‘Fragments’: MM Fan Review

Writer and MM fan Stephanie Nolasco has reviewed Fragments for the Elevated Difference website.

Fragments gives us a glimpse of a woman who was used and misused many times over. Finally, we have the truth of who really was one of the twentieth century’s greatest icons … It’s certain that loyal Monroe fans will instantly fall head over heels for Fragments … There are still many unanswered questions, yet Fragments ultimately reveals how Monroe was a curious, hopeful and passionate woman willing to overcome the many obstacles that came her way by trying to take control of her fate.”

Read Stephanie’s review in full here

Marilyn’s Sweet Valentine

Flowers were placed on Marilyn’s grave for St Valentine’s Day, by Carla Orlandi on behalf of the Immortal Marilyn fan club. Thanks to donations from fans, another $241 was raised for Animal Haven.

Over at MM Source, Tiffany recounts the story of how Joe DiMaggio once carved his initials, and Marilyn’s, onto the bar at Chicago’s Drake Hotel.

Artwork by ‘The Marilynette Lounge’ on Tumblr

And while on the subject of Marilyn and Joe, here’s a snippet from a 1966 article by Gay Talese, published in his collection of sports essays, The Silent Season of a Hero:

“There are some baseball trophies and plaques in the small room off DiMaggio’s bedroom, and on his dresser are photographs of Marilyn Monroe, and in the living room downstairs is a small painting of her that DiMaggio likes very much; it reveals only her face and shoulders and she is wearing a wide-brimmed sun hat, and there is a soft, sweet smile on her lips, an innocent curiosity about her that is the way he saw her and the way he wanted her to be seen by others – a simple girl, ‘a warm, big-hearted girl,’ he once described her, ‘that everybody took advantage of.'”

Honouring ‘The Misfits’

Eve Arnold, 1960

Deanne Stillman, author of MustangTwentynine Palms and Joshua Tree, and an expert on the American West, attended a 50th anniversary screening of The Misfits at the University of Nevada last week, as part of their ‘Honoring the Horse’ exhibition.

She has written an essay on this ‘iconic and underrated’ film, considering what The Misfits can tell us about the West today and why it has often been described as a ‘doomed’ project.

“As I see it, what doomed the cast was the story—the act of re-creating it, living with it and inside it, bedding down at night with the dark heart of the country, having coffee with it in the morning, and, in the end, not telling the truth. For as mighty as it was, The Misfits was essentially another Hollywood lie … In the weeks after The Misfits wrapped, Marilyn would sit for hours in a disguise and watch the horse carousel at the Santa Monica pier. We do not know what was on her mind and in her heart as the gaily painted animals turned forever. A fragile soul on and off the screen, she may have given great thought to what was really going on in Nevada, and to the fact that her lover, Arthur Miller, had torqued the truth to resurrect her career and, because she was in love with him, she had played alone. ‘I don’t know where I belong,’ she tells Perce in the movie—and perhaps she found a moment at the carousel.”

You can read the article in full at Truthdig

Marilyn in Glasgow: The Girl, Redrawn

Francis Thorburn talks about the challenge of playing Marilyn at the Citizen’s Theatre, Glasgow.

‘When Frances Thorburn started rehearsals for the role of Marilyn Monroe in Sue Glover’s new play, ‘Marilyn’, she would occasionally have imaginary conversations with the long-dead star.

“I’m going to do my best to portray you well,” she would tell her.

Thorburn is keen that her portrayal in this play, which takes a snapshot of Monroe’s existence while she was making ‘Let’s Make Love’, does not diminish her subject. “One line I remember her saying in the last interview before she passed away is, ‘Please don’t make me out to be a joke.’ I have taken that to my heart.” Thorburn notes, too, that “Obviously Marilyn wasn’t perfect. She had some behavioural streaks that are hard to understand. But in those later years of her life she was on so many drugs – drugs to keep her awake, drugs to try to make her sleep. And I in my heart feel that she was a good soul. I want to honour that.”

In this new play, Glover takes as her focus the relationship between the actress and the French film star Simone Signoret, formed at a point in Monroe’s life when, as Thorburn points out, Monroe is emotionally “on a precipice”, suffering from insomnia and struggling in her marriage to Arthur Miller.

“I think if you get two icons in a room, or living across a hall, there are going to be [tensions],” Thorburn acknowledges.

“And also Simone is coming to Hollywood, so she’s coming to Marilyn’s domain. Meanwhile, Marilyn definitely wants to be the artist and taken seriously and talk about politics, which is what Simone is wonderful at.” Signoret was, she says, “phenomenal really: artistically, politically. And she was a beauty but she wasn’t about beauty. She hated that people would be wowed when she came in the room, so she dressed like a male.”

It is two days before she is to have her hair bleached the silvery blonde of Monroe’s and, in person, there is very little of “The Girl” about Thorburn. This is not surprising, given that she is a 21st-century woman living in a post-feminist world.

Thorburn is also a stage actor, not a film icon, working more in the chameleon-like tradition of deftly sliding between different roles. Her hair is the natural brunette that it has been all her life, her make-up subtle, her Glaswegian lilt only occasionally punctured by an energised girlish squeal. She is, she says, fascinated to discover how the colour-switch might change her. “Apparently, I have virgin hair,” she says, “which means it will be much easier to bleach. Will it alter how I perceive myself? I might have more kick, I might have more wiggle, I don’t know. Or I might be a little more introverted, more, ‘Don’t look at me’.”

When I call her several days later, post-transformation, it seems her feeling is very much the latter. Every time she passes the mirror she gets a flicker of shock, particularly since the blonde is so much whiter than what she expected. She is uncomfortable, too, out on the streets, “because I’m not very exhibitionist and people faintly turn their head”. But then, she points out, even Monroe didn’t always like to play Marilyn. “She knew how to turn it on or off, and she was able to get away with not being noticed.”

The problem for any actor playing Monroe therefore becomes clear. There is little footage that documents this “real” Marilyn, little to go on other than the interviews she performed towards the end of her life. In that sense, Thorburn has a certain freedom to improvise. “I don’t think there is any film of her real, which means I have to invent that, and that’s exciting as well because it means you have to bring your own self to it.”

She is keen not to “dishonour Marilyn”, while at the same time she is aware that the audience will be looking to see “a mixture of a real woman and the facade that she put on”. She points out that Signoret, in her autobiography, notes that in the whole of those months living alongside Monroe, she only saw her be “Marilyn” twice. Signoret also summed up Monroe’s predicament well: “Hordes of young girls never copied my hairdos or the way I talk or the way I dress. I have, therefore, never had to go through the stress of perpetuating an image that’s often the equivalent of one particular song that forever freezes a precise moment of one’s youth.” ‘

Read the interview in full at Herald Scotland

‘The Star Who Could Act’

‘Bus Stop’ (1956)

Meredith L. Grau writes about how ‘Youtube killed the movie star’ today at L.A. LaLa Land.

“Marilyn Monroe is the last great movie star. The biggest movie star. She represents both the heights of studio produced star power and the transition to the actor star. She stands too as the greatest sacrifice of such an alteration, falling into the strange and indescribable black abyss between the ‘movie personality’ and the ‘true artist.’ Though there were large names and memorable faces to follow hers, Marilyn alone stands as our great Christ symbol: she paid the price of stardom and sacrificed herself for our love and respect. What we responded to in Marilyn was not just her beauty but her genuineness. When people describe her as being likable for her vulnerability or her innocence, what they are truly referring to is her humanity. We loved her because she was larger than life and real– a goddess you could reach out and touch. Marilyn’s sadness was somehow always palpable, always present (as seen right). Whereas I am always in awe of the way Rita Hayworth could draw the shade and hide her inner sorrow from her screen performances, Marilyn could not do the same. Initially, she made a concerted effort to mask her complex nature behind her star-making doe-eyed stares, the sensuous movements of her mouth, or her infamous walk, but despite this, little Norma Jean was always there. Later, she used her personal torments and fears, the things that she had originally fought to disguise, to deepen her acting and her performances. She became the star who could act, and our love of her only increased when the little girl she had kept masked behind her caricatured performances was let loose into more complicated and interesting roles. The full-fledged, unadulterated, massively contrived, and absolutely magnificent movie star, thus, died when she did.”

Vachon Reviewed at MM Book Blog

ES staffer Sirkku Aaltonen has reviewed John Vachon’s Marilyn, August 1953: The Lost ‘Look’ Photos, in Finnish and English, over at her Marilyn Monoe Book Blog.

“All the pictures are black and white, which goes well with the style of the book. Vachon’s photos show Marilyn in love with Joe DiMaggio, talking on the phone, in the arms of a stuffed bear and by the swimming pool. The book also has information on Vachon as well as his letters to his wife. This isn’t a very big book, but a very nice addition if you’re interested in Marilyn photos.”