2015: A Year in Marilyn Headlines

10888615_10152588248917584_8987576087019859357_nIn January, Marilyn was named as the ‘new face’ of Max Factor cosmetics. Also this month, Joe Franklin (Marilyn’s first biographer) and Anita Ekberg, a fellow blonde bombshell of the fifties, both passed away.

In February, New York Fashion Week included a Fall 2015 collection from Max Mara, inspired by Marilyn’s 1960s style. A hologram of multiple Marilyns appeared in the Oscars opening ceremony. Also this month, Richard Meryman – the last person to interview Marilyn – passed away.

adf8341a9d7c6e436611f9b166316971In March, Marilyn was featured in a vintage-inspired ad campaign for Coca Cola. In book news, the long-awaited first volume of Holding A Good Thought For Marilyn, a two-part biography by Stacy Eubank, was published.

eubankMarilyn Forever, an opera by Gavin Bryars, had its US premiere. And Marilyn: The Strength Behind the Legendary Monroe, showcasing the collection of Ted Stampfer, opened in Liechtenstein.

In April, a viral hoax news story, claiming that a CIA agent had made a deathbed confession to Marilyn’s murder, was debunked. Plans for a monument to Marilyn in South Korea were announced. And in book news, Fan Phenomena: Marilyn Monroe, edited by Marcelline Block, was published.

fan phenomIn May, Dr Cyril Wecht – one of the world’s most renowned forensic pathologists – gave an interview to Immortal Marilyn’s Marijane Gray, laying to rest some of the many myths about Marilyn’s death. Marilyn was the subject of two controversial TV shows: Autopsy – The Last Hours of Marilyn Monroe, a documentary; and The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, a mini-series based on J. Randy Taraborrelli’s biography, starring Kelli Garner.

bfi monroe_season_posterOn June 1 – Marilyn’s 89th birthday – the British Film Institute launched a month-long retrospective of Marilyn’s movies, and a nationwide reissue of The Misfits. Menswear designer Dries Van Noten used iconic images of Marilyn in his Spring 2016 collection. A benefit performance of Bombshell (the Marilyn-inspired musical subject of TV’s Smash) spurred plans for a full Broadway run. And Marilyn Monroe: Missing Moments, a summer-long exhibit, opened at the Hollywood Museum.

jpegOn June 29, Julien’s Auctions held a Hollywood Legends sale dedicated to Marilyn, and her floral dress from Something’s Got to Give sold for over $300,000. Sadly, it was also reported that the ‘Dougherty House’ in North Hollywood, where Marilyn lived from 1944-45, has been demolished – despite protests from local residents. And George Winslow, the former child actor who appeared in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, passed away.

hollywood-legends-catalogIn July, Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years, a new book by Michelle Morgan, was published. Limited Runs launched the Red Velvet Collection, a US touring exhibition featuring Tom Kelley’s famous nude calendar shots of Marilyn, as well as rare photos by Gene Lester. In Los Angeles, the Andrew Weiss Gallery launched their own exhibition, Marilyn: The Making of a Legend, and published a catalogue, 17 Years.

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In August, the Marilyn Remembered fan club’s annual memorial service was held at Westwood Memorial Park, marking the 53rd anniversary of Marilyn’s death. It was reported that hip hop producer Timbaland would sample ‘Down Boy’, a ‘lost’ song recorded by Marilyn for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. And the Daily Express published rare photos of a young Marilyn in Salinas.

In September, a large number of rare candid shots of Marilyn were auctioned by Profiles in History. A new exhibition, Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn, opened in New York. And Norman Farberow, the psychologist who contributed to the first official report on Marilyn’s death in 1962 , passed away.

wills marilyn in the flashIn October, Marilyn – in the Flash, David Wills’ stunning sequel to MM: Metamorphosis, was published. Members of Everlasting Star discovered rare photos of an early public appearance by Marilyn at the Hollywood Legion Stadium in 1947. October also marked Arthur Miller’s centenary, and the death of movie legend Maureen O’Hara.

In November, Marilyn’s blue gabardine suit from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was sold at Bonham’s for $425,000. Congressman Tony Cardenas introduced a bill to rename a Van Nuys post office after Marilyn. Cartier unveiled a new ad, featuring a diamond-themed homage to Marilyn. And the Writers’ Guild of America voted Some Like it Hot as the second funniest screenplay of all time.

And finally … in December, Marilyn-related items from the collection of Dame Joan Collins were sold at Julien’s Auctions, and Ferragamo launched a capsule collection featuring a Marilyn-inspired shoe. Over in Toronto, the TIFF Cinematheque launched a season of movies starring Marilyn and her greatest Hollywood rival, Elizabeth Taylor.

Anita Ekberg 1931-2015

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Actress Anita Ekberg, best known for her role in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, has died aged 83.

Born in Sweden in 1931, Anita became a fashion model in her teens. After winning the Miss Sweden contest in 1950, she went to America. As a finalist in the 1951 Miss Universe contest, she won a film contract, and posed for photographers Bruno Bernard, Allan Grant, Andre de Dienes and Milton Greene.

After appearing alongside Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in Artists and Models (1955) and Hollywood or Bust (1956), Ekberg was dubbed ‘Paramount’s Marilyn Monroe’. She played Helena in War and Peace (1956), but was more interested in socialising than furthering her acting career. Her affairs with Frank Sinatra, Rod Taylor and other celebrities were regularly reported in gossip columns, while her statuesque, blonde beauty made her a popular pin-up.

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On October 29, 1956, Anita was among the stars introduced to Queen Elizabeth II at a London screening of The Battle of the River Plate, which Marilyn also attended.

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Then in 1960, Italian auteur Federico Fellini cast her as ‘Sylvia’, a movie star who becomes the ‘dream woman’ of tabloid journalist Marcello (played by Marcello Mastroianni.) La Dolce Vita is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and the scene in which Anita bathes in the Trevi Fountain is among the most iconic of all time.

That year, she was featured on Epoca‘s cover alongside Marilyn, and Silvana Mangani. On April 12, 1961, columnist Earl Wilson reported Marilyn’s reaction to Ekberg’s celebrated performance:

“Marilyn Monroe saw a screening of La Dolce Vita and exclaimed – at one Anita Ekberg joke about sleeping between nothing but perfume drops – ‘They’ve stolen my line.’ And she was right. MM’s original, a classic, went this way:

‘What do you wear to bed?’

‘Just some Chanel No. 5.’

‘Don’t you have anything on?’

‘Yes, the radio.’

Fellini cast Ekberg in three further films: Bocaccio ’70 (1962); I Clowns (1972); and Intervista (1987.) While she remained fond of Fellini, Anita dismissed the notion that he made her famous. ‘It was the other way around,’ she said.

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She lost the role of Honey Ryder in Dr No to the unknown Ursula Andress, but would appear by proxy in another Bond film, From Russia With Love. In Ian Fleming’s novel, the villain’s hideout is reached by a trapdoor though a billboard of Marilyn Monroe’s giant face, advertising the Turkish-dubbed version of Niagara. By 1963 Marilyn was dead, and the billboard was replaced with an image of Anita in her latest film, Call Me Bwana.

In 1998, she was interviewed by the BBC. Asked if MM was the ‘sexiest woman of the century,’ Ekberg replied, ‘I don’t believe so, but if you die young, you become immortal…I think she was a good actress. You can’t play stupid unless you are very intelligent.’

She lived in Rome and was married twice, with no children, and died on January 11, 2015, of complications from a longtime illness.