Miller Reference in ‘The Good Wife’

Nancy Crozier (played by Mamie Gummer) is a recurring character in US legal drama, The Good Wife. In Season 2, Episode 4 (‘Cleaning House’), Crozier, who works for a rival firm, is appointed co-counsel on a case with Alicia Florrick (Julianna Marguiles.)

Florrick is defending a DJ at a nightclub where a young woman died in a stampede, while Crozier represents the security firm on duty when the tragedy occurred.

Judge Jared Quinn is a chauvinist who throws Alicia out of court for wearing trousers. Crozier wins Quinn over when she sees a photograph of his daughter in a high-school production of Arthur Miller’s 1964 play, After the Fall. She tells him that she once played Maggie (the character believed to be based on Marilyn Monroe), and quotes the line, ‘You tried to kill me, mister. I been killed by a lot of people, some couldn’t hardly spell, but it’s the same, mister.’

In the courtroom, Crozier exaggerates her ditzy blonde persona, stating that she knows nothing about the drug world while asking leading questions. She insinuates that the other clubgoers, high on PCP, became aggressive and attacked the woman.

It soon becomes clear that Crozier is seeking to clear the security firm of blame while showing Alicia’s client in a negative light. However, Alicia’s assistant discovers that the skids for holding the revolving stage were uncovered that night, which had caused the guests to trip and fall on top of the victim.

Therefore, Alicia finally outwits Crozier. It is interesting that Crozier had previously played a Monroe-like character in a play, because like Monroe, she is far more intelligent than she lets on, and uses her feminine wiles to manipulate men.

However, unlike Marilyn, Crozier is tough and calculating. Her character is also reminiscent of Elle Woods, the attorney played by Reese Witherspoon in the 2001 comedy, Legally Blonde.

In another plot twist, a deposition made to Alicia by Glenn Childs (Titus Welliver), Peter Florrick’s political rival, is leaked to the press. Childs believes (incorrectly) that Alicia, Florrick’s wife, is the source of the leak.

What’s also intriguing here is that Welliver previously played Joe DiMaggio in the 2001 mini-series, Blonde, while Griffin Dunne, who plays Judge Quinn in the After the Fall sequence, also featured in Blonde as the play’s author, Arthur Miller.

Finally, if Mamie Gummer (Crozier) looks familiar to you, she is, in fact, the 27 year-old daughter of acting legend Meryl Streep. Gummer also stars in the new medical drama, Off The Map, and will appear in John Carpenter’s forthcoming horror flick, The Ward.

‘Blonde’: The Mini-Series


Blonde, a TV adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, was first aired in 2002, barely two years after the book’s publication. Directed by Joyce Chopra and starring Poppy Montgomery (Without a Trace) as Marilyn Monroe, it is currently available to watch for free online at Blinkbox.

Although Blonde is based on Monroe’s life, it plays fast and loose with the facts. Characters like ‘I.E. Shinn’, the fictitious agent, are amalgamations of several men who played significant roles in Monroe’s early career. Her first husband, James Dougherty, is renamed ‘Bucky Glazer’, while DiMaggio and Miller are referred to as ‘the Ballplayer’ and ‘the Playwright’.

This technique puts Monroe in the spotlight, and makes her brief, intense life seem much less complex than it really was. Vague, unconfirmed rumours about her relationship with peripheral figures, like Charlie Chaplin’s son, are distorted beyond recognition. While proclaiming that ‘she wasn’t blonde, and she wasn’t dumb’ (seemingly paraphrasing Dolly Parton), Marilyn is portrayed as a victim, passive and helpless.

Poppy Montgomery’s performance is actually quite good, but the other characters are little more than caricatures. Perhaps the most misleading scene of all shows Monroe exchanging sexual favours with Darryl F. Zanuck, head of Twentieth Century Fox, for a stock contract. This incident never occurred and, to me as a fan, it was offensive.

The first half of this two-parter mainly covers Monroe’s pre-Hollywood life as Norma Jeane Mortenson. Her mother is played rather stridently by Patricia Richardson. The costuming in the latter part is somewhat sloppy, playing on stereotyped images and not acknowledging how subtly Monroe transformed herself.

Blonde is reasonably watchable, but fails to rise above other two-dimensional portrayals of Marilyn’s life. It doesn’t match the attempted lyricism of Oates’ novel and fails to distinguish between fact and fantasy.

A new, big-screen version is now planned, to be directed by Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) and starring Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive, King Kong, The Painted Veil.)

Christian Louboutin Reads ‘Blonde’

“Meanwhile, he’s recently finished a new collection inspired by Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde, a 1200 page biography on Marilyn Monroe.*  ‘It’s such a fascinating book.  One of the most moving books I’ve ever read, actually.  I began to really look at Marilyn, and I realized she is not a style icon, but an icon herself.  I love that Marilyn attitude.'”

Elle

*It should be noted that Blonde is fiction, not biography, and that the page count in my hardback original was 752 (though some trade paperbacks run to 960 pp.)

Liz Smith on Playboy, Oates and ‘Blonde’

“Ms. Oates wrote a massive semi-fiction about Marilyn some years back, titled Blonde, which is now being made into a film with Naomi Watts. The author (like Norman Mailer before her) didn’t see the harm in mixing truth and illusion, the better to ‘grasp’ the illusive Monroe. Blonde was brilliant, fascinating, messy, confusing, not always truthful. Perhaps like the subject herself.

And in her Playboy piece, Oates just gets it wrong, factually, several times, though she obviously has affection for her subject. I mean, to say that Jane Russell –marvelous though she is – was an ‘A’ list star compared to Marilyn, ‘always on the B-list,’ is simply incorrect. Oates also writes that Marilyn tried to set up a production company but: ‘nothing seemed to come of it.’ Yeah, hiring Laurence Olivier to costar in the Marilyn Monroe Productions film The Prince and the Showgirl was ‘nothing.’ (Marilyn did triumph over the system, much to Hollywood’s rage; the problem was she couldn’t sustain her victory.)

Sigh! Ms. Oates is a fine, sensitive writer. The memory of Marilyn has been treated worse, that’s for sure. Still, pick up Fragments and let this mythical, lost lady speak for herself.”

Liz Smith, WowOWow

Joyce Carol Oates on ‘Fragments’

“Like all serious artists, Marilyn Monroe lived – lives – in her art. Fugitive pieces like those of Fragments will resonate most with those who know her extraordinary films. Here is a female artist for whom work was salvation, or might have been if circumstances had been slightly different; if, for instance, Monroe had remained in New York at the Actor’s Studio, and had not returned to Hollywood, in 1960, to make The Misfits. In an interview of 1959, as if in rueful acknowledgement of her impending fate, Monroe said, ‘I guess I am a fantasy’ – a luminous phantom in the lives of others.”

From the December issue of US Playboy – read in full here

Naomi Watts: A ‘Fragile’ Blonde

“I’m not especially comfortable playing damsels in distress,” the Australian actress Naomi Watts tells Nancy Mills of The Scotsman. “I like to play women who appear to be that but, at the last minute, show they’re anything but.”

This could be a description of Marilyn Monroe, who Watts is set to play in Andrew Dominik’s big-screen adaptation of Blonde (a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, based on Monroe’s life.)

Blonde has not yet begun production, but is already causing quite a stir in Hollywood. It is due out in 2012, which also marks the 50th anniversary of Marilyn’s death.

“Everyone thinks, ‘Ooh, Marilyn Monroe,”‘ Watts says, “but it’s not a glossy picture. It’s quite dark, but a great story.”

The two actresses would seem to have little in common, apart from their hair colour, but Watts sees more to it. “I get her fragility, definitely,” she says.

“I feel like I’m a fairly fragile person,” Watts admits. “It’s pretty easy for me to get upset or emotional, but not tough or angry. Having said that, I think I’ve survived certain situations that have made me tougher and made me pull through. Even this whole thing about being an actor – that took a long time. I don’t feel like I had thick skin, but the fact that I stayed there knocking away at it must make me resilient.”

“I am interested in dark things,” she adds. “I’m not afraid of them. We all have a dark side. It’s a matter of whether you want to embrace it or not. I’m willing to explore it, but it’s not going to eat me up.”

‘Blonde’ Movie Delayed

Photo by ‘mavenberlin’

Andrew Dominik‘s big-screen adaptation of Blonde, previously said to start shooting in January 2011, may be postponed, after Casey Affleck confirmed he will be working with Dominik on a crime movie at that date, according to the Film School Rejects blog.

Blonde will be based on Joyce Carol Oates‘ 2000 novel of the same name, about the life of Marilyn Monroe. It was generally well-received by critics, with some even calling it Oates’ masterpiece. However, its reception among Monroe fans has been more mixed, because of its fairly loose relation to the facts of Marilyn’s life.

In 2001, Blonde was adapted for television, with Poppy Montgomery (Without a Trace) as Monroe. While her performance was good, the mini-series was widely considered to be a disappointment.

Poppy Montgomery as Marilyn (2001)

Last May, Dominik’s more ambitious plans to remake Blonde were outlined in Screen Daily:

“Dominik, who last directed The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, explains his desire to make Blonde: ‘Why is Marilyn Monroe the great female icon of the 20th Century? For men she is an object of sexual desire that is desperately in need of rescue. For women, she embodies all the injustices visited upon the feminine, a sister, a Cinderella, consigned to live among the ashes.’

He added, ‘I want to tell the story of Norma Jean as a central figure in a fairytale; an orphan child lost in the woods of Hollywood, being consumed by that great icon of the twentieth century.’

Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval told Screen, ‘We are delighted to finally be working with Andrew Dominik who is one of the most talented young directors in world cinema today. We trust his vision to deliver us a Marilyn biopic which will not be a classic one but a modern Raging Bull which will explore one of the most iconic figures of this century. Whilst the tabloid press has grown in popularity by taking advantage of such tragedies, we at Wild Bunch are seduced by the humanity, the emotion and the tragic destiny of such a powerful character.’”

Dominik’s last film as writer/director, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) was highly praised, showing dramatic flair and a keen understanding of American mythology. And Oates’ Blonde is certainly a novel written on a grand scale.

Naomi Watts is slated to star as Marilyn, and though she is a little on the ‘waiflike’ side, her earlier performances in Mulholland Drive and The Painted Veil suggest that Watts has the acting chops to evoke Monroe’s unique combination of mystique and vulnerability.

Naomi Watts

Like My Week With Marilyn, also due to be filmed shortly, Blonde boasts a gifted actress and director, but the source material is more contentious. Monroe herself is such a fabled figure in the history of cinema that the reality of her life and character is too often over-simplified.

‘It’s scary, playing someone so iconic, whom everyone feels they know,’ Watts has admitted, reports Start Movie News.

Why Do Gentlemen Prefer Blondes?

Frank Powolny, 1953

Carole Jahme sheds the cold light of evolutionary psychology on the allure of blonde women…

“Blondes do not seem to have lost any of their popularity since the end of the last ice age. Research suggests that blondes feature more often as Playboy centerfolds than they do in women’s magazines, and the percentage of blondes in each type of magazine exceeds the base rate of blondes in the normal population.

This would suggest that the selection pressures that shaped the standards of Western female beauty in the late-Palaeolithic are still the same today…”

The Guardian