Norman Brokaw 1927-2016

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Norman Brokaw, former head of the William Morris Agency, died on October 29, aged 89. His uncle, Johnny Hyde, co-founded the legendary Hollywood talent hub, and gave the teenager his first job in the mailroom in 1943.

By 1949, Hyde was infatuated with Marilyn Monroe, who at 23 was barely a year older than his nephew. During their two-year relationship, Hyde secured her important roles in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve, and a long-term contract at Twentieth Century Fox.

A copy of Marilyn’s original William Morris Agency contract, recently sold at Julien’s Auctions for $7,680, included a covering letter signed by Norman Brokaw. In an article for Huffington Post, Brokaw’s son Joel recalled, “There were lots of wonderful memories he shared with me about his family, his uncle Johnny Hyde and Marilyn Monroe (including the time that he got screamed at when he was about to sit on their sofa and crush the plaster model of her new chin.)” If true, this story may add some credence to the longstanding rumour that Marilyn underwent minor cosmetic surgery at this time.

When Hyde died of a heart attack in December 1950, Marilyn was bereft. According to J. Randy Taraborrelli, author of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, Brokaw accompanied Marilyn to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, but his uncle passed away before their arrival. (However, there are several competing versions of this story.)

Marilyn with Johnny Hyde (1950)
Marilyn with Johnny Hyde (1950)

Marilyn’s next serious romance, with baseball hero Joe DiMaggio, began in 1952. According to Taraborrelli, the couple first met two years earlier, when Brokaw arranged for her to play a walk-on part in Lights, Camera, Action, an NBC variety show. (If this was the case, the footage may not have survived as it is not documented elsewhere. But Marilyn did film a TV commercial during the same period, so she wasn’t entirely unaccustomed  to the small screen.) After filming, she and Brokaw dined at the famous Brown Derby restaurant, where I Love Lucy star William Frawley asked if he could introduce her to his pal, Joe DiMaggio.

As they left the restaurant, Norman and Marilyn approached the ‘bashful’ sportsman. At the time, she was one of the few Americans who had never heard of DiMaggio. The next morning, Brokaw said, Joe called him and asked for Marilyn’s phone number – although whether he had the courage to follow through is unknown.

After a much-publicised courtship, Joe and Marilyn tied the knot in 1954. Taraborrelli writes that early on in their brief, tempestuous marriage, a worried Joe called Brokaw, and they met for drinks at the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel. When Joe explained that he wanted Marilyn to stop making films, Norman replied, “She’s not going to give up her career any more than you would have before you were ready to do it.” (Joe later sought advice from other Hollywood friends, including Sidney Skolsky, and would remain close to Marilyn long after their divorce.)

Marilyn dines with husband Joe DiMaggio (1954)
Marilyn dines with husband Joe DiMaggio (1954)

By then, Brokaw was building up the Morris Agency’s new TV division. He persuaded stars like Barbara Stanwyck to try the new medium, and negotiated a pioneering deal for Kim Novak, granting her a share in the profits of her films. In 1965, he secured a lead role for Bill Cosby in I Spy, making him the first black actor to achieve star status on a major television network.

During the 1970s, Brokaw added high-profile names in sport and politics to the agency’s roster. His career continued into the new century, and he was also a philanthropist, serving on the board of directors at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (formerly Cedars of Lebanon), and St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Norman Brokaw died at his home in Beverly Hills. He is survived by his wife, Marguerite Longley, six children and four grandchildren.

Alan Young 1919-2016

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Alan Young, who played Wilbur Post on Mister Ed – the classic 1960s TV sitcom about a talking horse – has died aged 96 at the Motion Picture and Television Home in Woodland Hills, California, reports The Guardian.

Born in Northumberland to Scottish parents in 1919, Young emigrated to Canada as a child. During his high school years he hosted a CBC radio show. He married in 1940 and had two children, before moving to New York in 1944, where he began hosting The Alan Young Show on NBC Radio.

In December 1946, the now-divorced Young met a young Marilyn Monroe when she promoted his show in highland dress on a Rose Bowl float in Los Angeles. They later went on two dates, as he recalled in a 2012 interview with Scotland’s Daily Record.

Alan Young (left) with Marilyn in 1946
Alan Young (left) with Marilyn in 1946

He was also interviewed by Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. He remembered taking her to the Brown Derby club after the parade; but as neither of them liked alcohol, they decided to go elsewhere and sip cocoa instead. “She seemed like a frightened rabbit at first,” he said, “and I didn’t realise she had been raised without parents. I really liked her.”

On their first date, Young picked her up from the house where she was living with family friend Ana Lower. He remembered that Ana seemed ‘suspicious’ of his intentions. Norma Jeane (as she still called herself then) explained that Ana was a devout Christian Scientist – a faith she and Alan also shared.

Their second date ended in disaster, as Alan tried to kiss Norma Jeane as she was turning her head away, and ended up kissing her ear instead. “I was so embarrassed about it that I never phoned her again,” he admitted.

He made his screen debut in Margie (1946), at Marilyn’s home studio of Twentieth Century Fox, and later appeared alongside Clifton Webb in Mr Belvedere Goes to College (1949.) He married Virginia McCurdy in 1948, and they had two children. In 1950, The Alan Young Show moved to television.

By the early 1950s, Marilyn was also a major star. “I was working at the studio when a blonde girl rushed up and yelled ‘Alan!'” he told Michelle Morgan. “She kissed me and asked about my parents and asked me to give her a call. After she had gone the make-up man asked how long I’d known Marilyn Monroe and I answered, ‘About two minutes!’ That was the last time I ever saw her.”

In 1955, Young would star opposite Jane Russell in Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, a sequel to  Monroe’s 1953 smash hit, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. After Marilyn declined to reprise her role, Jeanne Crain took her place as Lorelei Lee. He later starred in the classic sci-fi movie, The Time Machine (1960.)

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Young’s most famous role, in TV’s Mister Ed, began in 1961 and ran for five years. Afterwards, he continued making guest appearances in numerous television shows, movies and as a voice actor for cartoons and video games.

After nearly fifty years together, Young and McCurdy were divorced in 1995. He married Mary Chipman shortly afterwards, but they divorced two years later. He returned to the stage in a 2001 revival of Show Boat, and his final credit was in 2015, as the voice of Scrooge McDuck in a series of Mickey Mouse shorts.