The latest Versace collection, which hit the catwalk in Milan this week, is nostalgic in more ways than one, as Vogue reports. Marking the 20th anniversary of Gianni Versace’s death, this ‘homage collection’ from his sister and successor, Donatella Versace, also reinvents one of his most iconic designs. The ‘Marilyn dress’ that supermodel Naomi Campbell first wore on the catwalk in 1991, as part of the ’92 collection (shown above left) makes a notable comeback (see right.) Based on the infamous Pop Art screen-prints by Andy Warhol, and also featuring James Dean, the much-imitated Marilyn dress epitomises the Versace brand’s postmodern fusion of glamour and excess, and the original now resides in New York’s Met Museum.
Actor James Dean is the latest subject – or victim – of celebrity biographer Darwin Porter, whose 2012 book, Marilyn at Rainbow’s End, was slated by fans. Co-written with Danforth Prince and due for publication in April, James Dean: Tomorrow Never Comes makes the eye-popping assertion that Dean was embroiled in a sado-masochistic relationship with Marlon Brando. And according to the Daily Mail, ‘Dean supposedly also had a fling with Marilyn Monroe when they spent two weekends a beach house on Fire Island, an idyllic getaway East of New York.’
The Daily Express has more detail, rendered in Porter’s trademark purple prose:
“Amazingly Dean dreamed of marrying Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. Dean met Monroe in 1955 and the pair quickly adjourned to a romantic weekend at a beachfront cottage.
‘He was very loving, very romantic,’ Monroe told actress Shelley Winters. ‘I’ve agreed to marry him one day.’ But after several weeks they recognised that marriage would be disastrous.
‘Let’s admit the truth: both of us need babysitters,’ said Dean. Monroe agreed: ‘It wouldn’t work. We’d end up destroying each other.’ However even after they split Monroe remained possessive, berating him about his fling with Taylor.”
Marilyn did, in fact, visit Fire Island on several occasions during 1955, as the Strasbergs owned a holiday home there. Dean was friendly with the Strasbergs due to his association with the Actors Studio. However, no such tryst has ever been mentioned until now. As with the Brando story, it seems unlikely that an encounter between such iconic stars would take so long to be revealed. (Porter has also claimed that Marilyn had affairs with Elizabeth Taylor and Ronald Reagan in his previous biographies, but once again, there is no solid evidence for this.)
In her 1989 memoir, Shelley Winters recalled seeing a Los Angeles preview of Brando’s film On the Waterfront with Marilyn and James Dean in early 1954. As Marilyn had just married Joe DiMaggio and was spending most of her time in San Francisco while in dispute with Twentieth Century-Fox, this seems questionable. However, Winters did know both Marilyn and Dean quite well, and some fans have suggested that the preview may actually have been Brando’s 1951 film, A Streetcar Named Desire.
In any case, Winters’ memories did not suggest any intimacy between Marilyn and Dean. She recalled that after the movie, she and Marilyn drove to film director Nick Ray’s bungalow at the Chateau Marmont, and that Dean rode ahead on his motorcycle, ‘playing chicken’ with them – which angered and upset Marilyn.
Needless to say, the quotations attributed to Winters in Porter’s book do not appear in her own memoirs – which make no mention of an affair between Marilyn and Dean. And the quotations attributed to Marilyn do not appear in any other source.
Before his untimely death in September 1955, Dean was said to have been one of several actors considered as a possible co-star for Marilyn in Bus Stop (the part eventually went to newcomer Don Murray.) And director Henry Hathaway had hoped to pair Marilyn and Dean in a remake of Of Human Bondage. The film was later made with Kim Novak and Laurence Harvey.
Although they may have been united in countless tacky Photoshops, the only time Marilyn and Dean were connected publicly was at the 1955 premiere of his film, East of Eden. The event was a benefit for the Actors Studio, and Marilyn served as an ‘usherette’. She was accompanied by Milton Greene, and was later photographed with comedian Milton Berle – but not with James Dean, because he wasn’t there!
In a post debunking fake, Photoshopped images, Gizmodo’s Matt Novak points out a frequently circulated image of Marilyn, supposedly with James Dean. In fact, she was photographed alone by Ed Feingersh in 1955, smoking a cigarette on a balcony overlooking a New York street. The photo of Dean appears to have been taken while filming East of Eden. While the two iconic stars have often been compared, actually they only met on a handful of occasions and were not close friends.
Writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, Ryan Chittum adds to the mounting criticism of C. David Heymann’s posthumously-published Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love.
The article includes an acknowledgement to ES Updates: ‘Marilyn Monroe fan sites saw through this right away. The British blogger Tara Hanks wrote this in July, several weeks before the Newsweek piece appeared.’
Furthermore, Ryan Chittum has investigated some of Heymann’s controversial sources:
“Heymann claimed to have talked to Lotte Goslar, Monroe’s mime teacher, for the book. But Goslar died in 1997. Susan Strasberg, another source, died in 1999. Monroe’s makeup artist, Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder, whom Heymann cites two-dozen times, died in 1994. Yankees legend Bill Dickey died in 1993, and gossip columnist Doris Lilly died in 1991.
These supposed interviews fit a pattern, as Johnston noted in Newsweek: Quotes and new information attributed to dead sources who can’t say whether Heymann ever actually talked to them.
In the book, Heymann extensively quotes Robert Solotaire, whose father George was a good friend of Joe DiMaggio’s, discussing DiMaggio’s supposed use of prostitutes and his tiffs with Monroe, among other titillating anecdotes. Robert Solotaire died in 2008. Benjamin Solotaire, Robert’s son, tells me the quotes were made up.
‘He would never have shared such intimate details about what Joe said,’ Benjamin says. ‘My father said that George, my grandfather, would look away when having dinner with Joe and Marilyn whenever they were being affectionate. My father continued respecting that privacy. And the quotes just aren’t the way dad spoke. They are too crass and detailed for him.’
‘It is bothersome to me and my family that these made-up, embarrassing quotes are attributed to my father,’ he continued. ‘George and dad were great friends of Joe and would never have tarnished his or Marilyn’s reputation.'”
Chittum also mentions Dr Judd Marmor, a psychiatrist who briefly treated Marilyn. Heymann previously quoted him in his pulped biography of Barbara Hutton, claiming the heiress had an affair with his patient, James Dean. But Dean’s biographer, Val Holley, also approached Dr Marmor, who rightly refused to discuss his former patient with any author. Marmor died in 2003.
In Joe and Marilyn, Heymann claimed that Dr Marmor revealed confidential details about Marilyn’s relationship with Elia Kazan; and that Marilyn was then treated for a year Dr Rose Fromm, which – as the Newsweek article has already established – is untrue.
“Fromm’s appearance in Chapter 3 allowed Heymann to fill in lurid details about Monroe’s youth, including a supposed sexual incident with ‘Roxanne Smith,’ a ‘pretty and well developed’ sixth-grade classmate, whose existence, ‘despite the best efforts of the dozens of biographers who have written about Marilyn Monroe over the years,’ had never been reported until Heymann came along. These and many other anecdotes and quotes from Monroe’s childhood, including details about her sex life with her first husband, come from Fromm in vivid detail 50 years after the fact (Heymann wrote that Fromm ‘kept notes on her meeting with MM, and these notes were made available to the author’).”
Finally, Ryan Chittum challenges Simon & Schuster, who published Joe and Marilyn, to answer these charges:
“You can’t libel the dead, as biographer Kitty Kelley noted in that Post story, and Heymann made a living off of that. But Simon & Schuster looked the other way.
It continues to do so. Johnston says the book’s editor, Emily Bestler, hung up on him when he started asking about Heymann’s fabrications, and that Simon & Schuster declined to talk to him. Bestler did not respond to my requests for comment, and Simon & Schuster and CBS Corporation declined to comment on questions Johnston and I have raised. “Thank you for checking in on this again before you go to press. Once again, we will have no response to Mr. Johnston’s article in Newsweek, nor any comment on your questions,” says Adam Rothberg, Simon & Schuster’s senior vice president of corporate communications.
That doesn’t cut it.
Simon & Schuster and CBS need to answer questions about whether Bestler actually had the book factchecked, and if so, how that process went so wrong. They need to talk about why they haven’t recalled books that have been so thoroughly discredited. They also need to say why they signed someone like Heymann in the first place.”
‘False Images = Faulty Facts‘, an article posted by John Greco on his excellent Twenty-Four Frames blog today, takes a look at the problem of Photoshopped images. This photo of Marilyn alone, taken by Ed Clark at Griffith Park in 1950, was interpolated into a Richard C. Miller picture of James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor relaxing during filming of Giant in 1955.
While it may seem like harmless fun, these images are too often taken as genuine, and are circulated around the internet – thus rewriting a small slice of history. With so many misunderstandings about Marilyn already in existence, these pictures are witlessly damaging her legacy.
Spanish director Pedro Almodovar – who paid homage to Marilyn in his 2009 film, Broken Embraces– has praised her again in a recent interview for the Yorkshire Post, describing MM as one of the few method actors who could play comedy:
‘”To me, Saturday Night Live seems like cabaret, the cradle for decades of the best American comics. The Actor’s Studio, however, with all the respect and admiration it deserves, seems just the opposite to me,’ he explained. ‘Brando, a comedy actor? No. And he tried it. He even sang and danced in Guys and Dolls, stiff as a board, but Brando was too self-aware. I don’t know if Montgomery Clift ever actually tried it but I can’t imagine him. Or James Dean. Or Daniel Day-Lewis.”
‘I don’t debate his greatness but no matter how thin he is, Daniel Day-Lewis can’t manage to give the slightest sensation of lightness,’ Almodovar candidly stated. But surely, there must be someone who bucks the rule? Someone who managed to get the highest dramatic training, yet could still be effortlessly light and funny? Well, there is: ‘Marilyn Monroe is still the exception. Adopted by the Strasbergs, she managed to overcome the weight of the Method.'”
Veteran character actor Martin Landau, who appeared in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959), and the classic TV series Mission: Impossible, is currently featured in Tim Burton’s latest movie, Frankenweenie.
Now 84, Landau has spoken to The Guardianabout his memories of Marilyn. They met at the Actor’s Studio, and, Landau claims, dated for a while in 1955.
“In his youth, Landau was good friends with James Dean and briefly dated Marilyn Monroe. Was there a sense that the two were somehow ill-starred, pointed towards disaster, destined to die young?
‘No, no, no, he says with uncharacteristic emphasis. ‘Jimmy never talked about dying; Jimmy talked about living. Jimmy’s only concern was that he would become an old boy, like Mickey Rooney. When Kazan tested actors for East of Eden, Paul Newman and Jimmy auditioned on the same day. Paul looked like a man when he was 20, whereas Jimmy was still playing high-school kids at 23. So that bothered him a bit. But Jimmy did not want to die. And there’s always a lot of conjecture about Marilyn’s death. It’s still a mystery; no one seems to know exactly what happened. Yes, there were ongoing issues with Marilyn, but they did not support the idea of suicide in any way, shape or form.'”
In an interview with The Australian, Landau talks in more detail about Marilyn:
“He recalls taking classes with Monroe, a couple of years his senior, under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York.
‘She was there because she was dissatisfied. People perceived her as a Hollywood blonde bimbo. She was very needy and would go from being on top of her game to absolutely bereft of any self-belief or confidence. She seesawed between those two personalities.’
When they went to the theatre she’d change her outfits many times. ‘We’d never see the first act of the play.’ Did he desire her? ‘She was terrific … I don’t talk about those things,’ he says, quietly. Did he have a relationship with her? ‘I had a relationship with her. It was just before Arthur (Miller, the playwright whom she married in 1956). It was an interesting relationship, I look at it very differently than the way I did then. She was incredibly attractive but very difficult.’
How did he cope with that? ‘You can’t. That’s why I didn’t.’ It lasted? ‘Several months.’ He couldn’t cope with the poles of her personality? ‘Yeah, you didn’t know which one would show up in the middle of something.’ Did he end the relationship? ‘I did, by becoming more busy.’ Was she upset by that? ‘I don’t know, probably. I didn’t want to upset her.’
After the relationship ended, Landau and Monroe saw each other ‘a couple of times in passing’ in New York and Los Angeles.
Was he in love with her? ‘I don’t know if I was in love with her or fascinated by her or flattered by her. She was incredibly attractive and fun to be with much of the time. When she wasn’t she wasn’t. I mean, that was the problem. She could get very withdrawn.’ Did he want to marry her? ‘No, no. It was almost a form of purgatory. I never knew who (that is, which Marilyn) I was going to be with.’
Landau was changing planes in Rome in 1962 when he read that Monroe had died. ‘I was heartbroken. As the mystery unfolded I was more and more shocked. It didn’t seem possible that she killed herself intentionally. It was possible she took more barbiturates than necessary, just losing count, or possibly it was foul play. Nobody knows.'”
In his new book, They Knew Marilyn Monroe, author Les Harding also mentions Martin Landau. This anecdote is attributed to Paddy Chayevsky’s biographer, Shaun Considine.
“After a class at the Actor’s Studio, Landau, with Ben Gazzara and Elia Kazan, escorted Marilyn to the window table of a Times Square restaurant. Landau noticed that Marilyn’s attention seemed to be somewhere else. Following her gaze, Landau glanced across the street which housed the office of the theatrical producer working on Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From the Bridge’. High up in the building, framed in the window, was Miller himself. ‘He stood there for the longest time, with his foot on the windowsill, looking down at her,’ said Landau. ‘I was the only one who noticed, and nothing was said. Only later did I put it all together.'”