The world’s media has been eager to report on the alleged controversy caused by the summer-long installation of Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn‘ at Latham Park in Stamford, Connecticut. The sculpture, inspired by the iconic ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch, shows Marilyn’s dress blowing in the wind – and its placement has her rear end facing a local church.
Although the headlines would have us believe that the church’s response has been one of puritanical outrage, the reality is more nuanced – with even the harshest critics stating that it wasn’t Marilyn herself that they found distasteful, but the overtly sexual way in which she is depicted.
“I just find the position to be offensive,” local resident Lorri Tamburro told the Stamford Advocate. “I looked at it and it was, in my eyes, very disrespectful. I think because with what I saw with all the little kids looking up, the height is ruining it. It’s ruining beautiful Marilyn.”
Parishioner Jean Meyer, however, felt differently. “You’re going to have different opinions on it, but you have to have a sense of humor,” she said. “There are bigger issues to worry about,” said another church member, Maureen Matthews. “But I’ll be interested to see how people talk about it on Sunday.”
“It is art and we don’t believe it’s offensive,” said Sandy Goldstein, who helped to organise this year’s ‘Art in Public Spaces’ exhibit. Pointing out that many nude female statues can be seen in Europe (including near churches), she added, “We absolutely mean no disrespect to the church.”
“The issue is, why that statue?” Rev. Dr. Todd Grant Yonkman of the First Congregational Church wrote in an email to the Associated Press. “Marilyn Monroe was an artist deserving our respect. Why appropriate her image in this way. Is this the best we can do?”
In a report for HuffPost, Carol Kuruvilla spoke with Yonkman:
“He said he understands the statue is a ‘piece of art’ that is ‘designed to make the viewer uncomfortable … It makes me uncomfortable,’ Yonkman told HuffPost in an email. ‘The question for each one of us is, What will you do with your discomfort? I am choosing grace.’.
Yonkman said he and his congregation, which is part of the progressive mainline Protestant denomination the United Church of Christ, don’t plan on taking any action about the placement of the statue. Instead, they want to use it as an opportunity to connect with their community.
The church has been planning to host a Pride event in Latham Park to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community. ‘Marilyn is a gay icon, so it turns out that this may be a fortuitous coincidence,’ Yonkman wrote.”
Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, Forever Marilyn, is coming to Latham Park in Stamford, Connecticut this summer, as part of an outdoor art exhibition, Seward Johnson: Timeless, as Annette Einhorn reports for Hamlet Hub. You can read more about the exhibit and other events (including a screening of The Seven Year Itch at the Avon Film Centre on June 7) here.
“The installation will begin on Monday, June 4 when a crane will lift the 26-foot, 30,000 pound Marilyn, in various parts, high into the air before she is assembled in place in Latham Park in Stamford Downtown. The opportunity to capture photos of the flying sculpture parts; legs, torso, skirt, will be from 10:30am to 2pm.
The monumental Forever Marilyn, sponsored by Avon Theatre Film Center, from the Icons Revisited Collection, is just one of 36 sculptures that will be on display in Stamford Downtown. 35 life-size, realistic sculptures from Seward Johnson’s Celebrating the Familiar series will also be on display as part of UC Funds presents Timeless – The Works of Seward Johnson for the Summer of 2018. Installation of the life-size works begins May 30.
The exhibition will kick off with an opening night celebration on Wednesday, June 6, hosted by Stamford Downtown. The event will be held at the Palace Theatre at 61 Atlantic Street from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. Trolley tours are set to run throughout the evening, offering guests a chance to view many of the sculptures.”
A recent obituary for a Korea veteran in the Hartford Courant includes a reference to Marilyn’s 1954 visit. (I wonder if he ever bumped into Marilyn after she moved to Connecticut with Arthur Miller in 1956?)
“Gordon Thomas Calano died peacefully in his sleep in Hobe Sound, Florida, on April 9, 2018 … Gordon was born on July 1, 1929, in Hartford, Connecticut. He graduated from East Hartford High School in 1947 and from the University of Connecticut in 1951, leaving soon after for Korea, where he served in the army for two years as a war correspondent and earned a Purple Heart. One of his most treasured memories was acting as Marilyn Monroe’s personal escort while she entertained the troops. Following military service, Gordon taught English and history at East Hartford High before launching Calano Furniture … “
Elsewhere in Connecticut, Greenwich Time reports on a new book by local author Matthew Bernard, Victorian Summer: The Historic Houses of Belle Haven Park, which also has a link to Marilyn, Arthur, and the producer of The Misfits.
“The house he grew up in, for instance, was previously owned by Frank Taylor, publisher of Playbill magazine and a Broadway and film producer. Taylor entertained major creative talents at the home, including Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller…”
“Marilyn flew East for Christmas with the Greenes. She was, in fact, escaping from Hollywood and Twentieth Century-Fox, with a bafford press in pursuit. ‘That put us into a little cadre of sort of road-company secret service agents,’ recalls [Judy] Quine, ‘because the whole thing was so hush-hush – where she was, how she was.’ Aware of Milton’s involvement, the press staked out his Lexington Avenue studio, his pied-a-terre on Sutton Place South and the Weston house on Fanton Hill Road. The Greenes outmanoeuvred them by meeting Marilyn’s flight and heading straight for Connecticut. They stopped outside the village of Weston, deposited their precious cargo in the trunk and smuggled her past the paparazzi crowding their driveway.”
Niagara, the technicolor film noir which gave Marilyn one of her best dramatic roles, gets a rare outdoor screening on July 14, as part of the Summer Sizzle Under the Stars program at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut (only 35 miles from Marilyn’s former home in Roxbury.) The movie complements a Pop Art exhibition at the museum, and there will be live music and dinner available – more info here.
Actress Tippi Hedren is best-known for her roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie and The Birds. In her new autobiography, Tippi: A Memoir, she recalls an ‘almost meeting’ with a rather subdued Marilyn at Milton Greene’s home in the mid-1950s. (Immortal Marilyn member Kylie Christine has also written an article about Tippi for the Marilyn’s Contemporaries series.)
“They invited me to their home in Connecticut for several weekend gatherings, and on one particular weekend Marilyn Monroe happened to be staying with them. I’m still trying to figure out whether or not I can say I met her.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and hours passed before Marilyn emerged from her suite on the second floor. I looked up to see her descending the stairs, presumably to come down and join the group.
Instead, she stopped on the landing, where she sat down in the corner and stayed there.
End of story.
Seriously, she never said a word, she just sat there on that landing with a rather blank, unwelcoming look on her face. I never saw anyone approach her, and I kind of lost track of her. Later I noticed she’d just disappeared, perhaps back to her room or who knows where.
I have no idea what was going on with her. I wrote it off to terrible shyness or insecurity and left it at that. Milton and Amy didn’t seem to think a thing about it, and I wasn’t about to ask them. It was none of my business, and frankly, I wasn’t that interested.
So that was the perfectly lovely Sunday afternoon in Connecticut when I either did or didn’t meet Marilyn Monroe.
A vintage room-key from the Homestead Inn in New Milford, Connecticut, where Marilyn is said to have stayed during her courtship with Arthur Miller, was sold for $131 on Ebay last week, as Barry Lytton reports for the Danbury News-Times.
“‘We just bought all the keys because people like old hotel keys,”’ said Loretta Kretchko, who co-runs Bob Kretchko Antiques with her husband, Bob. ‘We weren’t thinking Marilyn.’
In 1956, Monroe stayed in the inn while she was dating playwright Arthur Miller, who lived in Roxbury at the time. The two later married.
The Kretchkos purchased the keys two years ago, right before a new owner renovated the inn, Loretta said, and they planned on selling them. Many of the rooms had several sets, which was great for the Kretchkos — more old keys to sell, she said.
‘But this was the only No. 22 key,’ Loretta said. ‘(Monroe) always stayed in 22.’
The Homestead Inn has had its share of famous guests over the years, including Joseph and Rose Kennedy, who stayed in New Milford while their future-president son, John, was an eighth-grader at the Canterbury School.”
In daily life, Marilyn often went unrecognised. This rare photo shows her wearing a black wig. When travelling ‘incognito‘, she sometimes used false names (including ‘Zelda Zonk’.)
In the summer of 1953, Joe DiMaggio joined Marilyn in Canada, where she was filming River of No Return. She took these snapshots of Joe during his visit. Also pictured is Jean Negulesco, who had directed Marilyn in How to Marry a Millionaire. Although his work on River was uncredited, Negulesco may have helped to smooth the differences between Marilyn and the somewhat tyrannical Otto Preminger.
Shortly before her third marriage to Arthur Miller, Marilyn converted to Judaism. This Jewish prayer book was probably a gift from Rabbi Robert E. Goldburg.
Some photos of Arthur Miller, including one taken with Marilyn in 1959.
Marilyn’s Minolta 16mm camera. This model was introduced in 1957.
These photos are of the farmhouse at Roxbury, Connecticut, bought by the Millers after their marriage. It is incorrectly identified in the Julien’s catalogue as Marilyn’s Los Angeles abode. The Millers’ country home required extensive renovations. After their marriage ended, Marilyn kept their city apartment while Arthur lived at Roxbury until his death in 2005.
Marilyn with her friend, actor Eli Wallach, in 1957. They would later co-star in The Misfits (1961.)
Correspondence with Xenia Chekhov, widow of Marilyn’s acting teacher, Michael Chekhov.
“A single-page typed, unsigned file copy of a letter dated December 19, 1958, to ‘Mrs. Chekhov’ reading ‘My husband and I were so happy with the pictures you sent us of Mr. Chekhov. We will treasure them forever. I am not able to shop for Christmas, as you may already know I have lost the baby, so I would like you to use this check as my Christmas greetings with all my most affectionate good wishes. My husband sends you his warmest regards.’ The letter is accompanied by Xenia Chekhov’s response written on a notecard dated January 10, 1959, reading in part, ‘[Y]our personal sad news affected me very much and I could not find the courage to write you sooner. All my warmest feelings of sympathy go out to you and Mr. Miller.’ This is a deeply personal note with an acknowledgement of a miscarriage in Monroe’s own words.”
“An assortment of receipts from seven different bookstores: including: Doubleday Book Shop, Beekman Place Bookshop, and E. Weyhe Inc., all of New York City, and Wepplo’s Book Store, Lee Freeson, Martindale’s Book Stores and Hunter’s Books, all of Los Angeles. Titles include The Great Gatsby; Van Gogh’s Great Period; I , Rachel; An Encyclopedia of Gardening; Hi – Lo’s – Love Nest; a book listed simply as ‘Yves Montand’, among others. The receipts are dated 1958 and 1960.”
A Royal Quiet de Luxe model typewriter owned by Marilyn.
Various letters from Marilyn to her stepdaughter, Jane Miller.
“A 1957 letter is written to Janie at summer camp and recounts a number of amusing stories about Hugo the Bassett Hound reading in part, ‘He got kicked by that donkey. Remember him? His nose swelled up with a big lump on top and it really wrecked his profile. I put an ice pack on it and it took several days for it to go down but the last time I saw him it was pretty well healed. Bernice is taking care of him and the house while I am at the hospital.We are going home tomorrow and then I will write you by hand. Listen, I had better stop now because I want to get off a note to Bobby today. Don’t worry about me in the hospital. I am feeling much better now and I have the funniest Scotch nurse.’ (Marilyn had recently been taken to hospital after suffering an ectopic pregnancy.)
The 1958 letter is typed on the back of a piece of stationery from the Hotel Bel-Air and is addressed, ‘Dear Janie-bean.’ The letter, written as Marilyn prepared for Some Like It Hot, reads in part, ‘Thanks for helping me into my white skirt. I almost didn’t make it -but now that I’m busier I’ll start losing weight – you know where. Along with ukulele lessons I have to take I’m learning three songs from the 1920 period. … I don’t know how my costumes in the picture will be yet. I’ll let you know.'”
Three colour slides from the estate of Frieda Hull, showing the Millers leaving New York for Los Angeles in November 1959. Marilyn’s parakeet, Butch, travelled with them. He was a noisy passenger, constantly squawking, “I’m Marilyn’s bird!”
An electroplate ice bucket, made in England, and a receipt for 12 splits of Piper Heidsieck champagne, delivered to the Millers’ bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel during filming of Let’s Make Love in December 1959.
Address books from 1955 and 1962. The first includes a handwritten ‘to-do list’, with entries such as “as often as possible to observe Strassberg’s [sic.] other private classes”; “never miss my actors studio sessions”; “must make strong effort to work on current problems and phobias that out of my past has arisen.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Julien’s sale is that Marilyn was planning to buy a home in New York, even commissioning a series of architectural drawings for a property on East 61st Street in November 1961. In addition to her rented Manhattan apartment, she bought a small bungalow in Los Angeles in 1962, but clearly hadn’t given up her dream of a permanent East Coast base.
“An original letter from John E. Holland of the Charles F. Noyes Real Estate Company dated October 18, 1961, addressed to Miss Marilyn Monroe, 444 East 57th Street, New York, “Attention: Miss Marjorie Stengel” (Monroe’s secretary). The letter reads in part, ‘L]ast summer Mr. Ballard of our office, and I showed you the house at the corner of 57th Street and Sutton Place and Mr. Arthur Krim’s house on Riverview Terrace. I spoke to Miss Stengel yesterday and told her of a house which we have just gotten listed for sale at 241 East 61st Street. She asked me to send you the particulars on this house as she thought you might be interested in it. I am enclosing our setup. … The garden duplex apartment is now occupied by the owner and would be available to a purchaser for occupancy. You may possibly have been in this apartment as Miss Kim Novak … just moved out in September. Before that it was occupied by Prince Aly Khan.’
An original letter from John E. Holland of the Charles F. Noyes Real Estate Company dated November 15, 1961, addressed to Miss Marjorie Stengel, stating, ‘I am enclosing herewith Photostats which I had made of the drawings adding a stairway which would include all or half of the third floor with the duplex garden apartments. These sketches may be somewhat confusing, but I could easily explain them if you would like to have me do so,’ together with six Photostat copies of original architectural drawings for the redesign of an apartment located at 241 East 61st Street in New York. The drawings go into great detail as to the redesign of the apartment, with space for an art studio and specific notes stating, ‘This could be another bedroom or boudoir, or health studio with massage table, chaise lounge, private living room…or…with numerous closets.'”
This grey pony handbag may have been bought by Marilyn during her February 1962 trip to Mexico. She was also a keen gardener, and a Horticulture magazine subscriber.
“An extraordinary, blue cloth over board, ‘project management‘ three-ring binder kept by one of Monroe’s assistants chronicling the purchase and ongoing renovation and decoration of her home located at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, California. The notebook begins with an information sheet and lot diagram as well as a typed renovation and additions budget for the property totaling $34,877.36 against a purchase price of $57,609.95. The book also contains approximately 28 pages of notes on various renovation projects and to-do lists; a page with notes regarding terracing and planting the hillside; seven drawings of exterior floor plan for possible apartment above the garage for a cook; three renderings of options for a table and another decorative element for the home; and a listing of bills due as of August 16, 1962. The last page of the book lists ‘Moet – Champagne vintage 1952/ et Chandon a Epernay/ Cuvee Dom Perignon – 13.88.’ The book lists dates that furniture is due to be delivered from various suppliers, many after Monroe’s death, as well as dimensions of each room of the home for the purpose of ordering ‘white India’ carpet. It also has estimates to have the pool resurfaced, water heater moved, fountain built, and laundry room and shower expanded for people using the pool as well as notes about decoration of a ‘play room,’ fabrication of a new gate, bars for windows, and shelving to be built, among many other things.
A group of invoices dating to February 28, 1962, from various Mexican boutiques listing the purchase of a great number of pieces of furniture and home furnishings, purchased in Mexico for Monroe’s Fifth Helena Drive residence. Together with a two-page typed signed letter dated July 26, 1962, signed ‘Mura’, giving a full report to Monroe’s secretary Eunice Murray regarding her buying trip in Mexico. The letter demonstrates the fact that Monroe was still quite actively working on her home at the time of her death.”
Marilyn was an admirer of Russian culture: she studied Stanislavsky’s teachings on acting, and campaigned (sadly without success) to star as Grushenka in a movie adaptation of Dostoevsky’s classic novel, The Brothers Karamazov. At the height of America’s anti-Communist fervour, she observed, ‘They’re for the people, aren’t they?’ She briefly considered visiting Russia in 1956, and was later introduced to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev at a Hollywood luncheon.
However, when the Russian press unjustly accused her of ruining Arthur Miller’s career, she shot back: “Listen! I know Arthur Miller better than the Russians do and I’ve learned more from Arthur Miller than the Russians have. I’ve learned from Arthur Miller that he does not believe in a communistic state. The Russians can talk all they want about my ‘climb to the stars,’ his ‘broken life,’ and what I’ve done to somebody. But I know the man. They’re talking about an idea. They can have their ideas. I had the man.” (Redbook, 1962.)
In some quarters, however, it appears that these prejudices still exist. In a recent article entitled ‘Candle in the wind: America, Russia, and Marilyn Monroe’s Free Fall’ for the RBTH website, novelist Viktor Yerofeyev recalls meeting Miller with his third wife Inge Morath during the 1990s, and ruminates on Miller’s prior marriage to Marilyn.
“I looked at Inge and realized that it was for this woman with an intelligent look that Miller had refused to be the skyscraper roof for Monroe, after which the star flew downward. Although in her flight, possibly, she remained the most popular actress in America.
America, at first glance, is not about actresses, singers or writers. It is about the absolute success of an individual, who was nothing and then became everything (as our revolutionary song goes).
And it is not important whether this person had a poor or rich childhood, whether he lived in an orphanage or he quietly went to school. Because this, from the national audience’s view, is routine, but what is important is that the chosen one reached the sky and turned into the Himalayas.
In such a system happiness is only a substitute for powerful success and in this system Monroe and Miller were like twins. And they appeared equal on the cover of a popular magazine that announced their union to the whole country.
Why equal? Because Miller’s high-altitude flight was stronger than Death of a Salesman, which held up a mirror to America. And Monroe’s high-altitude flight was stronger than all of her roles and all of her money. Two high-flying planes.
However, America is actually a country with a double cultural circulatory system. While the larger circle of cultural circulation is destined for the mass public, which creates the broth of national success, the smaller circle is the one in which I found myself in Connecticut, and where a lot opposes the larger circle … Properly speaking, where the Millers live, happiness … is valued more than success and talent is more important than money…
The participants were snobs but as I have just said, they were the cream of the crop. And in this circle Monroe and Miller were opposites. She was no one and he was everything. But she was burning with desire to be included in this world.”