Barbara Rush Remembers Marilyn

Actress Barbara Rush has shared memories of her long career with Stephanie Nolasco for Fox News. Born in 1927, she met a young Marilyn Monroe in the late 1940s, while both were residents at the Hollywood Studio Club, a home for aspiring actresses.

‘Oh yes, we were friends,’ she said. ‘We were in the studio club together. At least with me, when you first come to Hollywood, and I went to Paramount, they put me immediately in the studio club. It’s kind of like a sorority house. And Marilyn Monroe was there. I loved her. Marilyn was such a darling lady. She was very sweet and nice. All the girls in the studio club just had a good time.’

In 1954, Barbara won the Golden Globe award as ‘Most Promising Newcomer – Female’ for her role in the sci-fi classic, It Came From Outer Space. She was then married to actor Jeffrey Hunter. She played the wife of James Mason in Bigger Than Life (1956.) Director Nicholas Ray, a mutual friend of Marilyn, offered the star – who was filming Bus Stop on another soundstage at Twentieth Century Fox – a cameo role in his film, but due to Marilyn’s nerves, it never transpired.

In The Young Lions (1958) Barbara starred opposite Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, who would later work with Marilyn on her last completed movie, The Misfits.

Barbara married Hollywood publicist Warren Cowan in 1959. As Marilyn’s biographer Gary Vitacco Robles tells me, ‘Warren Cowan was part of a publicity firm (Rogers & Cowan) that had merged with Arthur P. Jacobs’ Company. I believe the two firms separated again around 1959. Both had represented Marilyn.’

Barbara still remembers her disbelief at hearing of Marilyn’s death three years later. ‘It was in the middle of the night when we got the call,’ she recalled. ‘My husband, who handled her, was very shocked. So shocked. I just kept hearing him go, Oh my God, over and over… We were all just very disturbed by it.’

During this time Barbara also worked in television, including a memorable role as the devious Nora Clavicle in Batman. She also appeared in the Rat Pack musical, Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), and with Paul Newman in the 1967 Western, Hombre.

In 1970, Barbara won the prestigious Sarah Siddons Award (referenced in All About Eve) for her stage role in Forty Carats. She would later star in a one-woman Broadway show, A Woman Of Independent Means. She returned to her sci-fi roots with a recurring part as Lindsay Wagner’s mother in TV’s The Bionic Woman. Since 1997 she has lived at the Harold Lloyd Estate in Beverly Hills, where Marilyn was photographed by the former silent movie comedian back in 1953.

Barbara’s most recent screen credit was in 2007, when she appeared in several episodes of another television series, Seventh Heaven. She is still active, having just made a short film and attending a Hollywood Museum exhibition, Batman ’66.

‘Bigger Than Life’: The Lost Cameo

Marilyn with Nick Ray, 1951

This second extract from Patrick McGilligan’s Nicholas Ray: The Glorious Failure of an American Director concerns Ray’s attempt to include Marilyn in his 1956 movie, Bigger Than Life.

“‘Some weekends,’ [Gavin] Lambert wrote, ‘Nick arranged for a girlfriend to come over in the late afternoon, and asked me to stay out of the bungalow for “a couple of hours.” The girlfriend was usually one of several young unknown actresses, very occasionally she was Marilyn Monroe, and in any case [she] never stayed the night.

Divorced from baseball star Joe DiMaggio, Monroe was dating Ray again when convenient. She remained one of his deepest crushes, although he could never quite promote himself into the role of her steady ‘beau’ (as Hedda Hopper was encouraged to describe their relationship.) He couldn’t quite promote her into any film he was directing either.

Once, when Monroe visited the set of ‘Bigger Than Life’ at the end of the day – she was finishing ‘Bus Stop’ for 20th Century-Fox on a nearby soundstage – Ray tried coaxing the actress into a cameo appearance. Staging cutaways for a hospital scene, Ray talked Monroe into donning a nurse’s costume and carrying two lamps into camera range. ‘Carry them on the set,’ Ray advised her, ‘put them down, walk over to this desk, sit down and look at the star, who’s gone slightly off his nut.’

According to [James] Mason, who was in the scene, the cameo was intended as a laugh for studio executives at dailies, not for actual use in the film, but Monroe lost her nerve anyway. Ray couldn’t shoo away her anxiety. ‘Oh Nick,’ she said, ‘tell me what you want me to do! I can’t do it, Nick!’ Finally Ray called cut, according to Mason, giving Monroe a comforting embrace before announcing ‘that he did not think it was such a funny idea after all, so let’s not do it. “Come on, Marilyn, what do you what to drink?”‘ Ray later fed the item to Hedda Hopper, who ran it straight: ‘Marilyn Does Bit in Nick Ray’s Film,’ her column declared in May 1956, reporting that Marilyn had played her cameo role ‘like a lamb.’ Yet Monroe cannot be glimpsed in ‘Bigger Than Life’ – nor in any other Nick Ray film.”