Tag Archives: Happy Birthday Mr President

2016: A Year In Marilyn Headlines

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In January, exhibitions featuring Milton Greene and Douglas Kirkland’s photographs of Marilyn opened in London and Amsterdam. In New York, the Museum of Modern Art paid tribute to Marilyn’s choreographer, Jack Cole. Also this month, James Turiello’s book, Marilyn: The Quest for an Oscar, was published. And Edward Parone, assistant producer of The Misfits, died.

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In February, Marilyn ‘starred’ with Willem Dafoe in a Snickers commercial for the US Superbowl. Monroe Sixer Jimmy Collins’ candid photographs were sold at Heritage Auctions, and the touring exhibition, Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon, came to Albury, Australia.

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Another major Australian exhibition, Twentieth Century Fox Presents Marilyn Monroe, featuring the collections of Debbie ReynoldsScott Fortner, Greg Schreiner and Maite Minguez Ricart – opened at the Bendigo Art Gallery in March. And Barbara Sichtermann’s book, Marilyn Monroe: Myth and Muse, was published in Germany.

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In April, a special edition of Vanity Fair magazine – dedicated to MM – was published. A campaign to save Rockhaven, the former women’s sanitarium where Marilyn’s mother Gladys once lived – was launched. And actress Anne Jackson – wife of Eli Wallach, and friend to Marilyn – passed away.

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In May, Marilyn graced the cover of a Life magazine special about ‘hidden Hollywood’, and Sebastien Cauchon’s novel, Marilyn 1962, was published in France. Cabaret singer Marissa Mulder’s one-woman show, Marilyn in Fragments, opened in New York, while Chinese artist Chen Ke unveiled Dream-Dew, a series of paintings inspired by Marilyn’s life story. The remarkable collection of David Gainsborough Roberts was displayed in London. Finally, Alan Young – the comedian and Mister Ed star, who befriended a young Marilyn – died.

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June 1st marked what would be Marilyn’s 90th birthday. Also in June, New Yorkers were treated to an Andre de Dienes retrospective, Marilyn and the California Girls. An exhibition of the Ted Stampfer collection, Marilyn Monroe: The Woman Behind the Myth, opened in Turin, Italy. A new documentary, Artists in Love: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, was broadcast in the UK, while Australia honoured Marilyn with a commemorative stamp folder, and genealogists investigated Marilyn’s Scottish ancestry.

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In July, the birthday celebrations continued in Marilyn’s Los Angeles hometown with tributes from painter David Bromley, and another Greene exhibition. A new musical, Marilyn!, opened in Glendale. Rapper Frank Ocean appeared alongside a Monroe impersonator in a Calvin Klein commercial. And Marni Nixon, the Hollywood soprano who sang the opening bars of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, passed away.

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August 5th marked the 54th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. Also this month, it was announced that Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn’ sculpture may return permanently to Palm Springs. April VeVea’s Marilyn Monroe: A Day in the Life was published, and Marilyn’s role in Niagara was featured in another Life magazine special, celebrating 75 years of film noir.

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In September, Marilyn: Character Not Image – an exhibition curated by Whoopi Goldberg – opened in New Jersey. Terry Johnson’s fantasy play, Insignificance, was revived in Wales. Two locks of Marilyn’s hair were sold by Julien’s Auctions for $70,000. And author Michelle Morgan published The Marilyn Journal, first in a series of books chronicling the Marilyn Lives Society; and A Girl Called Pearl, a novel for children with a Monroe connection.

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In October, Happy Birthday Marilyn – a touring showcase for the collection of Ted Stampfer – came to Amsterdam, while Marilyn: I Wanna Be Loved By You, a retrospective for some of her best photographers, opened in France. Marilyn Forever, Boze Hadleigh’s book of quotes, was published. Marilyn’s friendship with Ella Fitzgerald was depicted on the cult TV show, Drunk History. And on a sadder note, photographer George Barris, biographer John Gilmore, and William Morris agent Norman Brokaw all passed away this month.

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In November, Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President‘ dress was sold for a record-breaking $4.8 million during a three-day sale at Julien’s Auctions, featuring items from the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, the Lee Strasberg estate, and many others including the candid photos of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull. Also this month, comedienne Rachel Bloom spoofed ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in a musical sequence for her TV sitcom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. And Marilyn Monroe: Lost Photo Collection, a limited edition book featuring images by Milton Greene, Gene Lester and Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder, was published.

05E065FF-9E98-4677-8946-85623619BBF3-2686-0000014DE181D724_tmpFinally, in December the EYE Film Institute began a Marilyn movie season in Amsterdam. The Asphalt Jungle was released on Blu-Ray by Criterion. And actresses Zsa Zsa Gabor and Debbie Reynolds both passed away.

David Thomson on Marilyn, JFK and THAT Dress

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Film critic David Thomson is not Marilyn’s biggest fan. “Monroe wasn’t a serious actress,” he once wrote. “I don’t think she could really carry more than a line or two at a time.” Nonetheless, he seems drawn to her image, having penned a snarky introduction to Marilyn Monroe: A Life in Pictures (2007.) In anticipation of the November 16 auction at Julien’s, Thomson has written another gossipy article for The Guardian about the Jean Louis dress worn by Marilyn as she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to President John F. Kennedy in 1962. (You can see a gallery of fans posing with the dress over at Immortal Marilyn.)

“You can say that only demonstrates her victimhood and makes her wishing more wistful. But then you have to see the plain delight with which she did these preposterous things, these moments, as if she could not resist or do without the comfort that came with the gasps and the whistles at Madison Square Garden when she came into the platinum light, shrugged off her wrap and stood there, with her massed blonde waves jutting off to one side, like the control on tower an aircraft carrier, in a dress that could have been painted on her. And she did not seem like the hesitant neurotic of fame and constant lateness when she broke into the birthday song. Just take a look. She seems happy, and an actress is hired to give us some sort of good feeling. This is maybe her greatest moment – the most reckless – and she knows it, even if the summer of 1962 is her hell.”

UPDATE: The ‘Happy Birthday’ dress was sold at Julien’s for $4.8 million on November 16, 2016, making it the most lucrative dress in auction history. The buyer is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, who plan to showcase the dress in future exhibitions. Read a full report from Scott Fortner on his MM Collection Blog.

Marilyn at Julien’s: Happy Birthday Mr President

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The ‘nude’ beaded dress worn by Marilyn as she sang ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962 will be auctioned at Julien’s next month, with bids starting at $1 million. There are also several other items on offer from the historic gala, including Marilyn’s own ticket and program.

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Legendary costume designer Bob Mackie began his career as a sketch artist for Jean Louis, and his drawings of Marilyn’s dress are also up for sale. At the time of his first attempt, Mackie didn’t know who the dress was for (although he was already working with Jean Louis on Marilyn’s costumes for Something’s Got to Give.)

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Five colour photos from the collection of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull, and an eight-minute film comprised of clips from the night’s entertainment, take us back to the events of 1962.

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Illustrator LeRoy Neiman captured Marilyn’s unforgettable performance in art.

E1D9E973-EEE9-4F5F-A0D4-B3E6DAAAE45D-9504-000005C0FA06B634_tmpProducer Clive David kept a commemorative tile signed by various stars in attendance, including Marilyn, Ella Fitzgerald, Jack Benny and Maria Callas. It would be Marilyn’s last major public appearance, triggering over fifty years of rampant speculation.

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UPDATE: The ‘Happy Birthday’ dress was sold at Julien’s for $4.8 million on November 16, 2016, making it the most lucrative dress in auction history. The buyer is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, who plan to showcase the dress in future exhibitions. Read a full report from Scott Fortner on his MM Collection Blog.

When Whoopi Met Marilyn…

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Whoopi Goldberg attended the opening night of Marilyn: Character Not Image (which she curated) at MANA Contemporary in Jersey City this weekend, reports NJ.com.

“‘We have pieces of her as the actress, but it’s not the actress acting,’ she said. ‘It’s the woman reacting to what’s happening around her.’

Pointing to a Greene shot of Monroe with playwright Arthur Miller, Goldberg said, ‘This is the Marilyn you know.’ Then, pointing to a photo of Monroe coming out of a pool, beaming and wearing a black-and-white bikini, she said, ‘That’s the Marilyn you don’t.’

The exhibit also includes some of Monroe’s drawings and videos of the late screen star narrated by readings of her poetry. The dress, though, is the star of the show.

Made of soufflé gauze and 2,500 hand-stitched crystals, the gown is displayed on a mannequin standing on a white pedestal. When Goldberg saw it, she said, ‘She had a big derrière.’

Monroe’s legendary performance — ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President’— came at a Democratic Party fundraiser at Madison Square Garden held 10 days before Kennedy’s 45th birthday.

The gown is up for auction in November. It last sold in 1999 for nearly $1.3 million, then a record. Martin J. Nolan, executive director of Julien’s Auctions, which is handling the sale, believes it will go for up to $3 million, though he thinks it’s worth far more. He called it the ‘holy grail’ of collectibles.

‘It’s a piece of art, but it’s Hollywood, it’s pop culture, it’s Marilyn Monroe, it’s the Kennedys — everything wrapped up into one piece of fabric,’ he said. ‘It’s truly amazing.’

Nolan added that, despite Goldberg’s comment on Monroe’s backside, the actress was petite in May 1962, weighing about 112 pounds.”

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Meanwhile, Priscilla Frank has reviewed the show for Huffington Post.

“The drawing above, titled ‘Lover watching his love sleep,’ was made by Monroe herself in the late 1950s, with Conté crayon on paper. The sepia-toned image depicts a woman who may or may not be Monroe herself, unclothed and reclining leisurely while her lover watches on, entranced.

It’s a simple drawing, but powerful nonetheless, not only in its aesthetic qualities but in what it reveals about its maker. The artwork hints at a different Marilyn than the bold vixen we see on screen. Rather, a Marilyn who is thoughtful, introspective, and creative ― an avid reader and obsessive writer. “

‘Marilyn: Character Not Image’

Marilyn at the 'East of Eden' premiere in 1955 - photo and manipulation for Arthur Fellig, aka 'Weegee'
Marilyn at the ‘East of Eden’ premiere in 1955 – photo and manipulation for Arthur Fellig, aka ‘Weegee’

Marilyn: Character Not Image, a new exhibition curated by none other than the multi-talented actress, comedienne and host of TV’s The View, Whoopi Goldberg – a woman who has consistently defied stereotyping throughout her long career – will open at Jersey City’s Mana Contemporary on September 25, through to October 22.

weegee_10327_1993_8+2“This show presents a different side to the legendary actress: behind the glamour was a vulnerable, sensitive, and ambitious young woman who spent time writing poems and diary entries to self-analyze, understand, and reassure herself. In these writings, she craves love and friendship, and battles with ongoing pain, heartbreak, and disappointment. She attempts to understand the world on her terms, tries to accept her insecurities and fears, and to become a better artist.

Milton Greene was a personal friend who constructed many famous images of Marilyn the star, but he also took many intimate photographs of Marilyn the person. The images here demonstrate her sweetness, humor, and impatience: with husband Arthur Miller, talking to animals, receiving directions for a photoshoot, taking a summer dip. The images by Weegee reveal a sly complicity between subject and photographer: his dark-room distorted imagery pokes fun at the unreal and absurd facets of the Hollywood industry, of which Marilyn was keenly aware.

Also on view is the dress she wore during the unforgettable 1962 performance singing ‘Happy Birthday’ for President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden, perhaps the most significant moment of her career, the crystallization of the persona she was continually creating since she dreamed of becoming an actress as a little girl. The dress and the drawings are on loan from Julien’s Auctions’ forthcoming November events.

‘The image of Marilyn Monroe the icon endures and strengthens as time goes by, but her personal life remains a mystery,’ says Whoopi Goldberg. ‘With this exhibition I wanted to show a glimpse of the woman behind the icon using, before now, never-before-seen images, some of her personal writings, and some pieces of her artwork.'”

Thanks to Edgar Freire

Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday’ Dress For Sale

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While Marilyn’s white halter dress from The Seven Year Itch may be her most iconic movie costume, the beaded ‘nude’ gown she wore to sing Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy in 1962 is perhaps the greatest marker of her place in history. After selling for $1.627 million at Christie’s in 1999, it will now be the star item in the Marilyn-only sale at Julien’s Auctions in November, Vanity Fair reveals.

As previously reported by ES Updates, the auction will also include the collections of David Gainsborough Roberts, Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull and Marilyn’s estate.  Collector Scott Fortner, who is helping to curate the sale and touring exhibition, has offered fans a chance to win tickets to the event and a limited edition box-set catalogue. To enter the contest, visit his MM Collection Blog.

UPDATE: The ‘Happy Birthday’ dress was sold at Julien’s for $4.8 million on November 16, 2016, making it the most lucrative dress in auction history. The buyer is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, who plan to showcase the dress in future exhibitions. Read a full report from Scott Fortner on his MM Collection Blog.

54 Years Ago: Diahann Carroll Remembers Marilyn

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Marilyn looks on as Diahann Carroll sings for the president, 1962

Although Marilyn’s performance of ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962 – fifty-four years ago today – has become legend, she wasn’t the only star that evening. Diahann Carroll, who sang at the gala’s after-party in the home of campaigner Mac Krim, recalled the occasion in a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, reports the Huffington Post.

‘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 Caroll 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.’

Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday’ Spoof at Superbowl

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Marilyn’s iconic performance of ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ – at the 1962 Madison Square Garden gala honouring John F. Kennedy – has been parodied in a new Snickers ad marking the Superbowl’s upcoming 50th anniversary, reports Adweek. A grouchy ‘Marilyn’ is played here by actor Willem Dafoe. Incidentally, it’s not the first time MM has been referenced at the Superbowl. Back in 2014, footage of Marilyn was used in a Chrysler ad featuring Bob Dylan.

“She’s America’s original sweetheart. But when she’s hungry, Marilyn Monroe takes a turn for the worse. That’s according to Snickers’ new Super Bowl ad teaser, in which she reprises her iconic ‘Happy Birthday’ serenade—to celebrate the Super Bowl’s 50th birthday—but with quite the husky vocal.

‘Since we’re kicking-off the 50th celebration of one of the world’s most iconic events, it seemed only fitting to cast Marilyn Monroe, a Hollywood icon with global appeal, to help us celebrate’, says Snickers brand director Allison Miazga-Bedrick. ‘But this is just a small glimpse of what America should expect from Snickers on Super Bowl Sunday. As always, the ad will feature a funny surprise that we’re confident will satisfy fans hungry for a laugh.’

Snickers confirmed the Super Bowl spot continues the brand’s ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’ positioning, which launched with the Betty White spot on the 2010 Super Bowl. The 30-second spot, from BBDO New York, will air in the first quarter of the Feb. 7 telecast.”

Bill Ray Exhibit in Santa Fe

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A selection of Bill Ray‘s photographs for Life magazine, taken during the 1950s and ’60s – including his rear-view shot of Marilyn singing ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ at Madison Square Garden – are currently on display at the Monroe Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

From 'My LIFE in Photography' by Bill Ray, 2007'
From ‘My LIFE in Photography’ by Bill Ray, 2007′

Now 78, Ray has been interviewed by Pasiatempo, explaining how he got his start in photography, joining Life in 1957 and following in the footsteps of his idol, Alfred Eisenstadt. Among Ray’s many famous subjects were Elvis Presley, the Kennedys, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Frank Lloyd-Wright, and Andy Warhol.

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After Life ceased publication, he freelanced for NewsweekArchaeology,Smithsonian, and Fortune, and developed a portrait specialty. “One thing I’m still good at is people,” said Ray, whose recent work includes an official portrait of “a retiring big-time minister at St. Bart’s here in New York. His predecessors had all been painted in oil, and he wanted a photograph instead.”

“‘It had been a noisy night, a very ‘rah rah rah’ kind of atmosphere,’ he told LIFE.com of Kennedy’s birthday gala. ‘Then boom, on comes this spotlight. There was no sound. No sound at all. It was like we were in outer space.” Marilyn was onstage, taking off a white fur to reveal her ‘nude’ sequinned dress underneath. “It was skin-colored, and it was skin-tight,” Ray recalled. “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.”

Myth-Busting: Marilyn and JFK

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Over at Buzzfeed today, there’s a helpful visual guide to some of the more persistent myths (including auction hoaxes and faked photos) about Marilyn’s alleged romance with President John F. Kennedy, and her performance of ‘Happy Birthday’ at Madison Square Garden in 1962.

“The so-called relationship between Marilyn and JFK has taken on a life of it’s own and has spawned a cottage industry of books, newspaper articles, rumours and conjecture. Contrary to what Google or Pinterest will tell you, there are only three photographs of Marilyn and JFK in the same room together. Any other photo purporting to be them is a FAKE.

Contrary to rumour Jackie Kennedy didn’t decide to stay away because of Marilyn’s presence. She didn’t care for these big political fundraisers and had always planned to be participating in a horse show elsewhere.

Rumour has it that Marilyn was drunk and her actions while performing were wildly out of control. Not true. It is also good to remember that this was a political fundraiser for the Democratic party. It wasn’t exactly an intimate dinner. Marilyn was one of many people performing at the fundraiser and she didn’t even close the night.

Marilyn Monroe is probably the most iconic movie actress in the world. She is also the most maligned. Not a month goes by without a lurid story being splashed across the tabloids and the internet. And everyone knows if it’s on the internet it must be true right? Wrong. With a little research (something biographers seem to be lacking) you can uncover the truth.”