In addition to their current exhibition, Divine Marilyn, Galerie Joseph in Paris will host a live adaptation of her 1954 memoir, My Story, from September 5-9. With the rather more poetic title of Confession Inachevée (‘Unfinished Confession’), the show will star actress Stéphanie Sphyras, and promises to be a cut above other Monroe-themed stage plays.
UPDATE: I have added the final bids to each item.
“An original clipping from a Mexican newspaper detailing Marilyn’s visit to the National Institute for the Protection of Children on March 1, 1962, and her donation of $1,000.00 to the institute. Also included is a document translating the article, reading in part, ‘The American actress Marilyn Monroe yesterday visited the National Institute for the Protection of Children where she greeted the president of that organization, Mrs. Eva Samano de Lopez Mateos, to whom she gave 12,500 pesos – one thousand dollars – for the needy children.'” (SOLD for $768)
“An unsigned carbon-copy of a letter, likely from May Reis, Marilyn Monroe’s secretary, to hairdresser Kenneth, dated July 16, 1958. The letter reads in part, ‘Thank you for sending on Miss Monroe’s chignon but I am sorry it has not turned out as she had ordered it so it is being returned to you under separate cover.'” (SOLD for $192)
“A one-page handwritten letter from press agent Patricia Newcomb to Marilyn, dated June 2, 1956. The letter reads in part, ‘Enclosed is a copy of your eye perscription (sic) which I got this morning from Lee Seigel. I am also sending you another bottle, in case you might be running short.’ Also, ‘I mailed your records and hair dryer today, so they should arrive by the end of the week.'” (SOLD for $1,125)
“A one-page typed letter to Marilyn from Nunnally Johnson, dated February 1, no year specified (but probably sent after their 1962 meeting at the Beverly Hills Hotel, to discuss Something’s Got to Give.) The letter reads in part, ‘This is to put it on paper that I’ve rarely had a merrier evening. There’s no question about it, the only way to discuss business is over a bottle or two of champagne, with occasional reflections on sex to keep everything in balance. And if ever the occasion rises you may cite me as a bloke who also likes to sit and talk with you.’ The letter is hand-signed. A well-known screenwriter, Johnson worked on a number of projects related to Monroe, including We’re Not Married, and How to Marry a Millionaire.” (SOLD for $2,240)
“Two letters from the Actors’ Studio, dated January 10 and 12, 1961, regarding the Actors’ Studio Benefit scheduled for March 13, 1961. The January 10 letter announces, ‘Marilyn Monroe will be one of the stars who will draw the lucky tickets for our door prizes and for the Dance Contests.’ The letter is signed by Lee Strasberg, Cheryl Crawford and Elia Kazan (facsimile signatures). The second letter, sent by the benefit’s coordinator, asks Marilyn if it would be possible to take a photo of her wearing a fur coat that will be raffled as a door prize. The letter further requests that Marilyn write to executives at United Artists asking them to reserve tables at the event.” (SOLD for $768)
“Three letters, all dated in January of 1961, referencing possible film projects for Marilyn’s consideration. The January 3 letter from George Chasin is on MCA letterhead and references Touch of Mink, written by Stanley Shapiro (later filmed with Doris Day.) The January 26 letter, also on MCA letterhead, references a screenplay entitled The Notorious Lady, and is signed by Marvin Birdt with a copy to Chasin (later filmed with Kim Novak as The Notorious Landlady.) The January 31 letter is on Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation letterhead and references A Lost Lady, and is signed by Frank McCarthy, Director of Public Relations at the studio. (Based on one of Marilyn’s favourite novels (according to her friend and masseur, Ralph Roberts), and previously filmed as Courageous with Barbara Stanwyck in 1934, but dissatisfied with the result, author Willa Cather had banned all movies based on her work.) In this same letter McCarthy writes, ‘Congratulations again on The Misfits and I hope it will achieve the great success it deserves.'” (SOLD for $512)
“A small notecard to Marilyn from producer Buddy Adler. The notecard reads, ‘Darling, It’s wonderful having you home again. Best wishes, Buddy Adler.’ Adler was the producer of Bus Stop, released in 1956. This card is likely in reference to Marilyn’s return to Hollywood in 1956 after having spent the entirety of 1955 in New York City.” (SOLD for $640)
“A two-page typed letter on Algonquin Hotel letterhead to Marilyn from photographer John Bryson, dated August 6, 1960, in reference to the August 15, 1960 issue of LIFE magazine, in which his photos of Marilyn on the set of Let’s Make Love were published. The letter reads in part, ‘I am very happy, however, to report that we close with a larger than full page of the picture of Arthur swabbing off your back after a hard day’s rehearsal. I think the little girl look in this is the best picture I ever took of you.’ The letter goes on to read, ‘Anyway, it is done and I hope you like it. If you do or do not I would like for you to remember that I think you are one of the best women I have ever known and if you ever need a friend for anything just call day or night. I do not say such things casually.'” (SOLD for $1,280)
“A Western Union telegram from Mary Leatherbee of LIFE magazine dated June 26, 1958, regarding photos of Marilyn taken by Richard Avedon in which she recreated images of famous actresses for a spread entitled ‘Fabled Enchantresses.'” (SOLD for $640)
“A one-page typed letter to Marilyn from Emmeline Snively, dated July 31, 1958. Snively was the owner and manager of the Bluebook Modeling Agency. Marilyn, still Norma Jean at the time, signed with the agency in 1945, and Snively is believed to have assisted her in transforming into Marilyn Monroe. The letter reads in part, ‘We have been following your steady progress over the years, and our students at Blue Book Models regard your success and constant development as an inspiration.’ Included with this letter is a torn portion of the original mailing envelope with Snively’s typed mailing address. Pencil scribbles are visible on the envelope fragment, possibly written in Marilyn’s own hand. It is interesting to note that Snively attempted to stay in contact with Marilyn throughout the star’s career. In fact, she was one of a very few guests from Marilyn’s inner circle who was invited to her funeral.” (SOLD for $640)
“Six documents referencing an agreement, and the dissolution thereof, between Marilyn Monroe and Ben Hecht regarding his authoring her life story. Included is a facsimile copy of the originally signed agreement between Monroe and Hecht, dated March 16, 1954, in which the terms of the agreement are exceedingly clear. Three unsigned carbon copies of this same agreement are included. Also included is a facsimile copy of a two-page letter sent to Hecht by Marilyn’s attorney Lloyd Wright, Jr., in which he demands that Hecht ‘surrender to us on behalf of our client, Miss Marilyn Monroe, all, and I repeat all, copies of any material concerning Miss Marilyn Monroe written by Mr. Ben Hecht, pursuant to his contract of March 16, 1954 with Marilyn Monroe, or otherwise.’ Marilyn partnered with Hecht to write her life story, stating specifically that the article could be published only in the Ladies’ Home Journal magazine.” (SOLD for $640)
“A two-page typed memo from Robert H. Montgomery, Jr. to John F. Wharton regarding ‘Proposed settlement of dispute between Milton H. Greene and Marilyn Monroe. The document clarifies that Monroe will pay Greene $50,000.00 for his stock in Marilyn Monroe Productions, Inc. in five equal annual installments, and also that she will sell to Greene her stock in Milton Greene Studios.’ The document further states, ‘all agreements existing between them are cancelled and of no further force and effect.’ A second two-page original document outlines the distribution of furniture and equipment, including paintings, rugs, a vacuum cleaner, a lamp, a chair and a sofa, typewriters, and other items.” (SOLD for $1,000)
Born in 1893 to Belarusian Jewish immigrants, Ben Hecht became a noted Chicago reporter and novelist before scoring his first Broadway hit with The Front Page (1928.) He later became one of Hollywood’s greatest (and most prolific) screenwriters. This month, two new biographies of Hecht will be published.
The first, Adina Hoffman’s Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures, is part of a ‘Jewish Lives’ series from Yale University Press. In it, Hoffman explains how Hecht came to be the ghostwriter for Marilyn’s 1954 memoir, My Story. (Julian Gorbach’s The Notorious Ben Hecht will be published at the end of March.)
Although Hecht was not an observant Jew, he became involved with the Zionist group Irgun during World War II. After the war ended, he openly supported the Jewish insurgency in Palestine, and in a 1947 open letter, he praised underground violence against the British.
A year later, the Cinematograph Exhibitors’ Association announced a ban on all films connected to Hecht. Filmmakers became reluctant to work with Hecht and thus jeopardize the lucrative UK market, and he was forced to take salary cuts and adopt pseudonyms until the boycott was lifted in 1952.
According to Hecht, Darryl F. Zanuck was “the only studio head who would hire me and use my name … [and he] got into a peck of trouble doing it.” As Adina Hoffman reveals in her book, Hecht worked with two longtime collaborators, writer Charles Lederer and director Howard Hawks, on a 1952 screwball comedy starring Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe. Originally titled Darling, I Am Growing Younger, it was later renamed Monkey Business.
In early 1954, Hecht spent five days in a San Francisco hotel interviewing Marilyn, whom he called ‘La Belle Bumps and Tears’. (His secretary Nanette Barber fondly recalled the sessions in a 2012 interview, posted here.) To Ken McCormick, the Doubleday editor who commissioned the project, he described the experience as “the longest series of log jams I’ve ever run into.” Hecht had back taxes to pay, and needed the money.
At first, he said, Marilyn was “100% clinging and co-operative”; but after her marriage to Joe DiMaggio, “the picture changed.” At DiMaggio’s behest, Marilyn’s lawyer demanded far tighter control. When the marriage collapsed months later, a devastated Marilyn refused to mention the divorce in the book.
Calling the situation “critical,” McCormick proposed “shift[ing] this all over into the third person and do[ing] a Ben Hecht biography of Marilyn Monroe … It seems to us that this would give you an elegant chance to write one hell of a book about Hollywood.” According to Hoffman, Hecht preferred to remain anonymous. Meanwhile, his shady agent Jacques Chambrun secretly sold the manuscript to a British tabloid. It was then serialised with neither Hecht’s nor Marilyn’s permission, landing the writer in legal trouble.
The book, My Story, wouldn’t be published until 1974, when both writer and subject were deceased. It was only in 2000 that Hecht was acknowledged publicly as the author. In a recent essay for Affidavit, Audrey Wollen wrote, “Hecht’s version of Monroe’s life set a cultural precedent for every future biography.” You can read more about its backstory here.
Following recent allegations of sexual harassment and assault against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, I’ve been thinking of Marilyn’s own experiences among the Hollywood ‘wolves’. (Incidentally, Weinstein produced the 2011 biopic, My Week With Marilyn.)
‘I met them all,’ Marilyn stated in her 1954 memoir, My Story. ‘Phoniness and failure were all over them. Some were vicious and crooked. But they were as near to the movies as you could get. So you sat with them, listening to their lies and schemes. And you saw Hollywood with their eyes – an overcrowded brothel, a merry-go-round with beds for horses.’
My Story was written with Ben Hecht, who may be responsible for some of the more elaborate metaphors, but he insisted it was true to the spirit of what Marilyn told him. It remained unpublished until long after her death, perhaps because it was too controversial.
When British writer W J Weatherby asked her whether the stories about the casting couch were true, Marilyn responded: ‘They can be. You can’t sleep your way into being a star, though. It takes much, much more. But it helps. A lot of actresses get their first chance that way. Most of the men are such horrors, they deserve all they can get out of them!’
This conversation also remained private during her lifetime. Sadly, Marilyn has been retrospectively punished for her outspokenness, with tales of her supposed promiscuity circulating to this day. Even film critic Mick LaSalle, who once defended her against lurid allegations by Tony Curtis, wrote this week, ‘Ever hear of Marilyn Monroe? Of course you have. Well, she said no to very few people.’
Her relationship with agent Johnny Hyde is well-known, and some believe her friendship with movie mogul Joe Schenck was more than platonic. But the rumours of her being a glorified call-girl are utterly baseless. Several men who dated Marilyn remember her being so cautious that she wouldn’t kiss them goodnight.
Perhaps one of the most important stories relating to Marilyn and the Hollywood ‘wolves’ is her refusal to spend a weekend alone with Columbia boss Harry Cohn on his yacht while she was under contract to him in 1948. He was furious, and quickly fired her. The story is almost identical to some of the allegations being made today.
Among the many stories making the rounds lately comes from actress Gretchen Mol, who was rumoured to have been promoted by Weinstein in exchange for sexual favours. In fact, she has never been alone with him, and yet this false rumour has unjustly tarnished her reputation.
Her story reminded me a lot of Marilyn, who has been endlessly ‘slut-shamed’ simply for being honest and open about her sexuality. In January 1953, she approved a story for Motion Picture magazine which is illuminating about the harassment she experienced – I have posted it below, courtesy of the Everlasting Star boards (please click on the files below to enlarge.)
What strikes me as sad is that she almost seemed to accept it as an occupational hazard. Let’s hope that the buck won’t stop with Mr Weinstein, and that real changes will be made. Sexual exploitation is not unique to Hollywood, and until people stop blaming the victims, predators will continue to thrive.
Director Henry Hathaway, who guided Marilyn through her star-making performance in Niagara, was a movie veteran, perhaps best-known for his action pictures. Although seen as gruff and domineering by some, he proved to be one of Marilyn’s most supportive directors.
Henry Hathaway: The Lives of a Hollywood Director, published later this month, is a new biography by Harold N. Pomainville, and promises to be of interest to MM fans (although rather expensive, in my opinion.) He describes how Hathaway dealt with Marilyn’s interfering coach, Natasha Lytess; and how he persuaded Marilyn to sing along to the record in the ‘Kiss’ scene.
Pomeraine also reveals that Zanuck thwarted Hathaway’s plan to cast Marilyn in Of Human Bondage, and that Hathaway advised her to hire Charles Feldman as her new agent as a defence against the hostile studio head. And it was Hathaway who offered Marilyn the chance to star in a Jean Harlow biopic. She rejected it, partly because she was then in dispute with screenwriter Ben Hecht over a shelved autobiography (published after her death as My Story); but perhaps also because the pressures of Harlow’s life mirrored her own.
“Though Hathaway worked with Marilyn only once,” Pomeraine writes, “he became one of her prime defenders. At a time when the Fox hierarchy, including [Darryl] Zanuck, screenwriter Nunnally Johnson, and director Howard Hawks, regarded Monroe as little more than a passing novelty, Hathaway saw her as a rare and sensitive talent: ‘Marilyn was witty and bright, but timid. She was afraid of people.'”
Joe Franklin, who co-authored the first American biography of Marilyn in 1953, has died aged 88, reports the Chicago Tribune.
Born less than two months before Marilyn, his childhood friend was Bernard Schwartz (better known as Tony Curtis.) He began his radio career as a teenager, and is credited as a pioneer of the television talk show. The Joe Franklin Show ran for 42 years – a decade longer than Johnny Carson’s.
The Marilyn Monroe Story: The Intimate Inside Story of Hollywood’s Hottest Glamour Girl was co-written with Laurie Palmer. For two weeks in late 1953, Franklin worked on the book with Marilyn herself. However, the project was vetoed by Twentieth Century-Fox, and Franklin completed it without Marilyn’s further involvement. (In 1954, Marilyn would co-write her own memoir with Ben Hecht. Apart from an unauthorised serialisation, My Story would not be published until long after her death.)
Nonetheless, The Marilyn Monroe Story has become a highly valuable collector’s item, largely because it was published during her lifetime. It was reissued in paperback in 2012.
In his own memoir, Up Late with Joe Franklin, he appeared to have claimed a ‘brief, intimate encounter’ with Marilyn, but in a 2011 interview for the Emmys website, he set the record straight.
‘It’s not true,’ he explained. ‘They touched up the book to say that…We got friendly, but we never had anything intimate.’
Thanks to Emma Downing Warren
The New Yorker takes a look back at the exploits of literary agent Jacques Chambrun, whose unscrupulous behaviour derailed My Story, Marilyn’s 1954 memoir (as told to Ben Hecht.)
“When Ben Hecht ghost-wrote Marilyn Monroe’s memoir, Chambrun sold a scandalous passage to a London tabloid for a thousand pounds with neither Monroe nor Hecht’s permission; Monroe was so unnerved by the article that she rescinded her support for the book and Hecht had to return his five-thousand-dollar advance to Doubleday. (‘My Story’ was eventually published, twenty years later, but Hecht was not credited until the book’s third printing.)”
Nanette Barber, who has worked at Northbrook Public Library, Illinois, for 42 years, was secretary to the famed Hollywood screenwriter, Ben Hecht, from 1949-54. Talking to the Northbrook Star, Barber recalled their collaboration with Marilyn on her memoir, My Story:
‘Hecht, who, for years was uncredited for Marilyn Monroe’s memoirs, spent several interview sessions with the star while Barber typed, often at Monroe’s residence, just before she married Joe DiMaggio.
“(Hecht) sent each (memoir) chapter to his agent in London and his agent put it in the tabloids,” said Barber. “Just one more treacherous thing that happened in her life.”
“She (Monroe) was utterly beautiful, absolutely beautiful. She was bright (intelligent), she was just so lush looking. And she talked about her mother,” said Barber, describing a household dry cleaning method. During Monroe’s childhood, her mother dried chemical laundry by spreading it on a lawn.
“She (Monroe) said, ‘I used to sit next to these clothes and I would feel the lawn,’” said Barber. “And she had a mink coat on and she said, ‘Maybe that’s why I like to touch mink.’”
During one interview, Monroe sat near a picture window.
“Ben said, ‘Where’s Joe (DiMaggio) today?’ You could see San Francisco over her shoulder and she said, ‘Out there.’ It was so cute,” said Barber, “San Francisco is a fishing community and (DiMaggio’s) family all fished out there.”
Barber’s interview and career was now coming to a close.
“I love to read mysteries. But I don’t like unhappy endings. It’s gotta be a Cinderella story for me, no angst.”’