Howard Hawks and ‘Blondes’

“Playing up the usual style gap between Monroe’s acting and everyone else’s, and playing down her often-cited vulnerability, Hawks oversees a remarkable comic performance, with terrific line readings like beat poetry (‘Sometimes Mr. Esmond finds it very difficult to say no to me’) and bits of business that hint at a bizarre inner life (confronted for the first time with a diamond tiara, Lorelei can barely restrain her hands from pouncing inappropriately; after the tiara’s departure, she happily improvises a scenario of future possession, using a napkin ring encircled by a necklace as a stand-in).”

Dan Sallitt

Lois Banner on Marilyn’s American Beauty

Richard Avedon, 1957

From American Beauty by Lois W. Banner (1983)

“The most important film representative of the 1950s voluptuous woman was Marilyn Monroe, who differed from the others by combining with sensuality strains of childishness reminiscent of the adolescent stars. She thereby created a powerful combination that encompassed the era. Technically unschooled and often intellectually vacuous in her film characterisations, she nevertheless possessed both the shrewdness of the classic chorus girl (a character she often portrayed in film roles) and the intuitive genius of a child, able to see more clearly to the heart of a matter than others more sophisticated around her. As a down-and-out member of a seedy female band in ‘Some Like it Hot’, she taught fleeing mobsters Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon the meaning of friendship and love; as a chorus girl in ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’, she taught the same lesson to Laurence Olivier, the head of a fictional kingdom. Most of the other voluptuous film stars had dark hair, but Monroe’s was peroxided a light blonde – a colour that invoked traditional images of angels and virtuous women, reflected the light locks of the era’s adolescent film stars, and both legitimised and heightened her sensuality.

Previous exemplars of female sensuality had also had blonde hair: one thinks of the British Blondes in the 1860s and Jean Harlow in the 1930s. But Monroe differed strikingly from the Lydia Thompson troupe and from Harlow. They were tough, wisecracking, even masculine in type. With a slight, lisping voice, a soft curvaceous body, and a seriousness about life, Monroe projected an intense femininity and an inner vulnerability. Her sensual posturings were reminiscent of Mae West, although with no hint of the parody that West intended. Monroe regarded her body with dead seriousness. Long before she was acclaimed as movie actress and sex queen, she had posed for the first nude centrefold in ‘Playboy’ magazine, destined to become a trendsetter in liberalised sexuality and a showcase for the bodies of beautiful women. [Actually, Monroe had posed for a trade calendar – the shots were acquired by Hugh Hefner four years later, after her rise to fame.]

Monroe’s popularity ensured the triumph of the vogue of dyed blonde hair, which cosmetics companies had been promoting. Sales of hair colouring soared; platinum blondes seemed everywhere. The widespread dying of hair to be light blonde indicated women’s acceptance of a model of looks and behaviour that had them be feminine, sensual, and unintellectual. Women were to seem like children, expressing their adulthood primarily through their sexuality. The ‘dumb blonde’ who ‘had more fun’ now became the dominant image of beauty for American women.”

Dr Banner is currently working on two new books about Marilyn.

Read my comparison of Monroe and Harlow, ‘American Bombshells’.

Gaga for Marilyn

This month’s Vanity Fair interview with singer Lady Gaga took place close to one of Marilyn Monroe’s old haunts….

“Bungalow 9, the Beverly Hills Hotel…the pink stucco bungalow stands between No. 10 – where Marilyn Monroe had a torrid affair in 1960 with her ‘Let’s Make Love’ co-star Yves Montand – and No. 8, home at one time to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.”

Photo by Bruce Davidson, Beverly Hills Hotel, 1960

During the interview, Gaga referenced MM while discussing her controversial ‘Paparazzi’ video of 2009.

“And while my fascination with celebrity has almost left the building, I had this incredible fascination with how people love watching celebrities fall apart, or when celebrities die; I wanted to know, what did they look like when they died? Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, JonBenet Ramsey…I think about all those dead girls, all those dead blonde icons. What did they look like when they died? So then I thought, well maybe if I show what I look like when I die, people won’t wonder. Maybe that’s what I want people to think I’ll look like when I die.”

Marilyn: Alive and Swinging

“An evening of vintage glamour and swinging music.

Relive the days of Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and sparkling Hollywood. All the big tunes brought to you by the UK’s finest tribute artists. Brighton’s best burlesque cocktail shaker will make an appearance along with the city’s best loved showgirls and boys.

Compered by Brighton’s own Marilyn Monroe Impersonator and Okie pookle player Laura Nixon.

‘The Sexiest woman in Brighton’ – Bare Cheek, Latest 7

‘A true blond bombshell!’ – The Argus

Come and join the party!

Dress suave, 1950’s, Trilbies, diamonds, showgirls, kats and spats or anything that makes your feel fabulous!

Dates:

Thursday 19th August (Pre-book here)

Friday 17th September

Thursday 9th December

Thursday 16th December

Thursday 23rd December

The Latest 7 Music Bar

14-17 Manchester St, Brighton (off St James’ St, near seafront & Palace Pier)

Hollywood vs. Marilyn Monroe

“Monroe was no meek studio star.  She tested the weakened boundaries that governed star contracts in the early ‘50s, and fled Hollywood, formed her own production company, and chose her own projects.  Monroe also “acted out what mattered” to people in the 1950s — which is to say, she acted out sex — and did so in a manner that seemed to heighten and soothe anxieties about sexuality during the era.  As a result, she also proved a singular challenge to the gossip industry, which had little experience in processing an image of which sexuality was so forthrightly a part.”

A fascinating look at Marilyn and the gossip rags, part of a thesis on ‘Problem Stars’ by Anne Helen Petersen

‘Some Like it Hot’ in Toronto

Some Like it Hot seems to be very popular this month – maybe it’s an end-of-summer thing…

Riverdale Park is getting hot on Sunday.

Movies in the Park present a free screening of ‘Some Like It Hot’ starring Marilyn Monroe on Sunday, Aug. 22.

The movie screens in Riverdale Park East at 8:45 p.m.

People are encouraged to come out with a picnic, blankets, and lawn chairs to enjoy the event with their friends, families and neighbours.

Each movie night supports a local charity; Sunday’s movie supports the Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Clubs in Regent Park.

Riverdale Park East is located at 550 Broadview Ave., south of Danforth Avenue.

Inside Toronto