Tag Archives: Marilyn: The Quest For An Oscar

2016: A Year In Marilyn Headlines

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In January, exhibitions featuring Milton Greene and Douglas Kirkland’s photographs of Marilyn opened in London and Amsterdam. In New York, the Museum of Modern Art paid tribute to Marilyn’s choreographer, Jack Cole. Also this month, James Turiello’s book, Marilyn: The Quest for an Oscar, was published. And Edward Parone, assistant producer of The Misfits, died.

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In February, Marilyn ‘starred’ with Willem Dafoe in a Snickers commercial for the US Superbowl. Monroe Sixer Jimmy Collins’ candid photographs were sold at Heritage Auctions, and the touring exhibition, Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon, came to Albury, Australia.

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Another major Australian exhibition, Twentieth Century Fox Presents Marilyn Monroe, featuring the collections of Debbie ReynoldsScott Fortner, Greg Schreiner and Maite Minguez Ricart – opened at the Bendigo Art Gallery in March. And Barbara Sichtermann’s book, Marilyn Monroe: Myth and Muse, was published in Germany.

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In April, a special edition of Vanity Fair magazine – dedicated to MM – was published. A campaign to save Rockhaven, the former women’s sanitarium where Marilyn’s mother Gladys once lived – was launched. And actress Anne Jackson – wife of Eli Wallach, and friend to Marilyn – passed away.

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In May, Marilyn graced the cover of a Life magazine special about ‘hidden Hollywood’, and Sebastien Cauchon’s novel, Marilyn 1962, was published in France. Cabaret singer Marissa Mulder’s one-woman show, Marilyn in Fragments, opened in New York, while Chinese artist Chen Ke unveiled Dream-Dew, a series of paintings inspired by Marilyn’s life story. The remarkable collection of David Gainsborough Roberts was displayed in London. Finally, Alan Young – the comedian and Mister Ed star, who befriended a young Marilyn – died.

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June 1st marked what would be Marilyn’s 90th birthday. Also in June, New Yorkers were treated to an Andre de Dienes retrospective, Marilyn and the California Girls. An exhibition of the Ted Stampfer collection, Marilyn Monroe: The Woman Behind the Myth, opened in Turin, Italy. A new documentary, Artists in Love: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, was broadcast in the UK, while Australia honoured Marilyn with a commemorative stamp folder, and genealogists investigated Marilyn’s Scottish ancestry.

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In July, the birthday celebrations continued in Marilyn’s Los Angeles hometown with tributes from painter David Bromley, and another Greene exhibition. A new musical, Marilyn!, opened in Glendale. Rapper Frank Ocean appeared alongside a Monroe impersonator in a Calvin Klein commercial. And Marni Nixon, the Hollywood soprano who sang the opening bars of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, passed away.

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August 5th marked the 54th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. Also this month, it was announced that Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn’ sculpture may return permanently to Palm Springs. April VeVea’s Marilyn Monroe: A Day in the Life was published, and Marilyn’s role in Niagara was featured in another Life magazine special, celebrating 75 years of film noir.

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In September, Marilyn: Character Not Image – an exhibition curated by Whoopi Goldberg – opened in New Jersey. Terry Johnson’s fantasy play, Insignificance, was revived in Wales. Two locks of Marilyn’s hair were sold by Julien’s Auctions for $70,000. And author Michelle Morgan published The Marilyn Journal, first in a series of books chronicling the Marilyn Lives Society; and A Girl Called Pearl, a novel for children with a Monroe connection.

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In October, Happy Birthday Marilyn – a touring showcase for the collection of Ted Stampfer – came to Amsterdam, while Marilyn: I Wanna Be Loved By You, a retrospective for some of her best photographers, opened in France. Marilyn Forever, Boze Hadleigh’s book of quotes, was published. Marilyn’s friendship with Ella Fitzgerald was depicted on the cult TV show, Drunk History. And on a sadder note, photographer George Barris, biographer John Gilmore, and William Morris agent Norman Brokaw all passed away this month.

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In November, Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President‘ dress was sold for a record-breaking $4.8 million during a three-day sale at Julien’s Auctions, featuring items from the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, the Lee Strasberg estate, and many others including the candid photos of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull. Also this month, comedienne Rachel Bloom spoofed ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in a musical sequence for her TV sitcom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. And Marilyn Monroe: Lost Photo Collection, a limited edition book featuring images by Milton Greene, Gene Lester and Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder, was published.

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‘Marilyn: The Quest For An Oscar’

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As this year’s awards season gets underway, many MM fans will bemoan the fact that she never won, or was even nominated for an Oscar. Of course, there will always be sceptics who believe she was more of a star than an actress. However, when we consider how many acclaimed films she appeared in, and how even her lesser works remain hugely popular, that opinion doesn’t hold much water.

Of the hundreds of books devoted to Marilyn, only a few have focused exclusively on her work in movies. Carl Rollyson’s pioneering biography, Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress is perhaps the cream of the crop, with honourable mention for Richard Buskin’s Blonde Heat: The Sizzling Screen Career of Marilyn Monroe, Laurence Crown’s Marilyn at 20th Century Fox, and Cindy de La Hoz’s Platinum Fox, although these books are more visually based.

Marilyn: The Quest for an Oscar is the latest book to join this small pantheon. Author James Turiello has previously published a similar book about Errol Flynn, and is working on a third volume about James Dean. Turiello concentrates solely on Marilyn’s career, arguing that her unique beauty and charisma made her a kind of female counterpart to Flynn, whose acting credits were also overlooked by the Academy.

In agreement with most critics, Turiello singles out The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve among Marilyn’s best early films. He also praises her first starring role in Ladies of the Chorus, a B-movie musical that would otherwise have been forgotten. But to my surprise, he virtually ignores her performances in Clash By Night and Don’t Bother to Knock. Her comedic turn in Monkey Business and even her brief cameo in O’Henry’s Full House also deserve further attention.

1953 was the year when Marilyn became an international star, with a string of hit movies (Niaqara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire.) Turiello recalls his own experience of first seeing Marilyn on the big screen in two 1954 movies, River of No Return and There’s No Business Like Show Business. Although these are generally considered inferior vehicles, Turiello notes how Marilyn made the most of mediocre material, using her star quality to overcome other limitations.

The Seven Year Itch (1955) was, Turiello argues, Marilyn’s first Oscar-worthy role. He analyses this film in depth, and her brilliant later roles in Bus Stop, The Prince and the Showgirl, Some Like it Hot and The Misfits, skipping over the less feted Let’s Make Love and the unfinished Something’s Got to Give.

Naturally, there are a few minor factual errors. As an author myself, I understand how difficult it is to get everything right – especially with a subject as fabled as MM. But I was a little disappointed to find some quotations commonly misattributed to Marilyn in a chapter devoted to her famous witticisms. In a chapter dedicated to trivia, Turiello also claims that she had an IQ of 168. While Marilyn was certainly an intelligent woman, there is no evidence that she ever took this test.

Of course, Marilyn is not the only performer neglected by the Academy. Turiello devotes a chapter to other talents who lost out. However, she is easily one of the most prominent names on that list. Turiello suggests that she should be given a posthumous Lifetime Achievement award. While many fans will agree, the Academy has never awarded a lifetime honour posthumously.

Marilyn: The Quest For An Oscar includes black-and-white photos on almost every page, and makes for a pleasant, undemanding read. Whether or not the Academy takes note, fans will certainly appreciate Turiello’s heartfelt crusade to champion Marilyn’s extraordinary achievements in cinema.