Norman Wisdom 1915-2010

Sir Norman Wisdom, who Charlie Chaplin once described as ‘my favourite comedian’, has died aged 95.

Marilyn met Wisdom in 1956 while filming The Prince and the Showgirl at Pinewood Studios in England, as he told biographer Michelle Morgan:

“I was making my film A Stitch in Time*, and on several occasions she came in to watch my work. In fact, she quite unintentionally ruined a couple of takes. Obviously, of course, once the director has said ‘Action’, everyone must remain silent, no matter how funny the situation might be, but Marilyn could not help laughing, and on two occasions she was politely escorted off the set. The nicest thing that happened was that we passed each other in the hallway one lunchtime. It was crowded, but she still caught hold of me, kissed and hugged me, and walked away laughing. Everybody in the hall could not believe it, and I remember my director, Bob Asher, shouting out, ‘You lucky little swine’ – I agreed with him.”

From Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed

*A Stitch in Time was released in 1964. Perhaps Sir Norman was thinking of Up in the World (1956) or Just My Luck (1957)?

Immortal Marilyn in October

This month’s updates include Fraser Penney’s review of Keith Badman’s new book, The Final Years of Marilyn Monroe; a profile of photographer Cecil Beaton, by Betsy Brett; and Tony Plant shares a 1961 interview with Marilyn by famed Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons, discussing life after divorce.

Linda Kerridge in ‘Fade to Black’

Fade to Black, a 1980 slasher flick about a young man who becomes infatuated with a Marilyn Monroe lookalike (played by Australian actress and MM impersonator, Linda Kerridge) is reviewed today on the Retroist blog.

Here’s another take on the MM connection, from Unknown Movies:

“Then there is the part of the movie surrounding Kerridge’s character. After she misses the date she had with Binford, the movie simply forgets about her until near the end of the movie. Oh wait – there’s the scene midway through when Binford visits her during the night to do something that makes no sense when you consider how Binford has been treating everyone else that has done him wrong. In any case, it’s still somewhat jarring to see her character suddenly appear again after being forgotten about for so long. Come to think of it, I think every subplot in the movie gets stretched out like this instead of playing out with a more tight feeling.”

Fade to Black‘s other claim to fame is a brief appearance by the young Mickey Rourke.

Top 5 Gangster Movies

2 – Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959) – “A parody of the gangster genre but what a film! One of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. And it has Marilyn Monroe. You must go to the store now and buy this DVD because MGM just released a 2-disc remastered version. (If you own the older version that was released a few years ago please discard and buy this disc!) The 2-disc version is anamorphic, has sharper and cleaner detail, and correct black levels (important for black & white films on DVD. Just watch Woody Allen’s Manhattan on DVD for comparison; it’s way too dark and shadowy). The second disc contains a ton of extras. Did I mention Marilyn Monroe?”

Film critic J.E. Snaveley, The Cinematheque

‘You Remind Me of Marilyn Monroe…’

It seems that Marilyn wasn’t the only actress to face the wrath of Otto Preminger, who directed her in River of No Return. Kim Cattrall (Samantha Jones in Sex and the City) told The Guardian this week:

When the veteran director Otto Preminger signed the 17-year-old Cattrall to a contract with Universal Studios, he informed her: “Darling, you remind me of Marilyn Monroe – not in looks of course, but in lack of talent.”

“Actually, he was right,” Cattrall says. “I was terribly unformed. I was this scruffy provincial with wild hair and jeans who had been raised in the wilds of British Columbia, not glamorous at all. It eventually dawned on me that, whether I liked it or not, my appearance was going to be every bit as important as my ability. It made me realise that maybe I needed to dress up a bit.”

Philip Larkin on Marilyn’s Death

“6 August 1962, 21 York Road, Loughborough, Leics.

“[. . .] Isn’t it a sad shock about Marilyn Monroe? ‘The People’ (a British tabloid newspaper) made her sound very dopey, but I was shocked all the same. ‘The Mirror’ said her fan mail had shrunk from 8,000 to 80 a week! I’m sure Hollywood is a ghastly place to work in for anyone like her, everyone wanting to screw you and get a cut for doing it, nobody really helping you.”

Extract from Letters to Monica, a collection of correspondence between the English poet, Philip Larkin, and his longtime companion, the literary professor Monica Jones, which will be published later this month.

The Crooner and The Bombshell

For your weekend reading pleasure, a very special guest post from my good friend, Edgar Freire – a talented artist and poet.

“The Crooner and The Bombshell”

A Tribute to Dean Martin and Marilyn Monroe

with Andy DiMino and Susan Griffiths

at the Westchester Broadway Theatre, Elmsford, NY

Review of August 24, 2010 show by Edgar Freire

Let me begin by saying I was quite surprised when my friend Veronica invited me to see this dinner show.  I had never attended a dinner theatre production before, and I was actually surprised to know that they still existed.  I had often assumed that dinner theatre was a nostalgic activity that had its hey-day in the 50s or 60s, and was no longer around.  And when my friend and I were seated at our table directly in front of the stage, this assumption was proven partly correct as I scanned the audience and saw a lot of gray and silver-headed attendees.  That’s when Veronica and I realized we were the youngest people in the audience!

We were presented with a menu and had an hour to dine before the show began. The food was on the average side, but the wait staff was very helpful and friendly, and I was really enjoying what was a totally new (for me) form of entertainment.

The show began with Andy DiMino taking the stage as Dean Martin.  I have to admit I was not very familiar with Dean’s music before, so the material he was going to sing would be new to my ears.  But I could see (by the swaying of female heads in the audience) that his music is well loved, and certainly stirred memories of the golden days of the crooners, as well as old romances.  By the end of the evening, Andy’s performance gave me a greater appreciation for the music of Dean Martin.

After singing some more solo numbers, Andy/Dean summoned Susan Griffiths as Marilyn Monroe to the stage.  And when Susan wiggled onto the stage in a skin-tight red cocktail dress, I have to admit I could not keep my eyes off her!  Susan had Marilyn’s mannerisms and breathy voice down perfect, and there was obvious and genuine chemistry between her and Andy.

The show proceeded with the two stars singing together, then Andy left as Susan took over the spotlight, and the show continued with variations of this solo and duet arrangement.  For me particularly, it was great to hear songs from classic Monroe films in this live setting, which were re-recorded by Griffiths with just the slightest different arrangement that gave them a freshness.  I was especially pleased to hear ‘A Fine Romance’ and ‘River of No Return’ – two lesser-known songs from the Marilyn catalog – which were superbly rendered by Susan.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that the show contained a lot of comedy!  Andy had great comic delivery and really served the laughs, while Susan occasionally descended the stage and mingled with the audience, picking certain people in the crowd to participate in the fun.  Another highlight was the duet ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, which ended with faux snow descending onto the stage. It was a magical moment which recalled a scene from the great Hollywood musicals.

After the show, Andy and Susan were generous enough to meet in the lobby for photos and greet audience members.  I had a chance to speak briefly with Susan and ask her about the origins of the show.  Apparently, Andy had been doing Dean Martin in a solo Las Vegas show some years before, and after the two of them connected, the idea came to them to perform together as Dean and Marilyn.  I also asked Susan if there would be future shows.  According to her, they have no scheduled tour dates, but instead try to fit in shows when and where the opportunity arises.  The next day they were booked to perform the same show in Staten Island, and then she was off for an engagement in Sweden.

Susan reminded me that the show is still a work-in-progress, and that eventually they would like to integrate into the show some background history of the real-life Marilyn and Dean’s working and personal relationship.  As most Marilyn fans already know, Dean and Marilyn were close friends in real-life, and were starring together in the unfinished film Something’s Got to Give at the time of her death.