Actor James Karen, whose career in film, television and theatre spanned eight decades, has died aged 94. As his friend, film critic Leonard Maltin, confirmed on his blog today, he was photographed with Marilyn at the Actors Studio in 1955. (James was also a friend of Marilyn’s Misfits co-star, Kevin McCarthy.)
Born Jacob Karnovsky in Pennsylvania, he joined the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York on the recommendation of his cousin, Morris Carnovsky (who would teach Marilyn at the Actors Lab in Los Angeles during the late 1940s.) Karen got his big break in 1947, with a supporting role in Elia Kazan’s original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire. When the play reached L.A. two years later, Louis B. Mayer offered him a contract at MGM, but he declined.
One of America’s most prolific character actors, James Karen later appeared in films including Poltergieist, The China Syndrome, Wall Street, Return of the Living Dead, Mulholland Drive, and The Pursuit of Happyness. His television roles ranged from soap operas All My Children and As the World Turns, to cameo parts in The Golden Girls and Seinfeld.
As I have often observed on this blog, plays about Marilyn are becoming a staple of fringe drama. Few have managed to rise from obscurity, but MARILYN! – a new musical previewing for one night only at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California on July 29 – has impressive credentials, as Broadway World reports.
“The one-evening-only July 29 event, celebrates the life Marilyn Monroe with a short documentary film featuring Monroe’s former boyfriend Bill Pursel, Monroe’s Bus Stop co-star Don Murray, Monroe author, Michelle Morgan, President of ‘Marilyn Remembered’ Greg Schreiner, and Actors Studio classmate, James Karen, among other key figures.
Audience members will be treated to an exclusive collection of Monroe’s artifacts from Schreiner’s personal collection at a pre-show reception. But the highlight of the evening is the world premiere of the full length musical MARILYN!, which chronicles the star’s childhood and tumultuous path to stardom with stirring and emotional songs …
Prospect House Entertainment is also pleased to announce a collaboration with Hollygrove, formerly Los Angeles Orphan Home, where Marilyn Monroe stayed as a child. Hollygrove will receive a percentage of the event’s proceeds in perpetuity. MARILYN! additionally holds the distinction of being produced with the blessing of the Marilyn Monroe Estate.
MARILYN! Is set in the present day – Michelle is a young journalist from England researching Marilyn Monroe to commemorate the actress’ 90th birthday. She visits Charlie Page, one of Marilyn’s drivers, who is now living a life of solitude. Two stories emerge as Charlie bonds with Michelle he recalls Marilyn Monroe’s phenomenal life in flashback and reveals the real reason behind his living as a recluse for over forty years…
MARILYN! stars Kelley Jakle (Universal’s Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2, Spring Awakening in Concert) as ‘Marilyn Monroe’; Kelley Dorney (PBS Concert Special: A Tale of Two Cities) as ‘Norma Jeane’; Samantha Stewart (CBS’ Days of Our Lives) as ‘Michelle Morgan’; and Marvin Gay as ‘Charlie Paige’.”