Marilyn Goes Global

A series of lurid allegations from celebrity muckraker Darwin Porter’s forthcoming book, Marilyn at Rainbow’s End, are published in this week’s Globe. Most of these rumours are nothing new, and some I find hardly believable. You can read the article here.

Among his claims are that Marilyn had lesbian affairs with Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich and Elizabeth Taylor; that Marilyn aborted JFK’s lovechild; and that she had an ’emotional hotel summit’ with first lady Jackie Kennedy days before her death.

Liz Smith on Schiller, Marilyn

Over at Huffington Post, veteran columnist Liz Smith shares her thoughts on the new Vanity Fair spread – and Monroe’s supposed rivalry with Elizabeth Taylor:

‘As it always happens–especially with Marilyn–what Schiller said about the shoot, and Monroe, fifty years ago, has altered considerably. The passage of time has improved his memory.

Initially, in the wake of the photo-shoot, Marilyn cheerfully and casually remarked to Schiller, “Oh, I’ll be so happy to see all those covers with me, instead of Liz!” A remark any actress in 1962 might have made, looking at the reams of publicity Taylor was generating from her Roman love affair with Richard Burton.

But now Schiller piles it on, saying Marilyn told Life magazine that there was to be no mention of Taylor anywhere in the magazine, in the issue in which, she, Monroe, appeared. Absurd. No actor had such power over Life magazine. They would have told her to take her naked tush to Look, and see if she fared better there…

Some other “Marilyn” quotes are dodgy as well. But who’ll be reading anyway? The pictures are lovely.’

Marilyn in the Age of the Hourglass

Marilyn on the set of ‘Let’s Make Love’, 1960 (photo by Richard C. Miller)

The recent passing of both Jane Russell and Elizabeth Taylor has stirred up nostalgia for the voluptuous sirens of the fifties – none more celebrated, of course, than Marilyn Monroe…

“In the hip, the bosom, the hair: More was more. Two curves were an hourglass. The arms carried a little flesh…

Lots of women, lots of movie stars were built like Taylor, full-figured, untoned, and uninhibited, with Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, and Gina Lollobrigida completing an unmatched Trinity of mid-20th-century bodaciousness. From France, in the 1960s, there were Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve.

Jane Russell died on the last day of February, meaning that, in less than a month, the movies lost two of its last legendarily heavenly bodies. In 1953, Russell and Monroe, the strapping brunette and the iconic blonde, left their footprints, handprints, and signatures alongside each other at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Russell and the Trinity embodied male sex fantasies while appearing to play shrewd roles in their own objectification. The gaze only made them stronger, which is what some exotic entertainers mention when talking about the thrill of their work…

It’s not just our feelings about stardom that have changed in the last 50 years. It’s our idea of the body. One of the joys of watching AMC’s Mad Men’ is the arch pleasure it takes in the archetypal body of the 1960s woman. The camera doesn’t ogle the hourglasses and pear shapes. It seems to study them with a kind of documentary care…”

Wesley Morris, Boston Globe

Capote on Marilyn, Elizabeth

In tribute to Elizabeth Taylor, The Telegraph has published a 1974 essay by Truman Capote on the great star. He made some interesting references to Marilyn as well:

‘At this point I recalled a conversation I’d once had with Marilyn Monroe (not that I’m making a comparison between Taylor and Monroe; they were different birds, the first being a take-or-leave-it professional, the other a morbidly uncertain, naturally gifted primitive). But Monroe’s moral attitude was similar: “I don’t believe in casual sex. Right or wrong, if I go for a guy, I feel I ought to marry him. I don’t know why. Stupid, maybe. But that’s just the way I feel. Or if not that, then it should have meaning. Other than something only physical. Funny, when you think of the reputation I have. And maybe deserve. Only I don’t think so. Deserve it, I mean. People just don’t understand what can happen to you. Without your real consent at all. Inside consent.” ‘

Another, lesser-known quality that Elizabeth shared with Marilyn was a love of literature:

‘The second surprise was how well-read Taylor seemed to be – not that she made anything of it, or posed as an intellectual, but clearly she cared about books and, in haphazard style, had absorbed a large number of them. And she discussed them with considerable understanding of the literary process…’

Capote concludes that Monroe, Taylor, and Judy Garland, despite their differences, were all risk-taskers:

‘… Not like Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland, both of whom had yearned to go over the horizon, some darker rainbow, and before succeeding, had attempted the voyage innumerable times. And yet there was some common thread between these three, Taylor, Monroe, Garland – I knew the last two fairly well, and yes, there was something. An emotional extremism, a dangerously greater need to be loved than to love, the hotheaded willingness of an incompetent gambler to throw good money after bad.’

‘Elizabeth Taylor’ is also published in A Capote Reader, alongside Capote’s portrait of Marilyn, ‘A Beautiful Child’.

‘The Girl’ and Eddie Fisher

“I have the biggest thing for Eddie Fisher…”

So says Marilyn Monroe as ‘The Girl’ in The Seven Year Itch (1955.) One of the most popular singers of the post-war era, Fisher’s career was later overshadowed by his messy love life (as Liz Smith noted in her column yesterday.)

He also starred with then-wife Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8 (1960), and was the father of actress and novelist, Carrie Fisher (his daughter from a previous marriage to another movie star, Debbie Reynolds.)

Marilyn met Eddie Fisher for real at least once, in 1961, when he performed at The Sands, Las Vegas, alongside Frank Sinatra.

Fisher died last week in Berkley, California, of complications following hip surgery. He was 82.

Thanks to Robert Siney