Marilyn at Julien’s: Making a Star

In this second post about the November 14 event at Julien’s Auction, Collection of a Southern Gentleman, we look at Marilyn’s early career and rise to fame. (You can read all posts about this sale here.) This montage includes a typical cheesecake pose; two small headshots used to promote her first movie, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!, from which she was largely cut; and a selection of modelling photos taken circa 1947-49.

Photos SOLD for $875, $1,562,50, and $1,920, respectively

“Contract for Dangerous Years, housed in light blue covers, dated ‘July 30, 1947,’ outlining an agreement between the studio and ‘Sol M. Wurtzel Productions, Inc.’ for the loan-out of Monroe to act in the film as ‘Secretary’ even though her role ended up being that of ‘Evie,’ a waitress … signed by executives but not MM.” [And, sold separately, a retro-style poster produced in the 1980s.]

Contract SOLD for $1,024; poster SOLD for $125

“A group of two letters though both are severely water damaged and have substantial paper loss; likely from Henry Rosenfeld, one of MM’s early benefactors whom very little is known about; the first is three pages, handwritten in blue fountain pen ink on Barbizon Plaza Hotel (NYC) stationery, reading in part ‘I ran into Harry [Howard] Keel and his wife at the theatre last Sunday,’ ending with ‘best to your Aunt / H;’ with its original transmittal envelope addressed to MM at her Nebraska Avenue address in Los Angeles and postmarked ‘1947;’ the second one is two pages, also penned on the same stationery with the same ink, reading in part ‘Marilyn, / It was so wonderful / talking to you on the / telephone,’ other pages are now missing; frustrating to not read the letters in their entirety or even know who wrote them!” [And sold separately, a glamour portrait signed by Marilyn to Lois McCann.]

Letters SOLD for $256; photo SOLD for $12,800

[Marilyn’s first movie contract ended in 1947, but a year later, she was still spending time at Twentieth Century Fox.] “According to the original consignor, Robert Temple, Marilyn had a strange habit of taking home the commissary’s silverware every night, just to bring it back the next day to use it again. Temple was a busboy in the commissary at the time and when his boss noticed that Monroe seemed to be stealing, he told Temple to retrieve the utensils from the starlet and warn her that she would be kicked out of the cafeteria if she continued her odd practice. Temple did as he was told and took the utensils away from Monroe, but then he ended up stealing them himself. He had a crush on her and wanted to keep the silverware because it had been hers. He saved this flatware for 62 years and though his story is somewhat preposterous, its probably too weird for him to have made up and remembered all these years later. Additionally, Temple really did work at Fox in 1948 and he even acted in a small employees only talent show with Monroe (and others) called Strictly for Kicks as evidenced by a newsletter that surfaced at auction about nine years ago.”

SOLD for $1,152

“A model release form for Marilyn’s nude calendar session with photographer Tom Kelley, dated ‘May 27, 1949’, and signed by Marilyn under a pseudonym, ‘Mona Monroe‘. And sold separately, a group of ten sample pages produced by the calendar salesman, depicting Marilyn in the ‘Golden Dreams‘ pose with a blank space on the top margin where a business name would be printed; created circa 1952 to cash-in on her fame as text reading ‘Posed By Marilyn Monroe’ appears to the right side.”

Model release form SOLD for $37,500; photos SOLD for $1,280

“A single page of 20th Century Fox letterhead, typed, dated ‘July 11, 1949,’ sent to the then starlet from her friend, studio boss Joe Schenck, reading in part ‘…I shall be / pleased to see you when you come back,’ signed in black fountain pen ink in the lower right corner; included with its original transmittal envelope addressed to Monroe at the Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, Michigan where she was sent to promote the 1949 United Artists film, Love Happy.”

SOLD for $576

“Photo of Marilyn by Laszlo Willinger; and, sold separately, a standard check entirely penned in black fountain pen ink by Marilyn, dated ‘Nov 15, 1950,’ to ‘Helen Hunt‘ in the amount of ‘$100.30,’ signed ‘Marilyn Monroe,’ annotation in another hand in the lower left corner reads ‘beauty salon;’ interesting to speculate what MM had done at that salon that day for that amount which would be like spending $1,000 today.” [Helen Hunt had previously styled Marilyn’s hair during her Columbia contract in 1948.]

Photo SOLD for $1,920; check SOLD for $2,500

“Publicity still for Marilyn’s breakthrough movie, The Asphalt Jungle; and, sold separately, a handwritten list with penciled ‘notes to self’ on either side, circa 1950, relating to matters Marilyn wanted to deal with such as ‘ask agent not to take money from the top / ask for outside picture / forming of own company such as Rita H. [Hayworth] had at Columbia – deal made by J. Hyde / payment for mother / lesson – Checkhov [sic], Hal S., Lotty / anal – Gottesman’ and ‘Rena cleas’ among a few others — an intriguing quick look into the star’s head.” [Marilyn’s agent Johnny Hyde, acting coach Michael Chekhov, psychiatrist Dr. Gottesman, mime teacher Lotte Goslar, singing coach Hal Schaefer, and beautician Madame Renna appear to be mentioned here.]

Photo SOLD for $1,280; list SOLD for $5,760

A 1951 photo of Marilyn, credited to the Phil Burchman Agency. And, sold separately, a letter from photographer Philippe Halsman, “dated ‘March 10. 52,’ severely water damaged but some content still legible such as ‘We all three liked working with / you and I think that you are a / wonderful model,’ ending with ‘Sincerely, affectionally and / cordially / yours / Philippe H.;’ included with its original transmittal envelope addressed to the star at the ‘Beverly Carlton Hotel’ in Beverly Hills, California.”

Photo SOLD for $1,562.50; Halsman’s letter SOLD for $187.50

“A sterling silver hand mirror, back engraved ‘Los Angeles Mirror / Annual Award / Best Dressed / for / Her Life / 1951 / Marilyn Monroe;’ and sold separately, a 1952 headshot signed ‘to Dan, Warmest Thoughts, Marilyn Monroe’.

Award SOLD for $10,000; photo SOLD for $11,520

A selection of images from 1952: firstly, a Georgia Tech football program featuring Marilyn ‘used through the courtesy of Look Magazine’; second, two photos of a sultry Marilyn, possibly taken by Anthony Beauchamp, and seen in a one-off magazine special, Marilyn Monroe Pin-Ups, the following year; and finally, a framed photo by Sam Myers, showing Marilyn at the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City.

SOLD for $576, $768, and $1,024 respectively

Marilyn Photos Sold at RR Auctions

A 1953 Frank Powolny portrait, inscribed ‘To Cheryl, Love & kisses, Marilyn Monroe’, was sold for $13,636 at RR Auctions’ Fine Autographs and Artifacts sale yesterday. Bob Towers’ photo of Marilyn arriving at Phoenix Airport in 1956 sold for $578, while a photo taken during filming of The Misfits (attributed to Henri Cartier-Bresson), and a wire photo of Marilyn posing with U.S. servicewomen raised $525 each.

Meanwhile, the annual Legends event, featuring 135 Marilyn-related lots, is now open at Julien’s through Friday – more info here.

Marilyn Goes From Grand Marshal to Usherette

These candid photos of Marilyn, taken circa 1961, will go under the hammer at RR Auctions on June 12, as part of their latest Fine Autographs and Artifacts sale.

Although usually credited to Inge Morath, these photos (taken in 1960, during filming of The Misfits) are stamped with the name of Henri Cartier-Bresson, her colleague at the Magnum Photos agency (they visited the set in tandem.)

This wire photo was taken during Marilyn’s visit to the 1952 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. Another photo taken with these young servicewomen caused a minor scandal, as mentioned in the caption. Some more information from the shoot is posted below (although the quote attributed to Marilyn was later refuted by her own publicist in a 1955 interview with the Saturday Evening Post‘s Pete Martin.)

“The low-cut summer dress she was wearing caught the attention of a photographer, who stood on a chair to better capture the outfit’s full effect. Upon seeing the photo, an Army information officer ordered it killed because he did not want to give the parents of potential recruits the ‘wrong impression’ about Army life. Information about the suppression of the photo was leaked to the press and then turned into frontpage news.

‘Leg art’ photo sessions were a never-ending part of Marilyn’s career, and one that she worked at with enthusiasm and good humor.

When asked her opinion of the situation for a story titled ‘Marilyn Wounded by Army Blushoff,’ Marilyn replied in her tongue-in-cheek manner, ‘I am very surprised and very hurt. I wasn’t aware of any objectionable décolletage on my part. I’d noticed people looking at me all day, but I thought they were admiring my Grand Marshal’s badge!'”

Susan Doll, How Stuff Works

Another Misfits photo from Magnum’s Eve Arnold.

One of the distinctive photo manipulations of Arthur ‘Weegee’ Fellig, based on his image of Marilyn at the Racquet Club, Palm Springs in 1949.

This photo of Marilyn with fellow celebrity usher Marlon Brando at the 1955 premiere of The Rose Tattoo comes from the collection of George Zeno, who has contributed to books including James Spada’s Monroe: A Life in Pictures (1982), and Christopher Nickens’ Marilyn in Fashion (2012.)

This photo shows Marilyn arriving at Phoenix Airport to film the rodeo scenes for Bus Stop in 1956.

This classic glamour shot (taken by Frank Powolny in 1953) is inscribed, ‘To Cheryl, Love & kisses, Marilyn Monroe.’

This shot of Marilyn singing alongside pianist Hal Schaefer, taken by John Florea in 1954, is part of a complete first series set of ‘Marilyn Monroe Trade Cards’ in their original packaging, entitled ‘Marilyn and Her Music,’ containing cards #1-20.

UPDATE: View results here

‘Miss North Carolina’ and Marilyn

In the Salisbury Post, Mark Wineka notes the passing of Barbara Harris Richmond, who was crowned Miss North Carolina in 1952 and attended the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, where she met the parade’s Grand Marshal, Marilyn Monroe. (There are several photos of Marilyn with various contestants, but as yet I haven’t seen Barbara’s. Incidentally, Salisbury was also the home-town of Marilyn’s future masseur and close friend, Ralph Roberts.)

“In June of that year, only after a lot of coaxing and having just graduated from Woman’s College in Greensboro, 22-year-old Barbara Harris entered the Jaycee-sponsored Miss Salisbury Pageant and won. She topped a field of 16 contestants.

By late July, she was competing in the Miss North Carolina Pageant in Winston-Salem. She won again, as judges selected her over 37 other contestants. All the stories to come would mention how small she was for a beauty queen — 5 feet, 2 inches tall and 115 pounds.

It also was standard for the day to give her measurements, which were 34-24-34.

A hectic month followed leading up to the Miss America competition in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She toured New York and went through hours of coaching and singing rehearsals for the pageant, which included the usual bathing suit, evening gown and talent categories.

During the week, Barbara had her picture taken with the parade marshal, Marilyn Monroe. It was a tossup as to who was prettier, though Monroe raised eyebrows with a dress whose neckline plunged to her waist.

The Salisbury Evening Post sent a reporter to cover all of Barbara’s pageant activities. Editors assumed readers were so familiar with her by then that headlines sometimes referred to her as ‘Babs.’

Though Barbara didn’t make the final 10 in the 1952 Miss America Pageant, she was mentioned prominently for the Grand Talent Award. She filled the Atlantic City convention hall with an aria from ‘Samson and Delilah,’ prompting a rousing ovation from the crowd of 18,000.”

Miss America: Carol Koontz and Marilyn

Marilyn with Carol Koontz, 1952

Carol Koontz, a baton and drum corps leader who met Marilyn (in her Grand Marshal capacity) while competing at the 1952 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, has died in Ohio aged 83, reports CantonRep.com.

“For decades, Koontz shared her skills in baton-twirling, music, and pageantry with thousands of local youngsters in Stark and Tuscarawas counties. She started the troupe in 1962 and was still giving weekly baton lessons until about two weeks ago, her daughter Holly Flowers said.

Koontz began teaching the baton in 1948. In 1952, the Tuscarawas County native won the Miss Dennison and Miss Ohio pageants and competed in the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, N.J. During her talent portion in the national contest, Koontz played a classical piece on the clarinet, then twirled two ‘fire’ batons.

She also had her picture taken with Monroe, who was a special guest.

‘My grandma (Carol’s mother) happened to be in the restroom when Marilyn Monroe was in there, and Marilyn asked her how she kept her hair curly in humid weather,’ Flowers said with a laugh. ‘My grandmother was giving Marilyn Monroe hair tips.’

Years later, Koontz led her troupe on the famed boardwalk at a Miss America commemoration event, her daughter noted.”

Thanks to Sparkling Diamond at Marilyn Remembered

Mike Bell’s ‘Marilyn’ in Atlantic City

‘The Art of Mike Bell’, a new exhibition featuring this monochrome painting of Marilyn as Grand Marshal at the 1952 Miss America Parade in Atlantic City, opens today and will be on display at the Noyes Art Garage, A.C. until August 28. Admission is free.

Defiantly lowbrow, Bell’s main themes are pop culture and the ‘carnival’ atmosphere of his hometown, At the Shore reports. Another portrait of Marilyn, pencilled onto a matchbook, has been displayed by Ripley’s.