John Kobal’s Marilyn: Made in Hollywood

Ernest Bachrach, 1952

This photograph, taken on the set of Clash by Night, is part of an exhibition at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, running until September 12.

‘Made in Hollywood’ showcases the collection of film archivist John Kobal, who published one of the first photo books on Marilyn Monroe in 1974. Used copies of Marilyn Monroe: A Life in Pictures are still widely available, and if the presentation is not as glossy as readers now expect, the content – and Kobal’s own commentary – is nonetheless superior to its most of its successors.

Other classic stars featured in this exhibition include Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson, Clark Gable, and Humphrey Bogart.

Marilyn’s Lunch with Carson McCullers

Marilyn watches as Isak Dinesen examines a manuscript at the home of Carson McCullers

An article by Eve Goldberg at The Rumpus about the famous literary lunch date attended by Marilyn Monroe, Carson McCullers, Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen), and Arthur Miller, at McCullers’ home in Nyack, New York on February 5, 1959.

“As the Nyack luncheon with Dinesen and Monroe approached, Carson McCullers was both energized and panicked. Learning at the last minute that Dinesen ate only white grapes and oysters, and drank only champagne, she sent her housekeeper off in a hurried search of the requisite items.

But the anxious hostess soon discovered that she was not the only one with the jitters. ‘Marilyn was very timid and called me three or four times about the dress she was gong to wear, and wanting to know if it should be low-cut or not,’ Carson recollects in her autobiography. ‘I said that anything she wore would be beautiful on her.

Finally the guests arrived. Marilyn, on the arm of her husband, Arthur Miller, looked radiant in a black dress with a plunging neckline and a fake fur collar … Over lunch, Dinesen entertained the group with a story about the killing of her first lion in Africa and how she sent the skin to the king of Denmark. “[She] was a magnificent conversationalist and loved to talk,” recalled McCullers. “Marilyn, with her beautiful blue eyes, listened in a ‘once-upon-a-time-way,’ as did we all…. ‘

Marilyn regaled the group with a story about her culinary adventures. She was preparing home-made pasta for a party, but it was getting late, the guests were soon arriving, and the pasta wasn’t ready, so she attempted to finish it off with a hair dryer. Of Marilyn, Dinesen later told a friend, ‘It is not that she is pretty, although she is incredibly pretty—but that she radiates at the same time unbounded vitality and a kind of unbelievable innocence. I have met the same in a lion cub that my native servants in African brought me. I would not keep her.'”

‘Maf the Dog’ Movie Plans

Eric Skipsey, 1961

Plans are afoot to bring Andrew O’Hagan’s comic novel, The Life and Thoughts of Maf the Dog and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe, to the big screen, it is confirmed in today’s Daily Telegraph, ahead of a live reading from his book at the Southbank Centre this Sunday.

The movie plans were first reported in the Scottish Herald in May:

“At the time of writing, O’Hagan reports that director Stephen Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven) is in the frame. They are even negotiating sequel rights for reasons we shall come to later. Meanwhile, rumour has it that George Clooney wants to play Frank Sinatra – Ol’ Blue Eyes gave Marilyn Maf, short for Mafia Honey, in November 1960 – opposite Scarlett Johansson as the angel of sex herself, although O’Hagan confides that his own heart is set on the ‘delicious’ Christina Hendricks (Joan in Mad Men). We agree, however, that Maf, who was Marilyn’s constant companion for the last two years of her life, who ‘breathed the secrets of her pillow’, should be voiced by only one actor, O’Hagan’s friend Ewan McGregor.”

This sounds promising, though I do wonder if the book’s subtle whimsy will translate on film. Judging by some of the reader reviews on Amazon, not everyone was as charmed by Maf the Dog as me.

But I suspect this all depends on your preconceptions about Marilyn (O’Hagan is positively rapturous about her), and your willingness to suspend disbelief and accept a canine narrator.

Two other MM-related movies are currently in the works: an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde, starring Naomi Watts; and My Week With Marilyn, based on Colin Clark’s memoir, with Michelle Williams.

Who knows how these projects will turn out, but I’ve read all the books that they’re based on, and Maf’s story is easily my favourite of the three!

UPDATES:

Jolie Casts Doubt on Marilyn Role

Maf the Dog: Call Off the Search

Marilyn On This Day: July 14, 1956

Marilyn arrived at London Airport with husband Arthur Miller. They were met by another famous couple, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. Monroe was preparing to film The Prince and the Showgirl with Olivier as director and co-star.

The former London Airport in Croydon, Surrey, is one of the few MM-related sites I have visited (or, to be more accurate, driven by!)

Vintage Newsreel

Marilyn as Pola

Ileana Hunter is a Romanian graphite artist currently living and working in Norwich, UK. Her realistic drawings are inspired by both the fluidity of the human body and the hidden lyricism of mundane objects. Distinctive by the juxtaposition of intricate detail work and minimalistic compositions, her pieces are in art collections throughout the world.”

‘My Mother Looked Like Marilyn Monroe’

A 1986 track by Tommy Keene, considered one of the most critically acclaimed (and commercially ignored) singer-songwriters of the 1980s, included on his new album, You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009.

Listen here

“Forgetting the past I feel so inclined
To talk about the last thing on my mind
In one of the sadder saddest days gone by
A vague situation where everybody cries

You know what to do
But sometimes I feel like letting go
And I swear that it’s true yeah
My mother looked like Marilyn Monroe…”