Liz Smith Reviews ‘MM: Personal’

“Unlike last year’s Fragments, which consisted solely of Marilyn’s notes, poems, jottings, recipes, etc., MM Personal — while it also has letters from the star — is mainly correspondence to Monroe. From friends and professional colleagues — including harried notes and telegrams from publicists frantic to put a stop to the unhappy publicity surrounding Marilyn’s behavior on the set of “Some Like It Hot.” These strategic plans are overshadowed by Monroe’s miscarriage, which is referred to. (There is even talk of suing Time magazine.)

Among the affectionate missives is this telegram from the great Broadway and movie choreographer Jack Cole: “The universe sparkles with miracles, but none among them shines like you. Remember that when you go to sleep.” The book, a luscious glossy thing, is studded with photos, many of them Monroe’s personal items — including artwork she purchased just before her death.

There’s a great deal of minutiae that only the most devoted MM fans will appreciate –check stubs and such. But the overall vibe of the book is wrenching, because it clarifies Monroe’s humanity, her working life, her normal day-to-day existence. She didn’t lurch around every single moment in a drug-induced coma. She had a vital — if troubled —existence. She wrote to her stepchildren by Arthur Miller (in the voice of the family dog, Hugo) and she wrote to Isadore Miller, even after she had divorced his son, Arthur.”

Read Liz Smith’s review in full at WowOwow

MM – Personal: From the Private Archive of Marilyn Monroe, by Lois Banner and Mark Anderson, is published on March 1st.

Kim Cattrall On Marilyn

As Kim and I were chatting, we were joined by the adorable writer Jacob Bernstein and some others. One of the guys — it’s always guys around Kim! — said: “All these actresses playing Marilyn Monroe now [Michelle Williams, Naomi Watts] but you are the one to do it!” Indeed, Kim has an MM quality and an appreciation — she mentioned Monroe’s “Bus Stop” at one point, when talking about “genuine acting.” But Miss Cattrall laughed and said, “Oh, no, I’m much too old. She died at 36.” Well, although Kim’s age is no secret, we won’t tell here. However, up close and in person, she looks not a second over 35.

Liz Smith, WowOwow

Kim Cattrall will reprise her role as Amanda in the Broadway production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives later this year.

Liz Smith on ‘Rare, Unseen’ Photo

SPEAKING OF the British press … oops! They are touting a Valentine’s Day pinup of Marilyn Monroe as “rare and unseen, from her days as Norma Jean, the model, circa 1948.” Sorry, the pic in question is a 20th Century Fox portrait from 1952, when MM was very well known indeed. The photo appears in a new book (yes, another book!) on Monroe. Author Cindy de la Hoz, who has written up MM previously, should have known better.

I’m sure Monroe herself wouldn’t mind the mistake. She’d simply be floored that almost 50 years after her death at age 36, she is still such a hot item. Well, as with Elvis (and possibly Michael Jackson,) an early departure can be a fabulous career move. And, let’s face it — none of the above mentioned would have enjoyed their old age. They weren’t even enjoying their middle age!

Liz Smith, WowoWow

This photo session, by Art Adams for Valentine’s Day 1952 (not 1948), isn’t new to me either and Marilyn was not unknown, but an established star at the time. It does annoy me when pictures are trumpeted as unseen (as this snap was recently described in the Daily Telegraph) if they are nothing of the sort, especially by auctioneers trying to increase their prices.

However, I think Liz is being a little harsh on Cindy De La Hoz, author of Marilyn Monroe: The Personal Archive and Platinum Fox. While the session is certainly familiar, I can’t be sure that this particular shot has been published in a book before The Personal Archive (though it did appear in magazines back in Monroe’s heyday.)

And the promotional hype probably has little to do with the author herself, though of course she can be held responsible for any errors within the book. Still, I am grateful to sharp-eyed reporters like Liz Smith who can say what many of us are thinking.

Liz Smith on Playboy, Oates and ‘Blonde’

‘Ms. Oates wrote a massive semi-fiction about Marilyn some years back, titled “Blonde,” which is now being made into a film with Naomi Watts. The author (like Norman Mailer before her) didn’t see the harm in mixing truth and illusion, the better to “grasp” the illusive Monroe. “Blonde” was brilliant, fascinating, messy, confusing, not always truthful. Perhaps like the subject herself.

And in her Playboy piece, Oates just gets it wrong, factually, several times, though she obviously has affection for her subject. I mean, to say that Jane Russell –marvelous though she is – was an “A” list star compared to Marilyn, “always on the B-list,” is simply incorrect. Oates also writes that Marilyn tried to set up a production company but: “nothing seemed to come of it.” Yeah, hiring Laurence Olivier to costar in the Marilyn Monroe Productions film “The Prince and the Showgirl” was “nothing.” (Marilyn did triumph over the system, much to Hollywood’s rage; the problem was she couldn’t sustain her victory.)

Sigh! Ms. Oates is a fine, sensitive writer. The memory of Marilyn has been treated worse, that’s for sure. Still, pick up Fragments and let this mythical, lost lady speak for herself.’

Liz Smith, WowOWow

Oliver Stone and the Marilyn Conspiracy

Liz Smith shares an intriguing rumour about yet another Marilyn-related movie project in her column today.

I have heard that Oliver Stone (The Doors, JFK) is finally interested in Monroe as a subject. Or at least in what supposedly went on around the star. He would probably concentrate on her final frantic years – choice material for the director who has such a flair for the dark and lurid.

This is just “talk” at the moment. There’s many a slip twixt the lip and the overdosed blonde with her hand on the telephone. And two Monroe films are in pre-production now.

But if and when … don’t be surprised if Lindsay Lohan is in on it. Lohan is a great fan of the late MM, and Oliver Stone is a great admirer of Miss Lohan; he thinks she is a serious actress who just needs her one “breakout” adult role. (First she needs to stay in rehab for a long time!)

We’ll see how it goes. I know I’d be fascinated to see how Oliver Stone would handle Marilyn, no matter who played her.

Isabel Keating Voices ‘Fragments’ CD

In mid-October, Farrar Straus & Giroux will bring out a book called Fragments – purported to be a work of Marilyn Monroe’s writings, poems, notes, letters from her personal archive. Isabel Keating did the audio voice of Marilyn for the Macmillan Audio version of this sure-to-be-hot book.

She did the recording of the material on the anniversary of Marilyn’s death and says: “During the sessions, a small group of us realized the fact and a collective shiver was felt and a tear was shed … Whatever anyone thinks about the book itself, even the jottings of this famous woman evoke her spirit, her mind. They show her as a woman searching and hoping to amplify her experience. She wanted to improve herself and was reaching and searching. I found the work so smart – and so fragile.”

Liz Smith on WowOwow today

Isabel Keating is an acclaimed stage actress, having played Judy Garland (Marilyn Monroe’s friend and one of her favourite singers) in the much-praised 2003 Broadway production, The Boy From Oz.

Eve Arnold: The Real Rarities

Leave it to Liz Smith, the first mainstream journalist to notice that the Eve Arnold prints at Castle Galleries, heralded by the media as ‘rare and unseen’, have all been published before.

EVE ARNOLD, the great photographer, took many wonderful pictures of Marilyn Monroe over the course of six years. Eve, maternal and intelligent, was the only female photographer Monroe ever allowed. (MM was more comfortable with men, especially when doing her “thing” for the still camera.) Eve has always spoken of Marilyn in the highest regard, as a photographic subject and as a sensitive human being.

Now there’s a collection of Eve’s prints up for auction. They are wonderful, but they are not, as widely claimed, “rare” or unpublished. All have been seen over the years. The prints have been spiffed up from the original negatives but there’s nothing new.

Perhaps someday, the nudes Eve Arnold took of Marilyn during the famous 1960 slip/bikini session, will show up. (This was the session where Marilyn told Eve, “I want to look like Botticelli’s Venus rising from the sea.” Eve, surveying the star’s zaftig curves, replied: “Maybe we should go for Rubens.”) The nudes – MM in bed – were stolen from Ms. Arnold’s studio decades ago and never recovered.

Now, those would be “new and rare.”

Kim Novak on Marilyn

The ‘ice-cool blonde’ immortalised in Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) discussed her long career with Liz Smith this week. Perhaps inevitably, the conversation turned to another screen goddess of the fifties – Marilyn Monroe…

I ask this ultimate survivor – the blonde who got away – why she did survive, and Marilyn Monroe didn’t?

“I think it’s family, roots. Marilyn didn’t have that. Even if there are troubles in your family, at least it’s there. It gives your life a deeper substance, especially if you are working in a business that is so much about the insubstantial. You need something to fall back on. You need to know you are more than the face or the body or the career. Without that stability, you are lost.”

Kim Novak may never make another movie, but she will be forever remembered as the star who never got lost.

In a longer Novak profile for Q last year, Smith explored the parallels between Kim and Marilyn in greater detail. Kim was under contract to Columbia, and touted by boss Harry Cohn as a rival to Monroe. Ironically, Marilyn had signed to Columbia years earlier but was dropped (allegedly after refusing Cohn’s advances.)

Additionally, Kim’s birth name was actually Marilyn, but she decided to change it because of Monroe. Not much is known about their association, but Kim was also a guest at the Lawford beach house in 1962 where Marilyn met Bobby Kennedy.

Like many other young actresses, Novak was deeply affected by Monroe’s untimely death:

A year later, in 1963, Novak was handed a copy of the magazine Eros, in which some of Bert Stern’s famous nudes of Monroe appeared. Kim was horrified when she saw that Stern had released shots which Monroe herself had edited and crossed out. She burst into angry tears. To her, this was an act of cruelty and betrayal.

The Kim Novak Collection is now available on DVD in the US.

Buddy Greco on the ‘Last Weekend’

Marilyn with Buddy Greco and Frank Sinatra at the Cal-Neva Lodge, July 1962

Singer Buddy Greco has spoken to the UK’s Daily Mail about meeting Marilyn Monroe at Frank Sinatra’s Cal-Neva Lodge on Lake Tahoe, just a week before her death.

This so-called ‘last weekend’ (actually, Marilyn died on the following weekend) remains one of the most controversial aspects of Marilyn’s days, and Greco’s memories are bittersweet:

“Buddy Greco recalls of her demeanour later that weekend: ‘She was fragile, very fragile  –  well, she’d gone.’ Many blamed the Kennedys.

Of course, she could still shine when she wanted to. But by now her gloss was too often just a thin veneer.

Despite her depression, she initially appeared in good shape when she arrived at Cal-Neva, after flying there on Sinatra’s private plane.

‘When she arrived that Saturday, you’d never believe that she had a care in the world,’ recalls Buddy Greco. ‘I was sitting with Frank [Sinatra], Peter Lawford and a bunch of other people, outside Frank’s bungalow, when a limousine pulls up and this gorgeous woman in dark glasses steps out,’ he says.

‘She’s dressed all in green  –  everything green: coat, skirt and scarf. Before I realised who it was, I thought: “My God, what a beautiful woman. No taste in clothes, but what a beautiful woman!”

‘I knew that she’d been to my concerts and shows. She was a regular at the Crescendo club in Hollywood where I often played.

‘We’d said hello a few times, but were never properly introduced. When Frank introduced us, I said: “You won’t remember me, but I was the piano player when you auditioned for the Benny Goodman band in 1948.”

‘She got emotional at that and hugged me. She had such warmth  –  and I was moved. Somebody took some wonderful shots of that moment, of us hugging.’

But by the end of the first evening, a darker Monroe was beginning to emerge. Greco had finished his first performance in the hotel’s lounge and had joined Sinatra and the other guests at Sinatra’s regular table.

‘It was a wonderful time, a magical weekend. It is so hard to describe now but it was maybe the best time of my life.

‘Then suddenly the room went silent and very still. It was surreal. As if somebody had turned the sound off. I looked at Frank. I could immediately tell he was furious. His eyes were like blue ice cubes.

‘He was looking at the doorway where Marilyn was stood, swaying ever so slightly.’

‘She was still in the same green outfit she’d worn all day,’ says Greco. ‘But the woman I’d met that afternoon – smart , funny, intelligent, fragile – had gone.

‘Now she looked drunk and, well, defiant. She was clearly angry and I think I heard her say: “Who the f*** are they all staring at?”‘

Sinatra  –  who was obviously irritated by her erratic behaviour  –  acted fast.

‘It was clear Sinatra was worried. She was in a state where she could have said anything,’ says Greco.

This would have been a major concern for many of those around the table. Monroe, after all, knew an awful lot of secrets  –  and, in her condition, might have been prepared to share them.

‘Sinatra motioned to his bodyguard  –  Coochie  –  to get her out of there. Coochie, a big guy, escorted her out. Actually, he picked her up and carried her out. It wasn’t the star we were used to seeing.’

The incident upset Buddy Greco. He had felt such warmth and vulnerability in her only a few hours earlier and could not understand how she had changed so terribly and suddenly.

‘She was on my mind,’ he says. ‘I was worried about her. I went outside to find out whether she was okay. I knew that she had taken accidental overdoses in the past.

‘I found her by the pool. There was nobody around. It was late and the pool was deserted.

‘Maybe it was the moon but she had a ghostly pallor. It still didn’t occur to me that she might be a woman not long for this world.

‘She was distressed, out of it, but that was all. Maybe her friends were used to seeing her like that but it worried me. Anyway, we talked.

‘I walked her back to her bungalow in the complex reserved for the guests of Frank and Giancana where we all stayed.

‘I thought that the next morning I could put her with Pat Lawford [the Kennedys’ sister], who was her companion, and make sure she got back to L.A. safely.

‘But the next day when I called, she had already left. That was the last time I saw her.’ So does he think that Sinatra had finally lost patience with Monroe and by abandoning her had left her to her fate?

‘That’s a possible scenario,’ Greco answered thoughtfully. ‘After she had created that problem, he certainly wanted her out of there. He could be quite firm with her.'”

The article is very speculative, but nonetheless, Greco’s memories are fascinating, as veteran showbiz columnist Liz Smith has noted:

“IT WAS 48 years ago today that Marilyn Monroe died. On the evening of Saturday, August 4, 1962, or the wee hours of Sunday, the fifth. (Talking to her therapist earlier in the day, she exclaimed, “Here I am. I am supposed to be the most glamorous woman in the world, and I don’t have a date on Saturday night!”)

Sinatra, by every account, was totally undone, devastated when word came of Marilyn’s death. (Sinatra’s valet, George Jacobs, believes Sinatra would have married Monroe, if for no other reason than to ‘save her.’) In any case Frank certainly never spoke of what really happened at the Cal Neva Lodge.”