Stern’s Marilyn Auction in Gainesville

Images from Marilyn’s 1962 Vogue shoot from the estate of photographer Bert Stern will go under the hammer as part of the June Joyfuls sale at the Four Seasons Auction Gallery in Gainesville, Georgia this Sunday, June 23, as Chris Jenkins reports for Arts & Collections.

Also on offer is this photo of Marilyn attending the Cinemascope party at the Cocoanut Grove in the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles on January 1st, 1953 (previously owned by a friend of Stern, but wrongly described as being taken in New York in 1957); and a vintage promotional item for The Seven Year Itch, included in a collection of books and memorabilia.

Was 1955 Hollywood’s Greatest Year?

As another year draws to a close, the Washington Post‘s critics are debuting what was the greatest year for movies.  For Scott Tobias, it’s 1955: and while he doesn’t mention The Seven Year Itch, it was one of the year’s biggest hits – and a shining example of the Cinemascope era.

“In the story of world cinema, the 1950s may seem like a transitional decade between Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’ and the more troubled, revolutionary visions of the French New Wave or the American film-brat renaissance of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. But it was an extraordinarily vibrant moment, steeped in post-war cynicism and emotional intensity as well as the eye-catching showmanship of VistaVision, Technicolor and CinemaScope. And no year crystallized these developments quite like 1955 … Above all, 1955 stands out for bright, expressive colors, when filmmakers took advantage of film stocks and processes that could render emotion with visual pop … There was no fuller year to be a moviegoer.”

Marilyn in Cinemascope

An interesting new ebook is now available via Amazon Kindle. In The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses: CinemaScope 1953 – 1954, John V. Watson examines the widescreen technology pioneered by Twentieth Century-Fox.

How to Marry a Millionaire was the first movie to be photographed entirely in Cinemascope, although biblical epic The Robe had an earlier premiere. All of Marilyn’s subsequent Fox movies were shot in Cinemascope.

Marilyn: ‘Goddess of Love’ at the BFI

Marilyn in Cinemascope: How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)

A month-long MM retrospective is now in full swing at London’s BFI Southbank. Mary Wild wrote an article about Marilyn’s iconic allure for the BFI website:

“Makeup was something that Marilyn understood very well. She was the chief executive in the construction of her own image, cultivating strong professional bonds with unrivalled makeup artists. She nurtured these artistic relationships and they spanned the length of her career. Marilyn had an innate and highly sophisticated understanding of sexual desire, knowing very well that beauty is about generosity. She gave so much of herself to the world. Her untimely death at the age of 36 did not stunt the ascension of her star in popular culture; instead, she is our modern-day Aphrodite.”

Meanwhile, David Parkinson has written an article about the Cinemascope phenomenon, which was kick-started by How to Marry a Millionaire.

“It just goes to show that you can’t trust history books. Most texts insist that Henry Koster’s The Robe (1953) was the first film produced in CinemaScope. In fact, it was Jean Negulesco’s How to Marry a Millionaire, which was rushed into production alongside Robert D. Webb’s Beneath the 12-mile Reef to give 20th Century-Fox a head start in the widescreen race to lure Americans away from their new television sets.

Negulesco finished his picture first, but the Fox front office felt that a Roman epic with religious undertones would make a grander statement about ‘the miracle you see without glasses’ than a musical about three single girls (Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable) searching for rich husbands. Consequently, an imposing, sincere, but undeniably pedestrian saga about the garment worn by Christ en route to Calvary became the first of the 654 features that were made in colour and black-and-white CinemaScope over the next 14 years.”

Marilyn and Otto Preminger

Of all Marilyn’s directors, Otto Preminger was probably the least suited to her sensitive nature. He was notorious for bullying actors, and while filming River of No Return, Marilyn was forced to do dangerous stunts and subjected to constant insults from Preminger through his megaphone.

Marilyn finally got the upper hand after an accident while filming a boat scene. She suffered a leg injury, and while some friends like Shelley Winters believed it was only a minor sprain, doctors ordered complete rest. Marilyn won the cast and crew’s sympathy and Preminger had no choice but to bow to her demands.

Over at IndieWire today, ‘The Playlist’ reviews Preminger’s career. He directed many classic Hollywood films, including Laura, Whirlpool, Where The Sidewalk Ends, Carmen Jones, The Man With the Golden Arm, and Anatomy of a Murder.

It is generally agreed that River of No Return was not one of Preminger’s best works – or Marilyn’s. They were both assigned to the project by Twentieth Century Fox as a contractual obligation.

However, I still admire Preminger’s pioneering use of Cinemascope, and Marilyn’s brilliant musical numbers: One Silver DollarI’m Gonna File My Claim, Down in the Meadow, and River of No Return. She was at the peak of her beauty, and her vocals are incredible even if her acting was hampered by a mediocre script.