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.”
Ella Fitzgerald, Marilyn’s friend and greatest musical influence, was born 100 years ago today. You can read my tribute here.
My interview with Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed, Marilyn’s Addresses and Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years, is spread over six pages in Issue 11 of Art Decades magazine, now available from Amazon and priced at £9.60 (UK) or $13 (USA.) Michelle has also written biographies of Madonna, Carole Lombard and Thelma Todd.
“I think the biggest myth about Marilyn is that she was a dumb blonde. She absolutely was not! Here is a woman who rebelled against the studio system; who set up her own film company and went to acting school when she was already at the top of her profession. She had a very intelligent head on her shoulders and I think that when people say she was a dumb blonde, it is revealing more about them than her. Yes, many times Marilyn played a dumb character on screen, but why should that mean she was that way in life?”
My review of the recent Channel 4 documentary, Marilyn Monroe: Auction of a Lifetime, is posted today at Immortal Marilyn. At the time of writing, the programme is still available to watch online (UK only.) And if you’re looking for a more detailed view of the sale, it’s right here.
Cecil Beaton’s ethereal 1956 portrait of Marilyn – which she kept framed in her New York apartment, on top of her famous piano – was one of many iconic images projected onto the Empire State Building this week, marking the 150th anniversary of Harper’s Bazaar magazine. Among her contemporaries, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn were also featured.
This autumn will see the release of what could be the most comprehensive Greene retrospective to date, The Essential Marilyn Monroe by Milton H. Greene: 50 Sessions. Coming from ACC Art Books on September 27, it spans 324 pages and 400 photos.
Marilyn also graces the cover of Cecil Beaton: Portraits and Profiles, one of many celebrities featured, out in paperback on October 5. This book was originally released in hardback (with Beaton on the cover) back in 2014.
And for something completely different, Robin Holabird’s Elvis, Marilyn, and the Space Aliens: Icons on Screen in Nevada is out now. Don’t be put off by the wacky cover: it includes a chapter on The Misfits.
Marilyn’s final, ‘modest’ home at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood – bought less than a year before her death, and the only property she ever owned – is back on the market for $6.9 million, Mark David reports for Variety. (It was last sold in 2010 for $3.8 million. For the definitive account of her time at Fifth Helena, read Cursum Perficio: Marilyn Monroe’s Brentwood Hacienda by Gary Vitacco Robles.)
“The bottle blond bombshell personally searched for and purchased the 1929 Spanish hacienda style home in the coveted and star-studded Helenas district in early 1962. Some reports say she paid $67,000 and others $90,000.
Privately and securely situated at the end of an itty-bitty cul-de-sac behind a high wall, secured gate and canopy of trees on what marketing materials declare as the ‘largest parcel of all the Helena streets,’ the red tile roofed, single-story residence measures in at an extraordinarily modest by today’s celebrity standards 2,624 square feet. Renovated, updated and expanded over the years by the various owners, the residence retains a number of original architectural details such as thick white stucco walls, casement windows, some fitted with wrought iron grills, terra-cotta tile floors, Gothic arch doorways, and vaulted, exposed wood ceilings.
The Helenas, a series of 25 tiny cul-de-sacs that run from San Vicente Boulevard to just above Sunset Boulevard at the eastern edge of the posh Brentwood Park neighborhood, has long been attractive to Tinseltown types.”
Dr Rock Positano’s memoir, Dinner With DiMaggio – first announced back in 2015 – will be published in May, and is already attracting coverage in celebrity magazines and on gossip websites.
Marilyn’s relationship with Joe is the subject of a cover story in the current issue of Closer Weekly (USA only.) And Radar Online has claimed that their marriage ended because she was unable to have children. In fact, Marilyn left Joe because he was too controlling. While Marilyn certainly wanted children, she wasn’t ready during their marriage because of her burgeoning career.
“From Joe’s point of view, they didn’t stay married, because Marilyn was not able to have children. It was as simple as that,” Positano writes. “Joe wanted kids, and Marilyn could not have them.” However, when reporters at their wedding asked if they wanted children, Marilyn said “six,” only for Joe to interrupt, as if correcting her: “one.”
While Marilyn certainly wanted to be a mother – she suffered at least two miscarriages during her later marriage to Arthur Miller, and even considered adoption – I don’t believe it was a priority during her marriage to Joe. And such was Joe’s enduring devotion to Marilyn, I don’t believe he would have divorced her for that reason either.
Over at Refinery 29, Valis Vicenty investigates how Marilyn’s beauty tips hold up today – saying ‘yes’ to bedroom eyes and contoured lips, but ‘no’ to Vaseline. The article rather overestimates the influence of Max Factor – Marilyn perfected many of her unique flourishes by herself, or with Fox makeup man Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder – but is otherwise an interesting look at how new technologies have streamlined our routines.
Plays about Marilyn are increasingly popular, though often of dubious quality. But Leonor Bethencourt scores top marks for originality, using Marilyn’s brief stopover at Shannon Airport (while flying home to New York after filming The Prince and the Showgirl in November 1956) as a starting point for a zany one-woman show, as Charlie McBride reports for the Galway Advertiser. In Marilyn Monroe Airlines: Always Late and Unreliable! she plays Marilyn-worshipping air hostess Zocorro. You can catch the play at the Cava Bodega restaurant on April 20-21, as part of the Galway Theatre Festival.
“Zoccoro is the sole crew member of an accident-prone budget airline, one who proudly perpetuates the spirit of Marilyn Monroe. Simmering with raw emotions, this is a comedy about flying and reaching for the stars. How can Zocorro, masked Spanish ingénue, sustain the teasing sensuality demanded by the aviation business? Marilyn has the answer…
‘Zocorro is like a female Zorro, she wears a mask like his,’ Bethencourt tells me. ‘She’s from a small village in Spain and finds herself in different situations. In my previous show, Zocorro – Rose of Tralee, she infiltrated that contest by pretending to have Irish roots and this show is a different adventure in which she is committed to perpetuating the memory of Monroe on a budget airline.’
Bethencourt herself is Hispano-Irish, with her mother hailing from Strabane and her father from Madrid where she grew up. She expands on the character of Zocorro: ‘As a child, Zocorro took an overdose of iron tablets and was taken to hospital. Doctors were all around her, and she realised then how to be the centre of attention which is a big factor with her. Being an air hostess everyone has to listen to her so she enjoys that attention and also the safety and comfort of the passengers depends on her.’
‘She relates different adventures that happened with Marilyn Monroe Airlines– it has a lot of security issues, there is a good chance at any time that things will go wrong. The nervousness passengers might feel on the flight is like how Marilyn Monroe was unable to leave her trailer during film shoots because of stage fright.'”
UPDATE: You can read a review of the show here.