2016: A Year In Marilyn Headlines

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In January, exhibitions featuring Milton Greene and Douglas Kirkland’s photographs of Marilyn opened in London and Amsterdam. In New York, the Museum of Modern Art paid tribute to Marilyn’s choreographer, Jack Cole. Also this month, James Turiello’s book, Marilyn: The Quest for an Oscar, was published. And Edward Parone, assistant producer of The Misfits, died.

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In February, Marilyn ‘starred’ with Willem Dafoe in a Snickers commercial for the US Superbowl. Monroe Sixer Jimmy Collins’ candid photographs were sold at Heritage Auctions, and the touring exhibition, Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon, came to Albury, Australia.

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Another major Australian exhibition, Twentieth Century Fox Presents Marilyn Monroe, featuring the collections of Debbie ReynoldsScott Fortner, Greg Schreiner and Maite Minguez Ricart – opened at the Bendigo Art Gallery in March. And Barbara Sichtermann’s book, Marilyn Monroe: Myth and Muse, was published in Germany.

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In April, a special edition of Vanity Fair magazine – dedicated to MM – was published. A campaign to save Rockhaven, the former women’s sanitarium where Marilyn’s mother Gladys once lived – was launched. And actress Anne Jackson – wife of Eli Wallach, and friend to Marilyn – passed away.

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In May, Marilyn graced the cover of a Life magazine special about ‘hidden Hollywood’, and Sebastien Cauchon’s novel, Marilyn 1962, was published in France. Cabaret singer Marissa Mulder’s one-woman show, Marilyn in Fragments, opened in New York, while Chinese artist Chen Ke unveiled Dream-Dew, a series of paintings inspired by Marilyn’s life story. The remarkable collection of David Gainsborough Roberts was displayed in London. Finally, Alan Young – the comedian and Mister Ed star, who befriended a young Marilyn – died.

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June 1st marked what would be Marilyn’s 90th birthday. Also in June, New Yorkers were treated to an Andre de Dienes retrospective, Marilyn and the California Girls. An exhibition of the Ted Stampfer collection, Marilyn Monroe: The Woman Behind the Myth, opened in Turin, Italy. A new documentary, Artists in Love: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, was broadcast in the UK, while Australia honoured Marilyn with a commemorative stamp folder, and genealogists investigated Marilyn’s Scottish ancestry.

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In July, the birthday celebrations continued in Marilyn’s Los Angeles hometown with tributes from painter David Bromley, and another Greene exhibition. A new musical, Marilyn!, opened in Glendale. Rapper Frank Ocean appeared alongside a Monroe impersonator in a Calvin Klein commercial. And Marni Nixon, the Hollywood soprano who sang the opening bars of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, passed away.

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August 5th marked the 54th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. Also this month, it was announced that Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn’ sculpture may return permanently to Palm Springs. April VeVea’s Marilyn Monroe: A Day in the Life was published, and Marilyn’s role in Niagara was featured in another Life magazine special, celebrating 75 years of film noir.

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In September, Marilyn: Character Not Image – an exhibition curated by Whoopi Goldberg – opened in New Jersey. Terry Johnson’s fantasy play, Insignificance, was revived in Wales. Two locks of Marilyn’s hair were sold by Julien’s Auctions for $70,000. And author Michelle Morgan published The Marilyn Journal, first in a series of books chronicling the Marilyn Lives Society; and A Girl Called Pearl, a novel for children with a Monroe connection.

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In October, Happy Birthday Marilyn – a touring showcase for the collection of Ted Stampfer – came to Amsterdam, while Marilyn: I Wanna Be Loved By You, a retrospective for some of her best photographers, opened in France. Marilyn Forever, Boze Hadleigh’s book of quotes, was published. Marilyn’s friendship with Ella Fitzgerald was depicted on the cult TV show, Drunk History. And on a sadder note, photographer George Barris, biographer John Gilmore, and William Morris agent Norman Brokaw all passed away this month.

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In November, Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President‘ dress was sold for a record-breaking $4.8 million during a three-day sale at Julien’s Auctions, featuring items from the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, the Lee Strasberg estate, and many others including the candid photos of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull. Also this month, comedienne Rachel Bloom spoofed ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in a musical sequence for her TV sitcom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. And Marilyn Monroe: Lost Photo Collection, a limited edition book featuring images by Milton Greene, Gene Lester and Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder, was published.

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Sue Dunkley’s Pop Art Marilyn

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Marilyn inspired many within the Pop Art movement, including Andy Warhol, Richard Hamilton and Pauline Boty. Now another British artist of this period has come to light, with a recent exhibition and a profile in The Guardian. Sue Dunkley produced at least two paintings based on photographer John Bryson‘s 1960 cover story for Life magazine, and the private drama that unfolded between the Millers and the Montands during filming of Let’s Make Love.

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“This substantial series of Pop Art paintings on large canvas have recently been rediscovered in Dunkley’s London studio by her daughter and brother. The works in the series were produced between 1968 and 1972, and notably take as their subject the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, the female body, and human relationships, often touched by violence and betrayal. A large number of pastel studies for these works and independent sketches have also been discovered, many of which explore intimacy, sexuality and the role of women in changing eras.

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These works are often populated by numerous faces and figures, sometimes difficult to discern and placed in uneasy dialogue with one another. Dunkley herself often appears in the works, looking on or departing, merging the political and personal in both intimate and yet culturally significant works of art. These early works employ the bold and graphic language of Pop Art, referencing familiar media imagery and fashion photography. Recognisable images such as Ethel Kennedy’s screaming face and outstretched hand following Robert Kennedy’s assassination alongside images of Marylin Monroe recur, as if ghosts on the edge of these significant events and moments in history. Dunkley returned to Monroe often, fascinated by her seemingly irreconcilable sexuality and vulnerability, the impossible expectations placed on her to be both child and sex symbol.”

Marilyn Calendars and Diaries for 2017

IMG_0070As another year draws to an end, there is a wide range of Marilyn calendars on the market. Known for high quality, Hugo Image has produced another large-scale calendar with 25 photos inside.

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Now in its fifth year, Fox Presents the Films of Marilyn have released another great calendar for movie fans, with quotes from characters she played (though they do tend to favour her pre-Seven Year Itch era.)

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If you’re interested in other stars from Marilyn’s heyday, why not try this new Hollywood Actresses calendar, which includes a free poster…

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And finally – if you keep a diary, this spiral-bound planner, illustrated with photos by Milton Greene, may be for you.

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Marilyn also graces the cover of a Life ‘Iconic Women’ diary.

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Slim Aarons: Photographing Marilyn

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A new book, Slim Aarons: Women, captures the Life  photographer’s elegant portraits of some of the twentieth century’s iconic beauties – including Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn, as Sean O’Hagan reports for The Observer.

“Marilyn Monroe, Beverly Hills, 1952, reading fan mail. ‘She was very nervous about posing,’ Slim said. ‘I reassured her, said all you had to do was think about the nicest possible thing that could happen to you – but think about it with your eyes, and let the rest of your face do what it wanted. Years later, I was on the set of The Seven Year Itch. She happened to walk by me, and I, not wanting to bother her, said nothing. But she stopped before me, looked up, and said, You don’t remember me, do you? I never forgot what you told me … think of the nicest thing possible.'”

LIFE Goes ‘Noir’ With Marilyn

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A new Life magazine special, LIFE Film Noir: 75 Years of the Greatest Crime Films, has just been released, and one of the movies showcased within its pages is Niagara. The text is provided by novelist J.I.Baker, author of The Empty Glass and a previous Life special, The Loves of Marilyn. While his writings on the personal lives of the stars tend to be speculative in the extreme, he’s on firmer ground with the movies they made.

In this short feature, he also quotes another novelist, Megan Abbott, who describes Niagara as “sleazy, gorgeous and mesmerising,” noting that Marilyn “takes full advantage of her character’s complications and desperation.”

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“Though sometimes overshadowed by her later turns in musicals, comedies and ‘serious’ dramas,” Baker observes, “MM made an early indelible mark in film noir,” citing her riveting performances in The Asphalt Jungle, Clash by Night and Don’t Bother to Knock. (Incidentally, The Asphalt Jungle is featured in another recent publication on film noir, Mark Vieira’s Into the Dark – although Marilyn is not mentioned specifically there.)

If you love old Hollywood and film noir, this magazine is a must-have. You can order it now from Amazon (UK price £9.99, or $13.99 in the US.)

Halsman’s Marilyn in Barcelona

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Spanish fans may be interested to know that the touring exhibit, Philippe Halsman: Astonish Me! is now on display at the CaixaForum Barcelona until November 6, as Samuel Spencer reports for BlouArtInfo. (I have corrected some minor errors in the extract below.)

“Featuring 300 photographs and documents from the photographer’s extensive career, Astonish Me! is the first Spanish retrospective of the American photographer [born and raised in Austria] who, among other achievements, undertook 110 covers for LIFE magazine. Halsman also popularized the portrait concept of people jumping — at the time a revolutionary idea that has since become a photographic cliché, unavoidable at any graduation ceremony.

Termed ‘jumpology’ by Halsman, jumping was used by him as a psychological tool. He believed that it showed people without inhibitions; as he once said, when someone jumps, “the mask falls.” As such, Halsman saw it as a crucial tool for photographing celebrities, allowing him to cut through the façade of their media image.

Among the jumpologists Halsman shows in the exhibition are Marilyn Monroe, who he tried to convince for three years to jump for a shoot before she finally agreed. Monroe jumped 200 times for the resulting image, which became iconic when it appeared on the LIFE cover in 1957 [actually, it was in 1959.]

Go Back in ‘Time’ With Marilyn

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Marilyn’s fame was heralded in the media by her first Life cover in 1952, and affirmed by her Time cover in 1956. The Time website has published an extract from Ezra Goodman’s article, with the full text available to subscribers.

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Like many journalists of the era, Goodman took a rather cynical and dismissive view of Marilyn’s lofty ambitions. He considered her manipulative and standoffish, and resented her growing entourage, later complaining that the editors had toned down his criticisms in his 1960 book, The Fifty-Year Decline and Fall of Hollywood, extracted in Cavalier magazine as ‘The Girl With the Three Blue Eyes.’

Scans by Roksana at Everlasting Star

Marilyn’s ‘Hidden Hollywood’, and More

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Marilyn graces the cover of a new Life magazine special, ‘Hidden Hollywood: Images of a Golden Age’. Inside are more images from Ed Clark’s photo session with a young Marilyn at Griffith Park in 1950, as well as his famous shot of Marilyn and Jane Russell sipping Coke on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Other stars captured at work and play featured include Elizabeth Taylor and many more. It is available at stores across the US and, for international readers, via Amazon.

And if you’re a dab hand at embroidery (sadly I’m not), Marilyn also features in UK magazine Cross Stitch Collection this month.

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Marilyn in London: Brian Seed’s View

UK3510_LAURENCE_OLIVIER, MARILYN_MONROE_ARTHUR_MILLERThis photograph of a determined-looking Marilyn, arriving at the Comedy Theatre for the London premiere of husband Arthur Miller’s play, A View From the Bridge, in October 1956 – watched by a wanly smiling Sir Laurence Olivier, with whom she was filming The Prince and the Showgirl – was taken by Brian Seed, an Englishman who worked for Life magazine during the 1950s and 60s. A selection of his work is published today on the Time-Life website.

Unpublished at the time, Brian Seed’s photos of Marilyn are now in demand. In 2013, Brian – who now lives in Illinois – was interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘That Marilyn Monroe was a really smart cookie,’ he recalled. ‘Look at this picture — she’s looking directly at me, because she knows I’m likely the only photographer in there who’s working for a magazine, and that the photo that would result would not be used in one day’s paper and then gone forever.’

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Richard Meryman Dies at 88

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Journalist Richard Meryman – who was the last person to interview Marilyn, and went on to become an acclaimed biographer – has died aged 88, reports the New York Times.

The son of artist Richard Sumner Meryman, ‘Junior’ was born in Washington, and grew up in Dublin, New Hampshire. He graduated from Andover and Williams College, was an All-American lacrosse player, and a World War II Navy ensign. In 1949 he was hired by Life magazine,  and became its human affairs editor. Meryman is credited as a pioneer of the taped interview.

On February 10, 1962, Meryman wrote a letter to Marilyn requesting an interview. On May 17, Marilyn arrived in New York for John F. Kennedy’s birthday gala (which took place two days later.) That evening, she and publicist John Springer met Meryman and his assistant, Barbara Villet, at the Savoy-Plaza Hotel, and arranged an interview.

On July 4, Meryman interviewed Marilyn at her new home in Brentwood, Los Angeles. On July 9, Meryman brought her a transcript of their discussion. She received a copy of the article on July 14, and it was published in Life on Friday, August 3 – the day before she died. In the magazine’s next issue, Meryman published his own reminiscences of their encounter, entitled ‘A Last Talk With a Lonely Girl.’

Thirty years after Marilyn’s death, Meryman’s tapes were broadcast  in an HBO documentary, Marilyn: The Last Interview. ‘My experience with stars is that – through all the publicity and the hype and everything – the public senses the essence of the person,’ Meryman told CNN’s Larry King in 2001. ‘And the essence of Marilyn is she communicated a kind of truth. And truth is very powerful.’

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Meryman’s interview was published as a compendium of quotes from Marilyn herself, without his questions. It gives the reader a sense of hearing Marilyn’s own voice, perhaps for the first time. She talked about her difficult childhood, the double-edged nature of stardom, and her recent dispute with Twentieth Century-Fox. In 2007, the ‘last interview’ was included in ‘Great Interviews of the 20th Century‘, a series of pamphlets published by The Guardian.

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Perhaps inspired by his work with Marilyn, Elizabeth Taylor collaborated with him on a 1964 book, Elizabeth Taylor: An Informal Memoir. Louis Armstrong was among many other celebrities interviewed by Meryman, and a short book, Louis Armstrong: A Self-Portrait, was published following his death in 1971.

Meryman’s subsequent biographies included Mank: The Wit, World and Life of Herman Mankiewicz (1978) and Enter Talking, a 1987 collaboration with acid-tongued comedienne Joan Rivers.

His first wife, artist Hope Brooks, died of a malignant melanoma in 1975, leaving behind two daughters. Meryman wrote about his grief in a 1980 memoir, Hope: A Loss Survived. In the same year, he was remarried to art consultant Elizabeth Burns.

Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life,  Meryman’s biography of the American artist (best-known for his 1948 painting, Christina’s World) was published in 1998. Meryman had befriended Wyeth in 1964. Wyeth died in 2009. In 2013, Meryman published an illustrated compendium of their discussions, Andrew Wyeth: A Spoken Self-Portrait.

Meryman also wrote a novel, Broken Promises, Mended Dreams (1984.) He died of pneumonia in Manhattan on February 5, and is survived by his second wife, his two daughters and two stepsons, and grandchildren.