Following reports that the bathrobe worn by Marilyn in How to Marry a Millionaire will be auctioned at the annual Legends sale at Julien’s on June 13-14 (see here), the full listings are now available online here. I will review Marilyn’s personal and business correspondence in a future post, but today I’m looking through the archives of German photographer Manfred ‘Kreiner’ Linus.
UPDATE: I have now added the final bids for each item.
Marilyn was an admirer of Russian culture: she studied Stanislavsky’s teachings on acting, and campaigned (sadly without success) to star as Grushenka in a movie adaptation of Dostoevsky’s classic novel, The Brothers Karamazov. At the height of America’s anti-Communist fervour, she observed, ‘They’re for the people, aren’t they?’ She briefly considered visiting Russia in 1956, and was later introduced to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev at a Hollywood luncheon.
However, when the Russian press unjustly accused her of ruining Arthur Miller’s career, she shot back: “Listen! I know Arthur Miller better than the Russians do and I’ve learned more from Arthur Miller than the Russians have. I’ve learned from Arthur Miller that he does not believe in a communistic state. The Russians can talk all they want about my ‘climb to the stars,’ his ‘broken life,’ and what I’ve done to somebody. But I know the man. They’re talking about an idea. They can have their ideas. I had the man.” (Redbook, 1962.)
In some quarters, however, it appears that these prejudices still exist. In a recent article entitled ‘Candle in the wind: America, Russia, and Marilyn Monroe’s Free Fall’ for the RBTH website, novelist Viktor Yerofeyev recalls meeting Miller with his third wife Inge Morath during the 1990s, and ruminates on Miller’s prior marriage to Marilyn.
“I looked at Inge and realized that it was for this woman with an intelligent look that Miller had refused to be the skyscraper roof for Monroe, after which the star flew downward. Although in her flight, possibly, she remained the most popular actress in America.
America, at first glance, is not about actresses, singers or writers. It is about the absolute success of an individual, who was nothing and then became everything (as our revolutionary song goes).
And it is not important whether this person had a poor or rich childhood, whether he lived in an orphanage or he quietly went to school. Because this, from the national audience’s view, is routine, but what is important is that the chosen one reached the sky and turned into the Himalayas.
In such a system happiness is only a substitute for powerful success and in this system Monroe and Miller were like twins. And they appeared equal on the cover of a popular magazine that announced their union to the whole country.
Why equal? Because Miller’s high-altitude flight was stronger than Death of a Salesman, which held up a mirror to America. And Monroe’s high-altitude flight was stronger than all of her roles and all of her money. Two high-flying planes.
However, America is actually a country with a double cultural circulatory system. While the larger circle of cultural circulation is destined for the mass public, which creates the broth of national success, the smaller circle is the one in which I found myself in Connecticut, and where a lot opposes the larger circle … Properly speaking, where the Millers live, happiness … is valued more than success and talent is more important than money…
The participants were snobs but as I have just said, they were the cream of the crop. And in this circle Monroe and Miller were opposites. She was no one and he was everything. But she was burning with desire to be included in this world.”
‘Archetype of the American Hero’, Alistair Cooke’s tribute to Gary Cooper, was published in The Guardian after Cooper’s death in May 1961. In this extract from Alistair Cooke at the Movies, Cooke considers how movie stars were then so often dismissed as mere ‘personalities’, and rarely credited with much talent or intelligence.
“It is easy to forget now, as always with artists who have matured a recognisable style, that for at least the first dozen years of his film career Gary Cooper was the lowbrow’s comfort and the highbrow’s butt. However, he lasted long enough, as all great talents do, to weather the four stages of the highbrow treatment: first, he was derided, then ignored, then accepted, then discovered. We had seen this happen many times before; and looking back, one is always shocked to recognise the people it has happened to. Today the intellectual would deny, for example, that Katharine Hepburn was ever anything but a lovely if haggard exotic, with a personal style that might enchant some people and grate on others, but would insist she was at all times what we call a serious talent. This opinion was in fact a highly sophisticated second thought, one which took about a decade to ripen and squelch the memory of Dorothy Parker’s little tribute to Miss Hepburn’s first starring performance on Broadway: ‘Miss Hepburn ran the gamut of human emotions from A to B.’
Marilyn Monroe is a grosser example still. Universally accepted as a candy bar or cream puff, she presented a galling challenge to the intelligentsia when she married Arthur Miller, a very sombre playwright and indubitably un homme serieux. The question arose whether there had been serious miscalculation about a girly calendar that could marry a man who defied the House Un-American Activities Committee. The doubt was decided in Miss Monroe’s favour when she delivered pointed ripostes to dumb questions at a London press conference.”
Gary Cooper was one of many stars who attended a party in Marilyn’s honour at Romanoff’s restaurant in Hollywood, to celebrate her filming The Seven Year Itch in November 1954. He also attended the 1959 Fox luncheon for Soviet premier Nikita Krushchev, where he was seated at Marilyn’s table.
At the auction of Dame Joan Collins’ personal property at Julien’s earlier this month, a June 1960 letter from Cooper to Marilyn was sold for $1,280. Cooper was then in hospital, and thanked Marilyn for sending him roses, expressing his regret at being unable to attend a recent party (possibly her 34th birthday celebrations, on the set of Let’s Make Love.) Click on the picture below to read his letter in full.
This second extract from Alistair Cooke at the Moviesfocuses on‘The Script That Got Away: Mr Khruschev’s Propaganda Tour at US Expense’, an article about the Soviet premier’s historic visit, published in The Guardian after Marilyn attended a Twentieth Century-Fox luncheon in Khrushchev’s honour on September 20, 1959.
“He was whizzed so fast over the boulevards between the airport and the Twentieth Century-Fox studio that not one Angelino in a thousand could have guessed, without prior knowledge, that here was the chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and not, say, Marilyn Monroe on her way to a dress fitting.
He was shown what any other distinguished tourist would have been allowed to see. He saw the dancing girls of Can Can. He was actually seated at the same table as Gary Cooper, Eddie Fisher, Marilyn Monroe and James Mason. The supreme accolade was reserved for his wife: she was seated next to Frank Sinatra. American hospitality can go no farther.
‘And yet, and yet …’ as the old silent movie captions used to say, the production blew up in the faces of hundreds of skilled politicos, directors and protocol experts who had written it. Nikita Khrushchev, the humble shepherd boy who grew up to play the starring role in the lurid melodrama known to the papers here as ‘The Hangman of Hungary’, retraced his spiritual ancestry and suddenly turned from the home-town boy made good into a frightening ‘baddie’.
He began, with amazing magnanimity, by greeting Spyros Skouras, the president of Twentieth Century-Fox, as ‘a friend and brother before Christ’. He ended by recalling again the futile invasion of his country by soldiers of America, France, Germany, Poland and Britain, by briefly catching himself in an apology for such a tasteless memoir, and then by swelling the veins in his neck in protest at the State Department’s denial of his wish to go down to Anaheim and make a tour of Disneyland…
The movie stars could not have been more uncomfortable if they had been sitting there in nothing but their mascara. Miss Monroe ventured that Mr Khrushchev’s speech ‘was interesting’. Winston Churchill could not have done it better.”
Timemagazine profiles Cold War Roadshow, an upcoming documentary about Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s historic visit to the US in 1959, on its website today – including footage of an evasive Marilyn being interviewed by reporters after a luncheon in Khrushchev’s honour at Twentieth Century-Fox.
Marilyn’s reluctance to comment may have been as a result of her husband Arthur Miller’s persecution by the rabidly anti-Communist House Un-American Activities Committee. Miller had been acquitted just a year before.
In 2010, it was announced that a dramatisation of Khrushchev’s trip would be produced for HBO, but this has yet to materialise. Cold War Roadshow will be broadcast on PBS in the US on November 18: a DVD is also available.
This mystery novel is a collaboration between Max Allan Collins (author of Bye Bye, Baby) and his wife, Barbara Collins. First published in 2004, Bombshellrelaunches today in ebook, paperback and audio CD formats.
“As escalating tensions threaten to turn the Cold War red hot, Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev embarks on a diplomatic tour of the US, requesting time with two American icons: Disneyland and Marilyn Monroe. The theme park poses too high a security risk, but Marilyn is more than happy to oblige. And as she puts America’s best face forward, Marilyn stumbles upon a sinister plot lurking behind the scenes. Certain parties would love to see both countries erupt in atomic war, and what better way to ensure Armageddon than by assassinating a high-ranking Russian official on American soil? But not on Marilyn’s watch…”
Marilyn’s encounter with Soviet president, Nikita Khrushchev, in 1959, is among the ‘memorable meetings’ described in Craig Brown‘s newly-published, anecdotal book, One on One.
Khrushchev’s American visit is the subject of another book, K Blows Top by Peter Carlson, of which a big-screen adaptation was mooted last year.
An excerpt from One on One is published in today’s Guardian, though it should be noted that Brown’s main source is Lena Pepitone‘s disputed memoir, Marilyn Monroe Confidential.
‘Another key 20th-century meeting between showbiz and politics came on 19 September 1959, when Marilyn Monroe met Nikita Khrushchev on his American tour. When Monroe was first invited to meet the Soviet premier, his name hadn’t rung a bell, and she had refused. But then her studio informed her that in Russia, America meant two things: Coca-Cola and Marilyn Monroe, and she changed her mind.
When the big day comes, Monroe tells her maid that the studio wants her to wear her tightest, sexiest dress. “I guess there’s not much sex in Russia,” she concludes.
Khrushchev is a far cry from the dour, stony-faced monoliths who are due to succeed him. He is shouty and quick-tempered and wonderfully undiplomatic, but sometimes erupts in laughter. “The fellow’s all over the dials,” says the New York Daily News, while the New York Mirror describes him as “a rural dolt”.
Over lunch with 400 stars and bigwigs at 20th Century Fox (Edward G Robinson, Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole, Gary Cooper and so on), Khrushchev is informed, in a note, that his spur-of-the-moment request for a tour of Disneyland has been turned down. He is furious, and his anger has not abated by the time he rises to reply to the speech of welcome from the president of 20th Century Fox. First, he berates the US for its lack of culture (“You do not even have a permanent opera and ballet theatre!”). Then the cancelled Disney tour bubbles up into his mind. “Just now, I was told that I could not go to Disneyland. I asked, ‘Why not? What is it? Do you have rocket-launching pads there? … Is there an epidemic of cholera there? Have gangsters taken hold of the place?'” He punches the air. “For me, such a situation is inconceivable. I cannot find words to explain this to my people.”
After lunch, he finally gets to meet Monroe in her low-cut, skin-tight black lace dress. All wide-eyed, Monroe delivers a line that Natalie Wood, a fluent Russian speaker, has taught her. “We the workers of 20th Century Fox rejoice that you have come to visit our studio and country.”
It seems to work like magic. Khrushchev cannot take his eyes off her. “He looked at me the way a man looks on a woman,” she recalls.
“You’re a very lovely young lady,” he says, squeezing her hand.
“This is about the biggest day in the history of the movie business,” Monroe tells the cameras. But when she gets home, she has changed her tune. “He was fat and ugly and had warts on his face and he growled,” she tells Lena, her maid. “He squeezed my hand so long and so hard that I thought he would break it. I guess it was better than having to kiss him.” ‘
Paul Giamatti will star in a new HBO movie, to be produced by Tom Hanks, about Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev’s trip to the US in 1959. Based on a 2009 book by Peter Carlson, K Blows Top is named after a New York Daily News headline, penned after the premier’s desired visit to Disneyland was unceremoniously cancelled.
Khrushchev may not have met Mickey Mouse, but he did go to Hollywood and was introduced to Marilyn Monroe at a star-studded luncheon at Twentieth Century Fox. Which has to be an improvement, don’t you think?
“The lunch over, Skouras led his new friend toward the soundstage where Can-Can was being filmed, stopping to greet various celebrities along the way. When Skouras spotted Marilyn Monroe in the crowd, he hastened to introduce her to the premier, who’d seen a huge close-up of her face—a clip from Some Like It Hot—in a film about American life at an American exhibition in Moscow. Now, Khrushchev shook her hand and looked her over.
‘You’re a very lovely young lady,’ he said, smiling.
Later, she would reveal what it was like to be eyeballed by the dictator: ‘He looked at me the way a man looks on a woman.’ At the time, she reacted to his stare by casually informing him that she was married.
‘My husband, Arthur Miller, sends you his greeting,’ she replied. ‘There should be more of this kind of thing. It would help both our countries understand each other.'”