Long before Monroe-inspired photo shoots became de rigueur, Marilyn herself posed as five ‘fabled enchantresses’ for LIFE magazine in 1958. She considered the session on a par with her best screen performances, and in his accompanying text, husband Arthur Miller supported that claim. In a week when another Richard Avedon sold at auction for more than $8K (see here), the Flashbak website looks back at their supreme collaboration.
“As in life so in these pictures — [Marilyn] salutes fantasy from the shore of the real until there comes a moment when she carries us, reality and all, into the dream with her, and we are grateful. Her wit here consists of her absolute commitment to two ordinarily irreconcilable opposites — the real feminine and the man’s fantasy of femininity. We know she knows the difference in these pictures, but is refusing to concede that there is any contradiction, and it is serious and funny at the same time.
I am quite conceivably prejudiced, but I think this collection is a wonder of Marilyn’s wittiness. As Lillian Russell, Marilyn sits [on] the solid gold bicycle just inexpertly enough to indicate that she is, after all, a lady… Her hands lace around the bike handles so much more femininely than they grasp the fan as Clara Bow. And here again is the difference between imitation and interpretation, between making an affect and rendering a spirit.”
Marilyn’s Ford Thunderbird, sold for $490,000 at Julien’s in 2018 (see here), is listed among the top 5 cars owned by Hollywood legends on the Driving website today. Marilyn had a 1956 version of the car in Raven Black, loaded with a V8 engine that put out a cool 222bhp, propelling the car to 113mph. It was a gift from her business partner Milton Greene. They are pictured here en route to Marilyn’s civil wedding ceremony in June 1956, with husband-to-be Arthur Miller at the wheel.
Writing for The Independent, Geoffrey McNab ponders why Arthur Miller’s plays (unlike those of his contemporary, Tennessee Williams) have translated so poorly to the screen. He concedes that The Misfits has stood the test of time – perhaps due to the calibre of its cast, and being written directly for the screen (albeit based on a short story.)
“‘It’s a very mysterious business. It’s very difficult to generalise about the movies. It has a mystical effect on you finally. I can see why people devote their whole lives to fiddling with this [medium],’ the playwright, then at the end of his career, told producer/director Gail Levin when interviewed for her documentary Making The Misfits (2001).
John Huston’s The Misfits (1961), about rodeo riders, ageing cowboys and divorcees adrift in Reno or chasing wild mustangs in the Nevada deserts and mountains, was a famously chequered production. It went over budget and over schedule. Miller had intended it as a valentine to Monroe but, during shooting, their marriage imploded. Her behaviour was erratic and her time-keeping infuriating. This, though, is a heartrending movie in which, against the odds, Gable, Monroe and Clift, alongside a youthful Eli Wallach, give their rawest and most tender performances. It combines an old Hollywood feel with the best of Method acting. It also has an obvious added poignance because Gable and Monroe never completed another film after it.
Ironically, Miller felt that Huston wasn’t making The Misfits cinematic enough. ‘What intrigued me somewhat about life in Nevada was that the people were so little and that the landscape was so enormous. They were practically little dots … they were like specks of dust,’ Miller told Gail Levin. He wanted Huston to give the film an epic quality. Instead, the director did close-up after close-up, concentrating on the inner emotions of his tormented protagonists. Nonetheless, the credits are very revealing. For once, Miller’s name appears as big as those of his stars. He originated the project, found the producer and hired Huston.
At the time of The Misfits’ release, audiences were flummoxed. It wasn’t a typical Monroe or Gable vehicle and nor was it a conventional western. Sixty years on, it stands as the purest and least compromised of any of the films in which Miller was involved.”
As a part of a series on great American plays, Broadway World presents some interesting facts about After the Fall, Arthur Miller’s controversial play which explored aspects of his personal life, including his marriage to Marilyn. (You can read further posts about the play and its history here.)
“After the Fall premiered on Broadway in 1964. The production was directed by Elia Kazan, and starred Barbara Loden as Maggie and Jason Robards Jr. as Quentin. Barbara Loden won the 1964 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play, and Jason Robards was nominated for the 1964 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play.
The play is based off of Miller’s recent divorce from Marilyn Monroe, and is considered to be one of Miller’s least popular plays with critics. The plot is non-linear and takes on surrealist elements.
After the Fall was revived Off-Broadway in 1984. It was directed by John Tillinger, and starred Frank Langella and Dianne Wiest.
The play was revived on Broadway in 2004 by Roundabout Theatre Company. It was directed by Michael Mayer, and starred Peter Krause and Carla Gugino. The production was nominated for the 2005 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design of a Play.”
In a second extract from Charles Jerry Juroe’s memoir, Bond, the Beatles and My Year With Marilyn (read the first here), the veteran movie publicist recalls the rival factions on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, and a narrowly averted tragedy.
“Between [Arthur] Miller, one of the most difficult people I’ve ever encountered, and Paula Strasberg, wife of Actors Studio guru Lee Strasberg and the lady I called the ‘Wicked Witch of the East’, I very quickly found myself the one American from the Monroe camp who was on the side of [Laurence] Olivier. Believe it or not, some of the Monroe camp put the seed in her mind that Olivier was out to destroy her career.
This greatest English-speaking actor and superb prize-winning director was, after all was said and done, in her company’s employ, but Marilyn’s paranoia and persecution complex knew no bounds. She and her close entourage (led by Strasberg) made his life hell on and off the set, and this lovely man was brought to his knees by this psychologically challenged, most famous woman in the world.
One night during production, at about 3 in the morning, my London phone rang. I sleepily answered to hear the urgency in Milton Greene’s voice … Some fifteen minutes later, we were in Milton’s car, driving westward toward TROUBLE! Arthur Miller had called Milton to say he had called an ambulance to take a comatose Marilyn to a local medical facility. We arrived to find that ‘Miss Baker’ had already been pumped out and was recovering in a private room. Our star was on call for filming at Pinewood in a few hours’ time, and it was obvious she wouldn’t just be late, she wouldn’t be there at all.
However, on that ‘star-crossed production, what was another hundred thousand dollars or so to a cost sheet already way over budget.
From my standpoint, that eventful night was not all bad, as not one single word of it ever appeared in the media. No typical London tabloid banners screamed ‘Marilyn in Death Dash’ etc., ad nauseam. Those British medical practitioners of the fifties respected the privacy of those they were attending. However, if Milton passed around a few well-placed ‘tips’, they never knew and didn’t want to!
It was, however, an exhausting few hours, and the title of The Beatles’ song/film of a few years in the future perfectly captured what for me had truly been ‘a hard day’s night.'”
56 years years ago today, on January 23rd, 1964, Arthur Miller’s After the Fall, opened at the ANTA Theatre on Washington Square in New York, as Playbill Vault reports. Miller’s first new play in eight years, After the Fall proved controversial, not least in the casting of director Elia Kazan’s wife Barbara Loden as Maggie, a drug-addicted, suicidal pop singer, reminiscent of Arthur’s ex-wife, Marilyn Monroe. Maggie’s lawyer husband Quentin was played by Jason Robards, not Christopher Plummer (who would finally play Miller’s conflicted hero ten years later, opposite Faye Dunaway in a TV movie of the same.) After the Fall ran for 208 performances, and remains one of Miller’s more frequently revived plays. You can read more about the play and its links to Marilyn here.
The letter shown above, from Marilyn to baseball player Jimmy ‘Lefty’ O’Doul (circa 1954) fetched $6,400, and now has an estimate of $10-12K.
A typed letter from April 1950, addressed to the William Morris Agency and signed by Marilyn, sold for $2,280 and now has an estimate of $3.5-4.5K.
A financial document from the Woodbury Savings Bank, signed by Marilyn and husband Arthur Miller, sold for $4,480, and now has an estimate of $3.5-4.5K.
UPDATE: The financial document signed by Marilyn and Arthur Miller in 1957 was sold for $3,250 – more than $1K less than the $4,480 paid for it at Julien’s just three months ago. The other two lots went unsold.
Marilyn’s Jewish prayer book or ‘Siddur’, given to her by Paula Strasberg when she converted to Judaism and married Arthur Miller in 1956, was resold yesterday for $8,750 at J. Greenstein & Co. in Cedarhurst, NY, reports Antiques and the Arts. Originally auctioned at Christie’s in 1999, it was resold for $26,000 at Greenstein’s in November 2018 (see here), before going under the hammer again at a lower price just a year later.
Interestingly, the book was published in 1926, the year of Norma Jeane’s birth; and was first gifted to one Kenneth Wasserman on August 4th, 1934 – Monroe would pass away exactly 28 years later. It seems to have passed through several owners, including a Marilyn Cooper-Smith, nee Miller (1931-2014) who like her famous near-namesake, also received it upon her marriage.
Over 50 Marilyn-related lots will go under the hammer at on December 17-19, as part of the Hollywood – A Collector’s Ransom auction at Profiles in History. Marilyn’s costumes from A Ticket to Tomahawk, Love Nest, and Don’t Bother to Knock, and her fishnet tights from Bus Stop – which went unsold at last year’s Essentially Marilyn event – are back for a second chance. (UPDATE: the brown skirt suit worn by Marilyn in Love Nest has been sold for $30,000 – but again, the other movie costumes went unsold.)
As Simon Lindley reports for Just Collecting, Marilyn’s personal annotated screenplay for The Seven Year Itch is also on offer, with a reserve of $60-80K. (The photo shown above, taken on location in New York, is sold separately.)
“In the film Monroe’s character is known simply as ‘The Girl’, an aspiring actress who serves as the object of the husband’s desires.
But behind her on-screen persona as the blonde sex symbol, Monroe’s extensive handwritten annotations reveal her dedication to her craft.
Throughout the script she has written notes to herself such as ‘Look first indecisive – pause – hesitation – little smile’ and ‘My body into his – sliding into him as if I want to sleep with him right then & there. Swing hips again’.
This preparation and complete understanding of the role in evident in her notes for the famous ‘Subway’ scene, which helped cement her place as a genuine Hollywood icon.
The energy and sexuality which Monroe portrays may seem effortless, but her script notes show she though very carefully about how to play the moment: ‘Child w/a woman. Direct & fem[inine]. Open… This is everything there is in the world. Light & easy. Everything flies out of her. Newborn – the baby looking at the moon for the first time.'”
Screenplay UNSOLD; photo sold for $200
And now, let’s take a closer look at what else is on offer…
“Vintage original 8 x 10 in. photograph taken of 13 year-old Norma Jeane on a trip to Yosemite with ‘Aunt’ Ana Lower and other family members. And sold separately, a vintage original 2-page printed 6.25 x 9 in. Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior High School Class of Summer 1941 commencement program. The printed program contains itinerary including music, speeches, and songs. Listed alphabetically in the ‘Graduating Class, June 1941 Girls’ roster of graduates is ‘Baker, Norma Jeane’.”
“Vintage original gelatin silver 8 x 10 in. photograph of Marilyn with her junior high school glee club, smiling in the center of the group. The verso is copiously inscribed with messages to Norma Jeane by her girlfriends, including, ‘To a beautiful, sweet, charming, and darling, adorable Norma Jean’ and ‘I hope your ambition will come true – to stay an old maid all your life’.”
SOLD for $3,000
“A 2-page letter to ‘Cathy’ handwritten in pencil and signed, ‘Norma Jeane’. Written during a period of major transition in her life, Norma Jeane mentions a leave of absence from her job as a parachute inspector at Radioplane. She had recently been ‘discovered’ by US Army Air Force First Motion Picture Unit photographer David Conover while working at the plant, and through his connections, had been able to get freelance work as a pin-up model. She writes in full: ‘Thursday. My dearest Cathy, thank you for your sweet little note, why of course of course I like you dear very much, you know that. If I seem a little neglectful at times its because I’m so busy I don’t seem to have any time to catch up on my correspondence, but I promise after this, I shall, do better, honestly I will. Jimmie arrived about three weeks ago and you can imagine how thrilled I was. I only wish he didn’t have to go back. Jimmie and I went up to Big Bear Lake for a week and had a grand time I hope you and Bud will be down soon because I would love for you both to meet him. I’ve been on leave of absence from Radioplane. I shall tell you all about it when I see you honey or I shall write to you later. I have so many things I have to do so I had better close for now but I shall write soon. Tell Bud Hello for me. Love, Norma Jeane.'”
Vintage original 8 x 10 in. cast & crew photo from Marilyn’s first movie, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! She is in the third row, just above leading lady June Haver. SOLD for $1,500
“Vintage original gelatin silver 7 x 8.75 in. double weight matte photograph, inscribed and signed in black ink at lower right, ‘To Grace and Daddy Always Lovingly Norma Jeane 12/25/46′. The ‘daddy’ to whom Norma Jeanne inscribed this early headshot is Erwin ‘Doc’ Goddard, a research engineer and the husband of Norma Jeanne’s legal guardian, Grace Goddard. And sold separately, two oversize glamour portrait photographs of Marilyn Monroe in character as ‘Miss Caswell’ in All About Eve. The first is credit stamped by Ray Nolan with studio snipe, and the other, seen at right, attributed to Ed Clark.” [A poster for the film, signed by Bette Davis, Joseph Mankiewicz, and Celeste Holm, is being sold separately.]
Signed photo SOLD for $30,000; poster SOLD for $6,000.
Two vintage calendars including a 1950 wall calendar measuring 8.5 x 14.5 in., and featuring paintings by Earl Moran, six featuring Marilyn, alongside cute, risque poems like, ‘What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice, Perfume that smells nice, Jewels and furs, To attract attention, And other good things Too obvious to mention’, and a wall calendar featuring unique topless ‘cowgirl’ images of Marilyn not seen elsewhere. Sold separately, a 16 x 32 in. pin-up 1952 wall calendar titled, ‘The Lure of Lace‘. Featuring Marilyn Monroe in her famous Tom Kelley nude kneeling pose, but with a black lace teddy ‘overprint’.”
“Two original studio production 8 x 10 in. negatives of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, each modeling wardrobe by designer William Travilla. [Russell wore a blonde wig to impersonate Marilyn in a courtroom scene.] Each includes within image a ‘shot-board’ documentation of production, scene, and change numbers. Also included are two original wardrobe documentation green pages detailing costumes [Monroe page describes a different costume, for the opening ‘Little Rock’ number.] At some point in time a positive copy print of the Monroe negative was made for archive continuity, but is not original to the production.”
“11 x 14 in. portrait by Ed Clark of Marilyn in the gold lame gown from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for LIFE magazine. Signed in black ink on Marilyn’s skirt by the photographer, ‘Edmund Clark Life’.”
SOLD for $300
“Photo of Marilyn at the Photoplay Awards in 1953, part of a 1750-image archive for celebrity snapper J.B. Scott. And sold separately, an award plaque presented to Marilyn by a County Fair ‘Sugar Queen’, engraved, ‘To the Sweetest Girl in Motion Pictures, Marilyn Monroe, 20th Century-Fox Films Star Presented by 1953 Yolo County Fair Sugar Queen’.”
Photo archive SOLD for $95,000; award plaque UNSOLD.
“Elois Jenssen costume sketch for Lucille Ball as ‘Lucy Ricardo’ as ‘Marilyn Monroe’ from I Love Lucy. Elois Jenssen was Lucille Ball’s designer of choice, who is credited with creating the ‘Lucy Look’. This dress design was created for the I Love Lucy Episode: ‘Ricky’s Movie Offer’, which aired on Nov. 8th, 1954. In the episode, ‘Lucy’ transforms herself into Marilyn Monroe to try to win a role in Ricky’s (Desi Arnaz) new Hollywood film. This costume was then repurposed into a showgirl costume for two subsequent episodes.” [Elois Jenssen’s costume sketches for Marilyn in We’re Not Married are being sold separately.]
“Ten 8 x 10 in. photographs of Marilyn Monroe in scenes from films, including the earliest title which depicts her on any of its publicity, Dangerous Years. Other highlights include Ladies of the Chorus, The Asphalt Jungle, Right Cross [to our knowledge, this still is the only original release paper to depict Marilyn], Let’s Make it Legal, and [shown above] Bus Stop.
SOLD for $225
“A set of fourteen 7 x 8.5 in. to 8 x 10 in. photographs, a mix of portraits, candids, and scenes, including stills from The Seven Year Itch and Let’s Make Love [at left] and a candid by Al Brack [at right], showing Marilyn on location for Bus Stop in Sun Valley, Idaho.”
“Two exhibition photos signed by Marvin Scott, of Marilyn performing at a circus benefit in 1955; and sold separately, another set including this photo of Marilyn arriving at Los Angeles in 1958 for the filming of Some Like It Hot.
“A candid photo taken by Milton Greene at Marilyn’s wedding to Arthur Miller; and sold separately, two address books from her estate, including typed and annotated entries for contacts including Actor’s Studio, Jack Benny, Eve Arden, George Cukor, Montgomery Clift, Jack Cardiff, Joe DiMaggio, Henry Fonda, John Huston, Hedda Hopper, Designers, makeup artists, Ben Gazzara, Gene Kelly, Jack Lemmon, Yves Montand, Arthur Miller, Robert Montgomery, Jane Russell, Jean Negulesco, Lee and Paula Strasberg, David Selznick, Carl Sandburg, Frank Sinatra, Eli Wallach, Shelley Winters, Clifford Odets, Peter Lawford, JAX, Richard Avedon, Louella Parsons, and more. Annotations not attributed to Monroe.”
And finally, a set of nine photos from Marilyn’s last completed film, The Misfits (1961.) SOLD for $4,500