Tag Archives: 1956

Gordon Parks: Marilyn on the Flipside

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I AM YOU: Selected Works 1942-1978 is a new book showcasing  the work of American photographer Gordon Parks, published by Steidl. The upper image as shown above, from his little-known 1956 shoot with Marilyn, is included. However, fans will notice that the photo appears to have been flipped, as her famous beauty spot is on the wrong side. As well as his celebrity portraits, Parks was famed for chronicling the civil rights movement, and later as a pioneering black filmmaker. A four-volume boxset, Gordon Parks: Collected Works, was released in 2012.

Marilyn’s Inn Key Sold on Ebay

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A vintage room-key from the Homestead Inn in New Milford, Connecticut, where Marilyn is said to have stayed during her courtship with Arthur Miller, was sold for $131 on Ebay last week, as Barry Lytton reports for the Danbury News-Times.

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“‘We just bought all the keys because people like old hotel keys,”’ said Loretta Kretchko, who co-runs Bob Kretchko Antiques with her husband, Bob. ‘We weren’t thinking Marilyn.’

In 1956, Monroe stayed in the inn while she was dating playwright Arthur Miller, who lived in Roxbury at the time. The two later married.

The Kretchkos purchased the keys two years ago, right before a new owner renovated the inn, Loretta said, and they planned on selling them. Many of the rooms had several sets, which was great for the Kretchkos — more old keys to sell, she said.

‘But this was the only No. 22 key,’ Loretta said. ‘(Monroe) always stayed in 22.’

The Homestead Inn has had its share of famous guests over the years, including Joseph and Rose Kennedy, who stayed in New Milford while their future-president son, John, was an eighth-grader at the Canterbury School.”

Rare Greene Footage Shows Private Marilyn

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Vanity Fair has released footage shot by Milton Greene at Marilyn’s 1956 wedding to Arthur Miller, as well as on the set of Bus Stop and The Prince and the Showgirl, to promote the current Greene exhibit at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in Los Angeles. While most of the footage has been seen before, it is still a rare glimpse behind the scenes of Marilyn’s fabled life.

Ed Pfizenmaier Remembers Marilyn

NPG x40663; Marilyn Monroe by Ed Pfizenmaier

In February 1956, Ed Pfizenmaier assisted Cecil Beaton as he photographed Marilyn at New York’s Ambassador Hotel – and took several memorable shots himself. Pfizenmaier, who has also photographed Katharine Hepburn, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali, had originally hoped to become an artist, but after working as an army photographer during World War II, he decided to set up his own studio in Manhattan. Now living in New Jersey, Pfizenmaier told the West Milford Messenger that Marilyn ‘was no dumb blonde. She knew exactly what she wanted.’

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In 2004, Pfizenmaier was interviewed by Mike Evans, author of The Marilyn Handbook. Here follows a full transcript, courtesy of Alessia at Everlasting Star.

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“Interview with Ed Pfizenmaier
ASSISTANT, CECIL BEATON
New Jersey, February 17, 2004

Early in 1956, the distinguished British society and celebrity photographer, Cecil Beaton, photographed Marilyn in a single session at the Ambassador Hotel in New York. He had a suite there at the time, which he had redecorated himself in what he described as a ‘Japanese Nouveau art manner.’ He had just started doing work for Harper’s Bazaar, and the Marilyn shoot was one of a series that took place in the Hotel on Park Avenue featuring various celebrities who also included Joan Crawford and Maria Callas.
Unlike many photographers today, Beaton used just one assistant, and on his visits to New York this was usually Ed Pfizenmaier, who worked regularly as assistant to the fashion photographer, Horst.

It was called ‘the King photographing the Queen’, or that’s the way it was focused on at the time. Whenever Beaton came to New York, which was periodically, I’d work with him, we’d work out of that site all the time because that’s where he stayed. Cecil decorated the interior, remember he had many attributes, he was a painter, a photographer, an illustrator, set designer, interior designer.

Anyway, suddenly Marilyn shows up with a simple black dress and a white puffy evening type thing, and that was it…and we got to work immediately. And would you believe, she even did her own make-up which most people, they can’t believe it nowadays…but remember we’re talking 50 years ago and things have changed radically. But she came just by herself, with these 2 little dresses and…it was as simple as that.

Contrary to what everyone says that she was difficult and hard to work with, I found her just a delight to work with, not difficult at all – I don’t know where people come from – we just had a magnificent time. You have to attribute it to Beaton because he was the master, but she loved to be photographed…you could feel it, you could see it with her.

And she was smart enough to know about the value of publicity, and what it means, and to be photographed by Beaton especially, was basically what it was all about.

I loved her sexuality, the glamour of it all, it was just fabulous. I thought Beaton’s English with mesmerized her totally…and she was just like a purring she-lion under those lights. In those days we had tungsten lights…today it’s all popping strobes and everything, but in those days we had 10, 000 watt bulbs, shining off the ceiling, which made a big difference to what it’s like today.

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Beaton later described the session in his memoirs:
‘She romps, she squeals with delight, she leaps on the sofa. She puts a flower stem in her mouth, puffing on a daisy as thought it were a cigarette. It is an artless, impromptu, high-spirited performance. It will probably end in tears.’

The description ‘artless’ could be taken as meaning unpretentious, without airs or graces.

I couldn’t agree more. I don’t know if it was one of her better days, or a good day or what, you know you hear so many bad reports, the sensationalism, but I certainly didn’t experience any of that. And I think the photographs, Beaton’s photographs, show it, that’s the proof of the pudding. When you look at them, everyone remarks she looks so happy, gay, healthy, and everything…I think that is what Beaton brought out of her. She was totally relaxed all the time.”

Marilyn in London: Brian Seed’s View

UK3510_LAURENCE_OLIVIER, MARILYN_MONROE_ARTHUR_MILLERThis photograph of a determined-looking Marilyn, arriving at the Comedy Theatre for the London premiere of husband Arthur Miller’s play, A View From the Bridge, in October 1956 – watched by a wanly smiling Sir Laurence Olivier, with whom she was filming The Prince and the Showgirl – was taken by Brian Seed, an Englishman who worked for Life magazine during the 1950s and 60s. A selection of his work is published today on the Time-Life website.

Unpublished at the time, Brian Seed’s photos of Marilyn are now in demand. In 2013, Brian – who now lives in Illinois – was interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘That Marilyn Monroe was a really smart cookie,’ he recalled. ‘Look at this picture — she’s looking directly at me, because she knows I’m likely the only photographer in there who’s working for a magazine, and that the photo that would result would not be used in one day’s paper and then gone forever.’

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Immortal Marilyn in January

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After raising $405 for the Animal Haven charity with their ‘Flowers for Marilyn‘ Christmas appeal, Immortal Marilyn have started 2015 in style with updates to their website, including a 1956 article from Anything Goes magazine, about Marilyn’s calendar shoot with Tom Kelley; two new drawings from Bruno Doucin; and from me, an expanded profile of Pat Newcomb (which you can also read here.)

Marilyn and Arthur’s Westchester Wedding

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Westchester Magazine‘s Tom Schreck tackles a reader’s question about the wedding of Marilyn and Arthur Miller, who was then a Westchester County resident.

“The couple didn’t actually get married in Arthur Miller’s home—Miller lived in Connecticut. And, not unlike the rest of Norma Jeane’s life, the story is a little complicated.

According to biographer Randy Taraborrelli, Marilyn found out about Miller’s intention to marry her during his testimony in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (which, if you ask me, isn’t the most romantic way to propose marriage). [Actually, Arthur made the announcement to reporters outside the courthouse – not during the hearing – ES Updates.] Miller mentioned he was planning a production in England and he was going to travel with a woman he hoped to soon make his wife. That was news to the former Mrs. DiMaggio—and she wasn’t thrilled that it was broadcast without her permission.

On June 29, 1956, the couple held a press conference to announce their engagement just after a member of the paparazzi following them was killed in a car crash. Monroe was distraught over the tragedy, but that night the couple traveled to the White Plains courthouse and were married by a justice of the peace in a service that lasted less than four minutes. Two days later, a Jewish ceremony was planned at the home of Miller’s agent, Kay Brown, in Waccabuc.

Brown lived at what is now 122 East Ridge Road. About 25 guests attended the secluded and unannounced service.”

 

Colin Wilson 1931-2013

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Colin Wilson, the British author whose first novel, The Outsider, was published to acclaim in 1956, has died aged 82, reports The Guardian. Initially feted as a major literary discovery, Wilson failed to repeat his early success, but published over a hundred books. He also met Marilyn Monroe in London during filming of The Prince and the Showgirl, as retold on the excellent Nickel in the Machine blog.

“On the 12th October 1956 on his way home from another party (at Faber with TS Eliot in attendance no less), and apparently worse the wear from champagne, Wilson noticed huge crowds outside the Comedy Theatre situated just off the Haymarket. Intrigued he asked the taxi driver to drop him off and he managed to make his way through the thronging crowds to the stage door.

The huge crowds were there to see Marilyn Monroe who was currently in London to appear in a film version of Terrence Rattigan’s play The Sleeping Prince – the film that eventually became The Prince and the Showgirl directed and co-starring Lawrence Olivier.

Marilyn and her husband Arthur Miller had arrived in Britain three months previously in July 1956. The couple had just gone through a tumultuous few weeks. Not only had they just got married the month before but Miller had appeared, three years after his play The Crucible had first been staged, in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee accused of communist sympathies.

Miller had been subpoenaed after applying for a passport to accompany his new wife to London. He refused, in front of the committee, to inform on his friends and fellow writers, and was cited for contempt of Congress – the trial for which would take place the following year.

Monroe, against a lot of advice, had publicly supported Miller through these hearings but generally there was huge worldwide support for the acclaimed playwright. Wary of hurting American credibility around the world, the State Department ignored the committee’s advice and issued Miller with a passport enabling him to accompany his wife to London.

While Marilyn was filming with Lawrence Oliver at Pinewood, Miller decided to put on a rewritten version of his latest play called View From The Bridge to be directed by Peter Brook. The crowds that intrigued Colin Wilson enough to stop his car to investigate, were surrounding The Comedy Theatre in Panton Street hoping to catch a glance of Marilyn Monroe who had come for the premiere of her husband’s play.

Arthur Miller was actually no fan of the ‘trivial, voguish theatre’ of the West End, considering it, not entirely unfairly at the time, as ‘slanted to please the upper middle class’. When the auditions started for View From A Bridge in London he asked the director Peter Brook why all the actors had such cut-glass accents. ‘Doesn’t a grocer’s son ever want to become an actor?’ he asked. Brook replied, ‘These are all grocer’s sons.’

Ironically at the end of the auditions a Rugby-educated lawyer’s son called Anthony Quayle came closest to portraying a working-class American accent and he was chosen to play the main part of Eddie the New York docker.

Luckily Colin Wilson had recently become a slight acquaintance of Anthony Quayle and after pushing through the crowds surrounding the stage-door he used Quayle’s name to be allowed to the party back-stage. He soon saw Marilyn standing alone in front of a mirror where she was trying to pull up a, very beautiful, but tight strapless dress. Wilson noted that, despite her best efforts, the dress ‘was slipping down towards her nipples’. Not wasting the chance of a lifetime, he went to introduce himself – ‘I had been told she was bookish’, he once remembered .

According to Wilson there was a definite ‘connection’ with Marilyn and she actually grasped his hand as they made their way through the throng to their waiting cars.

A gossip columnist buttonholed Wilson before he left the party and asked what he was doing there. Wilson said that he had spent the evening hoping to talk to TS Eliot and ended up meeting Marilyn Monroe.

The next morning the columnist duly wrote about the young author meeting Marilyn at the premiere adding that Wilson, while there, had been asked to write a play for Olivier.”

The Millers arrive at the Comedy Theatre
The Millers arrive at the Comedy Theatre

Michelle Morgan interviewed Wilson for her 2012 biography, Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed, detailing a second encounter between Wilson and MM:

“On 18 November, during a last public appearance in England, the Millers attended an intellectual discussion at the Royal Court Theatre. The event was supposed to be dedicated to the state of British drama, but was quickly transformed into a war of words between authors Colin Wilson and Wolf Mankowitz. The two members had opposing views on most subjects, leaving the other members of the discussion panel, Arthur Miller, Kenneth Tynan and Benn Levy, lost for words. Sitting on the fourth row and dressed demurely in a black suit, Mrs Miller looked tired but calm as the discussion took place on stage. Wolf Mankowitz remembered that there was a great deal of excitement when Marilyn entered the building, as once again there were rumours abounding that the star was pregnant. He recalled that there was a lot of fuss in order to find her a seat, and many people were ‘running around as if she were about to have a baby on the spot.’

Having been brought in to discuss great British drama, Mankowitz was disappointed to discover that Marilyn’s presence destroyed the point of the occasion, as the audience was far more interested in trying to see her, and Arthur Miller seemed so preoccupied that he could hardly concentrate on the discussion at all. Still, Mankowitz managed to say a few words to Marilyn at the end of the discussion, although he remembered she wasn’t too communicative – something he put down to the rumoured pregnancy.

Colin Wilson also remembered meeting Marilyn in the backstage of the theatre, after the discussion had ended. By this time the crowds had become huge outside, so Wilson found himself helping the Millers make their escape by the back door, and recalled Marilyn grabbing his hand during the ensuing escape.”

Marilyn at the Royal Court Theatre
Marilyn at the Royal Court Theatre

Los Angeles, 1956: Marilyn Returns

Photo by Leigh Wiener
Photo by Leigh Wiener

The Los Angeles Times has posted a vintage report from February 25, 1956 – the day after Marilyn flew back to her hometown after a year’s absence, ready to film Bus Stop. (The picture was taken at Los Angeles International Airport – or LAX – by Leigh Wiener, better-known for his photographs of MM’s funeral six years later.)

“Actress Marilyn Monroe flew into town last night and brought activities at International Airport to a standstill.

As she stepped from an American Airlines flagship, hundreds of airport workers streamed out on the flight ramp to catch a glimpse of the glamorous film star.

Scores of newspapers, magazine, television and newsreel cameramen crowded around the New York to Los Angeles plane which arrived one hour and 45 minutes late due to headwinds…”

 

Immortal Marilyn in August

Photo by Scott Fortner

Flowers were delivered to Marilyn’s crypt today by members of Immortal Marilyn (see above.) Over on the fansite, this month’s updates include Fraser’s review of Carl Rollyson‘s A Life of the Actress; my article about Marilyn’s hero, Abraham Lincoln; and a 1956 Movieland article, ‘Is Marilyn Monroe Too Pampered For Her Own Good?’