Marilyn at Julien’s: Icons & Idols ’17

‘Marilyn in Korea’ screen print by Russell Young

The annual ‘Icons & Idols’ sale, set for November 17 at Julien’s, includes a number of interesting Marilyn-related items. Chief among them is this black fur coat, with an interesting back story – and further evidence of Marilyn’s generosity.

Marilyn in her black fur coat, with Mickey Rooney at ‘The Emperor Waltz’ premiere, 1948

“A mid-1940s black colobus coat worn by Marilyn Monroe to the 1948 film premiere of The Emperor Waltz (Paramount, 1948). The coat has broad shoulders, a cordé collar, a satin lining, and a Jerrold’s Van Nuys, Calif. label. Although the black colobus is currently on the endangered species list, it was quite fashionable in the 1940s. Monroe wrote in a letter to Grace Goddard dated December 3, 1944, ‘I found out that its [sic] possible to buy a Gold Coast Monkey Coat. I shall write to you about it later.’ The coat was gifted from Monroe to Jacquita M. Rigoni (Warren), who was the great-niece to Anne Karger, mother of Monroe’s voice coach, Freddie Karger. Monroe had a close relationship with the family, and the coat has remained in their possession. Accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Jacqui Rigoni detailing the family’s relationship to Monroe and the history of the coat.

(The monkey species used to make this Marilyn Monroe monkey fur coat is on the Endangered Species list.)”

As the accompanying letter explains, Jacquita is the granddaughter of Effie ‘Conley’ Warren, who was Anne Karger’s sister. They had performed together in vaudeville as the Conley Sisters. Jacqui was a teenager when Marilyn dated her uncle, Fred Karger, for several months in 1948. Accepted as part of the family (long after the affair ended), Marilyn would often take Jacqui to her apartment and gave her clothes on numerous occasions. Fred and Marilyn also visited Jacqui’s parents, Jack and Rita Warren, at home. By the early 1950s, Marilyn was still regularly visiting Anne Karger with gifts including the monkey fur coat which she requested that Anne give to Jacqui. She also attended Jacqui’s wedding with Anne, while Fred brought his new wife, actress Jane Wyman.

A young Marilyn with Fred Karger

Two intriguing photos are included in this lot. One shows a young Marilyn sitting at the piano with Fred. Never before seen, it is the only known photo documenting one of her most intense relationships. The second shows Marilyn in 1961 with Anne and another lady, perhaps Effie Warren. A cropped version has been published before, but the whole version is extremely rare.

Marilyn visits Anne Karger (left), 1961

Another item which sheds new light on Marilyn’s life is a letter from ‘Uncle Art’, a relative of her legal guardian, Grace Goddard. Sent to the teenage Norma Jeane, ‘So glad you are making satisfactory progress in school. I advise that you be particularly diligent in the cultural subjects … sad is the fate of the young woman who has not the ambition to so model and mold her language and conduct as to have [illegible] herself to the point where she can mingle with cultured people inconspicuously.‘ The letter is written on International Correspondence Schools of Scranton, Pennsylvania stationery, undated and signed ‘Devotedly Yours, Uncle Art.’ One wonders if this high-minded gentleman might have inspired Marilyn in her lifelong quest for self-improvement.

This photo (available in negative) was taken by Joseph Jasgur on the Fox studio back lot during the early days of Marilyn’s acting career, in 1947.

A signed check for $500, made out to The Christian Community, is dated October 11, 1954 – just six days after Marilyn announced her separation from husband Joe DiMaggio. And this photo of Marilyn, taken by Manfred Kreiner on her arrival in Chicago to promote Some Like It Hot in March 1959, is inscribed in red pen by Marilyn herself with the words ‘Kill kill’ – indicating that the photo should not be published.

The auction also includes photos attributed to Bruno Bernard, and some items that appeared in previously last year’s dedicated auction at Julien’s (including Marilyn’s copy of the Breakfast at Tiffany’s script, and her typed skincare regime from the Ernst Laszlo Institute.) And finally, she is featured alongside various other celebrities – including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Carol Channing, and future president Donald Trump – in an Al Hirschfield caricature from 1988.

Marilyn at Julien’s: Childhood and Family

Norma Jeane as a young model, photographed by Andre de Dienes
Norma Jeane as a young model, photographed by Andre de Dienes

In the first of a new series, I’m looking at items from the upcoming auction at Julien’s relating to Marilyn’s family and her early life as Norma Jeane. This photo shows her mother Gladys as a child with brother Marion.

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He would later accompany Gladys and her baby daughter on a trip to a Los Angeles beach. However, Marion disappeared sometime afterwards, and was never heard of again. Norma Jeane would live with his wife and children for a few months after Gladys was committed to a psychiatric hospital.

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Between the ages of nine to twelve, Norma Jeane collected stamps. The fact that she kept hold of the album until she died suggests it brought back calmer memories of what was often an unsettled childhood.

Ana Lower was the aunt of Grace Goddard, who had become Norma Jeane’s legal guardian after Gladys fell ill. Norma Jeane lived with Ana, a devout Christian Scientist, for two years. By then Ana was in her fifties, but this photo shows her as a younger woman.

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Marilyn considered Ana to be one of the most important influences in her life. This letter, written while Norma Jeane was visiting her half-sister for the first time, shows that the affection was mutual.

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My precious Girl,” Ana wrote, “You are outward bound on a happy journey. May each moment of its joyous expectations be filled to the brim. New places, faces and experiences await you. You will meet them all with your usual sweetness and loving courtesy. When you see your sister you will truly both receive a blessing.”

These photos of Marilyn’s first husband, James Dougherty, were found behind the portrait of Ana. He is wearing his Merchant Marine’s uniform.

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By the late 1940s, Gladys had been released from hospital, but her condition quickly deteriorated.  She suffered from severe delusions, and disapproved of Norma Jeane’s ambition to act. However, there were still tender moments between mother and daughter, as this card from Gladys reveals.

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“Dear One,” she wrote, “I am very grateful for all the kindness you’ve shown me and as a Loving Christian Scientist (my pencil broke) I hope our God will let me return some goodness to you with out doing myself any harm. For I know good is reflected in goodness, the same as Love is reflected in Love. As a Christian Scientist I remain very truly your Mother.”

As Marilyn’s fame grew, she tried her best to shield family members from unwanted publicity. Grace Goddard, who had retained guardianship of Gladys throughout her long illness, wrote an anxious letter to Marilyn in August 1953. Gladys had recently been admitted to a private rest-home, and Marilyn would pay for her mother’s care until she died.

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Such a burden for a delicate little girl like you to hear,” Grace wrote. Marilyn, then filming River of No Return in Canada, sent her money transfer for $600. Grace, who had cancer, passed away weeks later.

Emily Watson to Play Grace in ‘Secret Life’

Emily Watson in 'Gosford Park' (2001)
Emily Watson in ‘Gosford Park’ (2001)

British actress Emily Watson will play Grace Goddard (nee McKee) – who became Marilyn’s legal guardian after her mother’s breakdown – in Lifetime’s upcoming miniseries, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, based on J. Randy Taraborrelli’s 2009 biography, reports Deadline.

Watson, who is 47, began her career on the London stage. She shot to fame in Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996), and went on to star in Hilary and Jackie (1998), Angela’s Ashes (1999), Gosford Park (2001), Miss Potter (2006), War Horse (2011), The Book Thief and Belle (2013.)

Grace McKee Goddard
Grace McKee Goddard

This latest news of A-list casting will boost the hopes of fans hoping for a high-quality biopic. Although Taraborrelli’s biography has been disputed by some, his focus on the women who raised Marilyn seems to be highlighted in this production. And Watson actually bears a striking resemblance to Grace.

With Kelli Garner confirmed as Marilyn, and Susan Sarandon as Gladys, one question remains – who will play Marilyn’s beloved ‘aunt’, Ana Lower?

The Wild, Wild Women of Bimini Place

Grace and Gladys with Norma Jeane

Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed, has posted some interesting findings on her blog about Marilyn’s mother, Gladys Baker, and her friend Grace McKee’s life in Los Angeles during the 1920s.

“One of the things I loved, was when I discovered a news article about the Rayfield Apartments, where Gladys moved to with best friend Grace McKee, shortly after Marilyn’s birth.  The apartment block was situated at 237 Bimini Place and was fairly colourful – something that probably attracted the fun-loving Grace and Gladys.
I discovered a story that took place around about the very time the women lived at  the Rayfield, about a couple called Mr and Mrs Simpson, who also lived in the building.
Apparently the couple had had a big fight, and afterwards Mr Simpson took the unprecedented decision to phone the police, claiming that he had just murdered his wife.
Officers swarmed the block and began interviewing the ‘murderer’ Mr Simpson, but were shocked when Mrs Simpson – the murdered woman – walked into the apartment.  They interviewed her too and she of course denied all knowledge of ever being murdered by her husband!

Why Mr Simpson took it upon himself to phone the police and admit to killing a woman who was still alive and well is a mystery, but I always wonder – were Grace and Gladys at home when all this was taking place? Something tells me if they were, they most likely very much enjoyed the scandal going on just yards from their apartment!”

Another irony about this tale is that one of the songs from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – later cut from the movie – was called ‘When the Wild, Wild Women Go Swimmin’ in the Bimini Bay.’

Norma Jeane in the 1940 Census

Biographer and researcher Michelle Morgan shares her latest findings on Marilyn’s early years on her blog today.

“Norma Jeane was living at the time with Doc and Grace Goddard, and a lodger…As stated in the census, Margaret Kanouse was living with the family in 1940, but I have discovered that sadly she died the next year on 7 March 1941. This is quite intriguing because if she continued living with the family, she would have actually died while Norma Jeane was still living there.

I have been unable to find a confirmed photo of Margaret Kanouse, but I think that the old lady in the photo above (far right) could very well be her.”