When Marilyn Met Marlene

Founded in 1969, Andy Warhol’s Interview was the magazine to be seen in for nearly forty years. Although it ceased publication last year, Interview still has an online presence and earlier this week, a snippet from the past was discovered.

“As a notable admirer of Marilyn Monroe’s, Andy Warhol was sure to get some of the juiciest gossip in his celebrity circle. While he was still Editor-in-Chief of Interview, alongside Paul Morissey and Fred Hughes, he buried a drama bomb of information in the ‘Small Talk’ section of the June 1973 issue involving Marlene Dietrich and M.M herself. However, not one of the contributing editors took credit for the gossip; they instead chose to keep the source anonymous … According to the ‘Small Talk’ column, Dietrich attended a screening of one of Monroe’s earlier films and talked through every one of her scenes, mumbling: ‘So this is what they want now. This is what they call sexy.'”

Marlene Dietrich by Eve Arnold, 1952

Eve Arnold, who photographed Marlene at work in a recording studio for Esquire magazine in 1952, recalled that when she later met Marilyn, the subject of Dietrich came up: “Marilyn asked – with that mixture of naïveté and self-promotion that was uniquely hers – ‘If you could do that well with Marlene, can you imagine what you could do with me?'”

Mariene Dietrich by Milton Greene, 1952

Another photographer who worked with Dietrich was Milton Greene, who later became Marilyn’s business partner. In 1955, he invited Marlene to a New York press conference to announce the formation of their new company, Marilyn Monroe Productions.

Like all stars (Marilyn included), Dietrich was naturally competitive. But although she may have briefly ‘thrown shade’ in Marilyn’s direction – to use a term that didn’t exist back then – there’s no sign of any rancour between them in these photographs.

In 1957, Marilyn was offered the lead role in a remake of The Blue Angel, which had made Marlene a global star many years before. That never came to pass, but a year later, Marilyn would recreate the character in her ‘Fabled Enchantresses’ photo session with Richard Avedon, although out of respect for Dietrich, she later asked the photographer to withdraw the images and they were not made public until long after Marilyn died.

Marilyn poses as Marlene for photographer Richard Avedon, 1958

Marilyn would take a leaf out of Marlene’s playbook again in 1962, asking costumer Jean Louis to recreate the beaded ‘nude’ dress he had made for Dietrich to wear during nightclub performances. Monroe’s version became immortalised that May, when she sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden.

Whatever Marlene’s initial thoughts on Marilyn may have been, she would remember her admiringly, writing in her 1987 memoir: “Marilyn Monroe was an authentic sex symbol, because not only was she ‘sexy’ by nature but she also liked being one – and she showed it.”

Scarlett, Elle Under Marilyn’s Spell

Elle Fanning for Interview – photo by Craig McDean

Actress Scarlett Johansson – who is sometimes compared to Marilyn – talks to another famous MM fan, 16 year-old Elle Fanning (now starring as Princess Aurora in Maleficent), about her idol in the May issue of Interview magazine.

“JOHANSSON: Growing up, my idol was Judy Garland. I loved her fragility, but also her strength. I know that you love Marilyn Monroe. Do you relate to Monroe as a performer? What is your Marilyn story?

FANNING: I was seven when I first saw a picture of her. I didn’t know that she was such a big icon. But I would just look at her and I was mesmerized. She was beautiful and so … truthful. She’s not faking it. If she’s having a terrible day when the picture was taken, she’ll show that she’s really depressed and having a terrible day. You can see it in her eyes. There are all the layers behind it. She not like, “Oh, let me just put on a smile.” That year my dad got the DVD of The Seven Year Itch [1955]. I was probably way too young to watch it. I didn’t even know what the story was about, but I was just looking at her the whole time and the way she talked was so light. That year I was Monroe in the white dress for Halloween. It was interesting to me that she did mostly comedies but her life was so tragic.

JOHANSSON: Sounds like you were attracted to her, if not attracted to her tragedy—you could see there’s such a soul to her.

FANNING: I felt like there was something deeper. It wasn’t glossy—there were bumps. There was more to her than just her blond hair.

JOHANSSON: Have you seen The Misfits [1961]?

FANNING: No. I’ve seen most of them but I haven’t seen that one. I bought this Marilyn Monroe app on my phone, and I was reading all her quotes.

JOHANSSON: Wow. I think there’s something really interesting about a really young girl—seven at the time—noticing the depth to Marilyn, because so many people only respond to the surface glamour or movie star glitz of her.”

(And for anyone looking to read genuine quotes by Marilyn, I recommend Immortal Marilyn Quote Unquote.)

Scarlett as Marilyn (Again)

Scarlett Johansson may have tried to distance herself from being compared to Marilyn (see here), but it seems that Interview magazine has other ideas. This Andy Warhol-esque cover graces the Russian edition for February, which is fitting as the Godfather of Pop Art himself was also the magazine’s founder.

Scarlett recently played another iconic star, Janet Leigh, in Hitchcock, and is currently starring as Maggie in a Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.