Marilyn Flies High With United Airlines

This exuberant press shot of Marilyn arriving in Vancouver in July 1953 (en route to film scenes for River of No Return – more info herefeatures in a new display at the remodelled Global Services reception area for United Airlines’ elite customers at Los Angeles International Airport (L.A.X.), as Lewis Lazare reports for Chicago Business Insider. (She also flew from New York to Chicago with United Airlines when she visited Bement, Illinois to honour Abraham Lincoln in 1955.)

Photo by Eve Arnold, 1955

Marilyn at Julien’s: Trinkets and Keepsakes

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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.”

49D0AD3E-208B-4C7D-8A6E-BF4B8C120722-17167-00000949DDBC3B1D_tmpThis 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.

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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.

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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.

47506260-4B71-4779-B8DB-0A5CDFC4355B-17167-000009531D6A9016_tmpThis 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.

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This vintage Hallmark card was sent to Marilyn one Christmas by her favourite singer, Ella Fitzgerald.

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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.)

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Marilyn owned a leather-bound, monogrammed copy of Esquire magazine’s July 1953 issue, featuring an article about herself titled “The ‘Altogether’ Girl.”

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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“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.”

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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.”

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This engraved cigarette case was given by Marilyn to Joe DiMaggio during their post-honeymoon trip to Japan in 1954.

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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.'”

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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.”

Bement Mayor Honours Marilyn

Marilyn takes a break during her trip to Bement with hairdresser Peter Leonardi at her side. Photo by Eve Arnold, 1955
Marilyn takes a break during her trip to Bement with hairdresser Peter Leonardi at her side. Photo by Eve Arnold, 1955

Almost sixty-one years after Marilyn’s trip to Bement, Illinois – in honour of Abraham Lincoln’s visit a century before – the town’s mayor is repaying the tribute, WCIA3 reports. Pat Tiernan also owns a hair salon, and lives in the house where Marilyn stopped for a rest. Photographer Eve Arnold, who accompanied Marilyn that day, captured the moment – with MM’s own hairdresser, Peter Leonardi, also in the frame.

“Pat Tieman started cutting hair more than 20 years ago. The iconic face that’s all over Salon 101 has been around a lot longer than that.

He’s got a collection of things connected to Marilyn Monroe. Ever since he moved into the Marilyn Monroe house in town, people started giving him stuff, like articles about when she visited, pictures and collectibles.

‘She came to the home, she took a nap there, she rested up and soaked her feet because she was sick the day she came,’ said Tieman. ‘She had a kidney infection so her ankles had swelled.’

Now he knows that piece of history forward and backward. People started giving him plates, statues and other pieces with her picture. His shop reflects his passion.

Marilyn got paid $500 to make that appearance. We’re told she was very interested in seeing the Bryant Cottage, where Abraham Lincoln had been, while she was there.”

Remembering Marilyn in Bement

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On August 6, 1955 – almost 61 years ago – Marilyn visited Bryant Cottage in Bement, Illinois, where her idol, Abraham Lincoln, had stayed while debating slavery with Senator Stephen Douglas in 1858.  The anniversary of her visit will soon be commemorated, according to Illinois.gov:

“Bement will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Monroe’s visit with a photo exhibit and a display of Marilyn memorabilia.

The free photo exhibit at Bryant Cottage State Historic Site runs Aug. 6-9.
On Aug. 8, the owners of the home where Monroe stayed during her visit will open the house for tours and display their extensive memorabilia from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The home is at 101 E. Wing Street, and the memorabilia display will be at Salon 101, located at 101 N. Macon Street.
Monroe, a Lincoln fan, visited Bement on Aug. 7, 1955, for the town’s centennial. Thousands of people turned out to watch as she shook hands, visited a nursing home and judged a beard contest. She also visited Bryant Cottage and gave a short speech about Lincoln.”
From 'Life' magazine, 1955
From ‘Life’ magazine, 1955
Meanwhile, the Peoria Journal-Star shares some details of how Marilyn’s visit was received in Bement:

“It’s the movie that hasn’t been made yet and Peorian Jack Mertes has the story for the screenplay.

It was 60 years ago when Marilyn Monroe visited Bement, a small town located between Champaign and Decatur.

It was a media moment — Marilyn, fresh from The Seven Year Itch, was at the height of her powers and the classic set-up: when big-time celebrity visits small-town America.

Mertes wrote about the visit in 1985 at the time of the 30th anniversary. He visited the town and interviewed some of the people who helped organize the star’s visit. He spoke with townspeople who remembered that day.

‘There were people everywhere…I don’t think Bement has ever had so many people in it,’ said Jessie Morgan of Monticello. ‘The Lord sure gave her looks,’ said Selby Clark.

Mertes also captures some of the press coverage of the visit. The Monroe appearance in Bement which made the cover of Life magazine, drew plenty of comments. [Actually, it didn’t make the cover of Life, though an article was published with photos by Eve Arnold, who accompanied Marilyn on the trip. She devoted a whole chapter to Bement in her 1987 book, Marilyn Monroe: An Appreciation.]

The Decatur paper referred to her as an ‘atomic blonde’ while William Groninger of the Champaign-Urbana Courier noted, ‘It’s pretty difficult to assess the exact welcome the luscious blonde was given, but even without a decibel meter we will agree to hysterical.’

Let’s not forget the Bement Register that described Monroe as ‘the movie actress who made walking more than a means of locomotion.'”

‘Blonde Bombshell Bursts Over Bement’

Marilyn arrives at Willard Airport, Illinois

A rare photo of Marilyn en route to Bement in 1955 has been posted at the East Illinois News-Gazette today:

“Marilyn Monroe made headlines — literally — when she arrived on Ozark Airlines at the University of Illinois Airport on Aug. 7, 1955. The movie star’s destination: Bement to judge a beard contest as part of the village’s centennial celebration. ‘Blonde Bombshell Bursts Over Bement’ blared the headline in The News-Gazette.”

When Marilyn Landed in Chicago


When Hollywood Landed at Chicago’s Midway Airport: The Photos and Stories of Mike Rotunno, a new book by Christopher Lynch, features Marilyn passing through Chicago on her way to Bement, Illinois, in 1955.

“The flash of his camera sent Al Capone diving to the floor. He was asked to escort Bob Hope’s wife to church and to hide John Barrymore from his mistress. Cary Grant demanded a shoeshine, Eleanor Roosevelt demanded an apology and Harry Truman demanded a bourbon. Photographer Mike Rotunno was the man on the scene when Chicago’s Midway Airport was the crossroads of the world and people walked its concourses just to catch a glimpse of Hollywood’s brightest stars. Bump into Bud Abbott, John Wayne, Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe as Christopher Lynch pieces together the amazing story left behind in fifty years of photographs and journals.”

Thanks to Fraser Penney