Arnold Newman’s ‘Environmental’ Marilyn

Photographer Arnold Newman, who died in 2006, was known as the ‘father of the environmental portrait’, although according to the New York Times, he hated that title: “He was not interested in the details of his subject’s surroundings, but the symbols he could create with them.” In 1962, he photographed Marilyn dancing and chatting with her poet friend Carl Sandburg during a party at the Beverly Hills home of Something’s Got to Give producer Henry Weinstein. Dressed casually with minimal make-up, Marilyn appears thin and rather fragile. The photo shown above is featured in Arnold Newman: One Hundred, published last year to celebrate what would have been his centenary,

Newman was one of many notable photographers who appeared in Marilyn Monroe: Still Life, a 2006 documentary for PBS:

“He says it’s the real Marilyn, you know? It really is this portrait shot of her, cut out of a two shot of her talking to Carl Sandburg. I had looked at those pictures many times, and never seen that the portrait was actually just a cropped version of this photograph. So already the eye of the photographer is present, just in being able to see what he has in his own picture. And I said to him, ‘God, look at that. Carl Sandburg is just listening to her,’ and he said, ‘No, she was just pouring her heart out, she was miserable.’ He did that photograph in March of ’62 and she was dead by August of ’62. She was already very troubled, very sad. So the whole circumstance of the photograph was one that you didn’t necessarily know when first looking at it. “

Gail Levin, filmmaker

Cléo, Meet Marilyn (From 5 to 7)

In a tribute to filmmaker Agnès Varda, who died last week aged 90, Genna Rivieccio notes on her Culled Culture blog the parallels between Marilyn’s life and the tragic young heroine faced with a cancer diagnosis played by Corinne Marchand in Cléo From 5 to 7, the movie released just a few months before  Marilyn’s death, and which helped to launch the French New Wave.

“Although Cléo is beautiful and has a relatively successful singing career, the dark shadow potentially case by the reaper above her won’t go away, nor is it remedied by seeing a fortune teller at the outset of the movie, one who confirms all her worst fears about waiting for some potentially fatal test results from her doctor.

Distraught at first over the reading, Cléo insists to herself that ‘as long as I’m beautiful, I’m alive,’ because ‘ugliness is a kind of death’ so how can she be suffering from it if she’s not aesthetically hideous? Even so, she is aware that if she is dying, it’s only the inside that will matter now–not from a personality or ‘good person’ standpoint, but in terms of it affecting whether or not her demise is imminent. To that former notion, however, Cléo suddenly becomes hyperconscious of the vacuity of her life. Buying hats, lounging around, cursing men. What does it all mean? And what can she do to go on preserving that vacuous little life? Thus, she tells her maid, Angèle (Dominique Davray) that she’ll kill herself if it turns out to be cancer. Angèle does little to comfort her, noting that ‘men hate illness’ and that Cléo ought not to wear a new hat on Tuesday as it’s bad luck.

So, too, did Cléo, a singer who bemoans wanting to project more poignant lyrics but then grows filled with melancholy as she sings a new composition filled with too much death imagery to bear. She wants to remain as she always has been in order to survive, to feel somewhat happy: at the surface of things. Unfortunately, like Marilyn Monroe before her, the woman endlessly preoccupied with her image and looks ends up driving any potential for real and meaningful love away. And as we all know, especially Narcissus, a reflection can’t reciprocate anything, nor love or hate you as much as you do it. Cléo’s childlike [im]maturity, is, in fact, directly related to her self-obsession. In being faced with the reality that her death is imminent, however, she is forced to come to grips with certain truths both about herself and existence that she never would have otherwise.”

PS: And if you should doubt Marilyn’s influence on the nouvelle vague, this photo taken by George Barris just weeks before her death is glimpsed briefly  in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a 1964 musical directed by Varda’s husband, Jacques Demy, and starring lifelong MM fan Catherine Deneuve. (According to IMDB, the film is set in 1957 which makes it a goof.) And in Demy’s 1963 film Bay of Angels, Jeanne Moreau donned a Monroesque blonde wig to play an unhappy divorcee (not unlike Roslyn in The Misfits) who becomes addicted to gambling.

Letters From Marilyn in Los Angeles

Dear Los Angeles: Letters and Diaries 1542-2017, edited by David Kipen, is a new anthology featuring two missives from Marilyn herself among its assorted diary entries and correspondence. The first – dated February 2nd, 1962 – is extracted from a letter to her stepson, Bobby Miller, recounting her meeting with the Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy during a dinner party at Peter Lawford’s home. (You can read it in full by clicking on the images below.)

The second – which she wrote just over two weeks later, on February 17 – is a brief note to the German Consul, Mr. Volkmar von Fuehlsdorff.

Marilyn was also mentioned by director Elia Kazan (her friend and former lover) in a tongue-in-cheek letter dated July 27, 1955. It’s unclear who Kazan was addressing, but his words are clearly in jest (Marilyn was in New York at the time.)

Mathilde Krim 1926-2018

Dr Mathilde Krim, a pioneering geneticist and campaigner for AIDS research, has died aged 91, the New York Times reports.

Born in Italy, she studied in Geneva and worked in Israel before moving to New York. In 1958 she married entertainment lawyer Arthur B. Krim, head of United Artists (the independent studio that produced Some Like It Hot and The Misfits.)

John F. Kennedy chats with comedian Jimmy Durante at a party in the Krims’ apartment on the president’s 45th birthday, May 19 1962. (Mathilde Krim is standing behind them)

On May 19, 1962, the Krims hosted a party at their home on East 69th Street for performers and selected guests from President John F. Kennedy’s 45th birthday gala – including JFK and brother Bobby, Maria Callas, Jack Benny, Shirley MacLaine and Marilyn.

Marilyn and other guests listen to Diahann Carroll singing at the Krims’ apartment

During the 1960s, the Krims supported the civil rights movement, enlisting celebrities to the cause. They also campaigned for independence in Rhodesia and South Africa, gay rights and other civil liberties. Arthur Krim died in 1994.

In 1985, Mathilde formed the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmfAR), with actress Elizabeth Taylor as International Chairwoman. Among their many successful programs are the promotion of needle exchanges, and encouraging condom use and other safe sex practices.

Mathilde was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton in 2000, and in 2014, AmfAR hosted a Marilyn-themed Cinema Against AIDS gala at the Cannes Film Festival.

Switched On: Marilyn in the Sixties

This photo of Marilyn boarding a Pan-Am flight to Mexico City at Miami International Airport on February 21, 1962 is published in a new book, Switched On: Women Who Revolutionised Style in the 60s, by David Wills, author of MM: Metamorphosis and Marilyn in the Flash.

“MM’s personal style loosened up in the last months of her life, as she played a wife and mother for the first time in the aborted Something’s Got to Give. Now paler, blonder and more refined – her features and body transformed by an extreme weight loss – she resembled a beautiful ghost. Marilyn indulged her fondness for Pucci prints, Jax slacks, and Ferragamo high-heel mules, perhaps sensing in her new home life – in the first home she ever owned – a saner existence within reach. This was not to be: a Hollywood legendary was made tragically eternal instead.”

Here are some more photos from the same day, including one of Marilyn kissing goodbye to Joe DiMaggio.

Marilyn will also feature in Wills’ next book, Hollywood Beach Beauties: Sea Sirens, Sun Goddesses, and Summer Style 1930-1970, due for release in June 2018.

Hollywood Beach Beauties highlights the sexy, carefree attitude of the summer, the elegant seaside couture, and the enchanting and alluring beauty of the female form. Included here are candid and stylish photographs featuring stars of yesterday such as Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Sharon Tate, Raquel Welch, Sophia Loren, Dorothy Dandridge, and Nancy Sinatra.”

Documentary Rehashes Marilyn UFO Rumour

Marilyn by Bert Stern, 1962

Unacknowleged, a new documentary about UFOs written and directed by Michael Mazzola, rehashes a very old rumour: that the Kennedys ordered Marilyn’s death because she threatened to tell the secrets she knew about an alleged UFO incident at Roswell, New Mexico. You can view a clip here.

This 2011 article by Nick Redfern for the Mysterious Universe website sums up an outlandish, and (in my opinion) highly improbable conspiracy theory.

“By far the most controversial piece of unauthenticated documentation pertaining to UFOs concerns none other than the late Hollywood legend, Marilyn Monroe. It was during a press conference in 1995 that Milo Speriglio – an investigative author now deceased, who wrote three books on Monroe’s death: The Marilyn Conspiracy; Marilyn Monroe: Murder Cover-Up; and Crypt 33: The Saga of Marilyn Monroe – revealed the document to the world’s press.

Incredibly, according to the document, which surfaced via a California-based researcher of UFOs named Timothy Cooper, President John F. Kennedy had guardedly informed Monroe that he had secret knowledge of the controversial incident at Roswell, New Mexico in July 1947. As a result of Kennedy’s revelations to Monroe, the CIA took keen note of any and all developments as the story progressed. Or, at least, that is what we are led to believe, and what the document implies.

The bulk of the contents of the document are focused upon telephone conversations between Howard Rothberg, the former owner of a New York-based antique store, and Dorothy Kilgallen, the well-known celebrity gossip columnist of the 1950s and 1960s, who was herself the subject of a secret 167-page FBI file.

According to Speriglio: ‘[Rothberg] also dealt with a lot of photographers who used to film Marilyn. He got a lot of information about her from them, and he would feed it to Dorothy Kilgallen.’ Interestingly, Speriglio also revealed that the document was the subject of an investigation that was being undertaken by no less than ‘two federal agencies.’ To date, however, the names of those specific agencies have not been revealed.

When the document surfaced, Vicki Ecker, then the editor of UFO Magazine, said: ‘To put it succinctly, the document suggests that on the day she died, Monroe was going to hold her own press conference, where she was planning to spill the beans about, amongst other things, JFK’s secret knowledge of UFOs and dead aliens.’

Indeed, the document, ominously dated only two days before Monroe’s controversial death on August 5, 1962, tells the whole, remarkable story. Notably, at the top of the page it clearly states: ‘References: MOON DUST, Project’ (which was a genuine U.S. operation designed to capture, understand, and exploit overseas advanced technologies, such as Soviet spy-satellites.)

But, with all that said, where are things at today with respect to this most curious and extremely controversial document? Well, Tim Cooper left the UFO scene years ago, and has utterly washed his hands of the document – as well as many other questionable documents on crashed UFOs that he secured from Deep Throat-type sources in the 1990s.

And the CIA? The Agency officially denies having any files, at all, on the Hollywood hotty – despite the ironic fact that the very first document in the FBI’s ‘Monroe File’ was copied to the CIA! As for the players in the saga, they’re all gone to their graves.”

Marilyn (and Dorothy) at the Plaza

One of Marilyn’s favourite New York hangouts was the Plaza Hotel, where in February 1956, she held a press conference with Sir Laurence Olivier – and, much to his amazement, chaos erupted when the strap on his co-star’s dress broke!

John F. Doscher, a bartender (or ‘mixologist’) at the Plaza during the fifties, remembers Marilyn and other stars in his new book, The Back of the Housereports Hernando Today.

“Take for instance his va-va-va voom encounter with Marilyn Monroe. The starlet stayed at the hotel numerous times.

Doscher said he was awestruck by the entourage of photographers, hair stylists and makeup artists accompanying Miss Monroe each time she came in.

‘They were from Life, Look and Photoplay magazines, all there for photo opps, he said, early paparazzis, you know?’

One day Monroe was having a late breakfast in what was the Edwardian Room and sitting by the window overlooking Central Park South. A few tables away with her back to Monroe sat Plaza-regular New York newspaper columnist, Dorothy Kilgallen.

Working the bar that day in the Edwardian, Doscher mentioned to Kilgallen that Monroe was sitting by the window. Kilgallen, he said, ‘Let out a “harrumph” and said, ‘Yes. I saw her. She looks like an unmade bed.’

‘Apparently, there was some animosity there,’ Doscher observed. ‘I mean, Marilyn Monroe has been described many ways in her lifetime, but never the description Kilgallen offered.'”

Dorothy Kilgallen was a syndicated newspaper columnist. In 1952, she reported that journalist Robert Slatzer was a rival to Joe DiMaggio for Marilyn’s affections. (Slatzer has since become a notorious figure in Monroe history, and biographer Donald Spoto considers him a fraud.)

After Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was released in 1953, a sceptical Kilgallen wrote to Darryl F. Zanuck, asking him to confirm that Marilyn’s singing was her own voice, which he did.

Needless to say, none of this endeared her to Marilyn, and in his essay, A Beautiful Child, Truman Capote wrote that MM had described Kilgallen as a drunk who hated her.

Kilgallen lived near the summer house where Marilyn and Arthur Miller stayed in 1957. In 1960, she was photographed with Marilyn at a press conference for Let’s Make Love.

Just days before Marilyn died, Kilgallen alluded to the star’s affair with a prominent man in her column. In the following weeks, she tried to investigate the circumstances behind Monroe’s death – particularly her alleged links to the Kennedy brothers.

In 1965, 53 year-old Kilgallen was found dead in her New York apartment, having overdosed on alcohol and barbiturates, and also having possibly suffered a heart attack.

However, some conspiracy theorists think Kilgallen was murdered, because of her critical comments about the US government.