‘Strictly For Kicks’ at Bonham’s

Rare photographs of Marilyn Monroe in a 1948 stage show, Strictly For Kicks, will be sold in a Bonham’s and Butterfield auction of entertainment memorabilia, to be held in Los Angeles next month. Marilyn wore the same floral bikini and platform sandals in her first movie, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1947)

In 1948, Marilyn signed a 6-month contract with Columbia. However, she had previously worked at Twentieth Century Fox, and in March she appeared in a studio talent showcase at the Fox Studio Club Little Theater. An outside arena was built instead of using the stage on the lot, as studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck would be attending.

Marilyn appeared in two brief scenes, and the script included directions such as ‘Miss Monroe butts onto the stage…’

Marilyn appears to be wearing a costume from Ladies of the Chorus, which she filmed at Columbia in April.

In other pictures from the event Marilyn wears a light-coloured dress, which could be the same gown which she would wear in Love Happy (1949.)

Other items on offer at Bonhams’ include contractual papers for Bus Stop; a signed photo; personally-owned scripts for Let’s Make Love and Something’s Got to Give; a handwritten note by Marilyn, reminding herself to call poet Carl Sandburg; a mortgage agreement signed by Monroe and third husband Arthur Miller; a receipt for a gas payment, dated to Marilyn’s last birthday; and some airline tickets.

More details at Jezebel

Thanks to Megan at Everlasting Star

 

‘Maf the Dog’ at Bridport Literary Festival

“Movie icon Marilyn Monroe had a life that could only happen in Hollywood and had it all played out in the tabloids. As part of the Bridport Literary Festival, Andrew O’Hagan will be talking about Marilyn’s story, but with a twist. In November 1960 Frank Sinatra gave her a dog called Maf, and Maf the dog became a star in his own right. Marilyn died in 1962 and Maf was by her side throughout the last two years of her life. Andrew O’Hagan chronicles the time shared by the star and her devoted pooch, bringing a unique look at a life you might think you know. The talk takes place at Bridport Arts Centre on Saturday, November 6th at 4pm and tickets cost £8. Following the talk, there will be a screening introduced by O’Hagan of The Misfits – a film directed by John Huston and a script by Monroe’s husband Arthur Miller, which won great critical acclaim and proved to be the last film Marilyn made.”

View From Publishing

Read my review of Andrew O’Hagan’s delightful comic novel, The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe

Naomi Watts: A ‘Fragile’ Blonde

“I’m not especially comfortable playing damsels in distress,” the Australian actress Naomi Watts tells Nancy Mills of The Scotsman. “I like to play women who appear to be that but, at the last minute, show they’re anything but.”

This could be a description of Marilyn Monroe, who Watts is set to play in Andrew Dominik’s big-screen adaptation of Blonde (a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, based on Monroe’s life.)

Blonde has not yet begun production, but is already causing quite a stir in Hollywood. It is due out in 2012, which also marks the 50th anniversary of Marilyn’s death.

“Everyone thinks, ‘Ooh, Marilyn Monroe,”‘ Watts says, “but it’s not a glossy picture. It’s quite dark, but a great story.”

The two actresses would seem to have little in common, apart from their hair colour, but Watts sees more to it. “I get her fragility, definitely,” she says.

“I feel like I’m a fairly fragile person,” Watts admits. “It’s pretty easy for me to get upset or emotional, but not tough or angry. Having said that, I think I’ve survived certain situations that have made me tougher and made me pull through. Even this whole thing about being an actor – that took a long time. I don’t feel like I had thick skin, but the fact that I stayed there knocking away at it must make me resilient.”

“I am interested in dark things,” she adds. “I’m not afraid of them. We all have a dark side. It’s a matter of whether you want to embrace it or not. I’m willing to explore it, but it’s not going to eat me up.”

Marilyn and Saul Bellow

The novelist Saul Bellow wrote after dinner with Marilyn Monroe:

“I have yet to see anything in Marilyn that isn’t genuine. Surrounded by thousands she conducts herself like a philosopher.”

Later, he reflected:

“She was connected with a very powerful current but she couldn’t disconnect herself from it. She had a kind of curious incandescence under the skin…”

From Saul Bellow: Letters, out now in hardback

Vachon’s Marilyn, Reviewed

By Bob Duggan at Big Think

“Wallis remarks on Monroe’s ‘stagy performance of threatened innocence’ that Cindy Sherman and Madonna, most notably, mimicked years later. In fact, many of Vachon’s photos seem like precursors of Sherman’s famous ‘film noir’ stills, yet Sherman, like the rest of us, couldn’t have possibly seen them until now. In Vachon’s photographs, Monroe the collaborator in her own image-making emerges…

…Yet, even when she posed with a stuffed grizzly bear (shown above), Monroe managed to achieve that ‘threatened innocence’ Wallis praises and makes even the stagiest photo seem interesting. Marilyn becomes a grown-up Goldilocks in this photo sensing Papa Bear’s hot breath on her nape. In the fairy tale world of Hollywood glamour, Monroe knew both the dangers and rewards first hand, yet still could mock the system with a single look as much as with a sprained ankle…

…In a later shot taken by someone else on that same day, Vachon and Monroe posed together, but with Vachon using the crutches. The two artists both understood the game they had to play, and both enjoyed the joke they were playing on the game itself.

Marilyn, August 1953: The Lost ‘Look’ Photos by John Vachon, Brian Wallis

DiMaggio Lawyer Criticises Author

Morris Engelberg, former attorney to Joe DiMaggio and executor of his estate, has criticised Yale University Press for using a photo of DiMaggio with Marilyn Monroe on the cover of a forthcoming biography, Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil.

“It’s in poor taste with anybody who knows anything about Joe DiMaggio,” Engelberg said in a phone interview from his home in Florida last Monday. “It’s a cheap shot to sell books. I have no objection to what they use inside the book, but a cover of Joe and Marilyn is a cheap shot,” Engelberg said. “There’s no class. It’s a lack of respect and just shows that the author really has no knowledge of the real Joe DiMaggio.”

The photograph was taken while Monroe was filming River of No Return in Canada, a few months before her wedding to DiMaggio. It is part of a series by photographer John Vachon, published in another new book, August 1953: The Lost ‘Look’ Photos.

Yale University Press Director John Donatich said in an e-mail to the Yale Daily News that the YUP “intend[s] to use the photograph as planned in accordance with our First Amendment rights.”

Daniel J. Kevles, a history professor who teaches a course on intellectual property rights at the Law School and is a member of the content-focused YUP Publications Committee, which approves books for publication, said that the YUP’s use of the photograph was “a matter of academic freedom.”

However, Kevles said that he could see why Engelberg objects to the photo.

“I can understand [his] point because inside the book, the photo is simply Joe and Marilyn as just another feature or element in Joe’s life,” Kevles said. “One among many. To put it on the cover is to imply that Joe’s life was defined by his marriage to Marilyn.”

Engelberg, who met DiMaggio in 1983, became the baseball star’s executor after he died in 1999. In 2003, he published a memoir of his friend, DiMaggio: Setting the Record Straight.

However, Engelberg is himself a contentious figure, particularly since he allowed DiMaggio’s diaries to be auctioned in 2007, according to New York Daily News.

Jerome Charyn has published over fifty books, including a brief, but erudite life of Marilyn Monroe, The Last Goddess. Here is a synopsis of Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil, to be published in February 2011.

As the New York Yankees’ star centerfielder from 1936 to 1951, Joe DiMaggio is enshrined in America’s memory as the epitome in sports of grace, dignity, and that ineffable quality called “class.” But his career after retirement, starting with his nine-month marriage to Marilyn Monroe, was far less auspicious. Writers like Gay Talese and Richard Ben Cramer have painted the private DiMaggio as cruel or self-centered. Now, Jerome Charyn restores the image of this American icon, looking at DiMaggio’s life in a more sympathetic light.

DiMaggio was a man of extremes, superbly talented on the field but privately insecure, passive, and dysfunctional. He never understood that for Monroe, on her own complex and tragic journey, marriage was a career move; he remained passionately committed to her throughout his life. He allowed himself to be turned into a sports memorabilia money machine. In the end, unable to define any role for himself other than “Greatest Living Ballplayer,” he became trapped in “a horrible kind of minutia.” But where others have seen little that was human behind that minutia, Charyn in Joe DiMaggio presents the tragedy of one of American sports’ greatest figures.


Carl Rollyson Reviews ‘Fragments’

“As portrayed in her own words, Marilyn Monroe emerges as thoughtful and accomplished — not characteristics that most biographies emphasize. She had marvelous taste and could decorate a house or cook a meal with panache. Photographs in this book document her avid reading and her craving for the classics. Her diaries, letters and notes record responses to literature even as they reflect the misspellings and grammatical errors of an earnest but self-educated artist.”

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Carl Rollyson, author of Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress, reviews Fragments

Donald Spoto: Researching Marilyn

“Twenty years ago, for example, I began research for a life of Marilyn Monroe–the first such project authorized by her Estate, with no strings attached and unhindered access to a massive array of materials never before consulted. After conducting more than a hundred interviews and surveying an astonishing cache of primary material, something unexpected became clear. Monroe was not a dimwitted woman of easy virtue who spiraled downward into suicidal depression. She was something very different indeed from that popular misconception.”

Donald Spoto, author of Marilyn Monroe: The Biography (1992)

Marilyn’s ‘Fragments’ in Translation

The French author, Tiphaine Samoyault, has spoken to Liberation France about her latest translation, Marilyn Monroe’s Fragments. (Note: this interview has been translated from French to English. I apologise in advance for any errors!)

“A strong, full experience”

Translator of James Joyce, Tiphaine Samoyault worked on “Fragments”:

By NATALIE LEVISALLES

The translation of Fragments was made by Tiphaine Samoyault, who is one of the translators of Ulysses by James Joyce, and is currently working on a biography of Roland Barthes.

You immediately accepted this project?

Yes and no, I was a little taken aback by the proposal. It was as if I were offered to meet someone ultra-famous , as if I were told: Obama tomorrow you’ll meet face-to-head, because the translation is still a ‘head-a-tete’.

After it became extremely hard to do that. The simple things she talks all the time, compared with men … It’s amazing, I translated phrases that I had to pronounce, or vice versa … but that’s an experience that is shared by any translator.

Besides what I do for the magazine Poetry, my most significant translation is Joyce’s Ulysses. It’s funny, there is in Fragments that famous photo of Marilyn reading Ulysses. There are other photos of her reading, but when she read Arthur Miller, one sees that this is a picture laid, when she reads Whitman and Joyce, she really reads.

What is special about this translation?

I was working on a manuscript not established: initially, I had a bundle corresponding to a first decryption done by the publishers. Then, everything changed much, the timing and sequence of text, even reading them … Until the end, we hesitated on reading some words.

Sometimes it was related to illegible handwriting – including notes written on paper bearing the letterhead of the Waldorf Hotel, a time when she was very desperate – and sometimes her spelling was erratic.

Being in front of a completely unstable text was very interesting so this instability corresponds to the emotional instability reflected in these texts that this made the experience quite strong, a bit full. I found that there was a profound truth: even in the solar side of Marilyn, even in its beauty, its light, there is something unstable.

How did you work on these texts?

The first, a note she wrote at age 17, is in a very hesitant English. Afterwards, when we see all the work she did on the language, the determination she had to speak and write well, her search for meaning, it was important that in the translation, I did not remove the uncertainty of her first draft.

Moreover, according to the emotional state in which it was written, the spelling changed much, and it’s very troubling, because after a while, you just have to look at the pages to see how her state is. But it is also sensitive to the attentive reader.

Among the texts that I like best, there’s this wonderful poem, “I left my house … green rough wood, and I love that journey over the bridges, which I find very powerful, very elliptical.

And the long letter to Dr. Greenson, very articulate, very beautiful. We can see how from the first note, written in a very grave concern about a possible infidelity by her then-husband, to this letter written after her divorce, she had gained a mastery.

That does not make it happier, but she has a mastery of expression, even in times uncontrollable. This ability to self-educate has heavily affected her. She was helped by people she met, but she was able to reach out to them.

At the same time that this translation, you were writing the biography of Barthes …

I started work on Barthes a year ago and a half. But I was not working on both manuscripts at once, and so I didn’t have two different texts in my head at the same time.

In both experiments, there is something very intimate. We leave a report in the text to enter into a relationship of proximity with human beings, which passes through the very concrete report to paper, writing, inks …

After, which is surprising in Barthes, is that if this spirit articulated, educated – overeducated, even – who has complete mastery of the language, gradually gives way, he was attracted by the non-mastery. You see it in his last work, his last texts, how it enters the batch.

Marilyn is just the opposite. We have a batch text by default, and a progressive quest of mastery.

Finally, what does this translation for you?

At first I did not know what to expect, I might have some little letters, it would be quite ordinary. I told myself that it’s not very serious, as if there was a gap with what I am. And along the way, it became a powerful experience.

I found that there was, both in what she writes and how that text happens to us, something powerful, we cannot fully possess, which is of the order of instability, fragility in writing, but also incomplete. Ultimately, I was very touched and very proud to have done that.