Mercer Vine, the brokerage firm whose listings included the Holmby Hills estate where Fox mogul Joe Schenck once lived, and Marilyn’s last home in Brentwood, has closed after its financier, Robert H. Shapiro, was recently implicated in a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme, as Peter Kiefer writes for the Hollywood Reporter. (Schenck befriended Marilyn in the late 1940s, and she sometimes stayed in his guest cottage. Milton Greene also photographed her in Schenck’s mansion, known today as Owlwood. The article gives no further details on Marilyn’s home at Fifth Helena Drive, which was sold for $7.25 million in 2017.)
“Two years. That’s all it took for luxury brokerage firm Mercer Vine to establish itself as a major player in L.A.’s cutthroat luxury real estate market. Eight-figure listings. Pedigreed listings like Marilyn Monroe’s former home in Brentwood.
Just months after it launched in 2016, Mercer Vine grabbed headlines for representing Shapiro in the $90 million purchase of the Owlwood Estate, a 12,200-square-foot property at 141 South Carolwood Drive, which once was owned by Tony Curtis and later by Sonny and Cher. At the time, it was the second priciest residential sale in L.A. history behind the Playboy Mansion. What was even more astounding was when Shapiro and Mercer Vine relisted Owlwood a mere nine months later for $180 million without having done a single lick of work on the estate.”
Amy Greene is one of many luminaries interviewed by authors Norma Stevens and Steven M.L. Aronson for Avedon: Something Personal, in which she reveals the ties between Milton and Avedon, and later, Marilyn.
“One night in 1950, the photographer Milton Greene was having one of his Friday night open-houses in his penthouse studio, in the old Grand Central Palace building on Lexington Avenue. The room was packed with art directors, admen, models, photographers, actors, and dancers. Dick [Avedon] introduced himself to a fragile-looking blonde with almond-shaped eyes who was standing alone against the wall of the loggia – a wallflower. He broke the ice with, ‘How do you know Milton?’ She said, ‘I was married to him,’ and she filled Dick in: They were high-school sweethearts who had tied the knot in 1942 when she, Evelyn Franklin, was eighteen.
Dick said he was instantly taken by Evie’s feyness and elusiveness … He invited her to dinner that night at the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Terminal. From there the relationship took off like a choo-choo train, and the couple got hitched at the end of January 1951.
Milton Greene had meanwhile taken up with a cute Cuban-born model whom Dick had ‘discovered’, Edilia Franco (Conover, the modeling agency he sent her to, changed her first name to Amy and her last name to – in a nod to Dick – Richards.) In the spring of 1952, the year before he married Amy, Milton invited Dick and Evie to Sunday lunch in the country. ‘I wasn’t feeling so hot,’ Amy recalls. ‘I told Milton I wasn’t up to coming down. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I went through this shit for seven years with Evelyn, and I’m not going to put up with it from you. So get the hell up, put something decent on, and make an effort!’ He told me that one of the reasons he divorced Evelyn was she would stay in bed for days on end.
‘When Dick was in Hollywood for three months in 1956 consulting with Paramount on Funny Face, Milton was there producing Bus Stop with Marilyn, and Evelyn and I met for lunch,’ Amy recalls. ‘She and Dick were renting Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio’s old ‘honeymoon house’ on North Palm Drive in Beverly Hills, and she complained that the tour buses would drive by several times a day and the guide would make a big thing over the megaphone about the master bedroom – she said it was sexually inhibiting. The minute Evie discovered that I detested Milton’s mother as much as she did, she started giggling, and we became sort of friends. I remember her grousing that all Dick ever did was work. So I guess there wasn’t much reason for her to get out of bed.’
Five years into his marriage to Evie, a movie inspired by Dick’s [first] marriage … lit up screens across the country. ‘Funny Face, by the way, wasn’t really about me. They just used my early fashion escapades as a pretext to make a glamorous musical extravaganza …’ (Avedon)
Amazingly, Dick’s boyhood idol, Fred Astaire, now an old boy of 57, played the 25 year-old lead, named Dick; Audrey Hepburn played Doe, renamed Jo … The day Fred Astaire made his leap into death, some thirty years after Funny Face, Dick appeared in the doorway to [Norma Stevens’] office with tears running down his cheeks. ‘I didn’t cry when Marilyn died, I didn’t cry when [Alexey] Brodovitch (Avedon’s art director at Harper’s Bazaar) died, he told [Stevens.}”
Over at the Village Voice, Molly Fitzpatrick looks at New York’s many iconic movie locations with blogger Nick Carr (Scouting New York) and Sarah Louise Lilley, a guide for TCM’s On Location tours.
“At times, there was an almost virtual reality–like quality to the experience, when Lilley’s commentary and film clips, cued up to play on overhead monitors when we passed the real-life locations within them, transformed the present-day city seen from the bus windows into a long-lost version of itself … Had Lilley not pointed it out, the subway grate at 52nd Street and Lexington Avenue where Marilyn Monroe famously posed in The Seven Year Itch could have been any one of the city’s thousands and thousands more just like it, unglamorously trod on every day by locals and visitors alike.
Both Lilley and Silverman cited Sutton Place Park as their favorite movie landmark on the tour, a tiny, peaceful lookout onto the East River with a stunning view of the Queensboro Bridge … Sutton Place is the swanky, townhouse-lined neighborhood that lies just south of the bridge. ‘The history of New York and the history of film is beautifully interwoven there,’ Lilley says. In the early-twentieth century, the same stretch of East River waterfront was home to not only luxurious apartments with views to match, but poverty-stricken tenements and the gangs who inhabited them, as depicted onscreen in 1937’s Dead End. By 1953, Sutton Place had become the must-have address for the trio of enterprising husband-seekers — Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall — in How to Marry a Millionaire.”
Marilyn’s final home at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, Los Angeles has been sold for $7.25 million after being listed in April, reports the L.A. Times. (And in auction news, Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio’s wedding certificate has sold for $122, 500 at Goldin Auctions.)
Marilyn’s final, ‘modest’ home at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood – bought less than a year before her death, and the only property she ever owned – is back on the market for $6.9 million, Mark David reports for Variety. (It was last sold in 2010 for $3.8 million. For the definitive account of her time at Fifth Helena, read Cursum Perficio: Marilyn Monroe’s Brentwood Hacienda by Gary Vitacco Robles.)
“The bottle blond bombshell personally searched for and purchased the 1929 Spanish hacienda style home in the coveted and star-studded Helenas district in early 1962. Some reports say she paid $67,000 and others $90,000.
Privately and securely situated at the end of an itty-bitty cul-de-sac behind a high wall, secured gate and canopy of trees on what marketing materials declare as the ‘largest parcel of all the Helena streets,’ the red tile roofed, single-story residence measures in at an extraordinarily modest by today’s celebrity standards 2,624 square feet. Renovated, updated and expanded over the years by the various owners, the residence retains a number of original architectural details such as thick white stucco walls, casement windows, some fitted with wrought iron grills, terra-cotta tile floors, Gothic arch doorways, and vaulted, exposed wood ceilings.
The Helenas, a series of 25 tiny cul-de-sacs that run from San Vicente Boulevard to just above Sunset Boulevard at the eastern edge of the posh Brentwood Park neighborhood, has long been attractive to Tinseltown types.”
The former home of Johnny Hyde, Marilyn’s agent and lover, was recently featured on the website of realtor Joyce Rey, prior to being snapped up (for $21K per month) by a lucky tenant on March 10. Marilyn often stayed there during their two-year relationship, which lasted from early 1949 until Hyde’s death in late 1950. Marilyn was heartbroken by the death of her greatest champion, who secured important roles and a contract with Twentieth Century Fox for the young actress. She was photographed by Earl Leaf at 718 North Palm Drive (off Sunset Boulevard) just months before Hyde passed away.
For Irish house-hunters, here’s something completely different: a €185,000 house in the Dublin suburb of Clondalkin, decorated throughout with Marilyn memorabilia by its owner, a diehard Marilyn fan. The property has been viewed online by over 200,000 people since going viral on St Patrick’s Day, reports the Irish Independent.
This clipping from the UK’s Sunday Times, posted by Kevin at Marilyn Remembered, marks the closure of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. One of the city’s landmarks, it is being converted into private apartments after more than a century in business. The article incorrectly states that Marilyn lived there with Arthur Miller. However, her 1955 residency coincided with the beginning of their romance.
She also met FBI head J. Edgar Hoover at the Banshee Luncheon in the hotel that year. Ironically, Hoover closely monitored her relationship with Miller. Many of Marilyn’s personal writings, later published in Fragments, were written on the Waldorf’s headed notepaper.
After her marriage in 1956, she used the suite as an office for her production company. She continued to make public appearances at the Waldorf, including a rare radio interview following the premiere of Baby Doll in December 1956, and a turn on the catwalk at a fundraiser for the March of Dimes in January 1957. The photo above shows Marilyn dining with Miller and financier Winthrop Aldrich at the April In Paris Ball, also held at the Waldorf in 1957.
In daily life, Marilyn often went unrecognised. This rare photo shows her wearing a black wig. When travelling ‘incognito‘, she sometimes used false names (including ‘Zelda Zonk’.)
In the summer of 1953, Joe DiMaggio joined Marilyn in Canada, where she was filming River of No Return. She took these snapshots of Joe during his visit. Also pictured is Jean Negulesco, who had directed Marilyn in How to Marry a Millionaire. Although his work on River was uncredited, Negulesco may have helped to smooth the differences between Marilyn and the somewhat tyrannical Otto Preminger.
Shortly before her third marriage to Arthur Miller, Marilyn converted to Judaism. This Jewish prayer book was probably a gift from Rabbi Robert E. Goldburg.
Some photos of Arthur Miller, including one taken with Marilyn in 1959.
Marilyn’s Minolta 16mm camera. This model was introduced in 1957.
These photos are of the farmhouse at Roxbury, Connecticut, bought by the Millers after their marriage. It is incorrectly identified in the Julien’s catalogue as Marilyn’s Los Angeles abode. The Millers’ country home required extensive renovations. After their marriage ended, Marilyn kept their city apartment while Arthur lived at Roxbury until his death in 2005.
Marilyn with her friend, actor Eli Wallach, in 1957. They would later co-star in The Misfits (1961.)
Correspondence with Xenia Chekhov, widow of Marilyn’s acting teacher, Michael Chekhov.
“A single-page typed, unsigned file copy of a letter dated December 19, 1958, to ‘Mrs. Chekhov’ reading ‘My husband and I were so happy with the pictures you sent us of Mr. Chekhov. We will treasure them forever. I am not able to shop for Christmas, as you may already know I have lost the baby, so I would like you to use this check as my Christmas greetings with all my most affectionate good wishes. My husband sends you his warmest regards.’ The letter is accompanied by Xenia Chekhov’s response written on a notecard dated January 10, 1959, reading in part, ‘[Y]our personal sad news affected me very much and I could not find the courage to write you sooner. All my warmest feelings of sympathy go out to you and Mr. Miller.’ This is a deeply personal note with an acknowledgement of a miscarriage in Monroe’s own words.”
“An assortment of receipts from seven different bookstores: including: Doubleday Book Shop, Beekman Place Bookshop, and E. Weyhe Inc., all of New York City, and Wepplo’s Book Store, Lee Freeson, Martindale’s Book Stores and Hunter’s Books, all of Los Angeles. Titles include The Great Gatsby; Van Gogh’s Great Period; I , Rachel; An Encyclopedia of Gardening; Hi – Lo’s – Love Nest; a book listed simply as ‘Yves Montand’, among others. The receipts are dated 1958 and 1960.”
A Royal Quiet de Luxe model typewriter owned by Marilyn.
Various letters from Marilyn to her stepdaughter, Jane Miller.
“A 1957 letter is written to Janie at summer camp and recounts a number of amusing stories about Hugo the Bassett Hound reading in part, ‘He got kicked by that donkey. Remember him? His nose swelled up with a big lump on top and it really wrecked his profile. I put an ice pack on it and it took several days for it to go down but the last time I saw him it was pretty well healed. Bernice is taking care of him and the house while I am at the hospital.We are going home tomorrow and then I will write you by hand. Listen, I had better stop now because I want to get off a note to Bobby today. Don’t worry about me in the hospital. I am feeling much better now and I have the funniest Scotch nurse.’ (Marilyn had recently been taken to hospital after suffering an ectopic pregnancy.)
The 1958 letter is typed on the back of a piece of stationery from the Hotel Bel-Air and is addressed, ‘Dear Janie-bean.’ The letter, written as Marilyn prepared for Some Like It Hot, reads in part, ‘Thanks for helping me into my white skirt. I almost didn’t make it -but now that I’m busier I’ll start losing weight – you know where. Along with ukulele lessons I have to take I’m learning three songs from the 1920 period. … I don’t know how my costumes in the picture will be yet. I’ll let you know.'”
Three colour slides from the estate of Frieda Hull, showing the Millers leaving New York for Los Angeles in November 1959. Marilyn’s parakeet, Butch, travelled with them. He was a noisy passenger, constantly squawking, “I’m Marilyn’s bird!”
An electroplate ice bucket, made in England, and a receipt for 12 splits of Piper Heidsieck champagne, delivered to the Millers’ bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel during filming of Let’s Make Love in December 1959.
Address books from 1955 and 1962. The first includes a handwritten ‘to-do list’, with entries such as “as often as possible to observe Strassberg’s [sic.] other private classes”; “never miss my actors studio sessions”; “must make strong effort to work on current problems and phobias that out of my past has arisen.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Julien’s sale is that Marilyn was planning to buy a home in New York, even commissioning a series of architectural drawings for a property on East 61st Street in November 1961. In addition to her rented Manhattan apartment, she bought a small bungalow in Los Angeles in 1962, but clearly hadn’t given up her dream of a permanent East Coast base.
“An original letter from John E. Holland of the Charles F. Noyes Real Estate Company dated October 18, 1961, addressed to Miss Marilyn Monroe, 444 East 57th Street, New York, “Attention: Miss Marjorie Stengel” (Monroe’s secretary). The letter reads in part, ‘L]ast summer Mr. Ballard of our office, and I showed you the house at the corner of 57th Street and Sutton Place and Mr. Arthur Krim’s house on Riverview Terrace. I spoke to Miss Stengel yesterday and told her of a house which we have just gotten listed for sale at 241 East 61st Street. She asked me to send you the particulars on this house as she thought you might be interested in it. I am enclosing our setup. … The garden duplex apartment is now occupied by the owner and would be available to a purchaser for occupancy. You may possibly have been in this apartment as Miss Kim Novak … just moved out in September. Before that it was occupied by Prince Aly Khan.’
An original letter from John E. Holland of the Charles F. Noyes Real Estate Company dated November 15, 1961, addressed to Miss Marjorie Stengel, stating, ‘I am enclosing herewith Photostats which I had made of the drawings adding a stairway which would include all or half of the third floor with the duplex garden apartments. These sketches may be somewhat confusing, but I could easily explain them if you would like to have me do so,’ together with six Photostat copies of original architectural drawings for the redesign of an apartment located at 241 East 61st Street in New York. The drawings go into great detail as to the redesign of the apartment, with space for an art studio and specific notes stating, ‘This could be another bedroom or boudoir, or health studio with massage table, chaise lounge, private living room…or…with numerous closets.'”
This grey pony handbag may have been bought by Marilyn during her February 1962 trip to Mexico. She was also a keen gardener, and a Horticulture magazine subscriber.
“An extraordinary, blue cloth over board, ‘project management‘ three-ring binder kept by one of Monroe’s assistants chronicling the purchase and ongoing renovation and decoration of her home located at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, California. The notebook begins with an information sheet and lot diagram as well as a typed renovation and additions budget for the property totaling $34,877.36 against a purchase price of $57,609.95. The book also contains approximately 28 pages of notes on various renovation projects and to-do lists; a page with notes regarding terracing and planting the hillside; seven drawings of exterior floor plan for possible apartment above the garage for a cook; three renderings of options for a table and another decorative element for the home; and a listing of bills due as of August 16, 1962. The last page of the book lists ‘Moet – Champagne vintage 1952/ et Chandon a Epernay/ Cuvee Dom Perignon – 13.88.’ The book lists dates that furniture is due to be delivered from various suppliers, many after Monroe’s death, as well as dimensions of each room of the home for the purpose of ordering ‘white India’ carpet. It also has estimates to have the pool resurfaced, water heater moved, fountain built, and laundry room and shower expanded for people using the pool as well as notes about decoration of a ‘play room,’ fabrication of a new gate, bars for windows, and shelving to be built, among many other things.
A group of invoices dating to February 28, 1962, from various Mexican boutiques listing the purchase of a great number of pieces of furniture and home furnishings, purchased in Mexico for Monroe’s Fifth Helena Drive residence. Together with a two-page typed signed letter dated July 26, 1962, signed ‘Mura’, giving a full report to Monroe’s secretary Eunice Murray regarding her buying trip in Mexico. The letter demonstrates the fact that Monroe was still quite actively working on her home at the time of her death.”
Items from Lee Strasberg’s estate will be auctioned at Julien’s this Friday. They include many of Marilyn’s notes, poems, ink and crayon drawings and watercolours, previously published in the acclaimed Fragments and the French book, Girl Waiting. Some of the artworks purchased by Marilyn for home display are also up for bids.
Abigail Cain has written an insightful piece about Marilyn’s little-known artistic side for Artsy.net.
“‘Not only was she a voracious reader and a haunting poet, but, as several of these objects prove, Monroe was also deeply invested in both collecting and creating visual art. Among these items—many of which have never before been seen by the public—were the 1961 architectural plans for Monroe’s unrealized Manhattan apartment. In this drawing, a space was marked off for an art studio inside the three-story townhouse, located at 241 East 61st Street.
In addition, a series of letters from the late 1950s show that Monroe was enrolled in a correspondence art course through the Famous Artists School in Westport, Connecticut. The recovered documents include a roster of instructors, a ‘Rate Yourself Progress Chart,’ and several pages explaining the logistics of the painting class and long-distance critiques.
Also included in the auction is a series of drawings by Monroe, done primarily in Conté crayon. Although these are not dated, Woolley said it’s possible they were completed as part of the correspondence art course.
Beyond her own sketches, Monroe was also a collector of art. Her tastes were varied—at the beginning of her career, she taped inexpensive reproductions of Albrecht Dürer, Fra Angelico, and Leonardo da Vinci to the walls of her Hollywood apartment. As she grew in both fame and fortune, she began to purchase originals instead.”
Architectural Digest has republished biographer Donald Spoto’s 1994 article about Marilyn’s many homes, from the bungalow she shared with the Bolender family as a child, to the modest retreat where she spent her final days.
“She was the most photographed woman in America, and very likely the most peripatetic. There was something of the pilgrim about her, for she was a ceaseless wanderer in search of herself. And even after 20th Century-Fox had rechristened her Marilyn Monroe, she briefly took the name Journey Evers, as if to signify the continuous motion of her life.
In 1951 and 1952, swiftly attaining stardom, Marilyn had nine films in release—and added no less than three addresses to her biography. She paid little attention to her surroundings and lived in a sparsely furnished apartment on Hilldale Avenue in West Hollywood and, two blocks from that, in a small one-bedroom at 882 North Doheny Drive, at the corner of Cynthia Street. There she began her romance with Joe DiMaggio in 1952. ‘Almost any place would have done for me,’ she told a friend, ‘but I tried to make it homey for Joe.’ “