‘After the Fall’ in Washington

Arthur Miller’s 1964 play, After the Fall – widely controversial for its unflinching portrait of a self-destructive woman, seemingly based on Marilyn – is being staged at Washington’s Theatre J, through to November 26.

Chris Klimek reviewed the production for the Washington City Paper:

“It’s the character of Maggie, however, who turns the parallels to Miller’s own life up to brazen volume. A husky-voiced bombshell who blossoms into a singing star after Quentin shows her a molecule of kindness, she looks an awful lot like a straw-Marilyn even before she falls under the sway of various seedy agents, managers, shrinks, and soon enough, barbiturates and booze. Gabriela Fernández-Coffey banishes any trace of mimicry or caricature from her performance, making Maggie’s descent into addiction and despair deeply disquieting to witness.”

Variations on Marilyn

The Munsters and their niece, Marilyn

The myriad imitators of Marilyn Monroe have been much-discussed of late. Perhaps the most interesting analysis comes from The AV Club, considering past film portrayals in The Goddess, The Sex Symbol, Insignificance, and Mister Lonely; Marilyn-inspired characters in The Munsters and Gilligan’s Island; famous fans like Anna Nicole Smith and Lindsay Lohan; the music of Marilyn Manson; fictionalisations by Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, and John Varley’s Gaea trilogy; recreations of Marilyn’s birthday song for President Kennedy, by Madonna and Jennifer Lopez; and the forthcoming NBC series, Smash.

Michelle Williams: ‘Becoming Marilyn’

Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

Michelle Williams has been talking about her performance in My Week With Marilyn. She told Newsweek, “I knew all the stuff that was written in Arthur [Miller’s] journal. I knew what she read. This man was going to save her; this man was going to give her the family she never had. Her vision of the world got reinforced again. There it goes: Everyone will abandon me. That’s such a devastating point of view.”

Michelle also graces the cover of December’s Elle (UK edition, out tomorrow.) Of Marilyn’s style, she says, “Something I really appreciated about her is what a simple dresser she was. She’s really, in her personal life, completely unadorned. Everything that she wore looked like she could take her shoes off and run through a field. And I like that.”

Of the private Marilyn, Michelle explains,  “I had always been more interested in the private Marilyn, and the unguarded Marilyn. Even as a young girl, my primary concern wasn’t with this larger than life personality smiling back from the wall but with what was going on underneath.”

 

St Vincent Inspired by Marilyn’s Writing

Marilyn leaving hospital in 1954

St Vincent – aka musician Annie Erin Clark – performed ‘Surgeon’, a song inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s writings, now available as a free download from her forthcoming album, Strange Mercy, at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art on Thursday, reports the Times:

‘St. Vincent ended her concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Thursday night with an emotionally complicated plea. “Best, finest surgeon,” she sang coolly, fingers skittering along the neck of her guitar. “Come cut me open.”

The song was “Surgeon,” with lyrics inspired by an entry in Marilyn Monroe’s diary, and St. Vincent made its queasy hunger feel palpable, even, somehow, during the mounting vulgarity of the synth-guitar solo that she used as a coda.

Surgery isn’t a bad metaphor for the process by which St. Vincent, a k a Annie Clark, creates her music. But she’s rarely if ever the one being operated on. What she does is traumatic but controlled, unsentimental but not uncaring. She can seem clinical, but she knows what she’s doing in there.’

The song is based on a piece published in Fragments, the 2010 collection of Marilyn’s writing. It was written on Waldorf-Astoria stationary (MM lived at the hotel in 1955.)

This may be an account of a dream. It is filled with characters from Marilyn’s life at the time – Lee Strasberg, Arthur Miller, Milton Greene, Dr Hohenberg, the Rostens – and suggests Marilyn’s intense fear of not living up to their expectations.

Like many of Marilyn’s undefined pieces, it has the quality of a prose poem. The bolded parts denote spelling anomalies, while the crossings-out are her own.

Best finest surgeon – Strasberg

waits to cut me open which I don’t mind since Dr H

has prepared me – given me anesthetic

and has also diagnosed the case and

agrees with what has to be done –

an operation – to bring myself back to

life and to cure me of this terrible dis-ease

whatever the hell it is –

Arthur is the only one waiting in the outer

room – worrying and hoping operation successful

for many reasons – for myself – for his play and

for himself indirectly

Hedda – concerned – keeps calling on phone during

operation – Norman – keeps stopping by hospital to

see if I’m okay but mostly to comfort Art

who is so worried –

Milton calls from office with lots of room

and everything in good taste – and is conducting

business in a new way with style – and music

is playing and he is relaxed and enjoying himself even if he

is very worried at the same time – there’s a camera

on his desk but he doesn’t take pictures anymore except

of great paintings.

Strasberg cuts me open after Dr. H gives me

anesthesia and tries in a medical way to comfort

me – everything in the room is white in fact but I

can’t even see anyone just white objects –

they cut me open – Strasberg with Hohenberg’s ass.

and there is absolutely nothing there – Strasberg is

deeply disappointed but more even – academically amazed

that he had made such a mistake. He thought there was going

to be so much – more than he had dreamed possible in

almost anyone but

instead there was absolutely nothing – devoid of

every human living feeling thing – the only thing

that came out was so finely cut sawdust – like

out of a raggedy ann doll – and the sawdust spills

all over the floor & table and Dr. H is puzzled

because suddenly she realizes that this is a

new type case of puple. The patient (pupil – or student – I started to write) existing of complete emptiness

Strasberg’s hopes & dreams for theater are fallen.

Dr H’s dreams and hopes for a permanent psychiatric cure

is given up – Arthur is disappointed – let down +

 

Sharon Corr’s Fantasy Dinner Guests

 

Marilyn is already something of a fixture on many people’s fantasy dinner guest lists. Talking to The Scotsman, singer Sharon Corr adds a new twist:

“I’d invite Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, just to see how they really got on; Yeshua Ben Josef, to ask him if he was actually Cat Stevens; Oscar Wilde, to capture the moment for all of us; and Debbie Harry, for a little punk flair. We’d eat a lot.”

‘Joan’s Show’ on 42nd Street

Actress Joan Copeland, 83, is the sister of Arthur Miller. Marilyn is photographed with Joan, above, at the 1957 opening of Noel Coward’s Conversation Piece.

Joan’s Show, a solo performance featuring reminiscences about her famous family and highlights from her long career, will be staged at the Acorn Theatre, 42nd St, New York, on August 15 (at 7 pm) and August 18 (at 2 pm.)

Copeland began her career on Broadway, and has appeared on television and in films including The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009), written and directed by her niece, Rebecca Miller.

In 1958, Joan appeared in The Goddess, a bleak melodrama believed to have been based on Marilyn’s life. Monroe had previously rejected another movie project by its author, Paddy Chayevsky.

Mailer’s Marilyn, Reappraised

Alex Carnevale has posted a critical review of Norman Mailer’s 1973 book, Marilyn, over at This Recording:

“He re-enacts Marilyn’s abuse as a child, giving it the texture of fiction, and presents it as a fait accompli …Throughout he styles his portrait in the present tense, reminding his audience of why the genre of literary biography is so intensely small … Arthur Miller came close to suing Mailer, claiming he made up slanders and inserted them in Marilyn’s mouth. Miller became convinced that Mailer was in fact recasting himself as Marilyn.”

American Lives: Becoming Marilyn

Dr Sarah Churchwell, author of The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, presents a free lunchtime talk, ‘Becoming Marilyn: The Invention of Marilyn Monroe’, as part of the ‘American Lives’ week presented by the University of East Anglia’s School of American Studies at The Forum, Norwich, on Thursday July 7 between 12-1pm. (On a related note, Christopher Bigsby, author of a two-volume biography of Arthur Miller, will speak on Friday July 8.)

The Millers at Parkside

Marilyn and Arthur cycling in Windsor Park, 1956

Mike Pope worked as a gardener for the Oliviers at their Notley Abbey home in Buckinghamshire when Marilyn Monroe came to England to film The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956. Marilyn and her husband, Arthur Miller, stayed at nearby Parkside House, Englefield Green, Surrey.

Pope recalls that Vivien Leigh loved tending roses, but his memories of the Millers are succinct:

“He was around for what he hoped would be the most amazing visitor of all – Marilyn Monroe, who was coming to discuss her role with Olivier in The Prince and the Showgirl.

‘We’d been brushing our hair for weeks in anticipation,’ he smiles. But then landed a major blow.

‘We were told by the head gardener that no one was to come up to the house while Marilyn and her husband, Arthur Miller, were staying.

We asked who was going to milk the cattle and remove the cowpats – the Oliviers liked it all tidied up – but they were adamant. In the end the security guards had to milk the cows by hand for two days!'”

Read Mike’s interview in full at the Dorset Echo