Facing the Future With Marilyn

Marilyn in ‘Niagara’ (1953)

Any longtime  Marilyn fan will know the challenges we face in preserving her true legacy, and two recent news stories suggest our troubles are only beginning. Toby Walsh, a professor of Artificial Intelligence (AI), believes that by 2050 – a century after she first found fame – Marilyn will be ‘starring in movies via an avatar program that talks and acts like her, with machines having learned her speech and mannerisms from her films,’ reports The Australian.

Even more alarming is an article in The Sun about the burgeoning popularity of sex robots. ‘Marilyn comes up quite often,’ says engineer Douglas Hines, of the public requests for celebrity lookalike dolls. ‘The caveat is we need the approval of the person or family. If you wanted a robot that looked like Marilyn Monroe, you would have to have her estate approve it.’ (The idea of a ‘Marilyn Monroebot‘ was first mooted – albeit in jest – on a 2001 episode of the animated series, Futurama.)

Fortunately, Marilyn’s estate has not granted permission for a robot MM, and hopefully they never will. But how long will it take until ‘bootleg’ sex dolls hit the market? And meanwhile, CGI ‘hologram‘ Marilyns have already been seen in TV ads, with her estate planning digitalised ‘live’ shows starring Marilyn and other dead icons. They can replicate her body, but not her soul, and Monroe fans of the future will have to be ever more vigilant against degrading misrepresentations.

Marilyn’s Estate Sues Lingerie Brand

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Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate, is suing a clothing company for copyright infringement over a lingerie line, reports IP Watchdog. (This is not to be confused with Marilyn Monroe Envy, an officially approved franchise, which was launched by ABG in 2014.)

“Defendant Fashion Central is a New York City-based manufacturer and wholesaler of intimate apparel, which includes undergarments. In their undergarment packaging, tags, and other branding, defendant utilized Marilyn Monroe’s image alongside phrases that alluded to famous quotes by Ms. Monroe. The defendant does not have a license to use Marilyn Monroe’s likeness or to use the registered trademarks for marketing/branding purposes.

On August 8, 2016, plaintiff became aware of defendant’s unauthorized use of the Marilyn Monroe marks and likeness and sent a cease and desist letter. Defendant continued with their allegedly unauthorized activities, leading to the filing of the complaint that starts this legal dispute. It is worth noting, however, that the defendant did not use the name Marilyn Monroe in any of its marketing, packaging, or other branding. Any association to Marilyn Monroe is based solely on defendant’s use of her visual likeness.

The fact that the Marilyn Monroe name does not appear on any of defendant’s potentially infringing products does not mean there is not a viable trademark infringement case or theory … According to the plaintiff, the Marilyn Monroe trademarks are highly recognizable and distinctive due to her enduring fame. Therefore, both federal and state law dilution claims have also been brought against the defendant.”

Debbie Reynolds 1932-2016

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Debbie Reynolds, star of Singin’ in the Rain and other classic Hollywood musicals, has died after suffering a stroke, aged 84 – just one day after her famous daughter, Carrie Fisher, also passed away.

She was born Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas in 1932. As a child she moved with her family to Los Angeles, and was crowned Miss Burbank in 1948. She began her career at Warner Brothers, where she was renamed Debbie.

In Three Little Words (1950), a nostalgic musical about the heyday of Tin Pan Alley, she played Helen Kane, the singer famed for her 1928 hit, ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You‘ (later revived by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.)

Debbie Reynolds sings 'I Wanna Be Loved By You' to Carleton Carpenter in 'Three Little Words' (1951)
Debbie Reynolds sings ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ to Carleton Carpenter in ‘Three Little Words’ (1950)

After moving to MGM, Debbie’s big break came when she was cast in her first dancing role, as chorus girl Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), recently named as the all-time Greatest Movie Musical (and fifth-greatest movie overall) by the AFI. She went on to star in Frank Tashlin’s Susan Slept Here (1954), and with Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap (1955.)

In 1956, she played a bride-to-be in The Catered Affair. That year, her marriage to singer Eddie Fisher was feted by Hollywood’s fan magazines as the dawn of a new, all-American golden couple. They were swiftly paired in Bundle of Joy, with Debbie playing a shopgirl who takes in an abandoned baby.

Their daughter Carrie was born in 1956, followed by son Todd in 1958. He was named after Eddie’s mentor, theatrical impresario Mike Todd, who died in a plane crash soon after.  The Fishers’ seemingly idyllic life was shattered in 1959, when Eddie left Debbie for Mike Todd’s widow, Elizabeth Taylor. The scandal rocked Hollywood, although the two women resumed their friendship after Taylor divorced Fisher a few years later. Debbie married the millionaire businessman, Harry Karl, in 1960.

Debbie was the best-selling female singer of 1957, thanks to her hugely popular theme from Tammy. She later released an album, and went on to appear in Henry Hathaway’s How the West Was Won (1962), and opposite Tony Curtis in Goodbye Charlie (1964), in a role first offered to Marilyn Monroe.

Debbie With Tony Curtis in 'Goodbye Charlie' (1964)
With Tony Curtis in ‘Goodbye Charlie’ (1964)

In later years, Debbie would claim that evangelist Billy Graham approached her in 1962, after experiencing a premonition that Marilyn’s life was in danger. As Debbie did not know Marilyn well, she instead contacted a mutual friend, hairdresser Sydney Guilaroff, who allegedly spoke with Marilyn by telephone just hours before her death.

“She was a gentle, childlike girl who was always looking for that white knight on the white horse,” Debbie said of Marilyn, adding, “And why not? What sex symbol is happy?” Debbie also claimed that they attended the same church, although no further details have been uncovered.

Throughout the 1960s, Debbie played a three-month residency in Las Vegas each year. Her performance in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) earned her an Oscar nomination. Her second marriage ended in 1973. Four years later, her daughter Carrie Fisher found fame In her own right as Princess Leia in Star Wars.

With daughter Carrie Fisher in 2015
With daughter Carrie Fisher in 2015

Carrie would later become an acclaimed author. Postcards From the Edge, a novel about her close, if occasionally fractious relationship with her celebrated mother, was filmed by Mike Nichols in 1990, with Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine in the leading roles. Todd Fisher has also worked extensively in film, as well as assisting his mother with her business ventures.

The Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio opened in Los Angeles in 1979, and is still thriving. Her third marriage, to real estate developer Richard Hamlett, ended in 1996. She starred in several Broadway musicals and appeared in numerous television shows, including The Love Boat, Hotel, The Golden Girls, Roseanne, and Will & Grace. A former Girl Scout leader, she has also worked tirelessly for AIDS and mental health charities.

Debbie played herself in The Bodyguard (1992), and was reunited with Elizabeth Taylor for a 2001 TV movie, These Old Broads. One of her final roles was as Liberace’s mother in Behind the Candelabra (2013.) Her memoir, the aptly-titled Unsinkable, was published in 2015; and a new documentary, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, premiered at Cannes in 2016, and has since been acquired by HBO.

Debbie with her Hollywood costume collection
Debbie with her Hollywood costume collection

Debbie Reynolds will also be remembered fondly for her efforts to preserve the legacy of Hollywood’s golden age, which began when she purchased costumes from classic films (including many made for Marilyn) at an MGM auction in 1970. Her dream of opening a movie museum was sadly never realised, and in 2011, she relinquished her collection.

Among the many Marilyn-related items sold in a two-part event at Profiles in History was the cream silk halter-dress designed by Travilla, and worn by Marilyn as she stood over a subway grate in an iconic scene from The Seven Year Itch. The dress sold for $4.6 million, a sum surpassed only by the sale of Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ dress at Julien’s last month for $4.8 million.

Although the buyer was not named, the Seven Year Itch dress is rumoured to have been purchased by Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the Canadian company which is the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate.

Multimedia Marilyn Exhibit Planned for 2017

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A press release announcing an interactive, multi-media Marilyn Monroe exhibition has been published at Business Wire. The exhibition will be presented in 2017 by Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate, in partnership with POP Experience, a Las Vegas-based entertainment company. Interestingly, the article has been shared by the estate of Milton Greene on their Facebook page, Archives LLC.

“The POP Marilyn Experience is being curated for a broad audience – from the most avid fans to newcomers. The highly interactive experience will provide a brand new look into Marilyn Monroe’s life, telling the story of how she became one of the world’s most famous female celebrities and why she continues to resonate in the modern, digital age … blending digital, storytelling, and gameplay to create connected immersive experiences. This unique blend of creativity and technology that people use every day allows personalized access and agency into Marilyn’s life.

Audience participation is key to the POP Marilyn Experience, which will allow them to walk in Marilyn’s shoes through intimate experiential content and hands-on interactivity. Combining thought provoking art installations with spectacular design and 21st century light and sound, the exhibition will forge a groundbreaking and lasting impression, outside the scope of a traditional museum exhibit.

With a vast assemblage of rare and many never-before-seen large format photos, a cinema space showcasing films, excerpts and clips from live appearances, original works by famed artists, annotated scripts, movie props and set pieces, home furnishings and artwork from her estate, personal letters and much more, the POP Marilyn Experience will showcase both the public, personal and very private life of the glamorous film star.

More details about the POP Marilyn Experience, including the launch date, city and venue will be announced later in 2016.”

Marilyn’s Estate Targets Clydebank Salon

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A Scottish hair salon, named after MM, has been forced to change its name after pressure from the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate, reports the Clydebank Post.

As a fan, I’m always delighted to see tributes to Marilyn in shops, bars and cafes. I dislike this latest attempt to commodify her. In my opinion, Marilyn’s estate should leave fans alone.

“The salon named after the iconic American actress in Clyde Shopping Centre is being forced to change its name and kill off all connections with Marilyn.

This comes after owner Norah Yilmaz received a letter from the deceased film star’s estate, thousands of miles away in New York, threatening legal action.

The letter, from Authentic Brands Group warned Norah she faces a lawsuit if she failed to remove all traces of Marilyn from her salon.

Stunned Norah, 39, said: ‘They told me to take all social media, photos and the wallpaper of her down.’

‘I love the vintage era and Marilyn Monroe was a big part. So I’ve now decided to call the salon Vintage.’

The salon owner has been forced to shut down the Facebook business page she worked hard building up by giving away free spray-tans.

She said: ‘I had over 1400 people on my Marilyn Monroe page and I couldn’t get Facebook to let me change the name of it. I had to just start a whole new one.’

‘The really big issue was what were we going to call it. I wanted to call it ‘Glitz and Glam’ but the girls who work here all hated it. I knew I had to get the sign down as soon as possible but I couldn’t until I had a new name.’

Norah and the 11 beauticians are planning to give Marilyn her final send off on Hallowe’en.

She said: ‘The only thing I need to change is my card receipt machine because it still comes up Marilyn Monroe. On Hallowe’en we’re doing a theme that Marilyn Monroe has died in the salon. So all of our make-up will be half the face of Marilyn and the other half skeleton.’

‘She died in 1962 — and now she’s dying again in 2014 in Clydebank.’

Despite the legal threats, stress and the costly rebranding of the salon, Norah still has a soft spot for the 1950s icon.

‘I feel touched that the actual estate of Marilyn got in touch with me,’ said Norah. ‘Even though she’s died again here I still love her, I think she’s brilliant.’

Vintage salon in Clydebank Shopping Centre is now taking bookings for their Hallowe’en party this Friday, October 31.

For £20 you can have your scary special FX makeup done and enjoy a glass of wine. Contact Vintage on 0141 952 3777 to book.”

As Marilyn herself said, the people made her a star and it’s fans who keep her memory alive. Instead of persecuting them, her estate should pursue rogue journalists who propogate lies about her.

But as the estate’s official Facebook page routinely features fake quotes, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Greene, Kelley, Bernard Join ABG

Statement from PR Newswire:

‘Authentic Brands Group (ABG), in addition to its recent acquisition of The Estate of Marilyn Monroe owned in partnership with NECA, Anna Strasberg and Anna Freud Center, announced today it has consolidated the licensing efforts of the Marilyn Monroe brand by signing exclusive agreements to represent the Marilyn Monroe photography of Milton H. Greene, Tom Kelley and Bernard of Hollywood – who together produced the most celebrated and recognized photographs of Monroe.’

CMG Sue After MM Rights Sold

Photo by John Florea

CMG Worldwide, who held the licensing rights to Marilyn’s estate for 20 years, have filed suit in Indianapolis after Lee Strasberg’s widow, Anna, dropped them recently in favour of ABG (Authentic Brands Group.)

‘CMG is asking in the suit for unspecified fees believed to be in the millions of dollars from royalties and other expenses the agency says were agreed upon during the split.

Strasberg reportedly received more than $20 million for the Monroe materials from Authentic Brands, a Canadian company with offices in New York.

CMG’s website continues to show Monroe, along with James Dean and dozens of other dead celebrities, among major clients. Authentic Brands claims to represent her, too.

“We’re still in the Marilyn business,” said Mark Roesler, chairman and chief executive of CMG.

The company negotiated nearly 2,000 product licensing agreements worth millions for her estate and still represents photographers and others who have Monroe pictures or other items.

“Parties change, and the Strasberg group sold to the group from Canada. CMG remains in the intellectual property business, representing the estates of our clients, just not the Strasbergs anymore,” Roesler said.

The latest suit was filed in April in Hamilton Superior Court and then moved last week to the U.S. District Court for Southern Indiana in Indianapolis.

CMG is suing Authentic Brands Group, the Anna Freud Center, Anna Strasberg and her son David, and book editor Stanley Buchthal, plus two limited liability companies created by the defendants.

Roesler and New York attorney Terri Dipaolo, representing Authentic Brands, said the two companies have reached a private agreement, so Authentic Brands may be dropped from the suit. CMG claimed in the suit that at least $1.6 million was owed by Authentic Brands.

The Strasbergs, Buchthal and the Freud Center in London, founded by one of Monroe’s psychiatrists who was named an heir in her will, are accused of fraud and breach of contract in the breakup of CMG’s long-running representation of the estate. Their attorneys could not be reached for comment.’

More at Indystar

 

Irreplaceable Marilyn

‘Hollywood’s a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul,’ Marilyn Monroe once said. ‘I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty cents.’

Since Canadian businessman Jamie Salter acquired the rights to license Marilyn Monroe’s image for $50 million from Anna Strasberg last week, there has been talk of Marilyn being ‘reanimated’ in future advertising and even movies.

This is not an entirely new idea – footage from Some Like it Hot was used in a Holsten Pils lager commercial back in 1987, replacing Tony Curtis with Griff Rhys-Jones. But Marilyn’s dialogue remained unaltered.

In a 2010 commercial for Citroen DS3, ‘Anti-Retro’, vintage news footage of Monroe was over-dubbed with promotional dialogue. Some journalists  mistakenly reported that the lines were Marilyn’s, although the original interview is well-known to fans and has appeared in several documentaries.

In December 2010, comedian and writer Mel Smith spoke of the Hollywood director George Lucas‘s plans to reanimate stars of yesteryear in new movies. ‘He’s been buying up the film rights to dead movie stars,’ said Smith of Lucas, ‘in the hope of using computer trickery to put them all together in a movie, so you’d have Orson Welles and Barbara Stanwyck appear alongside today’s stars.’

A Lucasfilm spokesperson denied the rumour as ‘completely false.’ However, Mark Roesler of CMG, the company that licenses the estates of many past celebrities, including – until recently – Marilyn Monroe, confirmed that he had been approached by Lucas.

MM will now be represented by Authentic Brands Group. ‘I had Marilyn Monroe locked up before he told the world he’d like to do a Marilyn Monroe movie,’ chairman Jamie Salter boasted last week, adding, ‘I’ll make him a better deal then he’d get with Angelina Jolie.’

Salter predicts that the first full-length film featuring a dead celebrity could be released within just two years. He insists that he will protect Monroe’s legacy: ‘When she’s on the set, we’ll manage her. She’s not taking off her clothes, I can tell you that!’

What concerns me most about this development is the distinct possibility that Marilyn’s image will be used in ways that she may not have approved had she still been alive. ‘These celebrities don’t talk back,’ Salter told reporters last week. ‘They don’t go out on the town late. They are ready to film every day.’

In 1962, shortly before her death, Marilyn said, ‘An actor is not a machine, no matter how much they want to say you are…everybody is always tugging at you. They’d all like sort of a chunk of you.’ Her words seem as relevant today as they did nearly fifty years ago.