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.
This 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Unpublished at the time, Brian Seed’s photos of Marilyn are now in demand.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.’
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.’
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.
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.
This month’s updates include a review of The Loves of Marilyn (a recent Life magazine special, now published in book form); and a 1973 article from Horse & Rider magazine, about the making of The Misfits.
Artist Tom Tierney, who created over 400 ‘paper dolls’ books, died on July 12 at his Texas home, reports the New York Times. He was 85.
He briefly knew Marilyn in 1958 when they were both living in New York, Tierney told Michelle Morgan, author of MM: Private and Undisclosed. Tierney’s neighbours at the time were magazine editors Jack Hamilton and Charles Schneider, and Marilyn often attended ‘interview parties’ in their apartment with husband Arthur Miller.
“Marilyn was a very quiet girl and Miller did all the talking,” Tierney recalled. “They came on several occasions so that I finally felt comfortable chatting with them, especially Marilyn.”
One day, Tierney met Marilyn on the stairs while he was taking out the garbage. She instantly offered to help. “She was definitely a sweetheart,” Tierney commented, “and I’ll never forget our brief acquaintance.”
Originally published in 1979, Marilyn Monroe Paper Dollswas the first in the series to make the Times bestseller list – and is one of the few Marilyn-related books to remain in print ever since.
In 2012, Tierney was commissioned by William Travilla’s estate to create a book dedicated to the famed designer’s costumes for Marilyn. (More info here.)
Today’s New York Postreports on one Marilyn fan’s guilty secret – two rare (and now quite valuable) vintage magazines, swiped by a 15 year-old boy from the Jefferson Market Public Library in Greenwich Village over fifty years ago. These long-lost issues of Life and Look, both published in 1953, are among Marilyn’s most iconic, sought-after magazine covers.
“‘He said it was on his conscience all these years and that basically he wanted to make it right,’ said Frank Collerius, the public-library manager at the Jefferson Market branch in the Village, who told the Post it finally reclaimed the well-ogled Look and Life magazines last fall.
‘He was such a passionate fan, that in his passion, he inadvertently took them home,’ Collerius said of the 65-year-old. ‘Fifty years is a long time to make amends.'”
While reading this, I was reminded of the moral dilemma I faced while living in Derbyshire about ten years ago. I borrowed an original copy of Pete Martin’s 1956 book, Will Acting Spoil Marilyn Monroe? Now considered an essential resource by MM scholars, this book sells for high prices on Ebay.
I was sorely tempted to keep it, but my conscience got the better of me. I finally purchased a copy for myself earlier this year (minus the dustjacket, sadly.)
So, dear reader – do you have any Marilyn-related crimes to share?
The literary world’s interest in Marilyn shows no sign of abating, with several major books due to be published in the coming months.
1) Michelle Vogel’s Marilyn Monroe: Her Films, Her Lifeis now available via Kindle. Print copies can be ordered from McFarland Publishing, and will soon be stocked by Amazon and other bookstores. It is ‘essentially a filmography interlaced with a complex biographical account of Marilyn Monroe’s life and loves throughout her career.’
2) Novelist Anna Godbersen is the author of the bestselling The Luxe and Bright Young Things series for teenagers. Her first adult novel, The Blonde, will be published on May 13. It reimagines Marilyn’s relationships with the Kennedy brothers, and while it’s sure to cause a stir, some may feel this work of fiction takes too many liberties with the facts. Here’s a synopsis:
“In Anna Godbersen’s imaginative novel, set at the height of the Cold War, a young, unknown Norma Jean meets a man in Los Angeles—a Soviet agent? A Russian spy?—who transforms her into Marilyn the star. And when she reaches the pinnacle of success, he comes back for his repayment. He shows her a photo of her estranged father and promises to reunite them in exchange for information: Find out something about presidential candidate John F. Kennedy that no one else knows. At first, Marilyn is bored by the prospect of, once again, using a man’s attraction to get what she needs. But when she meets the magnetic Jack Kennedy, she realizes that this isn’t going to be a simple game. What started with the earnest desire to meet her father has grave consequences for her, for the bright young Kennedy, and for the entire nation. The Blonde is a vivid tableau of American celebrity, sex, love, violence, power, and paranoia.”
3) Jay Margolis, author of MM: A Case for Murder (2011), has penned a new book on the subject with Richard Buskin, author of Blonde Heat: The Sizzling Screen Career of MM (2001.) The Murder of Marilyn Monroe: Case Closedis currently slated for release in June (US) and August (UK.)
“Implicating Bobby Kennedy in the commission of Marilyn’s murder, this is the first book to name the LAPD officers who accompanied the US Attorney General to her home, provide details about how the Kennedys used bribes to silence one of the ambulance drivers, and specify how the subsequent cover-up was aided by a noted pathologist’s outrageous lies. This blockbuster volume blows the lid off the world’s most notorious and talked-about celebrity death, and in the process exposes not only the truth about an iconic star’s tragic final hours, but also how a legendary American politician used powerful resources to protect what many still perceive as his untarnished reputation.”
“Through extensive interviews with many of Monroe’s colleagues, close friends, and other biographers, and a careful rethinking of the literature written about her, Rollyson is able to describe her use of Method acting and her studies with Michael Chekhov and Lee Strasberg, head of the Actors’ Studio in New York. The author also analyzes several of Monroe’s own drawings, diary notes, and letters that have recently become available. With over thirty black and white photographs (some published for the first time), a new foreword, and a new afterword, this volume brings Rollyson’s 1986 book up to date. “
5) Fan Phenomena: Marilyn Monroe, edited by Marcelline Block, is part of a series on fandom, and is also headed for an early summer release. You may spot some familiar names in there!
” Marilyn Monroe was an actress, singer, and sex symbol whose influence far outlasted her short life. Contributors to Fan Phenomena: Marilyn Monroe situate the platinum blonde starlet’s omnipresent cultural relevance within the zeitgeist of current popular culture and explore the influence she has had on numerous elements of it…The essays here explore representations of Monroe in visual culture by looking at the ways she is reimagined in visual art while also considering how her posthumous appearance and image are appropriated in current advertisements. With an inside look at the universe of Marilyn Monroe impersonators and look-alike contests for both males and females, the book also explores numerous homages to Monroe in music…The definitive guide to one of the most famous women who ever lived, the book will be essential reading for any scholar of twentieth-century American popular culture.”
7) C. David Heymann’s Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Lovewas originally due to be published in 2013, but was postponed (perhaps because the author passed away in 2012.) It is now set for release in July. High hopes are riding on a definitive account of Marilyn’s most enduring relationship. However, as previously noted here, many of Heymann’s celebrity biographies have proved controversial.
According to the blurb, Joe and Marilyn is ‘based on extensive archival research and personal interviews with family and friends….Sixteen pages of striking photos accompany this unforgettable and quintessentially American story.’
8) As previously mentioned on this blog, Jacqueline Rose’s Women in Dark Times will be published in September.
“Jacqueline Rose’s heroines could not appear more different from each other: revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg; German-Jewish painter Charlotte Salomon, persecuted by family tragedy and Nazism; film icon and consummate performer Marilyn Monroe.
Yet historically these women have a shared story to tell, as they blaze a trail across some of the most dramatic events of the last century – revolution, totalitarianism, the American dream. Enraged by injustice, they are each in touch with what is most painful about being human, bound together by their willingness to bring the unspeakable to light.”
9) The recent Life magazine special, The Loves of Marilyn, will be published in hardback in September. Although lavishly illustrated, the text is rather gossipy and speculative.
“Carl Rollyson provides a documentary approach to the life and legend of this singular personality. With details of her childhood, her young adult years, her ascent to superstardom, and the hour by hour moments leading to her tragic early death, this volume supplements—and, in some cases, corrects—the accounts of previous biographies. In addition to restoring what is left out in other narratives about Marilyn’s life, this book also illuminates the gaps and discrepancies that still exist in our knowledge of her. Drawing on excerpts from her diaries, journals, letters, and even checks and receipts—as well as reports of others—Rollyson recreates the day-to-day world of a woman who still fascinates us more than fifty years after her death.”
“American Icon: The Legacy and Death of Marilyn Monroe is a blockbuster book that delves deep into her life and death, and separates it from the myth, rumors and Hollywood chatter. Was Monroe’s death a suicide or were dark sinister forces at work? Based on strong research, interviews, investigations, news clippings and files, American Icon takes the reader along on a unique journey that looks at Marilyn from a fresh perspective, neither sensationalizing nor sugar-coating the truth. Her life ran the gamut from happy, bored, funny, loving and loved to shocking and scandalous. She did whatever she had to do to reach her childhood dream goal to be a famous movie star. American Icon: The Legacy and Death of Marilyn Monroe delivers a fast-paced, fact-filled page turner of a book about one of the great cultural legends of the 20th century.”
If you’re wondering why you’ve never seen this magazine cover before, that’s because it was never published. In fact, it’s one of several mock-ups featured in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the latest big-screen adaptation of James Thurber’s classic short story, starring Ben Stiller as the hapless daydreamer. You can view a selection of fantasy Life covers here.
Pictured below: Marilyn with Danny Kaye, who first played Mitty in 1947; and a selection of actual Life covers (the one in the middle is a special tribute issue from 2009, reviewed here.)
The German Dada artist, Hannah Höch, is the subject of a retrospective exhibition at London’s Whitechapel Gallery (on display from January 15th – March 23rd.) One of her late photo-montages, ‘Kleine Sonne’ (‘Little Sun’, 1969) depicts the grinning mouth of Marilyn Monroe hovering beside a fish’s eye.
Her source may have been Richard Avedon‘s 1959 photo of Marilyn which graced the cover of Life magazine. You can read more about Hannah Höch in today’s Guardian.