Mercer Vine, the brokerage firm whose listings included the Holmby Hills estate where Fox mogul Joe Schenck once lived, and Marilyn’s last home in Brentwood, has closed after its financier, Robert H. Shapiro, was recently implicated in a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme, as Peter Kiefer writes for the Hollywood Reporter. (Schenck befriended Marilyn in the late 1940s, and she sometimes stayed in his guest cottage. Milton Greene also photographed her in Schenck’s mansion, known today as Owlwood. The article gives no further details on Marilyn’s home at Fifth Helena Drive, which was sold for $7.25 million in 2017.)
“Two years. That’s all it took for luxury brokerage firm Mercer Vine to establish itself as a major player in L.A.’s cutthroat luxury real estate market. Eight-figure listings. Pedigreed listings like Marilyn Monroe’s former home in Brentwood.
Just months after it launched in 2016, Mercer Vine grabbed headlines for representing Shapiro in the $90 million purchase of the Owlwood Estate, a 12,200-square-foot property at 141 South Carolwood Drive, which once was owned by Tony Curtis and later by Sonny and Cher. At the time, it was the second priciest residential sale in L.A. history behind the Playboy Mansion. What was even more astounding was when Shapiro and Mercer Vine relisted Owlwood a mere nine months later for $180 million without having done a single lick of work on the estate.”
Amy Greene is one of many luminaries interviewed by authors Norma Stevens and Steven M.L. Aronson for Avedon: Something Personal, in which she reveals the ties between Milton and Avedon, and later, Marilyn.
“One night in 1950, the photographer Milton Greene was having one of his Friday night open-houses in his penthouse studio, in the old Grand Central Palace building on Lexington Avenue. The room was packed with art directors, admen, models, photographers, actors, and dancers. Dick [Avedon] introduced himself to a fragile-looking blonde with almond-shaped eyes who was standing alone against the wall of the loggia – a wallflower. He broke the ice with, ‘How do you know Milton?’ She said, ‘I was married to him,’ and she filled Dick in: They were high-school sweethearts who had tied the knot in 1942 when she, Evelyn Franklin, was eighteen.
Dick said he was instantly taken by Evie’s feyness and elusiveness … He invited her to dinner that night at the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Terminal. From there the relationship took off like a choo-choo train, and the couple got hitched at the end of January 1951.
Milton Greene had meanwhile taken up with a cute Cuban-born model whom Dick had ‘discovered’, Edilia Franco (Conover, the modeling agency he sent her to, changed her first name to Amy and her last name to – in a nod to Dick – Richards.) In the spring of 1952, the year before he married Amy, Milton invited Dick and Evie to Sunday lunch in the country. ‘I wasn’t feeling so hot,’ Amy recalls. ‘I told Milton I wasn’t up to coming down. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I went through this shit for seven years with Evelyn, and I’m not going to put up with it from you. So get the hell up, put something decent on, and make an effort!’ He told me that one of the reasons he divorced Evelyn was she would stay in bed for days on end.
‘When Dick was in Hollywood for three months in 1956 consulting with Paramount on Funny Face, Milton was there producing Bus Stop with Marilyn, and Evelyn and I met for lunch,’ Amy recalls. ‘She and Dick were renting Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio’s old ‘honeymoon house’ on North Palm Drive in Beverly Hills, and she complained that the tour buses would drive by several times a day and the guide would make a big thing over the megaphone about the master bedroom – she said it was sexually inhibiting. The minute Evie discovered that I detested Milton’s mother as much as she did, she started giggling, and we became sort of friends. I remember her grousing that all Dick ever did was work. So I guess there wasn’t much reason for her to get out of bed.’
Five years into his marriage to Evie, a movie inspired by Dick’s [first] marriage … lit up screens across the country. ‘Funny Face, by the way, wasn’t really about me. They just used my early fashion escapades as a pretext to make a glamorous musical extravaganza …’ (Avedon)
Amazingly, Dick’s boyhood idol, Fred Astaire, now an old boy of 57, played the 25 year-old lead, named Dick; Audrey Hepburn played Doe, renamed Jo … The day Fred Astaire made his leap into death, some thirty years after Funny Face, Dick appeared in the doorway to [Norma Stevens’] office with tears running down his cheeks. ‘I didn’t cry when Marilyn died, I didn’t cry when [Alexey] Brodovitch (Avedon’s art director at Harper’s Bazaar) died, he told [Stevens.}”
This 1956 photo of Marilyn hugging a copy of the ancient Greek statue, ‘The Discus Thrower’, at Joe Schenck’s Beverly Hills home can be seen in the sumptuous new Milton Greene book, The Essential Marilyn Monroe. It also appears in The Women, a pop-up exhibition at the new Assouline bookstore in the Royal Poinciana Plaza, organised by gallery owner James Danziger and on display from January 12-16, reports the Palm Beach Daily News.
“Marilyn flew East for Christmas with the Greenes. She was, in fact, escaping from Hollywood and Twentieth Century-Fox, with a bafford press in pursuit. ‘That put us into a little cadre of sort of road-company secret service agents,’ recalls [Judy] Quine, ‘because the whole thing was so hush-hush – where she was, how she was.’ Aware of Milton’s involvement, the press staked out his Lexington Avenue studio, his pied-a-terre on Sutton Place South and the Weston house on Fanton Hill Road. The Greenes outmanoeuvred them by meeting Marilyn’s flight and heading straight for Connecticut. They stopped outside the village of Weston, deposited their precious cargo in the trunk and smuggled her past the paparazzi crowding their driveway.”
In a new interview for the Hello Giggles website, Joshua and Amy Greene talk about Marilyn and their spectacular book, 50 Sessions: The Essential MM By Milton Greene.
“On meeting Marilyn for the first time at Gene Kelly’s house:
AG: So, I also have to tell you that very few people in Hollywood had ever seen Marilyn because she was almost a recluse. She got up, she went to work, and she came back. So Milton said, ‘I’m gonna get Marilyn’ and come back to Gene’s house, [and] that’s where I met her. She came walking in. She was wearing a big Polo coat and no makeup. Her hair looked good. I sort of waved at her and she waved at me. The first break, I went over to her and she threw her arms around me and said, I’m delighted to meet you, and I kissed her. It was lovely because we became girlfriends.
On finding out about Marilyn’s death:
AG: We were in France, in Paris. Milton was doing the collections for Life magazine, and there was a radio. I kept saying, ‘Well let’s try to get some music or something.’ All we got was news, news, news, and neither one of us could understand French that well. All of a sudden, the words Marilyn Monroe came on. We didn’t know what it was. So, we went to [Château de] Fontainebleau, had a wonderful picnic lunch, drove back to Paris, and the first thing we heard—the telephone was ringing off the wall. It was Arthur Jacobs, who was her publicist trying to get us all day. And he said Marilyn’s dead. […] I collapsed. Milton was staggering. That was the last thing we expected.
On the subconscious feminism of Marilyn and Marilyn Monroe Productions:
JG: When you look at the history of what she was up against, what she did—she knew exactly what she was doing with men, and she knew exactly what she wanted to do for herself. With the right help [and] the right people, she was able to change and break the chain, break the glass ceiling, for someone with essentially no power and no money in the ‘50s as a woman. You gotta look at it through those rose-colored glasses. There’s movements that were created based on her life path—things that she wasn’t necessarily doing for that reason—she was just fighting for her freedom.”
The Milton Greene Archive has begun its holiday sale. Each copy of the new book, The Essential Marilyn Monroe, will come, while stocks last, with a vintage Marilyn calendar – printed in 1983 and overseen by Milton himself, the last before he died. Also, all art prints are on a ‘Buy One Get One Free’ offer – full details here.
The first review has already been posted on Amazon by Fraser Penney:
“An absolutely amazing book on Marilyn’s and Milton Greene’s photo sessions. This book has many unpublished and alternate shots of the classic images we’ve all come to know. There’s also some funny ones of Marilyn clowning in front of camera in a playful way, showing the warmth the two shared during their years of friendship.
The book is a joy from start to finish with a few pages of text by Joshua Greene, film producer Jay Kanter and another of Marilyn’s photographers, Douglas Kirkland.
With a brief introduction to each of the 50 sessions, offering an insiders insight, it’s the most spectacular homage to Marilyn and Milton’s collaboration, friendship and professional relationship.
In the words of Marilyn’s assistant (how she’s described in book) Pat Newcomb, writes, ‘This is a truly authentic look into Monroe’s life, and the best collection of photographs of the world’s most glamorous star by someone who really knew her.'”
“‘The first time I released unseen images was in 1993, with Milton’s Marilyn. It was our early days of restoration, and if you go through that book, the color work is really inconsistent,’ he explains. “We also ran images to look like contact sheets, so many were very small, and it just wasn’t impactful. I was really disappointed in the outcome of that project. This time around, I wanted to make sure that what had happened there would never happen again.’
‘I look at this as the last hurrah, because I would like to retire,’ says Joshua, who’s 63. Of the book’s 284 images, 160 are — you guessed it — never before seen. ‘I started working on this about five years ago, originally with about 600 images,’ Joshua says. ‘The restoration work is very tedious; some photos took as much as 60 hours per frame. I would love to have included more images, but we also did what was best for the layout and formatting of this book.’
Joshua believes his father would approve of both the choice and quality of the images. ‘Milton was a maverick in the darkroom; nobody knew printing techniques better than he did,’ he says. ‘I started working with him in the darkroom when I was 11 years old. If the old man was alive today, I know he would have embraced today’s digital technology.’
Also key to the selection was to convey the ease and intimacy of his father’s friendship with an enigmatic woman who continues to captivate the public’s imagination. ‘They were very comfortable with each other, and she trusted him, and you see that in these photos,’ Joshua notes. ‘Ultimately he’d be thrilled with what we’ve created this time around. I’ve kept this fire burning for a long time, but with this, I know he’d be proud.'”
This lovely portrait of Marilyn – based on Milton Greene’s so-called ‘graduation sitting’, taken during hair tests for The Prince and the Showgirl – has a ‘sculptural quality,’ notes artist Ileana Hunter. Check out her Etsy store here.
Anne Bancroft, who made her screen debut in Don’t Bother to Knock and shared a dramatic scene with Marilyn, is the subject of two new biographies: one by Peter Shelley, and another by Douglass K. Daniel.
And one of Marilyn’s favourite directors, Jean Negulesco (How to Marry a Millionaire), is given the biographical treatment in a new study by Michelangelo Capua.