2016: A Year In Marilyn Headlines

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In January, exhibitions featuring Milton Greene and Douglas Kirkland’s photographs of Marilyn opened in London and Amsterdam. In New York, the Museum of Modern Art paid tribute to Marilyn’s choreographer, Jack Cole. Also this month, James Turiello’s book, Marilyn: The Quest for an Oscar, was published. And Edward Parone, assistant producer of The Misfits, died.

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In February, Marilyn ‘starred’ with Willem Dafoe in a Snickers commercial for the US Superbowl. Monroe Sixer Jimmy Collins’ candid photographs were sold at Heritage Auctions, and the touring exhibition, Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon, came to Albury, Australia.

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Another major Australian exhibition, Twentieth Century Fox Presents Marilyn Monroe, featuring the collections of Debbie ReynoldsScott Fortner, Greg Schreiner and Maite Minguez Ricart – opened at the Bendigo Art Gallery in March. And Barbara Sichtermann’s book, Marilyn Monroe: Myth and Muse, was published in Germany.

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In April, a special edition of Vanity Fair magazine – dedicated to MM – was published. A campaign to save Rockhaven, the former women’s sanitarium where Marilyn’s mother Gladys once lived – was launched. And actress Anne Jackson – wife of Eli Wallach, and friend to Marilyn – passed away.

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In May, Marilyn graced the cover of a Life magazine special about ‘hidden Hollywood’, and Sebastien Cauchon’s novel, Marilyn 1962, was published in France. Cabaret singer Marissa Mulder’s one-woman show, Marilyn in Fragments, opened in New York, while Chinese artist Chen Ke unveiled Dream-Dew, a series of paintings inspired by Marilyn’s life story. The remarkable collection of David Gainsborough Roberts was displayed in London. Finally, Alan Young – the comedian and Mister Ed star, who befriended a young Marilyn – died.

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June 1st marked what would be Marilyn’s 90th birthday. Also in June, New Yorkers were treated to an Andre de Dienes retrospective, Marilyn and the California Girls. An exhibition of the Ted Stampfer collection, Marilyn Monroe: The Woman Behind the Myth, opened in Turin, Italy. A new documentary, Artists in Love: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, was broadcast in the UK, while Australia honoured Marilyn with a commemorative stamp folder, and genealogists investigated Marilyn’s Scottish ancestry.

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In July, the birthday celebrations continued in Marilyn’s Los Angeles hometown with tributes from painter David Bromley, and another Greene exhibition. A new musical, Marilyn!, opened in Glendale. Rapper Frank Ocean appeared alongside a Monroe impersonator in a Calvin Klein commercial. And Marni Nixon, the Hollywood soprano who sang the opening bars of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, passed away.

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August 5th marked the 54th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. Also this month, it was announced that Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn’ sculpture may return permanently to Palm Springs. April VeVea’s Marilyn Monroe: A Day in the Life was published, and Marilyn’s role in Niagara was featured in another Life magazine special, celebrating 75 years of film noir.

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In September, Marilyn: Character Not Image – an exhibition curated by Whoopi Goldberg – opened in New Jersey. Terry Johnson’s fantasy play, Insignificance, was revived in Wales. Two locks of Marilyn’s hair were sold by Julien’s Auctions for $70,000. And author Michelle Morgan published The Marilyn Journal, first in a series of books chronicling the Marilyn Lives Society; and A Girl Called Pearl, a novel for children with a Monroe connection.

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In October, Happy Birthday Marilyn – a touring showcase for the collection of Ted Stampfer – came to Amsterdam, while Marilyn: I Wanna Be Loved By You, a retrospective for some of her best photographers, opened in France. Marilyn Forever, Boze Hadleigh’s book of quotes, was published. Marilyn’s friendship with Ella Fitzgerald was depicted on the cult TV show, Drunk History. And on a sadder note, photographer George Barris, biographer John Gilmore, and William Morris agent Norman Brokaw all passed away this month.

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In November, Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President‘ dress was sold for a record-breaking $4.8 million during a three-day sale at Julien’s Auctions, featuring items from the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, the Lee Strasberg estate, and many others including the candid photos of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull. Also this month, comedienne Rachel Bloom spoofed ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in a musical sequence for her TV sitcom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. And Marilyn Monroe: Lost Photo Collection, a limited edition book featuring images by Milton Greene, Gene Lester and Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder, was published.

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Australia’s Marilyn Moment

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Following two major exhibitions in Bendigo and Albury, it can be said that 2016 (so far) has been Australia’s Year of Marilyn. Journalist Inga Walton has also made a significant contribution with ‘A Moment With Marilyn’, her detailed and insightful four-part series for Trouble magazine, which you can read here.

“There is something of the universal fable in Monroe’s story, in the way tales are re-cast, with a different setting, for a new generation. There is also an unmistakable touch of the heroic about her, given where she came from and where she went. ‘We take her seriously as an artist and person, a liberated woman before it became fashionable, who won an honoured place and lost her life,’ Norman Rosten attests. ‘A woman of obscure beginnings who studied and struggled against great odds to create a life of dignity and respect. She confronted a world of caste and prejudice; she broke into the clear for herself and others.’

There are myriad reasons for Monroe’s inextricable hold over generations of audiences. Her unique and intoxicating combination of beauty, talent, sensuality, impulsiveness, and emotional turmoil continues to beguile and haunt. Monroe’s life was plagued by frailty, isolation, and self-doubt. She suffered from the thwarted ambition and unfulfilled promise that afflicts so many of us- and yet she demonstrated great resilience. We have come to empathise with Monroe’s faults, feel compassion for the many challenging aspects of her life, and applaud her candour. Sometimes it seems as though the desperate pathos of her tragic demise might threaten to overwhelm the pleasure her work continues to bring. It is as though Monroe anticipated this paradox when she mused,

Life- I am both of your directions,
Somehow remaining hanging downward,
The most, but strong as a cobweb in the wind-
I exist more with the cold glistening frost.
But my beaded rays have the colours I’ve seen in paintings
Ah life, they have cheated you…”

More About Marilyn at MAMA

Artwork by Belinda Fraser
Artwork by Belinda Fraser

John McDonald, art critic for the Sydney Morning Herald, has reviewed Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon, the touring exhibit now at MAMA Albury, Australia.

“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.

Most intriguing of all, a fully accredited elective subject — Exhibiting Culture: Marilyn — will be available to La Trobe University undergraduate students and to members of the general public, ABC Central Victoria reports.

“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.'”

Marilyn: An Icon in the Making

 

Exhibition curator Bianca Acimovic
Exhibition curator Bianca Acimovic

Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon – the touring exhibit focusing on the imagery that made MM go global – is due to open at MAMA Albury in Australia on February 12, with a late addition of rare photos depicting a young Marilyn, taken by Art Meyers in Chicago during the Love Happy promotional tour of 1949, and provided by a local businessman, Colin Glassborow, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

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“Mr Glassborow, 71, says he was bequeathed 12 photographs of the star by his American friend Art Meyers, a freelance photographer who was hired to follow Monroe around Chicago’s Wrigley Stadium in 1949.

Later that day Meyers also photographed the then 23-year-old starlet sitting with the actor Roddy McDowall at Chicago’s infamous Ricketts’ nightclub.

Mr Glassborow, who owns Albury Building Supplies, said he met Meyers when he visited the Playboy building in Chicago in 1974. They became friends after Meyers offered to show him and his brother around Chicago, and over the years holidayed together. Meyers also visited him in Albury in 1995.

‘There are 12 altogether,’ Mr Glassborow said of the black and white photos, prints of which he started selling online via his website marilynmonroe-photos.com to help Meyers financially before the photographer died, at the age of 90, in 2010. He loaned eight images to the museum, six of which will go on display from Friday.

‘He was a freelance photographer at the time and he happened to be there … they were having a pro celebrity match with old legends and Hollywood celebrities,’ Mr Glassborow said of the Wrigley Stadium event Meyers photographed.

‘He was asked if he would take photographs at the old Ricketts’ nightclub … Al Capone used to visit there apparently.’

‘She was there with Roddy McDowall,’ he said of Monroe. ‘She’d only been in bit parts in three small movies, but the next year she got more with it and in a couple of years she was a household name, she quickly took off.’

‘A lot of people are in awe of the photograph,’ he says of the image of Monroe with McDowall, which he has had colourised and blown up, and displays in a gold frame in his secretary’s office.”

‘Forever Marilyn’ Lands in Australia

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Marilyn’s Australian year kicks off next week as the touring exhibit, Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon opens at the Murray Art Museum (MAMA) in Albury, New South Wales. The exhibition will feature 150 artworks and supporting programs, reports the Border Mail.

Meanwhile the arrival of Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn’, in Bendigo Park, Victoria (around 90 miles from Melbourne) heralds another upcoming exhibition, Twentieth Century Fox Presents Marilyn, opening at Bendigo Art Gallery on March 5. You can watch a video of the installation here.

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Glynis Traill-Nash reports on both exhibits in an article for The Australian.

“The two exhibitions deal with Monroe in different ways: for Bendigo, it is about getting closer to the woman herself, and includes screen costumes, photographs, her own wardrobe items and personal effects, such as make-up and notebooks; MAMA instead opens Monroe to the gaze and interpretation of others, including images of the star created both during her lifetime and after her death, from the likes of photographers Cecil Beaton and Henri Cartier-Bresson, and artists including Andy Warhol and Richard Lindner.

The Bendigo exhibition also includes two particularly notable personal looks. ‘We have the little green Pucci blouse, which was quite understated, and was the last thing that Marilyn was photographed publicly in, so it’s quite poignant,’ says Curtin. There is also a photo of the star in a red cotton housecoat, with a pattern of chickens and roosters. ‘It’s quite ordinary, housewifey,’ says Curtin. ‘It was worn when she was about two months’ pregnant (to third husband Arthur Miller). You can see in the photo she looks quite proud, but sadly she lost the baby. But that human side of Marilyn gives us some insight that we don’t usually get to see.'”

Celebrating Marilyn in Australia

Richard Lartner, 1970
‘Marilyn (Has Track Set)’ by Australian artist Richard Lartner, 1970

After touring the US and Brazil, Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon – an exhibition of art and photography, featuring works by Cecil Beaton, Andy Warhol,  Henri Cartier-Bresson, Antonio de Felipe, Milton H. Greene, and pop artist Richard Lartner – will make its Australian debut at the newly opened Murray Art Museum in Albury, New South Wales, from February 12-May 8, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

A ‘Festival of Marilyn’ would be held to complement the MAMA exhibition, including screenings of her movies, period furniture and memorabilia sourced from public and private collections in Australia.