The new stage adaptation of All About Eve, starring Gillian Anderson and Lily James, has now opened at London’s Noel Coward Theatre, to mixed reviews. In today’s Guardian, Jenny Stevens goes back to the source, describing Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1950 classic as “a perfect feminist film.”
“‘All the wittiest lines in the film belong to the women,’ says film critic Molly Haskell. ‘These women are never just pathetic.Mankiewicz is so fascinated by women and sympathetic towards them: he gives them importance, he gives them idiosyncrasy, he gives them their personalities.’
So many films from that era don’t hold up, but All About Eve still feels radical. It takes the theme of women being silenced, forced to listen to men and learn from them regardless of their own talents, and turns men into the butt of the joke. When Margo throws a birthday party for her partner, the director Bill Sampson, the poison-penned theatre critic Addison DeWitt turns up with a young blonde on his arm, a Miss Caswell (played by the then little-known Marilyn Monroe). Channing suggests Eve and DeWitt should talk about their shared love of the theatre. ‘I’m afraid Mr DeWitt might find me boring after too long,’ says Eve, saccharinely coy. ‘Oh you won’t bore him, honey,’ says Miss Caswell. ‘You won’t even get the chance to talk.’
It is an extraordinary scene, says Haskell, ‘especially when you consider that Monroe’s character is not meant to have lines. She’s meant to be just a bimbo. Yet out of this bimbo come these words of wisdom. Everyone has dignity and authority in their own way in the movie.'”
In the new play, Miss Caswell is played by Jessie Mei Li. As you can see below, she looks lovely in the role, but wisely avoids doing a Monroe impersonation. Tickets are selling out fast, but in association with the National Theatre and Fox Stage Productions, a live performance will be broadcast at selected cinemas across the UK and USA from April 11 onwards – pick your nearest venue here.
A Week With Marilyn, an exhibition of Ed Feingersh’s photographs of Marilyn taken in New York in 1955, will open at Galerie Prints in Wimbledon Park, South London this Friday, February 15, through to March 30. (And there’s a chance to win a limited edition Feingersh print here.)
This elegant black shift dress with a chiffon midriff launched a fashion craze when Marilyn wore it at London’s Savoy Hotel, quipping that while the dress was not her idea, her midriff was. Writing for the Hollywood Reporter, Vince Boucher notes that the couturier – the subject of a new exhibition at Drexel University in Philadelphia – was James Galanos, who went on to dress First Lady Nancy Reagan in the 1980s.
“Hollywood is represented in a brown-tweed suit from the fifties from Rosalind Russell with a portrait collar and empire-effect belt with trapunto stitching and in a violet jacketed gown similar to one that Diana Ross wore to the Academy Awards. And in a group of black dresses, there is a 1993 mini with a sheer midriff, a motif the designer returned to again and again, all the way back to a black sheath with chiffon inset worn by Marilyn Monroe at her 1956 press conference for The Prince and the Showgirl, as shown in the exhibition catalog.”
In the late 1940s, Galanos was hired as a sketch assistant by Columbia Pictures’ costumier, Jean Louis (who would also design for Marilyn.) By the 1950s, Galanos was designing collections for Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, and Neiman Marcus in New York. He later settle in Los Angeles, and was known as the ‘master of chiffon.’
Marilyn’s wool crepe cocktail dress was purchased at Bergdof Goodman department store in Manhattan, and was sold at Christie’s in 1999. It was also featured in ‘A Short History of the Little Black Dress’, an article posted on the Real Simple website in 2011.
Following the news that The Misfits will be staged at the Dublin Theatre Festival later this month (see here), London’s Evening Standard reports that All About Eve will open at the Noel Coward Theatre next February for a limited 14-week run, with Gillian Anderson and Lily James recreating the lead roles played by Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Oscar-winning 1950 movie. Of course, All About Eve is all about life in the theatre, and it’s not the first time it’s crossed over to the stage. In 1970, Lauren Bacall won a Tony award for Applause, a hit Broadway musical adaptation. This new take will also feature music, by the acclaimed singer-songwriter P.J. Harvey. It’s not clear yet who will play the supporting character of Claudia Caswell, whose original incarnation gave Marilyn one of her first big breaks.
This photograph, showing Marilyn at a press conference with Sir Laurence Olivier and Arthur Miller at the Savoy Hotel after her arrival in London in July 1956, is featured in a new exhibition, Larry Burrows Revisited, at the Laurence Miller Gallery in New York until June 29, the Guardian reports.
Larry Burrows (1926-1971) worked for LIFE magazine’s London bureau, and his other subjects included Brigitte Bardot and John F. Kennedy. He later covered the Vietnam War, and would die aged 44 when his helicopter was shot down in Laos.
Variant images of Marilyn by Burrows are part of the permanent collection at London’s National Portrait Gallery, and were featured in the 2012 exhibit, MM: A British Love Affair.
British fans can expect lots of media coverage for Marilyn this month. In this week’s issue of free magazine Stylist, Rhiannon Lucy Coslett interviews gallery director Amy Thornett about Up Close With Marilyn, the exhibition of Milton Greene photos at London’s Proud Central until June 24. You can read it here, or buy a copy (N415) for just £1 from Newsstand (shipping costs may vary outside the UK.)
And in the latest issue of The Lady (dated May 11), ‘Marilyn Monroe: An Unlikely Feminist’, a four-page article by Michelle Morgan, author of The Girl (just published in the US, and coming to our shores very soon),is accompanied by more Greene photos.
Arthur Miller’s last play, Finishing the Picture, looks back to the filming of The Misfits and although Marilyn (depicted as ‘Kitty’) is seldom seen, she is the force that binds together the other characters (based on Miller, the Strasbergs, Huston etc.)
From June 12-July 7, Finishing the Picture will have its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre, above the Finborough Arms pub in Earl’s Court, London. More details will follow – but for now, read my review of the play here.
But wait, there’s more – if you’re in London on the afternoon of May 16, Michelle will be discussing her book from 2-5 pm with Gabriella Apicella, Underwire Film Fest founder and ardent Monroe fan, and Catherine Grant, Professor of Screen Studies at the Birkbeck University cinema on Gordon Square, Bloomsbury. The conversation will be followed by a Q&A – more details here.
Heart of Hollywood – a multi-media show conceived by artist Bill Mack, and including the original ‘H’ from the Hollywood sign – will begin a world tour with a four-week stint at London’s O2 Arena on June 21st. Among the movie memorabilia on display is (rather ghoulishly) the bed that Marilyn died in – or so it is claimed. Eagle-eyed fans will notice Bob Slatzer’s signature below (the journalist who notoriously claimed to have been Marilyn’s secret husband.) Eric Woodard, author of Hometown Girl, tells us that Marilyn’s bed was kept by the Nunez family, the next occupants of her Fifth Helena Drive home. Draw your own conclusions…