Penny Cobbs, who worked for Richard Avedon during the 1980s, has described their collaboration on a series of posters based on his ‘Fabled Enchantresses’ sessions with Marilyn. “We did four Marilyns – her impersonating the old-time sex symbols Jean Harlow, Theda Bara, Clara Bow, and Lillian Russell – he’d done those pictures for Life in 1958,” Cobbs recalled in an interview for Avedon: Something Personal. “But since nobody could recognise Marilyn, they didn’t go over well.” Ironically, these posters are now highly collectible and because of their rarity, they sell well at auctions.
Director Henry Hathaway, who guided Marilyn through her star-making performance in Niagara, was a movie veteran, perhaps best-known for his action pictures. Although seen as gruff and domineering by some, he proved to be one of Marilyn’s most supportive directors.
Henry Hathaway: The Lives of a Hollywood Director, published later this month, is a new biography by Harold N. Pomainville, and promises to be of interest to MM fans (although rather expensive, in my opinion.) He describes how Hathaway dealt with Marilyn’s interfering coach, Natasha Lytess; and how he persuaded Marilyn to sing along to the record in the ‘Kiss’ scene.
Pomeraine also reveals that Zanuck thwarted Hathaway’s plan to cast Marilyn in Of Human Bondage, and that Hathaway advised her to hire Charles Feldman as her new agent as a defence against the hostile studio head. And it was Hathaway who offered Marilyn the chance to star in a Jean Harlow biopic. She rejected it, partly because she was then in dispute with screenwriter Ben Hecht over a shelved autobiography (published after her death as My Story); but perhaps also because the pressures of Harlow’s life mirrored her own.
“Though Hathaway worked with Marilyn only once,” Pomeraine writes, “he became one of her prime defenders. At a time when the Fox hierarchy, including [Darryl] Zanuck, screenwriter Nunnally Johnson, and director Howard Hawks, regarded Monroe as little more than a passing novelty, Hathaway saw her as a rare and sensitive talent: ‘Marilyn was witty and bright, but timid. She was afraid of people.'”
The veteran Hollywood columnist, Bob Thomas, has died aged 92, reports the Los Angeles Times. Son of a film publicist, he began reporting for the Associated Press in 1944. He married in 1947, and had three daughters.
Thomas covered scandals like Charlie Chaplin’s paternity lawsuit, and witnessed the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. He was AP’s reporter for an incredible 66 Oscar ceremonies; published biographies of Harry Cohn, Howard Hughes and Marlon Brando; and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988. He retired in 2010.
Bob Thomas also chronicled Marilyn’s career, almost from beginning to end. In 1950, he praised her breakthrough role in The Asphalt Jungle, becoming one of the first writers to compare her appeal to Jean Harlow’s:
Scan by Lasse K for Everlasting Star
“I think cheesecake helps call attention to you. Then you can follow through and prove yourself,” Marilyn told Thomas in 1951, explaining her beginnings as a pin-up model, and her wish to become a respected actress.
In February 1953, Bob Thomas was involved in one of the great controversies of Marilyn’s career. She caused quite a stir by attending the Photoplay Awards in a diaphanous gold lame gown. A few days later, Joan Crawford was interviewed, and claimed that Thomas asked her off-record, ‘Didn’t you think that dress Marilyn Monroe wore at the awards dinner was disgusting?’
Crawford replied, ‘It was like a burlesque show. Someone should make her see the light; she should be told that the public likes provocative feminine personalities; but it also likes to know that underneath it all the actresses are ladies.’ On March 3, Thomas published Crawford’s comments in his syndicated column. Although initially upset by Crawford’s remarks, the incident ultimately worked in Marilyn’s favour, with friends and fans rallying to her defence. Crawford, meanwhile, was acutely embarrassed.
In October 1954, Thomas wrote an article for Movie Time magazine, headlined ‘Home Run!’ about Marilyn’s nine-month marriage to Joe DiMaggio. Soon after its publication, however, the couple separated – and Bob Thomas was at the scene of a press conference outside Marilyn’s home, where she appeared shaky and tearful. (Click on the image to enlarge)
After moving to New York in 1955, Marilyn became friendly with the novelist Truman Capote. In a discussion about the press, she described Bob Thomas as ‘a gentleman’ (quoted in Capote’s essay, ‘A Beautiful Child’.)
During her marriage to Arthur Miller, Marilyn lived in New York and Connecticut. Bob Thomas was one of the reporters she kept in touch with throughout those years. ‘I’m almost well again,’ she told him after suffering a miscarriage in 1957. ‘I don’t have all my energy back but it’s returning bit by bit.’
Marilyn was photographed with Bob at a press conference for Let’s Make Love in 1960 (unfortunately, my copy is watermarked.) By 1962, she was single again and back in her hometown of L.A. Thomas reported on the troubled production of Something’s Got to Give, interviewing Marilyn on the same day she filmed her iconic pool scene.
On August 5th, 1962, Thomas was one of the first to report Marilyn’s tragic death. ‘Somehow the pieces seemed to fit into place,’ he reflected. ‘It looked inevitable in retrospect…She had reached the end of her rope. She had run out of all that anxious gaiety with which she held on to life…But she left behind more than a string of glamor-filled, over-produced movies. She gave Hollywood color and excitement in an era when the town was losing its grip on the world’s fancy. No star of Hollywood’s golden era shone more brightly. Her brilliance was such that you overlooked the tragic aspects…’
Exactly 30 years later, Thomas examined the continuing fascination of Marilyn. ‘Like her contemporaries Elvis Presley and James Dean,’ he wrote, ‘and Rudolph Valentino in an earlier generation, Marilyn Monroe’s image in 1992 seems more vivid and intriguing than in her lifetime.’
“She was a great interview, just terrific. And funny,” he told the Los Angeles Daily News in 1997. “You’d ask her, ‘What did you have on when you posed for the calendar?’ And she’d say, ‘The radio.’ Or, ‘Chanel No. 5.’ … But in those days, there wasn’t any star that wasn’t available for an interview.”
Dubbed “The Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque” by Harold Minsky, Evans has performed throughout the USA, including a successful run at the Place Pigalle in Miami Beach from 1953-1968. She also appeared in the Academy Award winning movie The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952.
Evans helped care for burlesque pioneer Jennie Lee, and moved out to the desert to run the operations of the Exotic World museum. In 1991, as a way to draw publicity to the museum, Dixie created the Miss Exotic World pageant, now known as the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend.
An interview with No-Fi Magazine, where she cites Marilyn as an influence, was posted at Everlasting Star in 2006.
“C: What is your favorite movie of all time?
D: Uh, favorite movie of all time, um… oh boy. I guess I gotta go with… I used to like Casablanca, but that’s been kind of worn out. I did like Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe. I’ve seen it a couple of times and it really was very clever. And another thing I’ve seen a couple times…Bus Stop.”
K: I know that one, but I haven’t seen it.
D: It’s adorable. Marilyn Monroe is beautiful in it and I love her, but I tell ya, Don Murray, that young cowboy, 20 years old…never seen a girl because he was raised on the farm. The dialogue is fabulous! He says, ‘Look at all the gals! There must be a hundred head of them!’ (Dixie laughs) The lines are so adorable. You gotta catch up with every line in that whole movie.
C: If you were a superhero, who would you be?
D: Madonna (we all laugh). Yeah, she is. I like any girl or fella that has started from the very bottom and worked her way up the hard way. I can see the tension there. People didn’t want to accept her in Hollywood. The same thing with Marilyn Monroe. And yet, there’s a girl that’ll never be forgotten. She deserves it. Marilyn Monroe is bigger than Hollywood or the studios.
C: Who has been the greatest influence on your life?
D: I would imagine Marilyn Monroe and maybe Jean Harlow before that. I idolized Jean Harlow. There was just something special about her.”
On the Loving Marilyn website, Shar Daws describes Dixie’s MM routine, and how she caught the eye of Joe DiMaggio:
“Yet another of Joe’s ‘Marilyn’s’ was Dixie Evans who had a reputation as ‘The Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque’. Her act was a casting couch skit. Dixie was the actress; she took her clothes off and got the part!
During the late 50’s Dixie was working Miami Beach, at the Place Pigalle. An aeroplane would fly over the beach hotels towing a banner that read ‘see the Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque, Place Pigalle’ It would always fly past the Fontainebleau where all the celebs of the day stayed, those that went to see Dixie included Sinatra, Bogart, Walter Cronkite and Chris Schenkel who suggested that she should come to the Kentucky Derby. He announced her coming in ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s Marilyn Monroe! Oh, my mistake, it’s Dixie Evans! She’ll be playing at the Post and Paddock this evening.’ They all loved her act which involved Joe and his bat!
One night at the Pigalle the owner came over to Dixie’s table and told her Joe DiMaggio was in attendance, and wanted to talk to her. Dixie said Joe was a gentleman and suddenly as she sat there – she realised she would be performing in front of him and was worried about what Joe would make of her skit and confessed to him that she was concerned, to which he replied ‘why do you think I came here?’ with this Dixie got up and did her thing, which was:
She entered in a tight satin gown, a long scarf, and a Yankee cap, with a number 5 on it – and crying, boo-hooing, which mood she explained in song:
‘Joe, you walked off and left me flat – but I’m sure glad you left your bat…’
There were a few lines about baseball and spaghetti, and how he’d stopped in the middle of making love to say “what’s the score?”…
‘But I know…
You’ll still return my calls
Why? It’s simple – I’ve still got you
By your New Yankee base – (badaboomcha strike up the band)…’
Afterwards, when she came out from her dressing room, Joe stood up and motioned her over. She sat with him all night. He didn’t say much, he never mentioned the act, or talked about Marilyn. But he kept sneaking glances at Dixie, checking her out and he stayed until she’d done her last set at 4.45am then invited her to breakfast.
However, their relationship never got off of the ground and didn’t go past kissing. They apparently arranged a further date but unfortunately, Dixie was due in court for some misdemeanor that she had forgotten about and was unable to let Joe know and she never saw him again.”
Marilyn took a dim view of her imitators, and in 1958 she threatened Dixie with legal action, reports the Telegraph. However, the matter was settled out of court when Dixie agreed to restructure her act.
According to Steve Sullivan‘s Bombshells: Glamour Girls of a Lifetime, Marilyn and Dixie made amends:
“There is a touching anecdote from Dixie Evans, who so resembled Marilyn Monroe. This speaks volumes about both women. After one of Marilyn’s miscarriages, Dixie, extremely upset, sent Marilyn an emotional telegram. Two weeks later Dixie received a response: ‘My dear Dixie Evans, of my many friends and acquaintances throughout the world, your telegram was of the greatest comfort to me at this time. Marilyn Monroe Miller.’ (When Monroe died, Dixie became hysterical, ‘I was crying not only because my career was over, but because Marilyn was no longer in the world.’)”
Jean Harlow, the original ‘blonde bombshell’, was an idol to the young Marilyn Monroe. As it turns out, their lives and careers would have many striking parallels. On Sunday, June 9th, L.A. Woman Tours will lead fans on a special trip exploring her haunts, with author Darrell Rooney (Harlow in Hollywood) as co-host.
Something Had to Give is a new, fully illustrated biography by UK author Richard Kirby, now available to order in paperback from self-publishing website Lulu.
It is 553 pages long and there are hundreds of photos reproduced in black and white (some are a bit grainy, but many of these have not previously been seen offline.)
The pictures are chronologically placed, which makes this a unique book for fans. I haven’t read the text yet, so can’t comment on that. But Kirby has also written a biography of Jean Harlow, The Carpenter’s Daughter.
Albert Wolsky has designed costumes for movies from All That Jazz (1979) to Revolutionary Road (2008.)
“Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Jean Harlow are the most glamorous, but in different ways. Grace was elegant, Marilyn was vulnerable, and Jean was extremely funny…Earlier actresses like Marilyn were very typed and had an image that never changed, but today’s leading ladies can be glamorous one moment and not glamorous the next…Men and women loved (Monroe) because she had an almost little-girl-like quality that made her sex appeal non-threatening…”