Marilyn Movie Series at Ripley’s Orlando

Wardrobe test for ‘The Seven Year Itch’

Ripley’s Museum in Orlando, Florida is organising several events alongside the current display of Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday’ dress, including a lookalike contest and screenings of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Some Like It Hot and The Seven Year Itch in December – more details here.

Marilyn’s Golden Earrings at Julien’s

Two pairs of earrings worn by Marilyn in Frank Powolny’s iconic publicity shots for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes will be auctioned on November 18, as part of a sale from the estate of legendary jewellery designer Joseff of Hollywood at Julien’s. Also coming up this month is the Entertainment Signatures sale at Heritage Auctions on November 11.

UPDATE: The gold-plated earrings have sold for a staggering $112,500; while the pair with simulated pearls fetched a none-too-shabby $81,250.

George Chakiris On Working With Marilyn

George Chakiris, the perenially youthful actor, dancer and choreographer, who worked with Marilyn at the start of his movie career in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and There’s No Business Like Show Business, and has spoken fondly of her at several memorial services, has shared his memories with Stephanie Nolasco for Fox News.

“‘She was so intensely concentrated on her work,’ Chakiris told Fox News. ‘She was very quiet. She didn’t speak with anyone, not to be rude, but she was just so concentrated on her work.’

‘Whenever they cut [a scene] for any reason, she didn’t go to the mirror or her dressing room. She went right back to her starting position and was ready to shoot the number again or that portion of it… She was just so strikingly beautiful. She had such fair skin.’

‘I remember one time… Jack Cole was facing Marilyn and behind him, also facing Marilyn was Natasha Lytess,’ recalled Chakiris. ‘But he didn’t know Natasha was behind him. And I guess he was giving Marilyn some kind direction and Natasha was very slowly shaking her head. It looked like, Pay no attention to what he’s telling you, I’ll tell you later. But Marilyn Monroe was wonderfully polite to the both of them.’

‘I know there are those other stories, of course,’ explained Chakiris. ‘But the thing that I noticed was her courtesy, how wonderfully quiet she was, how her main concern was her work… I really admired that… She never made a big, loud entrance.’

‘I always thought that in spite of what anybody said about her in any way, shape or form, I always felt [that] in her heart she was kind. There was a sweetness to her… I respect who she was and what she was trying to do… When you see her in a movie, any movie she’s in, your eyes always go to her… She’s so gifted, I think. She’s musically gifted.’

‘Some Like It Hot’ Tops BBC Comedy Poll

Almost 60 years after its release, Some Like It Hot has topped a BBC Culture poll of the 100 Greatest Comedy Films. (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes also made the list, at No. 87.) Nicholas Barber has an insightful take on  the enduring appeal of Billy Wilder’s classic farce…

“It is structured so meticulously that it glides from moment to moment with the elegance of an Olympic figure skater, and the consummate screwball dialogue, by Wilder and IAL Diamond, is so polished that every line includes either a joke, a double meaning, or an allusion to a line elsewhere in the film. To quote one character, it’s a riot of ‘spills, thrills, laughs and games’. To quote another, it deserves to be ‘the biggest thing since the Graf Zeppelin’. So why was it chosen as the best comedy ever made? Simple. What else were we going to choose?

There’s more to Some Like It Hot than its sparkling surface, though. As well as being a romantic comedy, a buddy movie, a crime caper, and a musical, the film is an anthem in praise of tolerance, acceptance, and the possibility of transformation. It’s an anthem that we need to hear now more than ever.

One of the film’s many twists is that when Sugar meets Junior on the beach, he doesn’t throw himself at her. He plays hard to get. Sugar tells him that her band specialises in hot jazz, but he sniffs, ‘Well, I guess some like it hot. But personally, I prefer classical music.’ Sugar doesn’t miss a beat. She claims to have ‘spent three years at the Sheboygan Conservatory of Music’ – a claim she overheard Joe/Josephine making the previous night. ‘Good school,’ murmurs Joe/Junior. Sugar, he realises, is just as adept at lying as he is.

In summary, Some Like It Hot is the story of people who lie and cheat in order to con other people into bed or out of their cash. Wilder has a reputation for dark, cynical films (see also Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity), and Some Like It Hot could be categorised as one of them. But it has so much warmth that it carries the viewer upwards like a hot-air balloon. Rather than condemning its unscrupulous anti-heroes, it respects them and sympathises with them in a way which must have seemed radical in 1959, and which seems more radical nearly six decades later.

Just imagine how the film’s scenario would be treated in a Hollywood comedy today. Joe and Jerry would be punished for their deceit. Sugar would have to catch Joe out, and he would have to apologise, and the viewer would have to sit through a montage of their shared misery before she forgave him …

Some Like It Hot is too buoyant to be brought down to earth by such prissiness. When Sugar learns that Joe has been tricking her, she runs straight into his arms. When Osgood learns that Jerry has been tricking him, he doesn’t bat an eyelid. The message is that there is nothing wrong with faking it until you make it. Experimenting with a new identity can help you become a better, happier person. It can help you survive. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll find someone who accepts you for whomever you want to be – perfect or otherwise.

It’s a boldly inclusive message, but it’s one that must have been close to the film-makers’ hearts. After all, several of them had reinvented themselves, just as the characters do: emigrating from Germany (in Wilder’s case) and Romania (in Diamond’s), distancing themselves from their hardscrabble pasts in Californian foster homes (in Monroe’s case) and on the streets of the Bronx (in Curtis’s). For a frantic farce about two cross-dressers on the run from prohibition-era mobsters, Some Like It Hot is a strikingly personal, even semi-autobiographical film.”

On the Waterfront: Marilyn and John Garfield

Three years after their encounter on the set of We Were Strangers (see here), Marilyn and John Garfield were early contenders for the lead roles in On the Waterfront, according to Marilyn’s photographer friend, Sam Shaw, who was then developing it as a screenplay. (Director Elia Kazan denied all of this, but Al Ryelander, then a press agent for Columbia Studios, insisted the story was accurate.)

By 1952, Marilyn’s star was rising –  but Garfield’s career was destroyed, after he refused to ‘name names’ to the House Un-American Activities Committee, and became the most famous victim of the ‘red-baiting’ era. He died of a heart attack months later, aged 37. Author Robert Knott retold the story, which also touches on Marilyn’s relationships with Kazan and future husband Arthur Miller, in He Ran All the Way: The Life of John Garfield (2003.)

On the Waterfront was released to acclaim in 1954, starring Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint. Ironically, the film can be seen as director Elia Kazan’s self-justification for his own decision to name names. One can only imagine how different Marilyn’s subsequent career might have been had she played the role of demure Edie Doyle…

‘On the Waterfront’ (1954)

“Shaw gave Monroe the script while she was in New York to take in the Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Monroe read the script and passed it on to her lover, Elia Kazan. Shaw, who called himself a ‘half-assed observer at the Actors Studio,’ had met Kazan on the set of the 1950 film Panic in the Streets. ‘Kazan had heard about my script (before Monroe gave it to him) and wanted to see it,’ Shaw said. ‘I wouldn’t give it to him, because he was involved with Arthur Miller on a similar project, The Hook.’ But after Monroe gave Kazan the script, the director called Shaw. ‘You’ve got an interesting script, but it needs a lot of work,’ he told Shaw. ‘Let Budd Schulberg work on it.’ Shaw, seeing the merit in Kazan’s suggestion, raised $40,000 to pay Schulberg to work on the script. According to Shaw, at this point Jack Cohn turned the script over to Sam Spiegel … Within a year Kazan, Spiegel and Schulberg were preparing the film for Columbia Pictures with Marlon Brando … By that point, neither Shaw nor Garfield were involved in any way.”

Marilyn Digs For Gold in Adelaide

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire – two of Marilyn’s best comedy vehicles, released consecutively in 1953 and featuring strong female casts, gleefully sending up gold-digger  tropes  – will be screened as a double bill at the Capri Theatre in the Goodwood district of Adelaide, south Australia from 2pm on August 20.

Marilyn Returns to the Chinese Theater

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes will be screened at the TCL Chinese Theater (formerly Grauman’s Chinese) on Thursday, August 3, as part of the memorial week activities organised by Los Angeles-based fanclub Marilyn Remembered to commemorate the 55th anniversary of her death. George Chakiris, who danced with Marilyn in the classic musical comedy, will be a special guest. Tickets are going fast, so if you’d like to attend, book here.

Marilyn herself visited the Chinese Theater many times as a child, and famously signed her name in cement outside the venue alongside co-star Jane Russell shortly after the enormous success of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1953. The original, rather risqué costume for her signature ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ number, and another Travilla gown (not seen in the movie, but subsequently worn by Marilyn at public events) will be displayed on the night, courtesy of collector and Marilyn Remembered founder Greg Schreiner.

For more information on the Marilyn Remembered itinerary for this year’s memorial week, click here.

When Jane Met Marilyn…

In Scotland’s Sunday Post this weekend, Craig Campbell looks back at the life of Marilyn’s most congenial co-star, Jane Russell, who would have turned 96 this week. The article was first published in the June 17 issue of Weekly News – and you can read my own tribute to Jane at Immortal Marilyn.

“This most-unusual woman, by Hollywood standards, also started a weekly Bible study group, something she would invite a most-unexpected guest to in years to come.

Jane was an established star by the time that she made Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1953 with the most-famous blonde of them all — but her opposite number certainly hadn’t yet attained iconic status.

Already an ‘old, established broad who’d been around’, Jane felt Marilyn Monroe might like to come to some faith discussions, but the idea didn’t quite click.

‘At that time, Marilyn didn’t even have her own dressing-room, which sounds insane now!’ Jane laughed. ‘She only got one for that movie.’

‘She was super-sensitive, had her feelings hurt a lot, and the guys around the studio weren’t exactly tactful.’

‘We had a group called The Hollywood Christian Group, and I asked Marilyn along.’

‘She did say the next day: It’s not for me!’

What both leading ladies did have in common, however, was movie success … Jane’s razor-sharp wit was the perfect foil for Marilyn’s portrayal of gold-digger Lorelei Lei, and the song ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ became a classic.

Russell would also star in the follow-up, Gentlemen Prefer Brunettes, which was lacking the Monroe effect and didn’t fare so well.”

Netflix and Chill With Marilyn (and Jane)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes tops a list of movies to watch before they leave Netflix in July, over at Bustle.

“Yes, there are many other great reasons to see this movie. If you don’t believe my swooning, here are some more facts: It’s got a 98 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Important film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder cited it as one of his 10 favorite films. Plus, the technicolor in this movie is so intense and over the top gorgeous that watching it is like rolling around in a rainbow for one hour 31 minutes. And, of course, decades before Thelma And Louise or Bridesmaids or Set It Off, this is a film that’s ostensibly about two women hunting rich men that actually puts female friendship at the heart of the tale.”