Marilyn at Julien’s: Hollywood Icons & Idols

A wide range of Marilyn-related items, including her 1956 Thunderbird, will be up for grabs at Julien’s Icons & Idols auction on November 17.  Another high-profile item is the white beaded Travilla gown worn by Marilyn when she sang ‘After You Get What You Want, You Don’t Want It’ in There’s No Business Like Show Business, purchased at Christie’s in 1995; as yet it’s unclear whether this is the same dress listed at Julien’s in 2016.

Marilyn owned several pairs of checked trousers, wearing them repeatedly throughout her career. This pair, seen in one of her earliest modelling shoots, was purchased from Sak’s Fifth Avenue.

A number of photos owned by Marilyn herself are also on offer, including this picture with US troops, taken on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; a set of publicity photos for Love Nest; a photo of Joe DiMaggio in his New York Yankees uniform; and Roy Schatt‘s 1955 photo of Marilyn and Susan Strasberg at the Actors Studio.

A postcard from the Table Rock House in Niagara Falls was signed by Marilyn and her Niagara co-stars, Jean Peters and Casey Adams, in 1952.

This publicity shot from River of No Return is inscribed, ‘To Alan, alas Alfred! It’s a pleasure to work with you – love & kisses Marilyn Monroe.’

A set of bloomers worn by Marilyn in River of No Return (as seen in this rare transparency) is going up for bids.

Marilyn in Korea, 1954

Among the mementoes from Marilyn’s 1954 trip to Japan and Korea are two fans and an army sewing kit.

Also among Marilyn’s personal property is this ad for There’s No Business Like Show Business, torn from the December 24, 1954 issue of Variety.

Marilyn’s hand-written poem inspired by Brooklyn Bridge is also on sale.

Among Marilyn’s assorted correspondence is a latter dated August 22, 1954, from childhood acquaintance Ruth Edens:

“I have long intended to write you this letter because I have particularly wanted to say that when you used to visit me at my Balboa Island cottage, you were a shy and charming child whose appeal, it seems to me, must have reached the hearts of many people. I could never seem to get you to say much to me, but I loved having you come in and I missed your doing so after you’d gone away. I wondered about you many times and was delighted when I discovered you in the films. I hope the stories in the magazines which say you felt yourself unloved throughout your childhood, are merely press-agentry. In any case, I want you to know that I, for one, was truly fond of you and I’m proud of you for having developed enough grit to struggle through to success … I hope you are getting much happiness out of life, little Marian [sic]. I saw so much that was ethereal in you when you were a little girl that I fell sure you are not blind to life’s spiritual side. May all that is good and best come your way!”

Marilyn’s loyalty to the troops who helped to make her a star is attested in this undated letter from Mrs. Josephine Holmes, which came with a sticker marked ‘American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.

“My dear Miss Monroe, I was so happy to hear from Mr. Fisher about your visit to the Veterans Hospital. When I spoke to Mr. Alex David Recreation he said the veterans would be thrilled, probably the best present and tonic for them this holiday and gift giving season. I am sure it will be a wonderful memory for you, knowing you have brought happiness to so many boys, many have no one to visit with them. Thank you, and may God bless you and Mr. Miller for your kindness.”

Marilyn wore this hand-tailored black satin blouse for a 1956 press conference at Los Angeles Airport, as she returned to her hometown after a year’s absence to film Bus Stop. When a female reporter asked, ‘You’re wearing a high-neck dress. … Is this a new Marilyn? A new style?’ she replied sweetly, ‘No, I’m the same person, but it’s a different suit.’

Paula Strasberg’s annotated scripts for Bus Stop, Some Like It Hot, Let’s Make Love, and her production notes for The Misfits are available; and a book, Great Stars of the American Stage, inscribed “For Marilyn/With my love and admiration/ Paula S/ May 29-1956” (the same day that Marilyn finished work on Bus Stop. )

Letters from Marilyn’s poet friend, Norman Rosten, are also included (among them a letter warmly praising her work in Some Like It Hot, and a postcard jokingly signed off as T.S. Eliot.)

Among Marilyn’s correspondence with fellow celebrities was a Christmas card from Liberace, and a telephone message left by erstwhile rival, Zsa Zsa Gabor.

File under ‘What Might Have Been’ – two letters from Norman Granz at Verve Records, dated 1957:

“In the September 5, 1957, letter, Granz writes, ‘I’ve been thinking about our album project and I should like to do the kind of tunes that would lend themselves to an album called MARILYN SINGS LOVE SONGS or some such title.’ In the December 30, 1957, letter, he writes, ‘… I wonder too if you are ready to do any recording. I shall be in New York January 20th for about a week and the Oscar Peterson Trio is off at that time, so if you felt up to it perhaps we could do some sides with the Trio during that period.'”

Also in 1957, Marilyn received this charming card from the Monroe Six, a group of dedicated New York teenage fans, mentioning her latest role in The Prince and The Showgirl and husband Arthur Miller’s legal worries:

“Marilyn, We finally got to see ‘Prince and the Showgirl’ and every one of us was so very pleased. We are all popping our shirt and blouse buttons. Now we will be on pins and needles ‘til it is released to the general public. You seemed so relaxed and a tease thru the whole picture and your close ups, well they were the most flawless ever. You should be real pleased with yourself. No need to tell you what we want for you to know now is that we hope everything comes out all right for Mr. Miller and real soon too. Guess what we are working on now. We are trying to scrape up enough money for the necessary amount due on 6 tickets to the premiere and the dinner dance afterwards. Well again we must say how happy we are about T.P.+T.S. and we wanted you to know it. Our best to you.”

Among the lots is assorted correspondence from Xenia Chekhov, widow of Marilyn’s acting teacher, Michael Chekhov, dated 1958. In that year, Marilyn sent Xenia a check which she used to replace her wallpaper. She regretted being unable to visit Marilyn on the set of Some Like It Hot, but would write to Arthur Miller on November 22, “I wanted to tell you how much your visit meant to me and how glad I was to see you and my beloved Marilyn being so happy together.”

In April 1959, Marilyn received a letter from attorney John F. Wharton, advising her of several foundations providing assistance to children in need of psychiatric care, including the Anna Freud Foundation, which Marilyn would remember in her will.

This telegram was sent by Marilyn’s father-in-law, Isidore Miller, on her birthday – most likely in 1960, as she was living at the Beverly Hills Hotel during filming of Let’s Make Love. She was still a keen reader at the time, as this receipt for a 3-volume Life and Works of Sigmund Freud from Martindale’s bookstore shows.

After Let’s Make Love wrapped, Marilyn sent a telegram to director George Cukor:

“Dear George, I would have called but I didn’t know how to explain to you how I blame myself but never you. If there is [undecipherable due to being crossed out] out of my mind. Please understand. My love to Sash. My next weekend off I will do any painting cleaning brushing you need around the house. I can also dust. Also I am sending you something but it’s late in leaving. I beg you to understand. Dear Evelyn sends her best. We’re both city types. Love, Amanda Marilyn.”

Here she is referencing her stand-in, Evelyn Moriarty, and Amanda Dell, the character she played. “Dearest Marilyn, I have been trying to get you on the telephone so I could tell you how touched I was by your wire and how grateful I am,” Cukor replied. “Am leaving for Europe next Monday but come forrest [sic] fires come anything, I will get you on the telephone.”

There’s also a June 30, 1960 letter from Congressman James Roosevelt (son of FDR), asking Marilyn to appear on a television show about the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute for Cancer Research, to be aired in October. Unfortunately, Marilyn was already committed to filming The Misfits, and dealing with the collapse of her marriage to Arthur Miller.

In 1961, movie producer Frank McCarthy praised Marilyn’s performance in The Misfits:

Rather touchingly, Marilyn owned this recording of ‘Some Day My Prince Will Come,’ sung by Adriana Caselotti. The record copyright is from 1961, but Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was originally released in December 1937, when Marilyn was just eleven years old.

This pen portrait was sketched by George Masters, who became Marilyn’s regular hairdresser in the final years of her life.

On July 5, 1962, Hattie Stephenson – Marilyn’s New York housekeeper – wrote to her in Los Angeles:

 “My Dear Miss Monroe: How are you! Trusting these few lines will find you enjoying your new home. Hoping you have heard from Mr. and Mrs. Fields by now. Found them to be very nice and the childrens [sic] are beautiful. Got along very well with there [sic] language. How is Maff and Mrs. Murray? Miss Monroe, Mrs. Fields left this stole here for you and have been thinking if you would like to have it out there I would mail it to you. Miss Monroe Dear, I asked Mrs. Rosten to speak with you concerning my vacation. I am planning on the last week of July to the 6th of August. I am going to Florida on a meeting tour. Trusting everything will be alright with you. Please keep sweet and keep smiling. You must win. Sincerely, Hattie.”

Hattie is referring to Marilyn’s Mexico friend, Fred Vanderbilt Field, who stayed with his family in Marilyn’s New York apartment that summer. She also alludes to Marilyn’s ongoing battle with her Hollywood studio. Sadly, Hattie never saw Marilyn again, as she died exactly a month later. Interestingly, the final check from Marilyn’s personal checkbook was made out to Hattie on August 3rd.

After Marilyn died, her estate was in litigation for several years. Her mother, Gladys, was a long-term resident of Rockhaven Sanitarium, which had agreed to waive her fees until her trust was reopened. In 1965, Gladys would receive hate mail from a certain Mrs. Ruth Tager of the Bronx, criticising her as a ‘hindrance’ due to her unpaid bills. This unwarranted attack on a sick, elderly woman reminds one why Marilyn was so hesitant to talk about her mother in public.

UPDATE: See results here

Unveiling Marilyn’s Beautiful Scars

Surgical scars can be seen on Marilyn’s tummy in two of her final photo shoots, with George Barris (left) and Bert Stern (right), and in her ‘nude’ swim scene for the unfinished Something’s Got to Give, as Mehera Bonner reports for Marie-Claire. Marilyn underwent an appendectomy in 1952, and had her gallbladder removed in 1961, a year before she died. She also underwent several operations to alleviate her endometriosis and help her to have children, sadly without success. While surgical procedures are considerably more sophisticated today, our expectations have also increased. While there’s something rather liberating about these gorgeous, unaltered shots, it’s also important to remember that Marilyn – who exerted rigid control over her photo shoots, if not her movies – may herself have wanted to airbrush these photos had she lived long enough to fully review them. In fact, she vetoed many of Stern’s images, marking the rejects with an orange ‘X’; but after her death, he published the session in its entirety.

Now you see her, now you don’t: Marilyn in ‘Something’s Got to Give’

“Though she was famous for her perceived ‘perfection’ and ‘flawlessness’ (all the eye-rolls at the inherent sexism that goes into these terms), Marilyn Monroe had a pretty big scar across her stomach—which appears in both the Last Sitting and in Something’s Got to Give.

The scar itself is the result of gallbladder surgery that occurred before Stern’s famous images were taken. He says Marilyn was self-conscious about it, and called upon her hairdresser George [Masters] for reassurance before shooting. When Stern noticed the scar, he reportedly remembered Diana Vreeland saying to him, ‘I think there’s nothing duller than a smooth, perfect-skinned woman. A woman is beautiful by her scars.’

Diana Vreeland is right: women *are* beautiful with scars. But she’s also incorrect about women without them being dull. Either way, the sometimes-removal of Marilyn’s scar offers a fascinating insight into beauty standards in Old Hollywood—did she ever truly have agency as to how her body was portrayed?

Ironically, Something’s Got to Give was the first time Monroe was ‘allowed’ to expose her belly button on film—as most of her previous swimwear moments were high-waisted. Before her death, she’s said to have quipped ‘I guess the censors are willing to recognize that everybody has a navel.’

Guess what? Everyone has scars too—even Marilyn.”

Bert Stern’s Last Sitting: An Ever-Changing Story

In Bert Stern: Original Madman, Shannah Laumeister’s 2011 documentary about the photographer, Stern discusses his infamous ‘last sitting’ with Marilyn. He spoke to Time magazine recently, and you can watch a clip from the film at Nowness.

“After I set up the studio [at the Bel-Air] the front desk rang ‘Miss Monroe is here’ I decided to go down and meet her. I met her [for the first time] on the pathway to the suite. She was alone wearing a scarf and green slacks and a sweater. She had no make up on. I said ‘You’re beautiful,’ and she said, ‘What a nice thing to say.’

[In the suite] she looked at what was there and asked about makeup. I said I didn’t think we needed any makeup, but how about a little eyeliner? She picked up one of the scarves, which was chiffon, you could see through it. She looked [at it] and said, ‘Do you want to do nudes?’ So it was her idea.”

However, in his 1982 book, The Last Sitting, Stern detailed a more complex version of events:

“She lowered the scarf, looked at me and said, ‘You want to do nudes?’

She’d seen right through it.

‘Uh, well I – I guess so!’ Who, me? ‘It’d probably be a nice idea, wouldn’t it? But it wouldn’t be exactly nude. You’d have the scarf.’

‘Well, how much would you see through it?’

‘That depends on how I light it,’ I said.

‘What do you mean?’ she said. And then, ‘Just a second. George?’

George Masters [hairdresser] came in. She said, ‘George, what do you think about these scarves and doing nudes?’

I held my breath.

‘Oh…what a divine idea!’ said George.

Thank God. If he had said, ‘Oh, no, how gauche,’ the whole thing would have been off in a second. Gone.

She was that vulnerable.”

As the shoot began, Marilyn made it clear exactly how much she wanted to reveal:

“Marilyn walked onto the set in her bare feet, a glass of champagne in one hand and an orange striped scarf tied around her bare bosom. She still had her green slacks on.

‘I’m not going to take off my pants,’ she declared.

‘Just roll them down, then,’ I said.”

It was not until late in the evening that Marilyn finally stripped:

“It was late, close to dawn, when I finally got all her clothes off…’You know, for this one you’ve really got to take your pants off,’ I said.

I expected her to call for George, who by now was falling asleep in the other room. But she just said, ‘Okay.’ We’d already gone so far in the pictures; what was there to be shy about? She stepped into the archway between the rooms and, holding the scarf around her like a towel, wriggled out of her slacks. And then she walked back out onto the white paper.

I started to shoot. This was the way I’d wanted her all along. Her beautiful body shone through the harlequin scarf in a tantalising, abstract hide-and-seek.

Until she dropped it. And I shot it. Just for myself.

One glimpse, one stolen frame.

We were finished.”

The same text has been used in all subsequent editions of the book. While I don’t believe that Marilyn was duped into posing naked, it was something that came about gradually (and with a lot of coaxing from Bert.)

Marilyn later vetoed many of Stern’s photos, though after she died, he published them anyway.

By the way, in the final shot that Stern mentioned, Marilyn looks distressed – as if dropping the scarf was an accident, not something designed to titillate. Judge for yourself here.

Rumour Revival: Death at Lake Tahoe

As the countdown rolls on to the fiftieth anniversary of Marilyn’s death, the rumour mill has been revived. This item, posted at CBS San Francisco, builds on last year’s story that Marilyn’s hairdresser, George Masters, told his nephew (on tape) that she died at Frank Sinatra’s Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe.

The photo above shows Marilyn a week before she died, at Cal-Neva with Sinatra and singer Buddy Greco. However, I don’t believe that she returned to Lake Tahoe on the day of her death. All other accounts place her at home in Los Angeles.

George Masters on Marilyn’s Death

Marilyn en route to Mexico, February 1962. George Masters at right

Tapes recorded in 1998 by Jeff Platts, nephew of George Masters, suggest that the celebrity stylist was with Marilyn the night before she died:

“About a month before he passed away, he sat down and recorded some discussions with Platts. Recently, Platts shared a portion of the tapes with me, specifically one that dealt with Monroe’s last night.

In a frail but controlled voice, here’s what Masters remembered about the last night he saw Monroe alive.

‘The night before she died, the last time I saw her, was in Lake Tahoe at the Cal-Neva Lodge. She was there with Sam Giancana, who was the head of the Mafia.'”

Masters was one of Hollywood’s top hairdressers, and he styled Marilyn’s hair for her ‘Last Sitting’ with Bert Stern in June 1962. He can also be seen with Marilyn in photos taken at a Miami airport earlier that year, en route to Mexico.

Though she admired his skills as a stylist, Marilyn never seemed to confide in Masters as much as some of her other aides, eg make-up man Whitey Snyder or masseur Ralph Roberts. According to Platts, Masters did not remember Monroe fondly:

“George and Marilyn had a love-hate relationship. He described her as the coldest person he’d ever known. He said she’d never really loved anyone but herself. She would do whatever was necessary to keep all the attention focused on her. Her public image was a complete fabrication. George stayed with Marilyn because she was his biggest client (financially as well as level of celebrity).”

These claims appear in an article by Chris Epting for AOL. Epting is also the author of Marilyn Monroe Dyed Here: More Locations of America’s Pop Culture Landmarks.

Over at The Examiner, Elisa Jordan offers her opinion on these latest allegations:

“Let’s start here: Pat Newcomb (Monroe’s publicist) said she slept over at Marilyn’s house that night, but doesn’t address whether or not Marilyn was there—only that Marilyn woke up about noon.

Actually, although Newcomb has spoken very little, at least publicly, about her relationship with Marilyn, she has stated that she and Marilyn went out to dinner at a local restaurant that Friday night. Some people maintain that the women were with Peter Lawford. And even other stories report that Bobby Kennedy was there. I tend to believe it was a low-key evening at a restaurant with Marilyn and Pat, but I wasn’t there. The important thing to remember is that in all versions of the story, Marilyn and Pat were out together on the night of August 3. How could Marilyn have been in Lake Tahoe?

And let’s address Lake Tahoe. Epting does ask some important questions. Were there other people on the plane, for instance? It’s unclear. I would like to take that a step further. What about the pilots? Were there flight attendants? Airport employees?

Masters claims he drove Marilyn home from LAX, but who picked her up in Lake Tahoe? Wasn’t there a driver? Where is he? What about the employees at the Cal-Neva? Cooks? Waitresses? Maids? Bellhops? No one saw Marilyn Monroe, the world’s most famous movie star, at the lodge that night? No other guests saw her? These types of people were able to place her at the Cal-Neva a week earlier. Why not on August 3, too?”

Jordan also adds some thoughts on Master’s credibility:

“If Epting’s reporting is correct—and I believe that it is—then Masters died broken and drug addicted. And if George Masters and Marilyn Monroe had a ‘love-hate’ relationship as reported in Epting’s article, was Masters merely trying to get the last word over Marilyn? Did he merely want to involve himself in one of the most famous mysteries of the 20th century?

Sound like a credible witness to you? Not to me, but I admit that I’m cynical about stories people tell about Marilyn Monroe—especially stories concerning her death. At this point there are so many that it’s nearly impossible to keep them straight.

Now George Masters has added himself to that list. Is it any wonder why people are so fascinated with Marilyn Monroe’s death? The victim is an American icon. The suspects and coconspirators are also celebrities, including a beloved President of the United States. It is a story that instantly makes you famous if you claim to be involved in it. And everyone, it seems, wants to be involved.”

My personal view on these tapes is that though interesting, I am highly sceptical of Masters’ claims. I find it hard to believe that Marilyn really did visit Lake Tahoe the night before she died, because there are no other witnesses. I think she probably spent the evening with Pat Newcomb, and perhaps stayed at home because Pat was unwell that weekend.

Pat Newcomb is still alive and in her eighties. She has never spoken publicly about Marilyn’s death and I doubt she ever will. The truth, I suspect, is more mundane – and even more sad – than the conspiracy theories espoused by Masters et al.

I think Newcomb is the only person still living who knows the truth about Marilyn’s final days. Even if she did tell all, the rumours would carry on regardless. So while her silence may be frustrating to those of us who would like to see the record set straight for once and for all, I can understand her reluctance, and even respect it.

Marilyn and Ann-Margret

Ann Margaret, 1960s

An interesting series on actress Ann Margret at Noir and Chick Flicks records an encounter with Marilyn in 1960, when Ann was just 19:

“Through high school, she continued to star in theatricals. As part of a group known as the ‘Suttletones’. They traveled Los Angeles and, through agent Georgia Lund, landed club dates in Newport Beach and Reno, where Ann-Margret had a chance meeting with Marilyn Monroe, who was on location for the film, The Misfits. Monroe noticed her in the crowd, then chatted privately with her, offering her encouragement.”

The Unabridged Marilyn notes that Ann-Margret later worked with Marilyn’s former stand-in, Evelyn Moriarty, and two of her hairdressers, George Masters and Sidney Guilaroff.

Ann-Margret found fame with Bye Bye Birdie in 1963, and went on to star with Elvis Presley in Viva Las Vegas, with Jack Nicholson in Carnal Knowledge, and alongside The Who and Tina Turner in Tommy (which also featured a bizarre homage to Marilyn.)

Though Ann, like Marilyn, was a celebrated pin-up, she wisely turned down several opportunities to impersonate MM on stage and screen (After the Fall, The Sex Symbol, Sugar.)

Ann-Margret spoke directly of Marilyn in an interview for Life magazine in 1971:

“She was a very healthy girl when she came on the scene, mentally and physically. Years went by, people picked on her. She was terribly abused, for no reason. She became sick – and posthumously they gave her acclaim.”

More recently, Ann co-starred with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men, and in 2010, she won an Emmy for her guest role in Law and Order: SVU. She has been married to Roger Smith since 1967.

Lindsay Lohan, another famous MM fan, has always reminded me of Ann-Margret (in looks) much more than Marilyn. Perhaps she should give her a call…