Jakob Garfein was born into a Jewish family in the former Czechoslovakia in 1930. While he was still a boy, his entire extended family was killed in the Holocaust. After being detained in 11 concentration camps, he was liberated at Bergen-Belsen and in 1946, was one of the first five Holocaust survivors to arrive in the US.
Jack, as he was known, lived with an uncle in New York and studied acting at the Dramatic Workshop. He later joined the American Theatre Wing to study directing with Lee Strasberg. In 1955, he joined the Actors Studio where he met his future wife, actress Carroll Baker. (In 1956, Baker found stardom as Baby Doll, a role Marilyn had wanted. Bearing no ill will, Marilyn helped to promote the film.)
He directed two films: The Strange One (1957), and Something Wild (1961), starring Carroll Baker as a young rape victim held captive by the man who rescued her from suicide. The couple, who had two children, divorced in 1969. Garfein had two more children from his second marriage.
Garfein became director of the Actors’ Studio’s Los Angeles branch (which opened in 1966.) In 1978, he founded the Harold Clurman Theatre in New York. He also taught method acting for more than forty years, including at Le Studio Jack Garfein in Paris, and published several books about acting. In 2010 he appeared in The Journey Back, a documentary exploring his wartime experiences.
In August 2019, the 89-year-old Garfein married 42-year-old pianist Natalia Replovsky. The couple had been living together for four years. He died of complications of leukaemia on December 30, 2019.
Garfein shared his memories of Marilyn Monroe in a 2014 interview with film writer Kim Morgan (which you can view here), revealing that Marilyn had approached him at the Actors Studio after Lee Strasberg suggested he accompany her to buy new clothes. She asked Jack to take her hand, but fearing recognition, he declined. After they had stopped in a coffee shop and went unnoticed, he changed his mind.
While trying on clothes in a boutique, Marilyn teased Jack, constantly asking him to zip or button up the dresses. This made him very nervous, but he admitted to Morgan that Marilyn was not being ‘directly seductive’ but merely having fun, ‘a woman enjoying life.’ (She was not involved with Arthur Miller yet, Jack said.)
She then walked him home, and when he rather awkwardly said goodbye, she laughed and asked him to call her a taxi. She then kissed him lightly and left. She later asked him to escort her to the East of Eden premiere, but he was unable to do so. He subsequently met her numerous times, the last time being several years later, when she was dining at the La Scala restaurant in Beverly Hills with her publicist, Pat Newcomb.
Jack remarked that he was surprised to see her without a date on a Saturday night. ‘What do you want me to do, Jack?’ she replied. He encouraged her to go to Paris and escape the Hollywood whirl. ‘Would you leave your wife and go with me?’ she asked, and he said no.
She then recalled their trip to the boutique and something he said that day which had stayed with her. ‘Do you remember what it was?’ she asked him. He did not, but pretended he did. ‘You’re lying, Jack,’ she said. He was travelling back from Europe to the US some time later when he heard that Marilyn had died, and his first thought was to wonder again what he had said to her that day. Over the years, friends encouraged him to seek help from a hypnotist, but he never recalled it.
‘She loved the mystery between a man and a woman,’ he said of Marilyn over fifty years later, with fond amusement. Interestingly, Carroll Baker recounted another version of the final encounter with Marilyn – although she didn’t mention Jack being there. However, she did remember an earlier meeting at the Actors Studio, when all the men present (her husband included) swarmed around Marilyn.
During the summer of 1955 – Marilyn’s first year in New York – she spent many weekends at the Strasbergs’ holiday home on the resort of Fire Island, and also visited with the Rostens. In a 2013 article for the Long Island Press, Spencer Rumsey reported that Marilyn said of Fire Island, ‘What a lovely place this is—it’s got water all around it.’ (If true, this may be one of those deceptively simple ‘Monroeisms’ – Marilyn clearly knew what an island was, having lived on Catalina Island in 1943!)
Today, publisher Alan Chartock recalls his boyhood encounters with Marilyn on Fire Island in the Legislative Gazette. (Photos found on the Pines History website.)
“Of course, the Fire Island of today is hardly the beach I grew up in when the ‘daddy boat’ that came in around six o’clock returned all the working stiffs to their families. I earned some pin money by ‘wagoning’ — I would meet the boat and take people to their homes for anywhere between a quarter and a buck. I was small but I had some very prestigious clients, the most recognizable of whom was Marilyn Monroe who visited quite frequently. As it turns out, she came to visit the Strasberg family. Susan and Lee were among the most famous of that group. That was just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, most of the very famous literati and thespians moved on to other places like the Hamptons and, years later, to the Berkshires where I now live.”
Michael J. Pollard, the veteran character actor known for his short stature and boyish looks, has died aged 80. He was born in New Jersey to parents of Polish descent, and began attending the Actors’ Studio in the late 1950s. He later shared a memory from that time with Charles Casillo, author of Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon.
Aged 19 or 20, Michael was sitting in class when he noticed a beautiful blonde, and said to a fellow student, ‘That looks like Marilyn Monroe’. After learning that the blonde was indeed MM, Pollard asked her to do a scene with him, and she agreed without hesitation. Marilyn suggested a scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote’s novella which was soon to be produced at Paramount.
As Pollard walked with Marilyn to her 57th Street apartment, several passers-by noticed her and called out, ‘Hi, Marilyn!’ There was no screenplay, so Marilyn adapted a scene from the book where Holly Golightly climbs through her neighbour’s window. ‘I’ve got the most terrible man downstairs,’ she says, stepping in from the fire escape.
As the day approached when they were due to perform the scene, Marilyn admitted, ‘I’m really worried about the lines.’ She tore out pages from the book so they could spread them out over the stage area. When the scene was over, the formidable Lee Strasberg told Pollard it was the best work he had done.
According to another Monroe biographer, Gary Vitacco Robles, Truman Capote was also present and thought her performance ‘terrifically good’. She was Capote’s first choice to play Holly, and George Axelrod (who had worked with her on The Seven Year Itch and Bus Stop) was hired to write the screenplay, but the role ultimately went to Audrey Hepburn.
Among Pollard’s early movies was a small part in The Stripper (1963), which had been written by William Inge with Marilyn in mind. After her death, Joanne Woodward was cast instead. He also worked in television, with a memorable role as a child cult leader in Star Trek.
Pollard became a household name as C.W. Moss in Bonnie and Clyde (1967.) He went on to star as Billy the Kid in Dirty Little Billy (1972), and with Robert Redford in the biker movie, Little Fauss and Big Halsy. Michael J. Fox would adopt his middle initial as a tribute to Pollard, whose later films included Dick Tracy (1990), opposite Warren Beatty and Madonna.
In our final post ahead of the November 14 event at Julien’s Auctions, A Southern Gentleman’s Collection, we focus on Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller and the last years of her life. (You can read all posts about this sale here.)
“A group of six audio recordings including: 1) a late 1950s-era 3-inch reel tape (Type 151) featuring interviews Monroe conducted with Look magazine and Chicago disc jockey Dave Garroway, housed in its original box with handwritten annotations reading in part ‘May Reis’ [Monroe’s longtime New York-based secretary]; 2) a 33 1/3 RPM record labeled “M. Monroe – Belmont / Side 1 / Side 2[her 1960 interview with Georges Belmont for Marie Claire]; 3) another 33 1/3 RPM record identical to #2 but sides 3-4; 4) another 33 1/2 RPM record identical to #2 but sides 5-6, content unknown on all; 5) a 78 RPM record on the RCA Victor label of the star singing ‘The River of No Return’ and ‘I’m Gonna File My Claim;’ and 6) a 45 RPM record same as the 78; further included with a CD of the reel tape; all originally from the Estate of May Reis. And sold separately, a publicity still from River of No Return, autographed by Marilyn.”
Recordings SOLD for $3,840; photo SOLD for $10,240
“A legal-sized financial document from Woodbury Savings Bank in Connecticut, two hole punch marks on left side, dated ‘Sept. 9, 1957,’ filled out in blue fountain pen ink by Arthur Miller, briefly outlining the couple’s finances, noting their annual income as ‘$50,000,’ interestingly, Miller adds that there is a ‘suit pending against M.M. Productions,’ both signed twice on the lower margin, with MM’s reading ‘Marilyn Monroe Miller;’ also included is a related photocopied document from the same bank.” And sold separately, a window card for The Prince and The Showgirl (1957.)
Document SOLD for $4,480; poster SOLD for $384
“Nine original snapshots depicting Marilyn at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn on May 12, 1957 as she makes a guest appearance at a soccer match between the U.S. and Israel. And sold separately, a medical insurance form from Associated Hospital Service of New York, entirely filled out in blue ballpoint ink by Miller when the couple was applying for insurance, noting their address on ‘Tophet Road, Roxbury, Conn.’ and noting Monroe’s health issues as ‘Appendix Removed / 5% (hearing) impairment, Ectopic Pregnancy,’ oddly, Miller checked off ‘no’ under ‘female trouble’ for his wife, signed by Miller on page 3 and further signed by Monroe right below but in different blue ballpoint ink.”
Photos SOLD for $1,024; document SOLD for $3,750
“Miscellaneous paperwork from 1958 including: an invoice from Carl Perutz Photography sent to Marilyn at her NYC address on ’18 June 1958;’ and four receipts from the Yellow Cab Company of Los Angeles ranging in date from July 14 to July 16, 1958, showing that MM was at the Hotel Bel Air, Saks Fifth Avenue, and a mysterious address at 8719 Bonner Drive; though her name does not appear anywhere on the receipts, they come from the same files as the Perutz invoice.”
SOLD for $512
“Telegram dated October 28, 1958, sent to Jack Lemmon by the producer of Some Like It Hot, reading in part ‘By reason of the illness of Marilyn Monroe, please be advised / that we hereby exercise the right to suspension…;’ and sold separately, a standard check from the ‘Marilyn Monroe Productions, Inc.’ account … matted under a 1970s-era re-issue soundtrack album from Some Like It Hot.”
Telegram SOLD for $768; check + album SOLD for $2,560
“A standard address book with navy blue leather covers and A to Z tabs, kept by May Reis [Monroe’s longtime New York secretary] on the star’s behalf for a number of years, inside pages contain Reis’ handwritten entries in pencil or various colors of ballpoint ink for Monroe’s personal and business contacts including (in alphabetical order): Rupert Allan, Elizabeth Arden, Richard Avedon, Kenneth Battale, Saul Bellow, Chateau Marmont, Michael Chekhov, Jack Cole, George Cukor, Lilly Daché, Agnes Flanagan, Bob Fosse, Ben Gazzara, Lotte Goslar, Sydney Guilaroff, Lillian Hellman, Hedda Hopper, Hotel Bel Air, John Huston, William Inge, Jax, Anne Karger, Marianne Kris, Leon Krohn, Ann Landers, Erno Laszlo, Jean Louis, Carson McCullers, Inez Melson, Isidore Miller, Berniece Miracle, Monroe Six, Eunice Murray, Jean Negulesco, Norman Norell, Clifford Odets, Louella Parsons, Lena Pepitone, The Plaza Hotel, Henry Rosenfeld, Hedda and Norman Rosten, Eva Marie Saint, Norma Shearer, Frank Sinatra, Sidney Skolsky, Allan Snyder, John Steinbeck, Paula Strasberg, Western Costume Co., Billy Wilder, and Shelley Winters, among a few others; also included are a few notes relating to the stars personal identification numbers as well as bank accounts; Reis’ ownership signature is penned on the second page next to a date of ‘1958;’ Monroe penciled in a note on the last page reading ‘Roxbury Conn. / Tophet Rd.'”
UNSOLD – reserve not met
“A single page of personalized stationery, dated ‘April 15, 1960,’ to ‘Mr. Ehrlich,’ reading in part ‘Will you please convey my sincere appreciation to the public and critics of Chile for awarding the Laurel de Oro as Best Actress of 1959,’ signed in black fountain pen ink in the lower right corner ‘Marilyn Monroe;’ with its original transmittal envelope. And sold separately, a contact sheet showing Marilyn in a scene from Some Like It Hot (1959.)”
Letter SOLD for $3,750; contact sheet SOLD for $768
“A small receipt from Gray Reid’s in Reno, Nevada noting a date of ’16 Aug 60′ and that ‘$6.07’ was spent, verso has a blue ballpoint ink handwritten annotation (not in MM’s hand) reading ‘Black / Umbrella’ — probably the umbrella that Marilyn bought for her acting coach, Paula Strasberg, during shooting of The Misfits.”
SOLD for $256
“A black silk and ostrich feather wrap with two black velvet arm straps, label reads ‘Made to Order / Rex / Inc. / Beverly Hills / California;’ displayed in a shadow box with a black and white image of the star wearing it during a 1960 photo shoot with Eve Arnold. Interestingly, this piece may have been used as a prop in MM’s last and unfinished 1962 film, Something’s Got To Give as a similar wrap can be seen in her tote bag in the sequence where she watches her children in the swimming pool.”
SOLD for $10,240
“A deep brownish-black mink fur stole, rectangular shaped with slightly flared ends, lined in a black and gold brocade textured raw silk, no labels present.” [Worn by Marilyn to the premiere of The Misfits in 1961.]
SOLD for $5,760
“A group of seven accessories including: 1) a pair of cat eye sunglasses with rhinestone detailing; 2) their case made of beige vinyl and brown plastic, stamped ‘Cosmetan / Sun Glasses;’ 3) a cordovan alligator eyeglass case stamped in part ‘Schilling;’ 4) a red cotton eyeglass case with a label reading in part ‘Devonaire of California;’ 5) a sterling silver shoe horn, stamped ‘Sterling’ on both sides; and 6-7) a pair of orange plastic shoe trees.”
SOLD for $7,500
“A two page hand-written note on light blue pieces of notepaper from the Los Angeles Institute for Psychoanalysis, penciled by the star in full “‘CR 12151 Western Union / Dear Marlon / I need your / opinion about a / plan for getting / Lee out here on more / than a temporary / basis please / phone me as soon / as possible / Time / is of the essence / Marilyn;’ evidently written for a telegram that she was sending to Brando about Actors’ Studio head Lee Strasberg. And sold separately, a telegram from Brando dated ‘1962 Jan 13,’ sent to Marilyn at her ‘882 North Doheny Apt 3’ address, reading in full ‘Tried to reach you by fone must leave city this weekend / sorry / Marlon,’ with a number of stamps and other handwritten delivery annotations evident; seeming to be Brando’s response to Monroe’s note.”
Marilyn’s note SOLD for $6,400; Marlon’s telegram SOLD for $2,560
“A standard postcard from the Fontainebleu Hotel in Miami, signed in blue ballpoint ink on the verso ‘To Gisele / Thank you / so much! / Marilyn Monroe.'” [Marilyn stayed overnight at the Fontainebleu in 1962 with her former father-in-law, Isidore Miller.]
SOLD for $2,500
“A large collection of approximately 130 loose-leaf ‘colored’ script change pages given to the star throughout the production of Something’s Got to Give, as the script was being revised on a regular basis, noting numerous and various dates in April and May of 1962, many pages are paper-clipped or stapled together by their revision date, a number of them have the star’s name penned in the upper right hand corner (though not in her hand) or small notes addressed to her, Monroe’s own handwritten annotations appear on a few pages, mainly as directions to herself such as ‘drop voice – / lean against post’ or additional dialogue she added such as ‘if you’d take it out’ and the like, she also circled her character’s name [“Ellen”] on many pages; two pink pages are torn with one having Monroe’s penciled annotation reading ‘No good one.’ And sold separately, an oversize colour photo taken during Marilyn’s 1962 session with Bert Stern for Vogue magazine, entitled ‘I Beg Of You‘.”
Script pages SOLD for $12,800; photo SOLD for $5,120
Sold separately, these contact sheets are among several lots featuring photos by Bert Stern.
Contact sheets SOLD for $1,152 and $896, respectively
“A telegram dated ‘1962 Jun 1 AM 9 55,’ sent to Marilyn at her Fifth Helena Drive address in Brentwood, CA, reading in full ‘Happy Birthday Hope Today And Future Years Bring You / Sunny Skies And All Your Heart Desires As Ever / Joe’ — most likely DiMaggio as it was sent from ‘Madrid Via RCA.'”
SOLD for $6,250
“A ticket reading in part ‘May 19, 1962 / Madison Square Garden / Gala All Star Show’ — the now-historic event celebrating President John F. Kennedy‘s 45th birthday, plus a photo of Marilyn during her performance of ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’. And sold separately, a group of four telephone bills, sent to “M. Monroe” from General Telephone Company, ranging in date from April 30 to July 30, 1962, listing all the long distance calls she made to cities noted on the bills as ‘NYC, Bkln, Queen, Wbury, Engla, Telav’ and, most interestingly, to ‘Wash’ a number of times in July — so maybe she was calling the Kennedys?”
Ticket + photo SOLD for $896; telephone bills SOLD for $4,375
“A 1960s-era Steno spiral-bound notebook filled with about 45 pages of notes and reminiscences penned in blue ballpoint ink that George Barris wrote down while he was working with the star in the summer of 1962; appearing to be taken verbatim from conversations the two had, the subjects mentioned are quite varied and range from Monroe’s favorite films to her health to people on her mind at that particular time such as President Kennedy, Arthur Miller, Joe DiMaggio, Cyd Charisse, Marlon Brando, Paula Strasberg, and Greta Garbo; other topics include living in California, nude scenes in films, her termination from her last film, sex, on being a sex symbol, marriage, children, and life philosophy in general; some of the notes appear to have been jotted down later or even after the star’s death but in any case, it’s a fascinating look into the star’s psyche as recounted by someone who closely worked with her at the very end of her life. And sold separately, a signed photo by Barris.
Surprisingly, Marilyn’s 1961 letter to Lee Strasberg failed to reach the $20,000 estimate at the RR Auctions Hollywood sale on Thursday, May 23. A Marilyn-owned black velvet belt, possibly worn in As Young As You Feel, sold for $7,837.50; while her copy of Something To Live By, a self-help book by Dorothea S. Kopplin, fetched $7,730. You can find out more about the winning Marilyn-related lots here; and the full list is over here.
A letter from Marilyn to Lee Strasberg will be sold online during the Classic Hollywood sale at RR Auctions this Thursday, May 23. While Marilyn talks frankly about her emotional problems and disappointments in life, she also proposed an ambitious plan for her future career. Sadly, her goals would never be realised as she passed away just eight months after the letter was written. It is dated 19 December, 1961, and like other letters from her final years, it was typed (probably by a secretary), and was previously published in the 2010 book, Fragments. Coming from her estate (along with all her personal possessions, 75% was passed on to Lee after she died), it is the first time the letter has gone up for auction with an estimate of $20,000. Further details, including a full transcript, are also available here.
“This is an important personal letter and please don’t start to read it until you have the time to give it your careful thought. This letter concerns my future plans and therefore concerns yours as well since my future development as an artist is based on our working together. All this is an introduction; let me outline the recent events, my ideas and my suggestions.
As you know, for years I have been struggling to find some emotional security with little success, for many different reasons. Only in the last several months, as you detected, do I seem to have made a modest beginning. It is true that my treatment with Dr. Greenson has had its ups and downs, as you know. However, my overall progress is such that I have hopes of finally establishing a piece of ground for myself to stand on, instead of the quicksand I have always been in. But Dr. Greenson agrees with you, that for me to live decently and productively, I must work! And work means not merely performing professionally, but to study and truly devote myself. My work is the only trustworthy hope I have. And here, Lee, is where you come in. To me, work and Lee Strasberg are synonymous. I do not want to be presumptuous in expecting you to come out here for me alone. I have contacted Marlon on this subject and he seems to be quite interested, despite the fact that he is in the process of finishing a movie. I shall talk with him more thoroughly in a day or two.
Furthermore, and this must be kept confidential for the time being, my attorneys and I are planning to set up and [sic] independent production unit, in which we have envisaged an important position for you. This is still in the formative phase, but I am thinking of you in some consultative position or in whatever way you might see fit. I know you will want enough freedom to pursue your teaching and any other private interests you might want to follow.
Though I am committed to my analysis, as painful as it is, I cannot definitively decide, until I hear from you, because without working with you only half of me is functioning. Therefore, I must know under what condition you might consider coming out here and even settling here.
I know this might sound quite fantastic, but if you add up all the possible advantages it should be quite a rewarding venture. I mean not only for Marlon and me—but for others. This independent production unit will also be making pictures without me—this is even required for legal reasons. This will offer an opportunity for Susan if she should be interested and perhaps even for Johnny. And Paula would have a great many opportunities for coaching. As for you, Lee, I still have the dream of you some day directing me in a film! I know this is a big step to take, but I have the wish that you might realize out here some of the incomplete hopes that were perhaps not fulfilled for you, like Lincoln Center, etc.
So I don’t know how else to persuade you. I need you to study with and I am not alone in this. I want to do everything in my power to get you to come out—within reason—as long as it is to your advantage as well as mine. So, Lee, please think this over carefully; this is an awfully important time of my life and since you mentioned on the phone that you too felt things were unsettled, I have dared to hope. I have meetings set up with Marlon and also with my attorneys and will phone you if there are any important new developments. Otherwise, please get in touch with me.”
Also on offer, the 1952-53 editions of Who’s Who in Hollywood, autographed by a multitude of stars, are a treasure trove for movie buffs. Marilyn is listed in the category ‘Super Stars: The Younger Set.’ (EDIT: unsold)
The lamp seen in the restaurant scene from How To Marry a Millionaire (here, with Alex D’Arcy) was used as a prop in other Fox movies, including The Girl Can’t Help It, starring that other fifties blonde, Jayne Mansfield. (EDIT: Unsold)
Scott Fortner of the Marilyn Monroe Collection blog has detailed his visit to the home of Anna Strasberg, widow of Actors Studio founder Lee Strasberg and heir to Marilyn’s estate, in a 3-part article, ‘Finding Marilyn Monroe.’ Among his many fascinating discoveries, Scott reveals that pictures of Marilyn still adorn the Strasberg family home; Lee was unaware that he would be the main beneficiary in her will; and that Marilyn had admired her future husband, Arthur Miller, since the late 1940s. It’s essential reading for all fans of MM.
The literary magazine Paris Review has posted a 1966 interview with Arthur Miller, where he talks about his relationship with Marilyn, and After the Fall.
“MILLER: I think Strasberg is a symptom, really. He’s a great force, and (in my unique opinion, evidently) a force that is not for the good in the theater. He makes actors secret people and he makes acting secret, and it’s the most communicative art known to man; I mean, that’s what the actor’s supposed to be doing … The problem is that the actor is now working out his private fate through his role, and the idea of communicating the meaning of the play is the last thing that occurs to him. In the Actors Studio, despite denials, the actor is told that the text is really the framework for his emotions … This is Method, as they are teaching it, which is, of course, a perversion of it, if you go back to the beginning. But there was always a tendency in that direction.
INTERVIEWER: What about Method acting in the movies?
MILLER: Well, in the movies, curiously enough, the Method works better. Because the camera can come right up to an actor’s nostrils and suck out of him a communicative gesture; a look in the eye, a wrinkle of his grin, and so on, which registers nothing on the stage.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think the push toward personal success dominates American life now more than it used to?
MILLER: I think it’s far more powerful today than when I wrote Death of a Salesman. I think it’s closer to a madness today than it was then. Now there’s no perspective on it at all.
INTERVIEWER: Would you say that the girl in After the Fall is a symbol of that obsession?
MILLER: Yes, she is consumed by what she does, and instead of it being a means of release, it’s a jail. A prison which defines her, finally. She can’t break through. In other words, success, instead of giving freedom of choice, becomes a way of life.
INTERVIEWER: Do you feel in the New York production that the girl allegedly based on Marilyn Monroe was out of proportion, entirely separate from Quentin?
MILLER: Yes, although I failed to foresee it myself. In the Italian production this never happened; it was always in proportion. I suppose, too, that by the time Zeffirelli did the play, the publicity shock had been absorbed, so that one could watch Quentin’s evolution without being distracted.
INTERVIEWER: What do you think happened in New York?
MILLER: Something I never thought could happen. The play was never judged as a play at all. Good or bad, I would never know what it was from what I read about it, only what it was supposed to have been.
INTERVIEWER: Because they all reacted as if it were simply a segment of your personal life?
INTERVIEWER: Could this question of timing have affected the reaction here to After the Fall?
MILLER: The ironic thing to me was that I heard cries of indignation from various people who had in the lifetime of Marilyn Monroe either exploited her unmercifully, in a way that would have subjected them to peonage laws, or mocked her viciously, or refused to take any of her pretensions seriously. So consequently, it was impossible to credit their sincerity.
INTERVIEWER: Was it the play, The Crucible itself, do you think, or was it perhaps that piece you did in the Nation—’A Modest Proposal’—that focused the Un-American Activities Committee on you?
MILLER: Well, I had made a lot of statements and I had signed a great many petitions. I’d been involved in organizations, you know, putting my name down for fifteen years before that. But I don’t think they ever would have bothered me if I hadn’t married Marilyn. Had they been interested, they would have called me earlier. And, in fact, I was told on good authority that the then chairman, Francis Walter, said that if Marilyn would take a photograph with him, shaking his hand, he would call off the whole thing. It’s as simple as that. Marilyn would get them on the front pages right away.”
In Actresses and Mental Illness, a new academic study, author Fiona Gregory focuses on stars like Vivien Leigh and Frances Farmer, whose psychological problems are as well-known as their dramatic talents. In her introduction to the book, she also mentions Marilyn.
“Marilyn Monroe stands as one of the best-known examples of an actress whose life was impacted by mental illness. Actors’ and directors’ accounts of working with Monroe make frequent reference to unprofessional behaviour (lateness, inability to learn lines, conflicts with colleagues), drug addiction and visits to psychiatrists. While rumours and coded reports of Monroe’s illness circulated during her lifetime, much of the detail of her particular problems and the treatments she pursued has emerged posthumously. Each further revelation – of a psychiatrist visited; a drug treatment tried; a suicide attempt hushed up – has added to the picture of ‘Marilyn Monroe’ as icon of suffering. It’s a picture suffused with irony – imagine, that one of the most beautiful and celebrated women in the world, with seemingly every personal and professional opportunity, should be made so uncomfortable in her own skin by the demons in her mind!
In the biographical record, Monroe’s suffering – taking as its form chronic self-doubt, an unstable sense of self, and a seeming inability to forge healthy relationships – is framed as fundamentally connected to her professional identity as a performing woman. Above all, Monroe is represented in terms of her inability to formulate a stable, coherent identity … In such narratives, the creation of an alternate identity becomes a strategy to mask an essential emptiness. The notion of actress as cypher, evacuated of meaning unless she is performing, recurs in fictional and biographical representations of the actress…
In 1955, Monroe recorded a dream in which her acting coach, Lee Strasberg, ‘cuts me open’ in an operating theatre, only to find ‘… there is absolutely nothing there – Strasberg is deeply disappointed but more even – academically amazed that he had made such a mistake. He thought there was going to be so much – more than he had ever dreamed possible in almost anyone but instead there was absolutely nothing…’
Here, Monroe becomes an eloquent commentator on the fears and insecurities of the performing woman, and on the questions of identity, ambition and meaning that circulate around her. This autobiographical artefact puts emptiness at the core of Monroe’s own psyche. The fact that it is Strasberg – the man who stood as her authority on acting – who has found her out suggests that it was in her own professional realm that Monroe desired to achieve significance but feared she would be found wanting. Monroe’s dream literalises the fear of the ‘nothing’: that the glittering surface will be revealed to mask an essential absence – a lack of talent, a lack of worthiness – that recurs in fictional and biographical representations of the actress and in actress’ own meditations on self.”
Patricia Bosworth has written acclaimed biographies of Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and Jane Fonda. A lifelong member of the Actors Studio, she also wrote ‘The Mentor and the Movie Star‘, a 2003 article about Marilyn and the Strasbergs for Vanity Fair, and appeared in the 2006 PBS documentary, Marilyn Monroe: Still Life.
“I slid into the backseat, where I found Marilyn Monroe huddled in a corner dreamily puffing on a cigarette. Her bleached blond hair was tousled; she seemed to be wearing no makeup. I noticed there was dirt under her fingernails, but I couldn’t stop looking at her. We were about to pull away from the curb when a voice cried out, ‘Hey Lee, goin’ my way?’ and Harry Belafonte hopped in beside me. We drove uptown in silence.
I knew Marilyn was aware I was looking at her. She was used to being looked at, and she wasn’t self-conscious. She had a mysterious indefinable quality that made her a star and separated her from everyone else. At the moment she appeared to be floating in another world as she puffed delicately on her cigarette and blew the smoke softly out of her mouth. The newspapers were full of stories about her—how she’d left Hollywood and come to New York to be a ‘serious actress,’ how Lee was coaching her at his apartment and letting her observe sessions at the Studio.”
Elsewhere, Bosworth confirms that Tennessee Williams had wanted Marilyn to star in Baby Doll (but Gore Vidal thought she was too old.) Bosworth knew many key figures in Marilyn’s life, including Elia Kazan, Lee and Susan Strasberg – who found her father’s ‘obsession’ with Marilyn disturbing.
As Bosworth admits, Marilyn was part of Lee’s inner circle from which she felt excluded. She was also intimidated by Marilyn’s fame, which nonetheless kept the Actors Studio in the headlines. Lee Strasberg often seemed cold and domineering, but Bosworth considered him ‘a great teacher.’
Bosworth, unlike Marilyn, was born into a life of privilege, and forged a stage career as well as starring alongside Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story. However, her impeccable connections couldn’t save her from family tragedy (her brother and father both committed suicide), and an abusive marriage.
The 1950s, as Bosworth observes, was a staid, even repressive decade – but the creativity and rebellion of the 60s was already fermenting. She talks about the impact of the anti-communist witch-hunts, both on the artistic community and her own family, and the rampant sexism she constantly endured.
Elizabeth Winder will focus on Marilyn’s New York period directly in her forthcoming book, Marilyn in Manhattan: Her Year of Joy, but Patricia Bosworth’s account comes from her own experience. For anyone interested in learning more about the bohemian world that women like Bosworth – and Marilyn – helped to define, The Men In My Life is essential reading.