Actress Joan Collins has told the Daily Mailabout her early experiences in Hollywood, and how Marilyn warned her about sexual harassment. It’s not a new story, but in light of recent allegations, it makes for an interesting read. Interestingly, she recalled the meeting in her 1978 autobiography, Past Imperfect, but the ‘wolves’ story only appeared in Second Act, almost twenty years later. (Another star from Marilyn’s era, Rita Moreno, has also spoken out about how Fox executives preyed on young women.)
“Shortly after arriving in Hollywood aged 21, under contract to 20th Century Fox, I attended a party at Gene Kelly’s house. The star of An American In Paris and Singin’ In The Rain hosted a weekly gathering for an eclectic group of movie industry power-brokers, A-list actors and actresses, intellectuals and his friends. It was where I first met Marilyn Monroe.
At first I didn’t recognise the blonde sitting alone at the bar until she turned to me and said rather ruefully: ‘They wanted me for the lead in Red Velvet Swing, but I’m too old.’
The part of Evelyn Nesbit in The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing was one of my first lead roles in Hollywood, but I knew it had originally been intended for Monroe.
Suddenly, it dawned on me that the woman in front of me was the legendary figure herself. We started chatting and after a couple of martinis, Marilyn poured out a cautionary tale of sexual harassment she and other actresses endured from ‘the wolves in this town’.
I replied that I was well used to ‘wolves’ after a few years in the British film industry. I decided it definitely wasn’t something I’d put up with. I told Marilyn I was well prepared to deal with men patting my bottom, leering down my cleavage and whatever else.
She shook her head. ‘There’s nothing like the power of the studio bosses here, honey. If they don’t get what they want, they’ll drop you. It’s happened to lots of gals. ‘Specially watch out for Zanuck. If he doesn’t get what he wants, honey, he’ll drop your contract.’ It was a timely warning, because days later, Darryl Zanuck, vice-president of production at 20th Century Fox, pounced.
Hollywood studio bosses considered it their due to b*** all the good-looking women who came their way and were notorious for it. Harry Cohn at Columbia Pictures, for example, had no qualms about firing any starlet who rejected him. He was totally amoral.
Another role I coveted was that of Cleopatra. The head of 20th Century Fox at the time, Buddy Adler, and the chairman of the board — [Spyros Skouras], a Greek gentleman old enough to be my grandfather — bombarded me with propositions and promises that the role was mine if I would be ‘nice’ to them. It was a euphemism prevalent in Hollywood. I couldn’t and I wouldn’t — the very thought of these old men was utterly repugnant. So, I dodged and I dived, and hid from them around the lot and made excuses while undergoing endless screen tests for the role of Egypt’s Queen.
At one point, Mr Adler told me at a party that I would have ‘the pick of the scripts’ after Cleopatra and he would set me up in an apartment he would pay for as long as he could come to visit me three or four times a week. Running out of excuses, I blurted out: ‘Mr Adler, I came here with my agent, Jay Kanter. Why don’t we discuss the deal with him?’
‘Honey, you have quite a sense of humour,’ he spluttered.
‘And a sense of humour is all you’ll ever get from me,’ I murmured as I left. In due course, Elizabeth Taylor got the role.
But it wasn’t just studio bosses and producers who were predatory. Many actors I worked with considered it their divine right to have sex with their leading lady … Anyone naive enough to believe the era of the casting couch had been consigned to history will have been shocked by the Weinstein scandal and the predatory institutional sexism of Hollywood power brokers it has revealed.
But it’s not just the film industry that’s been complicit in sanctioning this appalling behaviour, and it’s not just actresses subjected to it. It may occur in any business dominated by powerful, ruthless and misogynistic men, and it’s women (sometimes men) in subservient positions who are unfortunate enough to have to deal with them.”
Olivier Rajchman’s Hollywood Ne Repond Plus (Hollywood Unresponsive) is a new book in French exploring the crisis at Twentieth Century Fox in 1962, focusing on three films made that year: the scandalous Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor and helmed by Joe Mankiewicz; Darryl F. Zanuck’s magnum opus, The Longest Day; and Marilyn’s last movie, the ill-fated Something’s Got to Give. It is available now in paperback and via Kindle.
Darryl F. Zanuck may have blamed Marilyn for delays in the River of No Returnshoot, but co-star Robert Mitchum did not, writing on this letter, “Dig!!! Marilyn – my girl is your girl, and my girl is you. Ever – Bob.”
After a bitter legal battle with Twentieth Century Fox, Marilyn returned triumphantly to Hollywood in 1956, armed with a list of approved directors.
Her first project under the new, improved contract was Bus Stop. Several lots of annotated script sides are up for bids this week.
“This is the first film Monroe made after beginning to study at the Actors Studio in New York City with Lee Strasberg, and the notations in these script sides demonstrate her method. Some of the notes are sense memories, like the following notation written after the line ‘I can’t look’: ‘Effective memory (use Lester – hurt on lawn),’ most likely referencing Monroe’s childhood playmate Lester Bolender, who was in the same foster home with Monroe. Another note adds ‘(almost to myself)’ before a line to inform her delivery or ‘Scarfe [sic] around my arms) Embarrassed.'”
Arthur O’Connell, who played Virgil in the movie, sent Marilyn his best wishes after she was hospitalised with pneumonia.
“A collection of Marilyn Monroe envelopes, messages and notes, including a florist’s enclosure card with envelope addressed to Monroe and a message that reads ‘To make up for the ones you didn’t recall receiving at the hospital. Please stay well so we won’t go through this again’, signed by ‘Arthur O’Connell – Virgil Blessing.’ Also included are five handwritten notes in an unknown hand that reference Clifton Webb, Lew Wasserman and Paula Strasberg.”
“The letter is dated simply June 9, and it accompanied the latest version of the script for The Prince and the Showgirl. Olivier discusses Monroe’s dialogue and that he has ‘written some extra dialogue and a direction or two.’ He reports on where they are in the script writing process and that they have cut the script down from ‘well over 3 hours’ to 2 1/2, to 2 hours 10 minutes. He continues about the scenes that were and were not cut, including ‘The Duke of Strelitz is, I think essential, as otherwise they will be saying what’s the matter with them – why the heck can’t they get married, particularly in view of Grace Kelly and all that, and our only answer to that question must be Yes but look at the poor Windsors do you see?’
On an amusing note, Olivier mentions, ‘By the way Lady Maidenhead has degenerated to Lady Swingdale because I am assured the Hayes Office will not believe there is also a place in England of that name.’ He closes ‘I just called up Vivien at the theatre … and she said to be sure to give you her love. So here it is and mine too. Longing to welcome you here. Ever, Larry.'”
Marilyn had many advisors on this film, including husband Arthur Miller who made suggestions to improve the script.
“Some of your dialogue is stiff. Also some expressions are too British. If you want me to, I can go through the script and make the changes – – in New York. I think the part – on one reading, is really the Best one … especially with you playing it. You are the one who makes everything change, you are the driving force … The basic problem is to define for yourself the degree of the girl’s naivete. (It could become too cute, or simply too designing.) It seems to me, at least, that they have not balanced things in Olivier’s favor. … It ought to be fun to do after BusStop. From your – (and my) – viewpoint, it will help in a small but important way to establish your ability to play characters of intelligence and cultivation. … Your loving Papa – (who has to rush now to make the plane – see you soon! – free!) – Art.”
Marilyn had strong opinions about the casting of Some Like It Hot. In the minutes from a business meeting at her New York apartment, it is noted that “MCA on the Coast has told [Billy] Wilder that there are ‘legal technicalities holding up her decision’ so as not to offend Wilder. Actually, she is waiting for [Frank] Sinatra to enter the picture. She still doesn’t like [Tony] Curtis but [Lew] Wasserman doesn’t know anybody else.”
This short note penned by Marilyn is thought to be a response to Tony Curtis’ notorious remark that kissing her was “like kissing Hitler.”
Novelist Truman Capote wanted Marilyn to star as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. However, her own advisors deemed George Axelrod’s watered-down adaptation unworthy of her talents. The film was a huge hit for Audrey Hepburn, but Capote hated it.
“A clean copy of the screenplay for Breakfast at Tiffany’s written by George Axelrod and dated July 9, 1959. Monroe was considering the part, and she sought the opinions of her professional team including the Strasbergs, her husband, and management team. The script is accompanied by a single-page, typed ‘report’ dated September 23, 1959, which also has the name ‘Parone’ typed to the left of the date. Literary luminary Edward Parone was at the time running Monroe’s production company and most likely is the one who wrote this single-page, scathing review of the script, leading with the simple sentence, ‘I think not.’ It goes on to criticize the screenplay, determining, ‘I can see Marilyn playing a part like Holly and even giving this present one all the elan it badly needs, but I don’t feel she should play it: it lacks insight and warmth and reality and importance.’ It has been long reported that Monroe declined the part upon the advice of Lee Strasberg, but this document provides further evidence that other people in her inner circle advised her not to take the role. Together with a four-page shooting schedule for November 4, 1960, for the film.”
Marilyn was generous to her co-stars in Let’s Make Love, giving a framed cartoon to Wilfrid Hyde-White on his birthday, and an engraved silver cigarette box to Frankie Vaughan. She also asked her friend, New York Times editor Lester Markel, to write a profile of her leading man, Yves Montand. “He’s not only a fine actor, a wonderful singer and dancer with charm,” she wrote, “but next to you one of the most attractive men.”
A handwritten note by Paula Strasberg reveals how she and Marilyn worked together on her role in The Misfits. “searching and yearning/ standing alone/ mood – I’m free – but freedom leaves emptiness./ Rosylin [sic] – flower opens bees buzz around/ R is quiet – the others buzz around.”
In 1962, Marilyn began work on what would be her final (and incomplete) movie, Something’s Got to Give. This telegram from screenwriter Nunnally Johnson, who was later replaced, hints at the trouble that lay ahead.
“The telegram from Johnson reads ‘In Revised script you are child of nature so you can misbehave as much as you please love – Nunnally.’ Monroe has quickly written a note in pencil for reply reading ‘Where is that script – is the child of nature due on the set – Hurry Love & Kisses M.M.’ ‘Love and Kisses’ is repeated, and additional illegible notations have been crossed out.”
“Raw footage of Monroe performing with the children in Something’s Got to Give exists, and Monroe’s notations are evident in the footage. The top of the page reads ‘Real Thought/ Mental Relaxation/ substitute children – B & J if necessary/ feeling – place the pain where it is not in the brow.’ B & J likely refers to Arthur Miller’s children Bobby and Jane. Another notation next to one of Monroe’s lines of dialogue reads simply ‘Mona Lisa’, which does in fact mirror the expression she uses when delivering this line. Even the exaggerated ‘Ahhhhh—‘ that Monroe does at the beginning of each take in the raw footage is written on the page in her hand, reading in full, ‘Ahhh–Look for the light.'”
Director Henry Hathaway, who guided Marilyn through her star-making performance in Niagara, was a movie veteran, perhaps best-known for his action pictures. Although seen as gruff and domineering by some, he proved to be one of Marilyn’s most supportive directors.
Henry Hathaway: The Lives of a Hollywood Director, published later this month, is a new biography by Harold N. Pomainville, and promises to be of interest to MM fans (although rather expensive, in my opinion.) He describes how Hathaway dealt with Marilyn’s interfering coach, Natasha Lytess; and how he persuaded Marilyn to sing along to the record in the ‘Kiss’ scene.
Pomeraine also reveals that Zanuck thwarted Hathaway’s plan to cast Marilyn in Of Human Bondage, and that Hathaway advised her to hire Charles Feldman as her new agent as a defence against the hostile studio head. And it was Hathaway who offered Marilyn the chance to star in a Jean Harlow biopic. She rejected it, partly because she was then in dispute with screenwriter Ben Hecht over a shelved autobiography (published after her death as My Story); but perhaps also because the pressures of Harlow’s life mirrored her own.
“Though Hathaway worked with Marilyn only once,” Pomeraine writes, “he became one of her prime defenders. At a time when the Fox hierarchy, including [Darryl] Zanuck, screenwriter Nunnally Johnson, and director Howard Hawks, regarded Monroe as little more than a passing novelty, Hathaway saw her as a rare and sensitive talent: ‘Marilyn was witty and bright, but timid. She was afraid of people.'”
All the Best Lines, George Tiffin’s collection of movie-related quotes, anecdotes, is out now in paperback with a gorgeous cover photo of Marilyn on the set of There’s No Business Like Show Business (the hardback features Grace Kelly and Cary Grant on the cover instead.) A chapter entitled ‘I Just Want to Be Wonderful’ is dedicated to MM. All the Best Lines is available from The Works and other bookshops.
In August, I posted about a new Italian book focusing on Marilyn’s cinematic legacy, Marilyn Monroe Inganni. Fraser Penney – IM staffer and friend – has shared a preview with ES Updates.
Maurice Zolotow’s seminal 1961 biography has been released in Spanish, with an extensive photo section. Let’s hope it will be reissued in English as well, as it’s essential reading for any true fan.
Another old favourite, Michael Conway and Mark Ricci’s The Films of Marilyn Monroe, was also reissued in Italy recently. Finally, if you’re interested in learning more about the history of Marilyn’s home studio, Peter Lev’s Twentieth Century-Fox: The Zanuck-SkourasYears is out now in paperback. And a new retrospective of Eve Arnold’s long career features Marilyn on the cover.
Writing for the Malibu Times, Colin Newton explores the history of Cypress Sea Cove, a hangout for surfers since the 1940s:
“The story of Cypress Sea Cove begins in the 1940s with its original owner George “Cap” Watkins, a Bunyon-esque character who would eventually turn the place into his own private Shangri-La.
Between the palm trees, hammocks were strung up, and five-gallon plastic jugs were filled with rum drinks. Guests as varied as then-California Governor—and later Supreme Court Justice— Earl Warren and blond bombshell Marilyn Monroe showed up, as well as pioneer surfers and many of Watkins’ lifeguard friends.”
The article states that Marilyn was then the girlfriend of lifeguard Tommy Zahn. This would place her visits around 1946-7, during her first year as a Hollywood actress.
Zahn was signed to Fox at around the same time – mainly because studio chief Darryl F Zanuck‘s daughter, Darrylin, had taken a shine to him. It was while working as a contract player that Tommy met the 20 year-old Marilyn.
“‘[MM] was in prime condition,’ says Tommy Zahn, ‘tremendously fit. I used to take her surfing up at Malibu…She was really good in the water, very robust, so healthy, a really fine attitude towards life.'”
This echoes other recollections of a young, sporty Marilyn. In later years, however, she was less confident in water.
Zahn recalled that Marilyn was the most hard-working of all the young actors. They often worked together on dance, which they both found challenging.
After talking to Zahn, Summers formed an interesting theory as to why Marilyn was dropped by the studio in 1947, which may also partly explain why – even after she became a star – Zanuck was never a strong supporter of MM.
“Tommy Zahn, Marilyn’s lifeguard boyfriend, thinks he knows what happened, not least because he was fired at the same time. Zahn believes that he was only hired in the first place because Zanuck wished to groom him for marriage to one of his daughters. Zahn’s dalliance with Marilyn was noted and disapproved from on high, and both were fired. Zahn shipped out to Honolulu. Marilyn was adrift, professionally and emotionally.”
By the time Tommy Zahn died in 1991, he was a sporting hero, with a distinguished career behind him. You can read a recollection of his life by Craig Lockwood at EatonSurf.com. A biography of Zahn – including a chapter entitled ‘Hollywood & Marilyn’ – is downloadable from the Legendary Surfers website.
One of Marilyn’s favourite New York hangouts was the Plaza Hotel, where in February 1956, she held a press conference with Sir Laurence Olivier – and, much to his amazement, chaos erupted when the strap on his co-star’s dress broke!
John F. Doscher, a bartender (or ‘mixologist’) at the Plaza during the fifties, remembers Marilyn and other stars in his new book, The Back of the House, reports Hernando Today.
“Take for instance his va-va-va voom encounter with Marilyn Monroe. The starlet stayed at the hotel numerous times.
Doscher said he was awestruck by the entourage of photographers, hair stylists and makeup artists accompanying Miss Monroe each time she came in.
‘They were from Life, Look and Photoplay magazines, all there for photo opps, he said, early paparazzis, you know?’
One day Monroe was having a late breakfast in what was the Edwardian Room and sitting by the window overlooking Central Park South. A few tables away with her back to Monroe sat Plaza-regular New York newspaper columnist, Dorothy Kilgallen.
Working the bar that day in the Edwardian, Doscher mentioned to Kilgallen that Monroe was sitting by the window. Kilgallen, he said, ‘Let out a “harrumph” and said, ‘Yes. I saw her. She looks like an unmade bed.’
‘Apparently, there was some animosity there,’ Doscher observed. ‘I mean, Marilyn Monroe has been described many ways in her lifetime, but never the description Kilgallen offered.'”
Dorothy Kilgallen was a syndicated newspaper columnist. In 1952, she reported that journalist Robert Slatzer was a rival to Joe DiMaggio for Marilyn’s affections. (Slatzer has since become a notorious figure in Monroe history, and biographer Donald Spoto considers him a fraud.)
After Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was released in 1953, a sceptical Kilgallen wrote to Darryl F. Zanuck, asking him to confirm that Marilyn’s singing was her own voice, which he did.
Needless to say, none of this endeared her to Marilyn, and in his essay, A Beautiful Child, Truman Capote wrote that MM had described Kilgallen as a drunk who hated her.
Kilgallen lived near the summer house where Marilyn and Arthur Miller stayed in 1957. In 1960, she was photographed with Marilyn at a press conference for Let’s Make Love.
Just days before Marilyn died, Kilgallen alluded to the star’s affair with a prominent man in her column. In the following weeks, she tried to investigate the circumstances behind Monroe’s death – particularly her alleged links to the Kennedy brothers.
In 1965, 53 year-old Kilgallen was found dead in her New York apartment, having overdosed on alcohol and barbiturates, and also having possibly suffered a heart attack.
However, some conspiracy theorists think Kilgallen was murdered, because of her critical comments about the US government.
My Lunches With Orsonis a new book featuring filmmaker Henry Jaglom‘s conversations with the maverick Hollywood actor-director, Orson Welles. In it, Welles mentions dating Marilyn before she was famous, during a discussion about Darryl F. Zanuck, reports the Huffington Post:
The way Welles depicts Zanuck is quite believable, as he never really respected Marilyn (even after she became his biggest star.) Another story linking Welles to MM is mentioned in a Guardianarticle from 2003, so their alleged affair pre-dates this book.
Made The Lady from Shanghai with Hayworth. A brief fling with unknown starlet Marilyn Monroe ended with an angry husband (not hers), wrongly convinced that Welles was with his wife, bursting in on Welles and Monroe and thumping the filmmaker in the jaw.
What is strange, though, is that The Guardian places Welles’s encounter with Marilyn in 1947. Success, for her, didn’t come ‘six months later’ – it took several years. And even in 1955, when she was a worldwide star, she had to fight for better pay. So I don’t know where his figure of $400,000, as told to Jaglom, comes from.
Exaggerations aside, though, his story may be true – Marilyn was certainly attracted to strong, intellectual men. And Welles was a well-known ladies’ man, on the rebound from his marriage to another beautiful actress, Rita Hayworth.
While Marilyn never mentioned an affair with Welles publicly, this is not all that surprising, as she was generally a very discreet person. It may not even have been a very long, or significant relationship for her, despite Welles’s fame. During her single days, and like many other pretty starlets, Marilyn would often be dating several men at any given time – but this is not to imply that she slept with every man she went out with.
In If This Was Happiness, Barbara Leaming‘s 1989 biography of Rita Hayworth, the Welles-Monroe rumour is also firmly placed in 1947. Leaming interviewed Welles; she had published a biography of Welles in 1988, and of course, would later write about MM.
“When Rita returned home to California that September, there was one last matter to be taken care of before she went back to work at Columbia: in October she officially filed for divorce. Not a word of protest came from Welles, who, meanwhile, had been hurriedly shooting a low-budget Macbeth at Republic Studios, enjoying a fling with Marilyn Monroe, and preparing to decamp for Italy to star in a film about Cagliostro. By the time of the divorce hearing in November, he was already out of the country.”
1947 was a shadowy year in Marilyn’s life, and it remains little-documented. The Cursum Perficio website notes that Marilyn’s contract with Twentieth Century Fox (Zanuck’s studio) lapsed in July. From September to November – the most likely time-span of the alleged fling with Welles – Marilyn was also in Los Angeles, playing a role in a stage production called Glamour Preferred, at the Bliss-Hayden Theatre.
The only known photo of Welles with Marilyn was taken eight years later, in January 1956, when she received the award from the ‘Women’s Division of the Jewish Philanthropies of New York City.’ Since her arrival in New York a year before, Marilyn had done a great deal of charitable work; and she would convert to Judaism a few months later, just before marrying Arthur Miller.
Welles also won an award that day; behind them is Victor Borge, the comedian, conductor and pianist dubbed ‘the Clown prince of Denmark.’
Actress Celeste Holm – who played Karen Richards in All About Eve – has died aged 95, reports The Guardian.
Born in New York, Holm made her name as Ado Annie in the 1943 Broadway production of Oklahoma! She won an Oscar for Gentlemen’s Agreement (1947), and narrated A Letter to Three Wives (1949.)
After the success of Gentlemen’s Agreement, Holm asked Darryl F. Zanuck, head of Twentieth Century-Fox, for a pay increase. He responded by suspending her contract, and then ‘called the head of every other studio and said he had fired me because I was too difficult to work with.’
Nonetheless, director Joe Mankiewicz cast Holm in All About Eve (1950) as Karen, best friend to temperamental stage star Margo Channing (Bette Davis.) According to Sandra Shevey, author of The Marilyn Scandal, Mankiewicz insisted that Holm be paid three times her contract salary. However, Zanuck got even ‘by having my dressing room put in the alley outside the soundstage. The others were inside.’
‘That girl will be a big star,’ said actor Gregory Ratoff, who played agent Max Fabian, during filming of All About Eve (1950). Holm rolled her eyes and retorted, ‘Why, because she keeps everyone waiting?’ To which Ratoff replied, ‘She has a quality.’
‘I confess I saw nothing special about her,’ Holm admitted. ‘My natural reaction was: “Whose girl is that?” She was scared to death, because she was playing in a pretty big league…I never thought of Marilyn as being an actress, even in the films she did later on.’
Holm was a friend of Dr Ralph Greenson, who became Marilyn’s psychoanalyst in 1960, and she would met Monroe at one of his house parties. This surprised Holm, perhaps because she considered herself to be part of Hollywood’s intellectual elite and had hitherto dismissed Marilyn as a dumb blonde.
Holm also noted that the young Marilyn idolised Betty Grable, with whom she would later co-star in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953.) This was confirmed by Grable herself, according to Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed.
Holm returned to Broadway, but later sang ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ with Frank Sinatra in High Society (1956.) In 1968, the won the Sarah Siddons award for Distinguished Achievement in Chicago Theatre. (Ironically, the Siddons award had featured in the storyline of All About Eve.)
Holm continued working in television and film until the early 1990s, and her former ambivalence towards Marilyn did not hinder her from appearing in various documentaries about her.
In recent years, Celeste Holm been treated for memory loss, and was in poor health for some time. She is survived by her sons and a fifth husband, opera singer Frank Basile.
According to PR Newswire, files from Emmeline Sniveley’s Blue Book Agency – where the young Marilyn worked as a model – have been recovered, in the Hague, Netherlands.
“Miss Emmeline Snively, founder of the agency in 1939, discovered Marilyn Monroe (then Norma Jean Dougherty) in 1945 as a model. The files go all the way back from 1945 until 1969, the year that, as Miss Snively mentioned in a interview, she ‘put it away forever.’
The contents are many photographs, negatives, letters, telegrams, personal notes, autographs and even a script… Most of this material has never been published.
Miss Snively introduced Marilyn to the movie world and always followed her career. From all the available information it appears that Miss Snively tried for years after Marilyn’s death to sell this box with the files to writers, editors and film producers like Darryl F. Zanuck from 20th Century Fox, without any luck. Who could have known at that time that Marilyn would still be such a legend even 50 years after her death? These files will be a unique start to make a great movie, book or documentary.”