2015: A Year in Marilyn Headlines

10888615_10152588248917584_8987576087019859357_nIn January, Marilyn was named as the ‘new face’ of Max Factor cosmetics. Also this month, Joe Franklin (Marilyn’s first biographer) and Anita Ekberg, a fellow blonde bombshell of the fifties, both passed away.

In February, New York Fashion Week included a Fall 2015 collection from Max Mara, inspired by Marilyn’s 1960s style. A hologram of multiple Marilyns appeared in the Oscars opening ceremony. Also this month, Richard Meryman – the last person to interview Marilyn – passed away.

adf8341a9d7c6e436611f9b166316971In March, Marilyn was featured in a vintage-inspired ad campaign for Coca Cola. In book news, the long-awaited first volume of Holding A Good Thought For Marilyn, a two-part biography by Stacy Eubank, was published.

eubankMarilyn Forever, an opera by Gavin Bryars, had its US premiere. And Marilyn: The Strength Behind the Legendary Monroe, showcasing the collection of Ted Stampfer, opened in Liechtenstein.

In April, a viral hoax news story, claiming that a CIA agent had made a deathbed confession to Marilyn’s murder, was debunked. Plans for a monument to Marilyn in South Korea were announced. And in book news, Fan Phenomena: Marilyn Monroe, edited by Marcelline Block, was published.

fan phenomIn May, Dr Cyril Wecht – one of the world’s most renowned forensic pathologists – gave an interview to Immortal Marilyn’s Marijane Gray, laying to rest some of the many myths about Marilyn’s death. Marilyn was the subject of two controversial TV shows: Autopsy – The Last Hours of Marilyn Monroe, a documentary; and The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, a mini-series based on J. Randy Taraborrelli’s biography, starring Kelli Garner.

bfi monroe_season_posterOn June 1 – Marilyn’s 89th birthday – the British Film Institute launched a month-long retrospective of Marilyn’s movies, and a nationwide reissue of The Misfits. Menswear designer Dries Van Noten used iconic images of Marilyn in his Spring 2016 collection. A benefit performance of Bombshell (the Marilyn-inspired musical subject of TV’s Smash) spurred plans for a full Broadway run. And Marilyn Monroe: Missing Moments, a summer-long exhibit, opened at the Hollywood Museum.

jpegOn June 29, Julien’s Auctions held a Hollywood Legends sale dedicated to Marilyn, and her floral dress from Something’s Got to Give sold for over $300,000. Sadly, it was also reported that the ‘Dougherty House’ in North Hollywood, where Marilyn lived from 1944-45, has been demolished – despite protests from local residents. And George Winslow, the former child actor who appeared in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, passed away.

hollywood-legends-catalogIn July, Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years, a new book by Michelle Morgan, was published. Limited Runs launched the Red Velvet Collection, a US touring exhibition featuring Tom Kelley’s famous nude calendar shots of Marilyn, as well as rare photos by Gene Lester. In Los Angeles, the Andrew Weiss Gallery launched their own exhibition, Marilyn: The Making of a Legend, and published a catalogue, 17 Years.

morgan before marilyn

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In August, the Marilyn Remembered fan club’s annual memorial service was held at Westwood Memorial Park, marking the 53rd anniversary of Marilyn’s death. It was reported that hip hop producer Timbaland would sample ‘Down Boy’, a ‘lost’ song recorded by Marilyn for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. And the Daily Express published rare photos of a young Marilyn in Salinas.

In September, a large number of rare candid shots of Marilyn were auctioned by Profiles in History. A new exhibition, Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn, opened in New York. And Norman Farberow, the psychologist who contributed to the first official report on Marilyn’s death in 1962 , passed away.

wills marilyn in the flashIn October, Marilyn – in the Flash, David Wills’ stunning sequel to MM: Metamorphosis, was published. Members of Everlasting Star discovered rare photos of an early public appearance by Marilyn at the Hollywood Legion Stadium in 1947. October also marked Arthur Miller’s centenary, and the death of movie legend Maureen O’Hara.

In November, Marilyn’s blue gabardine suit from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was sold at Bonham’s for $425,000. Congressman Tony Cardenas introduced a bill to rename a Van Nuys post office after Marilyn. Cartier unveiled a new ad, featuring a diamond-themed homage to Marilyn. And the Writers’ Guild of America voted Some Like it Hot as the second funniest screenplay of all time.

And finally … in December, Marilyn-related items from the collection of Dame Joan Collins were sold at Julien’s Auctions, and Ferragamo launched a capsule collection featuring a Marilyn-inspired shoe. Over in Toronto, the TIFF Cinematheque launched a season of movies starring Marilyn and her greatest Hollywood rival, Elizabeth Taylor.

David Wills: ‘Marilyn – In the Flash’

wills marilyn in the flashDavid Wills’ 2011 book, Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis, is one of the best pictorial studies of MM ever published, and a firm fan favourite. So I was delighted to hear this morning that Mr Wills will soon publish a sequel, Marilyn: In the Flash. With an introduction by legendary actor Robert Wagner, it’s already listed on major online bookstores with a December release date, although publisher Dey Street Books (formerly IT Books, an imprint of Harper Collins) sets an earlier release date of October 27. Here’s the synopsis:

“A stunning collection of hundreds of rare and unseen photographs, behind-the-scenes notes, and interviews chronicling the media’s lifelong love affair with Marilyn, created by the acclaimed curator and author of Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis.

Though Hollywood goddess Marilyn Monroe was married three times, her longest lasting relationship was with the press—the photographers, reporters, and press agents who followed her every move for nearly two decades, and made her into the greatest icon in Hollywood history. One of the most publicized actresses of her time, Marilyn actively sought out the press, carefully crafting her public image and using events from her private life to further her career. Her romances with baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, playwright Arthur Miller, and others made her a daily feature for newspapers, magazines, and wire services; new images of the star were guaranteed to boost sales.

Drawing on unseen troves from dozens of photographers, archives, and collectors, acclaimed photography expert David Wills brings together an unprecedented array of press photos from throughout Marilyn’s career—including hundreds of unpublished and rare photographs that have been beautifully restored; uncropped and unretouched outtakes; handwritten notations; period captions; clippings; and more. With a foreword by Robert J. Wagner and interviews from key press agents and others, this portfolio of images offers a fresh, indelible portrait of one of the most enduring icons in history and illuminates the special alliance she shared with the press as never before.”

Hollywood in Kodachrome

David Wills’ 2011 book, Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis, is one of the best photo retrospectives on the market – so it’s no surprise to report that his latest publication, Hollywood in Kodachrome, is also of fine quality. Focussing on 1940s photography, Wills devotes ten pages to Richard C. Miller, Bruno Bernard, Tom Kelley and Earl Thiesen’s glorious colour shots of a young Marilyn in her starlet years.

Scans by Chris at Club Passion Marilyn – click on thumbnails to see them at full siz

Marilyn’s Eternal Flame

Liza Power of the Sydney Morning Herald examines the Marilyn phenomenon, interviewing David Wills, Australian-born author of MM: Metamorphosis; Dr Lois Banner (MM: Personal) and Laurent Morlet, director of With Her, a new documentary about Marilyn’s fans:

”’There is something unexplainable about their love for her,” Morlet says. ”She is a confidante, a friend, a guide, a support for them, usually since a very young age. I don’t think they ‘see’ specific things in her as much as just feeling a need for her, often without knowing why.”’

MM Fan Review: Metamorphosis

MM fan Edgar Freire has reviewed Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis, hailing it as ‘the definitive visual biography’:

“The theme of the book (as implied by the title) propels the simple story of the transformation of the young, exuberant Norma Jeane (in her brunette model phase) into the dream-factory creation known as Marilyn Monroe, Hollywood sex goddess, the impossibly blonde image imprinted firmly onto the world’s consciousness. But in between these two extremes are presented other incarnations, seldom seen, of the woman behind the mask and artifice, and it is these images that will surprise many.”

Read Edgar’s review in full here

David Wills on ‘Metamorphosis’

A selection of photos from Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis are featured in the Wall Street Journal, while author David Wills talks about his book at Betty Confidential:

“Marilyn Monroe stands alone as a photographic subject for two reasons – visual transformation (her metamorphosis) and inner projection (her charisma). She was a very pretty woman of course, but she wasn’t what you would call a traditional beauty. She didn’t have a long neck or perfect symmetry or particularly strong bone structure. Her beauty was more subtle, but the way she was able to project that beauty – especially on screen or in a still photograph – was absolutely dynamic.”

MM: Metamorphosis

This new photo book, set to be published in October 2011, looks very tempting…

‘Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis’ features images by world-class photographers including Richard Avedon, Milton Greene, Sam Shaw, Cecil Beaton, Philippe Halsman, Andre de Dienes, George Barris, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Philippe Halsman, Willy Rizzo, Richard C. Miller, Tom Kelley, and others.

“More than 60% of the photographs in the book have never before been published.

“Australian-born curator and preservationist David Wills has accrued one of the world’s largest independent archives of original Marilyn Monroe photographs. Now, in ‘Marilyn Metamorphosis’, he has gathered the work of every major Marilyn photographer-and dozens of unknowns-to create the most dazzling portfolio of images from every period in Marilyn Monroe’s life, from her earliest sittings in 1942 till just weeks before her death two decades later. With more than three hundred full-bleed photos-including countless dazzling, unseen color photos from the very start of her career- ‘Marilyn Metamorphosis’ chronicles her meteoric rise from a humble catalog model to one of the most recognized faces in history. No other book even comes close.

“Norma Jean Baker’s transformation into one of the most emulated and iconic Hollywood starlets is an epic American story—one that careens from a troubled childhood through bright spotlights and dark depression. ‘Marilyn Metamorphosis’ offers a straightforward, cleanly designed photograph journey through Monroe’s meteoric rise and tragic undoing. From ‘The Rehearsal’ years of a brunette Norma Jean posing in factories and on beaches, to the final chapter, ‘Icarus,’ which contains images taken only weeks before her death, ‘Marilyn Metamorphosis’ presents a visual historical record like never before seen.

‘Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis’ by David Wills, Stephen Schmidt

Publisher: Harper-Collins/It Books

  • ISBN-10: 006203619X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062036193

320 pages; 9 x 11 1/2
b&w and color photos throughout

Pre-order now at Amazon UK or Amazon.com