Marilyn and the Hollywood Wolves

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 It remained unpublished until long after her death, perhaps because it was too controversial.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.

Further Reading

Marilyn Warned Joan Collins About the Casting Couch

‘Norma Jean and Marilyn’ Stars Speak Out On Abuse

Marilyn Impersonator Reveals Sexual Harassment

Marilyn and Henry Hathaway

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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 1926-2015

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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.)

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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

Jacques Chambrun’s Story

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.)”

 

Ben Hecht’s Secretary Remembers Marilyn

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.”’