Marilyn’s Estate Makes Gains in Brand Dispute

Marilyn’s estate has been given the green light to pursue trademark infringement claims against merchandiser A.V.E.L.A. Inc. by the Southern District of New York, as Bloomberg Law reports. This legal battle has been brewing for several years, with A.V.E.L.A recently contending that Marilyn’s brand was ‘too generic’ for copyright protection.

“The court rejected A.V.E.L.A. Inc.’s contention that persona rights of deceased celebrities are limited to family, direct heirs, or ‘the actual estate.’ Although the estate purchased the rights, an ‘unbroken chain of title’ extends from Monroe to the estate, the court said.

The court also shot down A.V.E.L.A.’s defenses based on the First Amendment, fair use and the estate’s alleged failure to take timely action.

But the court declined to award Monroe’s estate summary judgment on trademark infringement or trademark dilution claims since material facts are still in dispute. The court also denied judgment on unfair competition despite ‘bad-faith behavior of the A.V.E.L.A. is clear’ since doing otherwise required an infringement finding.

Both sides submitted surveys reaching opposing conclusions on consumer confusion. A.V.E.L.A. moved to toss the estate’s report, but the court said its methodology objections ‘are better addressed through cross-examination’ before a jury.”

Why Marilyn and the BBC’s Iconic Women Lost Out

The BBC documentary series, Icons: The Story of the 20th Century, has concluded with viewers voting the code-breaking British scientist Alan Turing the overall winner. Marilyn came second to David Bowie in the entertainment category, but as several commentators have noted, none of the female candidates – including Marie Curie, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Virginia Woolf, among other luminaries – made it to the final round.

“The gender-challenged outcome came despite efforts from a range of experts to push women in their field. This, incidentally, is a tactic favoured by the authors of a Harvard Business School (HBS) report about the pitfalls of consumer voting: namely, using a ‘curated list’ to ensure choices aren’t biased in the first instance.

Viewers, however, were not to be swayed … although actress Kathleen Turner suggested either Marilyn Monroe or Billie Holiday could triumph over Charlie Chaplin or David Bowie, it was the man from Brixton who won the entertainers’ subset.

Does this mean TV executives should halt the public vote in an attempt to save face? Roger Mosey, who has held many top jobs at the BBC, including editorial director and director of sport, thinks not. ‘Programmers like interactivity and think it’s great to get people involved.’ But he warns that it’s ‘very, very hard to control a vote’, especially in the age of social media because the temptation to ‘have a laugh and subvert votes even more’ can be too great to resist.

In the case of BBC Icons, it isn’t clear whether more men voted than women; a spokesperson declined to reveal a gender split – or, indeed, any further details about the poll. Which isn’t to suggest that women would automatically vote for a female candidate … Mosey suggests that, perhaps, the show was simply flawed.

‘The problem with Icons is that it’s a not very good remake of Great Britons, made when Jane Root was the controller of BBC Two. The problem with Icons is you’re comparing lots of people who aren’t very alike really. They should have spotted that the whole series was a little bit on thin ice.'” – Susie Mesure, The Independent

“‘I wasn’t surprised,’ Clare [Balding]  said when asked by host, Strictly Come Dancing‘s Claudia Winkleman, about the lack of women. ‘I’m a bit disappointed, but not surprised because I think you can’t be an icon unless you are allowed to have the limelight. I think the 20th century largely was the history of men, told by men and women have started to find their voice and started to find their feet so that if we did this programme all of us back again in 50 years’ time, we’d be looking at people like Oprah Winfrey or J.K. Rowling. We’d be looking at Madonna or Beyoncé or Lady Gaga. We’d be looking at Serena Williams or Malala, Michelle Obama. I think there are so many women who have an influence in their sphere and outside it and they’re beginning to have an impact now, but almost the 20th century was too short. We need to be knocking into the 21st.'” – Digital Spy

“All of these women were disregarded in one way or another during their career, so it’s unbelievably disappointing to see a repeat pattern all these years later … The accolades of most of the women included in the BBC longlist are known to the majority of modern day people. Voters made a choice to ignore these women once again.

But blaming the average person isn’t the solution. Society is still clearly receiving the message that women’s achievements are nothing in comparison to men’s. Although a select group of people recognise this isn’t true, it’s the unconverted that need to be preached to. The people who still say female sports players aren’t as good as men. The young people who still grow up unable to name five prominent historical women off the top of their heads. The people who display everyday sexism without even realising.

The BBC’s programme may have started out with the best intentions, but the outcome was a sad reflection of society’s views. Changing those views isn’t going to be a quick process. It’s going to take months, maybe years, of government-funded campaigns, of media organisations bringing women to the forefront, and of average people pushing back against inequality.” – Lauren Sharkey, Bustle

Marilyn’s ‘Divorce Dress’ Up for Sale

A rather melancholy fragment of Hollywood history is going under the hammer at GWS Auctions in Beverly Hills on March 30, Newser reports.  This black wool turtleneck dress with zippered front is believed to have been worn by a distraught Marilyn on October 6, 1954, when alongside lawyer Jerry Giesler, she confirmed to reporters outside her home on North Palm Drive, Los Angeles that she was filing for divorce from husband Joe DiMaggio after nine months of marriage. Two copies of the dress were previously sold at Christie’s in 1999, and it is now expected to reach a maximum bid of $100,000 – $150,000.

Roi Barnard Reveals Story Behind Marilyn Mural

This Marilyn mural, in the Woodley Park district of Washington D.C., was commissioned almost 40 years ago by a local hairdresser. Roi Barnard, former owner of Salon Roi (and author of a new memoir) has shared the story behind this much-loved local landmark with the Washington Post.

“What do you see when you look at Marilyn Monroe gazing down at the corner of Connecticut and Calvert streets NW? A beautiful woman? A movie star? An icon?

Roi Barnard sees himself.

‘When I saw Marilyn for the first time on screen, I just went, Whoa, you’re not happy either,’ said Roi, the District hairdresser who helped commission the famed mural in 1981. ‘And I saw it in her eyes.’

‘My love affair with Marilyn started when I was 12,’ said Roi as he gently, but firmly, tilted my head to the left. ‘Her star was just beginning to rise. I forget which movie I saw first, but I saw her, and I saw in her eyes, my eyes. We had sad eyes. No matter how happy she was, I knew she was sad. And I related to that.’

Roi doesn’t seem sad now, at age 81. It wasn’t always that way.

‘I was a sissy little boy,’ Roi said. That was not an easy thing to be where he grew up: in tiny Poplar Branch, N.C., a place of dirt roads and outhouses … Roi came out of the closet in the 1960s, determined to be honest about his sexuality. He became a model, changing his name from ‘Roy’ to the more memorable ‘Roi.’ He learned to cut hair and worked as a hairdresser at the Washington Hilton. In 1969, he and Charles Stinson — his business partner and onetime romantic partner — opened a salon together.

In 1981, Charles commissioned artist John Bailey to paint the Marilyn mural. It’s become a landmark, even if most passersby don’t know how personal the image is to Roi.

‘She carried me through a very troubling part of my life,’ Roi said. ‘I would just go see her movies or read about her. I connected with her.’ Putting Marilyn on the wall wasn’t advertising, Roi said. It was homage.”

Marilyn Jetty Swim Returns to Adelaide

Blonde wigs were sold out across the state as the annual Marilyn Jetty Swim was held at Brighton Beach in Adelaide, Australia this weekend, as Lauren Ferri reports for the Daily Mail, with men participating for the first time among  270 swimmers breaking the Guinness World Record for most MM impersonators gathered in one place, raising $65,000 so far for cancer research (it’s expected to reach $100,000.)

Letters From Marilyn in Los Angeles

Dear Los Angeles: Letters and Diaries 1542-2017, edited by David Kipen, is a new anthology featuring two missives from Marilyn herself among its assorted diary entries and correspondence. The first – dated February 2nd, 1962 – is extracted from a letter to her stepson, Bobby Miller, recounting her meeting with the Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy during a dinner party at Peter Lawford’s home. (You can read it in full by clicking on the images below.)

The second – which she wrote just over two weeks later, on February 17 – is a brief note to the German Consul, Mr. Volkmar von Fuehlsdorff.

Marilyn was also mentioned by director Elia Kazan (her friend and former lover) in a tongue-in-cheek letter dated July 27, 1955. It’s unclear who Kazan was addressing, but his words are clearly in jest (Marilyn was in New York at the time.)

Marilyn, the ‘Golden State Girl’

Duke Haney’s Death Valley Superstars: Occasionally Fatal Adventures in Filmland (available in paperback and via Kindle) is a collection of essays about Hollywood, including ‘Golden State Girl’, which muses on Marilyn’s myth. The dichotomy of her movie presence, Haney argues, lay between her training as a model – where each pose was carefully directed to create the perfect look – and her very real desire to be an actress.

While theatrical denizens Tennessee Williams and Sir Laurence Olivier may have doubted that she was really an actress at all, Haney believes she was a great artist – the cinematic equivalent of singers like Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan, whose voices may be limited in range, but unlike more technically proficient performers, are “memorable from the gate.”

Haney shared further thoughts on Marilyn in a recent interview for the Cease Cows blog.

“Sex appeal is finally a product of charisma, not beauty, contrary to the rhetoric of literalists and ideologues; and to the extent that charisma is developed, not innate, it can’t be developed in a world where people have surrendered so much of themselves to tech devices. If Marilyn Monroe had lived in the age of Instagram, I’m sure she would have wasted her gifts on selfies, and no selfie will ever endure as Monroe’s collaborations with top photographers have endured. Then, too, the Internet is intrinsically opposed to mystery, and mystery is a key component of charisma, which people are no longer capable of recognizing, it’s so scarce.”

‘Clash By Night’ at the BFI

Clash By Night will be screened at the BFI Southbank in London on February 23rd and 25th, as part of a retrospective for leading lady Barbara Stanwyck.

“In Lang’s imaginative adaptation of Clifford Odets’ play, Mae Doyle (Stanwyck) returns home to a small fishing town after an extended stay in New York. Defiant, cynical, disenchanted, she soon finds herself unexpectedly caught up in a tangle of relationships. Stanwyck’s mature, complex characterisation is one of several excellent performances, which include Monroe’s memorable portrayal of a trusting young woman.”

Richard C. Miller’s Marilyn (and More)

Richard C. Miller’s photographic archive has been added to Getty Images, including his photos of James Dean on the set of his last film, Giant, and many other Hollywood icons. Marilyn is also featured, from the early modelling days to her roles in Some Like It Hot and Let’s Make Love. Among the selections are some rare outtakes and more familiar shots previously unattributed. (You can read my tribute to Miller here.)

Four years after her first assignment with Miller in 1946, Marilyn worked with him again in 1950, as he followed her to an audition at the Players Ring Theatre in Los Angeles. This shoot remained unpublished for many years.

When they reunited eight years later Marilyn was a superstar, shooting what would become her most popular movie, Some Like It Hot.

Chatting with reporter Joe Hyams

On the beach
Maurice Chevalier visits the set
‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’

And finally, on the set of Let’s Make Love in 1960…