Robert Mitchum was born 100 years ago, on August 6, 1917. During the early 1940s he worked at the Lockheed munitions plant with Jim Dougherty, and claimed to have met Dougherty’s pretty young wife, Norma Jeane, remembering her as ‘shy and sweet.’ (Dougherty has denied this early encounter between the two future stars occurred.)
One of Hollywood’s most celebrated tough guys, Bob starred with Marilyn in River of No Return (1954.) He and Marilyn remained friendly and worked well together, although neither got along with director Otto Preminger. Bob recalled that she didn’t take her ‘sex goddess’ image seriously, playing it as a kind of burlesque. He was later offered another chance to be her leading man in The Misfits, but was unimpressed by the script and the role went to Clark Gable instead.
Robert Mitchum died in 1997. River of No Return will be screened at this year’s New York Film Festival, as part of a major Mitchum retrospective. You can read more about the shoot here.
In an insightful piece for the Ipswich Star, arts editor Andrew Clarke suggests that the reason for Marilyn’s enduring fame is not merely because of her beauty and dying young, but also her talent and charisma, best seen in her movies.
“The reason that Marilyn continues to be an international star, long-after her death, is a combination of good looks, striking personality and a fine actress. Once she hit her stride she also made some brilliant films, films that have become classics and still entertain audiences 60 years after they were made.
Films like Some Like It Hot and Seven Year Itch remain as bright and effervescent as the day they were made. If you research some of Marilyn’s lesser known films like Niagara or How To Marry A Millionaire with Lauren Bacall then you will find the performance and the material equally good.
Examination of her dramatic films such Bus Stop and The Misfits reveals a talented, thoughtful actress who connects with the character and with her audience. In these films, more so than her comedies, she played a character probably more akin to the real Marilyn, a vulnerable, emotionally exposed individual trying to find her place in the world.”
Film historian and ‘Noirchaeologist’ Eddie Muller has placed The Asphalt Jungle – John Huston’s 1950 heist movie, which gave Marilyn her first important role – fourth in his list of ’25 noir films that will stand the test of time’ (ahead of The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity), reports Open Culture.
“‘I wouldn’t cross the street to see garbage like that,’ said the head of the studio that made this [Louis B. Mayer at MGM], the granddaddy of all caper films. A pure ‘crime’ film, with every character indelible.”
A month-long retrospective dedicated to Hollywood’s greatest blonde icons – Marilyn and Marlene Dietrich – is now in progress at MIC: The Interactive Cinema Museum in Milan, Italy. Still to come are The Seven Year Itch (August 6); There’s No Business Like Show Business (August 9); Let’s Make Love (August 10); Bus Stop (August 12); Niagara (August 13); Don’t Bother to Knock (August 16); How to Marry a Millionaire (August 19); Bert Stern: Original Madman (August 20); Monkey Business (August 23); Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days (August 24); Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (August 26); and Some Like It Hot (August 27.)
A collector of celebrity memorabilia is suing Vanity Fair for unauthorised use of this photo – showing Marilyn attending the Madison Square Garden concert where she famously sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to President Kennedy in 1962 – in their 2016 magazine special, Vanity Fair Icons: Marilyn Monroe, reports TMZ.
“In docs, obtained by TMZ, [Aric] Hendrix says he’s a collector of historical photographs and owns the photo AND the negative of Marilyn. He’s suing for damages in excess of $1 million. We’ve reached out to Vanity Fair, so far no word back.”
Academic website JSTOR Daily is exploring its archive for perspectives on Marilyn’s enduring fame, featuring quotes from Susan J. Hubert, Gloria Steinem, Lois Banner and Lore Segal (whose essay, ‘Sexy and Her Sisters’, was also published in the 2002 anthology, All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader.)
“Marilyn’s mature comedies trust us to have internalized both myths, so that our expectations can be at once satisfied and mocked. In Let’s Make Love, sexy Marilyn is so sweet and good, she sympathetically coaches the newest member of the cast, who has been hired because he looks so much like the millionaire the play is going to make fun of. Luckily for the plot, her innocent decency keeps her from catching on to the fraud: her protege is the actual millionaire, hanging around to make love to her. But Marilyn’s specialty was to conflate the good girl and bad girl into the one and only Marilyn. It is the neatest trick.”
Newsweek has republished two stories dealing with past anniversaries of Marilyn’s death. The first, from 1982, was originally entitled ‘Keeping the Monroe Memories Aglow‘ and focuses on collectors and fans, some of whom are still active today. ‘The 24-Year Itch‘ dates from 1986, and features contributions from feminist author Gloria Steinem, and Margaret Parton, one of the last journalists to speak at length with Marilyn.
“Monroe has mostly attracted male biographers. Probably few of them found it remarkable that an intelligent woman would talk like a breathless teenager or play a string of bimbos. Looking at Monroe’s life through the eyes of a contemporary feminist, Steinem now sees Norma Jeane Baker (the real name behind all the imagery) as a girl who never grew up. She was an early bloomer who spent her childhood shunted from one foster home to the next. She remained trapped inside the voluptuous Marilyn, forever seeking the love and approval she had missed as a kid. ‘She was just so vulnerable and unprotected,’ Steinem says.
The effect of social and sexual convention in shaping a tinseltown goddess’s behavior and attitudes is worth remembering. Steinem reminds us that in Monroe’s day a woman so spectacularly sexy was seen by other women primarily as a threat (that, of course, could never happen among the sisterhood today). When Margaret Parton, one of the few women journalists to cover Marilyn during her life, did a profile for the Ladies’ Home Journal, it was killed for being too favorable. Years later, when Ms. magazine ran a cover story on Monroe called ‘The Woman Who Died Too Soon,’ it became one of the magazine’s best-selling issues … In a feminist age, it is easier for women to respond with sympathy to the way Monroe was treated.”
On Friday, August 3, 1962, Marilyn called her close friend Norman Rosten and talked about her plans to visit New York that fall, urging him joyfully, ‘Let’s start to live before we get old.’ By Sunday, the world was mourning her death. Norman wrote this poem while Marilyn was still alive, but she never had a chance to read it.
“We who spread the rainbow under glass
And weigh the most elusive sky and air,
Of that clan I come to track your heart –
But I’m baffled by those loose strands of hair.
You stand, finger at your lips, lost
In a long-abandoned heaven. No one within,
The angels gone, and all the harps undone.
What legend draws you there? O hurry down!
Surely your home’s with us, and not the gods.
Below your sealed window as you watch,
A river barge goes by, someone waves,
You laugh and throw a kiss for him to catch.
You’re not to be rescued wholly in this world.
It must be so. As many are saved,
That many drown. I see you clinging
To rooms, to phones, forgotten to be loved.”
After last month’s tour of Canada, Marilyn’s ‘birthday dress’ is now on display at Ripley’s in San Francisco throughout August, reports the SF Examiner. While the Kennedy connections may be foremost in some minds, the Fisherman’s Wharf location is more redolent of Marilyn’s marriage to Joe DiMaggio, a humble fisherman’s son who grew up in the city, and bought a restaurant on the Wharf after finding fame in baseball.
“Ripley’s bought the one-of-a-kind dress designed by Jean Louis from a private collector last year, earning a Guinness World Record for the most expensive dress sold at auction. For the last 17 years, the gown was ‘kept well, but away from the public,’ Meyer said.
The dress, along with the gala’s poster, advertisement and a ticket, will be on display at San Francisco’s Ripley’s at Fisherman Wharf every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the next month.
After that, Ripley’s will tour the collection around its 32 locations in 10 countries. The dress will be traveling incognito with at least two guards and in a case designed specifically for it.”