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.”

Bob Mackie Documentary Announced

The spectacular career of Bob Mackie, designer to the stars, will be explored in a new documentary, as Bronwyn Cosgrave writes in the Hollywood Reporter.

“Slated for a December 2020 release, the as-yet-untitled doc will examine the Burbank-based designer’s 50-year career, commencing from his start in 1961 at Paramount Pictures working as a sketch artist for Edith Head before moving on to assist Columbia’s costume designer Jean Louis. For Louis, Mackie innovated the nude-illusion sartorial concept by creating an illustration that proved to be the blueprint of the form-fitting, rhinestone-studded sheer gown in which Marilyn Monroe generated a sensation performing ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President’ to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in May 1962.”

Marilyn’s ‘Most Expensive’ Dresses

Over at Beam Fashion, Nadja Beschetnikova looks at the stories behind Marilyn’s three ‘most expensive dresses’ (which sold for the highest prices at auction.)

Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend

‘Apart from the two side seams, the dress was folded into shape rather like cardboard. Any other girl would have looked like she was wearing cardboard, but on-screen I swear you would have thought Marilyn had on a pale, thin piece of silk. Her body was so fabulous it still came through’ – Travilla

The Seven Year Itch

Travilla called it ‘that silly little dress’. The dress indeed has a simple sewing pattern with a typical silhouette for a cocktail dress, which was in vogue in the 1950s and 1960s. Although the designer never paid much heed to his creation, it’s now one of the most famous dresses of all time.

Happy Birthday Mr President

Jean Louis had originally designed a version of the dress for Marlene Dietrich. Her live performances always had almost a magical effect to the audience thanks in no small part to her fascinating outfits. This backless flesh-colored gown remains an example to emulate for modern celebrities and pioneered the trend for ‘naked’ dresses.”

Marilyn at Julien’s: Happy Birthday Mr President

The ‘nude’ beaded dress worn by Marilyn as she sang ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962 will be auctioned at Julien’s next month, with bids starting at $1 million. There are also several other items on offer from the historic gala, including Marilyn’s own ticket and program.

Legendary costume designer Bob Mackie began his career as a sketch artist for Jean Louis, and his drawings of Marilyn’s dress are also up for sale. At the time of his first attempt, Mackie didn’t know who the dress was for (although he was already working with Jean Louis on Marilyn’s costumes for Something’s Got to Give.)

Five colour photos from the collection of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull, and an eight-minute film comprised of clips from the night’s entertainment, take us back to the events of 1962.

Illustrator LeRoy Neiman captured Marilyn’s unforgettable performance in art.

Producer Clive David kept a commemorative tile signed by various stars in attendance, including Marilyn, Ella Fitzgerald, Jack Benny and Maria Callas. It would be Marilyn’s last major public appearance, triggering over fifty years of rampant speculation.

UPDATE: The ‘Happy Birthday’ dress was sold at Julien’s for $4.8 million on November 16, 2016, making it the most lucrative dress in auction history. The buyer is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, who plan to showcase the dress in future exhibitions. Read a full report from Scott Fortner on his MM Collection Blog.

Creating the Illusion: Marilyn’s Hollywood Style

Creating the Illusion: A Fashionable History of Hollywood Costume Designers, a new coffee-table book by Jay Jorgensen and Donald L. Scoggins, with an introduction by actress Ali McGraw, will be published by Running Press (in association with TCM) on October 6.

With a cover featuring Marlene Dietrich, this comprehensive study devotes separate chapters to the many designers who worked with Marilyn, including Renie, Elois Jenssen, Orry-Kelly, Charles LeMaire, Jean Louis, William Travilla and Dorothy Jeakins.

For Hollywood costume fans, Creating the Illusion will make a great companion to Christopher Nickens’ excellent 2012 book, Marilyn in Fashion.

Hollywood Legends: Marilyn at Julien’s

A backless, floral shift dress worn by Marilyn in her final, shelved movie, Something’s Got to Give – as designed by Jean Louis – is a highlight of an upcoming Julien’s Auctions Hollywood Legends sale, set for June 26-27, with an estimated value of at least $400, 000, reports Artfix Daily.

“The figure hugging silk crepe dress is printed with scattered painterly roses in shades of persimmon and deep cherry with a plunging V back. The interior of the studio constructed dress has hand finished details, is lined with ivory soufflé and has boning to the waistline.

“Other highlights chronicling the personal life and career of the world’s most intriguing screen icon include rare items including a Marilyn Monroe black velvet bustier (Estimate: $8,000-$10,000), a black silk underskirt from the Estate of Marilyn Monroe (Estimate: $6,000-$8,000), Marilyn Monroe’s personal copy of behind-the-scenes footage of The Misfits (Estimate: $3,000-$5,000), Marilyn Monroe Frankie and Johnny script (Estimate: $10,000-$20,000), a 1961 black and white photograph of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable on the set of The Misfits ($5,000-$7,000), a photo layout sheet of four Marilyn Monroe color photographs (Estimate: $5,000-$7,000), a Marilyn Monroe owned hat (Estimate: $7000-$9000), a Marilyn Monroe side view x-ray from Cedars of Lebanon Hospital/Drs. E. Freedman and S. Finck dated 11-10-54 which was used by the radiology resident at Cedars for teaching which Marilyn was aware of. The x-rays are said to be from her visit to the hospital for her chronic endometriosis (Estimate: $8,000-$10,000). Also included are a collection of signed vintage gelatin silver photographs of Marilyn Monroe by Bruno Bernard known as Bernard of Hollywood (Various estimates), Marilyn Monroe eyeliner pencils (Estimate: $800-$1,200), a Marilyn Monroe cosmetic jar (Estimate: $2,000-$4,000), a Marilyn Monroe signed white glove (Estimate: $8,000-$10,000), a Marilyn Monroe grave marker (Estimate: $2,000-$4,000) and many more items from the life and career of Monroe.”

Marilyn Inspires Max Mara’s Wrapover Trend

The Mexican beach jacket worn by Marilyn during her last photo session – with George Barris in July 1962 – is one of the inspirations behind Max Mara’s Fall 2015 collection, reports Women’s Wear Daily.

Among the wrapover sweaters and coats, I also noticed designs similar to the Jean Louis costumes worn by Marilyn for her role as ‘bohemian’ Amanda in Let’s Make Love (1960.)

Of course, today’s catwalk models can’t fill out a sweater quite like Marilyn did – and by the way, when did smiling go out of fashion?

Marilyn’s Last Movie Dress on ‘Final Offer’

 

This floral-print dress, designed by Jean-Louis and worn by Marilyn in the ill-fated Something’s Got to Give, was bought on Ebay last year for $57,000 by Deborah Burke of Stamford, Connecticut.

The dress was featured on last week’s Final Offer show, on the Discovery Channel. A preview video was posted on MSNBC. (Spoiler: one collector offered Burke $800,000, but she decided to hold out for a million, reports Huffington Post!)