Marilyn is featured among a host of other pop culture icons – from Lauren Bacall and Audrey Hepburn to Elizabeth Taylor and Madonna – in Bolipop, a new exhibition by Valencian artist Antonio de Felipe at La Fiambrera Art Gallery in Madrid, Spain until March 11 (Sunday), Blouin Artinfo reports.
The role of free-spirited Holly Golightly in the 1961 movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, was first offered to Marilyn before it became an unlikely star vehicle for Audrey Hepburn. But as Emily Temple writes in ‘20 Literary Adaptations Disavowed By Their Original Authors,’ an article for Literary Hub, novelist Truman Capote was unhappy with the casting.
Although Marilyn’s rejection of the part is usually attributed to (or blamed upon) Paula Strasberg, others also advised her against it – but on artistic grounds, and not, as reported, because Holly was a call girl (a detail sidelined in the movie.)
‘I can see Marilyn playing a part like Holly and even giving this present one all the elan it badly needs,’ Edward Parone wrote in a 1959 report, ‘but I don’t feel she should play it: it lacks insight and warmth and reality and importance.’ Parone was then working for Marilyn’s production company, and would be a script advisor on The Misfits – and despite Audrey’s success, it was a view with which many critics, including Capote himself, would have agreed.
“Famously, Truman Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe for the part of Holly Golightly in the film adaptation of his now-classic novella. As Capote explained: ‘I had seen her in a film and thought she would be perfect for the part. Holly had to have something touching about her . . . unfinished. Marilyn had that.’ But although in a lot of ways she was perfect for the role, and though Capote claimed ‘she wanted it so badly that she worked up two whole scenes all by herself to play for me,’ she was discouraged from accepting the part by her dramatic advisor and acting coach Paula Strasberg, who said ‘that she would not have her play a lady of the evening.’ The role ended up going to Audrey Hepburn. ‘Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey,’ Capote said. But it wasn’t just the casting that bothered him. ‘The book was really rather bitter,’ he told Playboyin 1968, ‘and Holly Golightly was real—a tough character, not an Audrey Hepburn type at all. The film became a mawkish valentine to New York City and Holly and, as a result, was thin and pretty, whereas it should have been rich and ugly. It bore as much resemblance to my work as the Rockettes do to Ulanova.'”
Darryl F. Zanuck may have blamed Marilyn for delays in the River of No Returnshoot, but co-star Robert Mitchum did not, writing on this letter, “Dig!!! Marilyn – my girl is your girl, and my girl is you. Ever – Bob.“
After a bitter legal battle with Twentieth Century Fox, Marilyn returned triumphantly to Hollywood in 1956, armed with a list of approved directors.
Her first project under the new, improved contract was Bus Stop. Several lots of annotated script sides are up for bids this week.
“This is the first film Monroe made after beginning to study at the Actors Studio in New York City with Lee Strasberg, and the notations in these script sides demonstrate her method. Some of the notes are sense memories, like the following notation written after the line ‘I can’t look’: ‘Effective memory (use Lester – hurt on lawn),’ most likely referencing Monroe’s childhood playmate Lester Bolender, who was in the same foster home with Monroe. Another note adds ‘(almost to myself)’ before a line to inform her delivery or ‘Scarfe [sic] around my arms) Embarrassed.'”
Arthur O’Connell, who played Virgil in the movie, sent Marilyn his best wishes after she was hospitalised with pneumonia.
“A collection of Marilyn Monroe envelopes, messages and notes, including a florist’s enclosure card with envelope addressed to Monroe and a message that reads ‘To make up for the ones you didn’t recall receiving at the hospital. Please stay well so we won’t go through this again’, signed by ‘Arthur O’Connell – Virgil Blessing.’ Also included are five handwritten notes in an unknown hand that reference Clifton Webb, Lew Wasserman and Paula Strasberg.”
“The letter is dated simply June 9, and it accompanied the latest version of the script for The Prince and the Showgirl. Olivier discusses Monroe’s dialogue and that he has ‘written some extra dialogue and a direction or two.’ He reports on where they are in the script writing process and that they have cut the script down from ‘well over 3 hours’ to 2 1/2, to 2 hours 10 minutes. He continues about the scenes that were and were not cut, including ‘The Duke of Strelitz is, I think essential, as otherwise they will be saying what’s the matter with them – why the heck can’t they get married, particularly in view of Grace Kelly and all that, and our only answer to that question must be Yes but look at the poor Windsors do you see?’
On an amusing note, Olivier mentions, ‘By the way Lady Maidenhead has degenerated to Lady Swingdale because I am assured the Hayes Office will not believe there is also a place in England of that name.’ He closes ‘I just called up Vivien at the theatre … and she said to be sure to give you her love. So here it is and mine too. Longing to welcome you here. Ever, Larry.'”
Marilyn had many advisors on this film, including husband Arthur Miller who made suggestions to improve the script.
“Some of your dialogue is stiff. Also some expressions are too British. If you want me to, I can go through the script and make the changes – – in New York. I think the part – on one reading, is really the Best one … especially with you playing it. You are the one who makes everything change, you are the driving force … The basic problem is to define for yourself the degree of the girl’s naivete. (It could become too cute, or simply too designing.) It seems to me, at least, that they have not balanced things in Olivier’s favor. … It ought to be fun to do after BusStop. From your – (and my) – viewpoint, it will help in a small but important way to establish your ability to play characters of intelligence and cultivation. … Your loving Papa – (who has to rush now to make the plane – see you soon! – free!) – Art.”
Marilyn had strong opinions about the casting of Some Like It Hot. In the minutes from a business meeting at her New York apartment, it is noted that “MCA on the Coast has told [Billy] Wilder that there are ‘legal technicalities holding up her decision’ so as not to offend Wilder. Actually, she is waiting for [Frank] Sinatra to enter the picture. She still doesn’t like [Tony] Curtis but [Lew] Wasserman doesn’t know anybody else.”
This short note penned by Marilyn is thought to be a response to Tony Curtis’ notorious remark that kissing her was “like kissing Hitler.”
Novelist Truman Capote wanted Marilyn to star as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. However, her own advisors deemed George Axelrod’s watered-down adaptation unworthy of her talents. The film was a huge hit for Audrey Hepburn, but Capote hated it.
“A clean copy of the screenplay for Breakfast at Tiffany’s written by George Axelrod and dated July 9, 1959. Monroe was considering the part, and she sought the opinions of her professional team including the Strasbergs, her husband, and management team. The script is accompanied by a single-page, typed ‘report’ dated September 23, 1959, which also has the name ‘Parone’ typed to the left of the date. Literary luminary Edward Parone was at the time running Monroe’s production company and most likely is the one who wrote this single-page, scathing review of the script, leading with the simple sentence, ‘I think not.’ It goes on to criticize the screenplay, determining, ‘I can see Marilyn playing a part like Holly and even giving this present one all the elan it badly needs, but I don’t feel she should play it: it lacks insight and warmth and reality and importance.’ It has been long reported that Monroe declined the part upon the advice of Lee Strasberg, but this document provides further evidence that other people in her inner circle advised her not to take the role. Together with a four-page shooting schedule for November 4, 1960, for the film.”
Marilyn was generous to her co-stars in Let’s Make Love, giving a framed cartoon to Wilfrid Hyde-White on his birthday, and an engraved silver cigarette box to Frankie Vaughan. She also asked her friend, New York Times editor Lester Markel, to write a profile of her leading man, Yves Montand. “He’s not only a fine actor, a wonderful singer and dancer with charm,” she wrote, “but next to you one of the most attractive men.”
A handwritten note by Paula Strasberg reveals how she and Marilyn worked together on her role in The Misfits. “searching and yearning/ standing alone/ mood – I’m free – but freedom leaves emptiness./ Rosylin [sic] – flower opens bees buzz around/ R is quiet – the others buzz around.”
In 1962, Marilyn began work on what would be her final (and incomplete) movie, Something’s Got to Give. This telegram from screenwriter Nunnally Johnson, who was later replaced, hints at the trouble that lay ahead.
“The telegram from Johnson reads ‘In Revised script you are child of nature so you can misbehave as much as you please love – Nunnally.’ Monroe has quickly written a note in pencil for reply reading ‘Where is that script – is the child of nature due on the set – Hurry Love & Kisses M.M.’ ‘Love and Kisses’ is repeated, and additional illegible notations have been crossed out.”
“Raw footage of Monroe performing with the children in Something’s Got to Give exists, and Monroe’s notations are evident in the footage. The top of the page reads ‘Real Thought/ Mental Relaxation/ substitute children – B & J if necessary/ feeling – place the pain where it is not in the brow.’ B & J likely refers to Arthur Miller’s children Bobby and Jane. Another notation next to one of Monroe’s lines of dialogue reads simply ‘Mona Lisa’, which does in fact mirror the expression she uses when delivering this line. Even the exaggerated ‘Ahhhhh—‘ that Monroe does at the beginning of each take in the raw footage is written on the page in her hand, reading in full, ‘Ahhh–Look for the light.'”
Also coming from the Netherlands in October is Marilyn and Audrey: The Battle, a children’s book by Hanneke Groenteman, about two girls studying MM and Audrey Hepburn for a school project – and as they dig into the stars’ lives the girls learn about friendship, love and jealousy.
A few years ago, this photobooth shot of Marilyn by Richard Avedon was auctioned. Thanks to Everlasting Star member ‘Joan Newman’, we now know the story behind it (click the images to below to read at full-size.)
“Esquire publisher Arnld Gingrich says:
‘It happened like this. Richard Avedon, the photographer, invited a number of celebrities up to his studio and told them they could pose any way they pleased for a passport photograph type of camera. Marilyn said, I can?– then proceeded to undrape from the waist up.’
(Mr. Gingrich followed our telephone conversation by sending a message over with a preview copy of the November issue and sure enough, on pages 58 and 59, there is open-mouthed Marilyn again, along with tin-typey snapshots of Eddie Arcaro, Ethel Merman, Arlene Dahl, Ray Bolger, Willie Mays, Bert Lahr, Mel Ferrer, Audrey Hepburn and Truman Capote- everyone except Marilyn undraped from the neck up, not down.'” – Hy Gardner, Philadelphia Inquirer, October 11, 1957
“In 1957, Esquire magazine lugged one of Mutascope’s art deco booths into Richard Avedon’s New York studio. According to the article, Avedon ‘has long asserted that true photographic talent cannot be restrained by a camera’s technical limitations.’ The Esquire editors picked celebrities and challenged Avedon to produce photographs. The resulting photomatic essay is stunning, including images of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Truman Capote and Ethel Merman.” – From ‘A History of the Photobooth’, PanModern.com
“Another influence on Capote’s sense of this bright new character in American fiction was Marilyn Monroe. He loved the wit and the strange sadness Marilyn expressed in her friendship with him; the sense of aloneness and of running away from the past, which turns out to be the exact feeling behind the ”mean reds’’, the depressions that lead Holly Golightly to take a cab to 5th Avenue and eat breakfast in front of Tiffany’s window.
Capote wanted Marilyn for the film and he was never happy with the casting of Audrey Hepburn. The author had wanted a kind of literary magic to light up the screen, the book’s black lining to show through the tinsel and peroxide, but the film starring Hepburn would prove to be as light as soufflé and Givenchy-cool.
(Martin Jurow, the film’s co-producer, recalls a meeting at which Capote insisted he himself play the male lead. ”Truman, this role just isn’t good enough for you,’’ said Jurow, thus saving the author’s face and probably saving the film, too.) But Capote was always more bitter about the casting of Holly. ”Paramount double-crossed me in every conceivable way,’ he said. ‘Holly had to have something touching about her – unfinished. Marilyn had that. Audrey is an old friend and one of my favourite people but she was just wrong for that part.’
Sadly for Marilyn, the people around her (including herself: by this point she was failing, and more around herself than in her own skin) thought it too obvious that she play a hooker. When they first offered the part to Hepburn, she didn’t want to be a hooker either. The producer insisted Holly wasn’t a hooker, but ‘a dreamer of dreams, a lopsided romantic.’ The character was to become a midcentury classic: on screen, she was less vulnerable, less dark and less raw, but Hepburn gave her a classy easefulness that was more in touch with the Sixties.”
“Marilyn would have been absolutely marvellous in (Breakfast at Tiffany’s). She wanted to play it, too, but Paramount double-crossed me in every conceivable way and cast Audrey (Hepburn). The book was really rather bitter, and Holly Golightly was real – a tough character, not an Audrey Hepburn type at all. Holly had to have something touching about her – unfinished. Marilyn had that. Audrey is an old friend and one of my favourite people but she was just wrong for that part.”
*I agree with Capote that Marilyn could have played Holly wonderfully, and perhaps brought more grit to the role. However, it would be churlish to begrudge Audrey Hepburn her most iconic performance, and I’m glad she took the part.