Marilyn and Arthur in Brooklyn

by_sam_shaw_01In 1955, Marilyn famously told broadcaster Dave Garroway that she hoped to retire to Brooklyn. Her friend, poet Norman Rosten, lived at Brooklyn Heights. Brooklyn was also the childhood home of playwright Arthur Miller, who became her third husband in 1956. In an article for the New York Times, Helene Stapinski explores Miller’s lifelong connections to Brooklyn.

“Miller was born in Manhattan and lived as a boy in Harlem in a spacious apartment overlooking Central Park. His father, Isidore, a Jewish émigré from Poland, owned a clothing business that allowed the family a certain level of luxury: three bathrooms, a chauffeur-driven car and a summer place in Far Rockaway.

Before the stock market crash, the business began to fail, and so, in 1928, Isidore and his wife, Augusta — Izzie and Gussie — moved the family to the borough of churches and cheap rents. After a short stint at 1277 Ocean Parkway, the Millers bought for $5,000 a six-room house on East Third Street and Avenue M in the Parkville section, a couple of blocks from Gussie’s family.

After graduating and marrying his college sweetheart, Mary Slattery, Miller returned to Brooklyn in 1940 and moved in with her and her roommates in a seven-room apartment at 62 Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights, an impressive Queen-Anne-style building.

After some financial success with All My Sons, Miller, by then the father of two children, Jane and Robert, bought a four-story brownstone at 31 Grace Court in 1947. The Millers rented out the bottom two floors to the president of the Brooklyn Savings Bank.

Death of a Salesman, which traces the last day in the failed life of an aging, regretful man, was conceived and finished on Grace Court, though the first draft was written in the family’s new country house in Roxbury, Conn., in a studio Miller built himself.

While living on Grace Court, Miller took long walks over the Brooklyn Bridge and under it, to the working docks where he noticed graffiti that said, ‘Dove Pete Panto,’ Italian for ‘Where Is Pete Panto?’

Mr. Panto had been battling the International Longshoremen’s Association, and disappeared, his body eventually turning up in New Jersey. Miller read about Mr. Panto’s case in the press and tried talking to the longies, or longshoremen, on Columbia Street in Red Hook to write a screenplay.

Miller's home at the time he first met Marilyn
Miller’s home in 1951, when he first met Marilyn

From his waterfront research, Miller wrote The Hook, a screenplay based on Mr. Panto’s life, which he pitched in Hollywood with Elia Kazan in 1951. The screenplay was never produced, but he met Marilyn Monroe on that trip west.

That same year, Miller, tired of being a landlord, sold the Grace Court house to W.E.B. Dubois. He moved with his family to their final home together at 155 Willow Street, a Federal-style, red brick house two blocks from where Truman Capote would soon live.

In his top-floor office, Miller wrote The Crucible and an early version of A View From the Bridge. Trying to be a good husband, and guilty about his feelings for Monroe, Miller installed kitchen cabinets and a tile floor in the hallway.

Miller's first wife, Mary Slattery, and their children, Bobby and Jane, remained at their Willow Street home after the divorce
Miller’s first wife, Mary Slattery, and their children, Bobby and Jane, remained at their Willow Street home after the divorce

According to Miller, the marriage was already floundering when he met Monroe. He moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan in 1955, where he spent time in a West Side brownstone and in Monroe’s Waldorf Tower apartment. They eventually moved to a house in Roxbury.

In the spring of 1956, he briefly took up residence in Nevada, divorced his wife and promptly married Monroe. Their marriage lasted five turbulent years, during which he wrote the screenplay for the film The Misfits for her.

Miller remained close to his children, who continued to live on Willow Street with their mother.

Arthur Miller's childhood home. Marilyn visited his parents there...
Arthur Miller’s childhood home. Marilyn visited his parents there…

After he married Monroe, Miller took her to meet his parents in the house where he had grown up. His sister remembers the neighborhood children climbing on one another’s shoulders to peek through the windows for a look.

‘My mother would open the window and yell at them to go away,’ Ms. Copeland said.

Though Miller moved out of New York and lived in Roxbury for the rest of his life, his work and characters still have that accent that can be found only in Brooklyn, along with particulars of the borough: the Brooklyn Paramount, the bowling alley on Flatbush Avenue, St. Agnes Church and Red Hook, ‘the gullet of New York.'”

Kim Stanley and ‘The Goddess’

Actress Kim Stanley, who played Cherie in the original Broadway production of Bus Stop – and was dubbed ‘the female Brando’ – also starred in perhaps the first Marilyn-inspired movie, The Goddess (1958.)

The melodrama was written by Paddy Chayevsky, and some think his downbeat portrayal of an actress whose life is very similar to Marilyn’s was prompted by his failure to interest MM herself in a previous script. (Reportedly, Arthur Miller advised her to reject it. Curiously, Miller’s sister, Joan Copeland, would play a supporting role in The Goddess.)

Writing for Backstage, Matt Mazur – who has praised Marilyn’s acting in the past – argues that despite its negative associations, The Goddess was Kim Stanley’s finest screen performance.

“Stanley’s performance in The Goddess represents the archetypal Hollywood bleached blonde’s misguided dreams of being a star, instead winding up at the wrong end of the bottle, wasted on her own demons. Stanley neither condemns nor condones her character’s erratic behavior, despite screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky’s near-insistent judgments. Stanley never allows him to use Rita as a simple cautionary tale, and her shockingly complex, empathetic performance gives him no control over the character’s turbulent interior. Rita is owned by Kim Stanley, not by the man who wrote her, not by the film’s director, and certainly not by the audience. This brusque defiance of conventionality cements Stanley’s icon status—her Rita lives on as a genuine miracle of film acting.”

 

Martin Landau Remembers Marilyn

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 Guardian about 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.'”

‘My Week With Marilyn’: Truth or Fantasy?

The Los Angeles Times reports on the mystery surrounding Colin Clark’s story in My Week With Marilyn, speaking to Michelle Williams, and also those who knew Monroe well during this period, including Amy Greene and Joan Copeland (Arthur Miller’s sister.)

‘Michelle Williams, who spent months watching Monroe’s films and devouring biographies on her, acknowledges that she found Clark to be an “unreliable narrator.”

“When you read both of his books, you do get the sense that he’s writing with the advantage of hindsight, and he’s put some awfully big words in his own mouth,” said the actress, who added that before filming she did not speak to anyone who had known Monroe personally. “I think he says in the book that Marilyn wanted to make love, but he said, ‘Oh, no!’ And you’re like, ‘Oh, sure.’ I’m sure that there was a relationship there. To what extent it was consummated, I don’t know.”

“I was there every day, and I knew what was happening. [Clark] was on the set, and he was a gofer — ‘Hey, I need a cup of coffee,’ or whatever. No one regarded him as anything but a gofer,” said Amy Greene, the widow of Milton Greene, a photographer who was vice president of Monroe’s production company…

Director Simon Curtis and screenwriter Adrian Hodges denied they were ever approached by Greene’s relatives. “The fact that these books were in the public arena and had been cherished by people over the years gave me confidence,” said Curtis. “I have no reason to doubt Colin’s version. Who is to say what happened in those bedrooms on those nights?”

“I never heard anything about the romance. That might be somebody’s illusion. Arthur would not have talked to me about that anyway, if there was an affair,” Copeland said. “But as far as I know, the [other] events they describe are pretty accurate. She was often late and kept people waiting on set. And I know that Arthur found it very difficult to work in that situation.”

But Don Murray, 82, who costarred with Monroe in “Bus Stop,” the film she acted in immediately before “Showgirl,” said he thought a Monroe-Clark romance was conceivable.

“I think that it’s quite possible, because of the disillusionment of her marriage, and she was very, very insecure in her relationships and didn’t really believe in loving forever,” Murray said. “I think it’s quite plausible that something happened and they handled it discreetly.”‘

Marilyn’s ‘Breathless’ Singing No Fluke

Following Joan Copeland‘s recent – and rather silly – claim that Marilyn’s ‘breathless’ rendition of ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ was due to her getting lost on the way to the stage, Scott Fortner takes an behind-the-scenes look at the legendary performance, with testimony from Susan Strasberg and Eunice Murray, over at his MM Collection Blog.

“Marilyn was at Madison Square Garden in plenty of time for her performance, and it had been planned all along that she would close the show, and her lateness would be a running joke throughout the program.  Marilyn was not late for her performance, she did not have a problem finding the correct door for the stage, and she was not out of breath when she sang Happy Birthday to President Kennedy.  She was America’s sex symbol, and she delivered the performance that she’d planned and rehearsed.”

 

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.

‘Joan’s Show’ on 42nd Street

Actress Joan Copeland, 83, is the sister of Arthur Miller. Marilyn is photographed with Joan, above, at the 1957 opening of Noel Coward’s Conversation Piece.

Joan’s Show, a solo performance featuring reminiscences about her famous family and highlights from her long career, will be staged at the Acorn Theatre, 42nd St, New York, on August 15 (at 7 pm) and August 18 (at 2 pm.)

Copeland began her career on Broadway, and has appeared on television and in films including The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009), written and directed by her niece, Rebecca Miller.

In 1958, Joan appeared in The Goddess, a bleak melodrama believed to have been based on Marilyn’s life. Monroe had previously rejected another movie project by its author, Paddy Chayevsky.