Marilyn – The Untold Story, a new magazine special from US Weekly, is now on sale for $13.99. But if the potboiler headlines are anything to go by, this is for completists and the hopelessly gullible only. Of course, you could just buy it for the photos – although they don’t look rare to me! And if you’re outside the US, try Ebay.
The Life archive has taken a look back at the career of actress Sheree North, who replaced Marilyn after she refused to appear in Fox’s How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955.) The parallels between them are also noted in a separate article by Jen Carlson for LAist.com.
Monroe didn’t take the threat very seriously, telling columnist Earl Wilson rather impishly, “Sometimes I kid the fans. They say, ‘Oh, you’re Marilyn Monroe!’ I say, ‘Oh no, I’m Mamie Van Doren’ – or, ‘Sheree North’ – if I’m in a real hurry.”
Six years Marilyn’s junior, Sheree was groomed by the studio as a stand-in for their rebellious star. This was not her decision, as she had no wish to dethrone MM. She later became a respected character actress, even playing Gladys Baker in the TV movie, Marilyn: The Untold Story (1980.)
In 2008, three years after her death, a photo of Ms North being dressed for her role in How to Be Very Very, Very Popular by costume designer Travilla was misidentified as Marilyn in a number of leading newspapers, including the Telegraph.
Maureen Dowd writes in the New York Timesabout why movies about great stars like Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor etc are so often disappointing:
‘The many actresses who have resurrected Marilyn Monroe can’t hold a candle in the wind to Hollywood’s most luminescent, evanescent siren.
Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino played two sides of her in the 1996 HBO film “Norma Jean and Marilyn,” which amounted to double trouble. Catherine Hicks tried in the 1980 ABC movie “Marilyn: The Untold Story,” which should have remained untold.
Still we must suffer through a new raft of impertinent impersonators. Michelle Williams stars in “My Week With Marilyn,” about her friction with Laurence Olivier during the making of “The Prince and the Showgirl” in 1957. Then comes Naomi Watts in “Blonde,” based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel.’
“Catherine Hicks‘s performance in the 1980 made-for-television biography Marilyn: The Untold Story is generally regarded as the best biographical portrayal of Marilyn Monroe. Produced by Lawrence Schiller, the photographer who took the famous nude photos of Marilyn on the set of Something’s Got to Give, Marilyn: The Untold Story was based on Norman Mailer’s ‘novel biography.’
The film was enhanced by the participation of three talented directors, including Hollywood veteran Jack Arnold. The impressive roster of behind-the-scenes personnel ensured pleasant entertainment, but the three-hour drama lacks insight into Marilyn’s personality and fails to add anything new to the Monroe lore and literature.
Hicks, whose thoughtful performance is the highlight of the production, managed to capture Marilyn’s voice and mannerisms and suggest her alluring presence without resorting to caricature.
Hicks received a well-earned Emmy nomination. (In an ironic twist, Monroe ‘replacement’ Sheree North appears in this film in the role of Marilyn’s mother.)” – Susan Doll, author of Marilyn: Her Life and Legend
The opening scenes from this hard-to-find biopic are now on Youtube, with more to follow.