While Marilyn had fraught relationships with many of her directors, one of the few who gained her abiding trust was Jean Negulesco. After guiding her through a brilliant comedic performance in How to Marry a Millionaire, he helped to reshoot scenes from River of No Return and The Seven Year Itch, and was later mooted to replace George Cukor on the ill-fated Something’s Got to Give.
In his 1984 memoir, Things I Did … And Things I Think I Did, the Romanian-born Negulesco revealed a striking pen portrait of Marilyn from 1953 – and before coming to America in the 1930s, he had been an artist in Paris. This still-life painting from 1926 was featured in The Artist Sees Things Differently, on display until April 29 at Princeton University Art Museum, alongside works by Paul Cézanne, Georges Braque and Georgia O’Keeffe.
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.”
As a fan it’s my utmost pleasure to see Marilyn on the big screen, and I was lucky enough to attend a showing of How to Marry a Millionaire at the Duke of York’s cinema in Brighton last week (read my review here.) Further screenings are ongoing throughout January at Picturehouse cinemas across the UK – and looking further ahead, There’s No Business Like Show Business is scheduled for June.
Marilyn and Coca Cola are among the most recognisable American cultural icons. In an article for the Daily Mail, Anna Hopkins visits the Coca Cola archive managed by Ted Ryan in Atlanta, Georgia and finds images of Marilyn sipping Coke by the pool at Greenacres, the Hollywood home of silent movie comedian turned 3D photographer Harold Lloyd (seen here wearing a blue suit and his trademark spectacles.) She visited in 1953 with Jean Negulesco, supposedly to film a dream sequence for How to Marry a Millionaire. This never transpired, but footage of a seductive Marilyn purring “I hate a careless man” was used in ‘Security Is Common Sense’, a PSA for the US Air Force, warning servicemen against revealing military secrets in letters home.
Studio contract stars like Marilyn were routinely asked to endorse products, although she would do so less frequently in later years. Despite the Mail article’s claims, the Lloyd shoot does not appear to have been directly connected to Coca Cola – but the tacit promotional value was clearly welcomed, and it has since become part of their glamorous legacy. In 1951, Marilyn was filmed drinking Coke in a scene from Love Nest. And Edward Clark’s candid shot of Marilyn and co-star Jane Russell enjoying a Coke on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) was revived in a 2015 company ad campaign.
This rare and lovely photo, framed with an inscription from Marilyn to Arthur Miller, is featured in the Heritage Auctions Entertainment Signatures sale, set for November 11. Marilyn has written a heartfelt message in red wax pencil to her husband, ‘I know when I am not there for you – !!!‘, followed several ‘x’s or ‘m’s (this part is hard to decipher.) The photo was consigned from the estate of Marilyn’s lawyer, Aaron Frosch, and was likely passed on to him when the Millers’ marriage ended.
The auction also features a number of rare photos by Jean Howard, many never seen, from their 1954 portrait session (see above), plus stills from the set of How to Marry a Millionaire, and the famous shot of Marilyn dancing with Clark Gable at Romanoff’s.
Among the Monroe-related documents on offer is this certificate from the Exhibitor Laurel Awards, citing The Seven Year Itch as the best film of 1955.
Anne Bancroft, who made her screen debut in Don’t Bother to Knock and shared a dramatic scene with Marilyn, is the subject of two new biographies: one by Peter Shelley, and another by Douglass K. Daniel.
And one of Marilyn’s favourite directors, Jean Negulesco (How to Marry a Millionaire), is given the biographical treatment in a new study by Michelangelo Capua.
In an insightful piece for the Ipswich Star, arts editor Andrew Clarke suggests that the reason for Marilyn’s enduring fame is not merely because of her beauty and dying young, but also her talent and charisma, best seen in her movies.
“The reason that Marilyn continues to be an international star, long-after her death, is a combination of good looks, striking personality and a fine actress. Once she hit her stride she also made some brilliant films, films that have become classics and still entertain audiences 60 years after they were made.
Films like Some Like It Hot and Seven Year Itch remain as bright and effervescent as the day they were made. If you research some of Marilyn’s lesser known films like Niagara or How To Marry A Millionaire with Lauren Bacall then you will find the performance and the material equally good.
Examination of her dramatic films such Bus Stop and The Misfits reveals a talented, thoughtful actress who connects with the character and with her audience. In these films, more so than her comedies, she played a character probably more akin to the real Marilyn, a vulnerable, emotionally exposed individual trying to find her place in the world.”
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire – two of Marilyn’s best comedy vehicles, released consecutively in 1953 and featuring strong female casts, gleefully sending up gold-digger tropes – will be screened as a double bill at the Capri Theatre in the Goodwood district of Adelaide, south Australia from 2pm on August 20.
Marilyn is the perfect muse, so it’s no surprise that artists would pay tribute on her 91st birthday. David Bromley, whose paintings of MM were exhibited in Los Angeles last summer, had some wise words to offer on age and immortality in this Bert Stern-inspired tribute.
Daniel Acosta profiled Marilyn’s subtle transformation from role to role, while Alejandro Mogollo looked to near-sighted Pola in How to Marry a Millionaire for inspiration.
In recent years, Twentieth Century Fox has released a wide range of products celebrating their greatest star, including calendars, mugs, and most recently, perfumes. Fox was also involved with last year’s Bendigo exhibition. Using original poster artwork from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire, they have now created a series of framed prints (£25 each), as spotted by Immortal Marilyn’s Fraser Penney at TK Maxx in Perth, Scotland.
Some fans have noted that the original movie posters have been altered, removing Marilyn’s co-stars. MM would no doubt raise an eyebrow at this belated recognition from her home studio!