Marilyn and Rock Hudson: An Affair That Never Was

Marilyn at the Golden Globes with Rock Hudson (1962)

Author Darwin Porter is nothing if not prolific, publishing new books every year. He has become a one-man National Enquirer of Old Hollywood, writing salacious biographies following this lucractive dictum: the dead don’t sue. Among film historians, Porter has very little credibility, but certain tabloid newspapers, more interested in cheap thrills than evidence, lap up his tall stories.

In 2012, Porter published Marilyn at Rainbow’s End, a lurid tome panned by many long-term Monroe fans. He has since mentioned her in equally dubious ‘biographies’ of Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. His latest victim is 1950s heartthrob Rock Hudson.

This latest publication, Rock Hudson: Erotic Fire, is featured in the UK’s Daily Mail. Porter claims that his source is actor George Nader, whom inherited the interest on Hudson’s estate along with his partner Mark Miller, Hudson’s former secretary. The couple were close to the star throughout his long career. Rock’s homosexuality was hidden until shortly before his death from AIDS in 1985. (George Nader died in 2002.)

Porter claims that Rock met a young Marilyn on the Universal lot in 1949 and offered to buy her lunch. They met for dinner on several occasions at a ‘hamburger den’, before Marilyn reportedly told him, ‘We don’t want this to get more serious. Both of us will have to lie on a few casting couches.’

This alleged quote is third-hand at best, and besides, Marilyn never worked at Universal. It’s highly unlikely that an affair between two such famous names could have gone unnoticed for sixty years. Rock was initially considered for the male lead in Bus Stop (1956), while Marilyn was considered for Pillow Talk (1959.) Marilyn also wanted him to star in Let’s Make Love (1960.)

Hudson presented an award to her at the 1962 Golden Globes, where they were photographed hugging affectionately. However, her date that night was Jose Bolanos. Hudson also narrated the documentary Marilyn, produced by Twentieth Century Fox after her death.

All of this suggests that they were on friendly terms, but nothing more. In a life as scrutinised as Marilyn’s, there are very few secrets left. Her relationships with celebrities like Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra and Yves Montand are well-known. At this late stage, a rumoured affair with Hudson should be treated as hearsay, if not outright fantasy.

Marilyn and James Dean: The Love That Never Was

Marilyn at the East of Eden premiere, 1955

Actor James Dean is the latest subject – or victim – of celebrity biographer Darwin Porter, whose 2012 book, Marilyn at Rainbow’s End, was slated by fans. Co-written with Danforth Prince and due for publication in April, James Dean: Tomorrow Never Comes makes the eye-popping assertion that Dean was embroiled in a sado-masochistic relationship with Marlon Brando. And according to the Daily Mail, ‘Dean supposedly also had a fling with Marilyn Monroe when they spent two weekends a beach house on Fire Island, an idyllic getaway East of New York.’

The Daily Express has more detail, rendered in Porter’s trademark purple prose:

“Amazingly Dean dreamed of marrying Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. Dean met Monroe in 1955 and the pair quickly adjourned to a romantic weekend at a beachfront cottage.

‘He was very loving, very romantic,’ Monroe told actress Shelley Winters. ‘I’ve agreed to marry him one day.’ But after several weeks they recognised that marriage would be disastrous.

‘Let’s admit the truth: both of us need babysitters,’ said Dean. Monroe agreed: ‘It wouldn’t work. We’d end up destroying each other.’ However even after they split Monroe remained possessive, berating him about his fling with Taylor.”

Marilyn did, in fact, visit Fire Island on several occasions during 1955, as the Strasbergs owned a holiday home there. Dean was friendly with the Strasbergs due to his association with the Actors Studio. However, no such tryst has ever been mentioned until now. As with the Brando story, it seems unlikely that an encounter between such iconic stars would take so long to be revealed.  (Porter has also claimed that Marilyn had affairs with Elizabeth Taylor and Ronald Reagan in his previous biographies, but once again, there is no solid evidence for this.)

In her 1989 memoir, Shelley Winters recalled seeing a Los Angeles preview of Brando’s film On the Waterfront with Marilyn and James Dean in early 1954. As Marilyn had just married Joe DiMaggio and was spending most of her time in San Francisco while in dispute with Twentieth Century-Fox, this seems questionable. However, Winters did know both Marilyn and Dean quite well, and some fans have suggested that the preview may actually have been Brando’s 1951 film, A Streetcar Named Desire.

In any case, Winters’ memories did not suggest any intimacy between Marilyn and Dean. She recalled that after the movie, she and Marilyn drove to film director Nick Ray’s bungalow at the Chateau Marmont, and that Dean rode ahead on his motorcycle, ‘playing chicken’ with them – which angered and upset Marilyn.

Needless to say, the quotations attributed to Winters in Porter’s book do not appear in her own memoirs – which make no mention of an affair between Marilyn and Dean. And the quotations attributed to Marilyn do not appear in any other source.

Before his untimely death in September 1955, Dean was said to have been one of several actors considered as a possible co-star for Marilyn in Bus Stop (the part eventually went to newcomer Don Murray.) And director Henry Hathaway had hoped to pair Marilyn and Dean in a remake of Of Human Bondage. The film was later made with Kim Novak and Laurence Harvey.

Although they may have been united in countless tacky Photoshops, the only time Marilyn and Dean were connected publicly was at the 1955 premiere of his film, East of Eden. The event was a benefit for the Actors Studio, and Marilyn served as an ‘usherette’. She was accompanied by Milton Greene, and was later photographed with comedian Milton Berle – but not with James Dean, because he wasn’t there!

Fantasy Love Triangle: Marilyn, Reagan and Darwin Porter

Marilyn with Ronald Reagan at Charles Coburn’s birthday party, 1953

Darwin Porter – author of Marilyn at Rainbow’s End (2012) – has published a new book, Love Triangle: Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman And Nancy Davis, in which he claims Marilyn had an affair with Reagan.

Born in 1937, Darwin Porter began his career as an entertainment writer at the Miami Herald in 1958. He wrote the first of many Frommer travel guidebooks in 1969. With his associate Danforth Prince, Porter has also written a large number of salacious celebrity biographies, published by Blood Moon Productions with the dubious tagline, ‘all the gossip that’s unfit to print.’

Marilyn’s mostly peripheral association with Reagan dates back to her first job at the Radioplane munitions plant, owned by Reagan’s actor friend Reginald Denny. During World War II, Reagan was a captain in an army unit that made training propaganda films. At Reagan’s request, photographer David Conover was sent to Radioplane in 1945, to shoot pretty girls at work for a morale-boosting publicity campaign. Conover’s pictures of 19 year-old Norma Jeane Dougherty led to a modelling contract, and the rest is history – although as Les Harding, author of They Knew Marilyn Monroe, admits – ‘It is not certain if Reagan ever knew about his role in the birth of Marilyn Monroe’s career.’

Fred Karger and Jane Wyman

In 1948, Marilyn had a brief, turbulent relationship with bandleader Fred Karger, who went on to marry actress Jane Wyman – Reagan’s former wife – some four years later, in 1952. By then, Marilyn was dating future husband Joe DiMaggio. It has been rumoured that Marilyn was jealous of Wyman, but this remains unconfirmed. Porter argues that Marilyn’s alleged affair with Reagan was her revenge – but this, too, seems far-fetched, and uncharacteristic of Marilyn.

The final connection between MM and Reagan is a series of photos taken at a birthday party for her Gentlemen Prefer Blondes co-star, Charles Coburn, in 1953. She is pictured in happy conversation with Reagan and his new wife, Nancy.

Marilyn chats with Reagan and wife Nancy, 1953

However, until now no sexual affair between Marilyn and Reagan has been claimed – and other than hearsay, Porter offers no conclusive evidence. Cynically, one might wonder if these circumstantial links have been manipulated to suggest a relationship that, more than sixty years later, cannot be proved or disproved.

It’s certainly hard to believe that a liaison between a future US president and one of the most famous stars of all time could have gone unnoticed for so long. Perhaps because Marilyn has already been romantically linked to one president – John F. Kennedy – Porter has decided to complete the set. So who’s next – Eisenhower? Nixon?

In a bizarre 2012 interview with Female First, Porter claimed to have personally met Marilyn at the Helen Mar Hotel in Miami in 1950, when he was just 13 years old. He also stated that her affair with Reagan was ongoing at this time, and that she was filming Don’t Bother to Knock – which was actually produced in Hollywood in late 1951. (Similarly, Marilyn spent most of 1950 making movies in Los Angeles, and was in a steady relationship with agent Johnny Hyde. There is no evidence of her visiting Miami in 1950 or ’51.)

Porter also claimed to have interviewed Marilyn as a student during a promotional tour of Miami in 1957. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t remember him. But once again, Marilyn didn’t visit Miami that year – she was living in New York with husband Arthur Miller.

He describes MM as ‘self-delusional, and therefore not reliable’ – a judgment which some less charitable critics might apply to his own books!

From the Daily Mail:

According to Phil Karlson, a director who introduced them [Karlson directed Marilyn in Ladies of the Chorus, a 1948 musical – she began dating Fred Karger during its production], Reagan described her as ‘sensational’, to which she replied: ‘I’m even more sensational when you get to know me.'”

From the Daily Mail‘s review:

“Two of Reagan’s actor friends, William Holden and Eddie Bracken, are quoted as saying that Monroe would regularly visit Reagan in hospital after he broke his thigh bone playing baseball, and attend to his sexual needs as he lay immobilised in bed.

According to Holden, Monroe — going through an emotional rough patch — even asked Ronnie to marry her. It’s an astonishing, never-reported story that sounds too salacious to be true. But, as everyone involved is dead, challenging it — like so much in Reagan’s private life — is virtually impossible.”

Another of Porter’s stories about Reagan’s alleged affair with MM was published on the Boomer Times website in 2007:

“At this same time yet another starlet was about to enter Reagan’s life. In 1948 Marilyn Monroe had met Fred Karger, a musician, who was also working as a vocal coach at Columbia. Almost within days she’d fallen in love with him, even though he was bitter about women. ‘No female is capable of genuine love,’ he told her. At the time, he’d just been dumped by Rita Hayworth. In spite of what he said, Marilyn wanted to marry him. But he did not think she would make a proper stepmother for his young daughter from an earlier marriage. Marilyn was bitterly disappointed.

Unknown to Marilyn at the time, another woman had also fallen for Karger. At the peak of her star power in Hollywood, Jane Wyman, the ex-Mrs. Ronald Reagan, also wanted to marry Karger. He ended up proposing to Jane. Marilyn was furious and wanted to get even.

In one of those coincidences that often occur in life, a drunken Marilyn encountered Jane in the women’s room of Chasen’s Restaurant in Los Angeles. In an altercation, Marilyn lunged for Jane, accidentally ripping her wig off. Jane was wearing a wig that night to conceal a scalp irritation. When novelist Jacqueline Susann heard of that catfight, it inspired the most dramatic scene in her Valley of the Dolls, one of the best-selling novels of all time.

Marilyn couldn’t have Karger, but she went after Jane’s ‘discard’, hoping that would make her rival jealous even though she’d divorced him. Marilyn called Reagan, ostensibly to discuss problems with her membership in the Guild. This led to a dinner date and a subsequent affair.

Later when Reagan had business in Miami Beach, he invited Marilyn to fly down to join him. He bought her a ticket on a separate plane. He even insisted on booking her a suite in a different hotel from his own on Miami Beach, stashing her secretly at the Helen Mar.

Why the secrecy? Reagan was between marriages and could date whomever he chose. But he did not want either Doris [Day, another rumoured paramour] or Nancy [Davis, whom Reagan would marry in 1952] to know he was seeing yet another starlet. The only time they were seen together was at Sophie Tucker’s show on the beach. As a fading star, he attracted no attention, and Marilyn was yet to become a household word.

Flying back to the West Coast again on a different plane from Marilyn, Reagan had a final dinner date with the star, telling her ‘it’s over between us.’ She burst into tears.”

RUMOUR: Capote’s Secret Home Movie

A late contender for most bizarre Marilyn story of the year comes from entertainment website ContactMusic, who report that John Cohan – self-professed ‘psychic to the stars’ and alleged confidant of the late Truman Capote – claims to have seen a thirty-minute home movie, filmed in secret by Capote, of a confrontation between Marilyn and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (about Monroe’s supposed affair with the President) at Capote’s New York apartment in 1962.

Cohan says that the film was sold to US TV host Merv Griffin before Capote’s death in 1984. Griffin died in 2007.

“‘I was reminded of this film while I was recalling my friendship with Truman for a new book, titled The Pink Triangle.

Truman had been a friend to Jackie Kennedy but they had a falling out and when she asked him to arrange a meeting with Marilyn at his home, he bugged the room and filmed them. He did this because he could be devious and cunning.’

And Cohan was stunned when the author first showed him the footage.

He recalls, ‘I remember Marilyn arrived looking like the movie star she was, dressed in a stunning white dress and Jackie showed up in this very tailored black suit, which made her look very matronly… When MM (Marilyn) first started the greetings, she said, Hello Madam Jacqueline.

The two women were together a little over 30 minutes and Jackie basically told Marilyn she knew what was going on between her husband and Marilyn, and wanted it to stop. Jackie said she forgave MM for the affair with her husband because she knew too well Jack could charm a dead body and get a response.

Marilyn became hysterical because she didn’t want to end the affair. Money was exchanged. Jackie had with her a good size pink round hat box. In it was a lot of money. She said to MM, Take this and use it to make your new home more beautiful and the rest invest in stocks and other good ventures for your future. By the end of the film, Marilyn was a mess. Her hair was all messed up and her mascara was running.’

Cohan admits Capote was very guarded about the film and, as far as he knows, he’s the only person who has seen it other than the author and Merv Griffin.

He adds, ‘In the beginning, Truman kept it because he wanted to get back at Jackie and just by having this film he felt he had achieved that, but over the years he got so bored with it and told me, I’m going to sell it – and he did.

Merv Griffin treasured the footage and intended to keep it under lock and key until the 50th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. Like Truman, he was very guarded about this and I don’t think he showed it to anyone or talked about it.

Unfortunately Merv, another great friend of mine, died before his time and the footage is now lost, but I’m sure Merv took care of all his affairs before his death and had plans for this film. I’m sure it will see the light of day at some point.'”

I don’t really know where to begin explaining my extreme scepticism about this story. Suffice it to say that camera equipment was much larger and noisier in 1962, making it near impossible to film in secret. Also, it seems very convenient that Mr Cohan would divulge this secret on the eve of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination.

The Pink Triangle, an upcoming book referred to by Cohan, appears to have been written by Danforth Prince and Darwin Porter, an author well-known for his sensationalist tomes about politicians, gangsters and the stars of Hollywood’s golden age. Porter’s 2012 book, Marilyn at Rainbow’s End, was heavily promoted in US scandal sheets such as the Globe and the National Enquirer. (Cohan’s own memoir, Catch a Falling Star, was published in 2009.)

Capote knew both women well, but – and this bears repeating – there is no evidence that Marilyn and Jackie ever met. If you want real insight into MM, read Capote’s essay, ‘A Beautiful Child’.

Finally, I would love to know if WENN (named by ContactMusic as the source of this rumour) made any attempt at fact-checking before going public. (And if you’d like to know what last year’s silliest story about Marilyn was, click here.)

Marilyn Goes Global

A series of lurid allegations from celebrity muckraker Darwin Porter’s forthcoming book, Marilyn at Rainbow’s End, are published in this week’s Globe. Most of these rumours are nothing new, and some I find hardly believable. You can read the article here.

Among his claims are that Marilyn had lesbian affairs with Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich and Elizabeth Taylor; that Marilyn aborted JFK’s lovechild; and that she had an ’emotional hotel summit’ with first lady Jackie Kennedy days before her death.

Marilyn in 2012: To Be Read Again

So many books are being published this year to tie in with the 5oth anniversary of Marilyn’s death that it’s hard to keep up with them all. In addition to Marilyn by Magnum, mooted sequels to Fragments from Marilyn’s estate, and a new biography by Lois Banner, here are a few I may not have covered before:

Marilyns Are a Guy’s Best Friend by Joseph Clough, Teresa Winston. Examining the lookalike phenomenon, out now.

They Knew Marilyn Monroe: Famous Persons in the Life of the Hollywood Icon, a ‘biographical dictionary’ compiled by Les Harding, due out on May 15.

Marilyn Monroe: Murder on Fifth Helena Drive by Keya Morgan, due out on May 15 (a documentary is also planned.)

A Brief Guide to Marilyn Monroe, a fully revised version of Michelle Morgan’s 2007 biography, due out in the UK on May 17. A US edition, Marilyn Monroe: Private and Confidential, will follow on June 1.

Marilyn at Rainbow’s End: Sex, Lies, Murder and the Great Cover-Up by Darwin Porter, due out on June 16.

Marilyn in Fashion: The Enduring Influence of Marilyn Monroe by Christopher Nickens, George Zeno, due out on June 21.

Joe and Marilyn by C. David Heymann, due out November 6.