Today, May 27, marks seventy years since a little-known actress posed nude for photographer Tom Kelley. The photos were sold to a calendar company, and three years later, someone recognised the model as Marilyn Monroe. Against studio advice, she admitted it and the public loved her for it. Lorraine Nicol tells us the full story today, over at Marilyn Remembered.
A new Irish exhibition exploring sex symbols and the Playboy empire features two key artefacts related to Andre de Dienes’ iconic images of Marilyn, as Catherine Sanz reports for The Times.
“Supermodels and Playboy: The Evolution of Sex Symbols, which opened yesterday at the Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge Silverware, Co Kildare, features some of the most famous women of the second half of the 20th century — clothed and unclothed.
The exhibition is a collection of items in the museum’s archive, placed together to take the visitor on a journey from Monroe, the ‘original pin-up girl’, to catwalk supermodels of the 1990s, including Christy Turlington, Heidi Klum and Cindy Crawford.
The showcase begins with the camera used by Andre de Dienes, a Hungarian photographer, to capture Monroe on a Long Island beach in 1949. Images displayed next to the camera show the actress in a bathing suit and posing with a red polka dot umbrella. The umbrella has been on permanent display at the museum.
De Dienes’s camera was discovered in storage by Simone Hassett, the museum’s curator. She said finding it was the genesis for the exhibition.
‘Occasionally while we are rummaging around in the archive room we unearth some gems,’ she said. ‘We came across the camera belonging to Andre de Dienes which photographed one of Marilyn’s most famous risqué shoots in 1949 and this started the ball rolling.’
Aileen O’Brien, publicist for the exhibition, said that the idea was to showcase how being provocative had changed. She said the images of Monroe contrasted against the more blatantly sexy 1980s and 1990s models.
‘Despite appearing innocent and almost childlike at times, Marilyn’s confidence in the photographs was striking and she commanded the viewer to look,’ she said. ‘Her bathing suit appears quite demure but it was would have been very risqué at the time.'”
John Garfield, a legendary movie ‘tough guy’ of the 1940s, trained in the New York theatre and after his Hollywood breakthrough, became a prototype for the next generation of ‘rebel actors’ including Marlon Brando. In He Ran All the Way: The Life of John Garfield, biographer Robert Knott describes the star’s alleged encounter with the young Marilyn Monroe on the set of John Huston’s We Were Strangers (1949.)
“[Sam] Spiegel brought agent Johnny Hyde and a young blonde starlet on the set. Spiegel asked Huston to film a silent test of the blonde, using as little film, time and money as possible. Huston said he would, but as soon as the producer left the set Huston asked [Peter] Viertel to write a scene for the girl to play on camera with Julie (Garfield’s real name was Julius.) The next day Huston, cameraman Russell Metty and Julie spent a good part of the day filming this brief screen test with the young blonde, one Marilyn Monroe. Spiegel was furious at Huston’s insubordination and blamed the director for letting the film fall behind schedule another day. Indifferent to Spiegel’s ranting but appreciative of Monroe’s potential, Huston cast her in a small role in his next film, The Asphalt Jungle. (No one seems to know what happened to that test film of Monroe and Garfield; one wonders if the actor made a pass at her.)”
Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon – the touring exhibit focusing on the imagery that made MM go global – is due to open at MAMA Albury in Australia on February 12, with a late addition of rare photos depicting a young Marilyn, taken by Art Meyers in Chicago during the Love Happy promotional tour of 1949, and provided by a local businessman, Colin Glassborow, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Mr Glassborow, 71, says he was bequeathed 12 photographs of the star by his American friend Art Meyers, a freelance photographer who was hired to follow Monroe around Chicago’s Wrigley Stadium in 1949.
Later that day Meyers also photographed the then 23-year-old starlet sitting with the actor Roddy McDowall at Chicago’s infamous Ricketts’ nightclub.
Mr Glassborow, who owns Albury Building Supplies, said he met Meyers when he visited the Playboy building in Chicago in 1974. They became friends after Meyers offered to show him and his brother around Chicago, and over the years holidayed together. Meyers also visited him in Albury in 1995.
‘There are 12 altogether,’ Mr Glassborow said of the black and white photos, prints of which he started selling online via his website marilynmonroe-photos.com to help Meyers financially before the photographer died, at the age of 90, in 2010. He loaned eight images to the museum, six of which will go on display from Friday.
‘He was a freelance photographer at the time and he happened to be there … they were having a pro celebrity match with old legends and Hollywood celebrities,’ Mr Glassborow said of the Wrigley Stadium event Meyers photographed.
‘He was asked if he would take photographs at the old Ricketts’ nightclub … Al Capone used to visit there apparently.’
‘She was there with Roddy McDowall,’ he said of Monroe. ‘She’d only been in bit parts in three small movies, but the next year she got more with it and in a couple of years she was a household name, she quickly took off.’
‘A lot of people are in awe of the photograph,’ he says of the image of Monroe with McDowall, which he has had colourised and blown up, and displays in a gold frame in his secretary’s office.”
Marilyn’s visit to Warrensburg, New York, during her Love Happy promo tour in June 1949 will be featured in the town’s museum program today at 1 pm, reports the Post Star.
“In 1949, Hollywood stars Marilyn Monroe, Don DeFore, Lon McCallister and Donald Buka arrived in Warrensburg to award a big prize — a house — in a contest sponsored by Photoplay magazine.
The fully equipped home was on a lot chosen by Virginia Bleeker McAllister, the woman who won first prize in the contest. McAllister had been recently widowed and had a young son, Gordon (‘Rusty’), and she chose to build the house in Warrensburg, her hometown.
The prize home, still standing on James Street, was fully furnished and included all appliances, all of which received national publicity at the award ceremony.
The celebrities stayed at the Colonial Arms Hotel, now the location of Rite Aid pharmacy.
The event will be the topic of a program and exhibit, sponsored by the Warrensburgh Historical Society, at the Warrensburgh Museum at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Photos of Marilyn Monroe and the other celebrities, as well as of Lee Orton, the town supervisor at the time, will be on display, along with copies of Photoplay magazine articles.
Homemade refreshments will be offered.
At 2 p.m., the 1948 movie Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House will be shown. The Photoplay contest related to the Mr. Blandings movie starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy.
Sunday’s program is free and open to the public.
The Warrensburgh Museum is located in the VFW Building (with the Warrensburgh bicentennial and American flag murals) at 3754 Main St.”
Love Happy (1949) was the final, and least successful Marx Brothers film. Today it is chiefly remembered for a short scene pairing Groucho and a young Marilyn. Writing for Pop Matters, Jose Solis takes another look at this comedic curiosity.
“It seems as if the film created a rift in the siblings’ relationship, as Groucho would pretty much go on to disown this film from existing within the canon of official Marx Brothers’ movies, going as far as to completely ignore it in his autobiography. It seems as if the only cause of pride he found in the film was his ‘accidental’ discovery of an actress who would go on to become one of Hollywood’s brightest icons: Marilyn Monroe, who would be dead little over a decade after the film was made.
Love Happy is by no means a bad film—it has some of the funniest scenes in the Marx Brothers’ filmography. When watching the movie, however, its problematic production history is obvious. For example, there are no scenes featuring all three brothers together, despite director David Miller’s sly hints teasing the audience into believing this will occur at some point. (Miller would go on to direct camp classic Sudden Fear starring Joan Crawford). There is an epic scene towards the end that seems to promise us of the explosive encounter to come, which then never materializes.
By the time they made the film, the Brothers weren’t even performing together as an act. Perhaps Love Happy is nothing but a reminder of the power money has over artists. Perhaps it’s an interesting reminder of how Hollywood has time and time again made people who weren’t on the best terms work together to create something. Or, perhaps, it should simply be remembered or thought of, as the movie where Marilyn first took the world’s breath away, at least for a few seconds. (Her ‘official’ debut would come the following year in All About Eve).”
In an essay, ‘Monroe and Sexuality’, published in the 1986 book, Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society, the British film critic Richard Dyer discusses Philippe Halsman‘s portrait of the young Marilyn among a group of aspiring actresses (Lois Maxwell, who would later play Miss Moneypenny in the Bond movie series, is at top left.)
The photo was taken for Life magazine, as part of an article headlined ‘Eight Girls Try Out Mixed Emotions’. It was published on October 10th, 1949. Dyer mistakenly dates the photo to 1950 and assumes that it was a group portrait for 20th Century-Fox. In fact, Marilyn was not at Fox in 1949 and had only appeared in four movies.
With this minor error taken into account, Dyer’s comments are nonetheless very perceptive on why Marilyn stood out from the crowd from a very early stage in her career.
“In 1950, when Monroe had been signed to a seven-year contract with 20th Century-Fox, she was photographed for the studio with a group of other contract players by Philippe Halsman. It is not only with hindsight, because she is the only one we now recognise, that Monroe stands out. We may ascribe to Halsman the fact that Monroe is placed at the front and in the centre and looks straight to camera (rather than in the various off-screen or self-absorbed directions of the other players) and thus seems to make a direct contact with the viewer’s eyes. We could go on to ascribe the very simple, relaxed pose to Halsman, the tousled, naturally falling, uncoiffed hair to an expert hair stylist, the unfussy blouse to the wardrobe department and so on. But of course we have no way of knowing who made such decisions, Monroe or someone else; the evidence in the biographies suggests that even if others did make the decisions, it was because they had already ascribed naturalness to her in their minds; and, most important, it is unlikely that anyone seeing this photo in 1950 would have sought to identify those responsible for constructing her in an image of naturalness. Indeed, what is striking about the photo is the contrast between the very obviously contrived poses of the other players, though each a very recognisable female stereotype of the period, and the apparently artless look of Monroe that makes the others seem constructed but her seem just natural. Many other Monroe pin-ups from around this time have a similar quality, and the contrast between Monroe and the others in this photo encapsulates the more general contrast that was beginning to be apparent between her pin-ups and the other available cheesecake.”
Another alleged sex tape has resurfaced, to be auctioned by Spanish collector Mikel Barsa. This tape is nothing new – it was released as a DVD a few years ago, rather cheekily entitled The Bluest Marilyn Monroe.
“That’s not Marilyn. The chin is not the same, the lips are not the same, the teeth are not the same. Marilyn was a tiny little thing. And I know that for a fact. I own her clothing…In the Marilyn community, people have debated this for years and years and for the most part it’s widely believed that this is not her.”
However, Barsa insists that the woman is indeed the young, pre-stardom Monroe:
“People with romantic notions have denied that it’s Marilyn Monroe, and have invented stories…This film shows the real Marilyn Monroe — it was only later that the studios discovered her and transformed her.”
Barsa first made the film public in 1997, and at the time CMG – then MM’s licensing company – threatened to sue. While it is true that Marilyn’s appearance subtly changed over the years, in my opinion her jaw was never as square as that of the unidentified girl in the clip.
For comparison, here’s a photo by J.R. Eyerman of a noticeably slimmer Marilyn in one of her early movies, Love Happy (1949.)
Another stag film attributed to MM, The Apple-Knockers and the Coke, was correctly identified as starring Playboy model and MM lookalike Arline Hunter by collector (and friend of Marilyn) James Haspiel as long ago as the 1970s.
While Marilyn did pose topless or even nude on occasion, no sex film has ever been attributed to her. And yet rumours continue to circulate, and titillate a scandal-hungry public.
Mr Barsa plans to auction the film in Buenos Aires on August 7, days after the 49th anniversary of Marilyn’s. Coincidence, or marketing opportunity? You decide…
UPDATE: An excellent blog post from Scott Fortner points out the main differences between the girl in the film and the young Marilyn.
Marilyn’s screen time in the final Marx Brothers movie, made in 1949, adds up to less than a minute – but she certainly made the most of it!
Funding was withdrawn before shooting ended, hence a very long rooftop chase scene where the actors pass countless neon advertising signs. Despite only having a walk-on role, Marilyn was chosen to promote the film and flew to New York City – probably for the first time – in July.
It’s rather an odd film but well worth seeing if you’re a diehard Marx or Monroe fan. Available on DVD, and showing this Sunday, August 1, at 6pm, and again on Tuesday, August 3rd, at 6pm, at the Bio Orion in Helsinki.
Marilyn in Love Happy
Thanks to Sirkku Aaltonen