Marilyn Onstage in Milan

The Last Tapes of Marilyn Monroe, a new play starring Italian actress Marianna Esposito, was staged in Milan last Saturday. While Marilyn’s alleged stream-of-consciousness tapes for Dr Ralph Greenson have never materialised, and detective John Miner’s self-proclaimed transcription is also highly questionable, the play – written and directed by Guilio Federico Janni – has nonetheless been praised by diehard fans, including Gianandrea Colombo who posted his review on the Marilyn Monroe – Italia Facebook group.

Marianna Esposito as Marilyn

“A well-written and sincere monologue, which ‘undressed’ Marilyn from the clichés of stupidity and frivolousness. Among ‘educated’ quotations – from Shakespeare to Joyce – Marianna Esposito cried and smiled, retracing the last hours of Marilyn through the ‘relationship’ with her therapist. Being in the front row, I was able to enjoy the skill of this actress whose strong point is a mime and intense expressiveness, the ability to pass from languid glances to inconsolable crying, to stage the same effervescence of the glass of sparkling wine that her Marilyn sips during the show, telling of life, love and cinema. Marianna Esposito crosses the border between actor and spectator with firmness, direct looks and a physicality exhibited without hesitation. A minimal setting, soft lighting and the magic of a play written and certainly acted ‘from the heart’, elevates the soul of the woman behind the mask of the myth.”

Hugh Hefner 1926-2017

Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, has died aged 91.

In 1953, he acquired Tom Kelley’s nude calendar shot of Marilyn for the magazine’s first issue, also putting her on the cover. (You can read the full story here.) ‘She was actually in my brother’s acting class in New York,’ he told CNN. ‘But the reality is that I never met her. I talked to her once on the phone, but I never met her. She was gone, sadly, before I came out here.’

In 1960, Playboy published another laudatory feature headlined ‘The Magnificent Marilyn.’ If Marilyn sometimes resented others profiteering from her nude calendar – for which she had earned a flat $50 back in 1949 – by 1962 she was considering posing for Playboy‘s Christmas issue (although some sources indicate she changed her mind.)

Lawrence Schiller’s poolside nudes, taken during filming of the unfinished Something’s Got to Give, were published by Playboy in 1964, two years after Marilyn’s death.

The women’s rights campaigner Gloria Steinem, who would later write a biography of Marilyn, went ‘undercover’ as a Bunny Girl in a Playboy club for a magazine assignment durging the 1960s, and found the experience degrading – an opinion echoed by feminists today, as the BBC reports. Cultural historian Camille Paglia takes a different view, citing Hefner as ‘one of the principal architects of the social revolution.’

Marilyn has made many posthumous appearances on Playboy covers through the years. The magazine has also revealed rare and unseen images, such as Jon Whitcomb’s 1958 painting of Marilyn (based on a photo by Carl Perutz), and illustrator Earl Moran’s photos of a young Marilyn.

Many distinguished authors have written about Marilyn for Playboy, including John Updike, Roger Ebert, and Joyce Carol Oates. More dubiously, the magazine also published detective John Miner’s contested transcripts of tapes allegedly made by Marilyn for her psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson.

Since his death was announced earlier today, Twitter users and even some news websites have mistakenly posted a photo of Marilyn with Sir Laurence Olivier, confusing him with Hefner, as Mashable reports (a final absurdity that all three would probably have found hilarious.)

In 1992, Hefner reportedly purchased the crypt next to Marilyn’s in Westwood Memorial Park for $75,000. If he is buried there, it will either pave the way for extra security measures, or make Marilyn’s final resting place even more of a spectacle.

‘Marilyn: Missing Evidence’ on Channel 5

UK television’s Channel 5 will broadcast a new, hour-long documentary – Marilyn Monroe: Missing Evidence – tonight at 8 pm. It is produced by Dan Chambers, the channel’s former Director of Programmes, and David McNab, who has an extensive track record in innovative, CGI-led factual TV. Director Renny Bartlett is best known for his work on the Animal Planet series, I Shouldn’t Be Alive.

The synopsis seems to indicate a theory akin to Donald Wolfe’s in his controversial book, The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe, while the claim of recordings made inside Marilyn’s home suggests either detective John Miner’s widely-disputed ‘transcripts’ of tapes made by Marilyn for psychoanalyst Dr Greenson (still not found), or Private Investigator Fred Otash’s unconfirmed allegations of wire-tapping.

At this stage, it’s very unlikely that any new or conclusive evidence will emerge. I remain sceptical, but will give you my verdict after I’ve seen the documentary.

“Investigating the evidence that supports some of the world’s most notorious conspiracy theories. Though she officially committed suicide, some people have long claimed that the FBI, the Mafia and even the Kennedy family may have been involved in Marilyn Monroe’s death. This programme looks at some of these claims, and also reveals the contents of tape recordings made inside Monroe’s house on the fateful day of August 5, 1962, which suggest her psychiatrist may have been responsible for her death, working under pressure from eminent individuals in high places.” Radio Times

UPDATE: You can read Andrea Pryke’s review over at her blog, The Monroe Report.

‘Victim’ Revisited

smith victim-marilyn-monroe

British author Matthew Smith’s Victim: The Secret Tapes of Marilyn Monroe (2003) was an update of his 1996 book, The Men Who Murdered Marilyn. After a further US release, Marilyn’s Last Words (2005), Victim remains in print and on Kindle – proof, if nothing else, that scandal will always find an audience. (Smith has also written books about the assassination of President Kennedy.)

Victim, like Smith’s other Monroe books, is based on the alleged tapes she made for Dr Ralph Greenson. However, the tapes have never been found, and Smith (along with other authors) relied on the memories of John Miner, an assistant to the prosecuting attorney during the original investigation into Marilyn’s death, who claimed that Greenson had played him the tapes. Miner created the ‘transcript’ decades later.

In 2005, Melinda Mason wrote ‘Songs Marilyn Never Sang‘, an article disputing the credibility of the Miner transcripts, for her MM and the Camera website.

Now a thoughtful review of Victim has been published on the Literary Lollipop website…

“Published in 2003, Victim is already more than ten years old, but the content could’ve been from the 1970s or 1980s…I’m skeptical of the legitimacy of Monroe’s words because of a point Smith makes himself throughout this book, on more than one occasion. He admits and argues how easy it is to splice tapes together, to form sentences and thoughts that weren’t originally intended. There were a few moments when Monroe’s statements felt orchestrated, conveniently sexualized or titillating. I could be completely wrong, but that is my interpretation – forever the pessimist.”

Birthday Tributes in the Blogosphere

Over the next few posts I’m going to focus on the best fan tributes for Marilyn’s birthday. But firstly, here are a few selections from the blogosphere.

We’re all used to reading Marilyn’s own words online – though sadly, some of them are internet fakes – but Flavorwire has compiled a rather good list, 30 of Marilyn Monroe’s Smartest and Most Insightful Quotes.

Nearly all of these are genuine, in my opinion – meaning, they can be traced back to reputable biographies and interviews with MM herself. The only one I’m not sure about is the second one, regarding James Joyce’s Ulysses, which comes from the disputed Miner transcripts. (However, we do at least have Eve Arnold’s 1955 photo as evidence that Marilyn read the book – and, indeed, she later performed Molly Bloom’s closing soliloquy as an exercise for her dramatic coach, Lee Strasberg.) 

“Here is [James] Joyce writing what a woman thinks to herself. Can he, does he really know her innermost thoughts? But after I read the whole book, I could better understand that Joyce is an artist who could penetrate the souls of people, male or female. It really doesn’t matter that Joyce doesn’t have… or never felt a menstrual cramp. To me Leopold Bloom is a central character. He is the despised Irish Jew, married to an Irish Catholic woman. It is through them Joyce develops much of what he wants to say.”

Geeks of Doom posted this thoughtful tribute:

“While she didn’t have the cocksure winking swagger of a Mae West, or the sharp natural beauty of an Ava Gardner, she somehow fell somewhere in the middle of both of those ladies…In a strange way, she is old Hollywood and still remains fresh in new Hollywood.”

And finally, Kim Morgan reposts her wonderful Playboy tribute from last year over at her Sunset Gun blog.

“Because through it all, no matter what was happening in her life, Marilyn gave us that gift: pleasure. Pleasure in happiness and pleasure in pain and the pleasure of looking at her. And great artist that she was, looking at her provoked whatever you desired to interpret from her. Her beauty was transcendent. For that, we should do as Dylan instructs: ‘Bow down to her on Sunday, salute her when her birthday comes.'”

Marilyn’s Last Sessions: A Novel

Marilyn’s Last Sessions, a 2006 novel by French author Michel Schneider, about her relationship with psychoanalyst Dr Ralph Greenson, will be published in English on November 3.

The book inspired a 2009 documentary of the same name. While I felt that the film blurred fact and fiction too liberally, Schneider’s novel has, so far, been critically acclaimed. It does concern me, however, that Schneider was inspired by John Miner’s disputed transcripts of tapes supposedly made by Marilyn for Greenson, which have never been found.

Andrew O’Hagan, author of The Life and Times of Maf the Dog and His Friend Marilyn Monroe, describes Marilyn’s Last Sessions as ‘marvellous and insightful, a real vision of human delicacy, and one of the international novels of the year.’

Lisa Appignanesi, who wrote about Marilyn and psychoanalysis in her 2008 book, Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors From 1800, has said that ‘Celluloid meets psychoanalysis in this riveting evocation of Marilyn Monroe’s life and ultimate suicide. As an analyst himself, Michel Schneider’s perceptions about the star’s relations with her last psychoanalyst are astute, and he writes with great flair and insight. Tender, provocative, brimming with perception, this is a novel about both our fascination with celebrity and its inner life.’

Schneider will discuss Marilyn’s Last Sessions with Appignanesi at London’s Freud Museum on November 1 at 7pm. Tickets £10/£7 concessions.

John Miner Dies in LA

John Miner, a former Los Angeles prosecutor who was involved in the original investigation into Marilyn Monroe’s death, has passed away aged 92.

Miner made headlines in 2005 when the Los Angeles Times published a transcript (from memory) of private tapes, supposedly made by Marilyn, for her psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson. Some fans have pointed to inconsistencies in the text, summarised in an article, Songs Marilyn Never Sang.

Though Miner claimed to have heard the tapes in the days after Monroe’s death, the recordings have never been traced.

Miner believed that Marilyn was murdered. Most recently he collaborated with collector Keya Morgan on Murder at Fifth Helena Drive, a documentary and book set to be released in 2012 (the 50th anniversary of MM’s death.)

Whatever one may think of Miner’s theories and evidence, his certainty never wavered.

Postscript

An obituary was published in error Friday for a death that occurred a year ago. The article was about former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John W. Miner, who was an investigator in the 1962 death of Marilyn Monroe. The obituary reported that he died Feb. 25. Miner actually died Feb. 25, 2010.

Chicago Tribune