‘Finishing the Picture’ in London

Arthur Miller’s last play, Finishing the Picture, looks back to the filming of The Misfits and although Marilyn (depicted as ‘Kitty’) is seldom seen, she is the force that binds together the other characters (based on Miller, the Strasbergs, Huston etc.)

From June 12-July 7, Finishing the Picture will have its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre, above the Finborough Arms pub in Earl’s Court, London. More details will follow – but for now, read my review of the play here.

Art Paul 1925-2018

Art Paul, who designed the first Playboy cover as well as the iconic bunny logo, has died aged 93, the Washington Post reports.  The cover featured a photo of Marilyn at the 1952 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, with her famous nude calendar pose making the centrefold.

“[Hugh] Hefner was developing his idea for a new men’s magazine in 1953 when he approached Mr. Paul, then working as a freelance illustrator and designer in Chicago. Hefner sought a clean, modern design for the magazine that he wanted to call Stag Party.

When another men’s publication, Stag, sent a cease-and-desist letter, Hefner was forced to come up with another name, and Playboy was born. Mr. Paul designed the first cover, a photograph of Marilyn Monroe taken during a parade as she waved to the crowd.

‘Art Paul managed to create a striking black-and-white cover design with a red logo,’ Hefner wrote in Playboy in 1994. ‘This was just the first example of how Art took ordinary pictures and, through inventive design and the addition of illustrative details, made the magazine and its covers innovative and interesting.'”

Marilyn, From Korea to Connecticut

A recent obituary for a Korea veteran in the Hartford Courant includes a reference to Marilyn’s 1954 visit. (I wonder if he ever bumped into Marilyn after she moved to Connecticut with Arthur Miller in 1956?)

“Gordon Thomas Calano died peacefully in his sleep in Hobe Sound, Florida, on April 9, 2018 …  Gordon was born on July 1, 1929, in Hartford, Connecticut. He graduated from East Hartford High School in 1947 and from the University of Connecticut in 1951, leaving soon after for Korea, where he served in the army for two years as a war correspondent and earned a Purple Heart. One of his most treasured memories was acting as Marilyn Monroe’s personal escort while she entertained the troops. Following military service, Gordon taught English and history at East Hartford High before launching Calano Furniture … “

Elsewhere in Connecticut, Greenwich Time reports on a new book by local author Matthew Bernard,  Victorian Summer: The Historic Houses of Belle Haven Park, which also has a link to Marilyn, Arthur, and the producer of The Misfits.

Frank Taylor (centre) with the Millers on location for ‘The Misfits’

“The house he grew up in, for instance, was previously owned by Frank Taylor, publisher of Playbill magazine and a Broadway and film producer. Taylor entertained major creative talents at the home, including Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller…”

Henri Dauman’s Marilyn in LA

The French-born photographer, Henri Dauman, who photographed Marilyn at several public events from 1957-59, is the subject of a new retrospective at KP Projects (LaBrea Gallery) in Los Angeles from April 28-May 12, as Benjamin Svetkey writes in the Hollywood Reporter. Dauman also photographed Jacqueline Kennedy, Elvis Presley, Andy Warhol, Brigitte Bardot and many others. A documentary, Henri Dauman: Looking Up, is in the works, and you can see more of his Marilyn photos here.

“When I was a young child growing up in Paris [where he was orphaned at 13, after his parents were killed in the Holocaust], I saw all the film noir movies. And that’s what inspired my photography. Before working at LIFE, when I was 18 or 19, I sold a big layout on Marilyn Monroe in Paris. And then I shot Jane Fonda for an Italian magazine. I was beating out all these LIFE magazine photographers — LIFE would send three or four teams of photographers to Paris to try to get different thing and here I was, this little guy, getting all these pictures. So that’s how, in 1958, I got a call to do my first assignment for LIFE.”

 

Emily Berl’s Multitude of Marilyns

Hanna Nixon, UK (after Earl Baron’s Marilyn)

Los Angeles-based photographer Emily Berl has been working with Marilyn lookalikes in Tinseltown and far beyond for several years (see here.) Her portraits are now collected in a stunning monograph, and Monroe fans will notice many familiar faces striking classic poses in new settings, and a selection of images posted today on The Cut shows that there was a great deal more variety to Marilyn’s style than is generally acknowledged. Marilyn is quite an expensive book ($98) but the quality is well worth the price, for collectors and art-lovers alike.

“One of the things I have had to come to terms with this project is that it kind of dances with a lot of clichés, like the Hollywood dream, but I’ve realized I’m into that. I think even though they’re clichés, they’re kind of important. They’re not necessarily a bad thing.”

Nadine Banville, Canada (soon to appear in a new movie, ‘Reliving Marilyn’)
Debra Bakker, Netherlands (wearing a dress similar to Marilyn’s in ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’)

Getting Ready For ‘The Girl’ in May

Michelle Morgan’s new book, The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist, will be published on May 31. Ahead of a live chat with Michelle, Homegirl Talk has posted a wide-ranging interview, in which the prolific author and MM expert reveals her inspiration for The Girl...

“It was my editor’s idea, because she wanted to do a book about how The Seven Year Itch was an influential film that still inspires millions of people. I loved that idea, so we talked and decided to broaden it to include how the film inspired Marilyn and how that period of time became her most powerful and influential. Strangely, Marilyn’s time in New York and also her early modeling career have been two of my favorite periods of her life. Several years ago I was given the opportunity of writing about her modeling days, and now I’ve done the New York period, too. I’m really thrilled to have written about both.”

And don’t forget, Michelle will be a special guest at a panel discussion about Marilyn at London’s Birkbeck College on May 16 – more details here.

Marilyn’s Misfits at the Christmas Tree Inn

Photo by Eve Arnold

The former Christmas Tree Inn & Casino in Nevada, where Marilyn and the Misfits crew partied on October 17, 1960 – will reopen under new management and a new name, as Jonathan L. Wright reports for the Reno Gazette-Journal.

“Chef Colin and MaryBeth Smith are heading for the hills. The couple, owners of Roundabout Catering … just purchased Tannenbaum Event Center, tucked in the pines halfway up Mount Rose Highway.

The business, to be called Tannenbaum by Roundabout, occupies a landmark property where the Christmas Tree restaurant sat for nearly 60 years before being reborn as Tannenbaum in 2005 after extensive renovations.

The Christmas Tree opened as a bar in 1946; it became a restaurant in 1947. The place became known for its panoramic views of Washoe Valley, its warm fire and its steaks grilled over mahogany. In the 1950s and early 1960s, celebrities visiting or performing in Reno and at Lake Tahoe frequently stopped by the Christmas Tree.

From the mid-1960s on, the Christmas Tree experienced a fire and rebuilding, a foreclosure, a reopening after sitting empty for a bit, and several changes of ownership. The restaurant closed for good in 2003. The next year, the Nobis family purchased the property and remade it into Tannenbaum Event Center.

MaryBeth Smith recalled eating at the Christmas Tree in the late 1990s when she first moved to the area. ‘They had the mahogany steak on the menu, so we might do some pop-up restaurants here that serve the mahogany steaks. It will be our remembrance of the Christmas Tree.'”

As Gary Vitacco-Robles writes in Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, this was the Millers’ last public outing as a married couple, and so the memories were bittersweet.

“The company hosted a surprise birthday party for Miller, turning forty-five, and Monty Clift, five years younger, on the following Monday evening at the Christmas Tree Inn & Casino. The event also served as a wrap party. Clift told [Ralph] Roberts that the evening was a highlight of his life, and sadly, this was a true statement. Within two years, Clift experienced a major depressive episode and lived virtually as a hermit …

Marilyn, in a pearl dress from the party she hosted for Yves Montand before the start of Let’s Make Love, sat beside Clift and expertly twirled fettuccini alfredo on a spoon as only the former wife of an Italian-American could. Russell Metty made the toast: ‘… Why don’t you wish [Arthur] a happy birthday, Marilyn? This truly is the biggest bunch of misfits I ever saw.’ Marilyn smiled but shook her head in negation. After dinner, the party gambled in the casino. At the roulette table, Marilyn teamed with Eve Arnold. [John] Huston handed Marilyn a pair of green dice.

‘What should I ask the dice for, John?’ she asked.

‘Don’t think, honey, just throw,’ Huston replied. ‘That’s the story of your life. Don’t think, do it.'”

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.