Scarlett Johansson on Monroe Comparisons

As Catherine in Arthur Miller’s ‘View From the Bridge’

Actress Scarlett Johansson is often compared to Marilyn as a sex symbol and comedienne, and she has channelled the Monroe look in many photo shoots. However, as she told USA Today recently, she has no plans to play MM onscreen:

‘Two years ago, Johansson made her Tony-winning Broadway debut a neighborhood away in A View From the Bridge by Arthur Miller, the former husband, of course, of the icon she’s constantly held up against, Monroe.

‘There’s a lot there to explore, and I like to watch other people do it, but I have no interest’ in joining the Monroe biopic brigade.

‘It’s lovely to be compared to somebody as sort of effervescent and charming and fragile and I think kind of an underrated actor, really,’ Johansson says. And ‘you know, beautiful and everything. But it’s never been one for me.'”

Bogdanovich on Marilyn: The Last Love Goddess

Marilyn in 1957

Another extract from Peter Bogdanovich’s 2004 essay on Marilyn, featuring his interview with Arthur Miller:

“I, quite candidly, had to realize, as many have before me, that that (motion picture) business  makes human relations almost impossible – especially if you’re a woman – it scars the soul.”

And Bogdanovich’s parting thoughts on MM:

“She is the most touching, strangely innocent – despite all the emphasis on sex – sacrifice to the twentieth-century art of cinematic mythology, with real people as gods and goddesses.”

Marilyn and Arthur: Not Such an Odd Couple

Writing for St Louis Jewish Light, Robert A. Cohn looks back at Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller.

“Like Joe DiMaggio before him, Miller was completely smitten by Monroe, who despite her ‘dumb blonde’ persona in many of her roles, was actually quite intelligent and a graduate of the Actors Studio, along with Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, and Dustin Hoffman. Monroe fully requited Miller’s love, and became a Jew by choice under the supervision of Rabbi Robert E. Goldburg, who signed her official Certificate of Conversion on July 1, 1956. Her conversion pleased Miller’s parents and siblings at the time, and even after her divorce, she continued to identify herself as ‘Jewish.’ Among her prized possessions was a Hanukkah menorah that played ‘Hatikva’, Israel’s national anthem, an item that fetched a tidy sum when auctioned off by Christie’s in New York in 1999.”

Inside the Actor’s Studio

In his 2004 collection of essays on movie actors, Who the Hell’s In It?, director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show) recalled his sole encounter with Marilyn:

“Only one time was I in Marilyn Monroe’s presence, and she never would have known it. During the winter of 1955, I was sitting a row in front of her at a Manhattan acting class being conducted by Lee Strasberg. Marilyn was 29, at the peak of her success and fame – with seven years left to live – wearing a thick bulky-knit black woolen sweater, and no make-up on her pale lovely face. The two or three times I allowed myself to casually glance back at her, she was absolutely enthralled, mesmerised by Strasberg’s every word and breath.  In his autobiography, Arthur Miller, who would marry her the following year, wrote that he felt Strasberg, though worshipped by Monroe, was a heavy contributor to his breakup with the actress, and that the acting guru’s domination was self-serving and exploitative of her. From the glimpses I had of Marilyn, Strasberg certainly had her complete attention and support, but in a strangely desperate way. She didn’t look contented or studious; she looked quite anxious and passionately devoted to Strasberg as somehow the answer to her troubles.”

Arthur Miller: Stylish in Specs

The press dubbed Marilyn’s romance with Arthur Miller ‘The Egghead and the Hourglass’. However, Esquire magazine argues that Arthur was, in fact, a style icon for men.

“If you’re at all like me — which is to say a man who’s worn glasses every day of his life since age 16, when the quiet man at the D.M.V mandated them — then you might notice something else. His name is Arthur Miller, the playwright and one-time husband of Ms. Monroe, who never tired of his excellent specs: flat across the top, round in the frame, the sort that would cut across most faces (okay, not if your face is too round) with distinction, especially in that nice, dark tortoise shell. I want these glasses…Check out the real Arthur Miller and you’ll see a portrait of a man who would look great in any decade. No timestamp necessary.”

Vera Day Remembers Marilyn

Vera Day, who played Marilyn’s friend Betty in The Prince and the Showgirl, has spoken to The Daily Beast about the challenge of acting alongside the world’s famous star.

“I thought Marilyn was just beautiful. I used to gaze at her and couldn’t take my eyes off her. But she did give everyone a headache because she was late, didn’t turn up, and those types of things…”

She also cast some doubt on Colin Clark’s version of events, as told in My Week With Marilyn:

“I didn’t witness anything between Marilyn and Colin Clark [as in the film]. I actually don’t remember him on the set at all. There weren’t any rumblings of them being together on set. She was very, very into Arthur Miller, and they were on their honeymoon. Goodness me, no. Whatever he said about that … I mean, I can’t accuse him of lying, but I very much doubt there was anything going on there. She was with [Miller] all the time, and when she wasn’t she was working, and he was on the set all the time with her.”

‘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.”