Yesterday brought the sad news that Canadian-born actress Margot Kidder has passed away aged 69. Many children of the 1970s (myself included) will remember her as Lois Lane in the Superman movies. But did you know she also played Cherie in a 1982 television remake of Bus Stop? Filmed for HBO at the Claremont Theatre in California, it was a more literal adaptation of William Inge’s play, featuring additional characters not seen in Marilyn’s 1956 movie. If you’re curious about Margot’s performance, watch this Youtube clip from 6:20 onwards – and a full copy can be purchased for $23 from DVD Cafe.
Anticipating this year’s Oscar ceremony, the current issue of Entertainment Weekly (dated February 23-March 2) features extensive coverage of the Academy Awards’ 90-year history. Of course, Marilyn never won an Oscar, nor was she even nominated. But her role in Some Like It Hot, which won her a Golden Globe, is mentioned in a list of legendary ‘Oscar disses.’
Although Some Like It Hot is her best-known film, Marilyn’s screen time was less than her co-stars. Were it not for her top billing, her performance would arguably be more suited to the Best Supporting Actress category. Marilyn’s bombshell image and flair for comedy both worked against her being taken seriously by the Hollywood establishment. But perhaps the most decisive factor was her rebellion against Twentieth Century Fox.
After winning her contractual battle with the studio, her acclaimed comeback in Bus Stop (1956) was overlooked by the Academy – a snub she never forgot. Her next performance, in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), won awards in Europe, while her last completed film, The Misfits (1961), was also her most mature dramatic role. But at the time, neither were particularly well-received in the US.
In 1964, columnist Sheilah Graham petitioned unsuccessfully for Marilyn to be given a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. However, this is not standard practice within the Academy and thus is highly unlikely to happen now. Nonetheless, Marilyn’s films remain hugely popular and for many, she is the most enduring symbol of movies and glamour – proof, if proof were needed, that you don’t need an Oscar to be a legend.
William Inge’s Bus Stop, a Broadway hit for actress Kim Stanley before being adapted for the screen, is often revived in America’s regional theatre and has now been reissued in paperback (and audiobook) by Wildside Press. Although the cover shows original artwork of Marilyn in the movie, the play’s text is somewhat different, focusing on other characters as well as Cherie and Bo.
The play was published in 1956 with Marilyn on the cover, while the movie’s UK release was accompanied by Bus Stop: A Story of the Twentieth Century Fox Film, a 96-page booklet featuring photos and a mini-novelization.
Amy Greene is one of many luminaries interviewed by authors Norma Stevens and Steven M.L. Aronson for Avedon: Something Personal, in which she reveals the ties between Milton and Avedon, and later, Marilyn.
“One night in 1950, the photographer Milton Greene was having one of his Friday night open-houses in his penthouse studio, in the old Grand Central Palace building on Lexington Avenue. The room was packed with art directors, admen, models, photographers, actors, and dancers. Dick [Avedon] introduced himself to a fragile-looking blonde with almond-shaped eyes who was standing alone against the wall of the loggia – a wallflower. He broke the ice with, ‘How do you know Milton?’ She said, ‘I was married to him,’ and she filled Dick in: They were high-school sweethearts who had tied the knot in 1942 when she, Evelyn Franklin, was eighteen.
Dick said he was instantly taken by Evie’s feyness and elusiveness … He invited her to dinner that night at the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Terminal. From there the relationship took off like a choo-choo train, and the couple got hitched at the end of January 1951.
Milton Greene had meanwhile taken up with a cute Cuban-born model whom Dick had ‘discovered’, Edilia Franco (Conover, the modeling agency he sent her to, changed her first name to Amy and her last name to – in a nod to Dick – Richards.) In the spring of 1952, the year before he married Amy, Milton invited Dick and Evie to Sunday lunch in the country. ‘I wasn’t feeling so hot,’ Amy recalls. ‘I told Milton I wasn’t up to coming down. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I went through this shit for seven years with Evelyn, and I’m not going to put up with it from you. So get the hell up, put something decent on, and make an effort!’ He told me that one of the reasons he divorced Evelyn was she would stay in bed for days on end.
‘When Dick was in Hollywood for three months in 1956 consulting with Paramount on Funny Face, Milton was there producing Bus Stop with Marilyn, and Evelyn and I met for lunch,’ Amy recalls. ‘She and Dick were renting Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio’s old ‘honeymoon house’ on North Palm Drive in Beverly Hills, and she complained that the tour buses would drive by several times a day and the guide would make a big thing over the megaphone about the master bedroom – she said it was sexually inhibiting. The minute Evie discovered that I detested Milton’s mother as much as she did, she started giggling, and we became sort of friends. I remember her grousing that all Dick ever did was work. So I guess there wasn’t much reason for her to get out of bed.’
Five years into his marriage to Evie, a movie inspired by Dick’s [first] marriage … lit up screens across the country. ‘Funny Face, by the way, wasn’t really about me. They just used my early fashion escapades as a pretext to make a glamorous musical extravaganza …’ (Avedon)
Amazingly, Dick’s boyhood idol, Fred Astaire, now an old boy of 57, played the 25 year-old lead, named Dick; Audrey Hepburn played Doe, renamed Jo … The day Fred Astaire made his leap into death, some thirty years after Funny Face, Dick appeared in the doorway to [Norma Stevens’] office with tears running down his cheeks. ‘I didn’t cry when Marilyn died, I didn’t cry when [Alexey] Brodovitch (Avedon’s art director at Harper’s Bazaar) died, he told [Stevens.}”
The Danish-born actress turned artist Greta Thyssen – who made her Hollywood debut as a body double for Marilyn in Bus Stop, before finding fame in her own right, and dating Cary Grant – has died aged 90, as Rhett Bartlett writes in the Hollywood Reporter. Greta’s film credits include Accused of Murder (1956), Terror Is A Man (1959), Three Blondes In His Life (1961), and Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962), but she is perhaps best-known for a series of comedy shorts made with the Three Stooges.
“Born in Hareskovby, Denmark, Thyssen was named Miss Denmark in the early 1950s. She soon left Europe, via Paris, for Hollywood.
With measurements of 39-24-36 or 40-21-35 — depending on which men’s magazine one came across — Thyssen was just right as a body double for Monroe during the filming of the romantic comedy Bus Stop (1956).
Thyssen’s movie career ended in 1967 after she decided to raise a family with her third husband, Theodore Guenther, a mining engineer. He died in 2000.
In retirement, she became as an artist in New York, painting representational nude figures against surrealistic allegory backgrounds, at the Art Students League.”
Greta shared her memories of Marilyn in a 2010 interview with Mark Voger for NJ.com…
“Q: You made your film debut in Bus Stop (1956), and you doubled for Marilyn Monroe. Did you get to know Marilyn a little?
A: Yes, I did. And that was a time when they were really hard on her. I felt so upset for her, because everybody was speaking behind her back.”
If you’re a fan of cult TV series Twin Peaks, you’ll already know that director David Lynch and writer Mark Frost created it after shelving an earlier collaboration based on Anthony Summers’ Goddess.) There are striking parallels between the main female protagonist, Laura Palmer (played by Sheryl Lee), and Marilyn, which go beyond their mysterious deaths.
In last year’s Twin Peaks revival, Marilyn’s Bus Stop co-star Don Murray played a key role. Actors Russ Tamblyn and Miguel Ferrer also had real-life links to Marilyn. I was also reminded of her sensual performance in Niagara during a scene where beautiful FBI agent Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell) is filmed walking away from the camera, while ditzy casino hostess Candie (Amy Shiels) resembled Lorelei in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, even wearing a pink tutu with matching gloves and diamonds, not unlike Marilyn’s costume in the ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ number….
But maybe that’s all just wishful thinking on my part. Going back to the original series, Zach Gayne explores the similarities between Marilyn and Laura in ‘Twin Peaks and the Point of No Return‘, an essay for Screen Anarchy.
“Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Marilyn Monroe and the abandoned project that first united David Lynch and Mark Frost – the two were apparently interested in co-adapting Anthony Summers’ expose, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. While this is absolute conjecture, I can’t help but wonder if the two minds, who’d bonded over their interest in detailing the story of a fallen goddess – adored by all, but understood by few, who’s shadow ultimately overcame her angel – felt that the exploring Monroe when she was still Norma Jeane wouldn’t be the more effective way to detail the all-too-common American tragedy of a bright young woman succumbing to purveyors of darkness.
Laura Palmer is nothing if not a high-school Marilyn Monroe – a magnetic soul who draws no shortage of desire from, not only the hottest boy in school, but many of the town’s adults, like the local psychedelic psychologist or the wealthy hotel tycoon. One might say she brought out the best or worst in people, depending on their innermost natures. Laura, a supreme beacon of light, in addition to attracting love of the purest kind also attracted fire, and for her sins of merely existing, from a young age she was met with dark temptations as old as the ghostwood forest, like so many generations of distressed damsels and lads before and after her.”
Author Darwin Porter is nothing if not prolific, publishing new books every year. He has become a one-man National Enquirer of Old Hollywood, writing salacious biographies following this lucractive dictum: the dead don’t sue. Among film historians, Porter has very little credibility, but certain tabloid newspapers, more interested in cheap thrills than evidence, lap up his tall stories.
In 2012, Porter published Marilyn at Rainbow’s End, a lurid tome panned by many long-term Monroe fans. He has since mentioned her in equally dubious ‘biographies’ of Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. His latest victim is 1950s heartthrob Rock Hudson.
This latest publication, Rock Hudson: Erotic Fire, is featured in the UK’s Daily Mail. Porter claims that his source is actor George Nader, whom inherited the interest on Hudson’s estate along with his partner Mark Miller, Hudson’s former secretary. The couple were close to the star throughout his long career. Rock’s homosexuality was hidden until shortly before his death from AIDS in 1985. (George Nader died in 2002.)
Porter claims that Rock met a young Marilyn on the Universal lot in 1949 and offered to buy her lunch. They met for dinner on several occasions at a ‘hamburger den’, before Marilyn reportedly told him, ‘We don’t want this to get more serious. Both of us will have to lie on a few casting couches.’
This alleged quote is third-hand at best, and besides, Marilyn never worked at Universal. It’s highly unlikely that an affair between two such famous names could have gone unnoticed for sixty years. Rock was initially considered for the male lead in Bus Stop (1956), while Marilyn was considered for Pillow Talk (1959.) Marilyn also wanted him to star in Let’s Make Love (1960.)
Hudson presented an award to her at the 1962 Golden Globes, where they were photographed hugging affectionately. However, her date that night was Jose Bolanos. Hudson also narrated the documentary Marilyn, produced by Twentieth Century Fox after her death.
All of this suggests that they were on friendly terms, but nothing more. In a life as scrutinised as Marilyn’s, there are very few secrets left. Her relationships with celebrities like Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra and Yves Montand are well-known. At this late stage, a rumoured affair with Hudson should be treated as hearsay, if not outright fantasy.
Gwendoline Christie, the English actress who plays Brienne of Tarth in TV’s Game of Thrones, has revealed that Marilyn was a formative influence on her chosen career. “I remember seeing Marilyn Monroe in Bus Stop on television and thinking, what she was doing was so incredibly extraordinary,” Christie told People magazine. “I didn’t come from an acting background, but I just knew —that’s what I want to to do.”
In an article for the New Yorker, no less, Robin Wright says, ‘I have something in common with Marilyn Monroe – and you might, too.’ That shared condition, she claims, is synaesthesia…
“Marilyn Monroe had a condition called synesthesia, a kind of sensory or cognitive fusion in which things seen, heard, smelled, felt, or tasted stimulate a totally unrelated sense—so that music can be heard or food tasted in colors, for instance. Monroe’s first husband, Jim Dougherty, told Norman Mailer about ‘evenings when all Norma Jean served were peas and carrots. She liked the colors. She has that displacement of the senses which others take drugs to find. So she is like a lover of rock who sees vibrations when he hears sounds,’ Mailer recounted, in his 1973 biography of Monroe.”
While Marilyn was never diagnosed with synaesthesia, there’s a good reason for that – it wasn’t an established concept during her lifetime, although Wright believes it has been described in literature for centuries, noting that many artists, musicians and writers exhibit aspects of synaesthesia.
Maureen Seaberg first suggested that Marilyn might have been a synaesthete in a 2012 article for Psychology Today – a hypothesis supported by Mona Rae Miracle. (It would be interesting if a psychologist could examine other incidents from Marilyn’s life from this perspective.)
“It didn’t disturb me that Mr. Mailer did not refer to Ms. Monroe’s displacement of the senses specifically as synesthesia — no one was using that word in 1973. I decided to follow up with her survivors and spent months seeking them until an email arrived from her niece, Mona Rae Miracle, who with her mother, Berniece Baker Miracle, wrote a well-received biography of her famous aunt herself, titled My Sister Marilyn.
‘Synaesthesia is a term Marilyn and I were unaware of; in the past, we simply spoke of the characteristic experiences with terms such as extraordinary sensitivity and/or extraordinary imagination … Marilyn and I both studied acting with Lee Strasberg, who gave students exercises which could bring us awareness of such abilities, and the means of using them to bring characters to life. As you know, the varied experiences can bring sadness or enjoyment … Marilyn’s awesome performance in Bus Stop (the one she was most proud of) grew out of the use of such techniques and quite wore her out.'”