Was 1955 Hollywood’s Greatest Year?

As another year draws to a close, the Washington Post‘s critics are debuting what was the greatest year for movies.  For Scott Tobias, it’s 1955: and while he doesn’t mention The Seven Year Itch, it was one of the year’s biggest hits – and a shining example of the Cinemascope era.

“In the story of world cinema, the 1950s may seem like a transitional decade between Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’ and the more troubled, revolutionary visions of the French New Wave or the American film-brat renaissance of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. But it was an extraordinarily vibrant moment, steeped in post-war cynicism and emotional intensity as well as the eye-catching showmanship of VistaVision, Technicolor and CinemaScope. And no year crystallized these developments quite like 1955 … Above all, 1955 stands out for bright, expressive colors, when filmmakers took advantage of film stocks and processes that could render emotion with visual pop … There was no fuller year to be a moviegoer.”

Marilyn’s ‘Love ‘n’ Desire’ for Heritage Auctions

This original photo of Marilyn facing the paparazzi with Milton Greene at Madison Square Garden in March 1955 (on the night she rode a pink elephant for charity at the Ringling Brothers circus) is going up for sale on November 3rd, as part of Heritage Auctions‘ Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Signatures event. The verso is marked ‘MM-56’, and dated September ’55; stamped twice, with the magazine title TV and Movie Screen, and a credit for the Neal Peters Collection, plus a caption: ‘Love ‘n’ Desire?’

Also on offer is a set of documents related to Some Like It Hot, including legal permission for real machine guns to be used in the movie; and the December 2005 issue of Playboy, featuring Marilyn on the cover, and signed by founder Hugh Hefner.

UPDATE: The Hefner-signed Playboy reached a final bid of $3,500; the photo of Marilyn at the circus sold for $209; and the Some Like It Hot papers raised  $79.

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 and Miguel Ferrer

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Miguel Ferrer, the accomplished character actor whose many screen credits include Robocop and Twin Peaks, died last week aged 61, The Guardian reports.

He was born on February 7, 1955 to singer Rosemary Clooney and her husband, actor Jose Ferrer. Among his impeccable Hollywood connections (his cousin is George Clooney), Miguel enjoyed an early  encounter with Marilyn Monroe which reveals a great deal about her love of children.

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In her 1999 autobiography, Girl Singer, Rosemary recalled throwing a party at her New York home in the winter of 1955, shortly after Miguel was born. Film director John Huston came with Marilyn, who had recently moved to the city. Rosemary had only met her once before, but Marilyn immediately asked if she could see the baby. Without even brushing the snow off her fur coat, Marilyn headed upstairs to the nursery. About an hour later, Huston asked Rosemary, ‘What the hell’s she doing up there?’ She replied that Marilyn was ‘playing with the baby.’

Before his death, Miguel reprised his role as the gruff FBI forensic pathologist, Albert Rosenfeld, in the forthcoming new series of Twin Peaks. He is not the only cast member with a connection to Marilyn, as her Bus Stop co-star Don Murray will also be making a cameo appearance.

Fact Check: Marilyn, Joe and the Baseball Hall of Fame

Joe DiMaggio’s induction at the Baseball Hall of Fame (1955)

As many fans will know, Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio remained close long after their brief, stormy marriage came to an abrupt end. However, as David Mikkelson points out in an article for myth-busting website Snopes, even museums get their facts wrong sometimes.

“Several years ago I finally undertook a long-awaited pilgrimage to that mecca of sportsdom, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum founded in Cooperstown, N.Y., by Stephen Carlton Clark. Like so many fans before me, I spent a couple of days scrutinizing every exhibit, photograph, document, and other pieces of memorabilia on display at the museum, and then … wondered what the heck else there was to do in Cooperstown. And again like so many fans before me, I ended up at the second-best-known attraction in town, the nearby Farmers’ Museum.

The proprietor’s spiel was to recount a brief history of Stephen Carlton Clark’s role in the establishment of the Hall of Fame and the Farmers’ Museum, and to note that after founding the former, Clark lived in New York City and didn’t return to Cooperstown for the yearly induction ceremonies — save for one exception. That exception was the year Joe Dimaggio was inducted to the Hall, an occasion for which, the proprietor declared, Clark returned to Cooperstown ‘in order to meet Dimaggio’s wife, Marilyn Monroe.’

I immediately recognized a chronological problem with that account: Joe Dimaggio was inducted into the Hall of Fame on 22 July 1955, but he and Marilyn Monroe had separated, with the former filing for divorce, in October 1954. Although the pair remained on relatively friendly terms afterwards, Monroe wasn’t present at the July 1955 induction that welcomed the Yankee Clipper into baseball’s hallowed halls.

On that day Joltin’ Joe was accompanied not by a glamorous starlet, but by a Yankees official … Photographs and newsreel footage of the event also reveal no evidence of the Blonde Bombshell’s presence in Cooperstown that day … For the record, no contemporaneous accounts of the ceremonies mentioned the presence of Clark in Cooperstown that day, either.”

Marilyn and the Bennington Boys

In May 1954, the USS Bennington exploded while cruising near Rhode Island, killing 103 crewmen and injuring 201 others. It was rebuilt in New York, and on May 31, 1955, Marilyn attended a party celebrating its return in the Grand Ballroom of the Astor Hotel. In a 2013 article for Reminisce magazine, Paul Lazzaro recalled his stint as the ship’s PR man.

“Because of the recent tragedy and the publicity surrounding the Bennington’s party, Marilyn accepted our 8 p.m. invitation. But due to her busy schedule, she didn’t show up at the event until around 11 p.m., when the party was in full swing and thousands of sailors were celebrating.

The ballroom nearly turned into a riot zone when Marilyn walked out onstage wearing a clingy black satin dress with a white ermine cape draped over her shoulders. As sailors rushed the stage, Marilyn’s press agent said, ‘We’re getting out of here!’

Backstage, I realized that I had my first real public relations crisis on my hands. Here was the world’s hottest new movie star, and she was going to pop in and right out again. I knew I had to save the night.

‘Can we get a picture of you kissing a sailor good night?’ I asked Marilyn.

She looked at me and with that breathy voice and those luscious lips said, ‘Why, certainly!’

‘OK, I need a sailor for a picture!’ I shouted. Nobody moved. They were all too in awe of this beautiful blonde to say a word.

A Marine stepped up right next to Marilyn and asked, ‘How about a Marine?’

‘Well, OK,’ I said, ‘but I want a sailor, too.’ Again, nobody in the room moved.

‘How about you?’ Marilyn whispered to me.

‘Oh, OK!’ I responded in my most professional manner, my voice cracking a bit. The three of us huddled together as the newspaper and military photographers’ flashbulbs popped. When Marilyn departed, she planted a full-fledged movie star kiss on the Marine’s cheek and on mine.

The next day, our picture appeared on page 3 of the New York Mirror with the headline ‘It’s a Sailor’s Life and It Ain’t Bad.’ Full credits were given to both the USS Bennington and the U.S Navy. I was quickly promoted to journalist second class and have been doing public relations ever since.”

You can read more about Marilyn’s Bennington encounters here.

Thanks to Johann

Marilyn’s ‘Madcap’ Hat Up for Grabs

A black velvet floppy hat with upturned brim – belonging to Marilyn, and worn in a photo taken by Roy Schatt at the Actors Studio circa 1955 – is on offer for a starting bid of $20,000 at Nate G. Sanders Auctions this coming Thursday, August 27. The hat label reads, ‘Original Design by Madcaps New York.’ Apart from a tear in the lining, the hat is in good condition. It was originally sold at the Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe auction at Christie’s in 1999.

A cheque for sixty-one dollars, signed by Marilyn to her secretary, May Reis (with ‘Marilyn Monroe Prods.’ written underneath), is also on offer for a starting bid of $2,500. It is dated October 9, 1958 – Marilyn was filming Some Like it Hot at the time.

Remembering Marilyn in Bement

marilyn visits Bryant Cottage, 1955 (Photo by Eve Arnold)

On August 6, 1955 – almost 61 years ago – Marilyn visited Bryant Cottage in Bement, Illinois, where her idol, Abraham Lincoln, had stayed while debating slavery with Senator Stephen Douglas in 1858.  The anniversary of her visit will soon be commemorated, according to Illinois.gov:

“Bement will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Monroe’s visit with a photo exhibit and a display of Marilyn memorabilia.

The free photo exhibit at Bryant Cottage State Historic Site runs Aug. 6-9.
 
On Aug. 8, the owners of the home where Monroe stayed during her visit will open the house for tours and display their extensive memorabilia from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The home is at 101 E. Wing Street, and the memorabilia display will be at Salon 101, located at 101 N. Macon Street.
 
Monroe, a Lincoln fan, visited Bement on Aug. 7, 1955, for the town’s centennial. Thousands of people turned out to watch as she shook hands, visited a nursing home and judged a beard contest. She also visited Bryant Cottage and gave a short speech about Lincoln.”
From LIFE Magazine, 1955
Meanwhile, the Peoria Journal-Star shares some details of how Marilyn’s visit was received in Bement:

“It’s the movie that hasn’t been made yet and Peorian Jack Mertes has the story for the screenplay.

It was 60 years ago when Marilyn Monroe visited Bement, a small town located between Champaign and Decatur.

It was a media moment — Marilyn, fresh from The Seven Year Itch, was at the height of her powers and the classic set-up: when big-time celebrity visits small-town America.

Mertes wrote about the visit in 1985 at the time of the 30th anniversary. He visited the town and interviewed some of the people who helped organize the star’s visit. He spoke with townspeople who remembered that day.

‘There were people everywhere…I don’t think Bement has ever had so many people in it,’ said Jessie Morgan of Monticello. ‘The Lord sure gave her looks,’ said Selby Clark.

Mertes also captures some of the press coverage of the visit. The Monroe appearance in Bement which made the cover of Life magazine, drew plenty of comments. [Actually, it didn’t make the cover of Life, though an article was published with photos by Eve Arnold, who accompanied Marilyn on the trip. She devoted a whole chapter to Bement in her 1987 book, Marilyn Monroe: An Appreciation.]

The Decatur paper referred to her as an ‘atomic blonde’ while William Groninger of the Champaign-Urbana Courier noted, ‘It’s pretty difficult to assess the exact welcome the luscious blonde was given, but even without a decibel meter we will agree to hysterical.’

Let’s not forget the Bement Register that described Monroe as ‘the movie actress who made walking more than a means of locomotion.'”