Martin Landau 1928-2017

Actor Martin Landau has died aged 89. He was born into a Jewish family in Brooklyn in 1928, and worked as a political cartoonist at the New York Daily News before joining the Actors Studio (alongside Steve McQueen) in  1955. His audition piece was a scene from Clifford Odets’ Clash by Night, which had been filmed with a young Marilyn Monroe three years earlier. He became a close friend of fellow student James Dean, and reportedly dated Marilyn for a few months before her 1956 marriage to Arthur Miller.

Landau made his theatrical debut in a touring production of Paddy Chayefsky’s Middle of the Night, starring Edward G. Robinson, in 1957. Marilyn had attended the Broadway premiere in 1956 (before Landau was cast.) Marilyn was offered the lead in the 1959 movie adaptation, but Kim Novak was eventually cast alongside Marilyn’s sister-in-law, Joan Copeland. Landau did not reprise his role, having been spotted by Alfred Hitchcock during a West Coast performance. His first major film was Hitchcock’s classic thriller, North by Northwest.

He went on to appear in Cleopatra and The Greatest Story Ever Told, finally achieving stardom in TV’s Mission Impossible. An established character actor, he also worked as a drama coach and became an executive director of the Actors Studio. After winning a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), Landau was nominated again for Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanours (1989), and at last won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994.)

He continued acting and teaching into his eighties, playing elderly billionaire  J. Howard Marshall in a 2013 biopic of Anna Nicole Smith, the tragic model and reality TV star whose bombshell image  was heavily influenced by Marilyn’s. Landau’s last major film was The Red Maple Leaf (2016), with two more currently awaiting release.

Martin Landau died at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Centre in Westwood, Los Angeles on July 15, after being hospitalised and suffering from complications. He is survived by his former wife and Mission Impossible co-star, Barbara Bain, and their two daughters.

You can read more about his memories of Marilyn here.

Patricia Bosworth Remembers Marilyn

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Patricia Bosworth has written acclaimed biographies of Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and Jane Fonda. A lifelong member of the Actors Studio, she also wrote ‘The Mentor and the Movie Star‘, a 2003 article about Marilyn and the Strasbergs for Vanity Fair, and appeared in the 2006 PBS documentary, Marilyn Monroe: Still Life.

In her new memoir, The Men In My Life: Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan, Bosworth recalls her acting days. In an extract published by Lithub, she describes an encounter with Marilyn.

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“I slid into the backseat, where I found Marilyn Monroe huddled in a corner dreamily puffing on a cigarette. Her bleached blond hair was tousled; she seemed to be wearing no makeup. I noticed there was dirt under her fingernails, but I couldn’t stop looking at her. We were about to pull away from the curb when a voice cried out, ‘Hey Lee, goin’ my way?’ and Harry Belafonte hopped in beside me. We drove uptown in silence.

I knew Marilyn was aware I was looking at her. She was used to being looked at, and she wasn’t self-conscious. She had a mysterious indefinable quality that made her a star and separated her from everyone else. At the moment she appeared to be floating in another world as she puffed delicately on her cigarette and blew the smoke softly out of her mouth. The newspapers were full of stories about her—how she’d left Hollywood and come to New York to be a ‘serious actress,’ how Lee was coaching her at his apartment and letting her observe sessions at the Studio.”

Elsewhere, Bosworth confirms that Tennessee Williams had wanted Marilyn to star in Baby Doll (but Gore Vidal thought she was too old.) Bosworth knew many key figures in Marilyn’s life, including Elia Kazan, Lee and Susan Strasberg – who found her father’s ‘obsession’ with Marilyn disturbing.

As Bosworth admits, Marilyn was part of Lee’s inner circle from which she felt excluded. She was also intimidated by Marilyn’s fame, which nonetheless kept the Actors Studio in the headlines. Lee Strasberg often seemed cold and domineering, but Bosworth considered him ‘a great teacher.’

Bosworth, unlike Marilyn, was born into a life of privilege, and forged a stage career as well as starring alongside Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story. However, her impeccable connections couldn’t save her from family tragedy (her brother and father both committed suicide), and an abusive marriage.

The 1950s, as Bosworth observes, was a staid, even repressive decade – but the creativity and rebellion of the 60s was already fermenting. She talks about the impact of the anti-communist witch-hunts, both on the artistic community and her own family, and the rampant sexism she constantly endured.

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Elizabeth Winder will focus on Marilyn’s New York period directly in her forthcoming book, Marilyn in Manhattan: Her Year of Joy, but Patricia Bosworth’s account comes from her own experience. For anyone interested in learning more about the bohemian world that women like Bosworth – and Marilyn – helped to define, The Men In My Life is essential reading.

Marilyn: A Life On the Stage

Marilyn at the Actors Studio, 1955 (Photo by Roy Schatt)
Marilyn at the Actors Studio, 1955 (Photo by Roy Schatt)

In a thinkpiece for The Conversation, Margaret Hickey – a professor at Australia’s LaTrobe University, which ran an extension course on MM last year – asks an intriguing question: Would Marilyn’s career (and life) have been different if she had acted on stage?

“[The] drawn out Method approach is more conducive to a theatre production (which it was originally designed for) than a busy film set. The intimacy of the method, the focus on self, appealed to Monroe and she threw herself into it.

Much is made of Monroe’s drug addiction and famous lack of punctuality (few consider the similar behaviour of her co-stars and directors). But with the smaller budgets and longer rehearsal time of the theatre productions, she may have been less prone to the crippling anxiety attacks she increasingly suffered from.

Other stars of the era who managed the transition from ‘sex bomb film star’ to stage actor had a very different trajectory to Monroe. Elizabeth Taylor, Jayne Mansfield and Jane Russell, Monroe’s co-star in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, all grew tired of films that focused mainly on their figures and made the switch to stage.

A small role to begin with, an off-Broadway theatre with her Studio classmates, a lengthy rehearsal schedule – it might just have garnered Monroe the respect she craved.”

Marilyn at Julien’s: Notes On Acting

Marilyn on the set for 'Let's Make Love' (Frieda Hull Collection)
Marilyn on the set of ‘Let’s Make Love’ (1960)

Among the many revelations to be found in the new Julien’s catalogue are a series of notes made by Marilyn on her work at the Actors Studio, where she once played Blanche DuBois in a scene from Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.

“A black board notebook with red spine containing lined notebook paper with notes in Monroe’s hand. A very large letter ‘M’ is drawn inside the front and back covers. There are multiple notes written in another hand on the first page of the book, but the next page contains notes in Monroe’s hand in pencil with ideas for a ‘Street Car Scene’ reading in part, ‘begin with ? (1st grade happening Mexican boy accuses me of hurting him – having to stay after school it was nite [sic] outside – have place – concern because of Stan K. accusations plus – getting dress for Mitch trying to look nice especially since what Stan K. has said.’ The note also suggests she hum ‘Whispering while you hover near me,’ which is a song standard found in her notebook of standards in the following lot, only the lyric is ‘Whispering while you cuddle near me.’ The front and back of the last page of the book contain notes from acting class, including ‘during exercise – lee said let the body hang’; ‘2 exercises at one time/ cold & Touch/ one might not be enough for what’s needed’; and ‘sense of oneself/ first thing a child (human being) is aware of (making a circle) touching ones foot knowing himself is separate from the rest of the world,’ among others.”

Leaving the Actors Studio, 1960 (Frieda Hull Collection)
Leaving the Actors Studio, 1960 (Frieda Hull Collection)

Marilyn also studied the role of Lorna Moon in Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy, writing her lines twice to memorise them.

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Also on offer is an undated note which reads in part, “keeping all of the changes of pantomime & grimaces etc inside, then it forces the eyes – it all comes through the eyes”; and “Constantly practicing that letting go/ in which you don’t do in life which isn’t necessary or something/ feeling how it feels and practicing that/your spirit speaks.”

Doris Roberts 1925-2016

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Actress Doris Roberts – perhaps best-known for her role as Marie Barone in the TV sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond – has died in Los Angeles, aged 90.

Born in St Louis, Missouri, Roberts was raised in the Bronx, New York. She began her acting career in the 1950s, appearing on stage and screen.  ‘I was a member of the Actors Studio,’ she said in 2009, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. ‘Marilyn Monroe used to come to class. Martin Balsam was there. Anne Bancroft was there. Geraldine Page.’

Monroe, she said, would sit in the class led by the legendary Lee Strasberg ‘in a coat, with her collar up and a scarf over her head. She would get up and do a scene and she was wonderful. She was a scared little bird.’

‘I used to sit near Marilyn Monroe in the Actor’s Studio,’ Roberts was quoted as saying in a 2003 interview for A&U magazine. ‘I didn’t know who she was then. She’d get dressed up in those [sexy] dresses because that was her identity. Sad. Those cameras wouldn’t leave her alone. She didn’t know where to hide.’

By the 1980s, Roberts  was a respected character actress, and was cast as Mildred Krebs in the popular TV detective series, Remington Steele. In recent years, she was spotted at a number of Marilyn-related events, including a Los Angeles performance of Sunny Thompson’s one-woman show, Marilyn: Forever Blonde in 2012, and at the opening of the Hollywood Museum’s summer exhibit, Marilyn Monroe: Missing Moments in 2015.

Anne Jackson 1925-2016

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Actress Anne Jackson has died at her home in Manhattan aged ninety – less than two years after her husband, Eli Wallach, passed away.  She was born in Millvale, Pennsylvania in 1925. She made her Broadway debut at twenty, and married Eli three years later. They had three children, and collaborated numerous times on stage and screen.

She appeared onstage in Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke in 1948. Then in 1956, she was nominated for a Tony Award for her role in Paddy Chayevsky’s Middle of the Night. The premiere was attended by Marilyn Monroe, who had become a close friend of both Anne and Eli after moving to New York. Marilyn often babysat the couple’s eldest son, Peter, and was a regular at the Actors Studio, where Anne also studied. In 1998, Anne would appear in Mr Peters’ Connections, a play by Marilyn’s third husband, Arthur Miller.

Anne was also a guest star on many popular TV shows, from The Untouchables and Gunsmoke to The Equalizer and ER. She starred in several TV movies, including 84 Charing Cross Road and A Woman Named Golda. She played Dr Nolan in a big-screen adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, and had a cameo role in Stanley Kubrick’s cult shocker, The Shining.

Miller’s Thoughts on Marilyn and More

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As previously reported by ES Updates, Mel Gussow’s Conversations With Arthur Miller is now back in print,  and has been praised by Reviews Hub.

“Talking of the death of Monroe, Gussow asks if Miller believes he could have saved her. It’s not a straightforward answer, one that reflects the complexity of Monroe and those who surrounded her. ‘She was beyond help. It’s a failing in me, no doubt, but also a failing in every other human being she came into contact with, including, as I say, some of the most competent and devoted doctors.’

It’s a frank insight that sheds light on the pair’s destructive relationship but Gussow and Miller extend the conversation to look at the wider issues of fame, teenage thoughts of invincibility and the power of image.”

Burt Reynolds Remembers Marilyn

Burt Reynolds in 1954
Burt Reynolds in 1954

Actor Burt Reynolds – whose autobiography, But Enough About Me, was published late last year – joined The Guardian‘s Hadley Freeman for a live discussion in December. Reynolds, who turns 80 next month, moved to New York from Florida as an aspiring actor in the late 1950s, and repeats a story told by many others, of walking the city streets with an unrecognised Marilyn Monroe, and witnessing her subtle transformation.

You can watch the interview here – Burt mentions Marilyn at 44 minutes in. Incidentally, Reynolds’ former wife, actress Loni Anderson – who starred in TV’s WKRP in Cincinatti and The Jayne Mansfield Story – hosted the opening night of the Hollywood Museum’s exhibition, ‘Marilyn Remembered: An Intimate Look at the Legend‘, back in 2010.

Thanks to All About Marilyn

Marilyn’s ‘Madcap’ Hat Up for Grabs

49916_lgA black velvet floppy hat with upturned brim – belonging to Marilyn, and worn in a photo taken by Roy Schatt at the Actors Studio circa 1955 – is on offer for a starting bid of $20,000 at Nate G. Sanders Auctions this coming Thursday, August 27. The hat label reads, ‘Original Design by Madcaps New York.’ Apart from a tear in the lining, the hat is in good condition. It was originally sold at the Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe auction at Christie’s in 1999.

A cheque for sixty-one dollars, signed by Marilyn to her secretary, May Reis (with ‘Marilyn Monroe Prods.’ written underneath), is also on offer for a starting bid of $2,500. It is dated October 9, 1958 – Marilyn was filming Some Like it Hot at the time.

Sight & Sound: Marilyn’s Method

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Accompanying the ‘Birth of the Method‘ season at London’s BFI – including a screening of Bus Stop in November – the current issue of UK magazine Sight and Sound features an in-depth article about Hollywood’s Method pioneers. If you want to buy a copy, hurry – the next issue will be out in a few days. (A shorter version of the article is available here.)

“But the example of the Method, and the lure of the Actors Studio as a place where actors could go for help, could also have a positive effect on outside actors, as in the example of Marilyn Monroe. Groomed for stardom and inevitably typecast by her studio, Monroe was drawn by the promise of the ‘new’ style of actor training offered at the Actors Studio. Perhaps too eagerly, Strasberg became both surrogate therapist and parent to the troubled actress, but he did help her to hone the talent amply displayed in her early work – her psychotic babysitter in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), her smouldering wife in Niagara (1953.) When she had a good part, as in Bus Stop (1956), playing a no-talent chanteuse longing for love and self-respect, she was deeper and more self-revealing than she had been before.”