Marilyn Monroe: Auction of a Lifetime, the documentary about the 2016 Julien’s sale (in which Marilyn’s ‘birthday dress sold for $4.8m) has been acquired by the Smithsonian Channel, and will be screened on December 23 at 9pm, as Daniele Alcinii reports for RealScreen. Originally produced by Oxford Film and Television and broadcast in the UK on Channel 4, the documentary has been renamed Marilyn Monroe For Sale. You can read my review here.
David Gainsborough Roberts, owner of one of the world’s largest collections of Marilyn’s film costumes, memorabilia and personal effects, has died in Jersey aged 73 after a short illness, BBC News reports. A true admirer, he wore clothing emblazoned with Marilyn’s image to public events and shared his treasures with fellow enthusiasts in numerous exhibitions across the UK and beyond. In 2005, I visited a show at Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire (the enchanting family home of Marilyn’s poet friend, Dame Edith Sitwell.) It was a very touching experience, and like many other fans, I will always be indebted to David for his generosity. In November 2016, his collection was sold for £1.5 million at Julien’s Auctions.
You can read a selection of posts about David here.
Lois Smith, publicist to Meryl Streep, Robert Redford and others, died in 2012, aged 84. “In a tough business known for steel-sharp elbows,” her New York Times obituary read, “Ms. Smith stood out for being nurturing. She was at the birth of Marilyn Monroe’s kittens...”
Born Lois Eileen Wollenweber of Brooklyn in 1928, she began working for publicist Ted Saucier in the 1950s. His most famous client was the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where he and Lois recruited celebrities who had come there to escape Hollywood’s crumbling studio system. One of them was Marilyn, who lived there for several months after moving to New York in 1955.
Lois later married journalist Gene Smith, and formed Pickwick Public Relations with Pat Newcomb – Marilyn’s publicist at the time of her death – in 1969. A number of items in the current Julien’s sale, ending today, come from her estate (under the name of Lois Weber.)
This photo was taken by Hans Knopf on February 22, 1956, when Marilyn was walking to Cecil Beaton’s studio for their famous session. Lois, who accompanied her that morning, is generally cropped out of the picture.
Two other photos taken by Knopf that day show Marilyn and Lois getting into a taxi cab en route to lunch at the Ambassador Hotel with society columnist Elsa Maxwell.
Interestingly, some copies of the candid photos taken by Frieda Hull and other members of the ‘Monroe Six’ were also in Lois’ possession. The young fans gave each other copies of their photos, so perhaps they shared a few with her as well.
A 32-page transcript of Marilyn’s 1960 interview with George Belmont, submitted by Lois to Look magazine, is also on offer. Perhaps the most significant items from her estate, however, are the many beautiful photos, negatives and colour transparencies from the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. Marilyn exercised a strict approval process over all images, and relegated these to a ‘Kill’ folder.
“As far as Hollywood stories go, Marilyn Monroe‘s is generally seen as a tragic one,” Time magazine observes. “Knowing what would come later, it’s easy for her fans today to look at images of the actress and add their own overlay of sadness to the pictures.”
However, the article continues, candid photos from the Frieda Hull estate – up for bids at Julien’s Auctions this weekend – show a “lighter side” of Marilyn, suggesting that “the tragedy of her story does not mean that she lacked for moments of happiness—or at least moments when she appeared to be happy.”
The Frieda Hull collection ranges from approximately Lots 605-788 of the Julien’s sale, and is well worth a closer look. Time have featured some of the most striking images on offer, and I’ve posted a few more below.
Frieda Hull also collected original memorabilia, including movie stills, studio portraits and lobby cards. She compiled scrapbooks and home movies, and even owned a scarf of Marilyn’s, and a Gladstone Hotel menu signed by MM and Arthur Miller – not to mention a Monroe Six badge!
This archive is so unique that it could easily fill a book. Although some images have been seen before, many have never been published, and some are extremely rare. Whatever her mood, Marilyn could always spare a smile for her fans. So let’s hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of these lovely pictures.
In daily life, Marilyn often went unrecognised. This rare photo shows her wearing a black wig. When travelling ‘incognito‘, she sometimes used false names (including ‘Zelda Zonk’.)
In the summer of 1953, Joe DiMaggio joined Marilyn in Canada, where she was filming River of No Return. She took these snapshots of Joe during his visit. Also pictured is Jean Negulesco, who had directed Marilyn in How to Marry a Millionaire. Although his work on River was uncredited, Negulesco may have helped to smooth the differences between Marilyn and the somewhat tyrannical Otto Preminger.
Shortly before her third marriage to Arthur Miller, Marilyn converted to Judaism. This Jewish prayer book was probably a gift from Rabbi Robert E. Goldburg.
Some photos of Arthur Miller, including one taken with Marilyn in 1959.
Marilyn’s Minolta 16mm camera. This model was introduced in 1957.
These photos are of the farmhouse at Roxbury, Connecticut, bought by the Millers after their marriage. It is incorrectly identified in the Julien’s catalogue as Marilyn’s Los Angeles abode. The Millers’ country home required extensive renovations. After their marriage ended, Marilyn kept their city apartment while Arthur lived at Roxbury until his death in 2005.
Marilyn with her friend, actor Eli Wallach, in 1957. They would later co-star in The Misfits (1961.)
Correspondence with Xenia Chekhov, widow of Marilyn’s acting teacher, Michael Chekhov.
“A single-page typed, unsigned file copy of a letter dated December 19, 1958, to ‘Mrs. Chekhov’ reading ‘My husband and I were so happy with the pictures you sent us of Mr. Chekhov. We will treasure them forever. I am not able to shop for Christmas, as you may already know I have lost the baby, so I would like you to use this check as my Christmas greetings with all my most affectionate good wishes. My husband sends you his warmest regards.’ The letter is accompanied by Xenia Chekhov’s response written on a notecard dated January 10, 1959, reading in part, ‘[Y]our personal sad news affected me very much and I could not find the courage to write you sooner. All my warmest feelings of sympathy go out to you and Mr. Miller.’ This is a deeply personal note with an acknowledgement of a miscarriage in Monroe’s own words.”
“An assortment of receipts from seven different bookstores: including: Doubleday Book Shop, Beekman Place Bookshop, and E. Weyhe Inc., all of New York City, and Wepplo’s Book Store, Lee Freeson, Martindale’s Book Stores and Hunter’s Books, all of Los Angeles. Titles include The Great Gatsby; Van Gogh’s Great Period; I , Rachel; An Encyclopedia of Gardening; Hi – Lo’s – Love Nest; a book listed simply as ‘Yves Montand’, among others. The receipts are dated 1958 and 1960.”
A Royal Quiet de Luxe model typewriter owned by Marilyn.
Various letters from Marilyn to her stepdaughter, Jane Miller.
“A 1957 letter is written to Janie at summer camp and recounts a number of amusing stories about Hugo the Bassett Hound reading in part, ‘He got kicked by that donkey. Remember him? His nose swelled up with a big lump on top and it really wrecked his profile. I put an ice pack on it and it took several days for it to go down but the last time I saw him it was pretty well healed. Bernice is taking care of him and the house while I am at the hospital.We are going home tomorrow and then I will write you by hand. Listen, I had better stop now because I want to get off a note to Bobby today. Don’t worry about me in the hospital. I am feeling much better now and I have the funniest Scotch nurse.’ (Marilyn had recently been taken to hospital after suffering an ectopic pregnancy.)
The 1958 letter is typed on the back of a piece of stationery from the Hotel Bel-Air and is addressed, ‘Dear Janie-bean.’ The letter, written as Marilyn prepared for Some Like It Hot, reads in part, ‘Thanks for helping me into my white skirt. I almost didn’t make it -but now that I’m busier I’ll start losing weight – you know where. Along with ukulele lessons I have to take I’m learning three songs from the 1920 period. … I don’t know how my costumes in the picture will be yet. I’ll let you know.'”
Three colour slides from the estate of Frieda Hull, showing the Millers leaving New York for Los Angeles in November 1959. Marilyn’s parakeet, Butch, travelled with them. He was a noisy passenger, constantly squawking, “I’m Marilyn’s bird!”
An electroplate ice bucket, made in England, and a receipt for 12 splits of Piper Heidsieck champagne, delivered to the Millers’ bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel during filming of Let’s Make Love in December 1959.
Address books from 1955 and 1962. The first includes a handwritten ‘to-do list’, with entries such as “as often as possible to observe Strassberg’s [sic.] other private classes”; “never miss my actors studio sessions”; “must make strong effort to work on current problems and phobias that out of my past has arisen.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Julien’s sale is that Marilyn was planning to buy a home in New York, even commissioning a series of architectural drawings for a property on East 61st Street in November 1961. In addition to her rented Manhattan apartment, she bought a small bungalow in Los Angeles in 1962, but clearly hadn’t given up her dream of a permanent East Coast base.
“An original letter from John E. Holland of the Charles F. Noyes Real Estate Company dated October 18, 1961, addressed to Miss Marilyn Monroe, 444 East 57th Street, New York, “Attention: Miss Marjorie Stengel” (Monroe’s secretary). The letter reads in part, ‘L]ast summer Mr. Ballard of our office, and I showed you the house at the corner of 57th Street and Sutton Place and Mr. Arthur Krim’s house on Riverview Terrace. I spoke to Miss Stengel yesterday and told her of a house which we have just gotten listed for sale at 241 East 61st Street. She asked me to send you the particulars on this house as she thought you might be interested in it. I am enclosing our setup. … The garden duplex apartment is now occupied by the owner and would be available to a purchaser for occupancy. You may possibly have been in this apartment as Miss Kim Novak … just moved out in September. Before that it was occupied by Prince Aly Khan.’
An original letter from John E. Holland of the Charles F. Noyes Real Estate Company dated November 15, 1961, addressed to Miss Marjorie Stengel, stating, ‘I am enclosing herewith Photostats which I had made of the drawings adding a stairway which would include all or half of the third floor with the duplex garden apartments. These sketches may be somewhat confusing, but I could easily explain them if you would like to have me do so,’ together with six Photostat copies of original architectural drawings for the redesign of an apartment located at 241 East 61st Street in New York. The drawings go into great detail as to the redesign of the apartment, with space for an art studio and specific notes stating, ‘This could be another bedroom or boudoir, or health studio with massage table, chaise lounge, private living room…or…with numerous closets.'”
“An extraordinary, blue cloth over board, ‘project management‘ three-ring binder kept by one of Monroe’s assistants chronicling the purchase and ongoing renovation and decoration of her home located at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, California. The notebook begins with an information sheet and lot diagram as well as a typed renovation and additions budget for the property totaling $34,877.36 against a purchase price of $57,609.95. The book also contains approximately 28 pages of notes on various renovation projects and to-do lists; a page with notes regarding terracing and planting the hillside; seven drawings of exterior floor plan for possible apartment above the garage for a cook; three renderings of options for a table and another decorative element for the home; and a listing of bills due as of August 16, 1962. The last page of the book lists ‘Moet – Champagne vintage 1952/ et Chandon a Epernay/ Cuvee Dom Perignon – 13.88.’ The book lists dates that furniture is due to be delivered from various suppliers, many after Monroe’s death, as well as dimensions of each room of the home for the purpose of ordering ‘white India’ carpet. It also has estimates to have the pool resurfaced, water heater moved, fountain built, and laundry room and shower expanded for people using the pool as well as notes about decoration of a ‘play room,’ fabrication of a new gate, bars for windows, and shelving to be built, among many other things.
A group of invoices dating to February 28, 1962, from various Mexican boutiques listing the purchase of a great number of pieces of furniture and home furnishings, purchased in Mexico for Monroe’s Fifth Helena Drive residence. Together with a two-page typed signed letter dated July 26, 1962, signed ‘Mura’, giving a full report to Monroe’s secretary Eunice Murray regarding her buying trip in Mexico. The letter demonstrates the fact that Monroe was still quite actively working on her home at the time of her death.”
Among Marilyn’s possessions were many items of sentimental value. She kept this ballerina paperweight in her New York apartment next to a framed photo of 1920s Broadway star Marilyn Miller, who inspired her own stage name. In a strange twist of fate, she would also become ‘Marilyn Miller’ after her third marriage. She later gave the paperweight to her friend and masseur, Ralph Roberts, calling it “the other Marilyn.”
This silver-tone St Christopher pendant was a gift from Natasha Lytess, Marilyn’s drama coach from 1948-54. (St Christopher is the patron saint of travellers.) Marilyn cut ties with Lytess after discovering she was writing a book about their friendship. She later gave the pendant to Ralph Roberts, telling him, “I’ve outgrown Natasha.”
This gold and silver-tone Gemini pendant reflects Marilyn’s close identification with her astrological sign, symbolised by twin faces. “I’m so many people,” she told journalist W.J. Weatherby. “Sometimes I wish I was just me.”
Marilyn was exceedingly generous to her friends, as the story behind this bracelet reveals.
“A rhinestone bracelet owned by Marilyn Monroe and gifted to Vanessa Reis, the sister-in-law to May Reis, Monroe’s personal assistant and secretary. In a letter to the consigner dated November 28, 1994, Ralph Roberts writes, ‘Reference Marilyn robe and bracelet. As best I recall, late one Saturday afternoon Marilyn and I were in the dining area of the Miller 9th floor suite at the Mapes Hotel. She had just changed into a robe, sitting on one of the chairs and I was massaging her back and shoulders. She showed me a bracelet she’d brought to Reno with thought of possibly wearing it as a [undecipherable comment] for Roslyn [Monroe’s character in The Misfits]. Upon discussing it, she and Paula [Paula Strasberg was Monroe’s acting coach and friend] had decided somehow it wouldn’t be appropriate. Just then May Reis entered with Vanessa Reis (the widow of Irving Reis, May’s greatly loved brother and film director). Vanessa had come up from LA for a long weekend visit – there’d been some talk of our going out to some of the casinos to do a bit of gambling. Vanessa told Marilyn how lovely she looked in that robe. Marilyn thanked her + impulsively held out the bracelet, Take this + wear it as a good luck charm. I was wearing it during dance rehearsals for Let’s Make Love, smashed into a prop, so a stone is loosened. I wish I could go with you, but Raffe is getting some Misfits knots out. And I should go over that scene coming up Monday. They left. Marilyn asked me to remind her to have the robe cleaned to give to Vanessa. Whitey, Agnes, May – all of us – knew from experience we couldn’t compliment Marilyn on any personal items or had to be very careful. She’d be compulsive about giving it, or getting a copy – to you.’ Accompanied by a copy of the letter.”
Jack Dempsey, a former world heavyweight champion boxer, wrote to Joe DiMaggio’s New York Yankees teammate, Jerry Coleman, in 1954. “Have been reading a lot about Marilyn, Joe and yourself, here in the east,” Dempsey remarked. “Best of luck to you and your family, and send Marilyn’s autograph along.”
This small pine-cone Christmas tree, held together with wire and dusted in glitter, was given to Marilyn as a surprise by Joe DiMaggio one year when she had no plans, or decorations. Christmas can be a lonely time, and Joe made sure to bring some cheer.
This vintage Hallmark card was sent to Marilyn one Christmas by her favourite singer, Ella Fitzgerald.
Author Truman Capote sent Marilyn a personally inscribed 1959 album of himself reading ‘A Christmas Memory‘ (an excerpt from his famous novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.)
Marilyn owned a leather-bound, monogrammed copy of Esquire magazine’s July 1953 issue, featuring an article about herself titled “The ‘Altogether’ Girl.”
Marilyn’s 1954 trip to Korea to entertain American troops was one of her happiest memories. This photo shows her with the band and is accompanied by a letter from George Sweers of the St Petersburg Times, sent after their chance reunion when Marilyn took a short break in Florida in 1961.
This endearing note accompanied a gift from Marilyn to Paula Strasberg, who replaced Natasha Lytess as her acting coach in 1956: “Dear Paula, I’m glad you were born because you are needed. Your warmth is both astonishing and welcomed. Love & Happy Birthday, Marilyn.”
In April 1955, novelist John Steinbeck wrote a letter to Marilyn, asking her to sign a photo for his young nephew.
“In my whole experience I have never known anyone to ask for an autograph for himself. It is always for a child or an ancient aunt, which gets very tiresome as you know better than I. It is therefore, with a certain nausea that I tell you that I have a nephew-in-law … he has a foot in the door of puberty, but that is only one of his problems. You are the other. … I know that you are not made of ether, but he doesn’t. … Would you send him, in my care, a picture of yourself, perhaps in pensive, girlish mood, inscribed to him by name and indicating that you are aware of his existence. He is already your slave. This would make him mine. If you will do this, I will send you a guest key to the ladies’ entrance of Fort Knox.”
Television host Edward K. Murrow sent Marilyn a Columbia Records album, featuring excerpts from speeches by Sir Winston Churchill, in November 1955. She had been a guest on Murrow’s CBS show, Person to Person, a few months previously.
Marilyn’s custom-bound edition of Arthur Miller’s Collected Plays included a personal dedication. Miller had drafted a fuller tribute, but it was nixed – possibly because his first divorce was not final when it was published.
“This book is being written out of the courage, the widened view of life, the awareness of love and beauty, given to me by my love, my wife-to-be, my Marilyn. I bless her for this gift, and I write it so that she may have from me the only unique thing I know how to make. I bless her, I owe her the discovery of my soul.”
Costume designer Donfeld sent Marilyn this handmade birthday card one year, together with a small note that read, “M – I hope this finds you well and happy – My thoughts are with you now – Love, Feld.”
This engraved cigarette case was given by Marilyn to Joe DiMaggio during their post-honeymoon trip to Japan in 1954.
This souvenir brochure for the small town of Bement, Illinois was signed by Marilyn when she made a surprise appearance in 1955, during a festival marking the centennial of an historic visit by her idol, Abraham Lincoln.
Comedian Ernie Kovacs sent this rather cheeky letter to Marilyn in 1961. He would die in a tragic car crash in January 1962, aged 43, followed by Marilyn in August.
“The letter, addressed to ‘Marilyneleh’, invites Monroe to a get together at his home on June 15, giving the dress code as ‘… slacks or if you want to be chic, just spray yourself with aluminum paint or something.’ He continues, ‘I’ll try to find someone more mature than Carl Sandburg for you. … if Frank is in town, will be asking him. … don’t be a miserable shit and say you can’t come. … Look as ugly as possible cause the neighbors talk if attractive women come into my study.’ He signs the letter in black pen ‘Ernie’ and adds a note at the bottom: ‘If you don’t have any aluminum paint, you could back into a mud pack and come as an adobe hut. … we’ll make it a costume party. … Kovacs.'”
Always gracious to her fans, Marilyn gave child actress Linda Bennett a magazine clipping with the inscription, “I saw you in The Seven Little Foys. Great – Marilyn Monroe.” She also signed this photograph, “Dear Linda, I wish you luck with your acting. Love and kisses, Marilyn Monroe Miller.”
“Marilyn Monroe famously sang ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,’” Sheila Gibson Stoodley writes for Robb Report, “but collectors of her memorabilia disagree. Seven of the 10 most-expensive Marilyn Monroe items sold at auction are dresses—mainly costumes that the late star wore in her films. The few that she donned outside of the studio earn their high sums thanks to period photographs that prove Monroe wore them.” And over at his MM Collection Blog, Scott Fortner – who helped to catalogue this week’s auction at Julien’s – takes a closer look at the ‘I’m Through With Love‘ dress from Some Like It Hot, and the ‘After You Get What You Want‘ dress from There’s No Business Like Show Business. Both costumes are from the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, and will go under the hammer tomorrow.
Several other items which contributed to Marilyn’s glamorous look are also among the lots. From her modelling days onward, Marilyn often wore her own clothing in photo shoots. These brown leather sandals date back to a 1950 session with photographer Earl Leaf, shot at the Hollywood home of her agent, Johnny Hyde.
Unlike her cinematic alter-ego Lorelei Lee, Marilyn wasn’t really a material girl. These earrings, worn to the premiere of The Seven Year Itch, were made from simulated diamonds.
Marilyn’s movie costumes were made in duplicates, with her name next to the Fox logo on a sewn-in label. This green lace bodice from Bus Stop was won in a contest by a lucky reader of the British fan magazine, Picture Show.
These red satin platform shoes – designed by Annello & Davide – were born by Marilyn to the London premiere of Arthur Miller’s controversial play, A View From the Bridge.
John Moore’s pencil sketches for the form-fitting mermaid gown worn by Marilyn to the premiere of The Prince and the Showgirl are also on offer.
“A two-page, typed plan titled ‘Calorie Restricted Diet/ 1000 Calories/ 100 Grams Protein’ prepared for Monroe by Dr. Leon Krohn. The pages are undated, but some of the approved foods and meal plans are in line with the notations found in Monroe’s hand in the back of one of her notebooks from 1958. The diet put forth presents sound health advice even by today’s standards, recommending the restriction of sugar, fats and carbohydrates to whole wheat and ‘one small white potato boiled baked or riced’ as a substitution for one slice of bread.
Five sets of instructions, eight pages, from the Erno Laszlo Institute written out for Marilyn Monroe Miller, dated June 5, 6, 11, and 12, 1958, and July 3, 1958, outlining her constantly changing skincare regime in great detail. The instructions not only divide skincare into ‘Morning,’ ‘Evening if dressing,’ and ‘Evening before retiring,’ but also there are instructions on what not to eat: ‘Not one piece of any kind of nuts, olives, chocolate, clams and oysters.’ There are also separate instructions for California and ‘Instructions for Makeup While Making Films.'”
These white leather shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo are just one of several pairs that she owned. (The spiked heels were 3 inches high, and the size was 7.5B.)
In the spring of 1958, Marilyn made plans to appear at the Cannes Film Festival. Simone Noir sent her an invitation to visit Christian Dior in Paris. Unfortunately, the trip was cancelled, but a separate invoice shows that Marilyn bought a dress and coat by Dior from a Park Avenue boutique.
That Christmas, Marilyn’s longtime hairdresser, Agnes Flanagan, gave her a bottle of her favourite perfume, Chanel No. 5, purchased from I. Magnin in Beverly Hills.
Finally, a costume sketch by Bob Mackie for Something’s Got to Give. Based on a Jean Louis design, the red skirt suit with a swing jacket trimmed in leopard print, and matching hat, was intended as an ‘Outfit Worn on Day Off/Also in Courtroom Sequence.’ However, the ensemble was not worn by Marilyn during wardrobe tests, or any surviving footage from the ill-fated movie.