‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ at 65

Screen capture by Classic Film (via Flickr)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was first released in the US on July 15, 1953 – exactly 65 years ago today. In many ways it’s the definitive Marilyn Monroe movie  – although Some Like It Hot is better-known, she truly dominates the screen as Lorelei Lee. Her unforgettable performance of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ inspired Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’, and her comedic partnership with co-star Jane Russell is peerless. For all those reasons (and many more), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes  still feels timely and relevant today.

Over at Marilyn Remembered,  Lorraine Nicol celebrates this happy anniversary; and you can read my review of the 2010 big-screen reissue here.

Marilyn Double Bill in L.A.

With Cameron Mitchell in ‘How to Marry A Millionaire’

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire, both of which turn 65 this year, will be screened as a double bill on June 5th at the Royal Theatre, NoHo 7, and Playhouse 7 in Los Angeles, as part of the Laemmle Anniversary Classics series. The Royal screening of Blondes will be introduced by Debra Levine, editor of Arts Meme and an expert on choreographer Jack Cole.

Thanks to Jackie at Marilyn Remembered

Marilyn and the Moon of Baroda

On July 8, 1953, Frank Powolny photographed Marilyn wearing one of the world’s largest diamonds, the so-called ‘Moon of Baroda’. It was then owned by Meyer Rosenbaum, a jeweller from Detroit, and was loaned to Marilyn for the shoot, in which Sidney M. Brownstein, president of the Jewellery Academy, presented her with a special award for her role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, proclaiming her ‘the best friend a diamond ever had.’

But as the Times of India reports today, the Barodian royal family want their precious jewellery – also including the world’s most expensive pearl carpet, the ‘Star of the South’ – to be returned home for a public exhibition.

The Moon of Baroda was last displayed at the Antwerp World Diamond Centre in 2008. In 2012, a ‘Mr Matsuki’ appeared on a Japanese television show with what he claimed was the legendary gem. It was authenticated and valued at 150 million yen.

The Mad About Marilyn fan club chronicled the Moon of Baroda’s history in 2013, including a bizarre rumour that Marilyn fell victim to the diamond’s curse.

Marilyn, Kim Kardashian and the Curse of Fake Art

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian made a social media faux pas when she posted a fake topless photo of Marilyn on Instagram today, reports The Blast (I’ve posted the original above, taken during a 1953 photo session with Bert Reisfeld.) While it’s very annoying, I don’t blame the gullible fans who post these fakes as much as the self-proclaimed ‘artists’ who inflict these fakes on the world in the first place. This is actually one of the tamer creations – websites like Ebay are ridden with badly Photoshopped, semi-pornographic renderings of Marilyn.

“The Blast tracked down Jeffrey Yarber, the artist behind the piece, who tells us the ‘photograph’ is one of thousands of celebrity fantasy artworks he has digitally created and sold over the years. In other words, he created the photo, it isn’t an actual topless Monroe photoshoot.

Kim’s hardly the first to share the Marilyn portrait, and Kardashian is so art savvy that she probably knew it wasn’t genuine, but tons of people thought it was legit.

As for the faux photo,  Yarber says, ‘Fakes is a genre, I, and about four other fellows, originated.  My artworks are marketed around the world, and are offered in just about every medium there is.’

Yarber tells us people — including respected galleries — often mistake his prints for originals, but he doesn’t like to correct them, adamant that his pieces are ‘virtually real, depicting the actual subjects in actual settings, without flaw.'”

Inside the Coca Cola Archive With Marilyn

Marilyn and Coca Cola are among the most recognisable American cultural icons. In an article for the Daily Mail, Anna Hopkins visits the Coca Cola archive managed by Ted Ryan in Atlanta, Georgia and finds images of Marilyn sipping Coke by the pool at Greenacres, the Hollywood home of silent movie comedian turned 3D photographer Harold Lloyd (seen here wearing a blue suit and his trademark spectacles.) She visited in 1953 with Jean Negulesco, supposedly to film a dream sequence for How to Marry a Millionaire. This never transpired, but footage of a seductive Marilyn purring “I hate a careless man” was used in ‘Security Is Common Sense’, a PSA for the US Air Force, warning servicemen against revealing military secrets in letters home.

More shots taken by Harold Lloyd

Studio contract stars like Marilyn were routinely asked to endorse products, although she would do so less frequently in later years. Despite the Mail article’s claims, the Lloyd shoot does not appear to have been directly connected to Coca Cola – but the tacit promotional value was clearly  welcomed, and it has since become part of their glamorous legacy. In 1951, Marilyn was filmed drinking Coke in a scene from Love Nest.  And Edward Clark’s candid shot of Marilyn and co-star Jane Russell enjoying a Coke on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) was revived in a 2015 company ad campaign.

Marilyn Flies High With United Airlines

This exuberant press shot of Marilyn arriving in Vancouver in July 1953 (en route to film scenes for River of No Return – more info herefeatures in a new display at the remodelled Global Services reception area for United Airlines’ elite customers at Los Angeles International Airport (L.A.X.), as Lewis Lazare reports for Chicago Business Insider. (She also flew from New York to Chicago with United Airlines when she visited Bement, Illinois to honour Abraham Lincoln in 1955.)

Photo by Eve Arnold, 1955

Marilyn, Joan and a Hollywood ‘Feud’

Marilyn at the Photoplay Awards in 1953 (bottom left); and at the Golden Globes in 1960 (bottom right)
Clock’s ticking: Joan Crawford ‘watches’ over Marilyn at the Photoplay Awards in 1953 (bottom left); and at the Golden Globes in 1960 (bottom right)

The upcoming TV series, Feud: Bette and Joan, stars Susan Sarandon as Davis and Jessica Lange as Crawford, the rival actresses whose mutual enmity peaked when they collaborated on Robert Aldrich’s 1961 shocker, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

As Carolyn L. Todd reveals in an article for Refinery 29, Crawford also bore a grudge against Marilyn, which will be depicted in the show’s opening scene. The older star decried Marilyn’s daring attire – the iconic gold lamé dress – when she accepted a Photoplay award as most promising newcomer. However, while the basic story is true (as recorded by columnist Bob Thomas – more details here), the producers have transposed the event to an occasion closer to their main storyline. In this telling, Crawford makes her dig at Marilyn at the 1960 Golden Globes, where she was named Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for Some Like It Hot.

However, Marilyn’s appearance on this occasion was relatively demure and while Joan’s original remarks had drawn criticism because Marilyn was, in 1953, a rising star, by 1960 she was a far more established figure. After the public backlash, Joan had made no further comments on Marilyn’s later career. Citing her attack on Marilyn’s overt sexuality as an early example of ‘slut-shaming’, Todd seems unaware that the chronology has been altered.

While switching the date may fit the Feud narrative more neatly, it is also anachronistic and leaves one wondering how many other ‘alternative facts’ will be presented to viewers. Feud will have its premiere on Sunday, March 5, on the US cable channel FX, so for better or worse, we’ll soon find out.

Mystery Solved: Marilyn and the ‘Careless Man’

Marilyn Monroe's Photoshoots by Harold Lloyd in 1953 (7)

It has been a puzzle to Marilyn fans for many years: the brief video clip where a swimsuit-clad MM, reclining on a poolside lounger, purrs, ‘I hate a careless man.’ It was shot at the home of Harold Lloyd, the silent movie comedian turned cheesecake photographer, in 1953. But little more was known about it. Now Immortal Marilyn‘s April VeVea has found the source of the mystery footage…

“Recently I was going through Marilyn Monroe’s IMDB page under the ‘Archive Footage’ tab. I was surprised to see her listed under a 1995 documentary, narrated by William Shatner, called Trinity and Beyond – The Atomic Bomb Movie. In it, a short 1953 PSA [Public Service Announcement], that was only shown to members of the United States Air Force, called Security is Common Sense is shown at the 47:35 mark. The PSA talks about using common sense measures when dealing with government secrets such as ‘avoiding loose talk, safeguarding top secret information, reporting security violations at once, and avoiding writing about top secret information when writing home.’ At 48:39 who pops up but Marilyn herself to end the PSA!”

Jack Benny: Marilyn’s Funny Valentine

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The great comedian Jack Benny was born on this day in 1894. His 1953 skit with Marilyn – one of her rare television appearances – is reviewed over at CBS today.

“By the mid 1950s, he’d moved on to television, often portraying a most unlikely ladies man … as in this sketch with Marilyn Monroe:

Benny: ‘Marilyn, why did you walk away from me? Why did you want to leave me?’

Monroe: ‘Because I can’t trust myself with you.'”

Celebrating Phil Stern at 95

Photographer Phil Stern, who turned 95 this week, has donated prints of 95 of his iconic shots to the Veterans Home of California, where he is currently a resident, reports Media Bistro. A special celebration and unveiling of the donated prints is scheduled for this weekend.

Marilyn is pictured here at a backstage at a children’s benefit at the Shrine Auditorium in 1953. In another, most pensive photo, she poses with Jack Benny. They had filmed a hilarious sketch for his television show at the same venue in September. Although Marilyn’s expression looks tragic, the photograph may have been staged to present two comedic stars in a different mood.