Moments in Time: Marilyn and the Kennedys

The only photo of Marilyn and the Kennedy brothers is coming up for auction in a rare original print. Bidding at Lelands‘ will start at $2,500, ending on August 17.  Olivia B. Waxman explores the backstory over at Time.

“The image shown here was taken that night at an after-party at the Manhattan townhouse of Hollywood exec Arthur Krim, by official White House photographer Cecil Stoughton. A print of that image is now for sale, which the auction house Lelands says it was discovered after Stoughton died in 2008; Lelands claims it could be the only surviving version of the photo that Stoughton printed himself from the original negative.

Also pictured are the President’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, on the viewer’s left, and Harry Belafonte, who sang ‘Michael Row the Boat Ashore’ that night, in the center back. The bespectacled smiling man on the right is the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who admitted later that he was indeed as starstruck as he looks. Monroe had also brought her ex-father-in-law Isidore Miller, playwright Arthur Miller’s father, to meet the President that night. ‘I thought this would be one of the biggest things in his life’ as an ‘immigrant,’ a 1964 LIFE magazine feature reported her saying.

‘[I]t was Marilyn who was the hit of the evening,’ according to TIME’s recap of the concert in 1962. ‘Kennedy plainly meant it when he said, “I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.”‘

The performance added to rumors that both Kennedy brothers were having affairs with the actor … According to another biographer, Donald Spoto, Monroe and JFK met four times between October 1961 and August 1962. Their only ‘sexual encounter‘ is believed to have taken place two months before the concert in a bedroom at Bing Crosby’s house on Mar. 24, 1962, her masseur Ralph Roberts has said.

So, while rumors of their affair may have ramped up after her performance at Madison Square Garden, their interest in each other may have been winding down at that point, Roberts has claimed. Referring to their March encounter, he said, ‘Marilyn gave me the impression that it was not a major event for either of them: it happened once, that weekend, and that was that.’

And yet, especially given Monroe’s death and Kennedy’s assassination not too long after, the idea of their relationship still holds its grip on many Americans’ imaginations.”

Why Marilyn Wasn’t ‘Always at the Carlyle’

Marilyn with Isadore Miller (1962)

Always At The Carlyle, a new documentary about one of New York City’s legendary hotels, puts paid to the enduring myth that Marilyn and John F. Kennedy enjoyed a romantic tryst in the Presidential Suite after the 1962 gala where she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to him.  ‘Much is made of a story about how John F. Kennedy smuggled Marilyn Monroe through a tunnel to the Carlyle,’ the Times reports, ‘but then the idea is pretty convincingly debunked.’ In fact, at the end of the evening Marilyn accompanied her elderly former father-in-law Isadore Miller – who was her escort at the gala and after-party – back to his hotel, before returning home alone. This was confirmed by superfan James Haspiel, who clocked Marilyn entering her apartment building in the small hours.

A ‘Loving Portrait’ of Marilyn and Arthur

The Millers in New York, by Sam Shaw (1957)

Sophie Gilbert has praised Arthur Miller: Writer as a ‘loving portrait‘ in her review for The Atlantic. Rebecca Miller’s new documentary can now be viewed by HBO subscribers in the US (I will update this blog when it becomes more widely available.)

Arthur Miller: Writer is a family portrait defined by intimacy with its subject, captured in footage the filmmaker first started shooting in her 20s. The movie’s at its most intriguing when it’s parsing the strangeness of being closely related to someone so celebrated, who put so much of his life in his work. Rebecca’s sister, Jane, recalls how, conversing with her father when she was younger, ‘There were times when he was only interested in something because he could use it.’

It’s a surprise, though, how warm and goofy Miller is in scenes with his daughter, as she captures him working on carpentry projects in his studio in Connecticut or reminiscing in his kitchen. Rebecca Miller, when the camera turns to her, watches him intently, with palpable affection.

Monroe, Miller’s second wife, is a substantial part of the film, although not an overwhelming one. It’s almost as though Rebecca Miller feels reluctant to probe too deeply into her father’s romantic life, even though he himself laid much of it bare in the 1964 play After the Fall. (‘The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him,’ Miller says in one interview.) When Miller and Monroe were first introduced in 1951 he recalled telling her that she was the saddest girl he’d ever met—a line he later put into The Misfits, a film he wrote for her to star in. Their marriage captivated America, given the unlikely union of a brilliant intellect and an incandescent movie star.

But Miller seemed to comprehend the pain within Monroe, who forged a bond with her new father-in-law that lasted until her death. ‘She couldn’t really gain for herself the confidence she had to have to do this,’ Miller tells his daughter. Then he sits, silently, for what feels like minutes, his face distorted with pain. ‘Terrible,’ he says. ‘Well.'”

Lost in Madison Square Garden

Joan Copeland, the actress sister of Arthur Miller, claims that Marilyn’s breathless rendition of ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ was not intentional, but due to her late arrival, reports the Daily Mail.

This is a funny story, but Marilyn was not late. She was backstage for the entire concert. Peter Lawford introduced her as ‘the late Marilyn Monroe’ as a joke. And the sexiness of her vocal was entirely deliberate!

Copeland says she attended the gala. Now 89, she recently performed a one-woman show in New York. But Arthur Miller’s father, Isadore, was Monroe’s escort, and he accompanied her to a party afterwards.