LIFE magazine photographer Bill Ray, who got the scoop of a lifetime when he captured Marilyn’s singing ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ at Madison Square Garden in 1962, has died aged 83, the New York Post reports.
Born in Shelby, Nebraska, Bill joined the Omaha Camera Club aged eleven and built a professional darkroom in his family home. At seventeen, he got his first newspaper job in Lincoln; and in 1957, after excelling in a photographic workshop in Hannibal, Missouri, he moved to New York to work for LIFE. During the 1960s, he worked extensively in Paris and Hollywood.
Bill and his wife of 62 years, Marlys Ray, lived in an apartment overlooking Central Park in Manhattan. He died of a heart attack on January 8, 2020.
“‘It had been a noisy night, a very ‘rah rah rah’ kind of atmosphere. Then boom, on comes this spotlight. There was no sound. No sound at all. It was like we were in outer space. [Marilyn’s dress] was skin-colored, and it was skin-tight. It was sewn on, covered with brilliant crystals. There was this long, long pause … and finally, she comes out with this unbelievably breathy, ‘Happy biiiiirthday to youuuu,’ and everybody just went into a swoon. I was praying [that I could get the shot] because I had to guess at the exposure. It was a very long lens, and I had no tripod, so I had to rest the lens itself on the railing, and tried very, very hard not to breathe … If you got a picture from the front, everybody else would have it on the front page the next day and it wouldn’t be good for LIFE. You always needed something different. I had this idea that if I got way up I could shoot over Marilyn’s shoulder and have Kennedy in the picture. There was one slightly before that’s a little blurry because of the 300 mm lens. Shortly thereafter the lights went out and she disappeared, and the next thing I knew JFK was up on the stage. If I’d been luckier, there would have been a tiny bit of light that would have spilled onto Kennedy, who was over her shoulder between the podium and her head. ”
A souvenir album featuring images from the star-studded gala for John F. Kennedy’s 45th birthday at Madison Square Garden in 1962 will soon go under the hammer at RR Auctions as part of an extensive archive of memorabilia relating to the former president. The sale ends on January 23, with a starting bid of $1,000 for the album, although auctioneer Robert Livingston hopes that this private collection, with an estimated value of $1.5 million, will be sold as a single lot.
In our final post ahead of the November 14 event at Julien’s Auctions, A Southern Gentleman’s Collection, we focus on Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller and the last years of her life. (You can read all posts about this sale here.)
“A group of six audio recordings including: 1) a late 1950s-era 3-inch reel tape (Type 151) featuring interviews Monroe conducted with Look magazine and Chicago disc jockey Dave Garroway, housed in its original box with handwritten annotations reading in part ‘May Reis’ [Monroe’s longtime New York-based secretary]; 2) a 33 1/3 RPM record labeled “M. Monroe – Belmont / Side 1 / Side 2[her 1960 interview with Georges Belmont for Marie Claire]; 3) another 33 1/3 RPM record identical to #2 but sides 3-4; 4) another 33 1/2 RPM record identical to #2 but sides 5-6, content unknown on all; 5) a 78 RPM record on the RCA Victor label of the star singing ‘The River of No Return’ and ‘I’m Gonna File My Claim;’ and 6) a 45 RPM record same as the 78; further included with a CD of the reel tape; all originally from the Estate of May Reis. And sold separately, a publicity still from River of No Return, autographed by Marilyn.”
Recordings SOLD for $3,840; photo SOLD for $10,240
“A legal-sized financial document from Woodbury Savings Bank in Connecticut, two hole punch marks on left side, dated ‘Sept. 9, 1957,’ filled out in blue fountain pen ink by Arthur Miller, briefly outlining the couple’s finances, noting their annual income as ‘$50,000,’ interestingly, Miller adds that there is a ‘suit pending against M.M. Productions,’ both signed twice on the lower margin, with MM’s reading ‘Marilyn Monroe Miller;’ also included is a related photocopied document from the same bank.” And sold separately, a window card for The Prince and The Showgirl (1957.)
Document SOLD for $4,480; poster SOLD for $384
“Nine original snapshots depicting Marilyn at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn on May 12, 1957 as she makes a guest appearance at a soccer match between the U.S. and Israel. And sold separately, a medical insurance form from Associated Hospital Service of New York, entirely filled out in blue ballpoint ink by Miller when the couple was applying for insurance, noting their address on ‘Tophet Road, Roxbury, Conn.’ and noting Monroe’s health issues as ‘Appendix Removed / 5% (hearing) impairment, Ectopic Pregnancy,’ oddly, Miller checked off ‘no’ under ‘female trouble’ for his wife, signed by Miller on page 3 and further signed by Monroe right below but in different blue ballpoint ink.”
Photos SOLD for $1,024; document SOLD for $3,750
“Miscellaneous paperwork from 1958 including: an invoice from Carl Perutz Photography sent to Marilyn at her NYC address on ’18 June 1958;’ and four receipts from the Yellow Cab Company of Los Angeles ranging in date from July 14 to July 16, 1958, showing that MM was at the Hotel Bel Air, Saks Fifth Avenue, and a mysterious address at 8719 Bonner Drive; though her name does not appear anywhere on the receipts, they come from the same files as the Perutz invoice.”
SOLD for $512
“Telegram dated October 28, 1958, sent to Jack Lemmon by the producer of Some Like It Hot, reading in part ‘By reason of the illness of Marilyn Monroe, please be advised / that we hereby exercise the right to suspension…;’ and sold separately, a standard check from the ‘Marilyn Monroe Productions, Inc.’ account … matted under a 1970s-era re-issue soundtrack album from Some Like It Hot.”
Telegram SOLD for $768; check + album SOLD for $2,560
“A standard address book with navy blue leather covers and A to Z tabs, kept by May Reis [Monroe’s longtime New York secretary] on the star’s behalf for a number of years, inside pages contain Reis’ handwritten entries in pencil or various colors of ballpoint ink for Monroe’s personal and business contacts including (in alphabetical order): Rupert Allan, Elizabeth Arden, Richard Avedon, Kenneth Battale, Saul Bellow, Chateau Marmont, Michael Chekhov, Jack Cole, George Cukor, Lilly Daché, Agnes Flanagan, Bob Fosse, Ben Gazzara, Lotte Goslar, Sydney Guilaroff, Lillian Hellman, Hedda Hopper, Hotel Bel Air, John Huston, William Inge, Jax, Anne Karger, Marianne Kris, Leon Krohn, Ann Landers, Erno Laszlo, Jean Louis, Carson McCullers, Inez Melson, Isidore Miller, Berniece Miracle, Monroe Six, Eunice Murray, Jean Negulesco, Norman Norell, Clifford Odets, Louella Parsons, Lena Pepitone, The Plaza Hotel, Henry Rosenfeld, Hedda and Norman Rosten, Eva Marie Saint, Norma Shearer, Frank Sinatra, Sidney Skolsky, Allan Snyder, John Steinbeck, Paula Strasberg, Western Costume Co., Billy Wilder, and Shelley Winters, among a few others; also included are a few notes relating to the stars personal identification numbers as well as bank accounts; Reis’ ownership signature is penned on the second page next to a date of ‘1958;’ Monroe penciled in a note on the last page reading ‘Roxbury Conn. / Tophet Rd.'”
UNSOLD – reserve not met
“A single page of personalized stationery, dated ‘April 15, 1960,’ to ‘Mr. Ehrlich,’ reading in part ‘Will you please convey my sincere appreciation to the public and critics of Chile for awarding the Laurel de Oro as Best Actress of 1959,’ signed in black fountain pen ink in the lower right corner ‘Marilyn Monroe;’ with its original transmittal envelope. And sold separately, a contact sheet showing Marilyn in a scene from Some Like It Hot (1959.)”
Letter SOLD for $3,750; contact sheet SOLD for $768
“A small receipt from Gray Reid’s in Reno, Nevada noting a date of ’16 Aug 60′ and that ‘$6.07’ was spent, verso has a blue ballpoint ink handwritten annotation (not in MM’s hand) reading ‘Black / Umbrella’ — probably the umbrella that Marilyn bought for her acting coach, Paula Strasberg, during shooting of The Misfits.”
SOLD for $256
“A black silk and ostrich feather wrap with two black velvet arm straps, label reads ‘Made to Order / Rex / Inc. / Beverly Hills / California;’ displayed in a shadow box with a black and white image of the star wearing it during a 1960 photo shoot with Eve Arnold. Interestingly, this piece may have been used as a prop in MM’s last and unfinished 1962 film, Something’s Got To Give as a similar wrap can be seen in her tote bag in the sequence where she watches her children in the swimming pool.”
SOLD for $10,240
“A deep brownish-black mink fur stole, rectangular shaped with slightly flared ends, lined in a black and gold brocade textured raw silk, no labels present.” [Worn by Marilyn to the premiere of The Misfits in 1961.]
SOLD for $5,760
“A group of seven accessories including: 1) a pair of cat eye sunglasses with rhinestone detailing; 2) their case made of beige vinyl and brown plastic, stamped ‘Cosmetan / Sun Glasses;’ 3) a cordovan alligator eyeglass case stamped in part ‘Schilling;’ 4) a red cotton eyeglass case with a label reading in part ‘Devonaire of California;’ 5) a sterling silver shoe horn, stamped ‘Sterling’ on both sides; and 6-7) a pair of orange plastic shoe trees.”
SOLD for $7,500
“A two page hand-written note on light blue pieces of notepaper from the Los Angeles Institute for Psychoanalysis, penciled by the star in full “‘CR 12151 Western Union / Dear Marlon / I need your / opinion about a / plan for getting / Lee out here on more / than a temporary / basis please / phone me as soon / as possible / Time / is of the essence / Marilyn;’ evidently written for a telegram that she was sending to Brando about Actors’ Studio head Lee Strasberg. And sold separately, a telegram from Brando dated ‘1962 Jan 13,’ sent to Marilyn at her ‘882 North Doheny Apt 3’ address, reading in full ‘Tried to reach you by fone must leave city this weekend / sorry / Marlon,’ with a number of stamps and other handwritten delivery annotations evident; seeming to be Brando’s response to Monroe’s note.”
Marilyn’s note SOLD for $6,400; Marlon’s telegram SOLD for $2,560
“A standard postcard from the Fontainebleu Hotel in Miami, signed in blue ballpoint ink on the verso ‘To Gisele / Thank you / so much! / Marilyn Monroe.'” [Marilyn stayed overnight at the Fontainebleu in 1962 with her former father-in-law, Isidore Miller.]
SOLD for $2,500
“A large collection of approximately 130 loose-leaf ‘colored’ script change pages given to the star throughout the production of Something’s Got to Give, as the script was being revised on a regular basis, noting numerous and various dates in April and May of 1962, many pages are paper-clipped or stapled together by their revision date, a number of them have the star’s name penned in the upper right hand corner (though not in her hand) or small notes addressed to her, Monroe’s own handwritten annotations appear on a few pages, mainly as directions to herself such as ‘drop voice – / lean against post’ or additional dialogue she added such as ‘if you’d take it out’ and the like, she also circled her character’s name [“Ellen”] on many pages; two pink pages are torn with one having Monroe’s penciled annotation reading ‘No good one.’ And sold separately, an oversize colour photo taken during Marilyn’s 1962 session with Bert Stern for Vogue magazine, entitled ‘I Beg Of You‘.”
Script pages SOLD for $12,800; photo SOLD for $5,120
Sold separately, these contact sheets are among several lots featuring photos by Bert Stern.
Contact sheets SOLD for $1,152 and $896, respectively
“A telegram dated ‘1962 Jun 1 AM 9 55,’ sent to Marilyn at her Fifth Helena Drive address in Brentwood, CA, reading in full ‘Happy Birthday Hope Today And Future Years Bring You / Sunny Skies And All Your Heart Desires As Ever / Joe’ — most likely DiMaggio as it was sent from ‘Madrid Via RCA.'”
SOLD for $6,250
“A ticket reading in part ‘May 19, 1962 / Madison Square Garden / Gala All Star Show’ — the now-historic event celebrating President John F. Kennedy‘s 45th birthday, plus a photo of Marilyn during her performance of ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’. And sold separately, a group of four telephone bills, sent to “M. Monroe” from General Telephone Company, ranging in date from April 30 to July 30, 1962, listing all the long distance calls she made to cities noted on the bills as ‘NYC, Bkln, Queen, Wbury, Engla, Telav’ and, most interestingly, to ‘Wash’ a number of times in July — so maybe she was calling the Kennedys?”
Ticket + photo SOLD for $896; telephone bills SOLD for $4,375
“A 1960s-era Steno spiral-bound notebook filled with about 45 pages of notes and reminiscences penned in blue ballpoint ink that George Barris wrote down while he was working with the star in the summer of 1962; appearing to be taken verbatim from conversations the two had, the subjects mentioned are quite varied and range from Monroe’s favorite films to her health to people on her mind at that particular time such as President Kennedy, Arthur Miller, Joe DiMaggio, Cyd Charisse, Marlon Brando, Paula Strasberg, and Greta Garbo; other topics include living in California, nude scenes in films, her termination from her last film, sex, on being a sex symbol, marriage, children, and life philosophy in general; some of the notes appear to have been jotted down later or even after the star’s death but in any case, it’s a fascinating look into the star’s psyche as recounted by someone who closely worked with her at the very end of her life. And sold separately, a signed photo by Barris.
“A page likely removed from a magazine and then glued to a piece of black construction paper, depicting MM posing by the ocean, signed in blue fountain pen ink on the left side ‘To Linda, / Love and Kisses, / Marilyn Monroe’ — Linda being child actress Linda Bennett who had the star sign a number of items for her.”
SOLD for $4,480
“A vintage fan magazine, and (sold separately) a three-page handwritten letter from a fan by the name of Irene Nagy, in which Nagy offers advice to Marilyn Monroe on how to become a serious actress. The letter, dated November 18, 1952, reads in part, ‘If you’re going to be a dramatic actress and hope to be one, you certainly can’t expect to wear frilly thin nighties or low cut gowns all the time.’ While criticism is offered based on the clothing Monroe wears, the fan also offers encouragement and support: ‘I like you also as a person. I love to see you with your blonde short curly hair-do, you’re very pretty, you’ve got pretty eyes and when you laugh whole-heartedly you sound like lots of fun.’ Overall, a very interesting look into the type of mail Monroe received from fans. The original envelope is also included.”
Pin-Ups magazine SOLD for $1,920; fan letter SOLD for $125
“A framed photo of Marilyn visiting Brady Airbase, Japan; and sold separately, a three-page handwritten letter from the mother of a United States soldier stationed in Korea who had recently seen Marilyn Monroe perform for the troops there as part of a USO tour. The February 25, 1954, letter reads, ‘This morning I received a letter from my son in Korea. I think you should know what he says about your appearance there. I save all of his letters, or I would enclose it. This is what he wrote. Two days ago, Marilyn Monroe played before 12,000 men of this division. It was a sunny, cold day but true to the standards that have been set for her, she appeared in a low cut, sheathe dress of purple glittery sort of material. She is certainly beautiful!!! When she appeared on the stage, there was just a sort of gasp from the audience – a single gasp multiplied by the 12,000 soldiers present, what quite a gasp. The broadcasting system was extremely poor, and had I not seen the movie from which the songs were taken, I’m not too sure I would have known what she was singing. However, it didn’t matter. Had she only walked out on the stage and smiled, it would have been enough. I might add, that she is certainly making a lot of friends here. Everyone realizes that there is no reason she is here except to entertain. She doesn’t need the publicity, and she is not being paid. Too, unlike lesser entertainers, after the show she autographed, chatted, and posed for pictures. Then thru all the trucks and jeeps she rode perched on top of the seat of her jeep, smiling and waving. All in all I think it was pretty wonderful that she came to Korea at all, and doubly so that she came to the divisions that have been so long on the line, and by-passed the easy duty in Seoul, Inchon and the southern cities. You are a real soldier. I know what that trip cost you. But you didn’t disappoint those boys. In our hearts we thank you for your wonderful generosity and kindness to our son. Your friends, Mr. and Mrs. N. T. Rupe, 6315 So Yakima, Tacoma, Wash.'”
Photos SOLD for $896; letter SOLD for $448.
A group of 4 candid photos, showing Marilyn on top of a military tank with soldiers surrounding her during her 1954 tour of Korea for American troops.
SOLD for $448
A group of six colour slides and corresponding photographs of Marilyn Monroe in Korea. Copyrights to these images will be transferred to the winning bidder.
SOLD for $1,562.50
A framed photo of Marilyn; and, sold separately, a two-page document on plain white paper, no date but circa 1955, penned in blue ballpoint ink, ‘To the Men of the Thule Air Base / Greenland,’ apologizing to them for not being able to visit, signed on the second page ‘I love you all / Happy New Year / Marilyn Monroe.'”
Photo SOLD for $1, 024; letter SOLD for $7,500
“A negative image of Marilyn Monroe taken while the actress signed an autograph book for a fan in New York City circa 1955. Together with a black and white photograph printed from the negative, believed to have been previously unpublished.”
SOLD for $576
“A typed letter from Shirley Potash Clurman from TIME Incorporated regarding Marilyn Monroe’s appearance at ‘the official kickoff for the opening of the Sidewalk Superintendents Club for the construction of the new Time-Life Building.’ The June 20, 1957, letter reads in part, ‘Marilyn Monroe, naturally, was the unanimous favorite of Time-Life staffers to officially get our new building rolling by setting off a facsimile fire-cracker.’ The letter continues, ‘As I told you, our company plane would be delighted to pick up Miss Monroe wherever she is out of town and deliver her home again.’ Monroe did appear at this event on July 2, 1957, and she did light the aforementioned firecracker.”
SOLD for $256
“A handwritten letter from actress Julie Harris. The December 2, 1957, letter reads, ‘Dear Miss Monroe, Through the kindness of Joe Wolhandler we sent you, Manning Gurian and I, Julie Harris, a play, The Warm Peninsula. Well, it’s as simple as that! We hoped you would love it and would want to play the part of June de Lynn. If you are at all interested and would like to talk to us about it we would be overjoyed. We asked you – with a faint hope in our hearts – knowing how busy you are – but if you are at all interested please let us know. With all good wishes, Julie Harris.’ A carbon copy of the letter sent in response, dated December 4, 1957, reads, ‘After receiving your note I called my agent, Mort Viner, At MCA. Unfortunately, through some mix-up at their office the script had never been delivered to me. However, I now have it, and I’m reading it. I’m a slow reader, but I’ll let you know as soon as I finish. Please accept my apologies for such a delay.’ The letter’s signature line reads ‘Warm Regards.'”
SOLD for $384
“An undated typed letter on ‘Who’s Who of American Women‘ letterhead referencing Marilyn Monroe’s listing in the 1958 publication. The letter reads in part, ‘Active compilation of the First Edition of the newest Marquis reference work, WHO’S WHO OF AMERICAN WOMEN, is now under way’ and ‘I enclose – for what additions you wish to make – the sketch of you just prepared for the new “Who’s Who in America,” in which you are of course also being listed.’ A carbon copy of a letter from Monroe’s secretary, dated December 4, 1957, reads in part, ‘Enclosed herewith is the sketch of Marilyn Monroe to be inserted in the next edition of Who’s Who in America. Please make the following corrections: The name in parenthesis should be Norma Jean Mortenson. The name of her first husband is Jim Daugherty [sic], her second Joe DiMaggio, from both of whom she was divorced. She is now married to Arthur Miller. The title The Sleeping Prince should be eliminated inasmuch as that is the name of a stage play in which Miss Monroe did not appear.’ Also included is a pre-publication order form for Who’s Who of American Women.”
SOLD for $256
“A six page document, dated ‘Feb. 7, 1958,’ outlining an agreement the star had with MCA Artists, Ltd. for that organization to act as her agent for television work, signed in blue fountain pen ink on the last page ‘Marilyn Monroe.'”
SOLD for $3,750
“A one-page letter to Marilyn Monroe from Private First Class Don L. Miller of the United States Army. The May 16, 1958, letter reads in part, ‘On 24 April at three p.m. I called at your New York apartment, hoping you could spare five minutes then or could possibly arrange an appointment for the following day. It took two weeks of my leave before I was able to find out your New York address, which left but two days before I had to return to active duty here in Texas. Please forgive the delay, which I surely caused in your appointment with Mrs. [Hedda] Hopper. After following your screen career closely since its birth as the chorus girl-daughter of Adele Jergens many years ago [in Ladies of the Chorus, 1948] it has been somewhat of a project of mine to meet you. It was disappointing to be close enough to hear your voice yet still have the first encounter to anticipate.'”
SOLD for $192
“A group of four letters related to possible acting roles for Marilyn Monroe. One letter, dated May 26, 1958, is from Jerry Webb, former test director at Twentieth Century-Fox. Webb proposes to Monroe a project titled Papa Married a Mormon and suggests that Monroe play the role of ‘Tena.’ Another letter, dated February 24, 1959, is from George Cayley, who sent Monroe a script for The First Chewinks and suggested it would start on Broadway that spring. The third letter, dated March 11, 1957, is from Tony Award winning Broadway producer Edward Padula, who suggests that Monroe consider Lie Down in Darkness, the novel by William Styron, ‘both for its theatrical and motion picture possibilities.’ The fourth letter, dated August 12, 1958, is from Julian Olney asking if Monroe would be interested in playing Nell Gwynn in a new stage production of In Good King Charles’ Golden Days by George Bernard Shaw. “
SOLD for $384
A signed George Barris photo; and, sold separately, a handwritten letter to Marilyn Monroe from a fan by the name of William Perez. The heartfelt letter reads, ‘I would appreciate it so very much if you would kindly autograph this picture I had the pleasure of taking a few years back when you were filming Seven Year Itch in New York [not included here]. If you’ll address it to Bill, and leave it in your lobby I will pick it up in a few days. I work right around the corner and have spent so many lunch hours and coffee breaks in front of your building hoping to see you that I’ve become a laughing stock in my office. I don’t mind it, because you’ve given me so many hours of pleasure in your movies. Your [sic] my favorite star, and I hope you’ll continue to make more and more movies.’ This February 10, 1959, letter is signed ‘Thank you so much for your patience and understanding. Sincerely, William Perez.'”
Photo SOLD for $1,250; letter SOLD for $192
“An October 11, 1961, memo to Marilyn Monroe’s attorney Aaron Frosch from Howard O. LeShaw regarding balance sheets for Monroe and for Marilyn Monroe Productions. The statements clarify Monroe’s cash on hand, together with receivables and liabilities. As of October 10, 1961, Monroe’s net worth, according to these statements, was $716,791.74, an astonishing amount of money for the time. Also included is a one-page Schedule L balance sheet for ‘Year Ended November 30, 1960.’ Five pages total.”
SOLD for $768
“A two-page handwritten letter dated May 29, 1962, from Blanche Neubardt, Arthur Miller’s aunt. The letter reads in part, ‘Happy birthday to you! We wish you many, many more happy birthdays. We saw Dad Sunday and of course you were the topic of conversation. Dad told us you were having a birthday.’ ‘Dad’ in this case is Isidore Miller, Arthur Miller’s father. Marilyn often referred to him as ‘Dad,’ and he even signed his letters to her that way. Sadly, this would be Monroe’s final birthday as she would pass away in the coming August. The letter continues, ‘We want to thank you for the perfectly wonderful time we had at the President’s birthday. And you made all this possible. It is something we shall never forget, and we are thrilled that you thought of us. We loved your performance, it was delightful, and I’m sure the President never had anyone sweeter sing Happy Birthday to him. Your gown was magnificent. You looked like a dream walking.’ The letter is signed, ‘Keep well and stay as sweet as you are. Love, Blanche and Sam.’ Records from Monroe’s archives show that she purchased five tickets to the JFK birthday gala held on May 19, 1962. It is documented that Monroe’s date was her former father-in-law, Isidore Miller. Publicist Pat Newcomb also accompanied Monroe to the event. However, it has never been known for whom the other two tickets were purchased. This letter indicates that Monroe likely bought them for Samuel and Blanche Neubardt, who lived at 550 East 21st Street in Brooklyn. Photos of the July 1 Monroe/Miller wedding published in the July 16, 1956, issue of LIFE magazine show that Blanche was present for the nuptials. The original envelope, addressed to Monroe at her Fifth Helena Drive home in Brentwood, California, is included.”
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.'”
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?'”
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 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.”
Diahann Carroll, the pioneering African-American singer and actress, has died aged 84 after a long battle with cancer. She was born in the Bronx, and studied at the LaGuardia High School for Music and Arts before modelling for Ebony magazine at fifteen. She later attended New York University, majoring in sociology.
At eighteen, she got her big break as a contestant on TV’s Chance of a Lifetime, where her performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Why Was I Born’ began a four-week victory lap. She then worked as a nightclub singer, making her film debut opposite Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones (1954.) She later appeared in Paris Blues (1961), a jazz film produced by photographer Sam Shaw. Originally offered to Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe, the lead roles were played by Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward.
In 1962, Diahann was part of the all-star line-up performing at Madison Square Garden in a birthday tribute to President John F. Kennedy. She met Marilyn backstage, and also sang for guests at the gala’s after-party. (In 2016, Diahann would host an opening party for Some Like It Hot, an exhibition featuring Milton Greene’s photos of Marilyn.)
“‘It was a very exciting night. Everybody in the world was there,’ Diahann remembered. ‘Marilyn was hysterical, but very good. It was good to watch her at work. I think we all enjoyed it.’ As for Kennedy, ‘he was extremely pleasant,’ she said. ‘He was a very entitled human being, but you had to forgive him for that.’
Diahann Carroll was previously interviewed by J. Randy Taraborrelli for his 2009 book, The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, telling him of her first encounter with MM in 1960, while singing at the Mocambo Club in Los Angeles.
Diahann was then pregnant with her daughter Suzanne, and knew of Marilyn’s struggle to have children. “I took her hand and put it on my stomach and said, ‘You pat right there, sweetheart, and say a prayer and a wish, and I hope with all my heart that your dream comes true.’ She looked at me with tears in her eye, and said, ‘Oh, I do, too. I do, too.’”
They met again in Mac Krim’s apartment in 1962. ‘It’s certainly her beauty I remember most,’ she told Taraborrelli. ‘As I sang, I distinctly remember being somewhat distracted by her gaze. Her tragic beauty, so vulnerable … so lost.’”
In 1969, Diahann won a Golden Globe for her role as a widowed nurse in Julia, a television sitcom which ran for three seasons. Back on the big screen, she would earn an Oscar nomination for the romantic comedy Claudine (1974), playing a struggling single mother.
Her later TV roles included the glamorous Dominique Devereaux on TV’s Dynasty and its spin-off, The Colbys. She joined an all-black cast in the acclaimed Eve’s Bayou (1997), and recreated Gloria Swanson’s role as fading star Norma Desmond in a Canadian production of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s stage musical based on Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard.
Her four husbands included singer Vic Damone, and she was also romantically linked to Sidney Poitier and David Frost. She was a founding member of the Celebrity Action Council, a volunteer group serving vulnerable women in Los Angeles.
Lyricist Leo Robin, who co-wrote two songs that would bookend Marilyn’s career, is profiled in Variety today.
“The centerpiece of Scott Ora’s cluttered San Fernando Valley apartment is the 1939 Oscar his step-grandfather, the late lyricist Leo Robin, was presented for co-writing ‘Thanks for the Memory.’ Sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross in the film The Big Broadcast of 1938, the trophy sits proudly on the piano where Robin worked on some of his biggest hits.
Over the course of 20 years, from 1934 (when the best original song category was introduced and he was nominated for ‘Love in Bloom’) through 1954, Robin, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame who died in 1984 at the age of 84, earned 10 Oscar nominations (two in 1949 alone).
By 1949, a Hollywood success, Robin returned to Broadway with Jule Styne to create the score for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a vehicle for Carol Channing and later a movie starring Marilyn Monroe, whose [secretary], ironically enough, was Leo’s third wife Cherie Redmond, Ora’s maternal grandmother. The song became an enduring pop culture staple when Madonna borrowed its imagery for her ‘Material Girl’ video, while Monroe did the same for ‘Thanks for the Memory,’ when she tacked it on to her steamy birthday salute to President John F. Kennedy at New York’s Madison Square Garden.”
Val McDermid may be one of the world’s most popular crime writers, but nobody would mistake her for Marilyn – until last week, when she sang ‘Happy Birthday, First Minister’ to Scottish premier Nicola Sturgeon at a literary festival in Harrogate this week, as reported in the Mail On Sunday.
The spectacular career of Bob Mackie, designer to the stars, will be explored in a new documentary, as Bronwyn Cosgrave writes in the Hollywood Reporter.
“Slated for a December 2020 release, the as-yet-untitled doc will examine the Burbank-based designer’s 50-year career, commencing from his start in 1961 at Paramount Pictures working as a sketch artist for Edith Head before moving on to assist Columbia’s costume designer Jean Louis. For Louis, Mackie innovated the nude-illusion sartorial concept by creating an illustration that proved to be the blueprint of the form-fitting, rhinestone-studded sheer gown in which Marilyn Monroe generated a sensation performing ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President’ to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in May 1962.”
Over at Esquire, Kate Storey reports on George, the political magazine launched by John F. Kennedy Jr. in the 1990s. While some were shocked by the 1996 cover featuring actress Drew Barrymore as Marilyn, the original idea – to have ex-girlfriend Madonna pose as John’s mother, Jackie Kennedy – was even more daring, and a step too far even for the pop superstar. So why was John so willing to send up his own family myths? As the article reveals, it seems that Junior was ahead of his time in exposing fake news…
“With Madonna out, the September cover took a decidedly different turn—instead of referencing his mom, Kennedy chose to nod at another well-known woman in his dad’s life: Marilyn Monroe.
Drew Barrymore was posed in a nude-colored cocktail dress and platinum wig, with a mole perfectly placed on her left cheek. The idea came from George’s executive editor, Elizabeth Mitchell, who suggested it as a fiftieth-birthday tribute to President Bill Clinton. The reference: In May 1962, in front of fifteen thousand people during a Democratic-party fundraiser at Madison Square Garden, Monroe had famously serenaded Kennedy’s father ten days before his forty-fifth birthday with a breathy, seductive ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President.’ The subtext to the song, of course, is that the president and the actress were rumored to have had an affair.
That photograph might seem a strange choice for a man who adored his mother—even stranger than asking Madonna to impersonate her—but the thing was, according to Mitchell, Kennedy never believed anything had happened between his dad and Monroe. ‘He just thought it was sort of tweaking the expectations of the public,’ she says all these years later.”
Another aspect to this story is that Drew Barrymore is a lifelong Marilyn fan. As a teenage starlet, she was photographed in her bedroom, surrounded by Monroe posters. In a 2010 interview, Drew named Marilyn among her fantasy dinner guests; and in 2014, she filmed an introduction to Bus Stop with TCM host Robert Osborne.
And while Madonna’s fascination with Monroe is well-known, she had already pipped George to the post by singing ‘Happy Inauguration Mr. President’ on TV’s Saturday Night Live in 1993, marking Clinton’s electoral victory.