Marilyn’s Secret Career Genius

Marilyn in Manhattan author Elizabeth Winder has written an excellent article for Marie-Claire about Marilyn’s escape to New York and triumphant battle with Hollywood. It’s well worth reading, and a great preview of the book. (However, as MM: A Day in the Life author April VeVea points out, Marilyn wasn’t, as is sometimes claimed, the first woman in Hollywood to start her own production company – the Talmadge Sisters, Rita Hayworth and Ida Lupino all preceded her.)

“Years ahead of her time, and dead at the age of 36 in 1962, Monroe wouldn’t live to see the changes she made possible. But her reach went far beyond the machinations of Hollywood and shifted the way women around the world viewed themselves: Bra-less and never in girdles, Monroe didn’t apologize for her raw sensuality and frankly admitted to posing nude in the past; she’d been a penniless starlet and whose business was it anyway? At the same time, she wasn’t afraid to appear ‘unsexy.’ She loved being photographed in grimy boas and ripped fishnets, or puffy-eyed and makeup free, hair tangled from hours of fitful sleep. Monroe wanted to express herself, no matter the risk.”

When Marilyn Brought Hollywood to Pinewood

Film historian Karina Longworth, who recently devoted three episodes of her ‘You Must Remember This’ podcast to Marilyn (which I’ll be reviewing soon), has compiled a list of ‘9 Movies You Need to Watch To Understand Old Hollywood‘ for Harper’s Bazaar. All nine films can be streamed via Warner Archive. Her choices, including Jean Harlow’s Bombshell (1933), are interesting. Last on the list is The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), which is surprising because it’s not really a Hollywood film, and Longworth considers it ‘boring.’

She compares it unfavourably to Bus Stop, stating that Marilyn produced both films, but in fact, Showgirl was her company’s only production to date. Although rather slow-paced, it has plenty of old-world charm, and even Sir Laurence Olivier would later admit that “Marilyn was quite wonderful, the best of all. So what do you know?”

“This is definitely one of my least favorite Marilyn Monroe films, but it’s a fascinating period in her life. It was a very troubled production … though she did it through her production company, she had a very difficult time wielding power … Because this was such a pivotal point in Marilyn’s career, this is the artifact that comes out of that—out of a lot of struggle and sadness … her performance in [Bus Stop] is super great, and she was really excited about it because it was a way of her depicting her struggle in this industry where men are objectifying her. To go from that to The Prince and the Showgirl is kind of a letdown.”

Remembering Marilyn at the Waldorf

Posted by Kevin at Marilyn Remembered
Posted by Kevin at Marilyn Remembered

This clipping from the UK’s Sunday Times, posted by Kevin at Marilyn Remembered, marks the closure of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. One of the city’s landmarks, it is being converted into private apartments after more than a century in business. The article incorrectly states that Marilyn lived there with Arthur Miller. However, her 1955 residency coincided with the beginning of their romance.

She also met FBI head J. Edgar Hoover at the Banshee Luncheon in the hotel that year. Ironically, Hoover closely monitored her relationship with Miller. Many of Marilyn’s personal writings, later published in Fragments, were written on the Waldorf’s headed notepaper.

After her marriage in 1956, she used the suite as an office for her production company. She continued to make public appearances at the Waldorf, including a rare radio interview following the premiere of Baby Doll in December 1956, and a turn on the catwalk at a fundraiser for the March of Dimes in January 1957. The photo above shows Marilyn dining with Miller and financier Winthrop Aldrich at the April In Paris Ball, also held at the Waldorf in 1957.

Marilyn Un-Redacted

Marilyn with Jean Pierre Piquet, manager of the Hilton Continental, during her trip to Mexico in 1962

Writing for the Associated Press, Anthony McCartney reports that previously redacted FBI files relating to Marilyn have been released in full by the FBI after a request was made under the Freedom of Information Act.

The new information refers mostly to the FBI’s monitoring of Marilyn’s allegedly left-wing colleagues in her production company, her Jewish wedding to Arthur Miller, and her friendship with Fred Vanderbilt Field, the expatriate communist whom she met on a trip to Mexico.

“For all the focus on Monroe’s closeness to suspected communists, the bureau never found any proof she was a member of the party.

‘Subject’s views are very positively and concisely leftist; however, if she is being actively used by the Communist Party, it is not general knowledge among those working with the movement in Los Angeles,’ a July 1962 entry in Monroe’s file states.”

Wallis Simpson, Elsa Maxwell and Marilyn

Marilyn and Elsa Maxwell, 1957

According to That Woman: A Life of Wallis Simpson – Duchess of Windsor, a new biography by Anne Sebba, the American socialite whose affair with Edward VIII, England’s king, led to his abdication in 1936, was peeved when, in the 1950s, her fame was eclipsed by Marilyn Monroe.

An extract published in the New York Times reveals that Monroe and the Duchess – two of the last century’s most famous women – shared a mutual acquaintance in the writer and society hostess, Elsa Maxwell.

‘Charles Pick, the publisher, had several meetings with the duchess, whom he described as “a rather brittle, hard and vain person.” Having been warned in advance by the Foreign Office not to refer to her as Her Royal Highness, he was on his guard when they first met. She was, he recalled, lying on a chaise longue, with a large box of Charbonnel et Walker chocolates within reach. “As she rose to greet me, her opening remark was: ‘Can you tell me who Marilyn Monroe’s publicity agent is? I have all the newspapers each day, and I was generally on the front page. But now I see that Marilyn Monroe is. . . . Well, somebody has pushed me off.’ ”

Elsa Maxwell, the gossip columnist and party hostess who got to know Wallis after the war, had a very public falling out with her partly in connection with jealousy over Marilyn Monroe stealing headlines. They eventually reconciled, but not before Maxwell previewed “The Heart Has Its Reasons,” pointing out that the duchess “seeks to compensate for all she hoped for and lost with an almost feverish pursuit of pleasure. . . . Many of the things she has done in this search, largely because of the high-handed, selfish way in which she has done them, have contributed to her final frustration — the fact that the Windsors’ prestige is not what it used to be and the Windsors’ romantic aura is sadly diminished.”’

Maxwell interviews Marilyn, 1956

Marilyn lunched with Maxwell at the Waldorf-Astoria in February 1956. Though Maxwell had followed Monroe’s earlier career with enthusiasm, she was highly critical of the star’s decision to walk out on her studio in 1955.

The formidable Maxwell also disapproved of the skimpy black cocktail dress worn by Monroe on their lunch date. Nonetheless, their interview was published in Modern Screen in July, with a headline quote from MM: ‘I’ll Never Be the Same’.

Maxwell at the launch of Monroe's production company, 1955

At Home With the Greenes

With business partner Milton Greene, 1955

These latest extracts from Zolotow’s 1960 biography, first published in the Los Angeles Daily Mirror, recounts Marilyn’s split from husband Joe DiMaggio, and her decision to leave Hollywood; her business partnership with photographer Milton Greene and her personal relationship with his wife, Amy (Marilyn stayed at their Connecticut home in the winter of 1954-55, before moving to New York.)

At home with the Greenes, during a TV interview with Ed Murrow