One Afternoon in Pendleton

Columnist Jerry Jonas recalls meeting Marilyn Monroe during her public appearance at Camp Pendleton, California, on April 4, 1952:

“I still remember the first time I heard the name Marilyn Monroe. It was the spring of 1951 and I had recently been stationed at the Camp Pendleton Marine Base about 100 miles south of Hollywood.

Returning from noon chow, I noticed a number of my buddies were clustered in a small group ogling a photo in the latest edition of Leatherneck Magazine.

Back then, the Marine Corps’ monthly publication ran a popular ‘pin-up’ photo on the back cover of each issue. A different actress or model was featured each month. On that month’s cover was Marilyn Monroe, the new movie glamour girl, smiling coyly and attired in a somewhat-revealing swimsuit.

While I had no idea who she was, several of my more savvy buddies did. They had already seen her in a movie called The Asphalt Jungle and highly recommended that I catch it. I did and was pleasantly surprised at what I discovered.

A few months later, I would get to meet and chat with Monroe. It was a Sunday afternoon, and along with William Lundigan (a popular male film actor of the day, who had recently co-starred with her and June Haver in the comedy-drama Love Nest), Monroe was appearing at the Veterans Home and Medical Center in West Los Angeles.

There, she and Lundigan would entertain the hundreds of veterans who were the home’s permanent residents. They included aging and disabled men whose military service dated all the way back to the American Indian wars.

Since active-duty military were also invited to the affair, and I was in Hollywood on a weekend pass, I decided to attend.

Yet West Los Angeles was a fair distance from Hollywood, and like most of my military friends, I was low on cash, couldn’t afford to spend what little I had on public transportation and would have to get there by hitchhiking.

It was worth the effort. Monroe and Lundigan each spent about an hour mingling with the veterans and members of the military, posing for photos and signing autographs.

While Lundigan, who had been making films for more than a decade, was better known, the extremely enthusiastic all-male audience quickly made the pretty and curvaceous young Monroe their center of attention. A few whistled and egged her on and she responded with her famous smile.

In a brief conversation, she struck me as somewhat shy, yet extremely intelligent and personable.

While walking from the facility preparing to hitchhike back into Hollywood, I noticed two large sedans being pulled to the front entrance. Lundigan got into the first car, doing his own driving. Monroe got into the second, an apparently chauffeur-driven car.

With my thumb extended, as a sign that I was looking for a ride, I watched the first car approach and could clearly see Lundigan glance casually at me and nod as he continued by.

Slightly disappointed, my attention now turned to Monroe’s car, which was just leaving the entrance. Apparently reacting to my again-extended thumb, the driver seemed to be slowing down and pulling toward me.

Then, I heard the voice. ‘Hey, Marine.’ It was Lundigan, himself a former World War II Marine. He had stopped and was now backing up. ‘C’mon. Get in.’ He had reached over and had opened the passenger door and was offering me a ride into town.

Glancing back, I noticed that the second car had slowed almost to a complete stop, and the driver was smiling at me and shrugging as if to say: ‘I tried.’ Monroe was clearly visible sitting alone in the back seat smiling, her hand poised in a slight wave.

While I appreciated Lundigan’s kindness, and had an interesting conversation with him during the 20-minute ride, I often wondered what it might have been like to spend that 20 minutes riding with Monroe.

What a story that would have been to relay to my pals back at camp.”

Marilyn’s Greatest ‘Life’ Covers

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, Life has selected some of its most memorable covers, including this iconic Philippe Halsman cover from 1952:

“April 7, 1952: Marilyn Monroe
LIFE was an early champion of Marilyn Monroe’s, and this photograph by Philippe Halsman graced the first of many cover stories on Monroe for the magazine. Readers, however, were probably paying less attention to Monroe’s mind than to her off-the-shoulders gown, apparently held up by little more than optimism.”

Another Halsman cover shot of Marilyn, from 1959, is also featured:

Marilyn in Niagara: ‘It Started with a Whistle’

Photo by Jock Carroll

Marilyn’s visit to the Oneida cutlery factory while filming Niagara in 1952 – as chronicled by Jock Carroll – is remembered by one former employee, Alec Tanos, who also met his wife of sixty years, Pauline, while working there.

“When movie star Marilyn Monroe was in Niagara Falls in 1952 shooting the movie Niagara, she had the opportunity to tour the Oneida plant.

When Marilyn walked by where Alec was working, he gave her a whistle and Marilyn stopped for a brief second and flashed him a smile.

‘When my dad was 21, he had a smile that would kill women. When Marilyn toured the factory he was the only guy to whistle at her and she smiled at him. How can you blame my mother for feeling so special when he whistled at her,’ said Robert.”

Niagara Falls Review

Did Marilyn Appear in ‘My Pal Gus’?

ES member Megan found this intriguing newspaper item, from the Long Beach Press Telegram, dated September 16th, 1952.

My Pal Gus is a comedy starring Richard Widmark as a harrassed single dad. Widmark had previously co-starred with MM in Don’t Bother to Knock. George Winslow – Henry Spofford III in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – plays Gus.

Monroe and Widmark, ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’
Widmark with George Winslow in ‘My Pal Gus’
Winslow in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1953)

Marilyn lived at the Beverly Carlton Hotel (now known as The Avalon) on and off between 1949 and 1952. We can’t see her in the movie, but maybe you can – My Pal Gus is available on DVD and can also be viewed online.

If you spot Marilyn, please join the discussion at Everlasting Star

Vanity Fair: Analysing Marilyn

page 14

Pardon me
are you the janitors wife

page 147
caught a Greyhound
Bus from Monterey to Salinas. On the
Bus I was the person
woman with about
sixty Italian fishermen
and I’ve never met
sixty such charming gentlemen—they
were wonderful. Some
company was sending them
downstate where their boats
and (they hoped) fish were
waiting for them. Some
could hardly speak english
not only do I love Greeks
[illegible] I love Italians.
they’re warm, lusty and friendly
as hell—I’d love to go to
Italy someday.

From a 1951 notebook, written by Marilyn during filming of Love Nest. The first line is from the script; the second may have been written during filming of Clash by Night in Monterey less than a year later, shortly after her love affair with Italian-American baseball star Joe DiMaggio began.

This and other excerpts from Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters are featured in ‘Marilyn and her Monsters’, an article for November’s Vanity Fair. A complementary piece, ‘The Writing on the Wall’, analyses Marilyn’s large, extravagantly looped handwriting (which I have often seen as a reflection of her open, generous yet somehow elusive spirit.)

Marilyn at Georgia Tech, 1952

“Dear Helaine and Joe: My aunt worked for Coach Bobby Dodd of the Georgia Tech ‘Yellow Jackets’. Marilyn Monroe came to the university during his tenure and gave him an autographed picture of her wearing a Georgia Tech sweater. The signature reads ‘Best Wishes to Coach Dodd’ and is signed ‘Marilyn Monroe.’ Dodd gave the photo to my aunt. What is it worth? Thank you. — V.C., Augusta, Ga.

Dear V.C.: When presented with a signed Marilyn Monroe photograph, there is always a question about whether she herself signed it. In most instances, genuine signatures were signed in red — but there are exceptions, and we believe this is one of those.”

Seattle Times

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.