With cinemas currently closed, there’s a shortage of current movie news. In a blatant attempt to fill the gap, an article rehashing conspiracy theories about Marilyn’s death has been posted on the Film Daily blog. But its credibility is blown by the inclusion of a photo of President John F. Kennedy with another blonde actress and singer, Dorothy Provine – in costume for her TV series, The Roaring 20s, which ran from 1960-62.
A quick internet search indicates this isn’t the first time Dorothy has been mistaken for Marilyn, despite there being little resemblance beyond their hair colour. But the Divine Marilyn blog correctly identified Dorothy back in 2015, with a post showing photos of President Kennedy meeting famous women of the era. For an informed read on Marilyn’s tragic death, try David Marshall’s The DD Group or Donald McGovern’s Murder Orthodoxies.
James Patterson holds the New York Times record for the most books by one author to top their list. His novels account for 6% of hardback fiction bought in the US, and he is the most-borrowed author in UK libraries. He works with numerous co-authors, most recently the former American president, Bill Clinton. Now Patterson has turned his hand to non-fiction, co-writing a biography of another political dynasty with journalist and TV producer Cynthia Fagen. An excerpt from House of Kennedy has been published in Town & Country magazine, covering the Madison Square Garden gala celebrating John F. Kennedy’s 45th birthday, when Marilyn topped a star-studded bill, singing ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President.’
In truth, there’s little here that isn’t already known (and what more can be said, really?) But I would like to point out that MC Peter Lawford’s running gag about ‘the late Marilyn Monroe’ was pre-rehearsed, and not an attempt to cover up for any tardiness on her part. It is also often noted that the First Lady did not attend the gala, but this was common practice. Regarding Jackie Kennedy, who never held any malice towards Marilyn, there are a couple of interesting quotes that are new to me at least, though the sources aren’t named here.
“‘It had been a noisy night, a very “rah rah rah” kind of atmosphere,’ recalls Life magazine photographer Bill Ray. ‘Then boom, on comes this spotlight. There was no sound. No sound at all. It was like we were in outer space. There was this long, long pause and finally, she comes out with this unbelievably breathy, “Happy biiiiirthday to youuuu,” and everybody just went into a swoon.’
Despite raised eyebrows, Jackie tells her sister, Lee, ‘Life’s too short to worry about Marilyn Monroe.’ Instead of attending Jack’s fundraiser, Jackie and the children are at the First Family’s Glen Ora estate outside Middleburg, Virginia, enjoying what she calls ‘a good clean life.’ As spectators, including her husband, ogle Monroe at Madison Square Garden, Jackie is winning a third-place ribbon at the Loudon Hunt Horse Show.
Jean Kennedy Smith and her husband, Stephen, are in attendance at the Madison Square Garden event as well as at Arthur Krim’s reception, where White House photographers also capture Stephen posing alongside Monroe.
The next day, Jackie is furious—not with the president, but with his brother. ‘My understanding of it is that Bobby was the one who orchestrated the whole goddamn thing,’ Jackie tells her sister-in-law over the telephone. ‘The Attorney General is the troublemaker here, Ethel. Not the President. So it’s Bobby I’m angry at, not Jack.'”
“Guitar Slim going down slow Play it for me and for Marilyn Monroe …”
One of our true living legends, Bob Dylan has just released his first original song in eight years. ‘Murder Most Foul’ is a seventeen-minute ballad about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and its lingering impact on the American psyche. Among the many cultural references within this extraordinary work is our MM, whom Dylan has long admired (see here.)
98 pages of notes made by John F. Kennedy after he lost his voice on the campaign trail in 1960 are going under the hammer at Heritage Auctions on April 23. Predictably, the press has made much of sexual references, linking a line he wrote to Marilyn (‘I got into the blondes,’ he admitted, as reported by the Mirrorthis week.) However, there is no credible evidence of Kennedy having contact with Marilyn before becoming president, and he also had far more amply documented affairs with other blondes before and after this confession (including Inga Arvad and Mary Pinchot Meyer, to name but two.)
LIFE magazine photographer Bill Ray, who got the scoop of a lifetime when he captured Marilyn’s singing ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ at Madison Square Garden in 1962, has died aged 83, the New York Post reports.
Born in Shelby, Nebraska, Bill joined the Omaha Camera Club aged eleven and built a professional darkroom in his family home. At seventeen, he got his first newspaper job in Lincoln; and in 1957, after excelling in a photographic workshop in Hannibal, Missouri, he moved to New York to work for LIFE. During the 1960s, he worked extensively in Paris and Hollywood.
Bill and his wife of 62 years, Marlys Ray, lived in an apartment overlooking Central Park in Manhattan. He died of a heart attack on January 8, 2020.
“‘It had been a noisy night, a very ‘rah rah rah’ kind of atmosphere. Then boom, on comes this spotlight. There was no sound. No sound at all. It was like we were in outer space. [Marilyn’s dress] was skin-colored, and it was skin-tight. It was sewn on, covered with brilliant crystals. There was this long, long pause … and finally, she comes out with this unbelievably breathy, ‘Happy biiiiirthday to youuuu,’ and everybody just went into a swoon. I was praying [that I could get the shot] because I had to guess at the exposure. It was a very long lens, and I had no tripod, so I had to rest the lens itself on the railing, and tried very, very hard not to breathe … If you got a picture from the front, everybody else would have it on the front page the next day and it wouldn’t be good for LIFE. You always needed something different. I had this idea that if I got way up I could shoot over Marilyn’s shoulder and have Kennedy in the picture. There was one slightly before that’s a little blurry because of the 300 mm lens. Shortly thereafter the lights went out and she disappeared, and the next thing I knew JFK was up on the stage. If I’d been luckier, there would have been a tiny bit of light that would have spilled onto Kennedy, who was over her shoulder between the podium and her head. ”
A souvenir album featuring images from the star-studded gala for John F. Kennedy’s 45th birthday at Madison Square Garden in 1962 will soon go under the hammer at RR Auctions as part of an extensive archive of memorabilia relating to the former president. The sale ends on January 23, with a starting bid of $1,000 for the album, although auctioneer Robert Livingston hopes that this private collection, with an estimated value of $1.5 million, will be sold as a single lot.
Diahann Carroll, the pioneering African-American singer and actress, has died aged 84 after a long battle with cancer. She was born in the Bronx, and studied at the LaGuardia High School for Music and Arts before modelling for Ebony magazine at fifteen. She later attended New York University, majoring in sociology.
At eighteen, she got her big break as a contestant on TV’s Chance of a Lifetime, where her performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Why Was I Born’ began a four-week victory lap. She then worked as a nightclub singer, making her film debut opposite Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones (1954.) She later appeared in Paris Blues (1961), a jazz film produced by photographer Sam Shaw. Originally offered to Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe, the lead roles were played by Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward.
In 1962, Diahann was part of the all-star line-up performing at Madison Square Garden in a birthday tribute to President John F. Kennedy. She met Marilyn backstage, and also sang for guests at the gala’s after-party. (In 2016, Diahann would host an opening party for Some Like It Hot, an exhibition featuring Milton Greene’s photos of Marilyn.)
“‘It was a very exciting night. Everybody in the world was there,’ Diahann remembered. ‘Marilyn was hysterical, but very good. It was good to watch her at work. I think we all enjoyed it.’ As for Kennedy, ‘he was extremely pleasant,’ she said. ‘He was a very entitled human being, but you had to forgive him for that.’
Diahann Carroll was previously interviewed by J. Randy Taraborrelli for his 2009 book, The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, telling him of her first encounter with MM in 1960, while singing at the Mocambo Club in Los Angeles.
Diahann was then pregnant with her daughter Suzanne, and knew of Marilyn’s struggle to have children. “I took her hand and put it on my stomach and said, ‘You pat right there, sweetheart, and say a prayer and a wish, and I hope with all my heart that your dream comes true.’ She looked at me with tears in her eye, and said, ‘Oh, I do, too. I do, too.’”
They met again in Mac Krim’s apartment in 1962. ‘It’s certainly her beauty I remember most,’ she told Taraborrelli. ‘As I sang, I distinctly remember being somewhat distracted by her gaze. Her tragic beauty, so vulnerable … so lost.’”
In 1969, Diahann won a Golden Globe for her role as a widowed nurse in Julia, a television sitcom which ran for three seasons. Back on the big screen, she would earn an Oscar nomination for the romantic comedy Claudine (1974), playing a struggling single mother.
Her later TV roles included the glamorous Dominique Devereaux on TV’s Dynasty and its spin-off, The Colbys. She joined an all-black cast in the acclaimed Eve’s Bayou (1997), and recreated Gloria Swanson’s role as fading star Norma Desmond in a Canadian production of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s stage musical based on Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard.
Her four husbands included singer Vic Damone, and she was also romantically linked to Sidney Poitier and David Frost. She was a founding member of the Celebrity Action Council, a volunteer group serving vulnerable women in Los Angeles.
More casting news for Netflix’s Blonde has been announced by the Hollywood Reporter, with Danish actor Caspar Phillipson likely to reprise his turn as President John F. Kennedy in Jackie, and child actress Lily Fisher as the young Norma Jeane. (As previously reported here, Adrien Brody and Bobby Cannavale will play Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio.)
“As previously announced, Ana de Armas will play the Some Like It Hot actress, leading a cast that will include Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale and Julianne Nicholson.
Jackie actor Caspar Phillipson, Toby Huss, Sara Paxton and David Warshofsky will also appear in the feature, along with Lily Fisher (General Hospital), Evan Williams (Versailles) and Xavier Samuel (Adore).
The Assassination of Jesse James’ Andrew Dominik wrote and will direct the movie.
Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner are producing for Plan B, along with Tracey Landon and Scott Robertson.”
A piece of cardstock inscribed “To Joe/Love & Kisses/Marilyn Monroe” in blue ballpoint pen was sold for $1,875 yesterday during the Entertainment & Music Memorabilia sale at Heritage Auctions. (There is no indication, however, that the card was inscribed to ex-husband Joe DiMaggio – and the wording suggests a casual acquaintance or fan.)
Photos of Marilyn by Andre de Dienes, a Some Like It Hot publicity shot with a clipped signature from Tony Curtis, and a Hugh Hefner-signed 1997 edition of Playboy magazine (with Marilyn on the cover) were also sold; and two individual photos of Marilyn and President John F. Kennedy, taken by Yale Joel at Madison Square Garden in 1962, fetched a total $1,062.50.
Actor Gianni Russo claims to have had an affair with Marilyn in his forthcoming memoir, Hollywood Godfather, as Michael Kaplan reports for the New York Post. Born in 1943, he began his career running errands for mobster Frank Costello. He made his screen debut as Carlo Rizzi, the abusive husband of Connie Corleone (Talia Shire), who is murdered by her brother Michael (Al Pacino) in The Godfather (1972.) Offscreen, Russo has released an album and a wine range, and was once a Las Vegas restaurateur.
Russo’s alleged affair with Marilyn rests on a snapshot taken at Frank Sinatra’s Cal-Neva Lodge near Lake Tahoe a week before her death in 1962. He identifies himself as the young man at her left (with singer Buddy Greco at right), which may be true although his face is conveniently hidden from view. Moreover, the photo in itself is no proof of anything more than a brief acquaintance (at best.)
Russo claims that the affair began when he was sixteen and Marilyn thirty-three, which would date it back to 1959. He adds that their affair lasted for four years, but Marilyn died three years later. (I also highly doubt that Marilyn would have dated a teenager, when all her significant relationships were with older men.)
Costello had asked Russo to spy on Marilyn when she began her affair with John F. Kennedy, he contends (in fact, she may not have met the future president until much later.) He also believes that Marilyn was a gangster’s moll for many years, and it was the Mob who moved her to New York during her 1955 dispute with Twentieth Century Fox. This is untrue, as Marilyn arranged the move with photographer Milton Greene.
Predictably, Russo also claims to know the truth about how Marilyn died. Mobster Sam Giancana had arranged to film her in flagrante with President Kennedy and his brother Robert during her last visit to Cal-Neva, Russo says. However, there is no conclusive evidence that Giancana was there that weekend, and the Kennedys were both elsewhere. Marilyn was invited by Sinatra himself.
Finally, Russo says that Marilyn was murdered by injection administered by a mob-connected M.D., probably on the orders of Bobby Kennedy. For more information on the Mafia and Marilyn’s death, I can highly recommend Donald McGovern’s Murder Orthodoxies.