Following last weekend’s viewing party, Tony and Manohla weigh up the feedback for Some Like It Hot in the New York Times. While the drag storyline is seen as ahead of its time, Marilyn’s ‘dumb blonde’ persona was also more complex than it may have appeared.
“It’s a complicated picture, bracingly ahead of its time in some ways, wincingly dated in others. Lemmon and Joe E. Brown (as the millionaire Osgood) seem to make a case for gay marriage more than half a century before the Obergefell decision. At the same time, one of the sources of the movie’s enduring appeal — Monroe’s performance as the lovelorn ukuleleist Sugar ‘Kane’ Kowalczyk — is also sometimes a source of discomfort. It can be hard to disentangle sex appeal from exploitation, or to avoid seeing the shadow of Monroe’s profound unhappiness in Sugar’s melancholy moments.
‘I think there have been more books on Marilyn Monroe than on World War II,’ Wilder once said, ‘and there’s a great similarity.’ Whatever he meant by that, it’s true that she has been posthumously transformed from sex object to object of interpretation. Some Like It Hot certainly uses her to generate erotic heat, in that almost invisible Orry-Kelly gown and in that steamy make-out scene with Curtis. But surely Sugar is more than eye candy. Lemmon and Curtis are justly celebrated for their winking, campy, affectionate sendups of femininity, but isn’t Monroe doing something equally sophisticated?
“Sugar’s masculine aggression as she seduces a sexually repressed Josephine/Cary Grant/Tony Curtis turns another male/female encounter completely inside out. The sex object playing the role of sex predator works to perfection thanks to Monroe’s performance. We realize again that what we see is seldom what we get. After all, as Sweet Sue tells us, ‘All my girls are virtuosos.’” Conrad Bailey, Prescott, AZ
What she’s doing is as knowing as the rest of the film is, which is why it remains such a fascinating object to revisit again and again. Wilder was a virtuoso and seems to have been a bastard or at least played one in life. Ed Sikov opens his biography of him with a quote in which Wilder says, ‘In real life, most women are stupid,’ adding that so are those who write celeb bios. Sikov isn’t alone in seeing, as he puts it, ‘a streak of misogyny’ in Wilder’s career, though I see him as an equal opportunity cynic, one who gave women fantastic roles.
And Sugar is a role and as much a caricature of femininity as Josephine and Daphne are. Monroe is often rightfully remembered as a victim, including of the movie industry, but it’s crucial to see that she helped create this iconic blond bombshell called Marilyn Monroe.”
A real estate brochure for Marilyn’s last home at Fifth Helena Drive – which sold for $7.25 million in 2017 – fetched $5,120 yesterday during an online sale marking Marilyn’s 94th birthday at Julien’s Auctions.
The highest final bid, however, went to this signed portrait by Richard Avedon ($8,960.)
This photo from an iconic 1952 shoot is signed by Gene Kornman, one of two photographers present at the session (alongside Frank Powolny), and sold for $6,400.
This signed lithograph, made from a photo taken during Marilyn’s so-called ‘Last Sitting’ with Bert Stern in June 1962, sold for $2,880; and an image from her final photo session at Santa Monica Beach in July, signed by photographer George Barris, sold for $2,560.
And finally, more instantly recognisable images sold for $1,024 each: Marilyn’s 1949 nude calendar pose, photographed by Tom Kelley and later signed by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner…
… and a shot credited to Bruno Bernard (aka Bernard of Hollywood) from Marilyn’s unforgettable subway scene in The Seven Year Itch, signed by Bernard’s daughter and archivist Susan.
June 1st, 2020 marks what would be Marilyn Monroe’s 94th birthday. On a personal note, it has also been ten years since I started this blog.
Artists Pegasus and Alejandro Mogollo both paid tribute, while superfan Megan Monroes has written a well-researched blog post listing 94 facts about MM, and a special edition of e-zine Crazy for You features a pictorial from Marilyn’s 34th birthday party on the Let’s Make Love set, 60 years ago.
Flowers were left at Marilyn’s graveside in Westwood Memorial Park by Scott Fortner (owner of the MM Collection) and the Los Angeles-based fan club, Marilyn Remembered.
Starlet turned photographer Jean Howard first met Marilyn at the home of her husband, Hollywood agent Charles Feldman. In 1954, Feldman produced one of Marilyn’s most successful films, The Seven Year Itch, and her ‘birdcage sitting’ with Jean was probably shot at this time. The Jean Howard archive is now held at the Wyoming Public Media & American Heritage Centre, and her photos of Marilyn are the subject of their latest podcast, Archives on the Air #183.
“Marilyn arrived in a form-fitting dress and began the usual seductive poses expected of her. But Jean had other ideas. After adding a modest black jacket to Marilyn’s outfit, Jean recalled that the resulting photographs revealed the true spirit and soul of that beautiful, gifted girl. Later at a party Marilyn said something that surprised the photographer: ‘Jean took the best pictures of me I’ve ever had.'”
In 2017, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was buried in the vault next to Marilyn’s at Westwood Memorial Park. Now an adjacent space is being offered for $475,000, as Steve Lopez reports for the Los Angeles Times. (The photo shows Marsha Ebert, whose parents are also buried in a less expensive plot at Westwood, guiding Lopez to Marilyn’s final resting place. In keeping with these difficult times, Marsha removed her face-mask only when the photo was taken.)
“‘Be buried adjacent to Marilyn Monroe and Hugh Hefner,’ said an ad that ran in the L.A. Times a couple of weeks ago. ‘The last prominent bench estate location in Westwood Village Memorial Park. Accommodates four people.’
I called the number in the advertisement and a gent named John Thill answered the phone in Florida, where he now lives. Thill, 66, writes textbooks in the business field. He told me he has lived in Los Angeles and San Diego, and that one of his favorite Marilyn Monroe movies was Some Like It Hot, which was filmed at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego.
Now that Thill’s in Florida, he told me, the plot lost some of its appeal. He first listed it last year at $790,000 and then dropped the price recently. He’s gotten several nibbles, and said he stands to make ‘a little money’ if he can sell near the list price.”
The Misfits, which proved to be the last film completed by either Marilyn or Clark Gable, ranks 4th among his 10 highest-rated movies on IMDB, as Screen Rant reports. (Interestingly, Gone With the Wind – one of the most famous movies ever made – is tied with Gable’s 1934 comedy, It Happened One Night, for first place.)
An Earl Moran shot of a topless Marilyn in the late 1940s, signed by Hugh Hefner (who purchased Moran’s secret vault for Playboy many years later, after the model’s identity was finally revealed), was sold yesterday at Nate G. Saunders Auctions for $11.794. Several photos by Andre de Dienes were also sold in the event.
If you needed an excuse to watch Some Like It Hot again, Tony and Manohla at the New York Times are hosting a virtual viewing party all weekend – leave your feedback here.
“Everyone could use a little candy right now, and we can’t think of a sweeter way to spend time than with Sugar and her pals Jo and Daphne watching Some Like It Hot.
Even if it’s your first encounter with this 1959 comedy — directed by Billy Wilder from a script that he wrote with I.A.L. Diamond — it spoils nothing to know that Jo and Daphne are really Joe and Jerry, and are played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. Marilyn Monroe, at the height of her comedic powers, is Sugar, who sings ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ (and she is) and whose walk Jerry likens to ‘Jell-O on springs.’
Do movie lovers still like it hot — do you? In his review in The New York Times, A.H. Weiler warned that ‘a viewer might question the taste of a few of the lines, situations and the prolonged masquerade.’ That may still be true, though perhaps for different reasons than Weiler thought. Nobody’s perfect.
And here’s another taste from the Times’ 1959 review…
“As the hand’s somewhat simple singer-ukulele player, Miss Monroe, whose figure simply cannot be overlooked, contributes more assets than the obvious ones to this madcap romp. As a pushover for gin and the tonic effect of saxophone players, she sings a couple of whispery old numbers (‘Running Wild’ and ‘I Wanna Be Loved by You’) and also proves to be the epitome of a dumb blonde and a talented comedienne.”
In 1951, Alfred Hayes adapted Clifford Odets’ play Clash by Night for the big screen, giving Marilyn one of her first dramatic roles. Hayes was also an accomplished novelist who is finally getting his due, as Scott Bradfield reports for the Los Angeles Times. Although Bradfield understates his contribution, Hayes crucially expanded the subplot involving Joe Doyle (Keith Andes) and his feisty girlfriend Peggy, allowing Marilyn to give one of her strongest, most natural performances.
“After a brief early success in 1946 with his first novel, All Thy Conquests, based on his military experiences in Italy during World War II, Hayes wrote on some of the most successful Italian neorealist films of the postwar period, such as Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief (1948) and Roberto Rossellini’s Paisan (1946), for which he received an Oscar nomination. His subsequent move from New York to California was both financially lucrative and artistically unrewarding. While he continued fitfully producing the occasional novel and collection of verse (his best known poem, ‘Joe Hill’, became a protest song for Pete Seeger and Joan Baez), his film work was either uncredited (Nicholas Ray’s The Lusty Men) or uninteresting (A Hatful of Rain, a Fred Zinnemann ‘message’ film about drug addiction). Even his biggest project, Fritz Lang’s moodily intense Clash by Night (which in 1952 featured Marilyn Monroe in one of her first major roles), was little more than a competent alteration to a Clifford Odets play.
Over the last 15 years, however, Hayes the novelist has been rescued from anonymity by the canny revivalists at New York Review Books. Over the last few years, they have reissued a loosely defined ‘trilogy’ of Hayes’ short, powerful, first-person novels about a young writer (like Hayes) who moves to Hollywood (like Hayes) and lives to tell about it (like Hayes).
Hayes has been unfairly forgotten for many reasons; the biggest one was probably that he wasn’t writing the types of books that were being praised in the postwar era — the ones written by the likes of Mailer, Barth, Bellow and Roth. Those writers aspired to produce big books with big themes, big books about a big country. But like John Fante, another Hollywood-based novelist who suffered a similar eclipse of reputation, Hayes didn’t write those kinds of books. Rather, his novels explored the ways in which small souls sought to cut their own safe path across the world’s unforgiving bigness.”