Moments in Time: Marilyn and the Kennedys

The only photo of Marilyn and the Kennedy brothers is coming up for auction in a rare original print. Bidding at Lelands‘ will start at $2,500, ending on August 17.  Olivia B. Waxman explores the backstory over at Time.

“The image shown here was taken that night at an after-party at the Manhattan townhouse of Hollywood exec Arthur Krim, by official White House photographer Cecil Stoughton. A print of that image is now for sale, which the auction house Lelands says it was discovered after Stoughton died in 2008; Lelands claims it could be the only surviving version of the photo that Stoughton printed himself from the original negative.

Also pictured are the President’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, on the viewer’s left, and Harry Belafonte, who sang ‘Michael Row the Boat Ashore’ that night, in the center back. The bespectacled smiling man on the right is the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who admitted later that he was indeed as starstruck as he looks. Monroe had also brought her ex-father-in-law Isidore Miller, playwright Arthur Miller’s father, to meet the President that night. ‘I thought this would be one of the biggest things in his life’ as an ‘immigrant,’ a 1964 LIFE magazine feature reported her saying.

‘[I]t was Marilyn who was the hit of the evening,’ according to TIME’s recap of the concert in 1962. ‘Kennedy plainly meant it when he said, “I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.”‘

The performance added to rumors that both Kennedy brothers were having affairs with the actor … According to another biographer, Donald Spoto, Monroe and JFK met four times between October 1961 and August 1962. Their only ‘sexual encounter‘ is believed to have taken place two months before the concert in a bedroom at Bing Crosby’s house on Mar. 24, 1962, her masseur Ralph Roberts has said.

So, while rumors of their affair may have ramped up after her performance at Madison Square Garden, their interest in each other may have been winding down at that point, Roberts has claimed. Referring to their March encounter, he said, ‘Marilyn gave me the impression that it was not a major event for either of them: it happened once, that weekend, and that was that.’

And yet, especially given Monroe’s death and Kennedy’s assassination not too long after, the idea of their relationship still holds its grip on many Americans’ imaginations.”

Mathilde Krim 1926-2018

Dr Mathilde Krim, a pioneering geneticist and campaigner for AIDS research, has died aged 91, the New York Times reports.

Born in Italy, she studied in Geneva and worked in Israel before moving to New York. In 1958 she married entertainment lawyer Arthur B. Krim, head of United Artists (the independent studio that produced Some Like It Hot and The Misfits.)

John F. Kennedy chats with comedian Jimmy Durante at a party in the Krims’ apartment on the president’s 45th birthday, May 19 1962. (Mathilde Krim is standing behind them)

On May 19, 1962, the Krims hosted a party at their home on East 69th Street for performers and selected guests from President John F. Kennedy’s 45th birthday gala – including JFK and brother Bobby, Maria Callas, Jack Benny, Shirley MacLaine and Marilyn.

Marilyn and other guests listen to Diahann Carroll singing at the Krims’ apartment

During the 1960s, the Krims supported the civil rights movement, enlisting celebrities to the cause. They also campaigned for independence in Rhodesia and South Africa, gay rights and other civil liberties. Arthur Krim died in 1994.

In 1985, Mathilde formed the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmfAR), with actress Elizabeth Taylor as International Chairwoman. Among their many successful programs are the promotion of needle exchanges, and encouraging condom use and other safe sex practices.

Mathilde was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton in 2000, and in 2014, AmfAR hosted a Marilyn-themed Cinema Against AIDS gala at the Cannes Film Festival.

Shirley MacLaine: The Understudy

Actress Shirley MacLaine was honoured by the Kennedy Center this week for her ‘exemplary lifetime achievement in the performing arts.’ She began her career on Broadway as understudy to Carol Haney in The Pajama Game, and made her screen debut in Hitchock’s The Trouble With Harry (1955.)

Among MacLaine’s most famous films are Some Came Running, The Apartment, Sweet Charity and Terms of Endearment. Recently she reached a new audience with her role in TV’s Downton Abbey.

In They Knew Marilyn Monroe, Les Harding notes that ‘after Marilyn’s death, MacLaine took over several projects which had been earmarked for her.’ And in recent years, MacLaine has shared some surprising (to say the least) anecdotes about MM.

In 2011, MacLaine claimed that Marilyn attended a preview of The Apartment nude under her fur coat, although photos from the event appear to show her wearing a dress. MacLaine has also claimed to have ‘shared’ Yves Montand – Marilyn’s Let’s Make Love co-star who accompanied her to the screening – with Monroe, implying that she also had an affair with him.

In her 2012 book, I’m Over All That, MacLaine added fuel to the fire of the MM-JFK rumour mill:

“I never had any proof that the Kennedy brothers had intimate relations with Marilyn Monroe, but it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of probability. Once at Arthur and Mathilde Krim’s house in New York, I joined an impressive gathering of movie stars and politicians. Marilyn was there. I saw her go into a private room with Jack. They stayed awhile, until he came out another door. Immediately, Bobby entered the room and stayed until the song that Jimmy Durante was singing was over. I have a picture of that night on my Wall of Life. Of course, the Kennedy brothers and Marilyn could have been talking about world affairs and comparing notes, but most of us thought it was the other kind of affairs they were interested in.”

This appears to be a reference to the party held after Kennedy’s birthday gala on May 18, 1962, which Shirley also attended. In a recent interview – broadcast on CNN – she talks about the gala itself, claiming that Marilyn refused to go onstage and Shirley was asked to stand in for her.

Of course, Marilyn was prone to stage fright – and given her unreliable reputation, it wouldn’t be surprising if a last-minute replacement was considered. However, Marilyn had already defied orders from Twentieth Century-Fox to perform at the gala. In fact, her later dismissal from Something’s Got to Give was partly related to this matter.

Also, Marilyn’s appearance at the very end of the gala was pre-planned. Peter Lawford introduced her as ‘the late Marilyn Monroe’ as a pun on her reputation for unpunctuality. Throughout the evening, her appearance was announced, only for her not to appear. In fact, she performed on schedule.

Interestingly, the sole occasion when Monroe and MacLaine were allegedly photographed together – on Dean Martin’s yacht in 1961 – has been disputed by Shirley herself. Upon writing to MacLaine, a member of Everlasting Star was told that she was not in the photo. It has also been suggested that the mystery woman is French cabaret star Zizi Jeanmaire.

Photo by Bernie Abramson