Moon of Baroda Recasts Spell in Marilyn’s Hollywood

The legendary Moon of Baroda diamond – valued by its current owner at between $500,000 and $750,000 – is now on display at Christie’s in Los Angeles until October 20, and will be auctioned in Hong Kong on November 27 alongside a signed photo of Marilyn wearing it, as Jordan Riefe writes for the Hollywood Reporter.

“‘It’s gorgeous,’ said Marilyn Monroe when first gazing upon the Moon of Baroda; not a heavenly body to match her own, but a diamond, a rare 24.04-carat canary yellow gem pulled from the legendary Golconda mine, outside Hyderabad, in 16th-century India.

Monroe was on a publicity tour for her breakout 1953 comedy Gentleman Prefer Blondes with its unforgettable song, ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ when the Moon of Baroda became her best friend, on loan from Meyer Jewelry Company in Detroit.

Meyer Rosenbaum loaned it to the legendary actor for publicity purposes surrounding Howard Hawks’ classic comedy, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, co-starring Jane Russell, and photos of Monroe wearing it went viral.

What won’t add to its price is a rumored curse alleging that if the gem travels overseas, bad luck will come to its owner. Its 19th century stint in Austria ended with the death of Maria Theresa, and others claim that Monroe’s fortunes took a southward turn after wearing it in 1953, when Gentlemen Prefer Blondes launched her to stardom.”

Marilyn’s Detour in the Coca Cola Archive

Ted Ryan, official historian for Coca Cola, has been showing The Mirror‘s Emily Setter around the company archive in Atlanta, Georgia. Of particular interest was this rare photo of Marilyn…

“Lolling on a sun lounger in a Coca-Cola red swimsuit and sky-high glass stilettos strapped on with red ribbons, Marilyn Monroe looks the real thing. America’s brightest star fizzed as she posed for a glamorous advertisement for America’s coolest drink in these never seen before images from 1953. Incredibly, for a reason now lost in the mists of time, Marilyn’s sizzling Coke campaign never saw the light of day. Until now.

‘Why wouldn’t you want one of the hottest celebs in the world agreeing to appear with your product?’ laughs Ted Ryan. ‘Why was she not used? The ad was being done on spec, but it was never accepted by the company. We just don’t know why.’

Coca-Cola only learned of the candid behind-the-scenes shots by celebrity photographer Harold Lloyd last year after they were found in, of all places, the archives of NASA.  Naturally, Coke snapped them up, and is today letting the Mirror publish them for the first time.”

However, this is not the full story, as ES Updates has previously revealed. Marilyn was actually filming a PSA for the US Air Force (not NASA) at Greenacres, the Beverly Hills estate of former silent comedian Harold Lloyd, whose own glamour shots were published in the 1992 book, 3-D Hollywood.

“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.

Studio contract stars like Marilyn were routinely asked to endorse products, although she would do so less frequently in later years … 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.”

‘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!”