Marilyn’s Hollywood Top 10

Marilyn in Bus Stop, 1956

Blogger Robert Horvat has listed his top 10 Marilyn movies on the Rearview Mirror site. With Some Like It Hot, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire heading the list, it’s a great selection – and Robert has also reviewed Niagara, Blondes and Bus Stop separately. (Personally, though, I would choose Clash By Night, Don’t Bother to Knock and The Prince and the Showgirl over The Asphalt Jungle, River Of No Return and There’s No Business Like Show Business.)

Wednesdays With Marilyn in Palm Springs

The Palm Springs Cultural Centre is hosting a summer season of Marilyn’s movies each Wednesday at 7 pm, with Niagara on July 10; followed by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on July 17, How to Marry a Millionaire on July 24, and Some Like It Hot on July 31. On Wednesdays at 7 through August, catch The Seven Year Itch, Bus Stop, Let’s Make Love and Monkey Business. And finally, the retrospective winds up in September with Don’t Bother to Knock and The Misfits.

Thanks to Eric at Marilyn Remembered

Marilyn’s Autograph and Costumes in ‘Yours Retro’

Marilyn is featured twice in the latest issue of UK nostalgia magazine Yours Retro (with Elizabeth Taylor gracing the cover.) Firstly, a portrait of the young Norma Jeane (signed ‘to my dear sister,’ Berniece Miracle), in a feature about autograph hunters; this article also mentions the sale of a baseball signed by Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio for almost $60,000 in 2011 (see here.) Secondly, Marilyn’s so-called ‘snake costume’, designed by Travilla for Bus Stop and seen again on Leslie Caron in The Man Who Understood Women (1959), in the regular Film Buff column.

All About Eve features in a spread about ‘Oscar’s First Ladies.’ And the rise to fame of Diana Dors, labelled ‘Britain’s answer to MM’, is also profiled in this issue – but the comparison is unfair to both women, whose talents were on a par yet very different.

Marilyn Goes From Grand Marshal to Usherette

These candid photos of Marilyn, taken circa 1961, will go under the hammer at RR Auctions on June 12, as part of their latest Fine Autographs and Artifacts sale.

Although usually credited to Inge Morath, these photos (taken in 1960, during filming of The Misfits) are stamped with the name of Henri Cartier-Bresson, her colleague at the Magnum Photos agency (they visited the set in tandem.)

This wire photo was taken during Marilyn’s visit to the 1952 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. Another photo taken with these young servicewomen caused a minor scandal, as mentioned in the caption. Some more information from the shoot is posted below (although the quote attributed to Marilyn was later refuted by her own publicist in a 1955 interview with the Saturday Evening Post‘s Pete Martin.)

“The low-cut summer dress she was wearing caught the attention of a photographer, who stood on a chair to better capture the outfit’s full effect. Upon seeing the photo, an Army information officer ordered it killed because he did not want to give the parents of potential recruits the ‘wrong impression’ about Army life. Information about the suppression of the photo was leaked to the press and then turned into frontpage news.

‘Leg art’ photo sessions were a never-ending part of Marilyn’s career, and one that she worked at with enthusiasm and good humor.

When asked her opinion of the situation for a story titled ‘Marilyn Wounded by Army Blushoff,’ Marilyn replied in her tongue-in-cheek manner, ‘I am very surprised and very hurt. I wasn’t aware of any objectionable décolletage on my part. I’d noticed people looking at me all day, but I thought they were admiring my Grand Marshal’s badge!'”

Susan Doll, How Stuff Works

Another Misfits photo from Magnum’s Eve Arnold.

One of the distinctive photo manipulations of Arthur ‘Weegee’ Fellig, based on his image of Marilyn at the Racquet Club, Palm Springs in 1949.

This photo of Marilyn with fellow celebrity usher Marlon Brando at the 1955 premiere of The Rose Tattoo comes from the collection of George Zeno, who has contributed to books including James Spada’s Monroe: A Life in Pictures (1982), and Christopher Nickens’ Marilyn in Fashion (2012.)

This photo shows Marilyn arriving at Phoenix Airport to film the rodeo scenes for Bus Stop in 1956.

This classic glamour shot (taken by Frank Powolny in 1953) is inscribed, ‘To Cheryl, Love & kisses, Marilyn Monroe.’

This shot of Marilyn singing alongside pianist Hal Schaefer, taken by John Florea in 1954, is part of a complete first series set of ‘Marilyn Monroe Trade Cards’ in their original packaging, entitled ‘Marilyn and Her Music,’ containing cards #1-20.

UPDATE: View results here

Marilyn at Julien’s: Personal and Business Correspondence

Today in an ongoing series on the upcoming Legends sale at Julien’s Auctions, a look at correspondence and other papers from Marilyn’s personal archive. (More about the auction here.)

UPDATE: I have added the final bids to each item.

“An original clipping from a Mexican newspaper detailing Marilyn’s visit to the National Institute for the Protection of Children on March 1, 1962, and her donation of $1,000.00 to the institute. Also included is a document translating the article, reading in part, ‘The American actress Marilyn Monroe yesterday visited the National Institute for the Protection of Children where she greeted the president of that organization, Mrs. Eva Samano de Lopez Mateos, to whom she gave 12,500 pesos – one thousand dollars – for the needy children.'” (SOLD for $768)


“An unsigned carbon-copy of a letter, likely from May Reis, Marilyn Monroe’s secretary, to hairdresser Kenneth, dated July 16, 1958. The letter reads in part, ‘Thank you for sending on Miss Monroe’s chignon but I am sorry it has not turned out as she had ordered it so it is being returned to you under separate cover.'” (SOLD for $192)

“A one-page handwritten letter from press agent Patricia Newcomb to Marilyn, dated June 2, 1956. The letter reads in part, ‘Enclosed is a copy of your eye perscription (sic) which I got this morning from Lee Seigel. I am also sending you another bottle, in case you might be running short.’ Also, ‘I mailed your records and hair dryer today, so they should arrive by the end of the week.'” (SOLD for $1,125)


“A one-page typed letter to Marilyn from Nunnally Johnson, dated February 1, no year specified (but probably sent after their 1962 meeting at the Beverly Hills Hotel, to discuss Something’s Got to Give.) The letter reads in part, ‘This is to put it on paper that I’ve rarely had a merrier evening. There’s no question about it, the only way to discuss business is over a bottle or two of champagne, with occasional reflections on sex to keep everything in balance. And if ever the occasion rises you may cite me as a bloke who also likes to sit and talk with you.’ The letter is hand-signed. A well-known screenwriter, Johnson worked on a number of projects related to Monroe, including We’re Not Married, and How to Marry a Millionaire.” (SOLD for $2,240)

“Two letters from the Actors’ Studio, dated January 10 and 12, 1961, regarding the Actors’ Studio Benefit scheduled for March 13, 1961. The January 10 letter announces, ‘Marilyn Monroe will be one of the stars who will draw the lucky tickets for our door prizes and for the Dance Contests.’ The letter is signed by Lee Strasberg, Cheryl Crawford and Elia Kazan (facsimile signatures). The second letter, sent by the benefit’s coordinator, asks Marilyn if it would be possible to take a photo of her wearing a fur coat that will be raffled as a door prize. The letter further requests that Marilyn write to executives at United Artists asking them to reserve tables at the event.” (SOLD for $768)


“Three letters, all dated in January of 1961, referencing possible film projects for Marilyn’s consideration. The January 3 letter from George Chasin is on MCA letterhead and references Touch of Mink, written by Stanley Shapiro (later filmed with Doris Day.) The January 26 letter, also on MCA letterhead, references a screenplay entitled The Notorious Lady, and is signed by Marvin Birdt with a copy to Chasin (later filmed with Kim Novak as The Notorious Landlady.) The January 31 letter is on Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation letterhead and references A Lost Lady, and is signed by Frank McCarthy, Director of Public Relations at the studio. (Based on one of Marilyn’s favourite novels (according to her friend and masseur, Ralph Roberts), and previously filmed as Courageous with Barbara Stanwyck in 1934, but dissatisfied with the result, author Willa Cather had banned all movies based on her work.) In this same letter McCarthy writes, ‘Congratulations again on The Misfits and I hope it will achieve the great success it deserves.'” (SOLD for $512)


“A small notecard to Marilyn from producer Buddy Adler. The notecard reads, ‘Darling, It’s wonderful having you home again. Best wishes, Buddy Adler.’ Adler was the producer of Bus Stop, released in 1956. This card is likely in reference to Marilyn’s return to Hollywood in 1956 after having spent the entirety of 1955 in New York City.” (SOLD for $640)


“A two-page typed letter on Algonquin Hotel letterhead to Marilyn from photographer John Bryson, dated August 6, 1960, in reference to the August 15, 1960 issue of LIFE magazine, in which his photos of Marilyn on the set of Let’s Make Love were published. The letter reads in part, ‘I am very happy, however, to report that we close with a larger than full page of the picture of Arthur swabbing off your back after a hard day’s rehearsal. I think the little girl look in this is the best picture I ever took of you.’ The letter goes on to read, ‘Anyway, it is done and I hope you like it. If you do or do not I would like for you to remember that I think you are one of the best women I have ever known and if you ever need a friend for anything just call day or night. I do not say such things casually.'” (SOLD for $1,280)


“A Western Union telegram from Mary Leatherbee of LIFE magazine dated June 26, 1958, regarding photos of Marilyn taken by Richard Avedon in which she recreated images of famous actresses for a spread entitled ‘Fabled Enchantresses.'” (SOLD for $640)


“A one-page typed letter to Marilyn from Emmeline Snively, dated July 31, 1958. Snively was the owner and manager of the Bluebook Modeling Agency. Marilyn, still Norma Jean at the time, signed with the agency in 1945, and Snively is believed to have assisted her in transforming into Marilyn Monroe. The letter reads in part, ‘We have been following your steady progress over the years, and our students at Blue Book Models regard your success and constant development as an inspiration.’ Included with this letter is a torn portion of the original mailing envelope with Snively’s typed mailing address. Pencil scribbles are visible on the envelope fragment, possibly written in Marilyn’s own hand. It is interesting to note that Snively attempted to stay in contact with Marilyn throughout the star’s career. In fact, she was one of a very few guests from Marilyn’s inner circle who was invited to her funeral.” (SOLD for $640)


“Six documents referencing an agreement, and the dissolution thereof, between Marilyn Monroe and Ben Hecht regarding his authoring her life story. Included is a facsimile copy of the originally signed agreement between Monroe and Hecht, dated March 16, 1954, in which the terms of the agreement are exceedingly clear. Three unsigned carbon copies of this same agreement are included. Also included is a facsimile copy of a two-page letter sent to Hecht by Marilyn’s attorney Lloyd Wright, Jr., in which he demands that Hecht ‘surrender to us on behalf of our client, Miss Marilyn Monroe, all, and I repeat all, copies of any material concerning Miss Marilyn Monroe written by Mr. Ben Hecht, pursuant to his contract of March 16, 1954 with Marilyn Monroe, or otherwise.’ Marilyn partnered with Hecht to write her life story, stating specifically that the article could be published only in the Ladies’ Home Journal magazine.” (SOLD for $640)


“A two-page typed memo from Robert H. Montgomery, Jr. to John F. Wharton regarding ‘Proposed settlement of dispute between Milton H. Greene and Marilyn Monroe. The document clarifies that Monroe will pay Greene $50,000.00 for his stock in Marilyn Monroe Productions, Inc. in five equal annual installments, and also that she will sell to Greene her stock in Milton Greene Studios.’ The document further states, ‘all agreements existing between them are cancelled and of no further force and effect.’ A second two-page original document outlines the distribution of furniture and equipment, including paintings, rugs, a vacuum cleaner, a lamp, a chair and a sofa, typewriters, and other items.” (SOLD for $1,000)

Don Murray Talks Marilyn in ‘Closer’

Don Murray, who made his movie debut in Bus Stop (1956), shares memories of his leading lady’s “uncontrollable anxiety, forbidden romances and secret acts of kindness” in a cover story for US magazine Closer.

Now 89, Don had a major role in the acclaimed 2017 revival of TV’s Twin Peaks, and is rumoured to be writing his memoirs. Out now in the US, the May 6 issue of Closer should reach British shores in a week or so (not to be confused with the UK magazine of the same name.)

“‘She was very, very nervous,’ Murray recalled to Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue on newsstands. ‘She’d break out in a rash every time we’d shoot a scene.’

‘Paula would watch and listen and give Marilyn advice between takes,’ said Murray. ‘She was friendly and nice and a very good influence on Marilyn … [But] she would lose track of scenes very quickly, so they had to put her performance together out of small pieces. You never got the feeling of a complete scene or performance. I had to be at my best on every take — I couldn’t have a letdown.’

Despite the on-set struggles, Murray never regretted appearing in his first big film with Monroe.

‘I never really held it against her, because for her to agree to let me play this leading role was such a generous thing; she and I had never done a movie,’ said Murray. ‘I was always aware of that and grateful to her.'”

Thanks to Lorraine at Marilyn Remembered

Marilyn: A Beauty Icon in Shades of Red

An excerpt from Rachel Felder’s new book, Red Lipstick: An Ode to A Beauty Icon, detailing Marilyn’s make-up secrets, is published today by InStyle.

“A crimson mouth was an essential component of Marilyn Monroe’s bombshell identity; her pursed, full lips and the soft, sulky voice that emerged from between them oozed sex appeal and a magnetic, ultra-womanly allure. Along with her platinum blond hair, red lipstick was the cosmetic equivalent of the slinky, low-cut dresses and high heels that were her sartorial trademark.

But it was more than that: red lipstick served to enhance many of the characters she played. In roles like Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Cherie in Bus Stop, red lipstick was the ideal accessory to underscore her characters’ femininity and seductiveness.

The application of red onto Monroe’s lips on film sets was methodical and strategic: her makeup artist, Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder, used several shades of the color at a time, with a darker iteration near the edges of the lips and lighter versions toward the center to create an intensely accentuated pout. But the actress’s seductive persona wasn’t limited to just her movie roles: even o duty, a staple of her look was a liberal application of her favorite shade, Max Factor’s Ruby Red. Although that brand is no longer available in America, it’s still popular in Europe, where four wearable versions of red were introduced in 2016 as the Marilyn Monroe Lipstick Collection. One of the options is her beloved Ruby Red.”

Donald Zec Turns 100 (And Remembers Marilyn)

As entertainment writer for the Daily Mirror, Donald Zec was the British equivalent of US columnists Sidney Skolsky and Earl Wilson, and he is seen here sharing a joke with Marilyn at Parkside House in Egham, Surrey after she flew into London on July 13, 1956 to begin filming The Prince and the Showgirl.  They had met a few months before, on a flight to Phoenix, Arizona where Marilyn would film the rodeo scene in Bus Stop. (You can read about their airborne chat here.)

By the time Marilyn came to England, Marilyn had married Arthur Miller and with an independent production deal for The Prince and the Showgirl, she was about to lock horns with her esteemed director and co-star, Sir Laurence Olivier. Finding her standoffish, the British press soon took his side and she would doubtless have been glad to see a friendly face.

After recently attending Donald Zec’s 100th birthday party, author Howard Jacobson has paid tribute in an essay for the Jewish magazine, Tablet – recounting his boyhood idol’s show-business exploits, including the story behind his photo opportunity with Marilyn.

“For a while I had a page from the Daily Mirror pinned above my bed. It showed Donald Zec and Marilyn Monroe standing so close they could have been secretly holding hands. She was throwing her head back in appreciation of something he’d told her. A Jewish joke was my guess. Rabbi walks into a bar. But nothing suggestive. Jews didn’t do suggestive. Not English Jews, anyway. And Marilyn’s mirth had a clear innocence about it. As did my passion for Donald Zec. But it alarmed my father. Why him? ‘He knows how to make Marilyn Monroe laugh,’ I explained. ‘Joe DiMaggio made her go hot all over; Arthur Miller made her read the Oxford English Dictionary from cover to cover; only Donald Zec makes her laugh.’

I have said that he had just become a widower when we met. Dancing cheek to cheek with Hollywood beauties notwithstanding, his marriage had been by all accounts spectacularly successful. So he was suffering the cruel heartbreak that a happy marriage has in store for us. I never heard a man speak more reverently of his wife. And yet he could make sublime comedy out of his grief. This was the opposite of disrespect. He knew that if you are to bring the whole range of your emotions to remembering and describing love, then laughter is as important as sorrow.

‘So anyway, Marilyn …’ I said to him once. He shook his head. Nothing doing. ‘It touches me to think you remained such a good Jewish boy all those years,’ I said. This time he put a hand on mine. ‘Let’s not make a nebbish of me altogether,’ he said. Make what you will of that. Every heart, as D.H. Lawrence wrote, has its secrets.

He did not intend to give speeches at his 100th birthday, then ended up giving three. He has the fluency a man a quarter of his age would kill for. His comic timing is still perfect. But there is a weight in his words that wasn’t there in 1955. The weight of grief; of experience touched by love. If you didn’t know how he’d earned his living you’d guess teaching philosophy at Oxford, not making Marilyn laugh in Beverly Hills.

To Marilyn, the last word. Never really grasping that London and Hollywood were in different time zones, she would ring up at some crazy hour. Donald told me of his phone going off in his London apartment in the middle of the night. His wife would take the phone and in the sweetest tone of understanding pass the receiver over to Donald. ‘It’s Marilyn for you,’ she’d say.

I hear that and all my old envious idolatry returns. I can’t decide which I covet most, the age he has reached while still accumulating accomplishments, or the fact that Marilyn Monroe rang him in his bed.”