Bruce Dern is a veteran actor who, at 77, won the Best Actor award at Cannes this year for his role in Nebraska. He began his career in New York during the 1950s, as he recalled in an interview for Hitfix:
“Nearly half a century ago, Marilyn Monroe confided in a young Bruce Dern an opinion of the actor passed to her by Actors Studio founder Elia Kazan, or ‘Gadge’ as they all knew him. ‘He’s not going to be a leading man,’ the famed director said, ‘because he’ll be into his 60s before anyone knows what he’s capable of.'”
Dern’s screen debut was in Kazan’s Wild River (1960), starring Montgomery Clift. Marilyn was offered the female lead, but at Kazan’s insistence, the part was played instead by Lee Remick.
Making The Fall is a new book by Richard D. Meyer, who worked closely with Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan on their 1964 production of Miller’s controversial play, After the Fall – which many felt was based on Miller’s troubled marriage to Marilyn. (Shar Daws wrote an excellent essay on the play, which you can read at Loving Marilyn.)
The blurb for Making The Fall goes like this:
“An intimate account of Elia Kazan and Arthur Miller working together on After the Fall, Miller’s autobiographical play about Marilyn Monroe.
Lincoln Center’s Repertory Theater opened in 1964 with the premiere of Arthur Miller’s After the Fall, an explosive play about Miller’s personal life with an emphasis on his marriage to Marilyn Monroe.
Richard D. Meyer’s book, Making the Fall, is a first-hand account of that production, starting with initial meetings and rehearsals, all the way through the final performances.
The book offers the unique perspective of a newcomer on the scene, taking in every detail. It includes verbatim conversations between Miller, Kazan, and the cast, as well as excerpts from Kazan’s personal notes and letters.
As a director and theater scholar, Meyer delves into the play’s deeper theme, how it reflects the lives of those involved (and represented) in the play, and its impact on the American public.
Making the Fall is an in-depth, up-personal account of a historical year in American theater. It will appeal not only to theater buffs but to anyone interested in the complex tangle of relationships between Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe, and Elia Kazan.”
Martha Coigney, who worked at the Actor’s Studio in the late 1950s, recalls meeting Marilyn Monroe in an interview with the Moscow Times. (Director Elia Kazan is named as the teacher here – he was a founder of the Actors Studio, as well as Marilyn’s friend. By the time Marilyn joined, Lee Strasberg was the head teacher. Kazan was less active but still connected to the Studio, and probably kept a protective eye on Marilyn.)
“One of Coigney’s many tasks at the Actors Studio was to stop students who arrived late for class from entering the room until the first break. Monroe, whom Coigney recalls as a ‘lovely, sensitive woman that Hollywood typecast terribly,’ was invariably among that group.
Elia Kazan, the director conducting Monroe’s class, resolved to make an exception for the popular Hollywood actress. ‘When Marilyn arrives late, just let her in,’ he once told Coigney.
‘I can’t do that,’ Coigney told him. ‘I can’t make everyone else sit and wait and let her go in alone.’
‘Just do it,’ Kazan said.
But Coigney would not. When Marilyn invariably arrived late, Coigney would open the door, let Marilyn in and then invite the rest of the late students to enter with her.
This caused Kazan to have a private talk with the actress.
The next morning Coigney arrived at her usual early hour to open the studio and get it ready for the day’s work. A few minutes later Marilyn Monroe showed up.
‘What are you doing here so early?’ Coigney asked in surprise.
‘Kazan said he knew I would never come on time,’ Monroe explained. ‘But he said, Can’t you come early instead of late? So here I am.’ After a pause, Monroe added, ‘As long as I’m here, is there anything I can do to help?’
‘Sure,’ Coigney said, ‘you can help me wash the dishes.’
Monroe happily joined in cleaning plates and glasses.”