Marilyn, Bruce Dern and ‘Wild River’

At 83, Bruce Dern is one of Hollywood’s most enduring character actors, with a career spanning almost 60 years. In 2013, he spoke about meeting Marilyn at the Actors Studio, and her advice that success would come to him in later life (see here.) Now in an interview for the New York Post, Dern describes a conversation with Marilyn before he made his big-screen debut in 1960; and while his recollection probably isn’t verbatim – I doubt she used the word ‘wunderkind’, or that she would have made cutting remarks about her husband with a passing acquaintance – it does shed light on a film Marilyn almost made with Dern (and her fragility certainly rings true. )

“I’m sitting in the back row my second day at the Actors Studio, and just before the session starts, this woman comes in with a yellow babushka over her head and sits down next to me.

‘You’re Gadge’s new wunderkind,’ she says — Gadge was Mr. [Elia] Kazan’s nickname. ‘The movie you’re gonna do, Wild River, I was gonna do — but I have to do this dumb movie my husband wrote, so they gave it to Lee Remick.’

Marilyn’s husband was Arthur Miller, the movie she was doing was The Misfits, and the star was Clark f - - king Gable. ‘What if he doesn’t like me?’ she asked. ‘He’s the biggest star that ever lived!’

She was as fragile as anyone I’ve ever seen in show business.”

Wild River was a Twentieth Century Fox production, directed by Elia Kazan and starring Montgomery Clift as an official from the Tennessee Valley Authority who tries to persuade an old woman to give up her home to build a hydroelectric dam on her land. He also becomes involved with her granddaughter Ella (Remick.) Bruce Dern played a small, uncredited role as a TVA agent (see inset, below.)

Marilyn was indeed committed to The Misfits, but it was Kazan who chose Lee Remick to play the lead – perhaps because sensing that his past relationship with Marilyn, and his falling out with Miller would cause conflict. Wild River was a good film, but a less glamorous role than Marilyn usually played, and arguably more suited to Remick.

Marilyn was still contracted to Fox, although she hadn’t worked there since 1956. After losing Wild River, she starred in the lightweight musical, Let’s Make Love, at Fox instead, before making The Misfits independently. Whatever her misgivings, The Misfits was probably a better fit for Marilyn than Wild River, and she finally got to co-star with her friend, Montgomery Clift.

Lee Remick was briefly set to replace Marilyn in the ill-fated Something’s Got to Give (1962), and would go on to narrate a 1987 documentary, Remembering Marilyn. Meanwhile, Miller and Kazan were finally reconciled (with Marilyn’s support), and later collaborated on After the Fall (1964), Miller’s autobiographical play in which Kazan’s wife, Barbara Loden (who had also appeared in Wild River), played a character based on Marilyn.

Atlanta Celebrates the Jewish Marilyn

Bob Bahr explores Marilyn’s spiritual side in a cover story for the Atlanta Jewish Times (dated August 30.)

“Monroe once told Paula Strasberg, her drama coach at the time, that she felt a special kinship with her newfound faith. ‘I can identify with the Jews,’ she said. ‘Everybody’s out to get them, no matter what they do, like me.’

On the front door of the home where she died, she had affixed a mezuzah with its tiny parchment scroll of sacred Jewish writings. She still had the prayer book with her personal notes written in its pages, a gift from Miller that had once belonged to the Brooklyn synagogue where he had had his bar mitzvah. On her mantle she kept a bronze menorah, which played ‘Hatikvah,’ the national anthem of the State of Israel. It was a present from Miller’s Yiddish-speaking mother.

Rabbi Robert Goldburg had worked with her during her conversion and provided her with a number of Jewish historical and religious works to study. About three weeks after her death, he wrote of his impressions of her at the time.

‘She was aware of the great character that the Jewish people had produced. … She was impressed by the rationalism of Judaism — its ethical and prophetic ideals and its close family life.’

When she rebelled against the exploitation of the Hollywood studio system, broke her contract with 20th Century Fox and fled Hollywood in 1954 for a new life in New York, it was at the urging of Milton Greene, a popular Jewish photographer with whom she founded Marilyn Monroe Productions. For a while she lived with Greene and his wife and helped take care of their year-old son.

Even before the move she lived and worked in what was largely a Jewish world. In Hollywood her agent and publicist and an early drama coach and mentor were all Jewish. She owed her early success, in part, to personal relationships with the powerful Jewish studio executive Joseph Schenck and the important talent agent Johnny Hyde, who had originally emigrated from the Jewish Ukraine. Her three psychiatrists were Jewish as well as many of her doctors. One of her closest journalistic confidants was the newspaper columnist Sidney Skolsky.

But all that accelerated when she moved to New York and enrolled in Lee and Paula Strasberg’s Actors Studio … She quickly fell in with their circle of friends, who made up the theatrical and literary elite of Jewish New York. She volunteered to be the star attraction at a United Jewish Appeal dinner.

The poet Norman Rosten and his wife and children were close friends. She was a regular at a summer of brunches and picnics and cookouts with the Strasbergs in Ocean Beach on Fire Island. She frequently dug into what Paula Strasberg called her ‘Jewish icebox’ there, with its salamis from Zabar’s on New York’s Upper West Side and the honey cakes and fancy European pastries from some of the bakeries started in New York by refugees from Nazi persecution.

It was, in the words of one Monroe biographer, ‘a year of joy,’ made even more joyful by a newfound romance with [Arthur] Miller … Gloria Steinem, the Jewish American essayist and feminist, wrote a perceptive analysis about the relationship and Monroe’s decision just before their marriage to convert to Judaism.

‘Miller himself was not religious, but she wanted to be part of his family’s tradition.”‘I’ll cook noodles like your mother,” she told him on their wedding day. She was optimistic this marriage would work. On the back of a wedding photograph, she wrote “Hope, Hope, Hope.”‘

Her public commitment to Judaism in the mid-50s was just one of the signs that Jews were winning new acceptance in America after the end of World War II and of the changes that the war had brought.

Although she’s been gone these many years, she is not forgotten. Time has treated the memory of Monroe with kindness. Her estate, most of which she left to the Strasberg family, has consistently earned tens of millions of dollars over the more than 50 years since her death … As for that prayer book that Arthur Miller took from his Brooklyn synagogue and Monroe kept to her dying day, it sold at auction last year for $18,000.”

Thanks to Marco at Marilyn Remembered

Marilyn at Julien’s: Personal and Business Correspondence

Today in an ongoing series on the upcoming Legends sale at Julien’s Auctions, a look at correspondence and other papers from Marilyn’s personal archive. (More about the auction here.)

UPDATE: I have added the final bids to each item.

“An original clipping from a Mexican newspaper detailing Marilyn’s visit to the National Institute for the Protection of Children on March 1, 1962, and her donation of $1,000.00 to the institute. Also included is a document translating the article, reading in part, ‘The American actress Marilyn Monroe yesterday visited the National Institute for the Protection of Children where she greeted the president of that organization, Mrs. Eva Samano de Lopez Mateos, to whom she gave 12,500 pesos – one thousand dollars – for the needy children.'” (SOLD for $768)


“An unsigned carbon-copy of a letter, likely from May Reis, Marilyn Monroe’s secretary, to hairdresser Kenneth, dated July 16, 1958. The letter reads in part, ‘Thank you for sending on Miss Monroe’s chignon but I am sorry it has not turned out as she had ordered it so it is being returned to you under separate cover.'” (SOLD for $192)

“A one-page handwritten letter from press agent Patricia Newcomb to Marilyn, dated June 2, 1956. The letter reads in part, ‘Enclosed is a copy of your eye perscription (sic) which I got this morning from Lee Seigel. I am also sending you another bottle, in case you might be running short.’ Also, ‘I mailed your records and hair dryer today, so they should arrive by the end of the week.'” (SOLD for $1,125)


“A one-page typed letter to Marilyn from Nunnally Johnson, dated February 1, no year specified (but probably sent after their 1962 meeting at the Beverly Hills Hotel, to discuss Something’s Got to Give.) The letter reads in part, ‘This is to put it on paper that I’ve rarely had a merrier evening. There’s no question about it, the only way to discuss business is over a bottle or two of champagne, with occasional reflections on sex to keep everything in balance. And if ever the occasion rises you may cite me as a bloke who also likes to sit and talk with you.’ The letter is hand-signed. A well-known screenwriter, Johnson worked on a number of projects related to Monroe, including We’re Not Married, and How to Marry a Millionaire.” (SOLD for $2,240)

“Two letters from the Actors’ Studio, dated January 10 and 12, 1961, regarding the Actors’ Studio Benefit scheduled for March 13, 1961. The January 10 letter announces, ‘Marilyn Monroe will be one of the stars who will draw the lucky tickets for our door prizes and for the Dance Contests.’ The letter is signed by Lee Strasberg, Cheryl Crawford and Elia Kazan (facsimile signatures). The second letter, sent by the benefit’s coordinator, asks Marilyn if it would be possible to take a photo of her wearing a fur coat that will be raffled as a door prize. The letter further requests that Marilyn write to executives at United Artists asking them to reserve tables at the event.” (SOLD for $768)


“Three letters, all dated in January of 1961, referencing possible film projects for Marilyn’s consideration. The January 3 letter from George Chasin is on MCA letterhead and references Touch of Mink, written by Stanley Shapiro (later filmed with Doris Day.) The January 26 letter, also on MCA letterhead, references a screenplay entitled The Notorious Lady, and is signed by Marvin Birdt with a copy to Chasin (later filmed with Kim Novak as The Notorious Landlady.) The January 31 letter is on Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation letterhead and references A Lost Lady, and is signed by Frank McCarthy, Director of Public Relations at the studio. (Based on one of Marilyn’s favourite novels (according to her friend and masseur, Ralph Roberts), and previously filmed as Courageous with Barbara Stanwyck in 1934, but dissatisfied with the result, author Willa Cather had banned all movies based on her work.) In this same letter McCarthy writes, ‘Congratulations again on The Misfits and I hope it will achieve the great success it deserves.'” (SOLD for $512)


“A small notecard to Marilyn from producer Buddy Adler. The notecard reads, ‘Darling, It’s wonderful having you home again. Best wishes, Buddy Adler.’ Adler was the producer of Bus Stop, released in 1956. This card is likely in reference to Marilyn’s return to Hollywood in 1956 after having spent the entirety of 1955 in New York City.” (SOLD for $640)


“A two-page typed letter on Algonquin Hotel letterhead to Marilyn from photographer John Bryson, dated August 6, 1960, in reference to the August 15, 1960 issue of LIFE magazine, in which his photos of Marilyn on the set of Let’s Make Love were published. The letter reads in part, ‘I am very happy, however, to report that we close with a larger than full page of the picture of Arthur swabbing off your back after a hard day’s rehearsal. I think the little girl look in this is the best picture I ever took of you.’ The letter goes on to read, ‘Anyway, it is done and I hope you like it. If you do or do not I would like for you to remember that I think you are one of the best women I have ever known and if you ever need a friend for anything just call day or night. I do not say such things casually.'” (SOLD for $1,280)


“A Western Union telegram from Mary Leatherbee of LIFE magazine dated June 26, 1958, regarding photos of Marilyn taken by Richard Avedon in which she recreated images of famous actresses for a spread entitled ‘Fabled Enchantresses.'” (SOLD for $640)


“A one-page typed letter to Marilyn from Emmeline Snively, dated July 31, 1958. Snively was the owner and manager of the Bluebook Modeling Agency. Marilyn, still Norma Jean at the time, signed with the agency in 1945, and Snively is believed to have assisted her in transforming into Marilyn Monroe. The letter reads in part, ‘We have been following your steady progress over the years, and our students at Blue Book Models regard your success and constant development as an inspiration.’ Included with this letter is a torn portion of the original mailing envelope with Snively’s typed mailing address. Pencil scribbles are visible on the envelope fragment, possibly written in Marilyn’s own hand. It is interesting to note that Snively attempted to stay in contact with Marilyn throughout the star’s career. In fact, she was one of a very few guests from Marilyn’s inner circle who was invited to her funeral.” (SOLD for $640)


“Six documents referencing an agreement, and the dissolution thereof, between Marilyn Monroe and Ben Hecht regarding his authoring her life story. Included is a facsimile copy of the originally signed agreement between Monroe and Hecht, dated March 16, 1954, in which the terms of the agreement are exceedingly clear. Three unsigned carbon copies of this same agreement are included. Also included is a facsimile copy of a two-page letter sent to Hecht by Marilyn’s attorney Lloyd Wright, Jr., in which he demands that Hecht ‘surrender to us on behalf of our client, Miss Marilyn Monroe, all, and I repeat all, copies of any material concerning Miss Marilyn Monroe written by Mr. Ben Hecht, pursuant to his contract of March 16, 1954 with Marilyn Monroe, or otherwise.’ Marilyn partnered with Hecht to write her life story, stating specifically that the article could be published only in the Ladies’ Home Journal magazine.” (SOLD for $640)


“A two-page typed memo from Robert H. Montgomery, Jr. to John F. Wharton regarding ‘Proposed settlement of dispute between Milton H. Greene and Marilyn Monroe. The document clarifies that Monroe will pay Greene $50,000.00 for his stock in Marilyn Monroe Productions, Inc. in five equal annual installments, and also that she will sell to Greene her stock in Milton Greene Studios.’ The document further states, ‘all agreements existing between them are cancelled and of no further force and effect.’ A second two-page original document outlines the distribution of furniture and equipment, including paintings, rugs, a vacuum cleaner, a lamp, a chair and a sofa, typewriters, and other items.” (SOLD for $1,000)

Did Rock Hudson Reach Out to Marilyn?

In some ways, Rock Hudson was Marilyn’s male counterpart as a misunderstood sex symbol of 1950s Hollywood.  They partied together at the How to Marry a Millionaire premiere in 1953, and in 1962 Rock would present Marilyn with her final award at the Golden Globes. Sadly they never worked together, but Rock was the initial favourite for her leading man in Bus Stop; and in 1958, she was considered for Pillow Talk before deciding to make Some Like It Hot instead. (Doris Day got the part, the beginning of a great comedy partnership with Rock.)

Until now, it has been unclear how well the two stars knew each other (although a recent hack tome made the unlikely claim that Marilyn and Rock were lovers – as we now know, Hudson was gay.) In a critically praised new biography, All That Heaven Allows, author Mark Griffin draws on interviews with Rock’s secretary, Lois Rupert, who claims they often spoke on the phone. Although the frequency of their conversations may be questioned, the obvious affection of their Golden Globes photos combined with this information could suggest that Rock was one of the few Hollywood figures trusted by Marilyn in her final months – and Griffin also reveals that Hudson generously donated his fee for narrating the 1963 documentary, Marilyn, to a cause very close to her heart.

“It was while he was on location for A Gathering Of Eagles that Rock received word that a friend had died. As Lois Rupert recalled, ‘Rock met me at his front door with the news … “Monroe is dead” is all he said.’

Only five months earlier, Rock and Marilyn Monroe had posed for photographers at the annual Golden Globes ceremonies. In images captured of the event, Monroe, who was named World Film Favourite, is beaming as Hudson enfolds her into a protective embrace. With a shared history of abuse and exploitation, it was inevitable that these two should be drawn to each other. Recognising that he posed no sexual threat to her, Monroe had latched on to Hudson and had lobbied for Rock to co-star with her in Let’s Make Love as well as her uncompleted final film, Something’s Got to Give.

Lois Rupert remembered that in the early 1960s, Rock regularly received late-night distress calls from Monroe as well as another troubled superstar. ‘If it wasn’t Marilyn Monroe crying on his shoulder, then it was Judy Garland,’ Rupert recalled. ‘It was almost like they took turns. Marilyn would call one night and Judy the next. He was always very patient, very understanding with both of them, even though he wasn’t getting much sleep. I think he liked playing the big brother who comes to the rescue.’

Within ten months of Monroe’s death, 20th Century-Fox would release a hastily assembled documentary entitled Marilyn. Fox had initially approached Frank Sinatra about narrating, but when the studio wasn’t able to come to terms with the singer Hudson stepped in. Hudson not only provided poignant commentary – both on and off camera – he donated his salary to help establish the Marilyn Monroe Memorial Fund at the Actors Studio.”

Miller on Marilyn, ‘After the Fall’, in ’66

The literary magazine Paris Review has posted a 1966 interview with Arthur Miller, where he talks about his relationship with Marilyn, and After the Fall.

“MILLER: I think Strasberg is a symptom, really. He’s a great force, and (in my unique opinion, evidently) a force that is not for the good in the theater. He makes actors secret people and he makes acting secret, and it’s the most communicative art known to man; I mean, that’s what the actor’s supposed to be doing … The problem is that the actor is now working out his private fate through his role, and the idea of communicating the meaning of the play is the last thing that occurs to him. In the Actors Studio, despite denials, the actor is told that the text is really the framework for his emotions … This is Method, as they are teaching it, which is, of course, a perversion of it, if you go back to the beginning. But there was always a tendency in that direction.

INTERVIEWER: What about Method acting in the movies?

MILLER: Well, in the movies, curiously enough, the Method works better. Because the camera can come right up to an actor’s nostrils and suck out of him a communicative gesture; a look in the eye, a wrinkle of his grin, and so on, which registers nothing on the stage.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think the push toward personal success dominates American life now more than it used to?

MILLER: I think it’s far more powerful today than when I wrote Death of a Salesman. I think it’s closer to a madness today than it was then. Now there’s no perspective on it at all.

INTERVIEWER: Would you say that the girl in After the Fall is a symbol of that obsession?

MILLER: Yes, she is consumed by what she does, and instead of it being a means of release, it’s a jail. A prison which defines her, finally. She can’t break through. In other words, success, instead of giving freedom of choice, becomes a way of life.

Barbara Loden as Maggie in ‘After the Fall’, featured in LIFE (1964)

INTERVIEWER: Do you feel in the New York production that the girl allegedly based on Marilyn Monroe was out of proportion, entirely separate from Quentin?

MILLER: Yes, although I failed to foresee it myself. In the Italian production this never happened; it was always in proportion. I suppose, too, that by the time Zeffirelli did the play, the publicity shock had been absorbed, so that one could watch Quentin’s evolution without being distracted.

INTERVIEWER: What do you think happened in New York?

MILLER: Something I never thought could happen. The play was never judged as a play at all. Good or bad, I would never know what it was from what I read about it, only what it was supposed to have been.

INTERVIEWER: Because they all reacted as if it were simply a segment of your personal life?

MILLER: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Could this question of timing have affected the reaction here to After the Fall?

MILLER: The ironic thing to me was that I heard cries of indignation from various people who had in the lifetime of Marilyn Monroe either exploited her unmercifully, in a way that would have subjected them to peonage laws, or mocked her viciously, or refused to take any of her pretensions seriously. So consequently, it was impossible to credit their sincerity.

INTERVIEWER: Was it the play, The Crucible itself, do you think, or was it perhaps that piece you did in the Nation—’A Modest Proposal’—that focused the Un-American Activities Committee on you?

MILLER: Well, I had made a lot of statements and I had signed a great many petitions. I’d been involved in organizations, you know, putting my name down for fifteen years before that. But I don’t think they ever would have bothered me if I hadn’t married Marilyn. Had they been interested, they would have called me earlier. And, in fact, I was told on good authority that the then chairman, Francis Walter, said that if Marilyn would take a photograph with him, shaking his hand, he would call off the whole thing. It’s as simple as that. Marilyn would get them on the front pages right away.”

James Karen 1923-2018

Actor James Karen, whose career in film, television and theatre spanned eight decades, has died aged 94. As his friend, film critic Leonard Maltin, confirmed on his blog today, he was photographed with Marilyn at the Actors Studio in 1955. (James was also a friend of Marilyn’s Misfits co-star, Kevin McCarthy.)

Born Jacob Karnovsky in Pennsylvania, he joined the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York on the recommendation of his cousin, Morris Carnovsky (who would teach Marilyn at the Actors Lab in Los Angeles during the late 1940s.) Karen got his big break in 1947, with a supporting role in Elia Kazan’s original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire. When the play reached L.A. two years later, Louis B. Mayer offered him a contract at MGM, but he declined.

One of America’s most prolific character actors, James Karen later appeared in films including Poltergieist, The China Syndrome, Wall Street, Return of the Living Dead, Mulholland Drive, and The Pursuit of Happyness. His television roles ranged from soap operas All My Children and As the World Turns, to cameo parts in The Golden Girls and Seinfeld.

Burt Reynolds 1936-2018

Burt Reynolds, one of the most popular actors of the 1970s and beyond, has died aged 82. Born in Lansing, Michigan in 1936, he came from a military family and his father later became a chief of police. Burt attended Florida State University on a football scholarship, and when injuries ruled out a sporting career, his interest turned to acting. He moved to New York to pursue his new career, where as Vanity Fair reports, he caught his first glimpe of stardom.

“The actor’s life was brimming with stories like this, close brushes with some of the most famous women in the film industry. Reynolds also had a particularly bittersweet anecdote about taking an acting class with Marilyn Monroe as an up-and-comer in the late 1950s. He would walk with her from 58th Street to the Actors Studio, he said, surprised by the blonde icon’s quietude. ‘She didn’t say much, but she didn’t have to,’ he recalled in a March interview with Conan O’Brien. He was also surprised to see that one of the most famous women in the world wasn’t getting swarmed on the street. ‘How come they don’t jump up and down?’ he asked her, referring to the people breezing past her. ‘She said, “Oh—do you wanna see her?”’ And with that, the actress threw her shoulders back and started strutting with purpose. Within 20 feet, she was ‘surrounded by about 40 people,’ Reynolds said. ‘I liked her so much . . . she was so real and sweet and kind.'”

This is a familiar tale, similar to anecdotes shared by Eli Wallach, Sam Shaw and others – but Burt’s comments are warm and sensitive. He began to make his name during the 1960s, with appearances on television shows including Gunsmoke. His big-screen breakthrough was in Deliverance (1970), proving he had more to offer than just good looks. He famously posed nude for Cosmopolitan in 1972, the magazine’s first male centrefold. Over the next two decades, he juggled blockbuster hits with more dramatic roles, and branched out into directing.

Like Marilyn Monroe, Burt’s racy image meant that he wasn’t always taken seriously, though he would win a Golden Globe – and Oscar nomination – for Boogie Nights (1997.) He was married to actresses Judy Carne and Loni Anderson (a blonde bombshell in her own right), but by his own admission, his greatest love was Sally Field. In 2014, he faced bankruptcy. Burt Reynolds died of cardiac arrest, and his final movie was fittingly entitled The Last Movie Star.

Mike Nichols On Marilyn, Miller and Avedon

The film and theatre director Mike Nichols, who died in 2014, is one of many whose memories are shared in Avedon: Something Personal.  He studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actors’ Studio in 1953, before developing a comedy act with Elaine May. After directing Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple on Broadway, he went on to make two of the best movies of the 1960s, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and The Graduate, establishing himself as one of America’s leading directors.

“I met Dick [Avedon] early in 1960. He came to the Blue Angel, on East 55th Street, to see me and Elaine May in our nightclub act … Then one day he called me out of the blue, wanting to know if Elaine and I would be interested in writing a skit for Marilyn Monroe. Leland Hayward was producing a two-hour CBS special called The Fabulous Fifties and had promised Dick that if he could get Marilyn to do it he would direct it himself.

Our first meeting was at Dick’s apartment at 625 Park … that’s where we sat trying to come up with a Marilyn idea. At the end of the visit he put his arm around me and walked me to the elevator. He said, ‘I have the feeling we’re going to be friends for life.’

The next week he took us to Marilyn’s apartment, around the corner from Sutton Place, so we could present what we’d worked out to her and Arthur Miller. She had been in my acting class with Strasberg, so I knew the way she was,  which was sweet and not saying much. She just sat on the floor at Arthur’s feet – he had his hand on her shoulder. Dick and Elaine and I took turns acting out our rough little idea, whatever it was – after which Arthur said, ‘I don’t think it’s for Marilyn.’ So he nixed it, the jerk, although he and I became friends many years later when we were neighbours in Connecticut…”

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…

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.