Twin Peaks: From Norma Jeane, to Laura Palmer

If you’re a fan of cult TV series Twin Peaks, you’ll already know that director David Lynch and writer Mark Frost created it after shelving an earlier collaboration based on Anthony Summers’ Goddess.) There are striking parallels between the main female protagonist, Laura Palmer (played by Sheryl Lee), and Marilyn, which go beyond their mysterious deaths.

In last year’s Twin Peaks revival, Marilyn’s Bus Stop co-star Don Murray played a key role. Actors Russ Tamblyn and Miguel Ferrer also had real-life links to Marilyn. I was also reminded of her sensual performance in Niagara during a scene where beautiful FBI agent Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell) is filmed walking away from the camera, while ditzy casino hostess Candie (Amy Shiels) resembled Lorelei in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, even wearing a pink tutu with matching gloves and diamonds, not unlike Marilyn’s costume in the ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ number….

But maybe that’s all just wishful thinking on my part. Going back to the original series, Zach Gayne explores the similarities between Marilyn and Laura in ‘Twin Peaks and the Point of No Return‘, an essay for Screen Anarchy.

“Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Marilyn Monroe and the abandoned project that first united David Lynch and Mark Frost – the two were apparently interested in co-adapting Anthony Summers’ expose, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. While this is absolute conjecture, I can’t help but wonder if the two minds, who’d bonded over their interest in detailing the story of a fallen goddess – adored by all, but understood by few, who’s shadow ultimately overcame her angel – felt that the exploring Monroe when she was still Norma Jeane wouldn’t be the more effective way to detail the all-too-common American tragedy of a bright young woman succumbing to purveyors of darkness.

Laura Palmer is nothing if not a high-school Marilyn Monroe – a magnetic soul who draws no shortage of desire from, not only the hottest boy in school, but many of the town’s adults, like the local psychedelic psychologist or the wealthy hotel tycoon. One might say she brought out the best or worst in people, depending on their innermost natures. Laura, a supreme beacon of light, in addition to attracting love of the purest kind also attracted fire, and for her sins of merely existing, from a young age she was met with dark temptations as old as the ghostwood forest, like so many generations of distressed damsels and lads before and after her.”

Marilyn and Miguel Ferrer

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Miguel Ferrer, the accomplished character actor whose many screen credits include Robocop and Twin Peaks, died last week aged 61, The Guardian reports.

He was born on February 7, 1955 to singer Rosemary Clooney and her husband, actor Jose Ferrer. Among his impeccable Hollywood connections (his cousin is George Clooney), Miguel enjoyed an early  encounter with Marilyn Monroe which reveals a great deal about her love of children.

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In her 1999 autobiography, Girl Singer, Rosemary recalled throwing a party at her New York home in the winter of 1955, shortly after Miguel was born. Film director John Huston came with Marilyn, who had recently moved to the city. Rosemary had only met her once before, but Marilyn immediately asked if she could see the baby. Without even brushing the snow off her fur coat, Marilyn headed upstairs to the nursery. About an hour later, Huston asked Rosemary, ‘What the hell’s she doing up there?’ She replied that Marilyn was ‘playing with the baby.’

Before his death, Miguel reprised his role as the gruff FBI forensic pathologist, Albert Rosenfeld, in the forthcoming new series of Twin Peaks. He is not the only cast member with a connection to Marilyn, as her Bus Stop co-star Don Murray will also be making a cameo appearance.

‘Marilyn!’ Musical Preview in Glendale

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As I have often observed on this blog, plays about Marilyn are becoming a staple of fringe drama. Few have managed to rise from obscurity, but MARILYN! – a new musical previewing for one night only at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California on July 29 – has impressive credentials, as Broadway World reports.

“The one-evening-only July 29 event, celebrates the life Marilyn Monroe with a short documentary film featuring Monroe’s former boyfriend Bill Pursel, Monroe’s Bus Stop co-star Don Murray, Monroe author, Michelle Morgan, President of ‘Marilyn Remembered’ Greg Schreiner, and Actors Studio classmate, James Karen, among other key figures.

Audience members will be treated to an exclusive collection of Monroe’s artifacts from Schreiner’s personal collection at a pre-show reception. But the highlight of the evening is the world premiere of the full length musical MARILYN!, which chronicles the star’s childhood and tumultuous path to stardom with stirring and emotional songs …

Prospect House Entertainment is also pleased to announce a collaboration with Hollygrove, formerly Los Angeles Orphan Home, where Marilyn Monroe stayed as a child. Hollygrove will receive a percentage of the event’s proceeds in perpetuity. MARILYN! additionally holds the distinction of being produced with the blessing of the Marilyn Monroe Estate.

MARILYN! Is set in the present day – Michelle is a young journalist from England researching Marilyn Monroe to commemorate the actress’ 90th birthday. She visits Charlie Page, one of Marilyn’s drivers, who is now living a life of solitude. Two stories emerge as Charlie bonds with Michelle he recalls Marilyn Monroe’s phenomenal life in flashback and reveals the real reason behind his living as a recluse for over forty years…

MARILYN! stars Kelley Jakle (Universal’s Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2, Spring Awakening in Concert) as ‘Marilyn Monroe’; Kelley Dorney (PBS Concert Special: A Tale of Two Cities) as ‘Norma Jeane’; Samantha Stewart (CBS’ Days of Our Lives) as ‘Michelle Morgan’; and Marvin Gay as ‘Charlie Paige’.”

Why Oscar Snubbed Sugar

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As another Oscar night looms, the Huffington Post notes that comedies have traditionally been overlooked. Some Like it Hot won just one in 1960 –  Best Costume Design ( for Orry-Kelly.)

The classic comedy lost out in five other categories (including Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.) While Marilyn would win a Golden Globe for her role as Sugar, she was not nominated for an Oscar that year, and never would be.

Marilyn had previously been snubbed by the Academy in 1957, when her acclaimed performance in Bus Stop failed to gain a nomination, but her co-star, newcomer Don Murray, did.  She believed this was a deliberate punishment for her victorious battle with Twentieth Century Fox, and perhaps also for marrying Arthur Miller during his stand-off with the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Simone Signoret, who won the coveted Best Actress award for Room at the Top, was then Marilyn’s neighbour at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Her husband, Yves Montand, was filming Let’s Make Love with Marilyn, and they would later have an affair.

As Hollywood’s leading sex symbol, whose niche was in comedy, Marilyn did not fit the profile of an Oscar winner. Her breakthrough dramatic role, in The Misfits (1961), would also be ignored.

Although she had top billing for Some Like it Hot, her screen-time was relatively short. If only she had been eligible for the Best Supporting Actress category, she might have pipped her pal Shelley Winters (who won for The Diary of Anne Frank) to the post.

‘Bus Stop’ at BFI London

Bus Stop will be screened at London’s BFI on November 14-16, as part of ‘The Birth of the Method’, a season of movies celebrating great performances by Hollywood’s original Method actors.

“As with several Hollywood stars in the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe found in the Method a refuge from the typecasting she had come to resent; she became a regular at the Actors Studio, and had private lessons with Lee Strasberg. Her portrayal of a saloon singer who yearns to be respected for more than her looks, and who faces the overbearing affections of a naïve cowboy (a misjudged yet Oscar-nominated performance by Don Murray), is a model of the Method style – an exposing performance drawn from within.”

Lankershim’s Monroe Theatre

Westside Today reports on the opening of the Monroe Forum Theatre, a second stage at the El Portal movie theatre, which is located directly behind Lankershim Elementary School, once attended by Norma Jeane.

The inaugural performance was Sunny Thompson’s one-woman show, Marilyn: Forever Blonde, on the 50th anniversary of MM’s death.

“A little known fact is that the former Norma Jeane Baker, soon to become Marilyn Monroe, attended 6th grade from 1937-1938 at Lankershim Elementary School directly behind the then famous movie palace El Portal Theatre, where she often attended matinees with her guardian. The new Monroe Forum Theatre has been outfitted with a lipstick red love seat and collector’s item of seldom-seen black and white photos of Ms. Monroe. A lovely ribbon cutting ceremony took place attended by many celebrities and a few former friends of Marilyn.

After that was an amazing one woman show performance of Marilyn: Forever Blonde starring Sunny Thompson. Guests included Don Murray (Oscar-nominated for his role in Bus Stop opposite Marilyn Monroe), Stanley Rubin- Producer of River Of No Return, Renee Taylor- friend of Marilyn’s who took acting classes with her, legendary stage and film actor Theodore Bikel, Councilman Tom La Bonge, and Joe Razo- Principal of Lankershim Elementary School which is still there!”

Marilyn Among Actors

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The Los Angeles Times has interviewed several actors who worked with Marilyn, including co-stars Don Murray and Mitzi Gaynor, and Actors Studio colleagues like Louis Gossett Jr.

“She was trying to prove she was an actress of substance, and in my opinion she certainly did…She was a very experienced film actress, but she could forget so many of the mechanical techniques. She would constantly miss her marks so she would be out of focus or out of the light or in a shadow. I think it was a lack of confidence. For somebody who the camera loved, she was still terrified of going before the camera and broke out in a rash all over her body.” – Don Murray

“I never saw anybody work so hard. She did such a good job and personally, I think she stole the whole damn show. I just think she was thrown into a nest of vipers.” – Mitzi Gaynor

“So I am at the Actors Studio and there’s Brando and Marty Landau up front. She had Arthur Miller’s shirt on tied at the waist with some jeans and flip-flops. She says ‘Where’s Lou?’ Everybody starts giggling at me. I think it was a joke [by his classmates]. There is no way I could sit next to her. That’s the effect Marilyn Monroe had on me.” – Louis Gossett Jr

Ian Ayres Plans MM Documentary

Documentary film-maker Ian Ayres is working on a project about Marilyn, reports Screen Daily:

“Writer-filmmaker Ian Ayres, whose film Tony Curtis: Driven To Stardom is on Wide’s Cannes slate, is at work on a revisionist feature documentary about Cannes postergirl Marilyn Monroe.

Ayres has already spoken to and filmed many Monroe associates, among them Don Murray (co-star of Bus Stop), Stanley Rubin (producer of River of No Return), and Hugh Hefner, and Susan Bernard (daughter of glamour photographer). The director has also interviewed Monroe’s close family members.

‘We interviewed Marilyn’s first foster sister, Nancy Bolender, who also has Marilyn’s first nude photo which she is letting us use in the film. It’s a baby photo of Marilyn,’ Ayres said.

The late Tony Curtis features in the Marilyn doc. There is also rare footage of Monroe as a 15-year-old.

The Monroe documentary is currently shooting under the provisional title Marilyn: Birth Of An Icon.”

Ayres spoke to The Damned Interviews about the project, and his friendship with John Gilmore, author of Inside Marilyn Monroe.

“During interviews for the Tony Curtis film, people kept sharing unknown things about Marilyn Monroe. So I decided to make a bonus called ‘All About Marilyn’ but found the most insightful stuff could only be cut down to 33 minutes. Then I realized Marilyn mattered too much to me to be a mere bonus. So now I’m in the process of making the documentary on her that I’d always hoped someone would make. It’s a respectful, loving one that’s feature length! There is so much more to Marilyn Monroe than any documentary has ever brought to life. From the interviews we already have, I’m convinced this will be the ultimate Marilyn Monroe documentary. Marilyn Monroe was a great artist. Many consider her a genius who, through this film, will finally be shown the respect she definitely deserves. She has my respect. That’s for sure!

John’s (Gilmore) not the type to talk for hours. I had to keep asking him questions. He was most kind and patient with us during the interviews, especially the recent one about Marilyn Monroe. We lost a major part of the interview due to a technical problem and hoped John wouldn’t mind re-doing it. We were holding our breaths when we asked. And John proved to be very understanding. Not only did he repeat the entire lost section of the interview, he became even more detailed in his spontaneous eloquence. I felt as if Marilyn were right there with us, too.”

Don Murray Speaks at Palm Springs Film Festival

Don Murray – Marilyn’s cowboy love in Bus Stop (1956) spoke about her at the Palm Springs International Film Festival this weekend, where The Prince and the Showgirl was also screened, and Susan Bernard talked about her father’s photos of Monroe.

‘He was filming his first major motion picture and she was “one of the biggest stars in the world.” And yet, he learned quickly that filming revolved precariously around Monroe and her whims…

“Bus Stop” has been called her “best-behaved film.”

“When I heard that I thought, well, God, what was her worst-behaved film?” Murray said.

He told the stories with fondness and also spoke of her talent and sense of humor.’