The veteran actor will be appearing at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, at a double bill of his films, The Hoodlum Priest and Bus Stop, his 1956 screen debut alongside Marilyn Monroe.
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In this extract from Just Outside the Spotlight: Growing Up with Eileen Heckart, Luke Yankee writes about his mother’s offscreen relationship with her co-star, Marilyn Monroe, during production of Bus Stop in 1956.
(Thanks to ES member Nettie for bringing this book to my attention.)
“Marilyn was crazy about my brothers. She loved to play a little game with them at night. Marilyn was constantly receiving elaborate gift baskets from agents, publicists, and studio types trying to gain her favor. After a long day of shooting, she removed the grapefruits and oranges from the basket and went out onto the balcony.
She’d call down below, ‘Mark! Philip!’
Four year-old Mark raced out onto the balcony with two year-old Philip tottering close behind. They looked up at the pretty blonde lady on the tiered balcony above.
‘Wanna play a little catch?’ Marilyn asked.
‘Okay!’ Mark replied. And so began the nightly ritual of Marilyn Monroe playing ball on the terrace, using grapefruits and oranges as their only sports equipment. First, Marilyn threw a grapefruit. Mark caught it with pride. Next, an orange to Philip. Of course, at two, he couldn’t catch anything, so the fruit rolled onto the balcony below and off the edge to the pool deck, five flights down.
‘Marilyn,’ Mama would say, ‘it’s very sweet of you to do this, but really, you don’t have to.’
‘Are you kidding?’ Marilyn replied. ‘It’s my favorite part of the day! Besides, Vitamin C is very important for growing boys. They have to have their citrus!’
After a few days of this game, during her nightly phonecall to my father in Connecticut, Mama remarked, ‘Oh, sure, Marilyn’s playing catch with the boys on the terrace again. They’re having the time of their lives. And guess who’s gonna have her raggedy ass down at the pool at two in the morning picking up all those goddamn grapefruits and oranges? It ain’t Miss Monroe, that’s for sure!’ “
Greta Thyssen, a former Danish beauty queen who came to Hollywood in the 1950s, recalls the tense atmosphere on the set of her movie debut, Bus Stop, where she acted as a stand-in for Marilyn Monroe.
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.
William Inge’s play, Bus Stop, was filmed with Marilyn Monroe in 1956. The original story is a little different though, set entirely in Grace’s Diner and focussing not just on Cherie and Bo, but several other travellers.
Bus Stop opens at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Perthshire, Scotland, on June 15, showing until October 14, with Amanda Gordon in Monroe’s role.
Reviewed in The Stage