While she may not have achieved the pinnacle of stardom, Claire Trevor was that Hollywood rarity: a beautiful blonde who broke the mould and became an acclaimed character actress. She began her career at Fox in the 1930s, and like Marilyn after her, was frustrated by Darryl F. Zanuck’s indifference to her talent. She fared better at other studios, and played her first great role in John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939.) She went on to star in Farewell My Lovely (1944), and would win an Oscar for her outstanding performance in Key Largo (1948.)
By the 1950s, Claire was still working steadily in film, stage and television, and had found lasting happiness in her third marriage, to producer Milton H. Bren. As author Derek Sculthorpe reveals in his new biography, Claire Trevor: Queen of Film Noir, she was aware of the pressures faced by younger stars.
“At the same time, she talked more frequently about retirement. ‘What’s all this about, anyway?’ she asked. ‘The fame is nonsense – I’ve found that out – and I’ve been to all the parties I want to go to and had the social chi-chi. I can’t take it anymore.’ She expressed concern over some young actresses such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor and the physical and emotional effects the filmmaking business was having on them. She wondered why Monroe became ill whenever she made a film. ‘Is it exhausted nerves or a bronchial condition?'”
In 1963, Claire played Richard Beymer’s mother in The Stripper, adapted from William Inge’s play, A Loss of Roses. As Sculthorpe points out, the script had originally been earmarked for Marilyn in 1961, under the title Celebration. Costume designer Travilla had drawn up sketches for Marilyn’s character before she ultimately declined, committing instead to Something’s Got to Give.
“Joanne Woodward is a marvellous actress who did well wearing a platinum blonde wig looking for all the world like Marilyn Monroe. It was no surprise that the part was intended for Marilyn Monroe, which would have put the film in a different league. Monroe would have been a natural to convey the little girl lost at the heart of the piece, but died a short time before filming began. The male lead was offered to Pat Boone, who turned it down on moral grounds. Warren Beatty was also offered the role and he too declined. The part of the mother was offered first to Jo Van Fleet, who turned it down, after which it was given to Trevor.”
John Gilmore, author of Inside Marilyn Monroe, has died aged 81. Like Marilyn, he was born in the charity ward of Los Angeles County General Hospital, and spent time in Hollygrove, the orphan’s home where she had stayed a few years earlier. After serving an apprenticeship as a child actor, Gilmore became a contract player at Twentieth Century Fox. In 1953, he was introduced to Marilyn by actor John Hodiak, who lived nearby her apartment complex.
Eight years later, Gilmore was up for a part in Marilyn’s next movie, an adaptation of William Inge’s play, A Loss of Roses (renamed as Celebration.) The project was shelved, and would finally be made after Marilyn’s death, starring Joanne Woodward as The Stripper.
After penning a series of pulp novels, Gilmore turned his hand to true crime, publishing books about Elizabeth Short (aka The Black Dahlia) and the Manson Family. He also wrote memoirs, detailing his encounters with James Dean and many others.
Inside Marilyn Monroe (2007) grew from the story of his acquaintanceship with Marilyn to a full-scale biography. Gilmore interviewed many Hollywood insiders who had not spoken about Marilyn before, and created a nuanced psychological portrait, while debunking some of the fantasists who have profited from her legacy.
Gilmore was a member of Marilyn Remembered, and spoke fondly of her at the annual memorial services at Westwood. His final book was On the Run With Bonnie and Clyde (2013.)
This year’s William Inge Theatre Festival – marking the centenary of playwright – will feature a staging of perhaps his most enduringly popular work, Bus Stop, at Independence Community College, Kansas, starring actress Sarah Shaefer as Cherie, reports the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise.
In his 2003 book, The Bad and the Beautiful: Hollywood in the Fifties, Sam Kashner wrote, ‘[Inge] also struck up a friendship with Marilyn Monroe, who was drawn to [his] intelligence and creativity. The fact that he was not interested in her sexually also seemed to give their relationship a kind of tenderness it might have lacked otherwise. Inge and Monroe would occasionally be linked in the media during the mid-1950s, but their interest in each other was purely platonic.’
In his 2007 book, Inside Marilyn Monroe, John Gilmore notes that Marilyn considered starring in Inge’s A Loss of Roses, but ultimately decided on the ill-fated Something’s Got to Give instead. (Gilmore was up for a role in the project, renamed Celebration. Costume designer Travilla had even drawn up sketches for Marilyn’s character.) Inge’s project was eventually filmed with Joanne Woodward, under a rather less poetic title – The Stripper.
John Gilmore, author of Inside Marilyn Monroe, has written a lovely tribute to Marilyn on her birthday.
“Fans rejoice that her beaming spirit so divinely captured through the magic screen has filled the years immeasurably. The wonder of her sparkling achievements lives with us, the Marilyn the world knows and loves, and carries in their hearts; not as a lost soul careening in the constellations, but like the spirit of Mozart seizing us through his music, or Van Gogh pulling us into his dazzling, pulsing paint, right to the other side of the mirror. No magician on earth can weave a more spectacular spell than what Marilyn bestowed of her radiance, her gentleness, and a profound, vibrant humanity. She never has to hide again. She is everywhere in the world.”
Read Gilmore’s essay ‘SHE’, in full at The Damned Interviews