Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn

Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn, a new exhibition at New York’s Jewish Museum, explores the parallels between Marilyn and Elizabeth Taylor, who both converted to Judaism, and Andy Warhol’s fascination with the cult of celebrity.

As Flavorpill reports, the exhibition (opening on September 25, through to February 7, 2016) is divided into three sections – Celebrity, Conversion, and Myth & Legend.

The New York Observer reveals that Marilyn’s Menorah will be on display, alongside two 1962 paintings by Warhol, ‘Mint Marilyn’ and ‘Blue Liz’, as well as two print portraits of the women, and assorted photographs, letters, and ephemera.

Marilyn and Orson Welles

Marilyn by Laszlo Willinger, 1947

My Lunches With Orson is a new book featuring filmmaker Henry Jaglom‘s conversations with the maverick Hollywood actor-director, Orson Welles. In it, Welles mentions dating Marilyn before she was famous, during a discussion about Darryl F. Zanuck, reports the Huffington Post:

The way Welles depicts Zanuck is quite believable, as he never really respected Marilyn (even after she became his biggest star.) Another story linking Welles to MM is mentioned in a Guardian article from 2003, so their alleged affair pre-dates this book.

· 1947 
Made The Lady from Shanghai with Hayworth. A brief fling with unknown starlet Marilyn Monroe ended with an angry husband (not hers), wrongly convinced that Welles was with his wife, bursting in on Welles and Monroe and thumping the filmmaker in the jaw.

What is strange, though, is that The Guardian places Welles’s encounter with Marilyn in 1947. Success, for her, didn’t come ‘six months later’ – it took several years. And even in 1955, when she was a worldwide star, she had to fight for better pay. So I don’t know where his figure of $400,000, as told to Jaglom, comes from.

Exaggerations aside, though, his story may be true – Marilyn was certainly attracted to strong, intellectual men. And Welles was a well-known ladies’ man, on the rebound from his marriage to another beautiful actress, Rita Hayworth.

While Marilyn never mentioned an affair with Welles publicly, this is not all that surprising, as she was generally a very discreet person. It may not even have been a very long, or significant relationship for her, despite Welles’s fame. During her single days, and like many other pretty starlets, Marilyn would often be dating several men at any given time – but this is not to imply that she slept with every man she went out with.

In If This Was Happiness, Barbara Leaming‘s 1989 biography of Rita Hayworth, the Welles-Monroe rumour is also firmly placed in 1947. Leaming interviewed Welles; she had published a biography of Welles in 1988, and of course, would later write about MM.

“When Rita returned home to California that September, there was one last matter to be taken care of before she went back to work at Columbia: in October she officially filed for divorce. Not a word of protest came from Welles, who, meanwhile, had been hurriedly shooting a low-budget Macbeth at Republic Studios, enjoying a fling with Marilyn Monroe, and preparing to decamp for Italy to star in a film about Cagliostro. By the time of the divorce hearing in November, he was already out of the country.”

1947 was a shadowy year in Marilyn’s life, and it remains little-documented. The Cursum Perficio website notes that Marilyn’s contract with Twentieth Century Fox (Zanuck’s studio) lapsed in July. From September to November – the most likely time-span of the alleged fling with Welles – Marilyn was also in Los Angeles, playing a role in a stage production called Glamour Preferred, at the Bliss-Hayden Theatre.

The only known photo of Welles with Marilyn was taken eight years later, in January 1956, when she received the award from the ‘Women’s Division of the Jewish Philanthropies of New York City.’ Since her arrival in New York a year before, Marilyn had done a great deal of charitable work; and she would convert to Judaism a few months later, just before marrying Arthur Miller.

Welles also won an award that day; behind them is Victor Borge, the comedian, conductor and pianist dubbed ‘the Clown prince of Denmark.’

 

 

Birthday Tributes in the Blogosphere

Marilyn by Cecil Beaton, 1956

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 Un-Redacted

Marilyn with Jean Pierre Piquet, manager of the Hilton Continental, during her trip to Mexico in 1962

Writing for the Associated Press, Anthony McCartney reports that previously redacted FBI files relating to Marilyn have been released in full by the FBI after a request was made under the Freedom of Information Act.

The new information refers mostly to the FBI’s monitoring of Marilyn’s allegedly left-wing colleagues in her production company, her Jewish wedding to Arthur Miller, and her friendship with Fred Vanderbilt Field, the expatriate communist whom she met on a trip to Mexico.

“For all the focus on Monroe’s closeness to suspected communists, the bureau never found any proof she was a member of the party.

‘Subject’s views are very positively and concisely leftist; however, if she is being actively used by the Communist Party, it is not general knowledge among those working with the movement in Los Angeles,’ a July 1962 entry in Monroe’s file states.”

Marilyn and Arthur: Not Such an Odd Couple

Writing for St Louis Jewish Light, Robert A. Cohn looks back at Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller.

“Like Joe DiMaggio before him, Miller was completely smitten by Monroe, who despite her ‘dumb blonde’ persona in many of her roles, was actually quite intelligent and a graduate of the Actors Studio, along with Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, and Dustin Hoffman. Monroe fully requited Miller’s love, and became a Jew by choice under the supervision of Rabbi Robert E. Goldburg, who signed her official Certificate of Conversion on July 1, 1956. Her conversion pleased Miller’s parents and siblings at the time, and even after her divorce, she continued to identify herself as ‘Jewish.’ Among her prized possessions was a Hanukkah menorah that played ‘Hatikva’, Israel’s national anthem, an item that fetched a tidy sum when auctioned off by Christie’s in New York in 1999.”

Philippe Halsman: ‘The Jump Artist’

The Jump Artist is a novel by Austin Ratner, based on the life of photographer Philippe Halsman. Originally published by indie press Bellevue in 2009, the novel won this year’s Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and has now been acquired by Penguin, reports The Bookseller.

“The Jump Artist is evocative psychological fiction based on the true, and largely unknown, story of renowned photographer Philippe Halsman, a man Adolph Hitler knew by name, who Sigmund Freud wrote about in 1931, and who put Marilyn Monroe on the cover of Life magazine.  Surviving an episode that presages the horrors of WWII, Halsman transforms himself from a victim of rampant anti-Semitism into a purveyor of the marvelous.”