As reported last week, Don’t Bother To Knock has been released on Blu-Ray. Film critic Kim Morgan a longtime friend of this blog, has reviewed it for the latest issue of Kill Or Be Killed magazine, which you can order here.
“It’s a heartbreaking portrait, and a movie that sympathises with Nell [Monroe], but the moral of the story comes somewhat at Nell’s expense – Widmark’s Jed becomes the decent man for not giving in to temptation with the damaged woman. He finally shows an ‘understanding heart.’ It’s almost heroic because in real life many men wouldn’t be sensitive enough to resist. And you know that Nell will learn that soon enough. Likely, she already has.”
As all true fans will know, Marilyn loved to read – and was a gifted writer herself. Norman Rosten, the ‘Bard of Brooklyn’, was one of her closest friends. On her Sunset Gun blog, Kim Morgan transcribes Marilyn’s eloquent letter to her psychoanalyst, Dr. Ralph Greenson, written during a 1961 hospital stay – and relates how another Brooklyn poet, John Ashbery, came to read it, over half a century later.
“While in New York this February, I carried this letter in my bag, wandering around the snowy city, almost afraid I’d lose it if I left it in my hotel room. It’s a sad letter, and I was clinging to it, for my own reasons beyond research. A friend gave me a copy of the *real* letter … he found the papers years ago while working on a Monroe documentary about the making (and unmaking) of Something’s Got to Give. I was doing research for a current project and this letter was essential. The third day in the city, it was my honor to visit the poet John Ashbery at his apartment in Chelsea. He noticed me pulling out the six-paged typed papers from a magazine I was giving him — I said — ‘This was written by Marilyn Monroe.’ He wanted to read it. I handed it to him and, to my delight, he read it aloud, beautifully, commenting on how lovely the first paragraph was. He joked, ‘Watch out. I might steal some of this!’ He scanned through M.M.’s raw, powerful and frequently witty words, reading passages he liked. The moment was tremendously moving, listening and watching John read (‘Was it Milton who asked, The happy ones were never born?’) and I asked if he would sign the letter. I felt the occasion needed to be marked — John Ashbery reading original writing by Marilyn Monroe. Two titans. He happily laughed and signed the letter. I thought that would make Marilyn happy.”
Director Jack Garfein – perhaps best-known for his 1961 movie, Something Wild – is now one of the world’s most respected teachers of Method acting. He shared his memories with Marilyn in a video interview with Sunset Gun blogger Kim Morgan (a dedicated Monroe fan, who also celebrated her birthday yesterday.)
“Jack met Marilyn when she was in New York City during the time she was studying with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. He saw her walk into a party. Everyone saw her walk into that party. Elia Kazan introduced them. (Jack would later work with Marilyn’s ex husband, Arthur Miller, producing two of his plays, The Price and The American Clock.) Deeply attracted, he also deeply respected her — her acting talent and potential, her power in front of the camera and just her beguiling way. A friendship developed.
Nothing happened between them (Jack was married to actress Carroll Baker at the time) but he was clearly smitten and still is. To him, Marilyn was a good person, a woman who took her craft seriously and a woman who thought her sexuality was often funny, and certainly nothing to be ashamed of. After Telluride, Jack spent some time in Los Angeles and we discussed many things — his career, his life, his art (and art and life), people… And then he told me this story about Marilyn. I love this story. Happy Birthday, Marilyn.”
You can listen to Jack’s memories of Marilyn here.
Among the tributes that appeared on the 51st anniversary of Marilyn’s death, three stood out for me.
Over at Backlots, one of my favourite classic film blogs, some of Marilyn’s own poems and drawings were featured, with this commentary:
“August 5, 2013 marks 51 years since the death of Marilyn Monroe. Though I try to keep Marilyn to a minimum on this blog because of her overwhelming overexposure in the media, the fact remains that Marilyn may well be the most fascinating personality to come out of classic film. The appeal that she holds for the public is evident–it is difficult to walk into any gift shop without seeing her face plastered on posters, shirts, lunchboxes, wallets, purses, and mugs. She has become a sex icon for the ages, and more than any other star, she sells. But amid all the financial gain she brings to businesses Marilyn Monroe continues to be exploited, just as she was in life, robbed of her essence and dignity as a human being for the sake of profits. That is precisely what she was trying to get away from, and thus whenever I see Marilyn memorabilia in a gift store, I feel a twinge of sadness.
Whenever I do mention Marilyn on this blog (which is usually on her birthday and the anniversary of her death), I try to make it count. She was a fascinating human being, the complete antithesis to how the public perceived her. An introspective, observant, intelligent woman who read voraciously and was unusually articulate about herself and her craft, the blonde bombshell image crafted for her only served to exacerbate her inner conflicts and demons.”
Tumblr blogger Penny Dreadful selected ‘for marilyn m.‘, by the great Los Angeles writer, Charles Bukowski:
“One of the most personally arresting images I’ve ever seen of Marilyn Monroe came not from a movie or newsreel footage or one of her many photographs. It came from a blanket.
Driving through Death Valley on a long road trip, I stopped in a tiny town for gas and a cold drink. Few seemed to live in this town: it served as a pit stop, a place to either check your radiator or check your mind (or, in my case, both) — one of those locales that offers such a bare minimum of services that a candy bar has never tasted so good. Delirious from hours of 70 mph signposts, I stumbled back into my car, feeling as if modern civilization had melted around me. For months, I’d been working on a piece about Marilyn (a cover story for Playboy, to honor their first, and most famous, cover girl and centerfold), and she had been on my mind nearly every day.
And then … there she was. Driving away, I spied Marilyn on the side of the road, 20 feet from the gas station. With a mixture of excitement and a strange sadness, I jumped out of the car and stared. Her face was hanging from clothespins, blowing in the breeze, next to an open garage. A warm blanket in the hot sun, set against the blue sky, flapping and undulating in the merciful wind, her face changing shape and expression. This desolate desert Marilyn, so frank and alone, just hanging there, cleared away all the clutter of so many T-shirts, stickers, shower curtains, pillows, purses, wall clocks, and coffee mugs — all those Marilyns you walk right past in any given gift shop on Hollywood Boulevard. A little hypnotized and maybe a little crazy, I thought of how Marilyn described herself, as the woman who ‘belonged to the ocean and the sky and the whole world.'”
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.”
“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.'”
The Mexican edition of Playboy‘s latest issue features a different cover shot of Marilyn. Meanwhile, ‘Sunset Gun’ blogger Kim Morgan, whose wonderful tribute is a highlight of the magazine special, spoke to the Winnipeg Free Pressabout writing for Playboy, and what MM means to her.
“I wouldn’t say that I was being simply protective, though I do feel loyal towards her. I think there’s more complexity to how one approaches Marilyn, whether they know it or not, which is why she remains powerful to this day. And I mentioned Candle in the Wind briefly, a well-meaning song, in opposition to the song that runs through my piece, Bob Dylan’s She Belongs to Me, even though Dylan didn’t write it for MM. But to me, that song feels like Marilyn in all her beauty, complications, mystery and art. ‘She’s an artist.’ Marilyn was an artist.”
While I’ve said here before that I’m not Hugh Hefner’s greatest fan, we do share a liking for a certain iconic blonde. In recent years, it has become something of a tradition for Marilyn to feature in Playboy‘s Christmas issue.
‘The Nude Marilyn’ graces the December issue, due out on November 20th in the US and elsewhere thereafter. A selection of (mostly familiar) nudes and semi-nudes from Earl Moran, Tom Kelley, Lawrence Schiller and Bert Stern are included, as well as tributes by the late novelist John Updike, film critic Roger Ebert and blogger Kim Morgan (aka Sunset Gun.)
You can check out the photos on Playboy‘s website, while the article can now be viewed in its entirety at Everlasting Star (thanks to Megan.)
“Her walk down the corridor is a death march. She leans against the wall for support. Her beautiful eyes wide and full of numbed confusion. Her perfect face cracked with the deep stain of lost, desperate tears. This is not Nell Forbes. This is not Marilyn Monroe. This is Norma Jeane Mortenson. For the final 10 minutes of the film, she is exposed: for all her cosmetic perfection, she is raw and imperfect, alone and afraid, desperate to feel the warmth of love and kindness and respect but all-too aware that she never will.”
“And yet there’s a wonderful strength to Monroe (the woman endured so much in her own life that she was, as Elton knows, more than a candle in the wind) — she was such a strong, singular performer (there will never, ever be another Marilyn) that her vulnerability gives her a special power, even as we want to hide her from every skulking Uncle Elisha Cook, ready to pounce. So bless her for revealing such powerful sadness. And bless her for holding on as long as she did. And bless her for never, ever being normal.”
Kim Morgan has posted an eloquent birthday tribute to Marilyn on her Sunset Gun blog.
“No, there’s something more to Marilyn that makes her continually interesting. It’s all her now legendary tragic contradictions …juxtaposed with her peaches and cream gorgeousness, her absolute command of the big screen (in spite of her problems with lines) and her ultimate, natural talent. It’s her ability, after all these decades, to still pop off the screen with such undeniable ‘It’ that we almost take her for granted. Of course Marilyn Monroe is one of the most famous women in the world, who doesn’t know how wonderful she is?
That as manufactured as her screen persona was — we can imagine how her skin might have felt. Or how her perfume might have smelled. Or even her sweat. Of course we’d all like to be in her presence, at least once, just to experience her realness. Or her real fakeness. Her tragedy is so merged with her fantasy that her humanness becomes one of the sexiest things about her, which is why her photographs are so endlessly intriguing, so haunting, like Milton Greene’s ‘Black Sitting.'”