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.

Roll Call for Magnum (and Marilyn)

Writing for the Mutual Art website, Jordan Mitchell explores the history of the Magnum Photos agency through ten iconic photographers. Marilyn is mentioned in relation to Eve Arnold (see above), but three more of the other artists also photographed her on the set of The Misfits

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Bruce Davidson

Inge Morath

Marilyn’s Misfits at the Christmas Tree Inn

Photo by Eve Arnold

The former Christmas Tree Inn & Casino in Nevada, where Marilyn and the Misfits crew partied on October 17, 1960 – will reopen under new management and a new name, as Jonathan L. Wright reports for the Reno Gazette-Journal.

“Chef Colin and MaryBeth Smith are heading for the hills. The couple, owners of Roundabout Catering … just purchased Tannenbaum Event Center, tucked in the pines halfway up Mount Rose Highway.

The business, to be called Tannenbaum by Roundabout, occupies a landmark property where the Christmas Tree restaurant sat for nearly 60 years before being reborn as Tannenbaum in 2005 after extensive renovations.

The Christmas Tree opened as a bar in 1946; it became a restaurant in 1947. The place became known for its panoramic views of Washoe Valley, its warm fire and its steaks grilled over mahogany. In the 1950s and early 1960s, celebrities visiting or performing in Reno and at Lake Tahoe frequently stopped by the Christmas Tree.

From the mid-1960s on, the Christmas Tree experienced a fire and rebuilding, a foreclosure, a reopening after sitting empty for a bit, and several changes of ownership. The restaurant closed for good in 2003. The next year, the Nobis family purchased the property and remade it into Tannenbaum Event Center.

MaryBeth Smith recalled eating at the Christmas Tree in the late 1990s when she first moved to the area. ‘They had the mahogany steak on the menu, so we might do some pop-up restaurants here that serve the mahogany steaks. It will be our remembrance of the Christmas Tree.'”

As Gary Vitacco-Robles writes in Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, this was the Millers’ last public outing as a married couple, and so the memories were bittersweet.

“The company hosted a surprise birthday party for Miller, turning forty-five, and Monty Clift, five years younger, on the following Monday evening at the Christmas Tree Inn & Casino. The event also served as a wrap party. Clift told [Ralph] Roberts that the evening was a highlight of his life, and sadly, this was a true statement. Within two years, Clift experienced a major depressive episode and lived virtually as a hermit …

Marilyn, in a pearl dress from the party she hosted for Yves Montand before the start of Let’s Make Love, sat beside Clift and expertly twirled fettuccini alfredo on a spoon as only the former wife of an Italian-American could. Russell Metty made the toast: ‘… Why don’t you wish [Arthur] a happy birthday, Marilyn? This truly is the biggest bunch of misfits I ever saw.’ Marilyn smiled but shook her head in negation. After dinner, the party gambled in the casino. At the roulette table, Marilyn teamed with Eve Arnold. [John] Huston handed Marilyn a pair of green dice.

‘What should I ask the dice for, John?’ she asked.

‘Don’t think, honey, just throw,’ Huston replied. ‘That’s the story of your life. Don’t think, do it.'”

Thoughts on Marilyn, Ulysses, and Poetry

Vintage website Flashbak has compiled transcripts of Marilyn’s poetry, as well as a list of the 430 books she owned (first posted here on ES Updates, of course!) They have also included a quote from the English novelist Jeannette Winterson about Eve Arnold’s famous photos of Marilyn reading Ulysses.

“This is so sexy, precisely because it’s Marilyn reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. She doesn’t have to pose, we don’t even need to see her face, what comes off the photo is absolute concentration, and nothing is sexier than absolute concentration. There she is, the goddess, not needing to please her audience or her man, just living inside the book. The vulnerability is there, but also something we don’t often see in the blonde bombshell; a sense of belonging to herself. It’s not some Playboy combination of brains and boobs that is so perfect about this picture; it is that reading is always a private act, is intimate, is lover’s talk, is a place of whispers and sighs, unregulated and usually unobserved. We are the voyeurs, it’s true, but what we’re spying on is not a moment of body, but a moment of mind. For once, we’re not being asked to look at Marilyn, we’re being given a chance to look inside her.”