A Night With Marilyn in Monterey

CLASH BY NIGHT, Marilyn Monroe, 1952
A scene from ‘Clash by Night’ (1952)

On St Valentine’s Day, Armen D. Bacon shares a romantic encounter with Marilyn – as told to her by 89 year-old George Blair – in an article for the Fresno Bee.

“Pedaling back through time, he began telling us a story that had taken place 65 years ago. Freshly graduated from Stanford University, newly employed in San Francisco, his first assignment was taking him to Monterey’s famed Cannery Row.

One night, while dining solo at the Monterey Mission Inn, he recounts spotting a beautiful woman also sitting alone in the restaurant. The heart is a lonely hunter.

‘In those days, I was petrified of women and very immature,’ he added. But mustering his nerve, he asked the waiter to offer the young lady a drink. To his surprise, not only did she say ‘yes,’ she invited him to join her for dinner.

Which, of course, he did. They talked. He was in Monterey selling chlorination equipment to fish canneries. She was an aspiring actress breaking into the film industry.

‘Very, very attractive,’ he reminded us with verbal repetitions that mirrored a double set of pull-ups. By now, audible heavy breathing filled the gym, excessive calories being burned by overheated imaginations.

Why was such a beautiful woman having dinner alone, we all wondered.

He delighted in answering that her co-star, Barbara Stanwyck, was hosting a birthday party for her maid that night, and she didn’t want to go.

He stopped here for a moment, a sheepish grin covering his face, all of us gasping for air – awaiting the big finish. But according to George, the pair went their separate ways after dinner. She had to be back on the set at 5 a.m. He had to return to San Francisco.

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On the set of ‘Clash by Night’

The following morning, he drove past what looked like a movie set with lights and camera equipment surrounding an old Monterey residence on the outskirts of town.

He pulled over. There she stood on the porch. Clad in cut-off denims. I could tell by the look on his face that the vision remained crystal clear in his mind’s ageless eye.

And then, he drove off.

Five years later, he spotted her photo on a matchbox. Marilyn Monroe. Yes, that Marilyn Monroe. The movie was Clash by Night, which premiered in June 1952.”

Ray Anthony: ‘Marilyn and I’

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Ray Anthony, the saxophonist who scored a hit with ‘My Marilyn’ in 1952 – and threw a star-studded pool party in his dream girl’s honour – is now 93, and the subject of a short film, Marilyn and I, directed by Phil Messerer. You can watch it here.

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“What inspired me at first was the amazing quality of the original content.  Ray spent most of his life in the limelight and so much of his career was documented with beautiful, high resolution photography.  This allowed me to generate very dynamic camera movement within the photographs themselves and attempt to create a feeling that we were watching a motion picture rather than a slide show.  And I tried pacing it like a modern day music video.  It’s basically Ken Burns on speed.  Most classic content is treated with great reverence by incorporating a very slow, deliberate editing technique.  Our content was fairly lighthearted so I took the rare liberty of approaching historic documents with comic decorum.  Most people forget that Marilyn was a comic actress.  Her films were predominantly sex comedies.  So I actually think this film is very much in tune with her body of work (no pun intended).  After studying her career I felt it was practically called for.  To do a somber Marilyn story would be a disservice to memory.  But the film also has a very touching, very human element; something that I feel Marilyn had and is the reason for her longevity in the hearts of her fans.

Finally, (and I know this sounds a tad pretentious talking about a 14 minute short) I feel that Marilyn and I paints a picture of America itself.  Mr. Anthony’s story wasn’t just filled with run of the mill celebrities.  These were all Icons of Twentieth Century American culture.  Glen Miller – Ray’s first bandleader – the tragic war hero who was the first to make Jazz ‘cool’. Hugh Hefner – Ray’s best friend – who ushered in the sexual revolution.  Berry Gordy – Ray’s tennis nemesis – who started Motown and was at the center of the civil rights movement. And of course Marilyn Monroe – who gave us the term ‘sex goddess’.”

‘Niagara’: Marilyn’s Turning Point

Although Marilyn had played leads before (most notably Don’t Bother to Knock), Niagara was her first true star vehicle. Writing for the Niagara Gazette, B.B. Singer looks back at the making of the movie, and the turbulent natural backdrop which seemed to mirror Marilyn’s tempestuous life.

“At the time she came to do location shots (June ‘52) for that movie, Monroe was already used to being hounded by paparazzi; but in a way, Niagara and her stay in this region was the last of her time before the complete onslaught of overwhelming stardom (followed, as the film was, by popular Monroe vehicles like How to Marry a Millionaire and The Seven Year Itch).

The girl first known in Southern California as Norma Jean had married very young to one Jim Dougherty, and it hadn’t lasted. Now as she labored in Niagara under Henry Hathaway’s patient, marvelous direction, she had a new boyfriend some around here still recall from his ball-playing heyday as ‘the Yankee Clipper.’

Newly retired, the celebrated Dimadge came up for some of the shooting, and he and Monroe got out to pretty Niagara County countryside to eat at restaurants like Schimschack’s. Monroe saw the requisite Falls sites, too, and no snob, got along well with extras, chambermaids, and the like.

However, the movie’s Niagara-like storminess would increasingly become her own, as the much-dissected relationship with DiMaggio became a marriage in 1954, one plagued by his silent fits, controlling jealousy (especially when she wore certain attire), and distrust of her friends, agents, fans, and not least, the paparazzi.

Niagara? A good film, and a luffing of sails for Monroe, granting her some transient happiness, that is, before her own personal craft began teetering (as happens to the film’s co-stars Joseph Cotten and Jean Peters) toward the mighty, remorseless cataracts!

Yes, in her case, eddying down toward a last cinematic enterprise beside an aging, doomed Gable, released in ‘61 and appropriately titled The Misfits. And then her tragic, early demise the very next year. Meanwhile, the pitiless Falls kept on tumbling, remaining the most enduring star.”

Nickolas Muray Exhibit in Genoa

Photographer Nickolas Muray is the subject of a new retrospective, opening at the Doge’s Palace in Genoa, Italy, and on display until February 8, 2015. Born in Hungary, Muray was also known for his passionate affair with the great Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. His Hollywood portraits feature Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Caole Lombard and a young Elizabeth Taylor. Famed for his work in Kodachrome, Muray photographed Marilyn in 1952, in a unique, Renaissance style.

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Thanks to Eric and Tony at MM Fan Club Belgium

A catalogue for this exhibition can be ordered here

Mike Bell’s ‘Marilyn’ in Atlantic City

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‘The Art of Mike Bell’, a new exhibition featuring this monochrome painting of Marilyn as Grand Marshal at the 1952 Miss America Parade in Atlantic City, opens today and will be on display at the Noyes Art Garage, A.C. until August 28. Admission is free.

'Marilyn on the Boardwalk'
‘Marilyn on the Boardwalk’

Defiantly lowbrow, Bell’s main themes are pop culture and the ‘carnival’ atmosphere of his hometown, At the Shore reports. Another portrait of Marilyn, pencilled onto a matchbook, has been displayed by Ripley’s.

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Marilyn at the Crowne Plaza

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Writing for SautStar, Tony Ricciuto looks back at Marilyn’s stay in the General Brock Hotel (now the Crowne Plaza), while filming Niagara in the summer of 1952.

“It’s Room 801 inside the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Niagara Falls and if you play your cards right, you can sleep there, too.

It’s on the eighth floor, right at the end of the hall, on the left side.

‘It’s more than just the room, it’s the entire hotel because this is where she stayed when they were filming the movie Niagara,’ said Joseph Legace, general manager of the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

In June 1952, the hotel was called the General Brock, in honour of Sir Isaac Brock, the British major general who defended Canada from the Americans in the War of 1812.

‘We have taken actual photos of her when she was filming the movie and we have placed them on the eighth floor for all our guests to see,’ said Legace.

When the 20th Century Fox film Niagara was shot in Niagara Falls, Monroe, Joseph Cotten and Jean Peters all stayed at the Brock.

‘We are actually going to be doing historical tours of the hotel,’ said Legace.

The hotel was built in 1929. It’s directly across the street from the Rainbow Bridge and it’s the first building American visitors may see after crossing into Canada. The hotel has changed names over the years, and while there have been a number of renovations, the eighth floor and Room 801 will always be a part of Marilyn Monroe history.

‘We get guests all the time asking where did Marilyn sleep or what was her room number. We advise them to take a look on the eighth floor, there are five special pictures that were shot of her when she was here,’ said Legace. ‘They are quite unique and they have a little caption under them. A new picture was just sent to me recently and it shows Marilyn on our balcony.’

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According to local folklore, Marilyn was known to walk around naked or sleep in the nude.

Opening the door to Room 801, it’s smaller than expected. On the left there’s a bathroom. There are two double beds in the room and there’s a large framed black and white photograph of Marilyn that was taken at the Maid of the Mist. It was signed and dated by the photographer.

This is the bedroom of the suite where Marilyn stayed. It would have been much larger in 1952 and the view from the window showing the American Falls would have been more spectacular. Now, part of that view is blocked by new construction that has gone up around the hotel.”

Photos from the ‘Marilyn Suite’ were posted by a member of Everlasting Star forum in 2011. You can view them here.

Eleanor Parker 1922-2013

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Actress Eleanor Parker – perhaps best-known for her role as the scheming baroness in the 1965 musical, The Sound of Music – has died aged 91.

Born in Ohio, Eleanor Jean Parker made her screen debut at 18, in They Died With Their Boots On (1941.) However, her scenes were cut. Signed to Warner Brothers, she played Mildred Rogers in Of Human Bondage (1946); and starred in the 1948 adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ mystery novel, The Woman in White.

In 1950, Parker was nominated for an Oscar for her role as a teenage convict in Caged. She was nominated again in 1951, for another Noir role, in Detective Story. Her third nomination was for Interrupted Melody (1955), a biopic in which she played Marjorie Lawrence, an Australian opera singer stricken with polio. She also starred alongside Frank Sinatra in The Man With the Golden Arm (1956), a harrowing look at heroin addiction; and in another Maugham story, The Seventh Sin (a 1957 remake of Garbo’s The Painted Veil.)

Parker had three children, and found lasting happiness with her fourth husband, Raymond N. Hirsch, whom she married in 1966. Her last screen role was in 1991. An unusually versatile actress, Parker was known as the ‘woman of a thousand faces’.

What movie fans may not know is that Eleanor Parker was also a friend of Marilyn Monroe. They met during the late 1940s, when they were both living at the Hollywood Studio Club, a hostel for aspiring actresses – as Marilyn later revealed in ‘I Want Women to Like Me!’, a signed-by (or approved) article, published in Photoplay magazine’s November 1952 issue.

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You can read the article in full at Everlasting Star

Marilyn (and Dorothy) at the Plaza

One of Marilyn’s favourite New York hangouts was the Plaza Hotel, where in February 1956, she held a press conference with Sir Laurence Olivier – and, much to his amazement, chaos erupted when the strap on his co-star’s dress broke!

John F. Doscher, a bartender (or ‘mixologist’) at the Plaza during the fifties, remembers Marilyn and other stars in his new book, The Back of the Housereports Hernando Today.

“Take for instance his va-va-va voom encounter with Marilyn Monroe. The starlet stayed at the hotel numerous times.

Doscher said he was awestruck by the entourage of photographers, hair stylists and makeup artists accompanying Miss Monroe each time she came in.

‘They were from Life, Look and Photoplay magazines, all there for photo opps, he said, early paparazzis, you know?’

One day Monroe was having a late breakfast in what was the Edwardian Room and sitting by the window overlooking Central Park South. A few tables away with her back to Monroe sat Plaza-regular New York newspaper columnist, Dorothy Kilgallen.

Working the bar that day in the Edwardian, Doscher mentioned to Kilgallen that Monroe was sitting by the window. Kilgallen, he said, ‘Let out a “harrumph” and said, ‘Yes. I saw her. She looks like an unmade bed.’

‘Apparently, there was some animosity there,’ Doscher observed. ‘I mean, Marilyn Monroe has been described many ways in her lifetime, but never the description Kilgallen offered.'”

Marilyn with Dorothy Kilgallen, 1960

Dorothy Kilgallen was a syndicated newspaper columnist. In 1952, she reported that journalist Robert Slatzer was a rival to Joe DiMaggio for Marilyn’s affections. (Slatzer has since become a notorious figure in Monroe history, and biographer Donald Spoto considers him a fraud.)

After Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was released in 1953, a sceptical Kilgallen wrote to Darryl F. Zanuck, asking him to confirm that Marilyn’s singing was her own voice, which he did.

Needless to say, none of this endeared her to Marilyn, and in his essay, A Beautiful Child, Truman Capote wrote that MM had described Kilgallen as a drunk who hated her.

Kilgallen lived near the summer house where Marilyn and Arthur Miller stayed in 1957. In 1960, she was photographed with Marilyn at a press conference for Let’s Make Love.

Just days before Marilyn died, Kilgallen alluded to the star’s affair with a prominent man in her column. In the following weeks, she tried to investigate the circumstances behind Monroe’s death – particularly her alleged links to the Kennedy brothers.

In 1965, 53 year-old Kilgallen was found dead in her New York apartment, having overdosed on alcohol and barbiturates, and also having possibly suffered a heart attack.

However, some conspiracy theorists think Kilgallen was murdered, because of her critical comments about the US government.

 

Dale Robertson 1923-2013

Actor Dale Robertson died on February 27th in San Diego, aged 89. He was suffering from lung cancer.

Best known as a television actor, Robertson starred in Tales of Wells FargoThe Iron Horse, and as a host on Death Valley Days. In later years, he appeared in Dallas and Dynasty.

In his 2012 book, They Knew Marilyn Monroe, author Les Harding wrote that Dale had been preparing for a photo shoot with a young Marilyn when her agent, Johnny Hyde, nixed the idea. Hyde was in love with Marilyn, and did not want people to think she and the handsome actor were involved.

Dale also appeared in the episodic film, O. Henry’s Full House (1952), but in a different segment to Marilyn’s. However, they did become friends, and were photographed together on September 15th at a charity event, the Hollywood Entertainers’ Baseball Game.

Biographer Michelle Morgan interviewed Robertson for her 2007 book, Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. ‘We would go to ball games together and she was very pleasant company,’ he recalled, ‘but we were never boyfriend and girlfriend because we just weren’t attracted to each other.’

Fifty years later, Robertson remembered sensing a sadness in Marilyn. ‘She had a rough time for a while,’ he said, ‘and her biggest enemy was herself.’

After hearing of Robertson’s death, Morgan wrote in her blog, ‘I won’t pretend that I was close to Dale Robertson, in fact I never spoke to him again after I had interviewed him back in 2006, but he was such a lovely person that I truly felt very blessed to have been in touch with him, no matter how short our association had been.’