A new Irish exhibition exploring sex symbols and the Playboy empire features two key artefacts related to Andre de Dienes’ iconic images of Marilyn, as Catherine Sanz reports for The Times.
“Supermodels and Playboy: The Evolution of Sex Symbols, which opened yesterday at the Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge Silverware, Co Kildare, features some of the most famous women of the second half of the 20th century — clothed and unclothed.
The exhibition is a collection of items in the museum’s archive, placed together to take the visitor on a journey from Monroe, the ‘original pin-up girl’, to catwalk supermodels of the 1990s, including Christy Turlington, Heidi Klum and Cindy Crawford.
The showcase begins with the camera used by Andre de Dienes, a Hungarian photographer, to capture Monroe on a Long Island beach in 1949. Images displayed next to the camera show the actress in a bathing suit and posing with a red polka dot umbrella. The umbrella has been on permanent display at the museum.
De Dienes’s camera was discovered in storage by Simone Hassett, the museum’s curator. She said finding it was the genesis for the exhibition.
‘Occasionally while we are rummaging around in the archive room we unearth some gems,’ she said. ‘We came across the camera belonging to Andre de Dienes which photographed one of Marilyn’s most famous risqué shoots in 1949 and this started the ball rolling.’
Aileen O’Brien, publicist for the exhibition, said that the idea was to showcase how being provocative had changed. She said the images of Monroe contrasted against the more blatantly sexy 1980s and 1990s models.
‘Despite appearing innocent and almost childlike at times, Marilyn’s confidence in the photographs was striking and she commanded the viewer to look,’ she said. ‘Her bathing suit appears quite demure but it was would have been very risqué at the time.'”
Marilyn By Moonlight author Jack Allen is selling off some items from his collection in the Essentially Marilyn auction on December 11 at Profiles In History – including photographs and the unreleased song, ‘Down Boy‘, as Mike Szymanski reports for The Art of Monteque. (The auction also features the spectacular collection of Maite Minguez Ricart – more details here.)
“When Jack Allen first fell in love with Marilyn Monroe, it was while watching her in the 1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes where she plays an ambitious showgirl … ‘Here was a girl full of naïve innocence and you could really tell that she loved performing and that she really wanted to make it,’ says Jack. ‘In a lot of ways that is the story of Hollywood.’
Jack worked on some of the photo displays and books with [Andre] de Dienes’s widow after he died in 1985, and as a payment for his work, he received some of his original photos.
‘I was most fascinated with the “End of Everything” photo session that he took near Zuma Beach in Malibu,’ Allen recalls. ‘She was troubled at the time, and it has an almost religious feeling to them.’
What the auction house doesn’t explain in the description of the photographs is why they will have a faint scent of dirt or earthiness to them. After a terrible rainstorm in Los Angeles in the 1950s, a mudslide buried and destroyed many of the photographer’s collection in his house, and out of frustration he simply buried most of his collection in the backyard. A year later, LIFE magazine editors asked about some Monroe photos, and he literally dug them up from his backyard, and in the middle of the mess, salvaged a few of the gelatin silver prints.
In another signed 8×10 photograph expected to fetch between $6,000 and $8,000, Marilyn signed it to former Heavyweight Champion of the World Max Baer, writing: ‘To Max, My body guard, Love Marilyn Monroe.’ Baer was a fighter-turned-actor and longtime admirer of the starlet, and visited her on the set of Some Like it Hot.
When studios made movies, they often pressed a record — and it was usually one-sided — of each of the songs used in the film, so when dubbing or playback was necessary while they were filming, they could use the record. So, these records actually played while the stars recreated the scenes, or filmed the dance numbers or lip synced the songs.
Jack found the heavy 78 acetate records on eBay as part of an estate of a 20th Century-Fox craft service worker who took the 12-inch records when they were abandoned by the studio after the filming of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Jack bid on the records in 2005, thinking they would be a fun piece of Hollywood history to have to one of his favorite films. The records were stained and scratched, but kept in their vintage sleeves from the studio … But, Jack noticed a recording ‘Down Boy‘ also penned by the legendary Hoagy Carmichael that featured only Marilyn and a soft piano accompaniment.
‘I realized that this was a song that was actually mentioned in the script, but it was never used in the movie,’ Jack recalls. ‘It was like finding a treasure. No one had ever heard this recording of Marilyn before.’
The song is upbeat and whimsical and planned for when a diamond dealer played by Charles Coburn is getting fresh with Marilyn’s character Lorelei. She sings to the men like they are a pack of hungry dogs, saying ‘Down Boy‘ to them. Marilyn sang the song with a swing temp in the key of A and B-flat.”
A treasure trove of correspondence to Marilyn will be auctioned today at Bonham’s in New York, as part of TCM’s Dark Side of Hollywood sale. Among the lots are an autographed napkin; notes to herself, jotted on the back of envelopes; letters from her mother Gladys, and members of Norma Jeane’s extended family, including Grace Goddard and Ana Lower; key figures in Marilyn’s later life, such as Joe Schenck and Elia Kazan; and other lesser-known acquaintances. Here are some of the highlights:
“San Jose, on ‘International Correspondence Schools’ letterhead and plain stationery. Norma Jeane was 12 years old when she received these letters from relatives of her guardian, Grace Goddard, and Grace’s aunt, Ana Lower. Though not related to her, they address themselves as Uncle Art and Aunt Allis, and in their separate letters to the child, they seem to know her well, calling her ‘Little Sweetheart’ and writing, ‘We all send love to our little girl.’ They often refer to their dog, Trinket, whom one may assume was adored by Norma Jeane, who had a soft spot for animals all her life. Despite the many difficulties Norma Jeane had to face as a foster child, it does seem that there were many caring people in her life, as Uncle Art writes, ‘I am sure you are happy because everyone there loves you, and wants you to be happy.'”
“In her first letter of 1942, Lower responds to 15-year-old Norma Jeane’s questions about her shyness: ‘Be your own sweet self and in time as you have more experience, you’ll be able to talk when you want to, and people will really pay attention to what you say because it will be something worthwhile.’ By 1946, Norma Jeane was obtaining a divorce from her first husband, James Dougherty (whom Lower adored) and was having financial difficulty. She had borrowed money from Lower, who was also allowing Norma Jeane’s mother, Gladys Baker, to live with her at the time. Her letter expresses disappointment in Norma Jeane’s decisions, quoting the Bible and giving advice. She also mentions that Gladys has been fired from her job at Griffith Park because she was ‘too melancholy to be around the patients.’ Lower gently but firmly warns Norma Jeane, ‘Well, precious, you may feel I am being severe, but it is not so meant. I love you dearly and you must not feel hurt because of this letter.'”
“Lower was extremely close to Dougherty, and in her letter, she expresses her concern about his joining up and what it means for Norma Jeane’s future. ‘Her welfare of course is uppermost in your thoughts. She is young and really needs to finish her education.’ Her love for the girl reveals itself often: ‘Norma is such a sweet dear girl. Everyone loves her.’ She also expresses gratitude for his caring ways: ‘I am grateful for your kindness to Norma and know she loves you as dearly as you do her.'”
“In 1945, Gladys went to Portland to attempt to live on her own with the help of her aunt, Dora. She had been living in institutions for 9 years, and the hope was that she would be able to care for herself. She writes of her transition: ‘I’ve only been here a few days [and] I am just getting acclimated to it. I’m taking it easy for a while.’ Gladys’ letter to Norma Jeane is surprisingly lucid and sweet. She is happy that Norma Jeane is married and hopes to meet her husband, James Dougherty (who was in the Merchant Marine at the time). She writes, ‘Seems only yesterday that you were just a wee tott [sic] & now you are married. I know you are very happy & perhaps some time soon I’ll see you.’ Norma Jeane was elated and eventually went to visit her with photographer Andre de Dienes. After leaving Portland, Gladys returned to Los Angeles and lived with Norma Jeane briefly but was ultimately forced to return to institutional life.”
“In the summer of 1946, Norma Jeane Dougherty was establishing residency in Las Vegas in order to divorce her first husband, James Dougherty, who was in the Merchant Marine at the time. She had begun a love affair with photographer Andre de Dienes, one that was much more serious than previously thought. In her letters, Ana Lower, who was the most loving adult figure in Norma Jeane’s life, remarks on the reactions she receives when she shows friends Norma Jeane’s photographs: ‘Everyone thinks your pictures are lovely, and I tell them not half so lovely as you really are.’ As she is traveling during the writing of these letters, Lower describes her experiences, most notably her visit with Norma Jeane’s amour, de Dienes. She found him both lovable and ‘temperamental, as most artists are.’ In her closing paragraph, she writes of Andre: ‘I kissed your sweetheart good-bye and I will love him, too–we joked about my being his mother-in-law. I do hope Jimmie [Norma Jeane’s soon-to-be ex-husband, whom Ana adored] is not too hurt by all this.'”
“Grace reveals that her aunt, Ana Lower, who was also a loving caregiver to Norma Jeane, is too easy on Dougherty: ‘I know what a softie [Aunt Ana] is toward any male, old or young, who makes a fuss over her. As for me, Doc [Grace’s husband], and all the rest of us, we look at situations through eyes of love for you, justice, and repayment for you being such an angel all your life. You deserve more than Jimmy is capable of giving you.’ In closing, she makes a veiled reference to Norma Jeane’s relationship with photographer Andre de Dienes and writes, ‘Of course no one but Doc and me know of your future plans. I am so in hopes you will let your heart rule you this time and not let anything keep you from taking the happiness that is being offered you.'”
“In the summer of 1946, Norma Jeane was residing in Las Vegas to obtain her divorce from her first husband, James Dougherty. During this time, she was ill, experienced financial difficulties, and was having problems with her car. Goddard’s letter is sympathetic: ‘I am heartsick over you,’ but firm when she scolds, ‘I do wish you had listened to Doc [Goddard’s husband] about your car.’ Additional difficulty arose when Dougherty refused to sign the divorce papers once Norma Jeane was in Las Vegas. Goddard gets a final jab at Dougherty in her closing remarks (even though she arranged their marriage) when she writes, ‘I never did think Jim would keep his promise to sign the papers.'”
“Len Cormier was a young Navy pilot who dated Monroe (then Norma Jeane Dougherty) shortly after she divorced her first husband in 1946. They had at least 2 dates: one at Tommy Dorsey’s Casino Gardens in Santa Monica, and one where he took her flying (the only civilian he ever took up in a plane, he later recalled). In his letter from training camp, he writes, ‘I’ll have to admit that I don’t leave your picture out all the time, since nobody would get any work done if it were.’ He relays his experiences with flight operations and traveling, and ends his letter with a thoughtful message to his career-oriented friend: ‘I’ve still got my fingers crossed, hoping that all the breaks in the world come to you.'”
“Comprising a partial Autograph Letter Signed (‘Aunt Ana’), c.1947, to Marilyn Monroe, on plain stationery, discussing Christian Science. Together with 9 holiday cards, including a congratulatory wedding card celebrating her marriage to James Dougherty in which she writes, ‘To my dear / girl and boy / Love / Aunt Ana.'”
“Until these letters, little was known about film star Howard Keel’s relationship with Marilyn Monroe except that they had dated a few times. Keel had originally met Norma Jeane when she was 15 years old, as he relays in his letter: ‘I had quite a liking for you deep down inside but being a ripe old 22 or so I felt I was a little old for you.’ He is thrilled that they have reconnected and has a good laugh at seeing her crowned as ‘The Artichoke Queen’ in a publicity stunt. At some point between letters, the two got together, and Keel expresses his disappointment at not being able to see more of Monroe: ‘When I come home in June we’ll have to have some fun & find out what there is between us.’ Obviously, nothing came of the relationship, but Keel has sweet words about their reunion when he writes, ‘It was wonderful to find you the same sweet person I knew before.'”
“Lower refers to Marilyn (who is now no longer called Norma Jeane, even by her family), as she writes: ‘I am glad the clothes can be used. Marilyn will probably have more later.’ Marilyn often gave her clothes to Berniece when she was finished with them. Lower closes the letter with, ‘All is well with me and with Marilyn’s career.’ Ana Lower would die 4 days after this letter was written.”
“At the time of his letters to Marilyn, she had just signed a 6-month contract with Columbia Pictures, a major breakthrough in her career, which Schenck addresses: ‘I hope you will get your chance at Col and make good.’ Several months later, he writes, ‘Am very pleased to know you have a good part in a picture. Stick to your work and you will make good. Make your career your first consideration.’ Schenck either had a sense of humor or spelling problems, as he incorrectly spells Monroe’s name twice, writing both ‘Maryline’ and ‘Marrylene’ in his salutations!”
“Kazan and Arthur Miller called Monroe ‘Miss Bauer’ based on a prank they played on Columbia boss Harry Cohn in which Monroe posed as a secretary by that name. Two of the Kazan telegrams allude to this pseudonym, with one signed ‘Bauer’ and the other signed simply ‘B.’ Though Monroe had affection for Kazan, she fell hard for Miller and the Kazan relationship fizzled out. From his messages, however, it appears that they were close: ‘Darling Just sit tight where you are and I’ll call for you about nine thirty.'”
“Ross was a writer for Parade magazine whose brother, photographer Ben Ross, had photographed Monroe several times. Sid Ross fell head over heels in love with Monroe, who appears not to have returned his affection (or many of his letters, since his enclosed self-addressed stamped envelope for her convenience is still attached to his letter)! His letters are lyrical, poetic, and beautifully written, and he is clearly besotted: ‘The sheer joy of watching you–as you talk & sometimes crinkle up your brow … the sometimes pain in your voice and glance and gestures … the intensity that stirs not only you, but others.’ In April of 1952, Ross received a ‘Dear John’ letter from Monroe that he declared was ‘a blow. A terrific blow. It made me feel that the end of the world had come for me.’ He is clearly heartbroken and devastated. Interestingly, Ross closes one of his letters, ‘You may never be a “great” actress possibly but you’ll always be a so very beautiful girl…,’ a statement which may have been the very reason Monroe broke things off with Sid Ross.”
“Grace Goddard is clearly at the end of her rope, having spent the last 20 years trying to take care of Baker, and her exhaustion is palpable: ‘I have always loved her and her child, but I have a very bad heart condition brought on by a stroke caused by Gladys in Feb 1950. I have tried too many years to help her and I can no longer have her in my home.'”
UPDATE: Marilyn’s letter from Gladys sold for $2,750; and two letters from Ana (1942-46) sold for $2,500.
Jemima Kirke, the New York-based artist and actress (best-known as Jessa Johansson in TV’s Girls) has revealed some of her favourite books in an interview for Vulture.
“André De Dienes: Marilyn by André De Dienes
Some of the most important pictures taken of Marilyn Monroe throughout her career with a memoir to go along with it. She and De Dienes were lovers and longtime friends. She would often visit him and take pictures purely for the catharsis of it.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Marilyn Monroe – 90th Anniversary, an exhibit featuring photographers such as Andre de Dienes, Bruno Bernard, Nahum Baron and Arnold Newman, is on display at the Galerie Hiltawsky in Berlin until January 14 next year, Hans Schneider reports for BlouArtInfo.
Two British photography magazines are currently featuring Marilyn within their pages. Professional Photography, a monthly, looks at Douglas Kirkland’s photos of Marilyn in its July issue. Meanwhile, the weekly Amateur Photographer (issue 09/07/2016), looks at Andre de Dienes’ work with a young Marilyn and other ‘California Girls’, on display until July 30 in New York.
Andre de Dienes: Marilyn and the California Girls – a rare solo retrospective for the European-born, West Coast photographer – will be on display at the Stephen Kasher Gallery in New York from June 9-July 30, reports the British Journal of Photography. As well as his extraordinary work with Marilyn, the exhibit will also showcase De Dienes’ exotic nudes, taken against the spectacular natural backdrop of California’s desert landscape.
A new article for the Bendigo Advertiser focuses on the importance of photography in Marilyn’s career, and her work with masters of the art such as Andre de Dienes, Eve Arnold, Cecil Beaton and Richard Avedon, as featured in the Bendigo Art Gallery’s current exhibition, Twentieth Century Fox Presents Marilyn Monroe.
“THE photographic works included in the current exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery provide an intimate insight into Marilyn Monroe and complement the authentic artefacts, clothing and other objects on display that belonged to, or were worn by, Marilyn.
Photographs from her early life are displayed together with works by renowned photographers such as Eve Arnold and Richard Avedon. From deeply personal and important memories of her childhood to aspects of her various persona and professional incarnations, the medium of photography reveals much about this fascinating subject.
Photography was of great importance to Marilyn throughout her life, revealed by her treasuring of such images and later her manipulation of the medium as her career developed.
Over the course of just a few years de Dienes captured the transformation from Norma Jeane Dougherty to Marilyn Monroe … Arnold’s photographs show a different side of Marilyn, in that they are unposed and more documentary in style, catching unguarded moments.
Beaton composed a number of distinct sets to create different sittings, all within a suite in New York’s Ambassador Hotel. On display is the image of Monroe widely believed to be her favourite … Avedon created a series showing Marilyn dressed as some of the most celebrated female actors of the twentieth century …”