Marilyn’s Letter to Lee On Auction

A letter from Marilyn to Lee Strasberg will be sold online during the Classic Hollywood sale at RR Auctions this Thursday, May 23. While Marilyn talks frankly about her emotional problems and disappointments in life, she also proposed an ambitious plan for her future career. Sadly, her goals would never be realised as she passed away just eight months after the letter was written. It is dated 19 December, 1961, and like other letters from her final years, it was typed (probably by a secretary), and was previously published in the 2010 book, Fragments. Coming from her estate (along with all her personal possessions, 75% was passed on to Lee after she died), it is the first time the letter has gone up for auction with an estimate of $20,000. Further details, including a full transcript, are also available here.

“This is an important personal letter and please don’t start to read it until you have the time to give it your careful thought. This letter concerns my future plans and therefore concerns yours as well since my future development as an artist is based on our working together. All this is an introduction; let me outline the recent events, my ideas and my suggestions.

As you know, for years I have been struggling to find some emotional security with little success, for many different reasons. Only in the last several months, as you detected, do I seem to have made a modest beginning. It is true that my treatment with Dr. Greenson has had its ups and downs, as you know. However, my overall progress is such that I have hopes of finally establishing a piece of ground for myself to stand on, instead of the quicksand I have always been in. But Dr. Greenson agrees with you, that for me to live decently and productively, I must work! And work means not merely performing professionally, but to study and truly devote myself. My work is the only trustworthy hope I have. And here, Lee, is where you come in. To me, work and Lee Strasberg are synonymous. I do not want to be presumptuous in expecting you to come out here for me alone. I have contacted Marlon on this subject and he seems to be quite interested, despite the fact that he is in the process of finishing a movie. I shall talk with him more thoroughly in a day or two.

Furthermore, and this must be kept confidential for the time being, my attorneys and I are planning to set up and [sic] independent production unit, in which we have envisaged an important position for you. This is still in the formative phase, but I am thinking of you in some consultative position or in whatever way you might see fit. I know you will want enough freedom to pursue your teaching and any other private interests you might want to follow.

Though I am committed to my analysis, as painful as it is, I cannot definitively decide, until I hear from you, because without working with you only half of me is functioning. Therefore, I must know under what condition you might consider coming out here and even settling here.

I know this might sound quite fantastic, but if you add up all the possible advantages it should be quite a rewarding venture. I mean not only for Marlon and me—but for others. This independent production unit will also be making pictures without me—this is even required for legal reasons. This will offer an opportunity for Susan if she should be interested and perhaps even for Johnny. And Paula would have a great many opportunities for coaching. As for you, Lee, I still have the dream of you some day directing me in a film! I know this is a big step to take, but I have the wish that you might realize out here some of the incomplete hopes that were perhaps not fulfilled for you, like Lincoln Center, etc.

So I don’t know how else to persuade you. I need you to study with and I am not alone in this. I want to do everything in my power to get you to come out—within reason—as long as it is to your advantage as well as mine. So, Lee, please think this over carefully; this is an awfully important time of my life and since you mentioned on the phone that you too felt things were unsettled, I have dared to hope. I have meetings set up with Marlon and also with my attorneys and will phone you if there are any important new developments. Otherwise, please get in touch with me.”

Also on offer, the 1952-53 editions of Who’s Who in Hollywood, autographed by a multitude of stars, are a treasure trove for movie buffs. Marilyn is listed in the category ‘Super Stars: The Younger Set.’ (EDIT: unsold)

The lamp seen in the restaurant scene from How To Marry a Millionaire (here, with Alex D’Arcy) was used as a prop in other Fox movies, including The Girl Can’t Help It, starring that other fifties blonde, Jayne Mansfield. (EDIT: Unsold)

Small piece of card signed ‘To Joe’, with affixed cutout photo of Marilyn (EDIT: Final price
$2,625.000 )
Photo of Marilyn, signed by Joe DiMaggio (EDIT: Final price
$2,756,25 )
Black velvet belt owned by Marilyn, possibly worn in As Young As You Feel (1951) EDIT: Final price
$7,837.50
Book owned by Marilyn, seen on her bookcase in this 1952 photo (EDIT: Final price
$7, 730.000 )

A number of original photos are also on sale…

Photos from the Hollywood Foreign Correspondents luncheon, 1951 (EDIT: Unsold)
As Cherie in ‘Bus Stop’, 1956 (EDIT: Final price $250.00)
Diptych photo by Eve Arnold, 1960 (EDIT: Final price
$722.50 )
On the same Eve Arnold shoot, with hairdresser Agnes Flanagan (EDIT: Final price
$596.25 )

What She Said: Marilyn and Chanel No. 5

Marilyn by Bob Beerman, 1953

Over at Garage Magazine, Tatum Dooley traces the origins of Marilyn’s famous quote regarding her favourite perfume…

“When asked what she wore to bed, Marilyn Monroe famously replied, ‘I only wear Chanel No. 5.’

The quote originates from a retelling by Monroe to Life Magazine in April 1952. The question wasn’t posed by Life; instead Monroe offered it up as a anecdote: “Once this fellow says, “Marilyn, what do you wear to bed?’ So I said I only wear Chanel No. 5.”‘

A bastardized version often tidily conflates Monroe as both speakers: ‘What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course.’

Monroe is the subject of the second advertisement in a multi-part campaign, titled ‘Inside Chanel,’ levied by the brand. The ad, at just over two minutes, makes Monroe a posthumous face of the venerable perfume. ‘We may never know when she said the phrase for the first time,’ the video states about Monroe’s famous reference to the perfume, going on to cite all the times they have proof it happened: April 7th, 1952, in Life Magazine. October 1953, at a photoshoot for Modern Screen. April 1970, Marie Claire.

‘°5, because it’s the truth… and yet, I don’t want to say nude. But it’s the truth!’

But…it’s the truth lingers on the screen.”

Marilyn and Joe’s Hollywood Hideaway

Any property with a connection to Marilyn, however spurious, will always make headlines when it goes on the market.  And as Curbed LA reports, this 4-bed, 4-bath hillside home at 2393 Castilian Drive – now on sale from Coldwell Banker at $2.4 million – served as a hideaway for Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio when their much-publicised romance began in 1952.

Joe visits Marilyn on the ‘Monkey Business’ set, 1952

Although not her official address – Marilyn moved several times in that year alone – the house (which was considerably larger than her usual bachelorette-style residences) gave her some privacy to spend time with Joe whenever he came to town. It is situated near the Hollywood Bowl in the exclusive Outpost Estates suburb, and rent checks signed by Marilyn in September 1952 and January 1953 have since made their rounds on the auction circuit.

Marilyn may also have been reminded of a previous house near the Hollywood Bowl, at 6812 Arbol Drive. It was the first home seven year-old Norma Jeane shared with mother Gladys in 1933. Unfortunately Gladys’ finances were overstretched when she bought the property, and while both were happy there at first, it would not be the dream home they both hoped for. Arbol Drive was later razed to make way for an extension of the Hollywood Bowl gardens,  but Selma Elementary School, which Norma Jeane attended at the time, is still open today.

UPDATE: The property has been sold for $2.727 million (exceeding the asking price by around $300K.)

When Marilyn Met Tab Hunter

Actor Tab Hunter, one of the great Hollywood heartthrobs of the 1950s, has died aged 86. Born Arthur Andrew Kelm in New York, he moved to California with his mother as a child, and lied about his age to join the U.S. Coast Guard at fifteen. He began acting in 1950, winning his breakthrough role in wartime drama Battle Cry five years later. Rumours of his homosexuality were first reported in Confidential magazine, but didn’t dent his burgeoning career as a teen idol. Over the next four years he was Warner Brothers’ most popular male star, with roles in Damn Yankees (1958), and They Came to Cordura (1959.) He also enjoyed a No. 1 hit single with ‘Young Love’ in 1957, and was given his own TV show.

From the 1960s onward Hunter also acted onstage, and starred in spaghetti westerns before returning to Hollywood in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972.) He later became a favorite of independent filmmaker John Waters, and made two films with legendary drag queen Divine. In his 2005 memoir, Tab Hunter Confidential, he spoke openly about the challenges he faced as a gay actor under the Hollywood studio system. The book inspired a documentary of the same name, and a biopic is currently in development.

Cover to Cover: Tab Hunter and Marilyn in the Chilean magazine, ‘Ecran’ (1957))

Just five years younger than Marilyn, Tab Hunter was also judged by his striking good looks during his early career and had to struggle to prove his talent ( a 2016 article on The Wow Report website even describes him as ‘the male Marilyn Monroe’.) In  2011, Tab spoke to Monroe expert Scott Fortner about (among other things) an encounter with Hollywood’s other favourite blonde, as recalled on the MM Collection Blog:

“I of course asked Mr. Hunter if he’d ever met Marilyn Monroe, and their paths did cross in the early 1950s at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Both were there for a Hollywood event, and upon meeting, Mr. Hunter told Marilyn, ‘I loved you in Clash By Night. No one wears a pair of Levis like you,’ to which Marilyn replied, (spoken in Mr. Hunter’s best Marilyn impersonation) ‘Thank you, Tab.'”

Ray Anthony Remembers Marilyn

Marilyn with Mickey Rooney (left) and Ray Anythony (right) at the ‘My Marilyn’ party

Bandleader Ray Anthony, who had a hit in 1952 with ‘My Marilyn’, has shared his memories with the Hollywood Reporter – and unlike so many others who knew her (such as Mickey Rooney, pictured above), he has never embellished their brief acquaintance. A short film retelling the story, Marilyn and I, was released in 2015.

“When he wasn’t performing at A-list parties in his 1950s heyday, Anthony was recording music for 20th Century Fox Pictures (his rendition of ‘The Bunny Hop’ has been featured on soundtracks from 1955’s How to Be Very, Very Popular to TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond).

On the Fox lot, he met a beautiful starlet named Marilyn Monroe. ‘We threw this big party for Marilyn at my house in the Valley,’ recalls Anthony. ‘She was pretty happy about that. It probably helped a little bit with her fame.’

While the two were photographed together looking mutually enamored, Anthony says they were ‘just friends’ who were ‘pretty busy at the time’ focusing on their careers.

But he did woo another blond star — Mamie Van Doren, his wife from 1955 to 1961. Says Anthony of the Teacher’s Pet bombshell, ‘We had fun together.'”

‘Hollywood Revisited’ in Palm Springs

The movie costume collection of Marilyn Remembered president Greg Schreiner – around 500 garments in total, including this red dress originally designed by Oleg Cassini and worn by his former wife, Gene Tierney, in On the Riviera (1951) , and by Marilyn a year later in promotional shots and at the premiere of Monkey Business – returns to the spotlight in Hollywood Revisited, a musical extravaganza at the Annenberg Theater in Palm Springs on February 22, the Desert Sun reports.

“‘It began with Marilyn,’ Schreiner beams. ‘She was always my No. 1 star.’ In those early days of collecting, he says he could fetch a vintage garb from $200 to $500. ‘It was one of the first times [auction houses] had done something like it; nobody had thought the costumes would ever be worth anything.’ As prices for movie costumes shot north over the years, especially Monroe-related items, Schreiner fell deeper in love with collecting all kinds of movie wardrobe items.

In 1987, Schreiner formalized the genesis for what is now Hollywood Revisited in a very small way — in nursing and retirement homes. Things snowballed after that. This year, Schreiner has shows booked in major theatrical houses around the country — from West Palm Beach and Santa Monica to Chicago. He is now heralded for being one of the most well-known collectors of classic movie costumes worn by Monroe, Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Andrews, Katherine Hepburn, Mae West, Judy Garland, and countless others. In fact, 30 of Schreiner’s costumes are on display in the Hollywood Museum.”

UPDATE: Hollywood Revisited will be staged again at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, Los Angeles on Match 26, to benefit the Musical Theatre Guild’s extensive youth outreach programs.

‘Miss North Carolina’ and Marilyn

In the Salisbury Post, Mark Wineka notes the passing of Barbara Harris Richmond, who was crowned Miss North Carolina in 1952 and attended the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, where she met the parade’s Grand Marshal, Marilyn Monroe. (There are several photos of Marilyn with various contestants, but as yet I haven’t seen Barbara’s. Incidentally, Salisbury was also the home-town of Marilyn’s future masseur and close friend, Ralph Roberts.)

“In June of that year, only after a lot of coaxing and having just graduated from Woman’s College in Greensboro, 22-year-old Barbara Harris entered the Jaycee-sponsored Miss Salisbury Pageant and won. She topped a field of 16 contestants.

By late July, she was competing in the Miss North Carolina Pageant in Winston-Salem. She won again, as judges selected her over 37 other contestants. All the stories to come would mention how small she was for a beauty queen — 5 feet, 2 inches tall and 115 pounds.

It also was standard for the day to give her measurements, which were 34-24-34.

A hectic month followed leading up to the Miss America competition in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She toured New York and went through hours of coaching and singing rehearsals for the pageant, which included the usual bathing suit, evening gown and talent categories.

During the week, Barbara had her picture taken with the parade marshal, Marilyn Monroe. It was a tossup as to who was prettier, though Monroe raised eyebrows with a dress whose neckline plunged to her waist.

The Salisbury Evening Post sent a reporter to cover all of Barbara’s pageant activities. Editors assumed readers were so familiar with her by then that headlines sometimes referred to her as ‘Babs.’

Though Barbara didn’t make the final 10 in the 1952 Miss America Pageant, she was mentioned prominently for the Grand Talent Award. She filled the Atlantic City convention hall with an aria from ‘Samson and Delilah,’ prompting a rousing ovation from the crowd of 18,000.”

66 Years Ago: Marilyn at the Henrietta Awards

As this year’s awards season gets underway, the Hollywood Reporter looks back at the ‘Henrietta’, Marilyn’s first major acting award, which she collected on January 8, 1952.  Escorted by Fox publicist Roy Craft, Marilyn wore her notorious Oleg Cassini dress, and was the belle of the ball. The photo shown above was taken by Loomis Dean for Life magazine – and here’s a few more…

“The actress had only starred in a dozen or so minor movies when she received the award from the now-defunct Foreign Press Association of Hollywood in 1952.

In 1950, what’s now called the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had a split-off group called the Foreign Press Association of Hollywood. (The dispute was over some of the original organization’s members not being professional journalists.) The FPAH is now mostly forgotten, save for one memorable act: It gave Marilyn Monroe her first major award in 1952 at Santa Monica’s Club Casa del Mar. (That seaside brick building is now the Hotel Casa del Mar.)

The Henrietta — named after FPAH president Henry Gris — was shaped like a tall, nude woman holding a flower. The group had the prescience to choose Monroe for its International Stardom Award, given to the ‘best young box-office personality.’ (They gave the same award that night to Tony Curtis.) Monroe, then 25, had done a dozen or so minor films, with her standout turn being a small role in John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle.”

 

Marilyn’s ‘Lost Dress’ Found In New York

A red taffeta gown with black lace overlay and fishtail skirt worn by Marilyn in 1952 has been recovered and will be on display at the New York Open House at the city’s French Embassy this weekend, reports NY1. Marilyn wore the dress for a photo shoot with Bob Landry, and on several public outings.

“‘We are pretty sure that it belonged to her but the mystery remains, we don’t know why it is here, because to our knowledge, she never came to the French Embassy,’ said Benedict de Montlaur, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy.”

The French embassy is situated on Fifth Avenue, at the former Payne Whitney family mansion. Ironically, Marilyn was briefly a patient at the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Hospital on East 68th Street in 1961. She also received a Crystal Star award at a venue described as the French Film Institute or Consulate in 1959, but wore a different outfit to the ceremony.

Christopher Nickens wrote about the dress – purchased ‘off the rack’ in 1951, after Marilyn rejoined Twentieth Century Fox – in his 2012 book, Marilyn In Fashion:

“With a steady pay-check coming in, she indulged in some new clothes. She bought this evening gown at I. Magnin’s department store. It is a strapless red silk taffeta, snug from the bodice down to just below the hips, and covered in black French lace. The black lace gloves and a black fox boa Marilyn wore with the dress helped soften some of its gaudiness. ‘I paid a stiff price for it,’ Marilyn said. ‘I was told that the dress was the only copy of an original purchased by a San Francisco social leader.’

Marilyn wore the dress on several occasions, including the 1952 Photoplay magazine awards, and for the party celebrating the opening of Don’t Bother to Knock. She considered it her lucky dress because of the attention it always brought her although it was criticised in the press. ‘This was the dress that provoked so much comment … it was proof positive, they claimed, that I was utterly lacking in taste. I’m truly sorry, but I love the dress.'”

Remembering Marilyn’s Radio Days

Marilyn at a patriotic event in 1952

Over at Reader’s Digest, Tony DiMarco recalls interviewing Marilyn at Twentieth Century Fox for an army radio show in 1952. DiMarco, and presenter Dave Ketchum, broadcast a weekly program for Camp Roberts, which aired on KPRL in Paso Robles, California. It will come as no surprise to those who know of Marilyn’s loyalty to her fans in the military, but the producers found her a delight to work with, and nothing like the ‘difficult’ star her studio warned them about.

“Not only was Marilyn on time, she was friendly, cooperative and a great interview. When it was over she asked if she could add something and, of course, we said yes. She ad-libbed a touching and heartwarming tribute to the servicemen and women, thanking them for listening and wishing 
them the very best of luck. She was beautiful, bright and charming. She was the Marilyn 
we’ll always remember.”