‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ in Amsterdam

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes will be screened tonight at 7 pm at the Rialto Film Theatre in Amsterdam.

“‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,’ as the blond showgirl Lorelei Lee sings in this particularly successful comedy / musical, which is based on the equally popular Broadway musical. Lorelei is played by Marilyn Monroe, who sings this song in a silly, seductive way. Director Hawks, who had trouble with Monroe anyway, wanted to have it spoken by a professional singer, but she rejected this resolutely. The now iconic song, for example, inspired Madonna to become a ‘Material Girl’.”

Thanks to Savvy

Camila Cabello, Mama June Inspired by Marilyn

After Marilyn featured in a video backdrop for Camila Camello’s Tonight Show appearance in January, the singer has referenced ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ (via Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ video, the ultimate homage) in a performance of her hit single, ‘Havana’, at the iHeartRadio Music Awards last night.

And elsewhere in the world of celebrity, reality TV star Mama June has shown off her recent weight loss with a Marilyn-inspired shoot to promote her new show, Mama June: From Hot to Not.

Marilyn’s Still in Vogue With Madonna

While promoting her MDNA Skin range at Barney’s in Los Angeles yesterday, pop superstar Madonna revealed (to fellow celeb Kim Kardashian, no less) that Marilyn is still one of her ultimate beauty icons, as Lindzi Scharf reports for the LA Times.

“While Kardashian West, 37, shared that her beauty inspiration is her mother and grandmother, Madonna said that hers have long been Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich and Rita Hayworth. ‘Obviously, I said all of their names in my song Vogue,’ she said, ‘but they were the personification of beauty to me.'”

Marilyn: Still Hollywood’s Favourite Blonde

'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' (1953)
‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1953)

In an article for The Australian, Philippa Hawker charts the history of blondes in cinema -arguing that Marilyn continues to leave her mark on the evocation of blondeness.

“In cinema — not to mention fairytale, myth, art, literature, politics and the realm of popular culture in general — the image of the blonde or the fair-haired woman has carried a strong symbolic charge. It can be identified with innocence and purity but also with artifice and duplicity. It can suggest bounty, dazzle and allure, the implication that all that glisters is not necessarily gold. It can convey a heightened sense of spectacle. It is almost always associated with a notion of the feminine. The figure of the blonde is one of Hollywood’s most potent emblems and exports, and it has had an influence on other movie cultures over the years.

In cinema, the figure of the blonde often appears alongside the contrasting figure of the brunette; Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, is probably the most engaging example…

And, of course, there is Monroe, defining Hollywood blondeness, and to some degree transcending it by sheer effort of will. Her body of studio work is surprisingly confined: only once, in Clash by Night (1952), in which she portrays a cannery worker, did she play a character with an ordinary job. In her major roles she was always a variation on a gold-digger or a stereotypical ‘dumb blonde’ — yet she managed to subvert the stereotyping or deepen its implications, no matter what the challenge was off-screen. In The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), on what was reportedly a chaotic and troubled set, she gives an effortlessly appealing performance in an unlikely period piece: it is her co-star, Laurence Olivier (also her director), who appears awkward and uncomfortable.

Monroe, one way or another, continues to leave her mark on the evocation of blondeness. In the 80s, Madonna did her best to own it, restaging Monroe’s ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ number, rifling through the Hollywood cultural dress-up box for a variety of shades and identities. Her video clip for ‘Vogue’, directed by David Fincher, explicitly raids both classic Hollywood portraiture and the vogueing phenomenon of the gay club.”

Celebrity ‘Marilyn Moments’ in the News

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Photo by Fraser Penney

Paparazzi shots of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, having a ‘Marilyn Monroe’ moment during a trip to India have made front pages across the globe today, as her dress blew up while laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate. A bit like that ‘subway scene’ in The Seven Year Itch, except that was staged with MM’s full consent.

Similar ‘Marilyn moments’ featuring numerous female celebrities are constantly reported in the media, but few inspire the protective feeling and deference reserved for royalty –  with many on social media condemning the coverage as sexist, as Suresh Matthew reports for The Quint.

While it’s fun to see Marilyn’s name in the news, there’s something rather tacky about potentially embarrassing moments being exploited in this way – and after all, Kate was simply paying her respects to the dead when the incident occurred.

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Meanwhile, Ariana Grande has paid tribute to Marilyn at the 2016 MTV Movie Awards, with her performance of new single ‘Dangerous Woman’ while wearing a white fur stole and strapless pink satin gown, reminiscent of Marilyn’s attire in her iconic ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ number from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Ariana has made no secret of her admiration for Marilyn, wishing her a happy birthday on Twitter back in 2014, and offering a spirited defence of MM. However, her look may also be inspired by another of her idols, Madonna, who famously recreated the ‘Diamonds’ setpiece for her ‘Material Girl’ video back in 1985.

As Christopher Rosa reports for VH1, Ariana’s performance was also reminiscent of Madonna’s ‘Sooner or Later’ number at the Oscars in 1991, when La Ciccone once again paid homage to Monroe.

Deja Vu: From Marilyn to Madonna

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Madonna has once again drawn inspiration from MM on her Rebel Heart tour, reports People magazine. (The standard edition cover of her latest album features a Marilyn-esque pose.)

In the backdrop video for the show’s opening number, ‘Iconic‘, Madonna is seen wearing a strapless white gown, and a cool $10 million worth of diamonds, designed by jeweller Neil Lane. Stills from the video, shot by Steven Klein, can also be seen in the accompanying tourbook.

Madonna, 1991
Madonna, 1991

Older readers may remember the 1991 Oscar ceremony, where Madonna was similarly attired, paying homage to Marilyn’s glamorous appearance at the How to Marry a Millionaire premiere (not, as People states, her role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.)

Marilyn in 1953
Marilyn in 1953

Now a youthful looking 57, Madonna resembles the steely Marlene Dietrich as much as MM. The ‘Iconic’ video is also edgier than her previous incarnation, depicting the battered but unbowed diva in a prison cell.

This is a reference to secretprojectrevolution, her 2013 short film about censorship and freedom of expression – another collaboration with Klein, her favourite photographer.

Neil Young: ‘From Marilyn to Madonna…’

neil young

Many musicians have paid tribute to Marilyn over the years, and legendary folk-rocker Neil Young is no exception. ThePhotoNews.com reports that in a recent appearance at Bethel Woods – site of Woodstock – Young performed an old favourite, ‘From Hank to Hendrix’, from his 1992 album, Harvest Moon. His lyrics reference both MM and another iconic blonde, Madonna. You can listen to it here.

“From Marilyn to Madonna I always loved your smile
Now we’re headed for the big divorce California-style
I found myself singin’ like a long-lost friend
The same thing that makes you live can kill you in the end…”

Rebel Hearts: Marilyn and Madonna

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Pop star Madonna has posted a tribute to Marilyn on her Instagram account. As part of a meme promoting her forthcoming album, Rebel Heart, the image depicts Marilyn within its cover art, with the caption, ‘the most beautiful #rebelheart.’

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Herself one of the most enduringly successful entertainers in recent history, Madonna has long been inspired by Marilyn, most notably in her ‘Material Girl’ video and a Vanity Fair photo session in which she recreated some of MM’s iconic poses.

‘I’d love to be a memorable figure in the history of entertainment in some sexual comic-tragic way,’ Madonna confessed at the start of her career, back in 1984. ‘I’d like to leave the impression that Marilyn Monroe did, to be able to arouse so many different feelings in people.’

Phil Stern 1919-2014

‘Phil Stern: A Life’s Work’ (2003), photographed by Fraser Penney

Photographer Phil Stern has died aged 95, Variety reports.

He was born in Philadelphia in 1919, and learned his trade as an apprentice for the Police Gazette. He won a Purple Heart for his work as a unit photographer during World War II, and as a freelance photographer for Life and other publications, was a pioneer of photo-journalism. He also worked extensively on film sets, and shot many classic jazz album covers. In 1961, Stern was hired by Frank Sinatra to document President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration.

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He first photographed Marilyn in 1952, at a party celebrating the release of Ray Anthony’s ‘My Marilyn’. But his most substantial work with MM was at a children’s charity event at the Shrine Auditorium on December 4, 1953. Her range of expression in these photos – from joyous to melancholy – is extraordinary, anticipating Richard Avedon’s 1957 portraits.

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With Jack Benny
With Jack Benny
With hairdresser Gladys Rasmussen and make-up artist Allan 'Whitey' Snyder
With hairdresser Gladys Rasmussen and make-up artist Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder

39496_458995426689_60323281689_6850635_928543_nIn 1956, Marilyn returned to Hollywood triumphant after a year-long sabbatical. Once again, Stern captured her pensive side at a press conference. And in 1958, he took a long shot of a visibly pregnant Marilyn on the set of Some Like it Hot. (Sadly, she would later miscarry – making his picture both rare and poignant.)

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In recent years, Stern opened a gallery in Los Angeles and published two books, Phil Stern’s Hollywood and A Life’s Work. ‘Stern has been sporadically selling prints of his photographs for years out of his modest Hollywood home,’ NBC reported. ‘But only the most persistent usually succeeded, and one of those was Madonna, who showed up at his doorstep to buy a photo of Marilyn Monroe.’

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Director Steven Spielberg poses with Phil Stern’s most famous photo of Marilyn

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Active until the end, Stern was living at the Veterans Home of California. In 2012, an exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of Marilyn’s death opened at the Phil Stern Gallery.

He was modest about his gifts: ‘Look, Matisse I ain’t,’ he told the LA Times in 2003. ‘You know, how they have on the invitations, a reception for the artist will be held at….  And I say, Look, you gotta change this. I’m not an artist! I’m a photographer. A skilled craftsman.’

‘I have these dreams,’ Stern joked. ‘Those anxiety dreams. I’m at heaven’s gate and there is St. Peter, and they’re waiting to let me in. And there’s Davis, Sinatra, Wayne, Brando. They’re looking at me. You son of a bitch!