The photo above was taken by Ernest Bachrach while Marilyn was filming Clash By Night in 1952. (Note the book on the pavement: her exercise bible, The Thinking Body by Mabel Elsworth Todd.)
This photo – one of my favourites – features in ‘Glamour of the Gods’, an exhibition dedicated to classic Hollywood photography, featuring pictures from the John Kobal Foundation, opening at London’s National Portrait Gallery on July 7, running until October 23.
John Kobal was the author of Marilyn Monroe: A Life on Film (1974), one of the first picture books on Marilyn, and another of my personal favourites (it was only the second book that I read about her, and the first illustrated!)
The latest extract from Maurice Zolotow’s biography, first published in the Los Angeles Daily Mirror on this day in 1960, covers the filming of Clash by Night (1952) and the scandal of Marilyn’s nude calendar. (Click on the image below to enlarge.)
One of Marilyn Monroe’s strongest early film roles was as Peggy, the feisty cannery worker in Clash by Night(1952), based on a play by Clifford Odets.
Marilyn knew Odets quite well and later played Lorna Moon in a scene from his most famous play, Golden Boy, at the Actor’s Studio during the late 1950s. She later considered starring in Odets’ screenplay, The Story on Page One(1959), but that role went to Rita Hayworth, and was directed by Odets himself.
Always competitive with Miller, Odets took a rather dim view of The Misfits (1960), Monroe’s last completed film, which Miller wrote and John Huston directed.
Odets was the leading New York playwright of the 1930s and 40s, and his plays focussed on social injustice and the plight of the ‘little man’. He was also involved in the formation of the Group Theatre alongside Lee Strasberg.
Unlike Arthur Miller, the playwright who ultimately eclipsed him, Odets chose to ‘name names’ in the House Un-American Activities Committee trials of the early 1950s, a decision he would bitterly regret. He died in 1963.
In his essay on Monroe in the book, Who the Hell’s in It, director Peter Bogdanovich recalled, ‘Clifford told me that Marilyn Monroe used to come over to his house and talk, but that the only times she seemed to him really comfortable were when she was with his two young children and their large poodle. She relaxed with them, felt no threat. With everyone else, Odets said, she seemed nervous, intimidated, frightened. When I repeated to Miller this remark about her with children and animals, he said, “Well, they didn’t sneer at her.'”
Soon after Monroe’s death, Odets wrote, ‘One night some short weeks ago, for the first time in her not always happy life, Marilyn Monroe’s soul sat down alone to a quiet supper from which it did not rise. If they tell you that she died of sleeping pills you must know that she died of a wasting grief, of a slow bleeding at the soul.’
One of Odets’ later plays, The Country Girl(filmed in 1954 with Grace Kelly) is currently being revived in London. Walt Odets has spoken to the Jewish Chronicle about his famous father and his memories, and mentioned, rather unfavourably, the marriage of Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe:
“The Strasberg version of the marriage was that Arthur treated Marilyn badly. So I grew up with bad feelings about Miller. I met Arthur a few times and he was a very hard, cold man. He was the kind of guy who doesn’t like children or dogs. And for a child that is immediately perceptible.”
page 147 caught a Greyhound
Bus from Monterey to Salinas. On the
Bus I was the person
woman with about
sixty Italian fishermen
and I’ve never met
sixty such charming gentlemen—they
were wonderful. Some
company was sending them
downstate where their boats
and (they hoped) fish were
waiting for them. Some
could hardly speak english
not only do I love Greeks
[illegible] I love Italians.
they’re warm, lusty and friendly
as hell—I’d love to go to
From a 1951 notebook, written by Marilyn during filming of Love Nest. The first line is from the script; the second may have been written during filming of Clash by Nightin Monterey less than a year later, shortly after her love affair with Italian-American baseball star Joe DiMaggio began.
This photograph, taken on the set of Clash by Night, is part of an exhibition at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, running until September 12.
‘Made in Hollywood’ showcases the collection of film archivist John Kobal, who published one of the first photo books on Marilyn Monroe in 1974. Used copies of Marilyn Monroe: A Life in Pictures are still widely available, and if the presentation is not as glossy as readers now expect, the content – and Kobal’s own commentary – is nonetheless superior to its most of its successors.
Other classic stars featured in this exhibition include Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson, Clark Gable, and Humphrey Bogart.
‘Is double denim ever acceptable?’ asks Guardian reader Sarita. Style agony aunt, Hadley Freeman, replies, ‘Yes. If you are Marilyn Monroe, and only if you are filming the final scene of The Misfits.’
Pondering why Marilyn got away with this apparent fashion crime, Hadley concludes: ‘…put her in an evening dress, you see, and her prettiness gets lazy. Give her a hurdle that she has to overcome, and her beauty mojo speeds up and bursts past the finishing line. Or, you know, something.’
Marilyn also rocked the denim look in Clash by Night (1952) and River of No Return (1954).