Tag Archives: John Huston

Marilyn Returns to ‘The Asphalt Jungle’

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David Krauss has given a rave review to the Criterion Collection’s new edition of The Asphalt Jungle (available on DVD and, for the first time, BluRay) over at High Def Digest.

“Though MGM produced many all-star pictures in the past (Grand Hotel and Dinner at Eight chief among them), The Asphalt Jungle was its first true ensemble film. Sterling Hayden and Louis Calhern receive top billing, but neither were big stars at the time, nor were Sam Jaffe, James Whitmore, Jean Hagen (who two short years later would make her biggest splash – and receive an Oscar nomination – as squeaky-voiced silent star Lina Lamont in Singin‘ in the Rain), or a gorgeous young actress by the name of Marilyn Monroe, who makes a huge impression in two brief scenes as Emmerich’s nubile mistress. (Much of the movie’s poster art showcases Monroe to make her seem like the star, but nothing could be further from the truth.) Harold Rosson, who was married to another blonde bombshell, Jean Harlow, 15 years before, beautifully photographs the 24-year-old Marilyn, bringing out both her innocence and allure, and under John Huston’s tutelage she files an affecting portrayal that belies her inexperience. The Asphalt Jungle would prove to be Monroe’s big break, and the actress herself cited the performance as one of her career highlights.”

Marilyn and Miguel Ferrer

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Miguel Ferrer, the accomplished character actor whose many screen credits include Robocop and Twin Peaks, died last week aged 61, The Guardian reports.

He was born on February 7, 1955 to singer Rosemary Clooney and her husband, actor Jose Ferrer. Among his impeccable Hollywood connections (his cousin is George Clooney), Miguel enjoyed an early  encounter with Marilyn Monroe which reveals a great deal about her love of children.

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In her 1999 autobiography, Girl Singer, Rosemary recalled throwing a party at her New York home in the winter of 1955, shortly after Miguel was born. Film director John Huston came with Marilyn, who had recently moved to the city. Rosemary had only met her once before, but Marilyn immediately asked if she could see the baby. Without even brushing the snow off her fur coat, Marilyn headed upstairs to the nursery. About an hour later, Huston asked Rosemary, ‘What the hell’s she doing up there?’ She replied that Marilyn was ‘playing with the baby.’

Before his death, Miguel reprised his role as the gruff FBI forensic pathologist, Albert Rosenfeld, in the forthcoming new series of Twin Peaks. He is not the only cast member with a connection to Marilyn, as her Bus Stop co-star Don Murray will also be making a cameo appearance.

Inge Morath on Miller, Huston and Marilyn

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Inge Morath: On Style is a new book focusing on the late photographer’s work in fashion and film. Her images of Marilyn on the set of The Misfits are elegant and tender, and the knowledge that Morath would become Arthur Miller’s third wife adds a note of poignancy. Author Justine Picardie writes about Inge’s work with director John Huston, and her later encounter with Arthur which led to a long and happy marriage, in a blog post for the Magnum website.

“This was also the period when Morath first started working with the director John Huston; one of her earliest assignments was to photograph the stills for his film Moulin Rouge in London in 1952, which was to be the start of a lifelong friendship … Huston would later describe Morath as ‘a high priestess of photography,’ a woman with ‘the rare ability to penetrate beyond surfaces and reveal what makes her subject tick.’

Morath’s friendship with Huston was to play an important part in her personal life, as well as her career. In 1959, she travelled to Mexico to photograph the making of his film The Unforgiven … The following year, Morath visited the set of another of Huston’s films, The Misfits, accompanied by her Magnum colleague, Henri Cartier-Bresson.

When Morath was subsequently asked by the New York Times about the experience of photo- graphing Monroe, she described the actress as ‘kind of shimmery. But there was also this sadness underneath. A poetry of unhappiness. That was what was so mesmerizing, the twofold thing you got, the unhappiness always underneath the joy and the glamour…that was the poetry.’ In the same interview, Morath added one more intriguing fragment to the story. ‘I once dreamt we both danced together, Marilyn and I. It was beautiful.'”

Criterion Reissues ‘The Asphalt Jungle’

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The Asphalt Jungle will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray as part of the prestigious Criterion Collection in December. With many special features, Criterion editions are a cineaste’s dream, attesting to its long-held status as the definitive heist movie.  Directed by John Huston, The Asphalt Jungle gave Marilyn her first important role (although not a large one) and was her own favourite film.

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 2004 by film historian Drew Casper, featuring recordings of actor James Whitmore
  • New interviews with film noir historian Eddie Muller and cinematographer John Bailey
  • Archival footage of writer-director John Huston discussing the film
  • Pharos of Chaos, a 1983 documentary about actor Sterling Hayden
  • Episode of the television program City Lights from 1979 featuring John Huston
  • Audio excerpts of archival interviews with Huston
  • Excerpts from footage of the 1983 AFI Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony honoring Huston, featuring actor Sam Jaffe and the filmmaker
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien
  • More!

Marilyn’s a ‘Hollywood Legend’ in June

legends8n-7-webThe latest Hollywood Legends sale will take place at Julien’s Auctions on June 26-27, reports the New York Daily News. As reported previously on ES Updates, Marilyn graces the catalogue cover in the floral print dress she wore in Something’s Got to Give – one of many Monroe-related items on offer.

1) An employment card dated June 8, 1950 (when Marilyn was filming All About Eve at Twentieth Century-Fox); and a change of rate card from the same studio dated November 5, 1953, noting her salary increase from $750 to $1,250 weekly (she was by then starring in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.) Another letter from Fox’s casting director, Lew Schreiber advises Marilyn that filming of Time and Tide will commence on April 14, 1959. (Her role was ultimately played by Lee Remick in the renamed Wild River.)

2) A ‘Golden Dreams’ calendar from 1953; a ‘New Wrinkle’ lithograph by Tom Kelley; and the first issue of Playboy, signed by Hugh Hefner.

Marilyn in Korea, 1954
Marilyn in Korea, 1954

3) Candid photos of Marilyn dining with troops in Korea, 1954; and behind the scenes of Let’s Make Love (1960.) Also, a photo of Marilyn with Manfred Kreiner on location for The Misfits, and 3 photographs taken by Gene Daniels at the Golden Globes ceremony, 1962.

Marilyn with photographer Manfred 'Linus' Kreiner, 1960
Marilyn with photographer Manfred ‘Linus’ Kreiner, 1960
Marilyn by Gene Daniels, 1962
Marilyn by Gene Daniels, 1962

4) A scrapbook commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Princess Cafe, Iowa Falls, in November 1955. A telegram from Marilyn to actress Margery ‘Madge’ Meredith (once a waitress at the cafe, she gained notoriety in Hollywood after being jailed for complicity in an assault on her former manager – but was freed in 1951 after the court concluded she had been framed) and referring to the cafe’s owners, Harry Pergakis and Ernie Karrys, reads, “AM JEALOUS YOU INVITED INSTEAD OF ME. I STRUCK OUT WITH JOE AND CAN’T EVEN GET TO FIRST BASE WITH HARRY AND ERNIE =MARILYN MONROE=”

Nude drawing by Marilyn
Nude drawing by Marilyn

5) A drawing of a nude woman signed by Marilyn, who inscribed and gifted the drawing to Broadway set designer Boris Aronson. Sanguine on paper, inscribed in blue ink “For Boris -/ Waiting – Wondering -/ Woman – Marilyn Monroe Miller” mounted to matteboard and undated. The drawing has been referred to as ‘an erotic self-portrait.’

Arthur Miller worked with Aronson on A View From the Bridge around the time of Miller’s divorce and budding relationship with Monroe. Aronson, when he first met Monroe, is quoted by Elia Kazan as having said, ‘That’s a wife?’ Kazan shared that quote and evidently its sentiment by answering the question in his autobiography as, ‘Hell no!’

6) Marilyn’s own copies of Doctor Pygmalion by Maxwell Maltz, and The Unfinished Country by Max Lerner. A copy of John Huston’s 1930 script, Frankie and Johnny, with the inscription, “Marilyn dear/ All those years ago/ when you were hardly/ born I wrote this for/ you – the perfect Frankie/ Johnny (himself)/ Huston.” (So much for my theory that it was connected to the Elvis Presley movie!)

7) Personal letters to Marilyn from Jean Negulesco, Inez Melson and William Inge; documents regarding Marilyn moving to Milton Greene’s Connecticut home in 1954;

8) A lidded Wedgwood Jasperware trinket box owned by Marilyn, and assorted hair and make-up items, including a container of Erno Laszlo face powder.

9) The chaise longue featured in the title song from Let’s Make Love.

10) Limited edition etchings of Marilyn by Al Hirshfeld.

11) An expense form from Marilyn Monroe’s public relations agency, Arthur P. Jacobs Company Inc., dated June 11, 1962, for costs incurred through long-distance calls made to Monroe by Pat Newcomb in April 1962. Accompanied by a black and white photograph of Newcomb with Monroe at John F. Kennedy’s birthday gala held in May 1962.

12) A Mexican tapestry purchased by Marilyn for her final home in Brentwood, Los Angeles; her script for Something’s Got to Give, marked ‘revised screenplay’, from February 1962; a letter from Westwood Memorial Park to Marjorie Plecher (future wife of Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder), thanking Plecher for helping to dress Marilyn for her funeral; and the original grave marker, which has been replaced.

Phil Burchman, 1951
Phil Burchman, 1951

13) Photos by Joseph Jasgur, Andre de Dienes, Phil Burchman, George Barris, Bruno Bernard, Milton Greene, Philippe Halsman, John Bryson, Sam Shaw, Jack Cardiff, Lawrence Schiller.

Don Dondero: Marilyn in Reno

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Marilyn arrives in Reno and is given a key to the city. (Photo by Don Dondero, July 20, 1960.)

The camera equipment of photographer Don Dondero will be auctioned at the Holabird Western Americana Office, Reno, on April 17, reports Reno Gazette-Journal. The Reno-based photographer chronicled much of Marilyn’s 1960 stay in the city, including her arrival; a press conference with the cast of The Misfits, and a birthday party for John Huston at the Mapes Hotel; a weekend break at the Cal-Neva Lodge; and her return to the city after a week’s rest in hospital.

Marilyn with Arthur Miller and Clark Gable at a press conference for 'The Misfits'.
Marilyn with Arthur Miller and Clark Gable at a press conference for ‘The Misfits’.
With director John Huston on his birthday, August 5.
With director John Huston on his birthday, August 5.

You can view Dondero’s photos of Marilyn at Getty Images.

“In the second half of the 20th Century, if a photograph from Reno appeared in a national or international publication, it likely came from the camera of the late Don Dondero.

When he died in 2003 at age 83, the lifelong Nevadan was eulogized by then Gov. Kenny Guinn, who said, ‘Thanks to Don Dondero, future generations of Nevadans will have a glimpse of our state’s history.’

Born in Ely and raised in Carson City, Don Dondero took his first ‘celebrity’ photo at age 12 when he snapped a shot of President Herbert Hoover outside the state capital.

He graduated from Carson High School in 1937 and enlisted in the Navy after Pearl Harbor, becoming a pilot and flying bombers. In 1944, his plane was shot down over the Philippines as he bombed a Japanese merchant ship in Manila Bay. Dondero parachuted safely into the bay and was hidden in the jungle by Filipino guerrillas for 40 days until he could be rescued. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for sinking the enemy vessel.

After the war, Dondero returned to Carson City and married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth Franks. He worked for the state of Nevada for several years before moving his growing family to Reno to open his own photography business.

Affable, talented, intelligent and dependable – he never missed a deadline – Dondero became Reno’s go-to photographer from the 1950s into the 1990s. His work appeared in publications around the globe. As longtime newspaperman Warren Lerude said, ‘Dondero owned the Reno dateline.’

Reno was the divorce capital of the world at the time and photos of celebrities in town to get ‘the cure’ were in high demand. In addition, the Mapes, Riverside and other downtown hotels were bringing in top-name entertainment. He photographed celebrities including Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, John Wayne and Frank Sinatra and political leaders including John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

‘He promoted Reno more through his photos than any one individual,’ said Harry Spencer, a former Mapes publicist and longtime friend of Dondero.”

Marilyn chats with Frank Sinatra after a concert at the Cal-Neva Lodge, August 13. (Arthur Miller at left)
Marilyn chats with Frank Sinatra after a concert at the Cal-Neva Lodge, August 13. (Arthur Miller at left)
Marilyn is welcomed back to Reno by producer Frank Taylor after a hospital stay.
Marilyn is welcomed back to Reno by producer Frank Taylor after a hospital stay. Photo by Don Dondero, August 20.

Marilyn, John Huston and ‘Freud’

This letter from Marilyn Monroe to John Huston, in which she rejects a part in the director’s planned film on Sigmund Freud (from the Margaret Herrick Library of AMPAS), was posted today by James Grissom on the Follies of God Facebook page. The letter was also discussed recently on the Stars and Letters blog.

Marilyn was advised against this project by her controversial psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson, who had just begun treating her and would do so until her death, less than 2 years later. He was in contact with Anna Freud, who objected to the film being made. Marilyn had seen her as a patient a couple of times, and would leave part of her estate to the Anna Freud Children’s Clinic in London.

Monroe wrote to Huston on November 5, 1960 – shortly after they completed The Misfits. Although I strongly believe she had the capacity for more serious work, I think this role would have been traumatic for her personally. It certainly was for Montgomery Clift, as he clashed with Huston many times during filming.

Montgomery Clift and Suzannah York in John Huston's 'Freud: The Secret Passion' (1962.)
Montgomery Clift and Suzannah York in John Huston’s ‘Freud: The Secret Passion’ (1962.)

Suzannah York replaced Marilyn as ‘Cecily’, a character loosely based on Freud’s patient, Anna O., opposite Clift in Freud: The Secret Passion (released four months after Marilyn’s death, in December 1962.)

Transcript:

“November 5, 1960
Dear John,
I have it on good authority that the Freud family does not approve of anyone making a picture of the life of Freud– so I wouldn’t want to be a part of it, first because of his great contribution to humanity and secondly, my personal regard for his work. Thank you for offering me the part of ‘Annie O’ and I wish you the best in this and all other endeavors.
Yours
Marilyn”

 

 

Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love

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Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love is the final book by celebrity biographer C. David Heymann, whose previous subjects included Elizabeth Taylor and the Kennedy family.

Born in Manhattan in 1945, Heymann was a literary scholar whose first books, about Ezra Pound and Robert and Amy Lowell, were published in the 1970s. “I learned from this,” he told the New York Observer in 1999, “never write a book about a poet if you want to sell books.”

In 1983, Poor Little Rich Girl – his biography of heiress Barbara Hutton – was withdrawn by its publisher because of factual errors, as Heymann’s New York Times obituary explains:

 “That December the book’s original publisher, Random House, recalled and destroyed 58,000 copies of the book because of factual errors. Chief among them was Mr. Heymann’s assertion that Edward A. Kantor, a Beverly Hills doctor, had prescribed excessive drugs for Ms. Hutton in 1943.

Dr. Kantor, who became Ms. Hutton’s physician in the late 1960s, graduated from medical school in 1954. In 1943, as the news media reported after the error came to light, he would have been 14.

Mr. Heymann, who did not dispute this and other errors ascribed to the book, attributed them to researchers he had engaged to conduct interviews on his behalf.

After the book was withdrawn, Mr. Heymann later said, he attempted suicide. He moved to Israel for a time; there, he told interviewers afterward, he worked for Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.

On Thursday, Mr. Heymann’s wife said that while he had sometimes spoken to her of having worked for Mossad, she could not confirm that assertion.

In 1984 Mr. Heymann’s biography of Ms. Hutton was republished, in what was described as a revised and corrected version, by Lyle Stuart, an independent publishing house known for renegade titles.

The flap over Mr. Heymann’s Hutton book put his earlier work under scrutiny. After that book was withdrawn, news organizations reported on a charge by the Pound scholar Hugh Kenner that had received comparatively little attention at the time:

In 1977, writing in the magazine The Alternative: An American Spectator (a forerunner of The American Spectator), Mr. Kenner accused Mr. Heymann of having taken an interview with Pound by an Italian interviewer, published in Venice, and presented it in his book as if it he had conducted it himself.

Mr. Heymann denied the accusation, calling it retribution for a negative review he had written of one of Mr. Kenner’s books.”

Heymann went on to write A Woman Named Jackie, a bestselling biography of Jacqueline Kennedy; and Liz: An Intimate Biography of Elizabeth Taylor (1995), both of which were made into TV movies.

He first became known to MM fans in 1999, when RFK: A Candid Biography of Robert F. Kennedy was published. In this book, he claimed that Peter Lawford told him that he and Kennedy had visited Marilyn on the day she died, and that she had threatened Kennedy with a knife.

This interview is often cited by those authors who believe Marilyn was murdered by order of the Kennedys, though others doubt that Kennedy visited Marilyn that day (he was photographed on a friend’s ranch near San Francisco with his family on the same weekend.)

The controversy surrounding Heymann deepened in 2009, with the publication of Bobby and Jackie: A Love Story. Many Kennedy scholars disputed his claim of an affair between Robert Kennedy and his brother’s wife. “It’s a new low, and you just wonder how far people are willing to go,” Laurence Leamer, author of three books about the Kennedys, told the New York Daily News.

Heymann died in May 2012. Joe and Marilyn was originally due to be published in April 2013, but the release date was repeatedly pushed back. It has now been published, and was heralded by a rather scurrilous article in the New York Post:

“In one of the book’s more outrageous claims, DiMaggio spent $10,000 on a life-size sex doll made in Monroe’s image. One year after Monroe filed for divorce, he showed it to a stewardess he was seeing.

‘She’s Marilyn the Magnificent,’ DiMaggio said. ‘She can do anything Marilyn can do, except talk.'”

Joe and Marilyn contains numerous factual errors. For example, Heymann claims that Ana Lower took Norma Jeane to visit her mother in a mental hospital. In fact, it was Grace Goddard; Ana did not meet Gladys until much later. Heymann also writes that Marlon Brando sent Marilyn a fake signed photo of Einstein as a joke. In fact, the prankster was Eli Wallach. He later claims that John Huston first directed Marilyn in Ladies of the Chorus (actually, it was The Asphalt Jungle.)

Among the book’s more bizarre claims are that Marilyn smoked dope with Arthur Miller; that Miller’s young son was a cross-dresser; that she ran naked through the Mapes hotel and casino; and had sex in public with Jose Bolanos.

Heymann claimed to have interviewed many people close to Joe and Marilyn, including press agent Rupert Allan; make-up artist Alan ‘Whitey’ Snyder; George Solotaire’s son, Robert; Dom DiMaggio; Joe DiMaggio junior; Marilyn’s mime teacher, Lotte Goslar; and her masseur, Ralph Roberts.

However, many of the quotes attributed to them seem paraphrased from previously published material. And most of these people were known for their discretion, which makes much of what is said therein hard to believe.

In the case of Lotte Goslar, there is no evidence that she was a longterm confidante of Marilyn’s. Doris Lilly, author of the 1951 novel, How to Marry a Millionaire, is also named as a close friend, without corroborating evidence. Other alleged sources, such as psychiatrist Rose Fromm and journalist Kurt Lamprecht, also seem to have appeared from nowhere.

While Heymann acknowledges that Robert Slatzer’s story of a secret marriage to Marilyn has been debunked, he nonetheless asserts that Slatzer’s story of a clash with Joe DiMaggio is true. He also claims to have interviewed Jeanne Carmen, Marilyn’s self-styled ‘best friend’, whose stories have also been widely discredited.

As Margalit Fox noted in her New York Times obituary: “Though some critics admired Mr. Heymann’s biographies for their comprehensiveness, others were far more caustic. Their concerns included his use of single rather than multiple sources in reconstructing historical events, and his reliance on hearsay accounts by people not directly involved in incidents he was describing.”

With all this in mind, I cannot recommend Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love as a reliable biography. It is so utterly riddled with mistakes, exaggerations and distortions that it soon becomes impossible to tell whether any of it is real. I suspect that what little grains of truth this book may contain are largely thanks to the earlier work of other, more rigorous authors.

Canyons of Difference: Lohan, Schrader and Marilyn

Most Monroe fans heave an exhausted sigh each time comparisons to Lindsay Lohan are made. For us, these parallels arise simply because Lindsay is perhaps the world’s most famous MM fan. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Most recently, I saw her reading her idol’s own words in Love, Marilyn. Checking through my tags, I’m surprised to find that Lindsay has now produced no less than 22 posts. The Canyons will be screened at the Lincoln Center (where Arthur Miller’s Marilyn-influenced play, After the Fall, was the inaugural theatrical production in 1964) on July 29th, reports IndieWire.

But others see them both mainly as troubled starlets, when in fact they are different in many ways. Lindsay’s career, thus far, is that of a former child star who has struggled to make the transition to adult roles. She is undoubtedly gifted, though, and I wish her all the best, both personally and professionally.

Marilyn, on the other hand, maintained her star status, despite private turmoil, for well over a decade, until her untimely death: and, half a century on, her movies remain among the most popular of all time.

Paul Schrader, director of Lindsay’s latest film, The Canyons (watch the trailer here) addresses – and exploits – these comparisons in an op-ed for Film Comment. It’s an interesting piece,  though I can’t agree with him that Lindsay has ‘more natural talent’ than Marilyn did (or that she was protected by the studios; or that she sought prestige merely to be accepted.) No disrespect to Lohan, I just think he’s – fatally – under-estimating Monroe.

“While preparing and directing The Canyons I was reading James Goode’s book The Making of The Misfits, and I was struck by the similarities between Marilyn Monroe and the actress I was working with, Lindsay Lohan. (I wasn’t the only one so struck. Stephen Rodrick, a writer for The New York Times Magazine who was on set with us, titled his article about the film ‘The Misfits’, which appeared on the cover with the line: “This is what happens when you cast Lindsay Lohan in your movie.” Not even the Times is immune to the hurricane force of the LiLo phenomenon.)

Similarities? Tardiness, unpredictability, tantrums, absences, neediness, psychodrama—yes, all that, but something more, that thing that keeps you watching someone on screen, that thing you can’t take your eyes off of, that magic, that mystery. That thing that made John Huston say, I wonder why I put myself through all this, then I go to dailies.

Monroe and Lohan exist in the space between actors and celebrities, people whose professional and personal performances are more or less indistinguishable. Entertainers understand the distinction. To be successful, a performer controls the balance between the professional and personal, that is, he or she makes it seem like the professional is personal. It is the lack of this control that gives performers like Monroe and Lohan (and others) their unique attraction. We sense that the actress is not performing, that we are watching life itself. We call them ‘troubled,’ ‘tormented,’ ‘train wrecks’—but we can’t turn away. We can’t stop watching. They get under our skin in a way that controlled performers can’t.

I think Lohan has more natural acting talent than Monroe did, but, like Monroe, her weakness is her inability to fake it. She feels she must be experiencing an emotion in order to play it. This leads to all sorts of emotional turmoil, not to mention on-set delays and melodrama. It also leads, when the gods smile, to movie magic. Monroe had the same affliction. They live large, both in life and on screen. This is an essential part of what draws viewers to them.

But LL is not MM. The differences are even more interesting than the similarities. Those differences are marked by the almost 50 years that separate Monroe and Lohan. Over that time our notions of acting, stardom, celebrity, and talent have fundamentally changed. Marilyn had two things going for her that Lindsay doesn’t. She was the product of a culture that mandated public responsibility. An acting gift, good looks, and a zesty personality only got you so far. To be taken seriously one had to appear serious: study your craft, be mentored, read literature, respect your creative elders, marry a playwright, get the support of an established theater group or studio. To receive the system’s rewards—fame, money—you play-acted by the system’s rules. And Monroe did.

Second, Monroe was a product of the studio system. The studios used their influence in the media and the courts to protect their stars. Damage was controlled and discipline en-forced. It’s inconceivable that Monroe would have faced the legal troubles that have beset Lohan over the last five years. A star’s difficulties only became public when they were impossible to contain; until then, he or she was protected.”