Marilyn: A Readers’ Guide

Photo by Jock Carroll, 1952

Over at Book Riot today, Jeffrey Davies suggests six great reads about Marilyn. Among them are several titles I’ve reviewed in depth, including Lois Banner’s MM – Personal, Michelle Morgan’s The Girl, Charles Casillo’s Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon, and Marilyn’s own Fragments; plus old favourites like Gloria Steinem’s Marilyn: Norma Jeane, and Marilyn’s 1954 memoir, My Story.

Marilyn Book News: Shooting Stars, Bombshells & More

Fabrice Colin’s Shooting Star – a French novel for young adults about ‘Marilyn, Hollywood, and the birth of an icon’ – was published in October 2019.

Coming in March, Bombshells: Five Women Who Set the Fifties on Fire is the first book by Shar Daws, author of the Loving Marilyn website.

Monroe scribe extraordinaire Michelle Morgan has two publications ready for us this year, both approved by Marilyn’s estate. First up is Marilyn: Collectible Magnets and Mini Posters, coming in April.

Then in July, Day by Day With Marilyn, an undated 12-month planner, includes ‘notes on happenings in Marilyn’s life on given days of the year, to keep you inspired; quotes from the legend on love, career, womanhood, and life in general; more than 60 full-color and black-and-white photographs.” throughout. 

Marilyn Covers ‘Yours Retro’ for Christmas

Marilyn graces the cover of UK nostalgia magazine Yours Retro (Issue 21). It’s her third Yours Retro cover, making her their most popular cover star. And let’s not forget, she also topped the list in their recent special issue, 100 Greatest Movie Icons.

Inside, there’s a four-page feature by Michelle Morgan, ‘Marilyn … Becoming Mrs. Dougherty,’ about the teenage Norma Jeane’s first marriage and the beginning of her modelling career. To learn more on this topic, read Michelle’s excellent book, Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years, now available in paperback.

Marilyn Book News: The Starlet, the Spy and the Blue Book Years

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.

Also coming soon is a paperback reissue of Michelle Morgan’s excellent Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years – and you can read an extract here.

Carol Lynley 1942-2019

Carol Lynley, 1960

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.)

Carol Lynley as Harlow (1965)

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.

Marilyn’s Irish Cover Story

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’s Glamour Tips in ‘My Weekly’

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

57 Years On: Fans Pay Tribute to Marilyn

Online fansites including Marilyn Mexico posted visual tributes on the 57th anniversary of her death, while All About Marilyn joined the well-wishers at Westwood Memorial Park.

A Passion for Marilyn shared archival materials surrounding her tragic death, including personal reminiscences from John Huston and Sophia Loren.

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.

Marilyn Book News: From Korea to Doris Day

Montage by MM Picture Page

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.