The films of Billy Wilder were the subject of a day-long seminar at Hillsdale College in Michigan last week, as reported in the Hillsdale Daily News.
“The final seminar focused on the life and legacy of Director Billy Wilder, 1906-2002. Addressing a gathering of students and community guests were editor Anthony Slide; film producer and author Alain Silver; author Daniel M. Kimmel; film critic Leonard Maltin; and faculty members Daniel B. Coupland, James M. Brandon, Justin A. Jackson and Paul Moreno.
Speaking on another aspect of Wilder’s genius on March 20 was Daniel M. Kimmel, film critic and author of I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind the Scenes of the Great Romantic Comedies. Kimmel spoke on the comedies of Wilder, especially the hit film Some Like It Hot.
Kimmel said that, while this comedy was certainly one of Wilder’s best films, Wilder’s greatest achievement was the variety of his works: ‘What is fascinating about Wilder to me is that he excelled at both comedy and drama,’ said Kimmel. ‘One will find instances of his sardonic humor in all of his films.’
Kimmel noted how disguise, a major theme in many Wilder themes, is particularly used in Some Like It Hot as a tool for character development. ‘Both Jerry and Joe get to explore other aspects of their personalities, indeed the opposite of who they ordinarily are by donning drag,’ Kimmel said. ‘When they finally revert to their male identities at the end of the film, they are different people as a result.'”
Projecting Marilyn is a course created by Mary Wild, to be held over three evenings in April at the Freud Museum in London. Marilyn was a great admirer of Freud, and to this day a portion of her estate still benefits the Anna Freud Children’s Centre, also in London. Looking at different stages of her career and with clips from her movies, Projecting Marilyn considers ‘the creation of Marilyn Monroe’s onscreen persona, and the psychological underpinnings that shaped not only how she projected herself, but also the ways in which film audiences continue to respond to her.’
A lecture given this week by the British-based academic Griselda Pollock at the CaixiForum in Madrid, Spain has generated a buzz on social media. Beginning a series taking a closer look at the artist-muse relationship, Pollock focused on Marilyn’s relationship with Arthur Miller, as Paula Lindom reports for Classical & Modern. (Any errors in translation are mine…)
“‘What united this couple? Or, what destroyed them?’ Pollock asked the audience. ‘And what were the influences that each one had in the career of the other – did Monroe become Miller’s sinister muse? Or was Miller the monster that killed Monroe? Had Monroe killed Miller’s talent in some way? What influence did Miller have on Monroe’s creative life and life? To what extent did Monroe use Miller for her own creative work?'”
Pollock is also quoted in an article for the Turkey Telegraph. (The wording was a little hard to follow, so I have edited it slightly.)
“Griselda Pollock highlights many biographies of the iconic actress in which, however, ‘there is very little analysis of her work. How did a white woman, uneducated and abused, become a star like one she was? Why was Andy Warhol crying at her death? Why did Elton John identify with her? Why did Madonna forge her image in Monroe’s likeness?’
Of Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller, Pollock remarks, ‘What a patriarchal mythology: genius and muse. The classical opposition between activity and passivity, desire and object of desire, creativity and inspiration. A different language is needed.’
‘She was given vapid comedy scripts remembered only because of her genius before the camera,’ Pollock adds. ‘She was intelligent, inquisitive and politically engaged; passionate and desperately ambitious to understand the art of acting. Miller did not inspire her; he was obsessed with her. I think they were both flawed geniuses.'”
Following the ‘Exhibiting Culture: Marilyn‘ program at LaTrobe University which accompanied the Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon exhibit at MAMA Albury in Australia earlier this year, a Marilyn Monroe Symposium will be held at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne on November 12, with biographer Lois Banner as keynote speaker.
This Symposium creates a further outcome for the research undertaken by ten La Trobe University academics in preparation for Exhibiting Culture: Marilyn. Our interdisciplinary approach to the topic of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic status is unique. The intention of this Symposium is to go beyond nostalgia and offer a genuinely contemporary perspective on performance, celebrity and artistic response, as well as to make Marilyn provocative for us in our times.
Session 1: Keynote Address 9.30-11.00am The Cube, ACMI
Speaker: Professor Lois Banner
Morning tea: 11.00 – 11.30 am
Session 2: Matters of Performance 11.30am-1.00pm The Cube, ACMI
Felicity Collins; Margaret Hickey; Nicole Jenkins; Sofia Ahlberg
Lunch: 1.00 – 2.00 pm
Session 3: Image, Identity, Icon 2.00-3.30pm, The Cube, ACMI
Speakers: Sue Gillett, Kristian Haggblom, Terrie Waddell, Kevin Brianton
Afternoon tea: 3.30 – 4.00 pm
Session 4: Property, Power, Profession 4.00-5.30pm The Cube, ACMI
Tansy Curtin; Francine Rochford; Edgar Burns
Some recent academic titles, focusing on Marilyn among other stars of old Hollywood, caught my eye recently. Ed Clark’s photo of Marilyn and Jane Russell on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes graces the cover of Kirsten Pullen’s Like a Natural Woman: Spectacular Female Performance in Classical Hollywood(2014.) The same image was recently used in an ad campaign for Coke. In her introduction, Pullen discusses a characterisation of Marilyn’s that is generally overlooked: that of the ambitious showgirl, Vicky Parker, in There’s No Business Like Show Business.
“The paintings in this show, put together by an American exhibitions agency, are a strange mixture of minor works by well-known artists, and major pieces by lesser-known practitioners from Europe and America. There is, for instance, a suite of sketches by Richard Lindner, along with prints by Eduardo Paolozzi, Arnulf Rainer, Robert Indiana and Mimmo Rotella. These are the artists I’d call ‘well-known’, but none of them has one iota of Warhol’s public profile. MAMA has also added a couple of paintings by Australia’s most prolific Pop artist, Richard Larter.
The best part of the show – in terms of both quality and quantity – are the photographs, taken by figures such as Cecil Beaton, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ernst Haas, Eve Arnold, Alfred Eisenstadt and Bert Stern (although not, alas, Richard Avedon, who produced one of the greatest portraits). It’s a study in contrasts, with Beaton’s work being as ornate as a Baroque sculpture, while Cartier-Bresson captures Monroe in an introspective mood on the set of The Misfits.”
The show also includes a program of supplementary events, including a series of public lectures, a screening of Some Like it Hot, and day trips to Bendigo Art Gallery, where another Marilyn exhibit opens in March.
“Taught by Dr Sue Gillett, the subject will explore the wider context of the era in which Marilyn Monroe was created.
Dr Gillett said she was interested in women’s roles in cinema and especially exploring the historical context Monroe fits in.
Despite the strong role models in cinema during the forties, with the likes of Katherine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall, Dr Gillett said Monroe came into her stardom in the post-war fifties when there was a push to get women back into the homes after their active role in the war years.
Musical comedy became the genre Monroe was typecast in, and excelled at, even though her aspirations were to become a serious actress.
It was this ‘bind’ that Monroe was in that Dr Gillett said she was interested in exploring.
‘It’s almost like she performed her way into a trap,’ she said.
Her life story was then refashioned by the studio publicists into the American Dream, according to Dr Gillett, which became effective in establishing her as an icon.
Contracted to Fox Studios at a time when actors were controlled by their studios, Monroe struggled to gain some independence and have control over her choice of movies.
Although she had some input into crafting her own image she was working within a system that was very much a men’s club, according to Dr Gillett.
‘She was both a victim but she wasn’t without power.'”