Jack Garfein 1930-2019

Jakob Garfein was born into a Jewish family in the former Czechoslovakia in 1930. While he was still a boy, his entire extended family was killed in the Holocaust. After being detained in 11 concentration camps, he was liberated at Bergen-Belsen and in 1946, was one of the first five Holocaust survivors to arrive in the US.

Jack, as he was known, lived with an uncle in New York and studied acting at the Dramatic Workshop. He later joined the American Theatre Wing to study directing with Lee Strasberg. In 1955, he joined the Actors Studio where he met his future wife, actress Carroll Baker. (In 1956, Baker found stardom as Baby Doll, a role Marilyn had wanted. Bearing no ill will, Marilyn helped to promote the film.)

He directed two films: The Strange One (1957), and Something Wild (1961), starring Carroll Baker as a young rape victim held captive by the man who rescued her from suicide. The couple, who had two children, divorced in 1969. Garfein had two more children from his second marriage.

Garfein with his first wife, Carroll Baker (Photo by Peter Elinskas)

Garfein became director of the Actors’ Studio’s Los Angeles branch (which opened in 1966.) In 1978, he founded the Harold Clurman Theatre in New York. He also taught method acting for more than forty years, including at Le Studio Jack Garfein in Paris, and published several books about acting. In 2010 he appeared in The Journey Back, a documentary exploring his wartime experiences.

In August 2019, the 89-year-old Garfein married 42-year-old pianist Natalia Replovsky. The couple had been living together for four years. He died of complications of leukaemia on December 30, 2019.

Garfein shared his memories of Marilyn Monroe in a 2014 interview with film writer Kim Morgan (which you can view here), revealing that Marilyn had approached him at the Actors Studio after Lee Strasberg suggested he accompany her to buy new clothes. She asked Jack to take her hand, but fearing recognition, he declined. After they had stopped in a coffee shop and went unnoticed, he changed his mind.

While trying on clothes in a boutique, Marilyn teased Jack, constantly asking him to zip or button up the dresses. This made him very nervous, but he admitted to Morgan that Marilyn was not being ‘directly seductive’ but merely having fun, ‘a woman enjoying life.’ (She was not involved with Arthur Miller yet, Jack said.)

Marilyn at the East of Eden premiere, 1955

She then walked him home, and when he rather awkwardly said goodbye, she laughed and asked him to call her a taxi. She then kissed him lightly and left. She later asked him to escort her to the East of Eden premiere, but he was unable to do so. He subsequently met her numerous times, the last time being several years later, when she was dining at the La Scala restaurant in Beverly Hills with her publicist, Pat Newcomb.

Jack remarked that he was surprised to see her without a date on a Saturday night. ‘What do you want me to do, Jack?’ she replied. He encouraged her to go to Paris and escape the Hollywood whirl. ‘Would you leave your wife and go with me?’ she asked, and he said no.

She then recalled their trip to the boutique and something he said that day which had stayed with her. ‘Do you remember what it was?’ she asked him. He did not, but pretended he did. ‘You’re lying, Jack,’ she said. He was travelling back from Europe to the US some time later when he heard that Marilyn had died, and his first thought was to wonder again what he had said to her that day. Over the years, friends encouraged him to seek help from a hypnotist, but he never recalled it.

‘She loved the mystery between a man and a woman,’ he said of Marilyn over fifty years later, with fond amusement. Interestingly, Carroll Baker recounted another version of the final encounter with Marilyn – although she didn’t mention Jack being there. However, she did remember an earlier meeting at the Actors Studio, when all the men present (her husband included) swarmed around Marilyn.

John Steinbeck’s Fan Letter to Marilyn

A letter sent by author John Steinbeck to Marilyn in April 1955 (kept in her personal archive, and sold for $3,250 at Julien’s in 2016) has resurfaced on social media in recent days, and is the subject of an article by Karen Strike on the Flashbak photo blog today.

Steinbeck narrated O. Henry’s Full House, the anthology film in which Marilyn appeared in 1952. In March 1955, a month before Steinbeck wrote to Marilyn, she was a ‘celebrity usherette’ at the premiere of East of Eden, the big-screen adaptation of his novel, directed by Elia Kazan and starring James Dean. It was at the after-party where Marilyn’s romance with Arthur Miller began.

Steinbeck wrote to her on behalf of his nephew, Jon Atkinson, an ardent fan. Whether Marilyn granted his request for an autographed photo is unknown, but she clearly appreciated the letter enough to keep it until her dying day. Incidentally, three of Steinbeck’s books were part of her extensive personal library: The Short Reign of Pippin IV, Once There Was a War, and Tortilla Flat, set in Monterey where she had filmed Clash By Night in 1952. (Steinbeck was only one of many eminent figures who corresponded with Marilyn; to learn more, I recommend Lois Banner’s MM – Personal.)

“In my whole experience I have never known anyone to ask for an autograph for himself. It is always for a child or an ancient aunt, which gets very tiresome as you know better than I. It is therefore, with a certain nausea that I tell you that I have a nephew-in-law … he has a foot in the door of puberty, but that is only one of his problems. You are the other. …  I know that you are not made of ether, but he doesn’t. … Would you send him, in my care, a picture of yourself, perhaps in pensive, girlish mood, inscribed to him by name and indicating that you are aware of his existence. He is already your slave. This would make him mine. If you will do this, I will send you a guest key to the ladies’ entrance of Fort Knox.”

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!

Marilyn, the Traffic Cop, and More

A photograph signed by Marilyn to avoid a speeding ticket will be auctioned at a starting price of $4,000, Metro reports. Los Angeles traffic cop Roy Garrett (now deceased) made a habit of acquiring autographs from movie stars with bad driving skills.  Marilyn inscribed the photo, ‘To Roy, love and kisses. Thanks for keeping me out of the clink.’

Other stars in Mr Garrett’s ‘rogue’s gallery’ are Errol Flynn, Jimmy Stewart, Greta Garbo, Ginger Rogers and Dean Martin. ‘The Marilyn Monroe one is a real gem,’ says Margaret Barrett of Heritage Auctions. ‘She only signed photos for people she knew and not random strangers.’

A 1959 letter from playwright William Inge (author of Bus Stop)

 

Marilyn after the East Of Eden premiere, 1955

The Entertainment and Music Memorabilia Sale, organised by Heritage Auctions, will be held in Beverly Hills on July 24. Other Monroe-related items include a pink Pucci blouse, a note from playwright William Inge, and rare photos from Korea and the East of Eden premiere.

Marilyn in Korea, 1954

UPDATE: Here are some of the winning bids…

Photo inscribed to Roy Garrett: $31,250

Marilyn’s last check: $15,000 (see here)

Pink Pucci blouse: $12,500

Usherette to the Stars


Marilyn with friends, comedian Milton Berle and singer Sammy Davis Jr, at the New York premiere of East of Eden (1955), a benefit for the Actor’s Studio.

Featured in Up From the Vault, an exhibition from the Warner Bros Photo Lab archives, running September 16 – December 30 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Los Angeles.

East of Eden, based on John Steinbeck’s novel and starring James Dean, was a Warners production, directed by another of Marilyn’s circle, Elia Kazan.

Marilyn herself appeared in just one Warners film, when the studio co-produced The Prince and the Showgirl (1957.)