Did Elizabeth Taylor Reach Out to Marilyn?

In Charles Casillo’s new biography, Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon – due out this month – he claims that Marilyn’s alleged rivalry with Elizabeth Taylor was a myth, as Closer reports.  His source isn’t named here but hopefully the book will tell us more, as it’s a nice story. (And you can read my tribute to  Marilyn and Elizabeth here.)

“They were two of the biggest female sex symbols of the 50s and early 60s, but Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor didn’t consider each other competitors. ‘In many ways [they] were pitted against each other by the press,’ Charles Casillo writes. ‘In reality, they barely knew each other, and the two had no animosity toward each other.’

Quite the opposite! Casillo writes of an incident in 1962, when 20th Century Fox was bleeding money on Liz’s over-budgeted extravaganza Cleopatra. The studio simultaneously fired Marilyn for alleged absences from the set of her never-completed final film, the aptly titled Something’s Got to Give.

Marilyn felt she was being sacrificed so Fox could save on her salary and spend it on finishing the bloated Egyptian epic. Two decades later, Liz revealed to a friend that she had reached out to Marilyn to offer her support during this difficult period.

‘Liz told Marilyn she was willing to publicly demonstrate her solidarity,’ Casillo says, offering to quit Cleopatra unless Marilyn was rehired. ‘Marilyn was very moved by Liz’s kindness toward her, but she didn’t want to make matters worse for either of them,’ so she declined the generous offer.

Instead, Liz gave Marilyn an invaluable piece of advice. ‘No matter what they write about me, Marilyn, I never deny it,’ Casillo quotes Liz as saying. ‘I never confirm it. I just keep smiling and walking forward. You do the same.’ Tragically, Marilyn didn’t live long enough to put those words into action.”

French Author On Marilyn’s Last Picture Show

Olivier Rajchman’s Hollywood Ne Repond Plus (Hollywood Unresponsive) is a new book in French exploring the crisis at Twentieth Century Fox in 1962, focusing on three films made that year: the scandalous Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor and helmed by Joe Mankiewicz; Darryl F. Zanuck’s magnum opus, The Longest Day; and Marilyn’s last movie, the ill-fated Something’s Got to Give. It is available now in paperback and via Kindle.

Thanks to Eric Patry 

Kirkland Exhibit in Perth, Australia

Douglas Kirkland’s touring exhibit, Icons and Idols, features four images from his 1961 photo shoot with Marilyn among 22 shots spanning his long career. It is on display until November 13 at There Is, a gallery in the Northbridge district of Perth, Australia. In an interview with Perth Now, Kirkland reflected on his life as a celebrity photographer.

“He says the entertainment industry has changed ‘like night and day’ from the beginning of his career.

‘This is a different, a vastly different star system today,’ Kirkland says. ‘Social media and the internet have produced more celebrities than at the beginning of my career and I’ve been doing this since the beginning of the ’60s.’

‘People like Elizabeth Taylor and Monroe were the giants then. Today you can only think of Angelina Jolie and another 20 or 30 with staying power but they are not as big as, say, Elizabeth was or Marilyn.’

‘Now, business is money driven, but the access to celebrities is much more limited and controlled. The people who work with stars want to say where they will be and when the photo will be used.'”

Speaking with Australian Vogue, Kirkland reflected on how his images of Marilyn have become iconic since they were taken 55 years ago.

What was it like to photograph Marilyn?

It was thrilling, frightening and exhilarating. I was very young and frankly I wondered if I was in over my head. The session was charged with sexual energy and the results all went into the camera, as the images can tell.

Were you expecting the reaction to the photograph that it received?

Actually the reaction to the Marilyn Monroe photographs came much later. I had no idea at the time that these would become some of my most iconic and sought after images.

Elizabeth Taylor, however, was the one who was instrumental in establishing my career as a celebrity photographer. I looked into her violet eyes and said to her ‘I am new with this magazine, could you imagine what it would mean to me if you gave me an opportunity to photograph you?’ She thought for a moment and nodded as said ‘Come tomorrow night at 7’oclock’.

She had not been seen for a while and the images from the cover session for Look magazine in 1961 went worldwide and catapulted my career.”

Liz and Marilyn in Toronto

Marilyn in Let’s Make Love (1960)

The TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto is screening a series of movies starring Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn this month, including almost every major Monroe film from Don’t Bother to Knock to The Misfits. This is a tie-in with a current exhibition, Andy Warhol: Stars of the Silver Screen, on display until January 24, 2016.

“One raven-haired, the other blindingly blonde, the actresses form a kind of dark/light chiaroscuro — a term mostly inappropriate to Warhol’s jewel-toned, flatly rendered paintings and silkscreens of the two. Dissimilar in image and sensibility (one vulnerable, the other seemingly invincible), Liz and Marilyn were nevertheless sisters in notoriety by the time Warhol turned them into icons of Pop Art — Monroe for perishing young, quite possibly a suicide, Taylor for her unapologetic avarice in accumulating husbands, lovers, jewels, and the highest salary ever paid an actress, all with ferocious alacrity. Their shared talent for scandal and reputations as miscreants on set — ‘No company can afford Monroe and Taylor,’ a spokesman for 20th Century Fox stated after Monroe was fired from Something’s Got to Give — were equalled, for Warhol, by their ability to make the screen shimmer with an ineffable allure. If, as he famously averred, ‘beauty is a sign of intelligence’, no stars were brighter.”

You can read more about Liz, Marilyn and Warhol here.

More About ‘Liz and Marilyn’

Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn, the current exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York, has been favourably reviewed by the Daily Beast‘s Emily Shire.

“The exhibition features soundless footage of Monroe as a glowing bride in a relatively informal white dress and short veil enjoying a small reception at the home of Miller’s agent, Kay Brown, in Katonah, New York, hours after that ceremony.

The exhibition is rather small, a single room that takes no more than 30 to 40 minutes to fully explore. But the space fosters a sense of intimacy, enhancing the deeply personal revelations about two of the most famous and photographed women in American history.

While the exhibition includes clips of Miller and Monroe arm-in-arm at press conferences and plenty of photos of them, it doesn’t capture the same sense of gushing affection that is so apparent between [Mike] Todd and Taylor.

Fewer markers of Monroe’s connection to Judaism are on display, though the ones present are quite special.

One that particular stands out is Monroe’s beautiful, simple musical menorah, which played the Israeli national anthem, ‘Hatikvah.’

There is less information or, for that matter, evidence of Monroe’s connection to Judaism after her marriage to Miller ended in 1961—though that may very well be a sad consequence of the little life she had left to live.

Nevertheless, according to letters from Rabbi Robert E. Goldburg, who oversaw Monroe’s conversion, the blond bombshell told him she had no intention of renouncing Judaism after the divorce.

She also, apparently, remained very close to Miller’s children and father until her passing.

Becoming Jewish features two detailed letters from Goldburg: one from September 7, 1962, barely a month after Monroe was found dead, and another from August 6, 1986. His descriptions of Monroe provide a new perspective on one of the most iconic and enduring celebrities.

Goldburg wrote about his first time meeting Monroe at her apartment on Sutton Place after Miller invited him and how he was ‘struck by her personal sweetness and charm.’

Unlike Taylor’s draw to Judaism, Monroe’s does not necessarily seem driven by a romantic-related desire.

Goldburg’s letters describe how Marilyn expressed her respect for Jewish individuals. Albert Einstein and his book of essays, Out of My Later Years, were especially significant to her.

Goldburg also wrote that she felt no connection to the ‘Fundamentalist’ Christianity she was raised with in her foster home. Instead, she was attracted to Judaism’s ‘concept of close family life.’

Perhaps most eerily poignant to those of us who have poured of the tragic details of Monroe’s short life—from her tattered childhood to her struggles to be taken seriously as an actress to her failure to conceive the children she so wanted—is Goldburg’s line that Monroe sought Judaism because she ‘often identified with the underdog.’

‘I have always felt that she was an extremely lovely person who was not able to overcome the terrible emotional burdens, which were a part of her childhood and which were aggravated by her tremendous fame,’ Goldburg wrote.”

Love and Loss: Marilyn and Frank

100 Years Sinatra: The Legend and the Voice, a large, glossy UK magazine special celebrating Frank Sinatra’s centenary, includes a two-page spread about his romance with MM, written by Glenn Dunks and featuring a rare photo of Marilyn attending a Sinatra concert at Las Vegas nightspot The Sands in 1961, which appears to show Elizabeth Taylor in the background. Available now at WH Smith.

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn

Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn, a new exhibition at New York’s Jewish Museum, explores the parallels between Marilyn and Elizabeth Taylor, who both converted to Judaism, and Andy Warhol’s fascination with the cult of celebrity.

As Flavorpill reports, the exhibition (opening on September 25, through to February 7, 2016) is divided into three sections – Celebrity, Conversion, and Myth & Legend.

The New York Observer reveals that Marilyn’s Menorah will be on display, alongside two 1962 paintings by Warhol, ‘Mint Marilyn’ and ‘Blue Liz’, as well as two print portraits of the women, and assorted photographs, letters, and ephemera.

The Perils of Photoshop

Marilyn by Ed Clark, 1950

False Images = Faulty Facts‘, an article posted by John Greco on his excellent Twenty-Four Frames blog today, takes a look at the problem of Photoshopped images. This photo of Marilyn alone, taken by Ed Clark at Griffith Park in 1950, was interpolated into a Richard C. Miller picture of James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor relaxing during filming of Giant in 1955.

While it may seem like harmless fun, these images are too often taken as genuine, and are circulated around the internet – thus rewriting a small slice of history. With so many misunderstandings about Marilyn already in existence, these pictures are witlessly damaging her legacy.

Marilyn, Monty and Liz

Entertainment writer Liz Smith pays tribute to Montgomery Clift in her latest post for New York Social Diary.

“I didn’t know Montgomery Clift but when I was a young movie magazine editor for something called Modern Screen I often begged the editor-in-chief to write about him. I knew he was talented. But the editors stuck with Tony Curtis.

I went on to know more about Clift because my straight brother, Bobby, worked as a waiter in a gay cafe on Christopher Street. He often served Clift and always told me after about how unhappy he seemed. “He gave big tips!” said Bobby, who even then had a live-and-let-live attitude.

I finally saw Montgomery Clift in person, with Marilyn Monroe, at the New York premiere of The Misfits. They sat right in front of me, enjoying each other like real friends. I was mostly stunned by how gorgeous she looked in a black fox fur. It was a privilege to see them even once.

As you know, Elizabeth Taylor, too, loved Monty and took a lot of care of him through their experiences on A Place in The Sun, Raintree County (she saved his life after his terrible car accident) and Suddenly Last Summer. Elizabeth also put up the insurance money for Monty to co-star with her in Reflections In a Golden Eye. But he died just before production began. Marlon Brando, in all his mannered glory, took the role.)

However, after working with Monroe in The Misfits Monty declared, ‘I would rather work with Marilyn than any other actress.'”