Marilyn’s Letter to Lee On Auction

A letter from Marilyn to Lee Strasberg will be sold online during the Classic Hollywood sale at RR Auctions this Thursday, May 23. While Marilyn talks frankly about her emotional problems and disappointments in life, she also proposed an ambitious plan for her future career. Sadly, her goals would never be realised as she passed away just eight months after the letter was written. It is dated 19 December, 1961, and like other letters from her final years, it was typed (probably by a secretary), and was previously published in the 2010 book, Fragments. Coming from her estate (along with all her personal possessions, 75% was passed on to Lee after she died), it is the first time the letter has gone up for auction with an estimate of $20,000. Further details, including a full transcript, are also available here.

“This is an important personal letter and please don’t start to read it until you have the time to give it your careful thought. This letter concerns my future plans and therefore concerns yours as well since my future development as an artist is based on our working together. All this is an introduction; let me outline the recent events, my ideas and my suggestions.

As you know, for years I have been struggling to find some emotional security with little success, for many different reasons. Only in the last several months, as you detected, do I seem to have made a modest beginning. It is true that my treatment with Dr. Greenson has had its ups and downs, as you know. However, my overall progress is such that I have hopes of finally establishing a piece of ground for myself to stand on, instead of the quicksand I have always been in. But Dr. Greenson agrees with you, that for me to live decently and productively, I must work! And work means not merely performing professionally, but to study and truly devote myself. My work is the only trustworthy hope I have. And here, Lee, is where you come in. To me, work and Lee Strasberg are synonymous. I do not want to be presumptuous in expecting you to come out here for me alone. I have contacted Marlon on this subject and he seems to be quite interested, despite the fact that he is in the process of finishing a movie. I shall talk with him more thoroughly in a day or two.

Furthermore, and this must be kept confidential for the time being, my attorneys and I are planning to set up and [sic] independent production unit, in which we have envisaged an important position for you. This is still in the formative phase, but I am thinking of you in some consultative position or in whatever way you might see fit. I know you will want enough freedom to pursue your teaching and any other private interests you might want to follow.

Though I am committed to my analysis, as painful as it is, I cannot definitively decide, until I hear from you, because without working with you only half of me is functioning. Therefore, I must know under what condition you might consider coming out here and even settling here.

I know this might sound quite fantastic, but if you add up all the possible advantages it should be quite a rewarding venture. I mean not only for Marlon and me—but for others. This independent production unit will also be making pictures without me—this is even required for legal reasons. This will offer an opportunity for Susan if she should be interested and perhaps even for Johnny. And Paula would have a great many opportunities for coaching. As for you, Lee, I still have the dream of you some day directing me in a film! I know this is a big step to take, but I have the wish that you might realize out here some of the incomplete hopes that were perhaps not fulfilled for you, like Lincoln Center, etc.

So I don’t know how else to persuade you. I need you to study with and I am not alone in this. I want to do everything in my power to get you to come out—within reason—as long as it is to your advantage as well as mine. So, Lee, please think this over carefully; this is an awfully important time of my life and since you mentioned on the phone that you too felt things were unsettled, I have dared to hope. I have meetings set up with Marlon and also with my attorneys and will phone you if there are any important new developments. Otherwise, please get in touch with me.”

Also on offer, the 1952-53 editions of Who’s Who in Hollywood, autographed by a multitude of stars, are a treasure trove for movie buffs. Marilyn is listed in the category ‘Super Stars: The Younger Set.’ (EDIT: unsold)

The lamp seen in the restaurant scene from How To Marry a Millionaire (here, with Alex D’Arcy) was used as a prop in other Fox movies, including The Girl Can’t Help It, starring that other fifties blonde, Jayne Mansfield. (EDIT: Unsold)

Small piece of card signed ‘To Joe’, with affixed cutout photo of Marilyn (EDIT: Final price
$2,625.000 )
Photo of Marilyn, signed by Joe DiMaggio (EDIT: Final price
$2,756,25 )
Black velvet belt owned by Marilyn, possibly worn in As Young As You Feel (1951) EDIT: Final price
$7,837.50
Book owned by Marilyn, seen on her bookcase in this 1952 photo (EDIT: Final price
$7, 730.000 )

A number of original photos are also on sale…

Photos from the Hollywood Foreign Correspondents luncheon, 1951 (EDIT: Unsold)
As Cherie in ‘Bus Stop’, 1956 (EDIT: Final price $250.00)
Diptych photo by Eve Arnold, 1960 (EDIT: Final price
$722.50 )
On the same Eve Arnold shoot, with hairdresser Agnes Flanagan (EDIT: Final price
$596.25 )

Marilyn’s Letter to Greenson in the ‘Enquirer’

Thanks to A Passion for Marilyn

Marilyn’s 1961 letter to Dr Ralph Greenson, written while she was recuperating in New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital after a period of depression led to a brief and terrifying stay in the psychiatric ward at Payne Whitney, is the subject of an article in this week’s National Enquirer. Author Mark Bego, who has written biographies of Madonna and others, brought the letter to the magazine’s attention.

Unusually for the Enquirer, the story is fairly accurate, if sensationalised – and not, as they claim, a ‘blockbuster exclusive’. The letter was first published in its entirety by Donald Spoto in 1992, and is also featured in Fragments, the 2010 collection of Marilyn’s personal writings. (You can also read it on the Letters of Note blog.)

You can find the Enquirer article in the latest issue, dated January 28 (with Lisa Marie Presley on the cover.) However, as noted by All About Marilyn today, the same article also appears in the current issue of the National Examiner (with Betty White on the cover), although the Examiner is currently available in the US only.

Marilyn and Joe at the Tides Motel

Gary Vitacco-Robles, author of Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, has posted the first installment of an in-depth, 2-part article about Marilyn’s March 1961 holiday with ex-husband Joe DiMaggio in Florida – focusing on the complex love story behind their stay at the Tides Motel – on his Tampa Bay Author blog today.

“When DiMaggio and Marilyn reconnected during the Christmas holidays of 1960, following her separation from playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn felt validated by DiMaggio’s insightful comment that, after progressing in therapy, he realized he would have divorced a man like himself, had he been in her shoes.

DiMaggio deeply loved Marilyn, and  her attraction to him remained strong. ‘Marilyn knew where she stood with him,’ publicist Lois Weber Smith said. ‘He was always there, she could call on him, lean on him, depend on him, be certain of him. It was a marvelous feeling of comfort for her.’

In late march, Marilyn and DiMaggio escaped the hectic pace of their public and professional lives and the cold of New York and together traveled to Tampa Bay’s Suncoast … The couple registered in separate guest rooms across from each other in the main building of the exclusive Tides Resort & Bath Club on the Gulf of Mexico … Eventually, the resort’s management relocated the famous couple to the rooftop for more private sunbathing … In the evenings, the couple dined intimately at the Wine House Restaurant, later the Wine Cellar, on Gulf Boulevard, located next to the Zebra Lounge.”

On This Day: Marilyn Leaves the Polyclinic

On July 11, 1961 (fifty-seven years ago today), Marilyn left New York’s Polyclinic Hospital after undergoing gallbladder removal surgery on June 29. The Associated Press reported her as saying she felt wonderful, adding that although she was “almost crushed” by the awaiting crowd, she “appeared to enjoy the commotion.” However, while Marilyn certainly did smile for the cameras, news footage shows her looking delicate and frightened by the frenzied mob surrounding her. She would spend several weeks recovering at home with half-sister Berniece Miracle.

Marilyn and Avedon: Something Personal

This photo of Marilyn chatting with photographer Richard Avedon at a 1961 Actors Studio benefit at New York’s Roseland Ballroom is published in Avedon: Something Personal, a new biography by Norma Stevens and Steven M.L. Aronson. Marilyn is mentioned in the introduction, where Norma Stevens describes her first meeting with Avedon. A photo of Marilyn and Avedon, taken by Sam Shaw in 1954, is also featured. It’s unclear whether the book includes any further material on their iconic collaborations, but this preview looks very promising.

And as a bonus, here’s the Roseland photo in colour…

Dr Ramon Acosta Pastor 1929-2016

Marilyn leaving the New York Polyclinic with Dr Ramon Acosta Pastor after gallbladder surgery in 1961. (Photo collage by Fraser Penney)
Marilyn besieged by fans as she leaves hospital  with Dr Pastor in 1961. (Photo collage by Fraser Penney)

Dr Ramon Acosta Pastor, a surgeon who treated patients including Marilyn during a long, distinguished career, has died aged 86, as Edmund Silvestre reports for the Philippine Star.

“MANILA, Philippines – Dr. Ramon Acosta Pastor, one of the surgeons who operated on Marilyn Monroe at a New York City hospital in 1961, passed away on Oct. 5 in his native Batangas City in the Philippines. He was 86.

He became closely acquainted with the late Hollywood icon when she underwent cholecystectomy (gallbladder surgery) on June 29, 1961 at the defunct Polyclinic Hospital in Manhattan and which was widely covered by the media. It was Dr. John Hammet, one of New York’s top surgeons, who led the surgical team.

Dr. Pastor’s photo beside Monroe appeared in several news publications, including the front page of The New York Times, wherein he is seen shielding Monroe from a mob of fans and members of the press while leaving the hospital after she was discharged on July 11, 1961.

That chaotic moment, the star of Some Like It Hot said in an interview, was the time she most feared for her safety.

‘It was scary. I felt for a few minutes as if they were just going to take pieces out of me. Actually, it made me feel a little sick. I mean I appreciated the concern and their affection and all that, but — I don’t know — it was a little like a nightmare. I wasn’t sure I was going to get into the car safely and get away.’

Dr. Pastor managed to walk Monroe into her limo unscathed. He hopped with her into the car and stayed by her side until she reached home.

The famed actress and sex symbol was reportedly complaining of pain from an intestinal disorder when she was rushed to the hospital from her apartment at 444 East 57th Street in Manhattan.

According to a New York Mirror story, Monroe awoke in distress in the morning of June 28, 1961, prompting her secretary, May Reis, to call her primary physician at Polyclinic. After diagnosis, the doctor decided her condition warranted immediate hospitalization. She was carried to the ambulance on a stretcher, with [ex] husband Joe DiMaggio joining her in the ambulance.

Dr. Pastor’s elder brother, Antonio, who was staying with him in New York City at the time, related that Dr. Pastor told him he took care of Monroe for two weeks after the surgery, personally attending to all her medical needs.

‘Marilyn Monroe instructed him not to accept any visitors while she’s recuperating, except Joe DiMaggio,’ said Antonio, recalling a conversation he had with his younger brother.

Still in the hospital on the Fourth of July, Monroe complained of the noise coming from fireworks, Antonio said, adding, ‘Dr. Pastor said he gave her the best possible solution — putting cotton in her ears.’

It was the fifth time that Monroe was hospitalized in just 10 months, according to reports.

The three-inch horizontal scar in the upper quadrant of Monroe’s abdomen as a result of the surgery was visible in the photos taken by lensman Bert Stern for the book The Last Sitting, commissioned by Vogue magazine in late June 1962, just six weeks before Monroe died.

‘Ramon was a very gifted doctor and he was very proud of having the honor of operating on Marilyn Monroe,’ said an old-time friend, Dr. Rebecca Magbag, a New York geriatrician, who is also a native of the Philippines. ‘But he was also very humble that he really didn’t talk much about it.’

‘He’s a very nice and warm guy, very handsome, very charming, compassionate with his patients and treated everyone equally,’ Dr. Magbag also said. ‘As an eligible bachelor at the time, a lot of women were swooning over him.’

Born on Nov. 23, 1929 in Batangas City to Dr. Juan Pastor and Concha Acosta Pastor, Dr. Ramon was a 1955 medical graduate of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. He took his internship at Yonkers General Hospital in New York and finished his training in general surgery at New York Polyclinic Medical School and Hospital, in which he served as chief resident during his last year of training.

He became a diplomate of the American Board of Surgery, but decided to turn his back on a lucrative medical career in the United States and returned home a year later to better serve the underprivileged in his small town in Batangas City.”

Kirkland Exhibit in Perth, Australia

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Douglas Kirkland’s touring exhibit, Icons and Idols, features four images from his 1961 photo shoot with Marilyn among 22 shots spanning his long career. It is on display until November 13 at There Is, a gallery in the Northbridge district of Perth, Australia. In an interview with Perth Now, Kirkland reflected on his life as a celebrity photographer.

“He says the entertainment industry has changed ‘like night and day’ from the beginning of his career.

‘This is a different, a vastly different star system today,’ Kirkland says. ‘Social media and the internet have produced more celebrities than at the beginning of my career and I’ve been doing this since the beginning of the ’60s.’

‘People like Elizabeth Taylor and Monroe were the giants then. Today you can only think of Angelina Jolie and another 20 or 30 with staying power but they are not as big as, say, Elizabeth was or Marilyn.’

‘Now, business is money driven, but the access to celebrities is much more limited and controlled. The people who work with stars want to say where they will be and when the photo will be used.'”

Speaking with Australian Vogue, Kirkland reflected on how his images of Marilyn have become iconic since they were taken 55 years ago.

What was it like to photograph Marilyn?

It was thrilling, frightening and exhilarating. I was very young and frankly I wondered if I was in over my head. The session was charged with sexual energy and the results all went into the camera, as the images can tell.

Were you expecting the reaction to the photograph that it received?

Actually the reaction to the Marilyn Monroe photographs came much later. I had no idea at the time that these would become some of my most iconic and sought after images.

Elizabeth Taylor, however, was the one who was instrumental in establishing my career as a celebrity photographer. I looked into her violet eyes and said to her ‘I am new with this magazine, could you imagine what it would mean to me if you gave me an opportunity to photograph you?’ She thought for a moment and nodded as said ‘Come tomorrow night at 7’oclock’.

She had not been seen for a while and the images from the cover session for Look magazine in 1961 went worldwide and catapulted my career.”

Love and Loss: Marilyn and Frank

sinatra 100

100 Years Sinatra: The Legend and the Voice, a large, glossy UK magazine special celebrating Frank Sinatra’s centenary, includes a two-page spread about his romance with MM, written by Glenn Dunks and featuring a rare photo of Marilyn attending a Sinatra concert at Las Vegas nightspot The Sands in 1961, which appears to show Elizabeth Taylor in the background. Available now at WH Smith.

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Sammy, Marilyn and May Britt

This rare photo of Marilyn with actress May Britt is published in a new book, Sammy Davis Jr.: A Personal Journey With My Father, by Tracey Davis and Nina Bunche Pierce.

Swedish-born actress May Britt married Sammy Davis Jr in 1959. They were one of America’s first high-profile interracial couples, at a time when their union was still illegal in 31 states. May also converted to Judaism prior to their marriage, which ended in 1968. She now lives in California with her third husband, and is a gifted painter.

She was pregnant with daughter Tracey when this photo was taken at Frank Sinatra’s home in 1961. The lensman may have been Sammy himself, as he had photographed Marilyn, formally and candidly, on many previous occasions.

“Mom became an overnight sensation on film posters and magazine covers galore after she won the part in The Blue Angel. The film was a remake of the 1930 classic of the same that had made Marlene Dietrich a star. The part had previously been slated for no less a star than Marilyn Monroe. Mom said there was never any tension between her and Marilyn. She said, ‘Years later we were houseguests at Sinatra’s place. Marilyn, like me, was shy. Neither of us were the life of the party. I was pregnant with you at the time, and Marilyn and I had our picture taken together. Later it became quite a famous shot.’ “

Marilyn and May can also be seen among the ‘Rat Pack’ in another series of photos, taken by Bernie Abramson during the same period.

Marilyn with Peter Lawford and Frank Sinatra, 1961 (May Britt at right)

Carson, Marilyn, and the ‘Clock Without Hands’

Marilyn and Carson McCullers, 1959

The novelist Carson McCullers became friendly with Marilyn in 1955, while they were both living at New York’s Gladstone Hotel. Four years later, they were reunited for a literary luncheon with Marilyn’s husband, Arthur Miller, and the Danish author, Isak Dinesen.

Carson’s final novel, Clock Without Hands, was published in 1961. Like most of her work, it is set in her native South. Even more than her earlier books, Clock Without Hands deals with racism and bigotry, at a time when America’s Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum.

While reading, I was interested to find a reference to Marilyn in the first paragraph of Chapter 11 – a passage about Jester Clane, a teenage boy who disagrees with his grandfather’s prejudiced attitudes. Marilyn appears to him in a dream.

(Marilyn owned one of Carson’s novels, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. I wonder if she knew that she was mentioned in another?)

“Who am I? What am I? Where am I going? Those questions, the ghosts that haunt the adolescent heart, were finally answered for Jester. The uneasy dreams about Grown Boy, which had left him guilty and confused, no longer bothered him. And gone were the dreams of saving Sherman from a mob and losing his own life while Sherman looked on, broken with grief. Gone also were the dreams of saving Marilyn Monroe from an avalanche in Switzerland and riding through a hero’s ticker tape in New York. That had been an interesting daydream, but after all, saving Marilyn Monroe was no career. He had saved so many people and died so many hero’s deaths. His dreams were always in foreign countries. Never in Milan, never in Georgia, but always in Switzerland or Bali or someplace. But now his dreams had strangely shifted. Both night dreams and daydreams. Night after night he dreamed of his father. And having found his father he was able to find himself. He was his father’s son and he was going to be a lawyer. Once the bewilderment of too many choices was cleared away, Jester felt happy and free.”