Marilyn and Me, Ji-Min Lee’s novel set in Korea, is now available in the US under a different title: The Starlet and the Spy. As any classic film buff will tell you, a starlet is an aspiring actress and by 1954, Marilyn was a global megastar. However, it’s a worthwhile read. Marilyn’s part in it is actually quite small, as the main character is her (fictitious) translator, a young woman confronting the trauma of war. I struggled to relate to her story – at times, it felt more like an outline for a movie – but it was interesting to revisit the conflict from an insider’s perspective, and Lee writes about Marilyn with care and imagination.
Carol Ann Jones was born in Manhattan and worked as a child model, making the cover of LIFE magazine at fifteen. She made her Broadway debut as Carol Lynley in The Potting Shed (1957), which also starred Dame Sybil Thorndike (fresh from co-starring with Marilyn Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl.)
Carol went on to play the lead in Blue Denim (1958), a teen drama directed by Joshua Logan (who had made Bus Stop with Monroe two years previously.) The play deals with themes of unwanted pregnancy and abortion (which was then illegal in the US.) Carol would reprise her role in the 1960 movie of the same name, produced by Twentieth Century Fox, with Macdonald Carey among the cast. (Carey had worked with Marilyn in Let’s Make It Legal back in 1951.) Blue Denim earned Carol a second Golden Globe nominations as Most Promising Newcomer, having first been nominated for The Light in the Forest (1958.)
In 1960, the eighteen-year-old Carol married Michael Selsman, who was six years her senior and a publicist for the Arthur P. Jacobs Agency, who also represented Monroe. Selsman occasionally worked with Marilyn when Pat Newcomb was unavailable. In November 1961, he drove with Carol to Marilyn’s Doheny Drive apartment.
Marilyn was then 34 years old, and in the process of approving images from her photo shoot with Douglas Kirkland for Look magazine. As Selsman told biographer Michelle Morgan, she refused to let Carol come inside although she was heavily pregnant. This seems rather selfish and uncaring, but it’s possible that Marilyn distrusted the blonde starlet, sixteen years her junior and also under contract at Fox. Or perhaps she simply wanted to continue her work without interruptions. (Carol never commented on the story, so we have only Selsman’s word to go by.)
Their daughter Jill was born shortly afterwards. Carol worked both in television, and movies such as Return to Peyton Place (1961), and The Last Sunset, opposite Marilyn’s Niagara co-star, Joseph Cotten.
In 1963, Carol appeared in The Stripper (known in the UK as A Woman of Summer.) Adapted from William Inge’s play, A Loss Of Roses, it was originally pitched to Marilyn, but after her death in 1962, Joanne Woodard took her place as Lila, a former burlesque star who falls in love with a much younger man, Kenny (played by Richard Beymer, this was a role first offered to Warren Beatty.) Carol Lynley played Miriam Caswell, Kenny’s girlfriend and Lila’s unwitting rival. (Another curious coincidence: Marilyn had played Claudia Caswell in All About Eve, her breakthrough role at Fox.)
In 1963, Carol starred with one of Marilyn’s favourite leading men, Jack Lemmon, in a romantic comedy, Under the Yum Yum Tree. Also that year, Carol worked with one of Marilyn’s least favourite directors, Otto Preminger, in The Cardinal. John Huston, who had directed Marilyn twice, also acted in the movie, as did Tom Tryon, previously cast as Marilyn’s desert island companion in the shelved Something’s Got to Give.
Carol divorced Selsman in 1964, and later had a long affair with the British newscaster, David Frost. She starred alongside Lauren Bacall in the controversial Shock Treatment (1964.) This was followed by The Pleasure Seekers, pitting Carol with two other young beauties, Ann-Margret and Pamela Tiffin, and directed by Jean Negulesco (of How to Marry a Millionaire fame.)
Marilyn Monroe had once considered playing Jean Harlow in a biopic. It never came to pass, but in 1965 Carol starred as the original ‘platinum blonde’ in the low-budget indie, Harlow, shot over eight days, and with Ginger Rogers playing the domineering ‘Mother Jean’. The film was overshadowed by Paramount’s rival Harlow, starring Carroll Baker and released a month later. Neither were well-received, and the bizarre saga is recounted in Tom Lisanti’s 2011 book, Duelling Harlows: Race to the Silver Screen. (Carol also posed nude for Playboy that year.)
Carol’s next performance, as a young mother in Preminger’s Bunny Lake Is Missing, was one of her best. Her co-star was Sir Laurence Olivier, and she more than held her own. She then starred in The Shuttered Room and Danger Route (1967), Norwood (1970), and Cotter (1973), with Don Murray. Her greatest success was in The Poseidon Adventure (1972.)
For the rest of her career Carol worked mainly in television, making several TV movies and appearing in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Big Valley, Mannix, Quincy M.E., Kojak, Hawaii Five-O, The Love Boat, Charlie’s Angels, Hart to Hart, Hotel, and Fantasy Island. Her final short film, Vic, was released in 2006. Carol Lynley died aged 77 of a heart attack at home in Pacific Palisades, California on September 3, 2019.
So many fans have discovered Marilyn through a TV documentary or magazine spread – so it’s a pity that the information isn’t always accurate. Not so, however, if that article is written by respected author Michelle Morgan. This biographical piece first appeared in Emirates Woman back in 2012, and has now been reprinted – and lavishly illustrated – in Social & Personal magazine. Unfortunately, this publication is only sold in Northern Ireland, although Michelle has posted a sneak preview here.
Marilyn gets a double-page spread in the latest issue of UK magazine My Weekly (dated August 13-20 – watch out for TV presenter Ruth Langsford on the cover), with fashion and beauty tips plus a hair makeover starring tribute artist Suzie Kennedy, all from Michelle Morgan’s newly-published The Little Book of Marilyn.
And talking of glamour girls, Marilyn’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes co-star Jane Russell graces the latest cover of the Weekly News.
Thanks to Fraser Penney
Artist Alejandro Mogollo took inspiration from Marilyn’s last, unfinished movie, Something’s Got to Give.
In my hometown, the anniversary coincided with this year’s Brighton Pride.
Many fans, including biographer Michelle Morgan, paid eloquent tribute on social media.
And impersonator Jimmy James also had warm words for Marilyn.
Michelle Morgan’s latest, The Little Book of Marilyn, is now available and has been getting rave reviews from fans. It’s packed with well-chosen photos which aren’t often seen in print, plus chapters on why Marilyn continues to inspire, hair and make-up tutorials, fashion tips, and craft ideas.
Another tempting summer read is Ji-Min Lee’s Marilyn and Me, a novel set during Marilyn’s time in Korea. It’s next on my reading list, and hope to review both books at a later date.
Of related interest is Gravité Sur Billy Wilder, Emmanuel Burdeau’s French-language study of (arguably) Marilyn’s greatest director.
Coming in September, John William Law’s Goddess & the Girl Next Door compares Marilyn and that other fifties blonde, Doris Day. It’s a timely publication, arriving so soon after Ms Day’s passing (you can read my tribute to her here.)
And finally (for now), Biographic: Marilyn retells her story in infographics, coming in October from artist and author Katy Greenwood.
Monroe biographer Michelle Morgan spotted this burgundy striped Montana shirt-dress by Whistles at John Lewis today – not unlike the frock worn by Marilyn as cannery worker Peggy in Clash By Night (1952), although at £103.20, this may be out of most factory girls’ price range. (After last autumn’s checked trouser craze, could we be seeing the start of a new vintage glamour trend?)
Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe is a new academic study of Marilyn’s movie performances by Amanda Konkle. Although set for publication on February 28, it’s already in stock at The Book Depository. Having just read it, I can whole-heartedly recommend this book: it’s thoughtful without being stuffy, and puts the focus back on Marilyn’s work. Some Kind of Mirror is illustrated with screen-captures from Marilyn’s films, as well as the beautiful cover photo by Eve Arnold (showing Marilyn during filming of The Misfits, toasting her loyal friends and co-workers.)
Sarah Churchwell’s excellent 2005 ‘meta-biography’, The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, will be reissued in March, as well as being published digitally for the first time. (The only downside for me is no Marilyn on the cover!)
And looking further ahead, The Little Book of Marilyn: Inspiration From the Goddess of Glam – the latest from ace biographer Michelle Morgan – is coming in July.
“A lifestyle guide and tribute to the style, glamour, and showmanship of Hollywood’s most iconic star, with Marilyn-inspired lessons and inspiration for today’s woman.
While the 1950s was in many ways an era of repression for women, Marilyn Monroe broke barriers and rebelled against convention — and charmed the world with her beauty, talent, and irresistible personality. Filled with gorgeous photos, The Little Book of Marilyn will show you how to bring a touch of that glamour into your own life through:
- * Tutorials on recreating the star’s makeup looks
- * Style advice and tips on where to find Marilyn-like fashions
- * Décor ideas from Marilyn’s own homes
- * Everyday inspiration from her life that will let your inner Marilyn shine, and much more!”
Fleet Street photographer Horace Ward, who captured Marilyn and many other celebrities on film, has died. Ward photographed Marilyn at London Airport on November 20, 1956, during a final press conference before she and husband Arthur Miller departed for New York. Sir Laurence Olivier and his wife, Vivien Leigh, were also present. The atmosphere was far more muted that day than when Marilyn had arrived to film The Prince and the Showgirl four months previously, perhaps because of her fractured relationship with the British press (not to mention Olivier.) “What I do remember vividly, the coldness that night standing on the tarmac,” he wrote later. “I was frozen to the ground – just glad the flashbulbs went off.”
Horace was interviewed by author Michelle Morgan for the 2012 edition of her definitive biography, Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. He recalled: “I remember a crowded press conference in the old tin-hut terminal with dreadful drab green curtains they had up as a backcloth, which everyone moaned about. There were hardly any fans about; it was mostly airport staff and a few police.”
In his bio for EPhotoZine, Horace noted that he began taking photographs in 1949. Self-taught, his first newspaper picture was published that year. After serving in the army, he worked in the photographic department of a national airline. By the early 1960s, he had moved to Fleet Street, with up to five pictures published each day. As well as Marilyn, he captured other blonde bombshells including singer Kathy Kirby, plus actresses Brigitte Bardot, Jayne Mansfield and Vera Day (who had earlier dyed her hair red to play Marilyn’s friend Betty in The Prince and the Showgirl.)
He was commissioned to photograph the legendary dance troupe, The Tiller Girls, for London’s Evening Standard in 1960. The British Music Hall Society has featured his photographs of Adam Faith, Alma Cogan, Anthony Newley, Kathy Kirby (a glamorous blonde singer whose looks were compared to Marilyn’s), Charlie Drake, Bernard Bresslaw, and Cliff Richard on their website. He also photographed Vera Day (who played on The Prince and the Showgirl) many visiting entertainers, including Pat Boone and Connie Francis.
Among his most famous subjects were Winston Churchill, Bob Hope, and Marilyn’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes co-star, Jane Russell. Horace later became chief glamour photographer for a leading magazine. Further examples of his work can be found on the personal website of the Belgian actress Bettine Le Beau, who died in 2015. In later years he preferred to photograph steam trains (his father had worked for the Great Western Railway.)
“Horace was a brilliant photographer and a wonderful friend,” Michelle Morgan wrote today. “I knew Horace for fourteen years and he was always so kind, funny and supportive. I’ll always remember him with great warmth and affection.” You can read her tribute here.
In the wake of last year’s scandal regarding sexual exploitation in Hollywood, several ill-informed commentators have claimed Marilyn as a historic symbol of the casting couch. In an interview with Stephanie Nolasco for Fox News, author Michelle Morgan explains how her new book – The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist – sets the record straight. (You can read my review of The Girl here.)
“‘She had said that she never fell for it,’ Morgan told Fox News. ‘She had walked out of various interviews and situations that she deemed inappropriate … She was doing a series of interviews in 1954. At that time, she really wanted to write her autobiography but … In the end, she decided not to go through with it because it had been leaked out to the British press.’
In the mid-1950s, Monroe spoke out about being harassed by an executive whom she did not name. ‘She was very intelligent about that, to keep his name out of the article. But she certainly did speak about it.’
‘She was never going to let herself be victimized. She spoke about it and as a result, inspired other people to speak out … She was one of the only actresses in Hollywood at that time who was speaking out about that.’
Morgan added: ‘I think based on the things she said herself and the outspoken way she approached Hollywood, I personally don’t believe she was ever a victim of the casting couch. I think she was able to walk away.'”