Hollywood Icons: Cooper, Hepburn and Marilyn

Marilyn in London, 1956
Marilyn in London, 1956

‘Archetype of the American Hero’, Alistair Cooke’s tribute to Gary Cooper, was published in The Guardian after Cooper’s death in May 1961. In this extract from Alistair Cooke at the Movies, Cooke considers how movie stars were then so often dismissed as mere ‘personalities’, and rarely credited with much talent or intelligence.

“It is easy to forget now, as always with artists who have matured a recognisable style, that for at least the first dozen years of his film career Gary Cooper was the lowbrow’s comfort and the highbrow’s butt. However, he lasted long enough, as all great talents do, to weather the four stages of the highbrow treatment: first, he was derided, then ignored, then accepted, then discovered. We had seen this happen many times before; and looking back, one is always shocked to recognise the people it has happened to. Today the intellectual would deny, for example, that Katharine Hepburn was ever anything but a lovely if haggard exotic, with a personal style that might enchant some people and grate on others, but would insist she was at all times what we call a serious talent. This opinion was in fact a highly sophisticated second thought, one which took about a decade to ripen and squelch the memory of Dorothy Parker’s little tribute to Miss Hepburn’s first starring performance on Broadway: ‘Miss Hepburn ran the gamut of human emotions from A to B.’

Marilyn Monroe is a grosser example still. Universally accepted as a candy bar or cream puff, she presented a galling challenge to the intelligentsia when she married Arthur Miller, a very sombre playwright and indubitably un homme serieux. The question arose whether there had been serious miscalculation about a girly calendar that could marry a man who defied the House Un-American Activities Committee. The doubt was decided in Miss Monroe’s favour when she delivered pointed ripostes to dumb questions at a London press conference.”

Gary Cooper was one of many stars who attended a party in Marilyn’s honour at Romanoff’s restaurant in Hollywood, to celebrate her filming The Seven Year Itch in November 1954. He also attended the 1959 Fox luncheon for Soviet premier Nikita Krushchev, where he was seated at Marilyn’s table.

garycooperAt the auction of Dame Joan Collins’ personal property at Julien’s earlier this month, a June 1960 letter from Cooper to Marilyn was sold for $1,280. Cooper was then in hospital, and thanked Marilyn for sending him roses, expressing his regret at being unable to attend a recent party (possibly her 34th birthday celebrations, on the set of Let’s Make Love.) Click on the picture below to read his letter in full.

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Marilyn Gets ‘Closer’ in August

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Marilyn in ‘Let’s Make Love’ (1960)

Rare photos from Limited Runs’ touring Red Velvet Collection exhibit – showcased alongside Tom Kelley’s nudes – are featured in this week’s Closer (US only), with George Clooney on the cover.

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Here are a selection of rare photos from the exhibition, taken during filming of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

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With Jane Russell in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1953)
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‘When Love Goes Wrong, Nothing Goes Right’
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‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’

And a few more from Let’s Make Love.

'My Heart Belongs to Daddy'
‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’
Marilyn celebrates her 34th birthday on the set of 'Let's Make Love' (June 1, 1960)
Marilyn celebrates her 34th birthday on the set of ‘Let’s Make Love’ (June 1, 1960)

Marilyn at Julien’s: High Prices for a Hollywood Legend

11010004_10153496554385929_2390631461050398092_nItems from ‘the lost archive of Marilyn Monroe’ were sold at predictably high prices in the Hollywood Legends sale at Julien’s Auctions this weekend, reports Fox8.com. IM staffer Jackie Craig took several photographs at the Beverly Hills preview.

“Marilyn Monroe’s grave marker sold for 212,500 dollars.
The item was originally estimated to sell between 2,000-4,000 dollars.

A dress worn by her from the movie Something’s Got to Give was sold for over $300 K.

A copy of Playboy magazine with Monroe on the cover and signed by Hugh Hefner, sold for 87,500 dollars.”

A chaise longue, used in Let’s Make Love, sold for $56,250; and the Mexican rug Marilyn bought for her final home reached $16,640. However, while some of the most iconic – and occasionally ghoulish – items attracted large bids, other more intimate pieces failed to sell – perhaps because so many dedicated fans can’t afford to meet the reserves?

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Marilyn’s a ‘Hollywood Legend’ in June

legends8n-7-webThe latest Hollywood Legends sale will take place at Julien’s Auctions on June 26-27, reports the New York Daily News. As reported previously on ES Updates, Marilyn graces the catalogue cover in the floral print dress she wore in Something’s Got to Give – one of many Monroe-related items on offer.

1) An employment card dated June 8, 1950 (when Marilyn was filming All About Eve at Twentieth Century-Fox); and a change of rate card from the same studio dated November 5, 1953, noting her salary increase from $750 to $1,250 weekly (she was by then starring in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.) Another letter from Fox’s casting director, Lew Schreiber advises Marilyn that filming of Time and Tide will commence on April 14, 1959. (Her role was ultimately played by Lee Remick in the renamed Wild River.)

2) A ‘Golden Dreams’ calendar from 1953; a ‘New Wrinkle’ lithograph by Tom Kelley; and the first issue of Playboy, signed by Hugh Hefner.

Marilyn in Korea, 1954
Marilyn in Korea, 1954

3) Candid photos of Marilyn dining with troops in Korea, 1954; and behind the scenes of Let’s Make Love (1960.) Also, a photo of Marilyn with Manfred Kreiner on location for The Misfits, and 3 photographs taken by Gene Daniels at the Golden Globes ceremony, 1962.

Marilyn with photographer Manfred 'Linus' Kreiner, 1960
Marilyn with photographer Manfred ‘Linus’ Kreiner, 1960
Marilyn by Gene Daniels, 1962
Marilyn by Gene Daniels, 1962

4) A scrapbook commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Princess Cafe, Iowa Falls, in November 1955. A telegram from Marilyn to actress Margery ‘Madge’ Meredith (once a waitress at the cafe, she gained notoriety in Hollywood after being jailed for complicity in an assault on her former manager – but was freed in 1951 after the court concluded she had been framed) and referring to the cafe’s owners, Harry Pergakis and Ernie Karrys, reads, “AM JEALOUS YOU INVITED INSTEAD OF ME. I STRUCK OUT WITH JOE AND CAN’T EVEN GET TO FIRST BASE WITH HARRY AND ERNIE =MARILYN MONROE=”

Nude drawing by Marilyn
Nude drawing by Marilyn

5) A drawing of a nude woman signed by Marilyn, who inscribed and gifted the drawing to Broadway set designer Boris Aronson. Sanguine on paper, inscribed in blue ink “For Boris -/ Waiting – Wondering -/ Woman – Marilyn Monroe Miller” mounted to matteboard and undated. The drawing has been referred to as ‘an erotic self-portrait.’

Arthur Miller worked with Aronson on A View From the Bridge around the time of Miller’s divorce and budding relationship with Monroe. Aronson, when he first met Monroe, is quoted by Elia Kazan as having said, ‘That’s a wife?’ Kazan shared that quote and evidently its sentiment by answering the question in his autobiography as, ‘Hell no!’

6) Marilyn’s own copies of Doctor Pygmalion by Maxwell Maltz, and The Unfinished Country by Max Lerner. A copy of John Huston’s 1930 script, Frankie and Johnny, with the inscription, “Marilyn dear/ All those years ago/ when you were hardly/ born I wrote this for/ you – the perfect Frankie/ Johnny (himself)/ Huston.” (So much for my theory that it was connected to the Elvis Presley movie!)

7) Personal letters to Marilyn from Jean Negulesco, Inez Melson and William Inge; documents regarding Marilyn moving to Milton Greene’s Connecticut home in 1954;

8) A lidded Wedgwood Jasperware trinket box owned by Marilyn, and assorted hair and make-up items, including a container of Erno Laszlo face powder.

9) The chaise longue featured in the title song from Let’s Make Love.

10) Limited edition etchings of Marilyn by Al Hirshfeld.

11) An expense form from Marilyn Monroe’s public relations agency, Arthur P. Jacobs Company Inc., dated June 11, 1962, for costs incurred through long-distance calls made to Monroe by Pat Newcomb in April 1962. Accompanied by a black and white photograph of Newcomb with Monroe at John F. Kennedy’s birthday gala held in May 1962.

12) A Mexican tapestry purchased by Marilyn for her final home in Brentwood, Los Angeles; her script for Something’s Got to Give, marked ‘revised screenplay’, from February 1962; a letter from Westwood Memorial Park to Marjorie Plecher (future wife of Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder), thanking Plecher for helping to dress Marilyn for her funeral; and the original grave marker, which has been replaced.

Phil Burchman, 1951
Phil Burchman, 1951

13) Photos by Joseph Jasgur, Andre de Dienes, Phil Burchman, George Barris, Bruno Bernard, Milton Greene, Philippe Halsman, John Bryson, Sam Shaw, Jack Cardiff, Lawrence Schiller.

Jerry Wald Home Up For Sale

Marilyn discusses her role in 'Clash by Night' with Jerry Wald in his office. Photo by Bob Landry, September 1951.
Marilyn discusses her role in ‘Clash by Night’ with Jerry Wald in his office. Photo by Bob Landry, September 1951.

The former home of legendary Hollywood producer Jerry Wald is up for sale, reports the Los Angeles Times. Located in Beverly Hills, the Pennsylvania Dutch Colonial Revival-style house was designed by noted architect Gerard R. Colcord and built in 1939.

Known as ‘the Barnett House’ after its original owners, it became home to Wald and his wife, Connie, in 1943. Nine years later, Colcord added a screening room, pool and guest quarters. It is now on the market for $7.495 million.

Jerry Wald's former home
Jerry Wald’s former home

Born in Brooklyn in 1911, Wald wrote and produced numerous classic films, including Mildred Pierce (1945), Key Largo (1948), and Peyton Place (1957.) He gave Marilyn one of her first important roles in Clash by Night (1952), and also produced her penultimate movie, Let’s Make Love (1960.)

‘She walks like a young antelope,’ Wald said of the young Marilyn. ‘When she stands, it’s like a snake uncoiling. When she speaks, you don’t hear her words – it’s as though she were whispering love to you.’ He later described her as ‘the greatest farceuse in the business, a female Chaplin.’

Just before Clash by Night was released by RKO, her home studio (Twentieth Century Fox) received an anonymous phonecall from a blackmailer, who had evidence that Marilyn had posed nude for a calendar in 1949. Although Fox wanted her to deny the story, Marilyn refused. Wald obtained a copy of the calendar, and as his business partner, Norman Krasna, predicted, the scandal ultimately helped to promote the film – and Marilyn’s burgeoning career.

Wald had nothing but praise for Marilyn’s professionalism. ‘She’s one of the few stars who doesn’t act as though she’s made it. She does not coast. She worked harder in Let’s Make Love than in Clash by Night. She’s still the same person.’

jerry wald home

Unfortunately, Wald was also the indirect cause of a fatal rift in Marilyn’s third marriage when he persuaded Arthur Miller to break an ongoing writer’s strike and supply some extra dialogue for Let’s Make Love. According to biographer Donald Spoto, Marilyn never forgave Miller for betraying his values.

Wald also offered Marilyn a role in The Stripper, which she declined. It would be Wald’s last film, as he died, aged fifty, of a heart attack, at his home on July 13, 1962 – less than a month before Marilyn’s own tragic demise.

Marilyn Inspires Max Mara’s Wrapover Trend

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The Mexican beach jacket worn by Marilyn during her last photo session – with George Barris in July 1962 – is one of the inspirations behind Max Mara’s Fall 2015 collection, reports Women’s Wear Daily.

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Among the wrapover sweaters and coats, I also noticed designs similar to the Jean Louis costumes worn by Marilyn for her role as ‘bohemian’ Amanda in Let’s Make Love (1960.)

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Of course, today’s catwalk models can’t fill out a sweater quite like Marilyn did – and by the way, when did smiling go out of fashion?

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Bob Thomas 1922-2014

Bob Thomas at centre, outside Marilyn's home after her divorce from Joe DiMaggio is announced, October 6, 1954
Bob Thomas at centre, outside Marilyn’s home after her divorce from Joe DiMaggio is announced, October 6, 1954

The veteran Hollywood columnist, Bob Thomas, has died aged 92, reports the Los Angeles Times. Son of a film publicist, he began reporting for the Associated Press in 1944. He married in 1947, and had three daughters.

Thomas covered scandals like Charlie Chaplin’s paternity lawsuit, and witnessed the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. He was AP’s reporter for an incredible 66 Oscar ceremonies; published biographies of Harry Cohn, Howard Hughes and Marlon Brando; and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988. He retired in 2010.

Bob Thomas also chronicled Marilyn’s career, almost from beginning to end. In 1950, he praised her breakthrough role in The Asphalt Jungle, becoming one of the first writers to compare her appeal to Jean Harlow’s:

Scan by Lasse K for Everlasting Star
Scan by Lasse K for Everlasting Star

“I think cheesecake helps call attention to you. Then you can follow through and prove yourself,” Marilyn told Thomas in 1951, explaining her beginnings as a pin-up model, and her wish to become a respected actress.

In February 1953, Bob Thomas was involved in one of the great controversies of Marilyn’s career. She caused quite a stir by attending the Photoplay Awards in a diaphanous gold lame gown. A few days later, Joan Crawford was interviewed, and claimed that Thomas asked her off-record, ‘Didn’t you think that dress Marilyn Monroe wore at the awards dinner was disgusting?’

Marilyn at the Photoplay Awards, 1953
Marilyn at the Photoplay Awards, 1953

Crawford replied, ‘It was like a burlesque show. Someone should make her see the light; she should be told that the public likes provocative feminine personalities; but it also likes to know that underneath it all the actresses are ladies.’ On March 3, Thomas published Crawford’s comments in his syndicated column. Although initially upset by Crawford’s remarks, the incident ultimately worked in Marilyn’s favour, with friends and fans rallying to her defence. Crawford, meanwhile, was acutely embarrassed.

In October 1954, Thomas wrote an article for Movie Time magazine, headlined ‘Home Run!’ about Marilyn’s nine-month marriage to Joe DiMaggio. Soon after its publication, however, the couple separated – and Bob Thomas was at the scene of a press conference outside Marilyn’s home, where she appeared shaky and tearful. (Click on the image to enlarge)

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After moving to New York in 1955, Marilyn became friendly with the novelist Truman Capote. In a discussion about the press, she described Bob Thomas as ‘a gentleman’ (quoted in Capote’s essay, ‘A Beautiful Child’.)

During her marriage to Arthur Miller, Marilyn lived in New York and Connecticut. Bob Thomas was one of the reporters she kept in touch with throughout those years. ‘I’m almost well again,’ she told him after suffering a miscarriage in 1957. ‘I don’t have all my energy back but it’s returning bit by bit.’

Marilyn was photographed with Bob at a press conference for Let’s Make Love in 1960 (unfortunately, my copy is watermarked.) By 1962, she was single again and back in her hometown of L.A. Thomas reported on the troubled production of Something’s Got to Give, interviewing Marilyn on the same day she filmed her iconic pool scene.

On August 5th, 1962, Thomas was one of the first to report Marilyn’s tragic death. ‘Somehow the pieces seemed to fit into place,’ he reflected. ‘It looked inevitable in retrospect…She had reached the end of her rope. She had run out of all that anxious gaiety with which she held on to life…But she left behind more than a string of glamor-filled, over-produced movies. She gave Hollywood color and excitement in an era when the town was losing its grip on the world’s fancy. No star of Hollywood’s golden era shone more brightly. Her brilliance was such that you overlooked the tragic aspects…’

'Something's Got to Give', 1962
‘Something’s Got to Give’, 1962

Exactly 30 years later, Thomas examined the continuing fascination of Marilyn. ‘Like her contemporaries Elvis Presley and James Dean,’ he wrote, ‘and Rudolph Valentino in an earlier generation, Marilyn Monroe’s image in 1992 seems more vivid and intriguing than in her lifetime.’

“She was a great interview, just terrific. And funny,” he told the Los Angeles Daily News in 1997. “You’d ask her, ‘What did you have on when you posed for the calendar?’ And she’d say, ‘The radio.’ Or, ‘Chanel No. 5.’ … But in those days, there wasn’t any star that wasn’t available for an interview.”

Nat Dallinger’s Hollywood

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An archive of 58,000 images (many unseen) by Hollywood press photographer Nat Dallinger was recently acquired by the Motion Picture Academy, the Hollywood Reporter has announced. You can view a series of photos showing Marilyn at the 1960 press conference for Let’s Make Love, alongside co-stars Yves Montand and Frankie Vaughan, here.

‘Let’s Make Love’ at Christmas

 Let’s Make Love will be screened at New York’s Lincoln Center on December 25-26 as part of their George Cukor retrospective, reports IndieWire. (It’s interesting to know that while the 1960 musical is not considered a highlight of Cukor’s career – or Marilyn’s – ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ leads a trailer for the series, which you can watch here.)