“Milton H. Greene Archives Inc. has been in a long-running court battle with Anna Strasberg, widow of Monroe’s acting coach, Lee Strasberg, and her licensing agent CMG Worldwide, which have controlled use of Monroe’s image for years.
In a ruling on Thursday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California backed a lower court decision that allowed Greene Archives to license its images of Monroe.
The legal battle over Greene’s images hinged on where Monroe was living at the time of her death on August 5, 1962. The court ruled Monroe resided in New York and therefore she did not have the posthumous right of publicity based on the state’s law.
‘Because no such right exists under New York law, Monroe LLC did not inherit it … and cannot enforce it against Milton Greene or others similarly situated,’ Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the court.
Wardlaw wrote that the lengthy dispute over Monroe’s persona ‘has ended in exactly the way that Monroe herself predicted more that 50 years ago,’ pointing to Monroe’s quote: ‘I knew I belonged to the public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful, but because I had never belonged to anything or anyone else.'”
NPR takes a look at Marilyn’s will. Made in 1961, it remains controversial, and it’s rumoured that she had wanted to change it in the weeks before her death.
“Monroe grew up in an orphanage and foster homes. She had no relationship with her father, and her mother spent most of her adult life in mental institutions. In her will, the actress set up a trust to care for her mother until she died; left money to her half-sister, who Monroe didn’t even know existed until she was 12; and made bequests to a poet friend and his wife (she loved poetry, and even wrote some herself) and to others she trusted.
According to Anthony Summers, who wrote a best-selling Monroe biography, the people named in her will got to know her as a real person who loved children, animals and cooking.
‘They took Marilyn under their wings,’ he says. ‘They gave her uncomplicated privacy and companionship.’
Monroe also left a bequest to her psychoanalyst, Marianne Kris.
‘She felt that [Kris] was very helpful and sympathetic,’ says Sarah Churchwell, author of The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe. ‘She found that [Kris] was starting to help her understand what it was that she was going through.’
After Kris died, her portion of the estate was transferred to the Anna Freud Centre in London, which is dedicated to working with children with mental health problems. Churchwell says Monroe would have approved.
‘That would have made her really happy,’ Churchwell says. ‘She did want to do good, and she wanted to feel as if she had accomplished something.’
But Monroe left the bulk of her estate to her acting coach, Lee Strasberg. He and his wife, Paula, also one of her acting coaches, were like surrogate parents to Monroe. When Strasberg died in 1982, his second wife, Anna, inherited the Monroe estate and eventually hired CMG Worldwide, a company that specializes in managing the estates of dead celebrities, to license Monroe products. That’s when the actress started making big money.
Several years and a variety of lawsuits later, Strasberg sold what remained of the Monroe estate to a new company, Authentic Brands Group, or ABG, for an estimated $20 to $30 million. Strasberg remains a minority partner in the deal.”
Lee Strasberg’s widow, Anna, has donated his personal papers – including correspondence, rehearsal notes and photos – to the US Library of Congress, reports the Los Angeles Times. (It will be interesting to see if any new Marilyn-related material is made public…)
CMG Worldwide – who managed licensing rights for Marilyn’s image until 2010 – are at loggerheads with her estate, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
“When the Monroe estate terminated its relationship with CMG, the parties allegedly reached a deal whereby CMG would return certain assets, including the Monroe website and Facebook page, for a cash payout.
The following year, CMG sued the estate to enforce the terms of the termination agreement. The case settled.
Neither the termination deal nor the settlement agreement is said to have addressed CMG’s representation of One-West Publishing (regarding the copyright ownership of photos by Andre de Dienes and George Barris.) CMG believes that it is permitted to carry on its work there so as to recoup its expenses to settle the One-West litigation.
This month, CMG got a cease-and-desist letter from the Monroe estate over its licensing and display of Marilyn Monroe products and services.
On Wednesday, in a very odd twist, CMG filed a new lawsuit against the Monroe estate in New York federal court, seeking a ruling that it hasn’t done anything wrong with Monroe’s likeness.”
A business article about dead celebrities and merchandising at the Daily Telegraph includes a long section on Marilyn’s estate, and the recent break with CMG:
“By testing its rights of publicity claims in court, CMG took a huge gamble – and lost. Sam Shaw’s and Milton Greene’s families seem genuinely saddened at the estate’s reversal of fortune, which they believe was avoidable. ‘If we had all worked as a team there would have been no litigation,’ claims Joshua Greene, who has not been recompensed for the millions of dollars owing to him in unpaid licensing fees. He stresses that with no agents involved, he enjoys very different, relaxed working relationships with the families of such stars as Sammy Davis, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, John Wayne and Richard Burton.
Although allegations that the Monroe estate is bankrupt have been denied by Strasberg’s lawyers, legal documents indicate that they have spent between $14-17 million in legal fees, although Greene puts it at nearer $20 million. Greene believes the sale of Monroe’s licensing rights to Authentic Brands Group (ABG), which also represents Bob Marley, has not only saved the estate from financial disaster but also her image may go more upmarket. New 2012 products and campaigns involve Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Gerard Darel and Smash, an NBC TV series about a fictional Marilyn-themed Broadway musical.
One mystery remains: what will happen to the 25 per cent of Monroe’s estate inherited by her Manhattan psychoanalyst, Marianne Kris? When she died in 1980, Vienna-born Kris, a close friend of Sigmund Freud’s daughter Anna, left her share of the estate to London’s Anna Freud Centre for children with emotional needs. In 1990 Anna Strasberg went to court in an unsuccessful attempt to acquire that quarter of Monroe’s legacy. Insiders claim the centre recently experienced a shortfall
in its funding, and statements filed at Companies House record that ‘the centre’s share of royalty income… was allocated to uphold and protect the [estate’s] Rights of Publicity. This licensing income is… expected to reduce significantly in the next several years so the centre is committed to diversifying its source of income to replace these revenue incomes.’ The centre declined to discuss the case or provide a formal statement, suggesting a determination to keep details of current legal negotiations, possibly with Strasberg and ABG, under wraps.”
CMG Worldwide, who held the licensing rights to Marilyn’s estate for 20 years, have filed suit in Indianapolis after Lee Strasberg’s widow, Anna, dropped them recently in favour of ABG (Authentic Brands Group.)
‘CMG is asking in the suit for unspecified fees believed to be in the millions of dollars from royalties and other expenses the agency says were agreed upon during the split.
Strasberg reportedly received more than $20 million for the Monroe materials from Authentic Brands, a Canadian company with offices in New York.
CMG’s website continues to show Monroe, along with James Dean and dozens of other dead celebrities, among major clients. Authentic Brands claims to represent her, too.
“We’re still in the Marilyn business,” said Mark Roesler, chairman and chief executive of CMG.
The company negotiated nearly 2,000 product licensing agreements worth millions for her estate and still represents photographers and others who have Monroe pictures or other items.
“Parties change, and the Strasberg group sold to the group from Canada. CMG remains in the intellectual property business, representing the estates of our clients, just not the Strasbergs anymore,” Roesler said.
The latest suit was filed in April in Hamilton Superior Court and then moved last week to the U.S. District Court for Southern Indiana in Indianapolis.
CMG is suing Authentic Brands Group, the Anna Freud Center, Anna Strasberg and her son David, and book editor Stanley Buchthal, plus two limited liability companies created by the defendants.
Roesler and New York attorney Terri Dipaolo, representing Authentic Brands, said the two companies have reached a private agreement, so Authentic Brands may be dropped from the suit. CMG claimed in the suit that at least $1.6 million was owed by Authentic Brands.
The Strasbergs, Buchthal and the Freud Center in London, founded by one of Monroe’s psychiatrists who was named an heir in her will, are accused of fraud and breach of contract in the breakup of CMG’s long-running representation of the estate. Their attorneys could not be reached for comment.’
More at Indystar
“In light of my caring for the preservation of Marilyn Monroe’s image over the years, and my personal and professional commitments to my husband, Lee Strasberg’s, work, teaching, lecturing, and directing The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institutes, and to my family, which now includes my grandchildren, I am pleased to let you know that I have entered into a partnership with Jamie Salter and ABG, who impressed me with their bold, imaginative ideas. I will remain involved, and I enthusiastically look forward to their innovative ideas and continuing to carry out with integrity Marilyn’s great and timeless legacy.”
“Why does Lindsay Lohan aspire to be Marilyn Monroe? Why does Lady Gaga aspire to be Marilyn Monroe? The reason is that she is an iconic personality, she has great style, she is just simply elegant. She stands for glamour, and sex appeal, and – remember this – she proves that size doesn’t matter. She is voluptuous, a real woman. The younger generation will fall in love with her the way we fell in love.”
I can only hope that Mr Salter will respect Marilyn’s memory, and not just the brand. Certainly I hope that some of his more bizarre ideas – such as a reality TV show looking for the ‘next MM’ – will be reconsidered, as surely he must appreciate that Ms Monroe was irreplaceable.
More details at The Independent