Marilyn at Julien’s: Personal and Business Correspondence

Today in an ongoing series on the upcoming Legends sale at Julien’s Auctions, a look at correspondence and other papers from Marilyn’s personal archive. (More about the auction here.)

UPDATE: I have added the final bids to each item.

“An original clipping from a Mexican newspaper detailing Marilyn’s visit to the National Institute for the Protection of Children on March 1, 1962, and her donation of $1,000.00 to the institute. Also included is a document translating the article, reading in part, ‘The American actress Marilyn Monroe yesterday visited the National Institute for the Protection of Children where she greeted the president of that organization, Mrs. Eva Samano de Lopez Mateos, to whom she gave 12,500 pesos – one thousand dollars – for the needy children.'” (SOLD for $768)


“An unsigned carbon-copy of a letter, likely from May Reis, Marilyn Monroe’s secretary, to hairdresser Kenneth, dated July 16, 1958. The letter reads in part, ‘Thank you for sending on Miss Monroe’s chignon but I am sorry it has not turned out as she had ordered it so it is being returned to you under separate cover.'” (SOLD for $192)

“A one-page handwritten letter from press agent Patricia Newcomb to Marilyn, dated June 2, 1956. The letter reads in part, ‘Enclosed is a copy of your eye perscription (sic) which I got this morning from Lee Seigel. I am also sending you another bottle, in case you might be running short.’ Also, ‘I mailed your records and hair dryer today, so they should arrive by the end of the week.'” (SOLD for $1,125)


“A one-page typed letter to Marilyn from Nunnally Johnson, dated February 1, no year specified (but probably sent after their 1962 meeting at the Beverly Hills Hotel, to discuss Something’s Got to Give.) The letter reads in part, ‘This is to put it on paper that I’ve rarely had a merrier evening. There’s no question about it, the only way to discuss business is over a bottle or two of champagne, with occasional reflections on sex to keep everything in balance. And if ever the occasion rises you may cite me as a bloke who also likes to sit and talk with you.’ The letter is hand-signed. A well-known screenwriter, Johnson worked on a number of projects related to Monroe, including We’re Not Married, and How to Marry a Millionaire.” (SOLD for $2,240)

“Two letters from the Actors’ Studio, dated January 10 and 12, 1961, regarding the Actors’ Studio Benefit scheduled for March 13, 1961. The January 10 letter announces, ‘Marilyn Monroe will be one of the stars who will draw the lucky tickets for our door prizes and for the Dance Contests.’ The letter is signed by Lee Strasberg, Cheryl Crawford and Elia Kazan (facsimile signatures). The second letter, sent by the benefit’s coordinator, asks Marilyn if it would be possible to take a photo of her wearing a fur coat that will be raffled as a door prize. The letter further requests that Marilyn write to executives at United Artists asking them to reserve tables at the event.” (SOLD for $768)


“Three letters, all dated in January of 1961, referencing possible film projects for Marilyn’s consideration. The January 3 letter from George Chasin is on MCA letterhead and references Touch of Mink, written by Stanley Shapiro (later filmed with Doris Day.) The January 26 letter, also on MCA letterhead, references a screenplay entitled The Notorious Lady, and is signed by Marvin Birdt with a copy to Chasin (later filmed with Kim Novak as The Notorious Landlady.) The January 31 letter is on Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation letterhead and references A Lost Lady, and is signed by Frank McCarthy, Director of Public Relations at the studio. (Based on one of Marilyn’s favourite novels (according to her friend and masseur, Ralph Roberts), and previously filmed as Courageous with Barbara Stanwyck in 1934, but dissatisfied with the result, author Willa Cather had banned all movies based on her work.) In this same letter McCarthy writes, ‘Congratulations again on The Misfits and I hope it will achieve the great success it deserves.'” (SOLD for $512)


“A small notecard to Marilyn from producer Buddy Adler. The notecard reads, ‘Darling, It’s wonderful having you home again. Best wishes, Buddy Adler.’ Adler was the producer of Bus Stop, released in 1956. This card is likely in reference to Marilyn’s return to Hollywood in 1956 after having spent the entirety of 1955 in New York City.” (SOLD for $640)


“A two-page typed letter on Algonquin Hotel letterhead to Marilyn from photographer John Bryson, dated August 6, 1960, in reference to the August 15, 1960 issue of LIFE magazine, in which his photos of Marilyn on the set of Let’s Make Love were published. The letter reads in part, ‘I am very happy, however, to report that we close with a larger than full page of the picture of Arthur swabbing off your back after a hard day’s rehearsal. I think the little girl look in this is the best picture I ever took of you.’ The letter goes on to read, ‘Anyway, it is done and I hope you like it. If you do or do not I would like for you to remember that I think you are one of the best women I have ever known and if you ever need a friend for anything just call day or night. I do not say such things casually.'” (SOLD for $1,280)


“A Western Union telegram from Mary Leatherbee of LIFE magazine dated June 26, 1958, regarding photos of Marilyn taken by Richard Avedon in which she recreated images of famous actresses for a spread entitled ‘Fabled Enchantresses.'” (SOLD for $640)


“A one-page typed letter to Marilyn from Emmeline Snively, dated July 31, 1958. Snively was the owner and manager of the Bluebook Modeling Agency. Marilyn, still Norma Jean at the time, signed with the agency in 1945, and Snively is believed to have assisted her in transforming into Marilyn Monroe. The letter reads in part, ‘We have been following your steady progress over the years, and our students at Blue Book Models regard your success and constant development as an inspiration.’ Included with this letter is a torn portion of the original mailing envelope with Snively’s typed mailing address. Pencil scribbles are visible on the envelope fragment, possibly written in Marilyn’s own hand. It is interesting to note that Snively attempted to stay in contact with Marilyn throughout the star’s career. In fact, she was one of a very few guests from Marilyn’s inner circle who was invited to her funeral.” (SOLD for $640)


“Six documents referencing an agreement, and the dissolution thereof, between Marilyn Monroe and Ben Hecht regarding his authoring her life story. Included is a facsimile copy of the originally signed agreement between Monroe and Hecht, dated March 16, 1954, in which the terms of the agreement are exceedingly clear. Three unsigned carbon copies of this same agreement are included. Also included is a facsimile copy of a two-page letter sent to Hecht by Marilyn’s attorney Lloyd Wright, Jr., in which he demands that Hecht ‘surrender to us on behalf of our client, Miss Marilyn Monroe, all, and I repeat all, copies of any material concerning Miss Marilyn Monroe written by Mr. Ben Hecht, pursuant to his contract of March 16, 1954 with Marilyn Monroe, or otherwise.’ Marilyn partnered with Hecht to write her life story, stating specifically that the article could be published only in the Ladies’ Home Journal magazine.” (SOLD for $640)


“A two-page typed memo from Robert H. Montgomery, Jr. to John F. Wharton regarding ‘Proposed settlement of dispute between Milton H. Greene and Marilyn Monroe. The document clarifies that Monroe will pay Greene $50,000.00 for his stock in Marilyn Monroe Productions, Inc. in five equal annual installments, and also that she will sell to Greene her stock in Milton Greene Studios.’ The document further states, ‘all agreements existing between them are cancelled and of no further force and effect.’ A second two-page original document outlines the distribution of furniture and equipment, including paintings, rugs, a vacuum cleaner, a lamp, a chair and a sofa, typewriters, and other items.” (SOLD for $1,000)

Marilyn’s Hair, By Kenneth

A lock of Marilyn’s hair – comprising around 35 strands, and preserved by Kenneth Battelle, her stylist from 1958-62 – is currently on offer from autograph dealer Moments in Time for $16,500, as TMZ reports.  It’s said Kenneth collected several locks as gifts for friends; and though undeniably peculiar, this sale is not unprecedented as two locks of Marilyn’s hair from the estate of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull were previously sold for $70,000 at Julien’s in 2016. (You can read my tribute to ‘Mr. Kenneth’ here.)

Marilyn and Kenneth, 1961 (photo by Eve Arnold)

Babs Simpson 1913-2019

Babs Simpson in 1939

Legendary fashion editor Babs Simpson has died aged 105, the New York Times reports. Born Beatrice Crosby de Menocal in 1913, she was raised in an upper-class New York family. She married William Simpson of Chicago in 1935, but returned alone to the Big Apple seven years later. She first worked as a photographer’s assistant at Harper’s Bazaar, and in 1947, began her 25-year tenure at Vogue magazine.  Diana Vreeland, her boss from 1962, described Babs as ‘the most marvellous editor.” In 1972, she moved to House & Garden, where she would stay until her retirement in 1993.

Babs Simpson seated at right, 1967

One of Babs Simpson’s most famous Vogue assignments was with Marilyn and photographer Bert Stern at LA’s Bel Air Hotel in 1962. Stern had already spent a day alone with Marilyn on June 23, working on the iconic semi-nude images where she wears a gauzy scarf, some jewellery and little else.  But this wasn’t the high-fashion shoot Diana Vreeland had in mind, and another sitting was arranged for July 10-12.

“She was absolutely perfect,” Simpson said of Marilyn. Stern wrote about the fashion shoot in his book, The Last Sitting.

“The fact that Vogue were sending an editor on the shoot was a sign that they were getting serious. The first time they’d let me go off and do whatever I wanted, but now they had realised that I was on to something, and they were going to make sure they got what they wanted. Babs Simpson and I had worked together many times, and she understood me. I was sure they’d chosen her as the editor who could let me be the most creative and at the same time keep the most control. ‘Keep her clothes on,’ they’d probably told Babs. They saw where I was heading.

An editor has the difficult job of picking out all the fashions for a sitting, dressing the girl so that she looks just right, and helping the photographer in the best way possible. Babs Simpson was great because she knew when to step in and help, but she also knew how to leave the photographer alone with the model. I thought of her as ‘the needlepoint editor,’ because at every sitting, while the girl was doing her makeup or the photographer was shooting, Babs would sit on the side and work on needlepoint. Her whole house is decorated with pillows, rugs, the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen, which she made just sitting around studios over the years while the lights flashed.

Babs was bringing all the clothes, so I flew out to California with my assistant, Peter Deal, and we started setting up in the bungalow of the Bel Air … Babs arrived from the airport in a limousine. When I saw the heaps of designer dresses and fur coats being carried into the bungalow, I had to laugh.

Later that morning Kenneth [Battelle] arrived. Babs had all the clothes organised and ready and she worked seriously on her needlepoint while we sat in the garden waiting for Marilyn … But when four o’clock came, Babs folded up her needlepoint, put it in her bag, and said, ‘If she isn’t here in an hour, I’m leaving’ … I said, ‘Look, just give her until five. We’re all staying here in the hotel anyway, so what’s the difference?’

Babs agreed to wait. That crisis had been averted, at least for the moment. But not half an hour later my assistant, Peter, came over to me, looking pale. In his polite way, he said, ‘Bert, I really regret having to tell you this…’

At that moment Marilyn walked in.

If I had come with an entourage this time, so had she. She was flanked by Pat Newcomb … And then suddenly Peter was well … And now that Marilyn was here, Babs cheered up, too, and went right to work. The whole crew was there, and we were in business.

I looked around at all these people, busy getting Marilyn dressed, applying her makeup, doing her hair, pouring champagne, adjusting the lights – all the process and anxiety that accompanies high fashion  …This time I was going to do exactly what I’d been sent to do: take fashion pictures for Vogue. And I needed all these people, because this was going to be one tough assignment.

There was always a little disagreement about the accessories Babs had brought. I didn’t see the point to most of them. The white veil was almost strange enough to be interesting but the black wig … what was that all about? The last way I would have imagined Marilyn was as a raven-haired brunette … On the other hand, Babs didn’t want me to take pictures with the hat, and I thought the hat looked beautiful on her.

Babs had brought a lot of black dresses – the hardest thing in the world to shoot … Marilyn put on the simplest black dress. Kenneth combed her hair back. She was beautiful. All I had to do now was backlight it. That image was the essence of black and white … and blonde.

She was beginning to lose patience. I could see it on her face. She had been a good sport, but it was well after midnight, and the fashion was wearing thin … Babs had dug up another black dress, and I was ready for anything. But Marilyn had had it.

She looked around and then she walked off the white no-seam and grabbed a flimsy bed jacket that was lying casually on a chair near the strobe. I had tossed it there as a ‘no’ when we were going through the clothes earlier, because Babs said it was bad fashion, and I didn’t think much of it either. But Marilyn looked right in it.

I turned to Babs. ‘Why doesn’t everybody just leave the room and let me shoot her alone?’

Babs said, ‘I think that’s a good idea, Bert.’ Everyone got up and began to file out of the room. As they were leaving Babs said, ‘We’ll be right out here if you need us.’

‘Great,’ I said and I closed the door and locked it.

The next day she didn’t show up. Late in the morning, Babs told me that Pat Newcomb had called and Marilyn wasn’t going to work today … Then the phone rang again. It was Pat Newcomb asking whether Babs and Kenneth would come over to Marilyn’s house at one o’clock. I wasn’t invited. So Babs and Kenneth went off leaving me sitting there in the Bel Air Hotel. I didn’t feel great that day … And then Babs came back and said, ‘She’ll be here tomorrow’.

When she came in for the third shooting, everything was very different. Especially Marilyn and me. Sober, subdued, not very talkative. There was nothing to say. And then there were all these people around us again: Kenneth, Babs, Pat Newcomb, Peter Deal.

‘I want to do one more picture,’ I said. ‘A beautiful head shot.’  Babs said, ‘Oh, wonderful! We could use a great beauty shot. Kenneth will do the hair.’ Everybody was very excited.

Everybody was working. Kenneth combing Marilyn’s hair. Babs arranging a string of pearls around her neck. I was way up there in the dark, looking down on her lying there with her hair spread out.

‘Okay, I got it,’ I said, and I climbed down. It was all over. Marilyn left with Pat Newcomb, and we all packed up and got ready to leave.

As we were leaving, Babs Simpson said, ‘What’s going to happen to that poor girl?’

Poor girl?

I didn’t quite see what Babs meant. I didn’t feel sorry for Marilyn. I just figured I had done the best I could. And now I was going home.”

Avedon’s Marilyn: Rare Nudes Emerge

An extremely rare (and very charming) series of semi-nude photos shot by Richard Avedon, featuring Marilyn with hairdresser Kenneth Battelle,  has surfaced on the website of the Edward Cella Gallery in Los Angeles.

This was probably shot during the same session that made the cover of Life magazine to promote Some Like It Hot in April 1959, although Marilyn had worked with Avedon the previous summer on the ‘Fabled Enchantresses’ sessions (published in Life in December 1958.) Avedon had been unhappy with some of the shots, so these nudes could have been among the rejects. However, Marilyn’s slightly bouffant hairstyle more closely resembles her look in March 1959, when Battelle accompanied Marilyn to the Some Like It Hot premiere in Chicago (see here.)

Interestingly, this was not the first time Marilyn stripped off for Avedon – she also posed topless for his ‘Photomatic’ series in 1957 (see here.) The playful nature of these images reflects Marilyn’s trust in Avedon – which was seemingly well-placed, considering how long it has taken for the shots to appear.

Thanks to Paul and Johann