Miranda Hart, Sophie Monk Inspired by Marilyn

Marilyn in London, 1956

British comedienne Miranda Hart has named Colin Clark’s The Prince, the Showgirl and Me among her six favourite books in the Express today. Although its sequel, My Week With Marilyn (after which the 2011 biopic was named), is believed by many fans to be bogus, the first book is quite a good read.

“I was always fascinated by fame. Not the desire to become famous, although I was intrigued by what it might be like, but by the unique quality and lifestyles of true icons. They don’t get more iconic than Marilyn Monroe so I found this diary of a young man becoming her assistant riveting.”

Meanwhile in other celebrity news, Sophie Monk – who played Marilyn in a 2004 TV movie, The Mystery of Natalie Wood, and is currently starring in The Bachelorette in Australia – tells the Brisbane Courier & Mail of an earlier turn as MM :

“My first job was … at Movie World (Gold Coast) as Marilyn Monroe. I got it when I was 17 after I left school and started when I was 18.”

Robert Wagner: ‘The Marilyn I Knew’

Marilyn films a screen test with Robert Wagner, 1951
Marilyn films a screen test with Robert Wagner, 1951

One of the last survivors of Hollywood’s golden age, Robert Wagner has written about Marilyn in his memoir, You Must Remember This, as well as providing the introduction to David Wills’ Marilyn – In the Flash. In his latest book, I Loved Her in the Movies: Memories of Hollywood’s Legendary Actresses, Wagner writes about her again, and an excerpt is published on the Town and Country website.

“I have no horror stories to tell. I thought she was a terrific woman and I liked her very much. When I knew her, she was a warm, fun girl. She was obviously nervous about the test we did together, but so was I. In any case, her nervousness didn’t disable her in any way; she performed in a thoroughly professional manner. She behaved the same way in Let’s Make It Legal, the film we later made—nervous, but eager and up to the task.

Years later, Marilyn began dropping by the house where Natalie [Wood] and I lived. Our connection was through Pat Newcomb, her publicist. I had known Pat since our childhood. She had also worked for me and often accompanied Marilyn to our house. I bought a car from Marilyn—a black Cadillac with black leather interior.

Marilyn (right) with Wagner's second wife, Marion Marshall, in 'A Ticket to Tomahawk' (1950)
Marilyn (at right) with Wagner’s second wife, Marion Marshall (second left) in ‘A Ticket to Tomahawk’ (1950)

Marilyn had an innately luminous quality that she was quite conscious of—she could turn it on or off at will. The problem was that she didn’t really believe that it was enough. My second wife, Marion [Marshall] knew her quite well; she and Marilyn had modeled together for several years, and were signed by Fox at the same time, where they were known as ‘The Two M’s.’ Marion told stories about how the leading cover girls of that time would show up to audition for modeling jobs. If Marilyn came in to audition, they would all look at each other and shrug. Marilyn was going to get the job, and they all knew it. She had that much connection to the camera.

When Marilyn died, Pat Newcomb was utterly devastated; Marilyn had been like a sister to her, a very close sister, and she took her death as a personal failure. Marilyn’s death has to be considered one of show business’s great tragedies. That sweet, nervous girl I knew when we were both starting out became a legend who has transcended the passing of time, transcended her own premature death.”

When Warren (and Natalie) Met Marilyn

Warren Beatty with girlfriend Natalie Wood, circa 1962
Warren Beatty with girlfriend Natalie Wood, circa 1962

Hollywood legend Warren Beatty has given a rare interview to Vanity Fair‘s Sam Kashner, in which he revealed a brief encounter with Marilyn shortly before her death in 1962.

“Peter Lawford had invited him out to his house in Malibu for a night of tacos and poker, and Monroe was there. ‘I hadn’t seen anything that beautiful,’ Beatty recalls. She invited him to take a walk along the beach, which he did. ‘It was more soulful than romantic.’ Back in the house, he played the piano. (He’s a good pianist, by the way, enamored of jazz greats such as Erroll Garner.) Marilyn sat on the edge of the piano in something so clingy that Beatty could tell she wasn’t wearing underwear.

‘How old are you?’ she asked.

‘Twenty-five,’ he answered. ‘And how old are you?’ he asked cheekily.

‘Three. Six,’ she said, as if not wanting to bring the two numbers together. By then, the tacos had arrived, and no one really played poker that night. Warren noticed that Marilyn was already a bit tipsy from champagne, even before the sun had set.

The next day, the producer Walter Mirisch’s brother Harold called. ‘Did you hear?’ he asked. ‘Marilyn Monroe is dead.’ Warren was one of the last people to see Marilyn alive—a story that Beatty tells only reluctantly. He really is one of Hollywood’s most discreet people, in a town and an industry marinated in its own gossip.”

In his 1985 book, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Summers that he had contacted Beatty about the rumour of him meeting Marilyn at Lawford’s home just a few hours before she died. Beatty responded that this was true, but did not wish to speak further at that time.

By his own account, Lawford had invited Marilyn to his home that evening but she declined. It may be true that Beatty met Marilyn not long before she died, as she was a regular guest of Peter Lawford and his wife, Pat. However, it seems unlikely to have occurred on the night of her death.

In 1962, Beatty was dating actress Natalie Wood, whose biographer Suzanne Finstad gives a similar account of their meeting (including the conversation about age), but stated only that it occurred at some point over the summer, and most significantly, she added that Wood was also present.

UPDATE: An extract from the newly-published book, Natalie Wood: Reflections on a Legendary Life, is featured in People magazine this week. Taken from a previously unseen essay by Wood herself, it includes her thoughts on Marilyn’s death, and may shed new light on Beatty’s story as well. (A former child actress, Natalie had a featured role in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!, the 1947 film in which Marilyn made her screen debut.)

“‘I had known her and seen her days before her death,’ Wood writes. ‘Her beauty, charming wit, and joy of life seemed paradoxical to the tense loneliness which she faced in her life, and was to me, clearly apparent. I realized that her tragedy reminds us all how vulnerable we are, and I chose to try to be stronger.'”

And finally … ‘doyenne of dish’ Liz Smith has also questioned the timing of Beatty’s anecdote, in her latest column for New York Social Diary.

“Beatty places the meeting on the night before her death — or the night of, really. He says he received a call ‘in the morning’ from an agent, telling him Marilyn had died. But the facts say otherwise. MM actually refused an invite from Lawford the Saturday night she died.

It’s most likely that Warren, fiftysomething years on, just forgot the exact evening. It is a very tender and considerate memory, in any case. This gallantry is typical of Warren, whose exes almost always adored him, even as they became his exes.”

 

Maureen O’Hara 1920-2015

tumblr_nwqhud3lQi1r42hleo1_1280Actress Maureen O’Hara has died in her sleep at her home in Boise, Idaho aged 95, reports the Washington Post.

Maureen FitzSimons was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1920. From early childhood she dreamed of going on the stage. While training at the Abbey Theatre, she went to London for a screen test. The footage was seen by actor Charles Laughton, who was so impressed by Maureen’s red-haired beauty and large, expressive eyes that he signed her to his movie production company, Mayflower Pictures.

Her first major role was as Mary Yellen in Jamaica Inn (1939), Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel. She was then cast as Esmerelda, opposite Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Now under contract to RKO in Hollywood, Maureen starred in John Ford’s Oscar-winning How Green Was My Valley (1941.) By 1947, she had moved to Twentieth Century-Fox, playing the mother of a young Natalie Wood in the classic Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street. In the same year, Natalie appeared in another Fox production, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! – which is chiefly remembered as Marilyn Monroe’s screen debut.

In Sitting Pretty (1948), O’Hara starred opposite Clifton Webb. Marilyn was photographed with Webb in a promotional shot for the comedic movie, though she had no part in it. By the time Sitting Pretty was released, Marilyn was working at Columbia.

In 1950, Maureen appeared with actor John Wayne in a Western, John Ford’s Rio Grande. O’Hara and Wayne became one of cinema’s great couples, making five films together, and were good friends. They were reunited in Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952), perhaps Maureen’s most celebrated film.

By then, Marilyn had returned to Fox and would appear alongside Charles Laughton in O’Henry’s Full House (1952.) She never worked with Maureen, but the stars were on good terms. In her autobiography, ‘Tis Herself, O’Hara shared a personal memory of Marilyn.

“Marilyn had called and asked me to play a joke on her husband, Joe DiMaggio. Apparently, Joe was a fan of mine and always teased Marilyn about how attracted to me he was. She was sick and tired of hearing her husband talk about me and I don’t blame her. She asked me if I would mind being wrapped in a big box with a ribbon tied in a bow around it, to be her gift to Joe on his birthday. The huge box would be on a large table, and right before he opened it, she was going to say, ‘Now, Joe, after I give you this, I don’t ever want to hear about Maureen O’Hara again.’ Then as he pulled the bow and ribbon off, I was supposed to pop out of the box while the crowd shouted, ‘Surprise!’ I thought it would be great fun, sadly, they separated just before it could be done.”

A gifted soprano, Maureen sang on numerous television shows, and recorded two albums. Her later films include Our Man in Havana (1959) and The Parent Trap (1961.) After her third marriage in 1968, she went into semi-retirement, returning to the big screen in 1991 for Only the Lonely, opposite John Candy.

After suffering a stroke in 2005, Maureen moved permanently to County Cork, Ireland. In 2011, she hosted a classic film festival, with Susan Bernard (daughter of photographer Bruno Bernard) introducing a screening of Marilyn’s timeless comedy, Some Like it Hot.

Following reports of elder abuse in 2012, Maureen left Ireland to live with her grandson in Idaho. In 2014, she received an honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, attending the Los Angeles ceremony.

Robert Wagner Remembers Marilyn

Marilyn Monroe During Interview
Marilyn with Robert Wagner, 1954

Actor Robert Wagner is now 84, and still busy – both onscreen, and in print. He began his career at Twentieth Century-Fox in 1950.

On June 14, 1951, Wagner made a screen test alongside one of the studio’s most promising starlets. “I was the guy they always used when the studio was making screen tests of new actresses,” he told author Warren G. Harris in 1988. “And believe me, no job is more dead-end than that. The only interesting thing that came out of it was when they were testing a new kid and asked me to do a couple of scenes with her. Her name was Marilyn Monroe.”

Screen test for 'Let's Make It Legal', 1951
Screen test for ‘Let’s Make It Legal’, 1951

72285_483718349121_747124121_6879881_4214011_n

On the strength of this test – a love scene – Wagner was cast alongside Marilyn in a romantic comedy, Let’s Make It Legal, starring Claudette Colbert. The pair never acted together, but became friends and were often pictured together at Hollywood parties. Wagner, who had affairs with many beautiful actresses, was never romantically involved with MM.

“Nothing happened easily for Marilyn,” he said later. “It took a lot of time and effort to create the image that became so famous.”

In recent years, Wagner has published two books: Pieces of My Heart (2008), an autobiography; and the just-published You Must Remember This, a memoir of Hollywood’s golden age, in which he recalls Marilyn’s tragic death.

“It’s odd how your mind associates certain people with certain events. In August 1962 I was in Montecatini, Italy, the same time as Sheilah Graham [the Hollywood gossip columnist.] I was on the terrace of my hotel when she leaned out a window and yelled, ‘Marilyn Monroe died! Marilyn Monroe died!,’ to the world at large, in exactly the same way she would have announced that her building was on fire. That was how I found out that the girl I had worked with twelve years earlier, and who had since become a legend in a way nobody could have foretold, was gone.”

Marilyn with Sheilah Graham, 1953
Marilyn with Sheilah Graham, 1953

Wagner is no stranger to tragedy. His wife, Natalie Wood, drowned in 1981 during a yachting trip. Her death, like Marilyn’s, is the subject of endless speculation.

Natalie was the child star of Marilyn’s first film, Scudda Hoo, Scudda Hay! She admired Marilyn, and spoke with her at a party weeks before her death.

With Natalie Wood
With Natalie Wood

Natalie married Robert in 1957 and they divorced five years later, but were remarried in 1972. There are shades here of Marilyn’s relationship with Joe DiMaggio, who had grown close to her again in the years before her death.

Dr Thomas Noguchi, so-called ‘Coroner to the Stars’, performed autopsies on both women. He was demoted in 1982, after speaking too freely in the media about the case, and in that year’s reopened investigation of Monroe’s death. His career has since recovered, however.

Wagner featured on Photoplay cover with MM, 1954
Wagner featured on Photoplay cover with MM, 1954

In Pieces of My Heart, Wagner criticised Noguchi:

“Noguchi was a camera-hog who felt he had to stoke the publicity fire in order to maintain the level of attention he’d gotten used to. Noguchi particularly enraged Frank Sinatra, who knew the truth and, in any case, would never have allowed anyone who harmed Natalie to survive.”

Natalie’s case would also be reopened in 2011, when the captain of the boat claimed that a fight with Wagner had led to her drowning. The official cause of death was later amended from accidental drowning to ‘drowning and other undetermined factors.’ Wagner was ruled out as a suspect.

In You Must Remember This, he speculates on the proliferation of conspiracy theories in the internet age:

“Intellectually, I understand the perception that the rich and privileged are invincible. That’s why some people need to believe, for example, that Marilyn Monroe was murdered by the Kennedys…The randomness of life and death can be terrifying, so a certain kind of person seizes on minor discrepancies of memory or the garbled recollections of marginal personalities to cast doubt on a reality they don’t want to acknowledge.”