Tag Archives: 1946

When Marilyn Came to Boulder City

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In an article for Boulder City Review, Tanya Vece traces Marilyn’s fleeting visit to the Nevada town in 1946.

“Before she was the blonde bombshell known as Marilyn Monroe, a dark-haired Norma Jeane Mortenson came through Boulder City with a man named Bill Pursel.

Bill Pursel
Bill Pursel

Mortenson was living on Third Street in Las Vegas in 1946 while seeking a quick Nevada divorce from her first husband, James Dougherty. Norma was on the brink of becoming a global icon as Fox Studios promised her a movie contract…

Photo of Marilyn, given to Bill Pursel in 1947
Photo of Marilyn, given to Bill Pursel in 1947

Boulder City played a small yet pivotal role when Norma Jeane came through to visit Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam because it was right around the time that she was starting to morph into Marilyn. In the book Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed, author Michelle Morgan highlights what seemed to be Mortenson’s struggle to fit into the mold of what was expected from women at the time …

Boulder City

Most people stop here on their way to somewhere else — be it for sightseeing or to grab a bite to eat. While Mortenson was passing through our city she knew that she was on her way to somewhere else and as someone else.”

Alan Young 1919-2016

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Alan Young, who played Wilbur Post on Mister Ed – the classic 1960s TV sitcom about a talking horse – has died aged 96 at the Motion Picture and Television Home in Woodland Hills, California, reports The Guardian.

Born in Northumberland to Scottish parents in 1919, Young emigrated to Canada as a child. During his high school years he hosted a CBC radio show. He married in 1940 and had two children, before moving to New York in 1944, where he began hosting The Alan Young Show on NBC Radio.

In December 1946, the now-divorced Young met a young Marilyn Monroe when she promoted his show in highland dress on a Rose Bowl float in Los Angeles. They later went on two dates, as he recalled in a 2012 interview with Scotland’s Daily Record.

Alan Young (left) with Marilyn in 1946
Alan Young (left) with Marilyn in 1946

He was also interviewed by Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. He remembered taking her to the Brown Derby club after the parade; but as neither of them liked alcohol, they decided to go elsewhere and sip cocoa instead. “She seemed like a frightened rabbit at first,” he said, “and I didn’t realise she had been raised without parents. I really liked her.”

On their first date, Young picked her up from the house where she was living with family friend Ana Lower. He remembered that Ana seemed ‘suspicious’ of his intentions. Norma Jeane (as she still called herself then) explained that Ana was a devout Christian Scientist – a faith she and Alan also shared.

Their second date ended in disaster, as Alan tried to kiss Norma Jeane as she was turning her head away, and ended up kissing her ear instead. “I was so embarrassed about it that I never phoned her again,” he admitted.

He made his screen debut in Margie (1946), at Marilyn’s home studio of Twentieth Century Fox, and later appeared alongside Clifton Webb in Mr Belvedere Goes to College (1949.) He married Virginia McCurdy in 1948, and they had two children. In 1950, The Alan Young Show moved to television.

By the early 1950s, Marilyn was also a major star. “I was working at the studio when a blonde girl rushed up and yelled ‘Alan!'” he told Michelle Morgan. “She kissed me and asked about my parents and asked me to give her a call. After she had gone the make-up man asked how long I’d known Marilyn Monroe and I answered, ‘About two minutes!’ That was the last time I ever saw her.”

In 1955, Young would star opposite Jane Russell in Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, a sequel to  Monroe’s 1953 smash hit, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. After Marilyn declined to reprise her role, Jeanne Crain took her place as Lorelei Lee. He later starred in the classic sci-fi movie, The Time Machine (1960.)

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Young’s most famous role, in TV’s Mister Ed, began in 1961 and ran for five years. Afterwards, he continued making guest appearances in numerous television shows, movies and as a voice actor for cartoons and video games.

After nearly fifty years together, Young and McCurdy were divorced in 1995. He married Mary Chipman shortly afterwards, but they divorced two years later. He returned to the stage in a 2001 revival of Show Boat, and his final credit was in 2015, as the voice of Scrooge McDuck in a series of Mickey Mouse shorts.

‘Before Marilyn’ in Sunday’s Mirror

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A selection of photos from Michelle Morgan and Astrid Franse’s new book, Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years, is published on The Mirror‘s website today. (In an earlier version of this post, I said that it would also be in Sunday’s print edition. Rather confusingly, it was published in the People instead. Apologies to anyone who was caught out – and if it’s any consolation, so was I!)

FYI: the photos in this post were taken by Richard Whiteman in 1946. The intriguing story behind the mystery shoot is revealed in Before Marilyn – you can read my review here.

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Surfer Girl: Marilyn in Malibu

Marilyn at a surfer party, circa 1947
Marilyn at a surfer party,1947

Writing for the Malibu Times, Colin Newton explores the history of Cypress Sea Cove, a hangout for surfers since the 1940s:

“The story of Cypress Sea Cove begins in the 1940s with its original owner George “Cap” Watkins, a Bunyon-esque character who would eventually turn the place into his own private Shangri-La.

Between the palm trees, hammocks were strung up, and five-gallon plastic jugs were filled with rum drinks. Guests as varied as then-California Governor—and later Supreme Court Justice— Earl Warren and blond bombshell Marilyn Monroe showed up, as well as pioneer surfers and many of Watkins’ lifeguard friends.”

George 'Cap' Watkins presents Tommy Zahn with a paddle-boarding trophy.
George ‘Cap’ Watkins presents Tommy Zahn with a paddle-boarding trophy.

The article states that Marilyn was then the girlfriend of lifeguard Tommy Zahn. This would place her visits around 1946-7, during her first year as a Hollywood actress.

Zahn was signed to Fox at around the same time – mainly because studio chief Darryl F Zanuck‘s daughter, Darrylin, had taken a shine to him. It was while working as a contract player that Tommy met the 20 year-old Marilyn.

Anthony Summers interviewed Tommy Zahn for his 1985 biography, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe.

“‘[MM] was in prime condition,’ says Tommy Zahn, ‘tremendously fit. I used to take her surfing up at Malibu…She was really good in the water, very robust, so healthy, a really fine attitude towards life.'”

This echoes other recollections of a young, sporty Marilyn. In later years, however, she was less confident in water.

Zahn recalled that Marilyn was the most hard-working of all the young actors. They often worked together on dance, which they both found challenging.

After talking to Zahn, Summers formed an interesting theory as to why Marilyn was dropped by the studio in 1947, which may also partly explain why – even after she became a star – Zanuck was never a strong supporter of MM.

“Tommy Zahn, Marilyn’s lifeguard boyfriend, thinks he knows what happened, not least because he was fired at the same time. Zahn believes that he was only hired in the first place because Zanuck wished to groom him for marriage to one of his daughters. Zahn’s dalliance with Marilyn was noted and disapproved from on high, and both were fired. Zahn shipped out to Honolulu. Marilyn was adrift, professionally and emotionally.”

By the time Tommy Zahn died in 1991, he was a sporting hero, with a distinguished career behind him. You can read a recollection of his life by Craig Lockwood at EatonSurf.com. A biography of Zahn – including a chapter entitled ‘Hollywood & Marilyn’ – is downloadable from the Legendary Surfers website.

 

Casting Norma Jeane

Casting Norma Jeane: A Starlet is Transformed into Marilyn Monroe focuses on 1946, the year when 20 year-old Norma Jeane Dougherty became Marilyn Monroe. Author James Glaeg met Sam and Enid Knebelcamp, part of her extended family, in 1958. The book is based on his recollections of this encounter and others connected to Marilyn, as well as his own research. It reads like a novel, but unlike so many books about Monroe (alas), it’s true to fact. Casting Norma Jeane illuminates that year of wonders, and the many players involved, although the young woman at the centre remains somewhat elusive. So no earth-shattering revelations here I’m afraid, but a nice read, available in paperback and on Kindle (for free at time of writing!)

Alan Young Remembers Marilyn

Alan Young, left, with Marilyn in 1946

In December 1946, Marilyn – who had changed her name just a few months before – appeared on a Rose Bowl float in Los Angeles, promoting the Alan Young Radio Show. The Northumberland-born actor and broadcaster dated Monroe twice, as he first told the Saracota Herald-Tribune in 1953.

Alan Young, now 92, is best known as Wilbur Post in the 1960s TV sitcom, Mister Ed. He spoke fondly about Marilyn to biographer Michelle Morgan, and his memories featured in her 2007 book, Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed.

A new interview with Young is published today in Scotland’s Daily Record:

 “I dated her when she was very young, about 17 (actually, she was 20). I had just come out to California.

I have a picture on my wall with Marilyn Monroe where I’m playing the bagpipes and she is blowing the chanter.

I went out with her twice and she was such a lovely young lady. I met her again several years later but I didn’t know who she was from her name.

Someone said to me, ‘How long have you known Marilyn Monroe?’ I said I knew her as Norma Jean Dougherty. She did some publicity shots with me.

She was exactly the same person – so naive and really sweet. That’s why she landed in so much trouble later on because she trusted everybody. That was a real shame.”’

At the Rose Bowl Parade, 1946
Sarasota Herald Tribune, 1953

‘Icons and Idols’ Auction Details

Full listings for the Icons and Idols auction (December 1-2) are now online at Julien’s Auctions. A print catalogue – featuring a cover shot of the young Marilyn by Joseph Jasgurs – can be ordered (for $100.)

On the subject of Marilyn-related items, collector Scott Fortner has been lucky enough to acquire the ivory cotton coat she wore throughout 1961, and has posted more details on his MM Collection Blog. (She was photographed in the coat while leaving New York’s Polyclinic Hospital in July, having undergone gallbladder surgery.)

 

Jasgur Photos on Auction

Photos taken by Joe Jasgur in March 1946 of the then 19 year-old model, Norma Jeane Dougherty, in one of her first professional shoots, are to be sold by Julien’s Auctions in December to pay off the late photographer’s debts, reports MSNBC.

Release forms signed by Norma Jeane are also on offer. Note how she falsely claimed to be over 21…!