Marilyn may never have won an Academy Award, but she is so intrinsic to Hollywood lore that fans can usually find a Monroe reference or two on Oscar night. This year, a brief glimpse of Marilyn singing ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ in Some Like It Hot was featured in the opening ceremony’s roll-call of all-time greatest movies.
On the red carpet, Irish actress Saoirse Ronan – nominated for her role in the delightful Lady Bird – wore a beautiful pink sheath with spectacular bow, designed for her by Raf Simons, creator-in-chief at Calvin Klein. As some commentators have noted, the dress echoes the famous Travilla gown worn by Marilyn when she sang ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Blade Runner 2049 – which features a cameo appearance by impersonator Suzie Kennedy as a futuristic Monroe clone – won Englishman Roger Deakins this year’s Oscar for Best Cinematography.
And finally, The Shape of Water – in which Marilyn’s long-lost song, ‘How Wrong Can I Be’, is heard in full for the first time – was the night’s big winner. taking home four gongs, including Best Picture and Best Original Score.
Debbie Reynolds, star of Singin’ in the Rain and other classic Hollywood musicals, has died after suffering a stroke, aged 84 – just one day after her famous daughter, Carrie Fisher, also passed away.
She was born Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas in 1932. As a child she moved with her family to Los Angeles, and was crowned Miss Burbank in 1948. She began her career at Warner Brothers, where she was renamed Debbie.
In Three Little Words (1950), a nostalgic musical about the heyday of Tin Pan Alley, she played Helen Kane, the singer famed for her 1928 hit, ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You‘ (later revived by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.)
After moving to MGM, Debbie’s big break came when she was cast in her first dancing role, as chorus girl Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), recently named as the all-time Greatest Movie Musical (and fifth-greatest movie overall) by the AFI. She went on to star in Frank Tashlin’s Susan Slept Here (1954), and with Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap (1955.)
In 1956, she played a bride-to-be in The Catered Affair. That year, her marriage to singer Eddie Fisher was feted by Hollywood’s fan magazines as the dawn of a new, all-American golden couple. They were swiftly paired in Bundle of Joy, with Debbie playing a shopgirl who takes in an abandoned baby.
Their daughter Carrie was born in 1956, followed by son Todd in 1958. He was named after Eddie’s mentor, theatrical impresario Mike Todd, who died in a plane crash soon after. The Fishers’ seemingly idyllic life was shattered in 1959, when Eddie left Debbie for Mike Todd’s widow, Elizabeth Taylor. The scandal rocked Hollywood, although the two women resumed their friendship after Taylor divorced Fisher a few years later. Debbie married the millionaire businessman, Harry Karl, in 1960.
Debbie was the best-selling female singer of 1957, thanks to her hugely popular theme from Tammy. She later released an album, and went on to appear in Henry Hathaway’s How the West Was Won (1962), and opposite Tony Curtis in Goodbye Charlie (1964), in a role first offered to Marilyn Monroe.
In later years, Debbie would claim that evangelist Billy Graham approached her in 1962, after experiencing a premonition that Marilyn’s life was in danger. As Debbie did not know Marilyn well, she instead contacted a mutual friend, hairdresser Sydney Guilaroff, who allegedly spoke with Marilyn by telephone just hours before her death.
“She was a gentle, childlike girl who was always looking for that white knight on the white horse,” Debbie said of Marilyn, adding, “And why not? What sex symbol is happy?” Debbie also claimed that they attended the same church, although no further details have been uncovered.
Throughout the 1960s, Debbie played a three-month residency in Las Vegas each year. Her performance in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) earned her an Oscar nomination. Her second marriage ended in 1973. Four years later, her daughter Carrie Fisher found fame In her own right as Princess Leia in Star Wars.
Carrie would later become an acclaimed author. Postcards From the Edge, a novel about her close, if occasionally fractious relationship with her celebrated mother, was filmed by Mike Nichols in 1990, with Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine in the leading roles. Todd Fisher has also worked extensively in film, as well as assisting his mother with her business ventures.
The Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio opened in Los Angeles in 1979, and is still thriving. Her third marriage, to real estate developer Richard Hamlett, ended in 1996. She starred in several Broadway musicals and appeared in numerous television shows, including The Love Boat, Hotel, The Golden Girls, Roseanne, and Will & Grace. A former Girl Scout leader, she has also worked tirelessly for AIDS and mental health charities.
Debbie played herself in The Bodyguard (1992), and was reunited with Elizabeth Taylor for a 2001 TV movie, These Old Broads. One of her final roles was as Liberace’s mother in Behind the Candelabra (2013.) Her memoir, the aptly-titled Unsinkable, was published in 2015; and a new documentary, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, premiered at Cannes in 2016, and has since been acquired by HBO.
Debbie Reynolds will also be remembered fondly for her efforts to preserve the legacy of Hollywood’s golden age, which began when she purchased costumes from classic films (including many made for Marilyn) at an MGM auction in 1970. Her dream of opening a movie museum was sadly never realised, and in 2011, she relinquished her collection.
Among the many Marilyn-related items sold in a two-part event at Profiles in History was the cream silk halter-dress designed by Travilla, and worn by Marilyn as she stood over a subway grate in an iconic scene from The Seven Year Itch. The dress sold for $4.6 million, a sum surpassed only by the sale of Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ dress at Julien’s last month for $4.8 million.
Although the buyer was not named, the Seven Year Itch dress is rumoured to have been purchased by Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the Canadian company which is the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate.
I Wanna Be Loved By You is a new vinyl compilation from the French label, Wagram (perhaps inspired by this year’s exhibition of the same name in Provence.) Among the twelve tracks are lesser-known gems like ‘Incurably Romantic’, Marilyn’s duet with Yves Montand. Now on sale at Amazon stores worldwide, the album is also available as an MP3 download.
Marilyn’s RCA Victor award for ‘I’m Gonna File My Claim‘ after it was released as a single to promote River of No Return and sold 50,000 copies in 1954, as well as promotional materials, are among the items in the upcoming Julien’s sale.
An unedited, 30-minute audio recording of Marilyn performing multiple takes of ‘Runnin’ Wild’ and ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ (from Some Like It Hot) on a reel of acetate tape, from the estate of Studio 7612 owner Myron Blackler, is also on offer.
Marilyn’s personal songbook – containing more than 369 indexed pages of song standards, such as Cole Porter’s ‘You Do Something To Me’ – is up for bids. Receipts show that in February 1960, Marilyn purchased three albums by Frank Sinatra; and in April 1962, she bought a live double-album by Judy Garland.
Finally, a set of vinyl compilations featuring Marilyn herself are on sale, as collected by Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull.
One of Hollywood’s best-known composers, John Williams, was honoured with a AFI Life Achivement Award this week, as Steve Pond reports for The Wrap. One of Williams’ first (uncredited) movie jobs was in the Matty Malneck Orchestra, as pianist on ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You‘, Marilyn’s signature tune from Some Like it Hot.
“The Some Like It Hot clip featured Marilyn Monroe singing ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You,’ with Williams on the soundtrack as part of her backing band. But as he explained in the film, the band did its part in the studio, and simply played to a vocal that Monroe had already recorded.”
‘I Wanna Be Loved by You’ was originally composed by Herbert Stothart and Harry Ruby, with lyrics by Bert Kalmar, for the 1928 musical Good Boy. It was first performed in 1928 by Helen Kane, who became known as the ‘Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl.’ It has since been covered many times, but Marilyn’s 1959 version is now considered definitive.
Either Way: From Marilyn to Ellais a new album from French jazz singer Anne Ducros. Inspired by Ella Fitzgerald’s story about how Marilyn lobbied for her to perform at the Mocambo Club, Los Angeles in 1954 (full story here), the album is a tribute to both women.
Poupoupidou (Nobody Else But You) is a new French movie from writer-director Gerald Hustache-Mathieu. Not only is its title inspired by a line from Marilyn’s ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ from Some Like It Hot, but the film is about a novelist (Jean-Paul Rouve) investigating the mysterious death of a small-town celebrity (Sophie Quinton) who believed she was the reincarnation of Monroe. The story is narrated by the dead woman and includes flashbacks to her past.
The Hollywood Reportercomments, ‘As a Monroe wannabe, Quinton is seductive and enigmatic, though a far cry from the original. But who wouldn’t be?’ Meanwhile, Kitty Packard Pictorial adds, ‘I hope that Mathieu’s film is the invigorating blend of classic Hollywood storytelling and edgy film making that it very much seems it could be.’