Sixty years ago today, Marilyn and her Gentlemen Prefer Blondes co-star, Jane Russell, were immortalised in true Hollywood fashion: by dipping their hands and feet in cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Jennifer Jean Miller looks back at this event over at Inside Scene L.A.
In December 1946, Marilyn – who had changed her name just a few months before – appeared on a Rose Bowl float in Los Angeles, promoting the Alan Young Radio Show. The Northumberland-born actor and broadcaster dated Monroe twice, as he first told the Saracota Herald-Tribune in 1953.
Alan Young, now 92, is best known as Wilbur Post in the 1960s TV sitcom, Mister Ed. He spoke fondly about Marilyn to biographer Michelle Morgan, and his memories featured in her 2007 book, Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed.
A new interview with Young is published today in Scotland’s Daily Record:
“I dated her when she was very young, about 17 (actually, she was 20). I had just come out to California.
I have a picture on my wall with Marilyn Monroe where I’m playing the bagpipes and she is blowing the chanter.
I went out with her twice and she was such a lovely young lady. I met her again several years later but I didn’t know who she was from her name.
Someone said to me, ‘How long have you known Marilyn Monroe?’ I said I knew her as Norma Jean Dougherty. She did some publicity shots with me.
She was exactly the same person – so naive and really sweet. That’s why she landed in so much trouble later on because she trusted everybody. That was a real shame.”’
The Hollywood Reporter takes a look back at the history of the Hollywood Bowl:
“Comedian Danny Thomas (with Marilyn Monroe) hosted a September 1953 concert at the Bowl to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Monroe was the evening’s main attraction and performed a song from ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’.”
Some accounts suggest that the benefit actually took place in July, not September of 1953. Unfortunately, no audio or movie footage has resurfaced as yet, though Marilyn was widely photographed at the event, by Bruno Bernard and others.
She wore her orange dress from the dining room scene in Blondes. Co-stars Jane Russell, and Robert Mitchum (River of No Return) also attended.
George Forrester, who worked as a security guard for Marilyn that night, spoke to Hollister Freelance News in 2007:
“Forrester was a 22-year-old college student in Los Angeles when he worked a temp job in 1953 at the Hollywood Bowl where comedian Danny Thomas hosted a huge fundraising event for his St. Jude Children’s Hospital charity. Forrester was hired to man the stage entrance for the show. He saw a parade of famous film celebrities pass through, and the biggest star of all was Marilyn Monroe, the main attraction of the evening. Everyone waited anxiously for midnight when the movie goddess would end the show by performing songs from her hit film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’.
Fate somehow maneuvered George Forrester to literally bumped into Monroe. He had gone backstage to get a Coke to drink. When he turned around, he accidentally collided into the actress and spilt his soda on the star’s tangerine-colored skin-tight dress.
‘She was able to brush it all off,’ Forrester told me in a phone chat the other day as we discussed the differences between Monroe and Smith. ‘Her bodyguard grabbed me by the neck and lifted me into the air. It was Marilyn who said, “Sam, put him down. Put him down.” ‘
After Sam had set Forrester back on the ground, Marilyn tried to comfort the young man. ‘She made me feel comfortable because she saw that I was shook up,’ he recalls. ‘She apologized for (Sam’s behavior) and we sat down.’
Although this was a big night where Marilyn was the focus of everyone’s interest, the actress focused her own attention on Forrester. She asked him about his life plans and he told her he was a senior in college majoring in drama and minoring in pre-dental. He told her about his ambitions to be a big-shot actor. Perhaps all too wary of the ways of the motion picture business, she advised him to stick to pre-dental.
Perhaps this very down-to-earth conversation with Forrester helped shield Monroe’s mind from the overwhelming media hype she had to face that night. ‘I have a feeling she kept me with her because everyone was trying to get a photo-shoot with her or talk to her,’ Forrester said. ‘She looked at me, her eyes looked in my face constantly when we were talking, which always makes you feel good.’ “
According to biographers, Marilyn’s debut at the Hollywood Bowl occurred much earlier, when as a child she appeared in a religious pageant. She also briefly lived with her mother in a bungalow at Arbol Drive, close to the Hollywood Bowl (the house was later demolished.)
“There were just three of us in the studio that night – Marilyn, Tom Kelley and myself. As Marilyn stretched out on the red velvet floor throw, I could hear Tom gasp. Dressed, her cheap clothes had hidden some of her beauty. Now she was a revelation.
Besides, this wasn’t just a beauty – this was a girl with an instinct for drama and showmanship. Her lips parted provocatively, her body was arched and magnificent. There was a catlike grace about her and she fell into natural poses without our having to direct her.”
Natalie Kelley Grasco, speaking in Movie Star Parade, July 1953. Full interview at Everlasting Star – thanks to April