Tag Archives: BBC

Movie Greats: Barry Norman on Marilyn

Barry Norman, the British critic who fronted a weekly film show on BBC television from 1972-1998, has died aged 83. In the late 1970s, he wrote and presented The Hollywood Greats, a documentary series profiling legendary stars. An episode about Marilyn, featuring interviews with Jack Lemmon, Billy Wilder and Eli Wallach, and many others, was broadcast in 1979 – you can watch it here.

He also wrote two books accompanying the series. The latter volume, The Movie Greats (1981), includes a chapter about Marilyn.

“What she most certainly was, and what she proved herself to be time and again, was a most wonderfully gifted comedienne, a woman whose contribution of abundant physical charms – a positive cornucopia of femininity – and wistful shyness made you at once want to laugh at her and protect her. Nobody since has come even remotely close to replacing her.

If only, you think, if only someone had given her a great big hug when she was still a little girl and said, ‘Hey, listen, I love you,’ then maybe everything would have been different. But in that case she would probably never have become Marilyn Monroe and the world would have been the poorer for it because Marilyn Monroe was something rather special.

You can take every possible identifiable ingredient that she had and put them together and multiply them and add in the date and the number you first thought of and at the end of it all you’ve got is a blonde, a small girl with a sweet face and a remarkably voluptuous body. But you still haven’t got another Marilyn Monroe.”

Sergeant Pepper (and Marilyn) at 50

This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of the most influential pop albums ever made. The cover – a collage by artist Peter Blake – features the Fab Four lining up alongside more than sixty of the last century’s most iconic figures. Marilyn is there, as photographed by Ben Ross in 1953. BBC Music have compiled a mini-documentary  for each one: Marilyn’s includes newsreel footage from her arrival in England to shoot The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956. You can watch the clip here.

Montage by Sgt Pepper Photos website

Alistair Cooke on Marilyn and Joe

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As reported by ES Updates earlier this year, Alistair Cooke at the Movies – an anthology of the eminent British journalist’s writings on Hollywood – is now available via Kindle as well as in print. The book includes two full pieces about Marilyn, and several other references. You can read Cooke’s obituary of Marilyn here.

Cooke’s first thoughts on Marilyn were broadcast on October 14, 1954, on his weekly BBC radio show, Letter From America, regarding her divorce from Joe DiMaggio.

“The Monroe-DiMaggio breakdown is easily dismissed as just another Hollywood marriage. It’s true enough that over twenty, thirty years Hollywood has developed certain mores and customs. And the world jumps to the conclusion that love and marriage in Hollywood constitute something like a religious heresy, a shameless cult mocking the true faith of marriage and children. I have no hesitation in saying that this is mostly moonshine and is brewed from a compound of ignorance and envy…

The gods and goddesses of the Greeks were not known much outside the Mediterranean, and were never seen in the flesh. But the mere announcement of Marilyn Monroe arriving on platform five would cause a riot anywhere in the world. She was mobbed on arriving in Tokyo last year more embarrassingly than she was on leaving San Francisco…

I don’t think there’s been so much talk, from the unlikeliest people, about a movie marriage since the Pickford-Fairbanks idyll as there has been the last fortnight about Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. I hope I can get across to you that this marriage, when it suddenly burst upon the world – an elopement naturally – nine months ago, was equally a poetic event … She was a poor girl, an orphan, brought up in an orphanage, and towards the end of the war she was a war-factory worker – a tousled, cheerful, lonely working girl, pretty as a kitten. It is not hard for millions of such girls to identify with her.

So who did Rosie the Riveter marry? She eloped with one of the two or three greatest baseball players there ever have been; nobody but the Yankee Clipper himself … he met Miss Monroe over a plate of spaghetti on a blind date. And they eloped. The perfect fulfilment of two ambitions: the average American boy’s dream of being a baseball hero, and the girl next door’s dream of Hollywood.

So they moved down to Hollywood, and to Joe ‘down’ is the word, not only from his beloved San Francisco, but from any sort of life that made sense to him. He was suddenly surrounded by voice coaches and dancing teachers, and press agents, and telephone calls for publicity stills, for magazine covers, for calendars, for interviews … And the object of all this concern was a wife who worked hard in a calling where you go to bed at nine and get up for work at five in the morning. It was all hopelessly bewildering, and one day Miss Monroe announces, right upstairs, over your puzzled head, that she is going to file for divorce…

I tell you this story in its social outline and leave you to write your own moral. But don’t ascribe it to Hollywood, whose divorce rate is hardly higher than that of Bradford or Kensington. Put it down in an age of television, aeroplanes, publicity and universal movies to the overwhelming conspiracy of fame against two ordinary and engaging young people who pay a rather high price for the only extraordinary thing about them – her prettiness, and his old knack of hitting a ball into the grandstand.”

Peter Mangone Has Died

Peter Mangone, who made headlines when he found rare footage of Marilyn in New York, filmed when he was a teenage fan, passed away on December 11, 2012.

The home movie was first shown in a 2003 BBC documentary, The People’s Hollywood.

Earlier in 2012, an exhibition and book, Marilyn Monroe: NYC, 1955, was announced. Sadly, the opening of the display – now at New York’s Danziger Gallery – was delayed after Hurricane Sandy devastated the city.

“I used to get up every day and put on a shirt and tie, because I read she was coming to New York to go to the Actor’s Studio and that she would stay at the Gladstone Hotel, so I used to get up every morning, dress up, get on the train, cut school and wait for hours. Some days I didn’t see her, some days I’d get a glimpse of her. Then I finally stood across from the hotel one day and I saw her. The next day I went in front of the hotel with a piece of paper, she signed it and she said, ‘You were here yesterday. You had a red tie on. Weren’t you cold?’ Because it was freezing. But she noticed. She really cared, you know.”

My Tributes to Marilyn

 I have posted two tributes to Marilyn on my personal website:

Fifty Years Ago an extract from my novel, The Mmm Girl, in which a young Marilyn visits the grave of her beloved Aunt Ana

The Smart Dumb Blonde – my review of the recent BBC radio documentary, presented by Maureen Dowd

 

Lara Stone as ‘The Girl’ for Red Nose Day

Model Lara Stone imitates Marilyn’s famous pose from The Seven Year Itch to launch this year’s Red Nose Day appeal for Comic Relief.

“I had so much fun being Marilyn Monroe for the day and recreating the iconic shot with a Red Nose twist. It was an honour to be asked to take part.”

This year’s Red Nose Day telethon will be broadcast on BBC1, March 18.

When Marilyn Met Doctor Who

The cult BBC TV show, Doctor Who, briefly featured Marilyn in this year’s Christmas special. In a comic subplot, the time-travelling doctor (played by Matt Smith) almost marries Monroe:

“Guys we’ve really got to go quite quickly – I just accidentally got engaged to Marilyn Monroe.

Hello? Guys, she’s phoned a chapel, there’s a car outside, this is happening now!

Right. Fine. Thank you. I’ll just go and get married then shall I? Lets see how you like that.

Marilyn, get your coat!”

This surreal interlude inspired one Doctor Who fan to alter Marilyn’s biographical entry on Wikipedia (although sadly, this witty addition was later erased.)

Artwork by Seduff-Stuff