Two signed photos were the highest sellers among the Marilyn-related lots in the Entertainment Signatures sale at Heritage Auctions yesterday. A Frank Powolny headshot (from the same session which later inspired Andy Warhol) sold for $13,750, and a classic pin-up image by Earl Thiesen fetched over $9,000. A restaurant menu from Trader Vic’s in Honolulu, signed by Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio in 1954, reached a top bid of $6,875. Among other popular lots were sets of rare photos showing a young Marilyn with security guard Aviv Wardimon (aka Blackman) on the Fox lot in 1947. You can see more photos from the auction here.
Marilyn’s annotated script for her final, incomplete movie, Something’s Got to Give, has been sold at the Nate D. Sanders Hollywood Memorabilia auction for $25,000. While reporters have poked fun at her minor spelling errors – such as ‘leeding him on’ – her comments are often perceptive. ‘Needs more jokes’, she remarked – an opinion shared by others during this troubled production.
If this script looks familiar, that’s because it sold at Julien’s only a month ago for $10,240. Other items from the event have also been spotted on auction sites like EBay, confirming that Marilyn’s personal property is becoming a magnet for investors. A disused grave marker from her crypt, also sold in November, attracted no bids this time around.
“Monroe’s handwritten pencil notes begin with her character’s (Ellen Wagstaff Arden) introduction in the script on page 12 and carry through to the end on page 149, even including notes on the verso of the last page and back cover, such as a note reading, ‘Joke writers Mel Brooks / Herb Gardner / Need spice / raisins / Need some funny lines.’ There are notes in Monroe’s hand on approximately 42 pages in the script, ranging from simple dialogue corrections and changes to in-depth sense memory notes when doing a scene that required a deeper emotional connection and understanding. Regarding her character’s introduction, as she interacts with naval personnel who saved her after being marooned on an island for five years, Monroe writes, ‘1 – Gayity [sic] 2 – Excitement 3 – Then Dazed.’ In one scene, Monroe references Arthur Miller’s children to better help her relate to her character’s children, ‘Bobby M. / and early Janie / except their [sic] mine.’ Throughout the script, Monroe writes succinct dialogue and character notes: ‘Stunned / Dazed – sky high with adventure’, ‘dead pan/I really don’t know’, ‘anticipating the joys’, ‘Trying to think or remember’, ‘start to wonder what’s from now on’, ‘I don’t know he knows’, ‘easy/very intimate/very real’, ‘[L]et me get into something more comfortable / leading him on -‘. Included is a small card with call times and scenes to be shot, and a small scrap of paper with a note in Monroe’s hand wondering why they are shooting out of sequence, as well as notes about using Miss vs. Mrs.”
This copy of the script is dated March 29, 1962. Another version, including revisions dated April 23 and 27, and with eighteen pages annotated by Marilyn, went unsold, after being purchased at Julien’s last month for $12,800.
“Some of the highlights include notes Monroe made for Scene 168, in which she interacts with her children in the movie, who don’t recognize her as they were too young when she became stranded on an island for five years and presumed dead. These hand-annotated typewritten pages were inserted into the script for this particular scene – one of the few that Monroe completed before her untimely death. Within these pages, Monroe writes a series of notes regarding her preparation: ‘Real thought’, ‘Mental Relaxation’, ‘Look for the light’, ‘Place the pain/feeling where it is not in the brow’, as well as specific sense memories to help find the emotional truth with her character’s feelings toward her on-screen children, ‘Substitute children – B & J if necessary’, perhaps referring to Arthur Miller’s children Bobby and Jane. There are also some notes from Monroe regarding her work with a Swedish dialect coach. Peppered throughout the script are further dialogue notes, changes and line strikes. Interestingly, the script also includes notes in an unknown hand giving blunt, critical assessments and insights of the script’s scene descriptions, direction and dialogue. These notes start on the script’s first page, ‘Note for Marilyn/He has to woo her not the way it is / new blue pages’ and continue in blue pen, ‘Dull’, ‘Naggy, ‘Make it funny!’ and ‘Smugly’. Interestingly, Monroe reacts to some of these notes, either changing dialogue and scene direction or, in some cases, striking the note itself if she doesn’t agree with it.”
And in other news, a Frank Powolny portrait of Marilyn – signed by the lady herself to ‘Jimmie’ – was sold at R.R. Auctions for $24,959 this week, as part of the Tom Gregory Collection.
Among Marilyn’s possessions were many items of sentimental value. She kept this ballerina paperweight in her New York apartment next to a framed photo of 1920s Broadway star Marilyn Miller, who inspired her own stage name. In a strange twist of fate, she would also become ‘Marilyn Miller’ after her third marriage. She later gave the paperweight to her friend and masseur, Ralph Roberts, calling it “the other Marilyn.”
This silver-tone St Christopher pendant was a gift from Natasha Lytess, Marilyn’s drama coach from 1948-54. (St Christopher is the patron saint of travellers.) Marilyn cut ties with Lytess after discovering she was writing a book about their friendship. She later gave the pendant to Ralph Roberts, telling him, “I’ve outgrown Natasha.”
This gold and silver-tone Gemini pendant reflects Marilyn’s close identification with her astrological sign, symbolised by twin faces. “I’m so many people,” she told journalist W.J. Weatherby. “Sometimes I wish I was just me.”
Marilyn was exceedingly generous to her friends, as the story behind this bracelet reveals.
“A rhinestone bracelet owned by Marilyn Monroe and gifted to Vanessa Reis, the sister-in-law to May Reis, Monroe’s personal assistant and secretary. In a letter to the consigner dated November 28, 1994, Ralph Roberts writes, ‘Reference Marilyn robe and bracelet. As best I recall, late one Saturday afternoon Marilyn and I were in the dining area of the Miller 9th floor suite at the Mapes Hotel. She had just changed into a robe, sitting on one of the chairs and I was massaging her back and shoulders. She showed me a bracelet she’d brought to Reno with thought of possibly wearing it as a [undecipherable comment] for Roslyn [Monroe’s character in The Misfits]. Upon discussing it, she and Paula [Paula Strasberg was Monroe’s acting coach and friend] had decided somehow it wouldn’t be appropriate. Just then May Reis entered with Vanessa Reis (the widow of Irving Reis, May’s greatly loved brother and film director). Vanessa had come up from LA for a long weekend visit – there’d been some talk of our going out to some of the casinos to do a bit of gambling. Vanessa told Marilyn how lovely she looked in that robe. Marilyn thanked her + impulsively held out the bracelet, Take this + wear it as a good luck charm. I was wearing it during dance rehearsals for Let’s Make Love, smashed into a prop, so a stone is loosened. I wish I could go with you, but Raffe is getting some Misfits knots out. And I should go over that scene coming up Monday. They left. Marilyn asked me to remind her to have the robe cleaned to give to Vanessa. Whitey, Agnes, May – all of us – knew from experience we couldn’t compliment Marilyn on any personal items or had to be very careful. She’d be compulsive about giving it, or getting a copy – to you.’ Accompanied by a copy of the letter.”
Jack Dempsey, a former world heavyweight champion boxer, wrote to Joe DiMaggio’s New York Yankees teammate, Jerry Coleman, in 1954. “Have been reading a lot about Marilyn, Joe and yourself, here in the east,” Dempsey remarked. “Best of luck to you and your family, and send Marilyn’s autograph along.”
This small pine-cone Christmas tree, held together with wire and dusted in glitter, was given to Marilyn as a surprise by Joe DiMaggio one year when she had no plans, or decorations. Christmas can be a lonely time, and Joe made sure to bring some cheer.
This vintage Hallmark card was sent to Marilyn one Christmas by her favourite singer, Ella Fitzgerald.
Author Truman Capote sent Marilyn a personally inscribed 1959 album of himself reading ‘A Christmas Memory‘ (an excerpt from his famous novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.)
Marilyn owned a leather-bound, monogrammed copy of Esquire magazine’s July 1953 issue, featuring an article about herself titled “The ‘Altogether’ Girl.”
Marilyn’s 1954 trip to Korea to entertain American troops was one of her happiest memories. This photo shows her with the band and is accompanied by a letter from George Sweers of the St Petersburg Times, sent after their chance reunion when Marilyn took a short break in Florida in 1961.
This endearing note accompanied a gift from Marilyn to Paula Strasberg, who replaced Natasha Lytess as her acting coach in 1956: “Dear Paula, I’m glad you were born because you are needed. Your warmth is both astonishing and welcomed. Love & Happy Birthday, Marilyn.”
In April 1955, novelist John Steinbeck wrote a letter to Marilyn, asking her to sign a photo for his young nephew.
“In my whole experience I have never known anyone to ask for an autograph for himself. It is always for a child or an ancient aunt, which gets very tiresome as you know better than I. It is therefore, with a certain nausea that I tell you that I have a nephew-in-law … he has a foot in the door of puberty, but that is only one of his problems. You are the other. … I know that you are not made of ether, but he doesn’t. … Would you send him, in my care, a picture of yourself, perhaps in pensive, girlish mood, inscribed to him by name and indicating that you are aware of his existence. He is already your slave. This would make him mine. If you will do this, I will send you a guest key to the ladies’ entrance of Fort Knox.”
Television host Edward K. Murrow sent Marilyn a Columbia Records album, featuring excerpts from speeches by Sir Winston Churchill, in November 1955. She had been a guest on Murrow’s CBS show, Person to Person, a few months previously.
Marilyn’s custom-bound edition of Arthur Miller’s Collected Plays included a personal dedication. Miller had drafted a fuller tribute, but it was nixed – possibly because his first divorce was not final when it was published.
“This book is being written out of the courage, the widened view of life, the awareness of love and beauty, given to me by my love, my wife-to-be, my Marilyn. I bless her for this gift, and I write it so that she may have from me the only unique thing I know how to make. I bless her, I owe her the discovery of my soul.”
Costume designer Donfeld sent Marilyn this handmade birthday card one year, together with a small note that read, “M – I hope this finds you well and happy – My thoughts are with you now – Love, Feld.”
This engraved cigarette case was given by Marilyn to Joe DiMaggio during their post-honeymoon trip to Japan in 1954.
This souvenir brochure for the small town of Bement, Illinois was signed by Marilyn when she made a surprise appearance in 1955, during a festival marking the centennial of an historic visit by her idol, Abraham Lincoln.
Comedian Ernie Kovacs sent this rather cheeky letter to Marilyn in 1961. He would die in a tragic car crash in January 1962, aged 43, followed by Marilyn in August.
“The letter, addressed to ‘Marilyneleh’, invites Monroe to a get together at his home on June 15, giving the dress code as ‘… slacks or if you want to be chic, just spray yourself with aluminum paint or something.’ He continues, ‘I’ll try to find someone more mature than Carl Sandburg for you. … if Frank is in town, will be asking him. … don’t be a miserable shit and say you can’t come. … Look as ugly as possible cause the neighbors talk if attractive women come into my study.’ He signs the letter in black pen ‘Ernie’ and adds a note at the bottom: ‘If you don’t have any aluminum paint, you could back into a mud pack and come as an adobe hut. … we’ll make it a costume party. … Kovacs.'”
Always gracious to her fans, Marilyn gave child actress Linda Bennett a magazine clipping with the inscription, “I saw you in The Seven Little Foys. Great – Marilyn Monroe.” She also signed this photograph, “Dear Linda, I wish you luck with your acting. Love and kisses, Marilyn Monroe Miller.”
The ‘nude’ beaded dress worn by Marilyn as she sang ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962 will be auctioned at Julien’s next month, with bids starting at $1 million. There are also several other items on offer from the historic gala, including Marilyn’s own ticket and program.
Legendary costume designer Bob Mackie began his career as a sketch artist for Jean Louis, and his drawings of Marilyn’s dress are also up for sale. At the time of his first attempt, Mackie didn’t know who the dress was for (although he was already working with Jean Louis on Marilyn’s costumes for Something’s Got to Give.)
Illustrator LeRoy Neiman captured Marilyn’s unforgettable performance in art.
Producer Clive David kept a commemorative tile signed by various stars in attendance, including Marilyn, Ella Fitzgerald, Jack Benny and Maria Callas. It would be Marilyn’s last major public appearance, triggering over fifty years of rampant speculation.
UPDATE: The ‘Happy Birthday’ dress was sold at Julien’s for $4.8 million on November 16, 2016, making it the most lucrative dress in auction history. The buyer is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, who plan to showcase the dress in future exhibitions. Read a full report from Scott Fortner on his MM Collection Blog.
In an article for the Salisbury Post, Mark Wineka interviews Hap Roberts, nephew of Ralph Roberts.
“On one New York visit , Ralph Roberts took Hap to the spacious New York apartment of Lee Strasberg … The Strasberg residence also held a white baby grand piano that had once belonged to Marilyn Monroe.
Through much of his life, Ralph Roberts seemed consistently drawn to famous or soon-to-be-famous people, through a combined career of acting and massaging. Marilyn Monroe was his most famous connection.
For the last three-plus years of Monroe’s life, Roberts served as her personal masseur and, probably, closest friend. By most accounts, Roberts was the last person Monroe tried to contact the night she died in 1962 of a drug overdose in Los Angeles.
As a boy in the spring of 1960, Hap Roberts wrote to his Uncle Ralph after hearing he had a part in the movie The Misfits. Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe were the stars.
Hap asked whether Ralph could have Monroe autograph a picture to him and also one to his 9-year-old girlfriend, Kay Snider.
A month later, the pictures came in the mail. His said simply, ‘To Hap, Marilyn Monroe,’ but she also had signed the cover of a Life magazine with her and actor Yves Montand.
Hap Roberts still has it.”
A signed photo sent by child star Shirley Temple to a young Warhol, thought to have inspired his iconic screenprints of Marilyn, is featured in Love is Enough, a new exhibition at Oxford Modern Art, reports the Sunday Times (full article behind paywall.)
Eric Shiner, director of the Andy Warhol Museum in his hometown of Pittsburgh, describes the photo as the ‘Rosetta Stone’ of Warhol paraphernalia. The colour tinting of the photo may well have influenced his images of Marilyn.
“That’s what he wanted to be,” Geralyn Huxley of the Warhol Museum told the Pittsburgh Tribune after Shirley Temple died earlier this year. “He grew up poor as a child. In the case of Shirley Temple, she was rich, loved, taken care of, plus she was a child like him,” Huxley said. “When her films came out, it was the ultimate escape from the Depression that was going on. (Her movies) were emblematic of the American spirit as she soldiered on through adversity, standing up to authority.”
Warhol named Poor Little Rich Girl, his 1966 film starring Edie Sedgwick, after one of Shirley’s most popular hits. Born just two years before Warhol, Marilyn was also an ardent movie fan during Temple’s Depression era heyday, and would later become another of Twentieth Century Fox’s greatest stars. I’ve explored some of the parallels between MM and Temple here.
Even in this age of the ‘selfie’, some celebrity autographs still hold their value, reports the Financial Times.
“With little demand from digital-native teenagers, many autograph dealers have moved away from the mass market of contemporary music, film and sports stars to focus instead on cult and historic rarities that command higher prices. This is partly down to online auction site eBay, which by opening up a wider market has pushed down prices for more common signed celebrity photos – although among collectors it has a reputation for forgeries and reproductions. For dealers there is a lucrative sideline in authentication.
But the trend is also connected to the changing demographic of buyers. Far from screaming girls besieging pop stars with pen and paper pads, today’s typical customer collects as a hobby and is ‘aged 35 to 55, male and with a disposable income,’ says Mr Epperson. It is perhaps telling that he does not stock any pieces from musicians who have reached fame within the past 15 years.
This breed of more discerning collectors often treats autographs as investments, says Huw Rees at Fraser’s Autographs, part of Aim-listed collectables dealer Stanley Gibbons. Over the past five years the London-based business has run down its low-end, low-margin inventory in favour of historical items including correspondence of Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Winston Churchill, as well as coveted pop culture memorabilia, such as photos signed by all The Beatles or Marilyn Monroe.”
Paul Fraser Collectibles has compiled an index of the 2000-2013 price performance of 40 of the most sought-after autographs, both celebrity and historical. A signed album page from Marilyn, valued at £2,950 in the year 2000, increased by 135.6% in 2013, to a value of £6,950.
On the Immortal Marilyn Nuggets page, you’ll find an article, ‘Knowing Her Signature’, which pinpoints the difference between Marilyn’s personal and secretarial autographs. If you’re considering buying a signed photo and want to be sure of its provenance, don’t rely on Certificates of Authenticity – ask an expert. The Marilyn Buying and Selling Forum on Facebook is a good place to start.
“Dear Helaine and Joe: My aunt worked for Coach Bobby Dodd of the Georgia Tech ‘Yellow Jackets’. Marilyn Monroe came to the university during his tenure and gave him an autographed picture of her wearing a Georgia Tech sweater. The signature reads ‘Best Wishes to Coach Dodd’ and is signed ‘Marilyn Monroe.’ Dodd gave the photo to my aunt. What is it worth? Thank you. — V.C., Augusta, Ga.
Dear V.C.: When presented with a signed Marilyn Monroe photograph, there is always a question about whether she herself signed it. In most instances, genuine signatures were signed in red — but there are exceptions, and we believe this is one of those.”