Penny Cobbs, who worked for Richard Avedon during the 1980s, has described their collaboration on a series of posters based on his ‘Fabled Enchantresses’ sessions with Marilyn. “We did four Marilyns – her impersonating the old-time sex symbols Jean Harlow, Theda Bara, Clara Bow, and Lillian Russell – he’d done those pictures for Life in 1958,” Cobbs recalled in an interview for Avedon: Something Personal. “But since nobody could recognise Marilyn, they didn’t go over well.” Ironically, these posters are now highly collectible and because of their rarity, they sell well at auctions.
Marilyn graces the cover of The Golden Age of Hollywood, a new one-off special from the Saturday Evening Post. It costs $12.99 and can be ordered directly here. (Unfortunately I don’t yet know if it ships outside the US, but I’ll update you if I find out.)
Marilyn has a long history with the Post, as one of her most revealing interviews with Pete Martin, ‘The New Marilyn Monroe’, was serialised over three weeks in 1956, and later published in book form with the playful title, Will Acting Spoil Marilyn Monroe?
On Marilyn’s birthday this year, the Post paid tribute with a blog about the sex symbols who preceded her – including Lillian Russell, Theda Bara and Clara Bow, all of whom she impersonated in her extraordinary ‘Fabled Enchantresses’ shoot with Richard Avedon. But she turned down the chance to play showgirl Evelyn Nesbit in The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (the role went to Joan Collins.) And of Mae West, she told W.J. Weatherby, ‘I learned a few tricks from her – that impression of laughing at, or mocking, her own sexuality.’ Jean Harlow, perhaps Marilyn’s greatest influence, is a surprising omission.
You can read Marilyn’s Post interview here.
The San Francisco Chronicle has reposted their front page from January 15, 1954 – the day after Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn at City Hall.
“’Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio wedded the girl of his and many other men’s dreams yesterday afternoon in San Francisco City Hall,’ the story read.
‘The time and place of the wedding was kept a closely guarded secret and only 500 people managed to hear about it in time to turn the corridors outside Municipal Judge Charles S. Peery’s chambers in a madhouse,’ The Chronicle’s Art Hoppe wrote.
‘Marilyn, it seems, had made the mistake of calling her studio in Hollywood yesterday morning and letting it in on her plans to be married at 1 p.m. A studio official casually mentioned it as fast as he could to all the major news services.'”
And just FYI, January 14 has seen some other significant events – including the release of Clara Bow’s It in 1926, and the publication of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar in 1963 (less than a month after her suicide.)
I was lucky enough to attend a special screening of Some Like it Hot in Brighton on Tuesday – exactly 54 years after the comedy classic first opened in England. And today, the British Film Institute names it among the top ten movies set during the Roaring Twenties.
“‘All the time the flapper is laughing and dancing, there’s a feeling of tragedy underneath. She’s unhappy and disillusioned, and that’s what people sense.’ Thus spake 1920s It Girl Clara Bow, and if anybody else could ever know how that felt it was Marilyn Monroe, incandescent here as downhearted jazz cat Sugar Kane, forever licking the fuzzy end of the lollipop. Billy Wilder’s cross-dressing caper amps up the comedy even while it hits these low notes, expertly deploying its Prohibition era backdrop, in critic Raymond Durgnat’s words, “as an almost expressionistic setting for everything that’s harsh and hectic in American life’.”