Marilyn in the Saturday Evening Post

Marilyn graces the cover of The Golden Age of Hollywood, a  new one-off special from the Saturday Evening Post. It costs $12.99 and can be ordered directly here. (Unfortunately I don’t yet know if it ships outside the US, but I’ll update you if I find out.)

Marilyn has a long history with the Post, as one of her most revealing interviews with Pete Martin, ‘The New Marilyn Monroe’, was serialised over three weeks in 1956, and later published in book form with the playful title, Will Acting Spoil Marilyn Monroe?

On Marilyn’s birthday this year, the Post paid tribute with a blog about the sex symbols who preceded her – including Lillian Russell, Theda Bara and Clara Bow, all of whom she impersonated in her extraordinary ‘Fabled Enchantresses’ shoot with Richard Avedon. But she turned down the chance to play showgirl Evelyn Nesbit in The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (the role went to Joan Collins.) And of Mae West, she told W.J. Weatherby, ‘I learned a few tricks from her – that impression of laughing at, or mocking, her own sexuality.’ Jean Harlow, perhaps Marilyn’s greatest influence, is a surprising omission.

You can read Marilyn’s Post interview here.

Halsman’s Marilyn at the Smithsonian

sso

Philippe Halsman’s most iconic photo of Marilyn – chosen for her first Life magazine cover in 1952 – has won a Smithsonian Magazine readers’ poll, and will be displayed in the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, from January-March 2016.

“A portrait of Marilyn Monroe will be installed in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s ‘Recognize’ space, Jan. 22, 2016. The museum’s historians and curators selected three actresses’ portraits for voters to choose from—Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe and Mae West—three fan favorites who, despite long acting careers, never received Oscar nominations.

Thousands of votes were cast on Smithsonianmag.com, and Monroe’s portrait received the most votes. Philippe Halsman’s photograph of her will be on view on the ‘Recognize’ wall, near the north entrance of the museum, through March 6, 2016.

Last year, the Portrait Gallery created ‘Recognize’ as an opportunity for people to select what they would like to see on display. Twice a year, the museum presents three portraits, and the public votes for their favorite. In the last round of ‘Recognize,’ voters elected to display a portrait of the baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente by Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris.”

Marilyn: A Hardy Heroine

Hardy TOTD

Pulp the Classics is a new publishing imprint, repackaging old literary favourites in an affectionate parody of the dime novel. One of the series is Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbevilles (1891), about a humble milkmaid whose encounter with an aristocratic family leads to her ruin. It’s a tragic story, but also a tale of revenge.

Over at the Huffington Post, artist David Mann explains how Marilyn came to be the pipe-smoking cover girl for Tess. It won’t be to everyone’s taste – but personally, as a huge fan of both the novel and MM, I love the humour of it.

“I’ve attached the original artwork for Tess of the d’Urbervilles. This was rejected as people thought she looked too much like she was sitting on the toilet! The face was based on Mae West on this version, and I was asked to upgrade to Monroe!”

The original artwork, featuring Mae West
The original artwork, featuring Mae West

Birthday Tributes in the Blogosphere

Over the next few posts I’m going to focus on the best fan tributes for Marilyn’s birthday. But firstly, here are a few selections from the blogosphere.

We’re all used to reading Marilyn’s own words online – though sadly, some of them are internet fakes – but Flavorwire has compiled a rather good list, 30 of Marilyn Monroe’s Smartest and Most Insightful Quotes.

Nearly all of these are genuine, in my opinion – meaning, they can be traced back to reputable biographies and interviews with MM herself. The only one I’m not sure about is the second one, regarding James Joyce’s Ulysses, which comes from the disputed Miner transcripts. (However, we do at least have Eve Arnold’s 1955 photo as evidence that Marilyn read the book – and, indeed, she later performed Molly Bloom’s closing soliloquy as an exercise for her dramatic coach, Lee Strasberg.) 

“Here is [James] Joyce writing what a woman thinks to herself. Can he, does he really know her innermost thoughts? But after I read the whole book, I could better understand that Joyce is an artist who could penetrate the souls of people, male or female. It really doesn’t matter that Joyce doesn’t have… or never felt a menstrual cramp. To me Leopold Bloom is a central character. He is the despised Irish Jew, married to an Irish Catholic woman. It is through them Joyce develops much of what he wants to say.”

Geeks of Doom posted this thoughtful tribute:

“While she didn’t have the cocksure winking swagger of a Mae West, or the sharp natural beauty of an Ava Gardner, she somehow fell somewhere in the middle of both of those ladies…In a strange way, she is old Hollywood and still remains fresh in new Hollywood.”

And finally, Kim Morgan reposts her wonderful Playboy tribute from last year over at her Sunset Gun blog.

“Because through it all, no matter what was happening in her life, Marilyn gave us that gift: pleasure. Pleasure in happiness and pleasure in pain and the pleasure of looking at her. And great artist that she was, looking at her provoked whatever you desired to interpret from her. Her beauty was transcendent. For that, we should do as Dylan instructs: ‘Bow down to her on Sunday, salute her when her birthday comes.'”

Marilyn and Mae: Great Film Comics

MM mimics Mae West, deleted scene from 'The Seven Year Itch'

‘Austerlitz notes that his biographical chapters are intended to create a conversation among comedy’s most influential practitioners. Arranged in rough chronological order, the effect is cumulative. Mae West’s brazen sexuality primps the pillow for Marilyn Monroe’s bombshell self-awareness; unlikely bedfellows Jerry Lewis and Richard Pryor somehow manage to conceive Eddie Murphy.’

Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy by Saul Austerlitz, reviewed at the Boston Globe