Marilyn’s Misfits at the Christmas Tree Inn

Photo by Eve Arnold

The former Christmas Tree Inn & Casino in Nevada, where Marilyn and the Misfits crew partied on October 17, 1960 – will reopen under new management and a new name, as Jonathan L. Wright reports for the Reno Gazette-Journal.

“Chef Colin and MaryBeth Smith are heading for the hills. The couple, owners of Roundabout Catering … just purchased Tannenbaum Event Center, tucked in the pines halfway up Mount Rose Highway.

The business, to be called Tannenbaum by Roundabout, occupies a landmark property where the Christmas Tree restaurant sat for nearly 60 years before being reborn as Tannenbaum in 2005 after extensive renovations.

The Christmas Tree opened as a bar in 1946; it became a restaurant in 1947. The place became known for its panoramic views of Washoe Valley, its warm fire and its steaks grilled over mahogany. In the 1950s and early 1960s, celebrities visiting or performing in Reno and at Lake Tahoe frequently stopped by the Christmas Tree.

From the mid-1960s on, the Christmas Tree experienced a fire and rebuilding, a foreclosure, a reopening after sitting empty for a bit, and several changes of ownership. The restaurant closed for good in 2003. The next year, the Nobis family purchased the property and remade it into Tannenbaum Event Center.

MaryBeth Smith recalled eating at the Christmas Tree in the late 1990s when she first moved to the area. ‘They had the mahogany steak on the menu, so we might do some pop-up restaurants here that serve the mahogany steaks. It will be our remembrance of the Christmas Tree.'”

As Gary Vitacco-Robles writes in Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, this was the Millers’ last public outing as a married couple, and so the memories were bittersweet.

“The company hosted a surprise birthday party for Miller, turning forty-five, and Monty Clift, five years younger, on the following Monday evening at the Christmas Tree Inn & Casino. The event also served as a wrap party. Clift told [Ralph] Roberts that the evening was a highlight of his life, and sadly, this was a true statement. Within two years, Clift experienced a major depressive episode and lived virtually as a hermit …

Marilyn, in a pearl dress from the party she hosted for Yves Montand before the start of Let’s Make Love, sat beside Clift and expertly twirled fettuccini alfredo on a spoon as only the former wife of an Italian-American could. Russell Metty made the toast: ‘… Why don’t you wish [Arthur] a happy birthday, Marilyn? This truly is the biggest bunch of misfits I ever saw.’ Marilyn smiled but shook her head in negation. After dinner, the party gambled in the casino. At the roulette table, Marilyn teamed with Eve Arnold. [John] Huston handed Marilyn a pair of green dice.

‘What should I ask the dice for, John?’ she asked.

‘Don’t think, honey, just throw,’ Huston replied. ‘That’s the story of your life. Don’t think, do it.'”

Marilyn Book News: The Girl, Hollywood and More

2018 is shaping up to be another great year for Marilyn’s book-loving fans. Marilyn: Lost and Forgotten, featuring 150 images from Colin Slater’s Hollywood Photo Archive, is set for publication in October. For those who can’t get enough of those classic Hollywood beauties, a companion volume – Venus in Hollywood: Portraits from the Golden Age of Glamour – is due in November.

Michelle Morgan’s latest book, The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist, will be published in May. For the latest updates, follow Michelle’s blog here.

Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon, a full-scale biography by Charles Casillo, will follow in August.

Looking further ahead,  Amanda Konkle’s Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe, a scholarly look at her film performances, will be published in February 2019. (Only the Kindle version is available for pre-order as yet.)

In related interest, Marilyn graces the cover of Samantha Barbas’ Confidential Confidential: The Inside Story of Hollywood’s Notorious Scandal Magazine, due in September. (The notorious ‘Wrong Door Raid’ is also featured in Jim Heimann’s Dark City: The Real Los Angeles Noir, just published by Taschen.

Reno, a 2016 play by Roy Smiles about Marilyn’s conflicted relationships with husband Arthur Miller and director John Huston during the tumultuous filming of The Misfits, will be published shortly by Oberon Modern Playwrights (the Kindle version is currently available for pre-order.)

And finally, Elizabeth Winder’s Marilyn in Manhattan is now available in Turkish; and Marilyn Monroe: 1926-1962, a new study of her untimely death by Eva Enderström, has been published in Sweden.

We Were Strangers: Marilyn and John Garfield

John Garfield, a legendary movie ‘tough guy’ of the 1940s, trained in the New York theatre and after his Hollywood breakthrough, became a prototype for the next generation of ‘rebel actors’ including Marlon Brando. In He Ran All the Way: The Life of John Garfield, biographer Robert Knott describes the star’s alleged encounter with the young Marilyn Monroe on the set of John Huston’s We Were Strangers (1949.)

“[Sam] Spiegel brought agent Johnny Hyde and a young blonde starlet on the set. Spiegel asked Huston to film a silent test of the blonde, using as little film, time and money as possible. Huston said he would, but as soon as the producer left the set Huston asked [Peter] Viertel to write a scene for the girl to play on camera with Julie (Garfield’s real name was Julius.) The next day Huston, cameraman Russell Metty and Julie spent a good part of the day filming this brief screen test with the young blonde, one Marilyn Monroe. Spiegel was furious at Huston’s insubordination and blamed the director for letting the film fall behind schedule another day. Indifferent to Spiegel’s ranting but appreciative of Monroe’s potential, Huston cast her in a small role in his next film, The Asphalt Jungle. (No one seems to know what happened to that test film of Monroe and Garfield; one wonders if the actor made a pass at her.)”

John Garfield with Jennifer Jones in ‘We Were Strangers’

Lola Albright 1924-2017

The actress and singer, Lola Albright, has died in Toluca Lake, California aged 92, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Lola Jean Albright was born in Ohio in 1924. Her parents were gospel singers, and she became an accomplished pianist. After performing on the radio in Cleveland, she moved to Hollywood and worked as a model. In 1949, she won her first important film role opposite Kirk Douglas in Champion.

Albright was director John Huston’s initial choice to play Angela Phinlay, the young mistress of a crooked businessman, in his 1950 heist movie, The Asphalt Jungle. However, the part ultimately went to another blonde. Some have suggested that Albright thought the role was too minor, or that she wanted a higher salary. Others claimed that MGM’s Lucille Ryman campaigned on behalf of her latest protégée, Marilyn Monroe. Huston later said that Marilyn got the job ‘because she was damned good.’

In 1952, Albright married actor Jack Carson, whom had been her co-star in Tulsa (1949.) She worked with Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap (1955), and began to make her mark on television. In 1958, she secured her best-known role, as nightclub singer Edie Hart in the popular detective series, Peter Gunn. She was signed up by Columbia Records, and recorded two albums with Henry Mancini’s orchestra. In 1961 she married Bill Chadney, who played piano on the show.

She continued working in both television and movies, starring in A Cold Wind in August (1961), and playing love interest to Elvis Presley in Kid Galahad (1962.) In 1964, she appeared with Jane Fonda and Alain Delon in Rene Clement’s Joy House. A year later, she replaced an ailing Dorothy Malone for fourteen episodes of the TV soap opera, Peyton Place. Albright was named Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival for her role in Lord Love a Duck (1966.) She was reunited with Kirk Douglas in The Way West (1967), and played David Niven’s wife in The Impossible Years (1968.)

Her penultimate movie role was in the 1968 Doris Day comedy, Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? Albright would make frequent cameo appearances on television until her retirement in 1984. In later years, she enjoyed single life and caring for her pets, and never missed the spotlight.

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.