadore Miller – who was her escort at the gala and after-party – back to his hotel, before returning home alone. This was confirmed by superfan James Haspiel, who clocked Marilyn entering her apartment building in the small hours.

RUMOUR: Marilyn and the Bubblegum King

There are more rumours (often unfounded) about Marilyn’s love life than any other actress. Today, the Stockton Record names Andy Paris – whose latex-based bubblegum empire made him a millionaire at 29 – as an early contender for her affections. (He is also the subject of a 2010 documentary, Andy Paris: Bubblegum King.)

“Hollywood recruited Paris to teach 10-year-old Natalie Wood to blow bubbles for her famous scene with Kris Kringle in the 1947 classic, Miracle on 34th Street.

They hit it off, said John Paris. ‘She said to my dad, “Mr. Paris, I really love you. You’re too old to be my boyfriend. I want you to meet this friend of mine,” and it was Marilyn Monroe,’ an up-and-coming starlet.

Paris dated Marilyn Monroe. Other starlets, too. It didn’t hurt that he was rich, charming, movie-star handsome himself and always dressed to the nines.”

Natalie Wood (left) and Marilyn (centre) with June Haver (right) in ‘Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!’

Although now considered a classic Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street was first released in June 1947. Three months previously, Natalie had filmed  Scudda Hoo! Scudda HayThe film is remembered today as Marilyn Monroe’s Hollywood debut. She and Natalie briefly appear together in one scene, leaving church with June Haver.

Natalie would speak fondly of Marilyn in later years, but did she really know her that well at the time? It’s possible that Mr. Paris may have met Marilyn, though he hasn’t been mentioned in any biographies to date.

We’ll file this one under ‘Rumours’…

Marilyn and the Moon of Baroda

On July 8, 1953, Frank Powolny photographed Marilyn wearing one of the world’s largest diamonds, the so-called ‘Moon of Baroda’. It was then owned by Meyer Rosenbaum, a jeweller from Detroit, and was loaned to Marilyn for the shoot, in which Sidney M. Brownstein, president of the Jewellery Academy, presented her with a special award for her role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, proclaiming her ‘the best friend a diamond ever had.’

But as the Times of India reports today, the Barodian royal family want their precious jewellery – also including the world’s most expensive pearl carpet, the ‘Star of the South’ – to be returned home for a public exhibition.

The Moon of Baroda was last displayed at the Antwerp World Diamond Centre in 2008. In 2012, a ‘Mr Matsuki’ appeared on a Japanese television show with what he claimed was the legendary gem. It was authenticated and valued at 150 million yen.

The Mad About Marilyn fan club chronicled the Moon of Baroda’s history in 2013, including a bizarre rumour that Marilyn fell victim to the diamond’s curse.

Marilyn on Reelz: ‘It Happened Here’

It Happened Here is a documentary series on the US Reelz channel, charting key locations in the lives of legendary icons. The most recent episode focuses on Marilyn, visiting Zuma Beach, California (where she posed for some of her earliest photo shoots); The Rainbow Bar and Grill in Hollywood (formerly the Villa Nova Restaurant, where she and Joe DiMaggio first dated); and the subway grate on Lexington and 52nd, NYC, where she filmed The Seven Year Itch. Guests include authors Lois Banner, Elizabeth Winder, and reality TV star Trisha Paytas. While it’s an interesting premise, fans tell me the show is marred by sensationalism and unfounded insinuations (which is unfortunately no big surprise, as Reelz previously aired a National Enquirer documentary on Marilyn.)

How a Fake Marilyn Quote Inspired a Meme

Social media has spawned many ‘fake quotes‘ wrongly attributed to Marilyn. One of the most ubiquitous, shown above, ends with the line, ‘If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.’ This quote cannot be sourced to any biography or interview, but it remains inexplicably popular. While more reputable publications now acknowledge that is dubious, it is still commonly linked to Marilyn. Recently, a more humorous take on the infamous quote has spawned a popular meme, albeit with the line slightly altered to ‘If you don’t love me …’

Among many celebrities joining in on Twitter are Smash star Katharine McPhee, and that most famous of Marilyn fans, singer Mariah Carey…

Gemma Arterton on Playing Marilyn

Gemma Arterton has spoken with The Times about her role as Marilyn in It’s Me, Sugar, which opens the new season Sky Arts’ Urban Myths in the UK next Thursday (see trailer here.) While I don’t agree with all of Arterton’s comments – MM was not, as she claims, ‘the epitome of the casting couch’ – she does at least seem genuinely sympathetic to Marilyn’s experiences of harassment and sexism, and sensitive to the factors underlying her ‘difficult’ behaviour. (Interestingly, Arthur Miller is played by Dougray Scott, who took the same role in My Week With Marilyn.)

Thanks to Fraser Penney

“Gemma Arterton is screaming at the top of her voice. ‘F*** you!’ she roars. We’re alone in an empty changing room in a small production studio 17 miles south of London and the 32-year-old star of Tamara Drewe is tapping into her inner Marilyn Monroe. Almost unrecognisable in platinum-blond wig, blood-red lipstick and marble-white make-up, she is in between takes and casually unleashing her version of the screen legend, a volatile concoction of aching vulnerability mixed with furious hair-trigger passions.

The swearing, for instance, is delivered with jump-out-of-your-seat urgency, in the midst of an explanatory monologue about Monroe’s mid-sentence mood swings. ‘She goes from [whimpering], Oh my God, love me! straight into the opposite,’ says Arterton, before swearing, chuckling and then adding: ‘Everything I’ve read about Marilyn points to how unpredictable she was. She could change just like that. People would be afraid to knock on her door and to ask her to come out on set. Whereas I think most people think of her [adopts archetypal Monroe squeak] like a wet blanket.’

‘Marilyn used her vulnerable side to get what she wanted and to manipulate people,’ says Arterton, on a break from filming a stingingly satirical scene in which Monroe and Strasberg discuss her ‘motivation’ for opening a door (Strasberg asks Monroe if her character eats cheese and Monroe replies: ‘Only on Fridays — she gets paid on Thursdays!’). ‘That was a powerful tool that she had, to make everyone feel sorry for her. But in that power she was in control. There’s a bit in our film where they’re 37 takes in and Wilder says, “Don’t worry about it!” And she says, “Don’t worry about what?” And she actually said that! So she’s very tongue-in-cheek. She knows what she’s doing. But she plays the childlike thing. It’s part of her act.’

The film’s writer, David Cummings (a regular collaborator with Paul Whitehouse on Nurse and Happiness), adds later that ‘Marilyn said in interviews, “Sex is fine, but I don’t actually want to be objectified.” So she hired Paula Strasberg and married America’s leading playwright … Every message she gave off was, “I’m more than this sexy moron!” And I tried to put that in the script.’

Indeed, a prerequisite for Arterton’s role as ‘the blonde bombshell’, she says, was an assurance that, in the era of Harvey Weinstein, Me Too and Time’s Up, this would be a different, more engaged Monroe. ‘When I read the script I loved it, but the Weinstein stuff was happening at the same time and I really had to think twice about it,’ says Arterton. ‘Because this is a funny script about a woman who has been abused … So we talked about it and we made sure that we were all aware of that.’

I don’t think that it was fun at times to be inside Marilyn’s head,’ says Arterton …’But at other times it must’ve been great. Joe DiMaggio, her second husband, once said, “It’s a nightmare being married to a lightbulb.” She gave off this glow. Some depressive people are like that. There’s the dark, but also the light. And I hope that’s what we showed.'”

When Marilyn Broke the Silence

In the wake of recent revelations about sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood, Marilyn has often been mentioned in discussions about the ‘casting couch’. Unfortunately, much of this coverage has been inaccurate, depicting Marilyn as either a passive victim or somehow complicit.

A new article by Sean Braswell for OZY takes a different perspective, praising Marilyn as ‘Hollywood’s first big silence-breaker.’ Braswell cites the story of Marilyn turning down a pass from Columbia boss Harry Cohn, as well as her 1953 piece for Motion Picture magazine, ‘Wolves I Have Known.’

“In the years after her death, Monroe’s biographers, largely men, tended to ignore the star’s silence-breaking role, preferring to focus instead on the more salacious details of her personal life and the rumors that she slept her way to the top. Nor did Monroe, while she was alive, think of herself as a social reformer or a trailblazer for women’s rights. As the singer Ella Fitzgerald, a good friend of Monroe’s, once reflected about the screen legend: ‘She was an unusual woman — a little ahead of her times, and she didn’t know it.'”

Braswell also refers to authors Michelle Morgan and Sarah Churchwell, both of whom have done excellent work in recent years to address the sexist presumptions of earlier biographers. ‘Marilyn was really one of the first big stars to speak out about what we would now call sexual harassment,’ says Churchwell. ‘She was talking about a culture in which women were unsafe [and] her whole point was to say this happens over and over and over.’

Unfortunately, Braswell is on shakier ground when he uses ‘off the record’ quotes. For example, he quotes her saying in an interview before her death, ‘When I started modeling, [sex] was like part of the job … and if you didn’t go along, there were twenty-five girls who would.’ Braswell also states that Marilyn wrote ‘You know that when a producer calls an actress into his office to discuss a script, that isn’t all he has in mind. I’ve slept with producers. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t,’ in her 1954 memoir, My Story – but that line doesn’t appear in any version of the text.

In fact, both quotes are taken from an alleged conversation with writer Jaik Rosenstein, published in Anthony Summers’ 1985 biography, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe.  Summers claims that Marilyn had known Rosenstein for years, and she trusted him not to write about it at the time. Whether or not Rosenstein is a reliable source, it should be made clear that Marilyn did not say them for publication.

US Weekly Rehashes Myths of Marilyn

Marilyn – The Untold Story, a new magazine special from US Weekly, is now on sale for $13.99. But if the potboiler headlines are anything to go by, this is for completists and the hopelessly gullible only. Of course, you could just buy it for the photos – although they don’t look rare to me! And if you’re outside the US, try Ebay.

Mara Lynn’s ‘Diamond’ Role With Marilyn

The actress and dancer Mara Lynn, who had a small part in Let’s Make Love, is profiled in today’s Winchester News-Gazette. Born Marilyn Mozier in Chicago in 1927, she is believed to have attended Winchester High School in Indiana. After studying classical dance with George Balanchine, she found fame on Broadway in Inside USA (1948.) This led to more musicals, and a long career as a dance director and performer in Las Vegas.  She broke into movies with the camp classic, Prehistoric Women (1950), and appeared on television as a glamorous sidekick to comedians Groucho Marx and Milton Berle.

Let’s Make Love is perhaps her most notable film. The article claims that Mara ‘gave acting lessons to Marilyn Monroe at Marilyn’s New York apartment,’ but this seems highly unlikely. She may have helped Marilyn to limber up for her dance numbers, however.

In Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, Gary Vitacco-Robles summarises Marla’s brief scene with Marilyn and Yves Montand.

“Clement [Montand] is used to women who are interested in him for his money and is moved by Amanda’s [MM] noble intention. He claims to sell costume jewellery between acting jobs and offers to sell her the diamond bracelet for five dollars. ‘The box looks like it’s worth more than that!’ she says, agreeing to buy it. Another dancer (Mara Lynn) admires the bracelet as a gift for her sick mother, and Amanda graciously offers it to her. Later, the dancer tells Clement her mother is long deceased. To retrieve the bracelet, he explains that its gems were exposed to radioactive atomic rays to produce their sparkle and will make the skin on her wrist peel. Horrified, the dancer removes the bracelet from her wrist, throws it at Clement, and takes back her money.”

Marilyn’s Hurricane in Mink

Michael Colby is a songwriter and the grandson of Ben and Mary Bodne, who owned Manhattan’s famed Algonquin Hotel from 1946-1987.  In an interview with the New York Post‘s Barbara Hoffman, Colby recounts a somewhat risque tale of Marilyn.

“‘Marilyn Monroe used to come in at lunchtime and get a Beefeater martini,’ says Michael Colby, striding past the bar in the Algonquin Hotel on West 44th Street. And it was just down the street, at Fifth Avenue, that his grandmother once spotted her wearing a white mink coat.

‘If you think that’s something,’ the actress told her, perhaps after a few too many martinis, ‘you should see what’s underneath!’

Yes, Colby tells the Post, leaning against a portrait of hotel regular Tallulah Bankhead: His granny got flashed by Monroe.”

As fans will know, Marilyn was proud of her body, often went out sans underwear and thought nothing of wandering round her apartment or dressing room nude. Sam Shaw and Yves Montand have also told of similar encounters; but tales of Marilyn have a way of growing so that practically anyone vaguely connected to her will claim to have experienced the same.

Monroe biographer Carl Rollyson considers it ‘possible’, but points out that the Algonquin was not known as one of Marilyn’s more regular haunts, and that particular brand of exhibitionism was more commonly associated with the outrageous Tallulah Bankhead.