Warhol’s Marilyn On Memorial Day

Dan’s Papers, a free weekly for residents of the Hamptons, is approaching its sixtieth birthday. A new coffee table book, 60 Summers: Celebrating Six Iconic Decades On the East End, has just been published. You can read the story behind its first glossy cover here.

“Andy Warhol had a home on the ocean in Montauk, east of town, out towards the lighthouse, for many years, about 20 altogether … This painting was one of the many he did in Montauk, it is believed, although his main studio was at Union Square in New York City. He passed away in 1987, and two years later there was a retrospective of his paintings at the Guild Hall in East Hampton, and they managed to arrange for us to have this painting of Marilyn Monroe, which he did back in 1967, featured for this week’s cover.”

Marilyn and the ‘Warhol Women’ in NYC

Warhol Women, a new exhibition showcasing 42 portraits of Andy Warhol’s female subjects, is on display at the Lévy Gorvy Gallery on New York’s Upper East Side, through to June 15, as Lane Florsheim reports for the Wall Street Journal. (Marilyn is featured next to Warhol’s take on the Mona Lisa, and opposite Jackie Kennedy.)

“Gorvy and Lévy have arranged the show so that the first works viewers see are portraits of Jackie Onassis and Marilyn Monroe, facing one another. [Dominique] Lévy, who came up with the show’s concept, says that no other man has been able to look at women the way Warhol did. ‘Without sexualizing the subject, he was able to do these portraits where the woman is allowed to be who she is,’ she says. ‘He captures the openness, the self-consciousness, the self-assurance, the insecurity. Aren’t we all self-conscious? I think nobody [else] does that, and that’s where he becomes conceptual.’ In Warhol’s depiction of Monroe, Lévy says, he ‘sees the enormous sadness’ that she felt.”

‘Clash by Night’ at MoMA

Clash By Night will be screened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art next Wednesday, April 10 (at 7 pm), and Sunday, April 14 (at 2:30 pm); in conjunction with a movie poster exhibition in the theatre galleries, as David Alm reports for Forbes.

“The movie poster has to be one of the 20th Century’s most enduring pieces of cultural ephemera. Created to seduce audiences into paying a cool quarter to see the pictures at the start of the so-called ‘golden age’ of Hollywood, in the 1920s, many of those posters have acquired a second life as artifacts of a bygone era.

The exhibit pairs with a film series, running April 8th through the 20th, that includes 13 films dating from 1929 through 1974 that, like the posters on display, explored sexual identity in ways ranging from deeply coded, to subtly suggestive, to brazenly forthright. Where a film, and its poster, falls on that spectrum depends largely on when the film was made.

It’s arguable that the golden age of Hollywood was golden precisely for these careful subversions, these subtly embedded messages to those who wanted something from their cinema besides a fortification of socially acceptable ideas of what it meant to be a man or a woman, or of what human sexuality should look like.”

Alfred Eisensenstaedt Exhibit in NYC

A retrospective for Alfred Eisenstaedt – known as the ‘father of photojournalism’ – will open at New York’s Robert Mann Gallery tomorrow through April 27.

“In 1935, Eisenstaedt decided to emigrate to the United States, as magazines in Germany began to shutdown with the rise of Hitler. He settled in New York where he became one of the first four photographers hired by LIFE Magazine. Eisenstaedt’s coverage of Hollywood in the 1930’s is some of his most quintessential work, photographing stars such as Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn and Sophia Loren, who is known to be one of his favorite subjects. He photographed Marilyn Monroe on a small patio behind her home in Hollywood in 1953, capturing her in Rembrandt-inspired light that beautifully emphasized the unparalleled Marilyn mystique—femininity, naiveté and sexuality.

Carol Channing 1921-2019

Carol Channing, the legendary Broadway star who originated the role of Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, has died aged 97.

Born in Seattle in 1921, Carol and her parents moved to San Francisco when she was two weeks old. Her mother Adelaide was of German Jewish descent and her father George was part African-American (on his mother’s side.) A newspaper editor by profession, George was also a Christian Science practitioner and teacher.

At sixteen, Carol left home to major in drama in Bennington College in Vermont. In 1941, she won her first Broadway part as Eve Arden’s understudy in a revue, Let’s Face It! That year she was married for the first time, to writer Theodore Naidish. They divorced after five years.

In 1948, Carol won a Theatre World Award for her featured role in another revue, Lend An Ear. Stacy Eubank noted in Holding A Good Thought For Marilyn: The Hollywood Years, that on June 16, a little-known starlet, 22 year-old Marilyn Monroe, attended the opening night at the Las Palmas Theatre in Hollywood, where she was photographed with director Bill Eythe and actor Bill Callahan.

Marilyn at the ‘Lend An Ear’ LA premiere, 1948

Illustrator Al Hirschfeld published a caricature of Carol as a flapper in the show, the first of many portraits to come. She even credited his artwork with helping her win the part of Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Al Hirschfeld’s artwork for ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1949)

Jule Styne’s musical adaptation of the 1926 novel by Anita Loos opened at the Ziegfeld Theatre in December 1949, running for almost two years. In her 2002 memoir, Just Lucky I Guess, Carol wrote that Loos had told Styne, ‘That’s my Lorelei!’ after seeing Lend An Ear in New York. Styne promptly wrote a new song for Carol, ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.’

Carol as Lorelei Lee

In January 1950, Carol made the cover of Time magazine. She was married again that year, to footballer Axe Carson, and they had a son, Channing Carson. After her third marriage to manager and publicist Charles Lowe in 1956, he was renamed Chan Lowe and went on to become a successful cartoonist.

Darryl F. Zanuck swiftly acquired the film rights to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for Twentieth Century Fox. Carol was duly invited to Los Angeles for a screen test, but it was generally assumed that Betty Grable, the studio’s reigning blonde star of musical comedy, would get the part. In any case, Carol had already decided to take the show to London after the Broadway run ended.

Marilyn in New York, circa 1951

In mid-June of 1951, Marilyn Monroe flew to New York, where she spent several days.  Columnist Dorothy Manners would report that she had been given tickets by Fox to see Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – perhaps as a warning to Grable, who was then on suspension. ‘Physically, Marilyn fits the bill,’ Manners noted, ‘but whether she is experienced enough to take on a top comedy performance remains to be seen.’

In her autobiography, Carol claimed that Marilyn was instructed to see the play every night for a month, which is doubtless an exaggeration given Marilyn’s busy schedule. Chronically shy, Marilyn never ventured backstage. “Our orchestra never saw anyone that beautiful before,” Carol recalled. “For the first time they were all looking at Marilyn instead of our conductor…”

That November, after Blondes finally closed, the New York Post‘s Earl Wilson reported that Marilyn hoped to play Lorelei on the screen. In his 1992 biography of Monroe, Donald Spoto wrote that Fox informed Marilyn the part was hers on June 1, 1952 (her 26th birthday.) Nonetheless, the studio kept up the intrigue for several weeks before announcing it to the press, still claiming that Grable would star, with Marilyn turning brunette to play Lorelei’s friend Dorothy.

When the news broke on June 23, Hedda Hopper wrote that Carol had responded with a 200-word telegram to Fox, while Grable denied asking Zanuck for the part. Marilyn was now the studio’s rising star, but as Stacy Eubank observes, she was still on a standard contract and would cost Fox far less than either Grable or Channing.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was a golden opportunity for Marilyn, and a huge success when it opened in 1953. “I was heartsick over the whole thing, of course,” Carol admitted, and she also felt that Jack Cole’s flamboyant choreography “completely upstaged” the lyrics.

Carol with Yvonne Adair as Dorothy

“I do think it was one of her best movies,” Carol reflected on Marilyn’s performance. “Not funny, however. They didn’t use one word of Anita’s original book, which was hilarious and which was what constantly kept the stage musical on a higher level. Anita didn’t write the musical’s book. So where they didn’t insert the original book it was mundane. It was the stock formula for a dated Broadway musical. I followed Anita’s original Lorelei character ferociously…”

“You can cast Lorelei two ways,” Loos explained. “With the cutest, prettiest, littlest girl in town, or with a comedienne’s comment on the cutest, prettiest, littlest girl in town. I wrote her as a comedy, and Broadway is attuned to satire.” Carol’s broader interpretation was perfect for the stage, whereas Marilyn brought a softer, more innocent quality to Lorelei.

During the 1950s, Carol replaced Gracie Allen as a comedy foil to George Burns. “Finding roles that suit the strange and wonderful charms of Carol Channing has always been a problem to Broadway showmen,” a 1955 cover story for LIFE read. “She looks like an overgrown kewpie. She sings like a moon-mad hillbilly. Her dancing is crazily comic. And behind her saucer eyes is a kind of gentle sweetness that pleads for affection.”

Her next great role was in Hello, Dolly! (1964.) She befriended Broadway newcomer Barbara Streisand, only to lose out again when the younger actress was cast in the film adaptation. A registered Democrat, Carol campaigned for Lyndon B. Johnson and was a favourite of his wife, Lady Bird. In 1966, she won the Sarah Siddons Award, and finally achieved movie stardom alongside Julie Andrews in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), winning a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actress, and an Oscar nomination.

In 1970, Carol became the first celebrity to perform at a Super Bowl halftime. Three years later, she was revealed to have been on disgraced president Richard Nixon’s Master List of Political Opponents – which she quipped was the highest accolade of her career.

With Peter Palmer in ‘Lorelei’, 1974

The 53-year-old revisited her early success in Lorelei (1974), a reworking of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes featuring songs cut from the original play, and broke box-office records by selling out for six consecutive days in just 24 hours. She also frequently appeared on television, including a 1987 Jules Styne special in which she performed ‘Little Girl From Little Rock.’

Carol Channing in 2013

In 1998, Carol separated from her husband of forty years, Charles Lowe. He passed away shortly afterwards. She would marry once more in 2003, after rekindling her romance with high-school sweetheart Harry Kullijian. He died in 2011. Carol maintained her faith in Christian Science, followed a strict organic diet and swore off alcohol.

Marilyn (left) and Carol (right), by Al Hirschfeld

A much-loved resident of Rancho Mirage, California, Carol had a star dedicated to her on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in 2010. She returned two years later to honour Marilyn Monroe, praising her “brilliant and unique” performance in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  Carol also attended a farewell party for Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn‘, when it left Palm Springs for the East Coast in 2014.

Gene London Dresses Marilyn in Victor, NY

The polka dot dress worn by Marilyn for her grand entrance in The Seven Year Itch, plus a replica of the ‘subway scene’ dress (worn by Mira Sorvino in the 1996 TV mini-series, Norma Jeane and Marilyn), as well as Travilla’s other iconic designs for MM in Bus Stop and the ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ number from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, will be on display as part of a free exhibition showcasing the Gene London Collection at the Eastview Mall in Victor, New York from September 24-October 8, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle  reports.

Marilyn’s Estate Sues Clothing Company

Representatives of Marilyn and Elvis Presley’s estates are suing a clothing company for a total of $353,500 in royalties and penalties, the New York Post reports. Central Mills, under its Freeze Apparel division, manufactured a range of tops featuring Marilyn’s image, such as the sweater shown above. TapouT LLC is a clothing division of Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate. The two companies parted ways in December 2017.

Remembering the ‘Millionaire’ Parade Car

In the New York Times, Winnie Hu looks back at the history of the ticker-tape parade car which made a brief appearance in How to Marry a Millionaire.

“It is not built for speed. It burns through gas. And it is too big to park on any street. But none of that matters when it is a 1952 Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton.

The open-air car in glossy black with red leather seats is New York City’s official parade car and the grande dame of the 30,000 vehicles in the nation’s largest municipal fleet. It stretches 20 feet from front to back to seat up to eight passengers, and it comes with its very own red-carpet floor. It has only one job: ushering V.I.P.s through blizzards of ticker tape on Broadway.

For more than six decades, its back seat has been filled with a who’s who of world leaders and celebrities … The 1952 Phaeton was one of only three that Chrysler made — part of a tradition of custom-made parade cars that once carried the newsmakers of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s in grand style, all while showing off Chrysler’s latest design in the ultimate bit of product placement. No need to advertise with Queen Elizabeth II, John F. Kennedy, Neil Armstrong and Joe DiMaggio in the car.

The three Phaetons — each in a different color — were owned by the Chrysler Corporation, which based them in New York, Los Angeles and Detroit, and lent them out for processions around the country … The New York car made a cameo in the 1953 film How to Marry a Millionaire, starring Marilyn Monroe.”