Legal Dispute Over Strasberg Letter

A letter written by Marilyn to Lee Strasberg, which sold for $156,000 at a Profiles in History auction in 2013, is the subject of a continuing legal dispute concerning Anna Strasberg, executrix of both Lee and Marilyn’s estate, reports the San Fernando Valley Post-Periodical. (The letter was written on Hotel Bel Air stationery, and may date from filming of Some Like it Hot in 1958. You can read a transcript here.)

“A judge told an attorney for an auction house Monday that he wanted to know who was in possession of a letter written by Marilyn Monroe to her longtime mentor and acting coach, pending the outcome of a trial over its ownership.

Robert Enders, an attorney for Calabasas-based auctioneer Profiles in History, said the letter’s purchaser – who is not identified by name or gender in court papers – advised him last week that the letter would be sent to the purchaser’s personal attorney in Los Angeles for safekeeping.

Enders said the person in possession of the letter – from Monroe to acting coach Lee Strasberg – did not give him any specifics about who would receive the letter and when.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin said he wanted answers to both.

In an Aug. 11 hearing, Fruin suggested placing the letter with an independent third party, while its ownership was litigated.

He also asked plaintiff Anna Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, to let him know when his client would be available to be deposed by Enders. Mancuso said the deposition would take place today.

Strasberg sued Profiles in History in May 2013, saying she learned in April 2013 that the letter, dubbed a ‘letter of despair’ in a New York Post article, was missing from her collection, which she inherited from her late husband – the administrator of Monroe’s estate.

According to court papers, Anna Strasberg thought the letter was with other Monroe memorabilia, locked in a filing cabinet at home.

The letter was bought via the Internet and sold by Profiles in History.

The buyer, however, is not a party to the case. Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, however said he may name him as a defendant.

While today’s deposition of his client would be done, he said he would rather wait until he knows whether or not to bring the buyer into the case. That way, Strasberg would only have to be deposed once.

‘I’d like to know who we’re fighting and what we’re fighting over before I take the next step,’ he said.

Strasberg lives on the East Coast, is 75 years old and in poor health, Mancuso said.

Mancuso said Stasberg believed the letter was stolen. But Enders told Fruin the consigner who provided the letter to the auction house said he got it from a member of the housekeeping staff at the Hotel Bel-Air in the 1970s and that it was a draft of a letter never sent Lee Strasberg.

Strasberg, who wants unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, became heir to her husband’s estate, including the Monroe letters, when he died in February 1982 at age 80.”

UPDATE: Read further news on this case here.

Marilyn’s Note to Lee

A very private and rather sad letter that Marilyn wrote to Lee Strasberg is to be auctioned by Profiles in History on May 30th. It will also be included in a preview exhibition at the Douglas Elliman Gallery on Madison Avenue, New York, from April 8th-16th, reports Yahoo.

Personally, I find it distasteful that such an item has been put on the open market – especially since many news sites have sensationally  described it as ‘suicidal’.

All of Marilyn’s letters have historic value, of course, and should be preserved – but in a university, library, or museum. Her emotional pain should not be exploited for profit.

It was written on Hotel Bel Air paper, and so may date from the filming of Some Like it Hot, a notoriously stressful shoot.

Her handwriting is quite difficult to read, but members of the Everlasting Star forum have been working on a transcript:

“Hotel Bel Air
701 Stone Canyon Road Los Angeles

Dear Lee,

I’m embarrassed to start this but thank you for understanding and having changed my life – even though you changed it I still am lost. I mean I can’t get myself together – I think it’s because everything is pulling against my concentration, everything one does or lives is impossible almost. You once said, the first time I heard you talk at the Actors’ Studio that ‘there is only concentration between the actor and suicide.’ As soon as I walk into a scene I lose my mental relaxation for some reason, which is my concentration. My will is weak but I can’t stand anything. I sound crazy, but I think I’m going crazy.

Thanks for letting Paula help me on the picture. She is the only thoroughly warm woman I’ve known. It’s just that I get before the camera and my concentration and everything I’m trying to learn leaves me. Then I feel like I’m not existing in the human race at all.

Love
Marilyn”

 

Bert Stern Returns to Bel Air

Carrie White of the Huffington Post reports on the launch of Bert Stern’s new Marilyn book for Taschen, with text by Norman Mailer, at the Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles, where Stern photographed Monroe in 1962.

Guests included legendary music producer Quincy Jones, actresses Penelope Ann Miller and Julie Newmar (who played Catwoman in the cult 1960s TV series, Batman), and comedian Chris Tucker. (Interestingly, some guests were as shocked as me by the book’s $1,000 price tag!)

Stern was introduced by Lawrence Schiller, who photographed Marilyn during filming of the pool scene in the unfinished Something’s Got to Give.

While at the launch, Stern spoke to the Los Angeles Times about his memories of the shoot. The suite where he photographed Marilyn is now part of the hotel’s La Prairie Spa.

‘”I didn’t want any clothes. I wanted things — jewelry, scarves, objects,” said Stern of the Monroe session. As usual, she showed up three hours late but thinner then he had expected. The 36-year-old Monroe sipped on her favorite Dom Pérignon champagne, picked up a few scarves from off the bed and giddily danced around while Stern snapped away. “She was in a terrific mood, a lot of fun,” Stern said. “She wanted to be in Vogue.”

“She got fed up with the dresses and wanted to go back to less things,” recalled Stern, who didn’t want a glitzy showbiz photo. An admirer of Edward Steichen’s black and white portrait of Greta Garbo, he wanted something more intimate, that definitive, immortal picture.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime event. I knew I’d never shoot her again.”‘