2014: A Year in Marilyn Headlines

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In January, Newsweek published a special issue, Marilyn Monroe: The Lost Scrapbook. Photographer Larry Schiller claimed to own a scrapbook given to Sam Shaw by Marilyn, though expert readers noted the handwriting was dissimilar to her usual style.

Also this month, Unclaimed Baggage – a documentary about ‘the unclaimed trunk of MM‘ – was screened on European television, and George Jacobs, valet to Frank Sinatra, died aged 87.

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In February, Life published The Loves of Marilyn, another magazine special with text by J.I. Baker (author of a conspiracy novel, The Empty Glass.) Many fans were surprised to see the widely discredited Robert Slatzer listed among Marilyn’s alleged paramours. It has since been republished in hardback.

Also this month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences acquired an archive of 58,000 pictures by press photographer Nat Dallinger. His photos of Marilyn at the Let’s Make Love press conference were featured in the Hollywood Reporter. And archive footage of Marilyn was featured in Bob Dylan’s Chrysler ad, screened during America’s Superbowl.

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In March, Icon: the Life Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe – Volume I, 1926-1956 was publishedMarilyn also graced the cover of Julien’s 90210 Spring Auction catalogue, and was the subject of another magazine special, part of the ‘Etoiles du Cinema‘ series in France.

Stanley Rubin, producer of River of No Return, died aged 96, and William Carroll, one of the first photographers to work with Marilyn, also passed away. Bob Thomas, the veteran Hollywood columnist who reported Joan Crawford’s verbal attack on Marilyn back in 1953, died aged 92.

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Playboy re-released its very first issue – with Marilyn as its cover girl and centrefold – in April, as part of an ongoing celebration of the magazine’s 60th anniversary. And a collection of Elia Kazan’s private correspondence – including a 1955 letter to his wife, Molly, regarding his prior relationship with Marilyn – was also published.

Also in April, Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney (Marilyn’s co-star in The Fireball) died aged 93. And Pharrell Williams released his hit single, ‘Marilyn Monroe’.

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In May, make-up artist Marie Irvine shared her memories of Marilyn with readers of the Daily Mail. AmfAR, the world’s leading charity for AIDS research, held a ‘Red Marilyn’-themed fundraising ball during the Cannes Film Festival.

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June 1st marked what would have been Marilyn’s 88th birthday. Also in June, actor Eli Wallach, Marilyn’s friend and co-star, died aged 98. An archive of ‘lost’ Milton Greene photos was auctioned in Poland, and a revised, updated edition of Carl Rollyson’s MM: A Life of the Actress was published.

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In July, Some Like it Hot was re-released in UK cinemas, winning a 5-star review in The Guardian. Sadly, several people with connections to Marilyn passed away in July, including psychic Kenny Kingston, journalist Robert Stein, and actors James Garner and Elaine Stritch. Meanwhile one of Marilyn’s old haunts – the Racquet Club in Palm Springs – was engulfed by fire.

August marked the 52nd anniversary of Marilyn’s death, with a live stream of the annual memorial service in Los Angeles. Also this month,  Lauren Bacall, Marilyn’s co-star in How to Marry a Millionaire, died aged 89; and Tom Tierney, ‘Marilyn’s paper doll artist’, also passed away.

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In September, Newsweek published a cover feature exposing the many inaccuracies in C. David Heymann’s posthumously-released Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love. And TV Guide released a special issue dedicated to Marilyn, part of their ‘American Icons’ series.

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Several rare photos of Marilyn were featured in Profiles in History’s Hollywood Auction 65 catalogue, while Britain’s Daily Express published a special supplement about Marilyn’s tragic death, as part of a ‘Historic Front Pages’ series.

Also this month, self-confessed ‘Marilyn Geek’ Melinda Mason launched a new exhibition at the Wellington County Museum in Ontario, Canada; and the chameleon-like actor John Malkovich posed as Marilyn for photographer Sandro Miller.

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In October,  A retrospective of photographer Nickolas Muray opened in Genoa, Italy. Carl Rollyson’s latest book, Marilyn Monroe Day by Day, was published.

A rather sensationalised documentary about Marilyn’s mysterious death – Marilyn: Missing Evidence – was broadcast in the UK. Her death was also the subject of a cover feature in the US magazine, Closer.

Also this month, Kelli Garner was cast as Marilyn in Lifetime’s upcoming mini-series, The Secret Life of MM.

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In November, Gary Vitacco-Robles’ Icon: The Life, Times and Films of MM – Volume II, 1956-1962 and Beyond was published, earning a rave review from columnist Liz Smith. Fansite Immortal Marilyn published a series of myth-busting articles at Buzzfeed. And Anna Strasberg, current owner of Marilyn’s estate, lost a lawsuit against Profiles in History, regarding a so-called ‘letter of despair‘ from Marilyn to Lee Strasberg.

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In December, items from ‘the lost archive of Marilyn Monroe‘ sold for high prices at Julien’s Auctions. Marilyn graced the cover of Esquire‘s Colombian edition, and a new CD boxset, Diamonds, was released. Finally, photographer Phil Stern died aged 95.

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Mickey Rooney in 1957
Mickey Rooney in 1957

Actor Mickey Rooney has died aged 93. Born Joseph Yule Jr in Brooklyn, his parents were vaudeville players, and their son joined them onstage at fourteen months old. By the age of six, he had moved to Hollywood with his mother, Nell, and began appearing in silent comedy shorts for Hal Roach’s Our Gang series.

He then played Mickey McGuire in 78 eponymous shorts. His mother suggested ‘Mickey Looney’ as a stage name, though he later changed it to ‘Rooney’. He would later claim that Walt Disney named Mickey Mouse after him (although this has been disputed.)

With the coming of sound, Mickey graduated to bit-parts, signing with MGM in 1934. One of his first assignments was to play Clark Gable’s character as a boy in Manhattan Melodrama. The film is remembered today mainly because the gangster John Dillinger had just seen it when police shot him dead outside Chicago’s Biograph Theatre that July.

In 1935, Rooney played Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He then won a supporting role as bootblack Dick Tipton in Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), and played Jean Harlow’s kid brother in RiffRaff.

Rooney’s big break came in 1937, when he was selected to play Andy Hardy, teenage son of a small-town judge, in A Family Affair. Thirteen more Andy Hardy films would follow. He proved himself an actor in Boys Town (1938), opposite Spencer Tracy. In 1939, he played the title role in Huckleberry Finn. He then starred in Young Tom Edison (1940) and A Yank at Eton (1942.)

Another of MGM’s child stars, Judy Garland, formed an enduring song-and-dance team with Rooney. They starred in several films together, including Babes in Arms (1939) and Babes on Broadway (1941.)

Mickey with Judy Garland
Mickey with Judy Garland

‘Judy and I were so close we could’ve come from the same womb,’ he recalled in 1992. ‘We weren’t like brothers or sisters but there was no love affair there; there was more than a love affair. It’s very, very difficult to explain the depths of our love for each other.’

In 1942, he was briefly married to Ava Gardner, first of his eight wives. Offscreen, Mickey was far removed from the wholesome Andy Hardy – Ava divorced him after discovering his rampant infidelity.

After starring alongside another child actress, Elizabeth Taylor, in her breakout movie, National Velvet, Rooney joined the war effort in 1944, and enlisted in the US Army. Unfortunately, his film career slumped after his return to Hollywood, but he kept on working, onstage and in television.

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Emperor’s Waltz premiere, 1948

In 1948, Mickey attended the premiere of Billy Wilder’s The Emperor’s Waltz with a little-known starlet, Marilyn Monroe. It was customary in those days for studios to send their young actors on public ‘dates’.

Monroe would play a small role in The Fireball (1950), a rollerball drama starring Rooney. In his 1991 biography, Life Is Too Short, Mickey claimed to have given the former Norma Jeane her stage name at the time, but she had already been using it for four years.

Marilyn with James Brown and Rooney in ‘The Fireball’ (1950)

He also alleged that she had offered him sexual favours in return for the part. This seems unlikely, as she was then under the wing of one of Hollywood’s most powerful agents, Johnny Hyde. In old age, Rooney discussed MM on numerous TV chat shows.

Actor James Brown, who also appeared in The Fireball,  told John Gilmore, author of Inside Marilyn Monroe (2007), ‘She seemed nervous when we talked about Mickey Rooney, she said, “he’s really terrible, isn’t he?” She thought he would have been a nice person from all the movies she’d seen him, like when he was a kid…She said he’d whispered dirty things and she was frightened of him…’

By 1952, Marilyn was a huge star. Her first date with Joe DiMaggio at the Villa Nova Restaurant was interrupted by Mickey, who regaled the baseball legend with sycophantic banter. DiMaggio listened politely before returning to his lovely companion.

At the 'My Marilyn' party, August 1952
At the ‘My Marilyn’ party, August 1952

An illustration of how their fortunes had reversed is the appearance of Mickey at public events showcasing Marilyn, including a drumming stint in bandleader Ray Anthony’s launch party for a new hit song, ‘My Marilyn’, in August 1952. They would both participate in an all-star charity football game that September.

Rooney’s later film roles included The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), The Bold and the Brave (1956), for which he received an Oscar nomination; Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963.) But his comedic performance as Japanese landlord Mr Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) led to accusations of racist stereotyping.

He appeared in many TV series, including The Twilight Zone, Rawhide, The Golden Girls, Full House, The SimpsonsE.R., and The Muppets. He scored a late movie hit in The Black Stallion (1979), and provided the voice of Tod, the fox, in Disney’s The Fox and the Hound (1981.) He played a handicapped man in the 1981 TV movie, Bill.

Among Rooney’s stage successes were Sugar Babies, with Ann Miller, The Wizard of Oz with Eartha Kitt, and A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum. In 2006, he starred alongside Ben Stiller in the big-screen hit, Night at the Museum.

At the time of his death, Rooney was said to be filming an adaptation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, with two other projects in pre-production. In 2011, he accused a stepson of elder abuse. He separated from his wife of 37 years, Jan Chamberlin, in 2013.

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Mickey Rooney died at his Hollywood home, surrounded by family. Rooney is survived by 8 children, 2 stepchildren, 19 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

He was one of the last remaining stars of the silent era, and was once described by Sir Laurence Olivier as the greatest film actor America has ever produced.

‘The Fireball’ in Finland

Finnish critic Antti Alanen has reviewed The Fireball, a 1950 Mickey Rooney film featuring a brief appearance by MM.

‘Not a masterpiece like The Lusty Men, but there is something of the same gritty sense of reality in The Fireball. The documentary sequences from the roller derbies and Johnny’s ride down Temple Street are exciting.

Not an important Marilyn Monroe movie, but there is a Monroe connection in the orphanage in which the movie starts. “I don’t even know if Casar is my real name”, Johnny tells the tv reporter. “I’m just a kid left on the doorstep of somebody’s home.”

From IMDb I learn that The Fireball was constantly seen on U.S. tv in the 1950s. In Finland it hasn’t been seen since the premiere 62 years ago.’

Marilyn, Mickey and Tinkerbell

Jim Korkis writes on Mouse Planet of a tall story spun by Mickey Rooney, claiming it was he who inspired Mickey Mouse. In fact, Walt Disney’s wife suggested the name.

Of course, Uncle Walt was not averse to stretching the truth for publicity purposes either.  It was he who started the rumour that Tinkerbell – the mischievous fairy in Peter Pan – was based on Marilyn Monroe, when the real model was a little-known starlet, Margaret Kerry.

Mickey Rooney, who starred in one of Marilyn’s early films, The Fireball (1950), has also claimed that he suggested Monroe’s name. This is incorrect – Norma Jeane took the name in 1946, after a discussion with talent scout Ben Lyon.

Marilyn had known Mickey since about 1948, when she accompanied him to the premiere of Billy Wilder’s The Emperor’s Waltz. It was a studio custom to set up actors on ‘dates’ for publicity purposes.

Rooney was dining at the Villa Nova restaurant in early 1952 when Marilyn had her first date with Joe DiMaggio, and even interrupted the couple to ask for Joe’s autograph.

The tables were turned when Rooney was invited to a party in Marilyn’s honour that summer, and, along with Sammy Davis Jr and others, joined Ray Anthony’s band to play ‘My Marilyn’.

‘The Fireball’ at Warner Archive

Marilyn as 'Polly' in 'The Fireball'

The Fireball, a Roller Derby movie from 1950, starring Mickey Rooney and Pat O’Brien, and featuring a young Marilyn in a small role, is now available to view via Warner Archive‘s on-demand service.

“I had plotted to watch every Marilyn Monroe film known to man. And I’ve seen a lot. The good, the bad and the downright ugly…Marilyn Monroe is a sophisticated party gal who is in with the ritzy crowd but is titillated by the danger and excitement that comes with watching Roller Derby (it’s like a fancy gal watching a boxing match in a pre-code!).”

Full review at Out of the Past

Preview Marilyn’s scenes on Youtube