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

With Don Murray. Photo by Milton Greene

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 Marilyn 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.’

‘My Week With Marilyn’: Truth or Fantasy?

The Los Angeles Times reports on the mystery surrounding Colin Clark’s story in My Week With Marilyn, speaking to Michelle Williams, and also those who knew Monroe well during this period, including Amy Greene and Joan Copeland (Arthur Miller’s sister.)

‘Michelle Williams, who spent months watching Monroe’s films and devouring biographies on her, acknowledges that she found Clark to be an “unreliable narrator.”

“When you read both of his books, you do get the sense that he’s writing with the advantage of hindsight, and he’s put some awfully big words in his own mouth,” said the actress, who added that before filming she did not speak to anyone who had known Monroe personally. “I think he says in the book that Marilyn wanted to make love, but he said, ‘Oh, no!’ And you’re like, ‘Oh, sure.’ I’m sure that there was a relationship there. To what extent it was consummated, I don’t know.”

“I was there every day, and I knew what was happening. [Clark] was on the set, and he was a gofer — ‘Hey, I need a cup of coffee,’ or whatever. No one regarded him as anything but a gofer,” said Amy Greene, the widow of Milton Greene, a photographer who was vice president of Monroe’s production company…

Director Simon Curtis and screenwriter Adrian Hodges denied they were ever approached by Greene’s relatives. “The fact that these books were in the public arena and had been cherished by people over the years gave me confidence,” said Curtis. “I have no reason to doubt Colin’s version. Who is to say what happened in those bedrooms on those nights?”

“I never heard anything about the romance. That might be somebody’s illusion. Arthur would not have talked to me about that anyway, if there was an affair,” Copeland said. “But as far as I know, the [other] events they describe are pretty accurate. She was often late and kept people waiting on set. And I know that Arthur found it very difficult to work in that situation.”

But Don Murray, 82, who costarred with Monroe in “Bus Stop,” the film she acted in immediately before “Showgirl,” said he thought a Monroe-Clark romance was conceivable.

“I think that it’s quite possible, because of the disillusionment of her marriage, and she was very, very insecure in her relationships and didn’t really believe in loving forever,” Murray said. “I think it’s quite plausible that something happened and they handled it discreetly.”‘

Don Murray Praises ‘My Week With Marilyn’

Don Murray, who made his screen debut as Marilyn’s leading man in Bus Stop (1956), presented a Best Actress award to Michelle Williams last night at the Hollywood Film Awards. The honour was for Williams’ work in general, and not for one specific role. However, Murray also praised her performance in My Week With Marilyn:

“She created some moments that were so intimately familiar to me because I spent 14 weeks with Marilyn… I know that Michelle studied everything — read every book she could find — about Marilyn… and the amazing thing is that there is not one thing in that film that is not truthful… it was just a revelation… she holds the mirror up to nature and she gets into acting that is beyond acting, that is being… Michelle’s performance made me appreciate Marilyn.”

Accepting the award, Michelle paid tribute to Monroe: “It seems to me that all that Marilyn ever wanted was to be taken seriously as an actress. She studied, she trained harder than me, and she never got the recognition that she deserved and craved. I feel very lucky tonight to experience some of that.”

Murray on Marilyn: Missing Her Marks

“When you worked with Marilyn Monroe [in ‘Bus Stop’, 1956], there was press around all the time. And everyone was so uptight. Like: ‘Is she gonna know her lines? Is she gonna show up on time?’ And she didn’t know her lines, and she didn’t come on time. But there was kinetic energy [during the shoot] from all of this.

We were all theater people and we knew our lines. She couldn’t put three sentences together. She did her scenes over and over, like, up to twenty takes. You had to be at your best, because, whenever she did it right, they might use that take. It was all start, stop, start, stop. We thought the film was a disaster, but the big impression came at a preview  — it was thanks to [director] Josh Logan and [writer] George Axelrod how good the film was.

Marilyn was experienced by then, she had done about 20 films. But she was missing her marks all the time. You know, there are marks — places to stand where the lighting, sound, camera angle are all correct. So the director [Logan] told me, every time [she wanders], put your hands on her hips and move her back into her marks. I was doing this the whole film!”

Don Murray, speaking with Stan Taffel at Cinecon