When Marilyn Met Marlene

Founded in 1969, Andy Warhol’s Interview was the magazine to be seen in for nearly forty years. Although it ceased publication last year, Interview still has an online presence and earlier this week, a snippet from the past was discovered.

“As a notable admirer of Marilyn Monroe’s, Andy Warhol was sure to get some of the juiciest gossip in his celebrity circle. While he was still Editor-in-Chief of Interview, alongside Paul Morissey and Fred Hughes, he buried a drama bomb of information in the ‘Small Talk’ section of the June 1973 issue involving Marlene Dietrich and M.M herself. However, not one of the contributing editors took credit for the gossip; they instead chose to keep the source anonymous … According to the ‘Small Talk’ column, Dietrich attended a screening of one of Monroe’s earlier films and talked through every one of her scenes, mumbling: ‘So this is what they want now. This is what they call sexy.'”

Marlene Dietrich by Eve Arnold, 1952

Eve Arnold, who photographed Marlene at work in a recording studio for Esquire magazine in 1952, recalled that when she later met Marilyn, the subject of Dietrich came up:
“Marilyn asked – with that mixture of naïveté and self-promotion that was uniquely hers – ‘If you could do that well with Marlene, can you imagine what you could do with me?'”

Mariene Dietrich by Milton Greene, 1952

Another photographer who worked with Dietrich was Milton Greene, who later became Marilyn’s business partner. In 1955, he invited Marlene to a New York press conference to announce the formation of their new company, Marilyn Monroe Productions.

Like all stars (Marilyn included), Dietrich was naturally competitive. But although she may have briefly ‘thrown shade’ in Marilyn’s direction – to use a term that didn’t exist back then – there’s no sign of any rancour between them in these photographs.

In 1957, Marilyn was offered the lead role in a remake of The Blue Angel, which had made Marlene a global star many years before. That never came to pass, but a year later, Marilyn would recreate the character in her ‘Fabled Enchantresses’ photo session with Richard Avedon, although out of respect for Dietrich, she later asked the photographer to withdraw the images and they were not made public until long after Marilyn died.

Marilyn poses as Marlene for photographer Richard Avedon, 1958

Marilyn would take a leaf out of Marlene’s playbook again in 1962, asking costumer Jean Louis to recreate the beaded ‘nude’ dress he had made for Dietrich to wear during nightclub performances. Monroe’s version became immortalised that May, when she sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden.

Whatever Marlene’s initial thoughts on Marilyn may have been, she would remember her admiringly, writing in her 1987 memoir: “Marilyn Monroe was an authentic sex symbol, because not only was she ‘sexy’ by nature but she also liked being one – and she showed it.”

All About Marilyn (and Eve) in Italy

Marilyn is featured in Eve Arnold: Tutto Sulle Donne (All About Women), the photographer’s first Italian retrospective, on display at the Casa-Museo Villa Bassi in Abano Terme, Padua until December 8, as Caterina Bellinetti reports for Art & Object magazine.

“During the 1950s and 1960s, Arnold photographed many celebrities—Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, and Andy Warhol—and brought attention to social and political events and personalities, such as the Civil Rights Movement and Malcolm X, and the rise of political figures like Senator Joseph McCarthy. Yet, the focus of Arnold’s work was on women; their struggles, their strengths, and the expectations that society was placing upon them. Over the years, Arnold not only portrayed the conditions of women in America and Britain but also around the world …

Eve Arnold was a woman in a profession dominated by men. She strongly opposed the label of ‘woman photographer’ because she simply wanted to be recognized as a photographer who happened to be a woman. And she was a great photographer. Without her unique way of looking at the world, there would be no record of Marilyn Monroe’s timeless and familiar beauty, of a baby’s first touch with their mothers, the fearless Mongolian girls training horses for the militia, or the exuberant fashion shows in Harlem.”

Marilyn Goes From Grand Marshal to Usherette

These candid photos of Marilyn, taken circa 1961, will go under the hammer at RR Auctions on June 12, as part of their latest Fine Autographs and Artifacts sale.

Although usually credited to Inge Morath, these photos (taken in 1960, during filming of The Misfits) are stamped with the name of Henri Cartier-Bresson, her colleague at the Magnum Photos agency (they visited the set in tandem.)

This wire photo was taken during Marilyn’s visit to the 1952 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. Another photo taken with these young servicewomen caused a minor scandal, as mentioned in the caption. Some more information from the shoot is posted below (although the quote attributed to Marilyn was later refuted by her own publicist in a 1955 interview with the Saturday Evening Post‘s Pete Martin.)

“The low-cut summer dress she was wearing caught the attention of a photographer, who stood on a chair to better capture the outfit’s full effect. Upon seeing the photo, an Army information officer ordered it killed because he did not want to give the parents of potential recruits the ‘wrong impression’ about Army life. Information about the suppression of the photo was leaked to the press and then turned into frontpage news.

‘Leg art’ photo sessions were a never-ending part of Marilyn’s career, and one that she worked at with enthusiasm and good humor.

When asked her opinion of the situation for a story titled ‘Marilyn Wounded by Army Blushoff,’ Marilyn replied in her tongue-in-cheek manner, ‘I am very surprised and very hurt. I wasn’t aware of any objectionable décolletage on my part. I’d noticed people looking at me all day, but I thought they were admiring my Grand Marshal’s badge!'”

Susan Doll, How Stuff Works

Another Misfits photo from Magnum’s Eve Arnold.

One of the distinctive photo manipulations of Arthur ‘Weegee’ Fellig, based on his image of Marilyn at the Racquet Club, Palm Springs in 1949.

This photo of Marilyn with fellow celebrity usher Marlon Brando at the 1955 premiere of The Rose Tattoo comes from the collection of George Zeno, who has contributed to books including James Spada’s Monroe: A Life in Pictures (1982), and Christopher Nickens’ Marilyn in Fashion (2012.)

This photo shows Marilyn arriving at Phoenix Airport to film the rodeo scenes for Bus Stop in 1956.

This classic glamour shot (taken by Frank Powolny in 1953) is inscribed, ‘To Cheryl, Love & kisses, Marilyn Monroe.’

This shot of Marilyn singing alongside pianist Hal Schaefer, taken by John Florea in 1954, is part of a complete first series set of ‘Marilyn Monroe Trade Cards’ in their original packaging, entitled ‘Marilyn and Her Music,’ containing cards #1-20.

UPDATE: View results here

Marilyn’s Letter to Lee Goes Unsold

Marilyn with hairdresser Agnes Flanagan by Eve Arnold, 1960 – sold for
$596.25 at RR Auctions this week

Surprisingly, Marilyn’s 1961 letter to Lee Strasberg failed to reach the $20,000 estimate at the RR Auctions Hollywood sale on Thursday, May 23. A Marilyn-owned black velvet belt, possibly worn in As Young As You Feel, sold for $7,837.50; while her copy of Something To Live By, a self-help book by Dorothea S. Kopplin, fetched $7,730. You can find out more about the winning Marilyn-related lots here; and the full list is over here.

Marilyn’s Letter to Lee On Auction

A letter from Marilyn to Lee Strasberg will be sold online during the Classic Hollywood sale at RR Auctions this Thursday, May 23. While Marilyn talks frankly about her emotional problems and disappointments in life, she also proposed an ambitious plan for her future career. Sadly, her goals would never be realised as she passed away just eight months after the letter was written. It is dated 19 December, 1961, and like other letters from her final years, it was typed (probably by a secretary), and was previously published in the 2010 book, Fragments. Coming from her estate (along with all her personal possessions, 75% was passed on to Lee after she died), it is the first time the letter has gone up for auction with an estimate of $20,000. Further details, including a full transcript, are also available here.

“This is an important personal letter and please don’t start to read it until you have the time to give it your careful thought. This letter concerns my future plans and therefore concerns yours as well since my future development as an artist is based on our working together. All this is an introduction; let me outline the recent events, my ideas and my suggestions.

As you know, for years I have been struggling to find some emotional security with little success, for many different reasons. Only in the last several months, as you detected, do I seem to have made a modest beginning. It is true that my treatment with Dr. Greenson has had its ups and downs, as you know. However, my overall progress is such that I have hopes of finally establishing a piece of ground for myself to stand on, instead of the quicksand I have always been in. But Dr. Greenson agrees with you, that for me to live decently and productively, I must work! And work means not merely performing professionally, but to study and truly devote myself. My work is the only trustworthy hope I have. And here, Lee, is where you come in. To me, work and Lee Strasberg are synonymous. I do not want to be presumptuous in expecting you to come out here for me alone. I have contacted Marlon on this subject and he seems to be quite interested, despite the fact that he is in the process of finishing a movie. I shall talk with him more thoroughly in a day or two.

Furthermore, and this must be kept confidential for the time being, my attorneys and I are planning to set up and [sic] independent production unit, in which we have envisaged an important position for you. This is still in the formative phase, but I am thinking of you in some consultative position or in whatever way you might see fit. I know you will want enough freedom to pursue your teaching and any other private interests you might want to follow.

Though I am committed to my analysis, as painful as it is, I cannot definitively decide, until I hear from you, because without working with you only half of me is functioning. Therefore, I must know under what condition you might consider coming out here and even settling here.

I know this might sound quite fantastic, but if you add up all the possible advantages it should be quite a rewarding venture. I mean not only for Marlon and me—but for others. This independent production unit will also be making pictures without me—this is even required for legal reasons. This will offer an opportunity for Susan if she should be interested and perhaps even for Johnny. And Paula would have a great many opportunities for coaching. As for you, Lee, I still have the dream of you some day directing me in a film! I know this is a big step to take, but I have the wish that you might realize out here some of the incomplete hopes that were perhaps not fulfilled for you, like Lincoln Center, etc.

So I don’t know how else to persuade you. I need you to study with and I am not alone in this. I want to do everything in my power to get you to come out—within reason—as long as it is to your advantage as well as mine. So, Lee, please think this over carefully; this is an awfully important time of my life and since you mentioned on the phone that you too felt things were unsettled, I have dared to hope. I have meetings set up with Marlon and also with my attorneys and will phone you if there are any important new developments. Otherwise, please get in touch with me.”

Also on offer, the 1952-53 editions of Who’s Who in Hollywood, autographed by a multitude of stars, are a treasure trove for movie buffs. Marilyn is listed in the category ‘Super Stars: The Younger Set.’ (EDIT: unsold)

The lamp seen in the restaurant scene from How To Marry a Millionaire (here, with Alex D’Arcy) was used as a prop in other Fox movies, including The Girl Can’t Help It, starring that other fifties blonde, Jayne Mansfield. (EDIT: Unsold)

Small piece of card signed ‘To Joe’, with affixed cutout photo of Marilyn (EDIT: Final price
$2,625.000 )
Photo of Marilyn, signed by Joe DiMaggio (EDIT: Final price
$2,756,25 )
Black velvet belt owned by Marilyn, possibly worn in As Young As You Feel (1951) EDIT: Final price
$7,837.50
Book owned by Marilyn, seen on her bookcase in this 1952 photo (EDIT: Final price
$7, 730.000 )

A number of original photos are also on sale…

Photos from the Hollywood Foreign Correspondents luncheon, 1951 (EDIT: Unsold)
As Cherie in ‘Bus Stop’, 1956 (EDIT: Final price $250.00)
Diptych photo by Eve Arnold, 1960 (EDIT: Final price
$722.50 )
On the same Eve Arnold shoot, with hairdresser Agnes Flanagan (EDIT: Final price
$596.25 )

Italian Novelist Inspired by ‘Hummingbird’ Marilyn

Come Il Volo Di Un Colibri, a novel by Italian author and politician Giovanna Grignaffini, was published in 2016. The title translates as Like The Flight Of A Hummingbird, which is how Marilyn’s acting teacher, Constance Collier, described her elusive presence; and Eve Arnold’s photo of Marilyn on the set of The Misfits graces the cover. The novel – currently only available in Italian – is set in a house in the woods, where five people come together to discuss Marilyn’s mythic life.  Lea Melandri reviewed it for Il Manifesto.

“To remain there, forever hanging on those walls and mirrors, copied and glued to all those books, paintings, backpacks, ‘it took genius,’ is the conclusion of the author: ‘pure feminine genius.’ If Marilyn had had the doubt of being ‘just a fantasy’ – I guess I am a fantasy – the novel of a singular essayist of cinema and writer like Giovanna Grignaffini, who for years has studied and loved her through her films, it returns it to the collective memory, ‘finally’ as the whole body of a woman: inseparable life and cinema.”

Thanks to Marilyn Monroe: Italia

Marilyn Featured in Heritage Photo Sale

This lovely image of Marilyn – captured by Bert Stern in 1962 – is up for grabs on October 12, as part of a photo sale at Heritage Auctions. Marilyn also features in shots by Eve Arnold, Ernst Haas, Inge Morath, Lawrence Schiller, and Milton Greene.

UPDATE:  All six Marilyn-related lots were sold, with a Stern contact sheet and a Schiller photo from the ‘pool scene’ in Something’s Got to Give each attaining a maximum bid of $3,250,000.