Marilyn at Julien’s: In the Beginning

Goodman Basil Espy III, M.D. was “a true Southern gentleman.” He began collecting memorabilia for his beloved Georgia Tech, and sports in general. He was also a Marilyn Monroe fan, and his collection – which includes original photos and important documents plus key fashion items – enables us to review her life in a unique way. One of the auction’s four catalogues is devoted solely to Marilyn (you can order the entire set for $150 plus shipping here.)

Marilyn Southern Gentleman’s Collection will go under the hammer at Julien’s Auctions tomorrow, November 11. In the first of several posts, I look at items relating to Marilyn’s childhood and family background. (You can read all posts about this sale here.)

“An original print with a semi-gloss finish, depicting five young women in the 1920s standing in front of a Spanish-style building, Norma Jeane’s penciled annotation on the verso reading ‘Mother, second from End on Right / with her girl friends;’ also included are two other snapshots: another 1920s-era original print with a glossy finish, depicting Gladys Baker and two girlfriends, and a 1940s-era original print with a glossy finish, depicting a middle-aged Baker standing on a street in Reno, Nevada.” [Marilyn would later film The Misfits in Reno.]

“An original childhood snapshot with a glossy finish, depicting a six or seven year-old Norma Jeane crouching outside of someone’s house in rural-looking 1930s Los Angeles, a pre-printed decorative black border has an Olympic theme showing images of the Coliseum plus two bears displaying the initials ‘LA,’ thus seeming to date the photograph to 1932 or thereabouts. And sold separately, a set of two letters; the first a single page, now yellowed with age, typed, dated ‘December 4, 1935,’ sent to ‘Mrs. Dewey’ of the Los Angeles Orphans Home (later known as Hollygrove) by Grace Goddard, outlining how Goddard didn’t want Ida Bolender to see the 9 year-old Norma Jeane anymore ‘as her visits seem to upset the child,’ though Goddard does allow that many others can visit including ‘Elsie or Harvey Giffin, / Maude, George or Nell Atkinson, or her Aunt, Olive / Monroe, or Mrs. Martin, Olive’s Mother’ but poor Ida was banned; the second is a single page of letterhead from the Los Angeles Orphans Home Society, typed, dated ‘Dec. 6, 1935,’ Mrs. Dewey’s response to Goddard, reading in part ‘I’ll do as you request. We want to do all we can to / make Norma happy, and to please you’ — interesting documents illustrating some of the early childhood strife Norma Jeane went through.”

“A group of seven though only one is annotated, original prints with a glossy finish, taken circa 1942-1944, four show a small house at 6707 Odessa Avenue in Van Nuys, CA, and three show its interior; one has Norma Jeane’s penciled annotation on the verso reading ‘6707 Odessa Ave / Van Nuys, Calif. / Where I lived when I first / ment [sic] Jimmy’ [Dougherty, her first husband]. Interestingly, this house was owned by Ana Lower, the paternal aunt of Grace Goddard, Gladys Baker’s best friend and on-and-off guardian of the child Norma Jeane. Grace seemed to use this house of her aunt’s as a temporary crash pad from time to time, such as in the early 1940s when she moved there with her third husband, ‘Doc’ Goddard, his children (including Eleanor ‘Bebe’ Goddard), and a teen-aged Norma Jeane Baker.”

“A set of two snapshots taken circa 1942-1944; the first depicts Ana Lower [Grace Goddard’s paternal aunt and sometime guardian of the child Norma Jeane] in front of the house she owned at 6707 Odessa Avenue in Van Nuys, CA, with Norma Jeanes penciled annotation on the verso reading ‘Aunt Ana;’ the second depicts Ana standing next to four others, NJs penciled annotation on the verso reading Taken at Aunt Alices & Uncle / Arts wedding / Aunt Ana, John, U. Art, A. Alice, Opal — interesting to see that NJ did have a family growing up, albeit a non-blood one. And, sold separately, a single sheet of onion skin paper, no date but circa 1944, penciled on the front and back with a number of tenets and quotes about the Christian Science religion such as ‘Thank God I’m not a mortal; / living in a material world subject / to a material law; But I am / an Immortal living in a spiritual / world subject to a spiritual law’ and the like, ending with ‘He who gets much out of Christian Sciences / puts much into it’ and ‘Am going to make a book on good / thoughts and helpful things in C.S.;’ likely an assignment for the young Norma Jeane from her ‘aunt’ Ana Lower who was a strict practitioner of the religion as was Monroe’s mother, as much as she could be.”

“A two pager on plain stationery, penned in blue fountain pen ink on both sides, addressed to ‘Dear Norm,’ dated ‘May 25, 1942,’ sent to a 15 year-old Norma Jeane from Grace Goddard’s step-daughter, Eleanor ‘Bebe’ Goddard, who had just moved to Virginia; Bebe blathers on about mundane goings-on but does mention NJ’s pending nuptials ‘…I know / that you’ll be very happy. I hope the / first one is a boy,’ and interestingly, she does mention a number of people the two young girls both knew such as Grace [Goddard, NJ’s mother’s best friend and her on-and-off childhood guardian], Enid [Knebelkamp, Grace’s sister], Sam [Knebelkamp, Enid’s second husband], ‘Daddy’ [Ervin Silliman Goddard aka ‘Doc,’ Grace’s third husband], Mrs. Dougherty [Ethel, NJ’s soon to be mother-in-law], and others such as Mrs. Watson, Bub, Diane, and Pat, ending with ‘give the Doughertys our love / Love / Bebe’ — a sweet letter to an unknown teenager who would become world famous less than a decade later.”

“A 12 page booklet titled ‘Our Wedding Day‘ noting a 1938 copyright date, on page 7 someone filled in the blank spaces in blue fountain pen ink that related to the event, noting the details ‘Nineteenth / June / 1942 / James Edward Dougherty / of Van Nuys / Norma Jeane Mortenesor [sic] / of Westwood / 432 South Bentley, Westwood / California,’ three witnesses’ names are evident but only one is legible: ‘Marion C. Dougherty,’ brother of the groom, and coincidentally with the same first name as Norma Jeane’s maternal uncle. And sold separately, a snapshot depicting James Dougherty wearing sweats, inscribed in blue fountain pen ink on the verso by his then wife ‘Jimmie in his gym / clothes, also these are the / work clothes of the Physical / Training Instructors. This was / taken at the Catalina Ball / Park where he works.’ (Both items are water damaged.)”

A framed modelling photo of Norma Jeane by Andre De Dienes; and sold seperately, two love letters sent by Norma Jeane to Andre in 1946. The first is on a single page of stationery, no date but circa 1946, penciled on one side in full ‘Darling W.W. [Worry Wart, a nickname NJ gave to De Dienes], I’m writing today / I miss you. I love you with all / my heart and only you;’ and penned in blue fountain pen ink on the other in full ‘Dear Andre, / I’m not doing anything / much except just existing. / Darling there is absoltly [sic] / no one but you. Please / believe me. Absolutly [sic] / absolutely;’ most likely never sent as the then called Norma Jeane was figuring out how to spell the word ‘absolutely’ which she finally got on the last try. The second is penned in black and blue fountain pen ink, dated ‘June 4th, 1946‘ when Norma Jeane had just turned 20 years old, addressed to ‘My Dearest W.W.’ [Worry Wart – a nickname NJ gave to AD], reading in part ‘I’m so much in love with / you, Andre my darling…Don’t worry W.W. I’m being / a good girl. I wouldn’t for / the world be insincere toward / you… / all I / think about is Andre, Andre, / Andre. When will he ever get / here’ — a true love letter penned by a very smitten young girl,” seeming to prove De Dienes’ assertion that the two did indeed have a love affair.

Two telegrams and a love letter from Andre De Dienes, dated 1946-47; together with a snapshot of Norma Jeane and a man described as ‘possibly De Dienes’, but actually another photographer, Richard C. Miller. Sold separately, a 1946 model release form signed by Miller and Norma Jeane.

“A set of two letters from Jim Dougherty, then serving abroad in the Merchant Marines; the first on a single sheet of stationery, penned in blue fountain pen ink on both sides, dated ‘May 23, 1946,’ basically imploring his wife to write him, ending with ‘I get Mom’s letters O.K. but none / from you / …P.S. No Mail No Souvenirs,’ signed ‘Love / Jim;’ the second a birthday card probably from the same year as the letter, signed in black fountain pen ink ‘All my Love / Jimmie’ — little did poor Jimmie know he’d be divorced just four months later.”

Handwritten letter from Norma Jeane to her half-sister Berniece, undated but from 1943; photo of Berniece with her husband Paris included. And sold separately, a single piece of plain paper, no date but July 1946 by postmark, penned in black fountain pen ink, a newsy letter from Berniece Miracle, sent to Norma Jeane (though Berniece leaves off the final ‘e’), reading in part ‘Your picture was in / the paper…I’m so / proud of you’ and ‘I was sorry to hear / about you & Jimmie,’ ending with ‘Tell Grace & Doc “hello”;’ with its original transmittal envelope addressed to ‘Norma Jean Dougherty’ at her ‘11348 Nebraska Ave’ address in Los Angeles but also addressed to her temporary Las Vegas address where she was staying during her divorce proceedings from James Dougherty.”

“Two mysterious notes from Norma Jeane (or as she would soon be known, Marilyn), sold separately: firstly, a small gift card from Bullock’s Los Angeles, penned in black fountain pen ink, ‘Heres [sic] a little salt / for someone who is / “The salt of the earth” / Love, / Norma Jeane;’ included with its envelope but it’s not addressed so we’ll never know who NJ bought this gift for or what it was! By contrast, the second is a cryptic handwritten note, penciled on the front side ‘Do Not Call me / Neither on the Phone nor / in person do not want / to go into any explainations [sic] / this is absolutely final.’ — seems like she was breaking it off with some overzealous suitor, but who was it?”

Four books, including three purchased in ‘an obscure Butterfield’s auction’, described as belonging to Norma Jeane and possibly passed on by family members: “1) Hammond’s Handy Atlas of the World by C.S. Hammond & Company, printed in 1933, signed in pencil on the front free end page ‘Hollywood, Cal. / Columbia Studio / Grace McKee / Dec. 29th 1933;’ 2) The Female Impersonators by Ralph Werther, printed in 1922, signed in green fountain pen ink on the front free end paper ‘Property of / John G. Eley M.D. / Fellow College of Phys / Physo-Gyn-Diseases;’ 3) Male and Female by Jack Woodford, printed in 1946; and 4) Illegitimate by Jack Woodford, printed in 1946, with dust jacket.” [John Eley was the bigamous third husband of Norma Jeane’s mother Gladys.]

“A group of eight pieces given to Norma Jeane during her childhood by her beloved guardian. ‘Aunt Ana’ Lower including: 1) a partial two page letter penned by Lower in blue fountain pen ink to ‘My darling,’ dated ‘June 1st 1947’ [NJ’s 21st birthday], reading in part ‘A girl needs a father, mine / was never a help, so you and / I are alike in that respect,’ last pages now missing; 2) a single sheet of paper with notes penciled by Grace Goddard [Lower’s niece] about the history of her friend’s [Gladys Baker, though she’s never mentioned] mental breakdowns from 1935 to the early 1950s; 3) a prayer card inscribed on the verso by Lower in blue fountain pen ink ‘To Norma Jeane / With love / Aunt Ana / June 10, 1940;’ 4) a 1947 Christian Science pamphlet; 5) a 1947 schedule for a Christian Science meeting; 6) two pages removed from a prayer book; 7) two of Ana Lower’s business cards plus an envelope flap printed with her name and famous address of ‘11348 Nebraska Avenue / West Los Angeles, 25, California;’ and 8) a 1943 newspaper clipping about Mary Pickford adopting a son. And sold separately, a letter from Gladys Baker, dated ‘May 30, 1948,’ addressed to ‘Grace and all’ [Goddard, Gladys’ best friend and Norma Jeane’s on-and-off guardian], a newsy yet somewhat sad letter written to her old friend, Gladys references how she’s in debt for the first time in her life and how she hates it, she further writes ‘…why didn’t / you let me know of / Aunt Ana’s passing away? / Didn’t you have my address? / Or what?!’, and then she briefly mentions her daughter as an afterthought (even though NJ’s 22nd birthday was just two days away) with ‘By the way how is / Norma Jeane getting / along(?)’ Gladys oddly signs off as ‘Gladys V. Baker’ as if Grace wouldn’t know who she was if she had just written her first name; included with its original transmittal envelope addressed to Grace at her Van Nuys address and coincidentally with a postmark of ‘June 1, 1948.'”

“A single page of small lined notebook paper, with penciled scribblings by Marilyn, reading in full ‘We can only / merge spiritually / never physically – no matter / contact your partner / focus your look / your thought on the partner;’ evidently some musings on her religion; also included is a small black and white cheesecake photograph of MM.”

“A small group of seven items all sent to Norma Jeane/Marilyn ranging in date from the mid-1940s to about 1952, though sadly all are severely water damaged; including: 1) a two page letter handwritten in blue fountain pen ink from her half-sister Berniece Miracle; 2) a birthday card also from her sister; 3) a black and white snapshot of Berniece and her daughter, Mona Rae; 4) a black and white snapshot of Berniece and her husband, Paris Miracle; 5) a black and white snapshot of a good-looking young man; 6) a completely damaged black and white snapshot with a partial inscription on the verso reading in part ‘Bill;’ and 7) an early 1947 fan letter sent to MM at 20th Century Fox from someone in Italy.”

Marilyn at Julien’s: A Life In Pictures

Property From The Life and Career of Marilyn Monroe, coming to Julien’s on November 1, features images from all stages of her life, starting with David Conover, the photographer who first discovered Norma Jeane Dougherty in 1945. (You can read all my posts on the sale here.)

Photo sets SOLD for $256 and $384, respectively

Norma Jeane poses here with another of her early photographers, Joseph Jasgur (includes his later inscription to a fan.)

SOLD for $1,024

“Original pages from Andre de Dienes’ manuscript that were used 17 years later to create Hollywood, the small soft cover book (with the black elastic band) included with the Taschen box set, Marilyn; approximately 180 pages, the document is typed with De Dienes’ black fountain pen, felt-tip, or ballpoint ink annotations throughout, exactly as they appeared in the miniaturized version that was released to the public; of particular interest are all the original print black and white photographs of Monroe that De Dienes glued to these pages as well as magazine cut-outs and other photographs he used to ‘decorate’ his manuscript; his black ink credit stamps can be seen on the versos of most of the photographs if the pages are held up to the light; frustratingly, the document starts with page 157 (just like the black booklet does) as this was all that was found after De Dienes’ death in 1985.”

SOLD for $3,200

“A standard design parasol made of crème-colored nylon with a wooden hook handle; used by the then-called Norma Jeane in 1949 when Andre De Dienes took photographs of her at Jones Beach and at Tobey Beach on Long Island in New York; saved by the photographer for the rest of his life.”

Parasol SOLD for $21,875; photo SOLD for $640

Selected photos by Andre De Dienes.

SOLD for $1,152 each

A candid snapshot of Marilyn holding a cocker spaniel on the Fox parking lot during her 1953 photo shoot with Alfred Eisenstadt for LIFE magazine.

Photo set SOLD for $896

“A collection of 6 color transparencies and 7 black and white negatives, all originals, all depicting Marilyn wearing her red bathing suit from the 1953 20th Century Fox film, How to Marry a Millionaire; shot at Harold Lloyd’s ‘Greenacres’ Beverly Hills home by the Air Force photographer Harold Davidson, who was likely working on the odd PSA commercial Marilyn filmed there where she purrs ‘I hate a careless man.'”

SOLD for $5,000

Framed print from Marilyn’s 1956 ‘Black Sitting‘ with photographer Milton Greene.

SOLD for $768

“An original Cecil Beaton print with a matte finish, depicting Marilyn in 1956 as she lays against a Japanese print holding a flower, mounted to a mat board which is signed by Beaton in red pencil in the lower right corner … according to MM lore, this was her favorite photograph …”

SOLD for $3,437.50

And finally, selected photos by Bert Stern and George Barris.

Stern photos SOLD for $7,500 and $1.920; Barris photos SOLD for $1,250, $768, and $896.

How Norma Jeane Inspired ‘Blonde’

Norma Jeane visiting her half-sister Berniece (centre) in 1944

With the Netflix adaptation of Blonde now in production, Joyce Carol Oates tells Crime Reads that it was originally conceived on a more modest scale – and while this epic novel has its admirers, others may wish it had stayed that way. (The photo above shows Norma Jeane aged 18. Oates was inspired by a picture of her at 16, but doesn’t say which one. As there aren’t many photos of Norma Jeane at 16 apart from her wedding portraits, I’ve chosen this one as it seems to capture the wholesome quality that first caught Oates’ eye.)

“I saw a very touching photograph of Norma Jeane Baker taken when she was 16—brunette, pretty but not glamorous, very sweet & hopeful—looking—not unlike my mother & girls with whom I went to school many years ago. Girls whose great hope was to be loved—married, & to have children. I felt such sympathy for her, who would be dead in twenty years, as an American ‘icon’—who made millions of dollars for others (men) but not so much for herself. The project began as a short novel, a post-Modernist ironic tragedy that would end with Norma Jeane’s new name: ‘Marilyn Monroe.’ But when I came to this ending, I saw that the great story lay ahead—& reconstituted the material as an epic, with many sub-themes that allowed me to explore obsessions of the era, particularly Cold War politics.”

House Passes Marilyn’s Post Office Bill

Norma Jeane by Bruno Bernard, 1946

Plans to name a Van Nuys Boulevard office after Marilyn, proposed by local representative Tony Cardenas, were approved by the House this week. The bill, which also requests for another post office to be named after musician Ritchie Valens, will now go to the Senate for further consideration. (The young Norma Jeane Baker lived in Van Nuys with her legal guardian, Grace Goddard. She was a student at Van Nuys High School, and later returned to the area with her first husband, Jim Dougherty.)

“Marilyn Monroe was born in Los Angeles, California and grew up in Van Nuys and attended Van Nuys High school. She grew up poor and bounced around orphanages as a child. Back then, the chances of a poor woman like Marilyn Monroe becoming a national success and musical legend was nearly impossible.

But she beat the odds.

Despite her turbulent childhood, Marilyn Monroe found stability and joy while living in Van Nuys. Her hard work and perseverance led her to become a timeless internationally recognized icon. In a world where many believe wealth, status, or name determines one’s destiny, Marilyn Monroe’s story defies the odds and inspires many others to believe they too can also achieve similar success.

She showed us that dreaming big and working hard means something in America. She went off to become an artistic trailblazer starring in her own movies and setting records during her singing career.”

Van Nuys News Press

Norma Jeane and the Drone Wars

Marilyn makes a surprise appearance in today’s edition of the left-wing newspaper, the Morning Star, as Miles Ellingham traces the history of drone warfare. It is illustrated with David Conover’s 1945 photo of the 19 year-old Norma Jeane at work in a munitions plant, which led her to pursue a modelling career as World War II came to an end. (Although Marilyn remained deeply patriotic and supported US troops during the Korean War, in later years she would join the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy and told a journalist, ‘My nightmare is the H-Bomb. What’s yours?’)

“The idea of a drone, or telechiric machine, was initially floated as a way of exploring inhospitable zones, and it wasn’t until the second world war that a militarised drone was considered, with the aim of minimising human involvement in warfare.

First came ‘target drones,’ small remote-controlled planes for US artillery target practice. But it wasn’t long before the military-industrial complex thought to weaponise the concept and set thousands of factory workers to construct them. One of these workers was a girl by the name of Norma Jeane Dougherty, who had her first break in a photo for the Radioplane Company, launching an acting career as Marilyn Monroe.”

UPDATE: My response to the article is published in The Morning Star today.

‘Blonde’ Finds its Norma Jeane (and Maybe JFK)

More casting news for Netflix’s Blonde has been announced by the Hollywood Reporter, with Danish actor Caspar Phillipson likely to reprise his turn as President John F. Kennedy in Jackie, and child actress Lily Fisher as the young Norma Jeane. (As previously reported here, Adrien Brody and Bobby Cannavale will play Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio.)

“As previously announced, Ana de Armas will play the Some Like It Hot actress, leading a cast that will include Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale and Julianne Nicholson.

Jackie actor Caspar Phillipson, Toby Huss, Sara Paxton and David Warshofsky will also appear in the feature, along with Lily Fisher (General Hospital), Evan Williams (Versailles) and Xavier Samuel (Adore).

The Assassination of Jesse James’ Andrew Dominik wrote and will direct the movie. 

Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner are producing for Plan B, along with Tracey Landon and Scott Robertson.”


Ana de Armas on the set of Blonde this week

Marilyn’s Autograph and Costumes in ‘Yours Retro’

Marilyn is featured twice in the latest issue of UK nostalgia magazine Yours Retro (with Elizabeth Taylor gracing the cover.) Firstly, a portrait of the young Norma Jeane (signed ‘to my dear sister,’ Berniece Miracle), in a feature about autograph hunters; this article also mentions the sale of a baseball signed by Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio for almost $60,000 in 2011 (see here.) Secondly, Marilyn’s so-called ‘snake costume’, designed by Travilla for Bus Stop and seen again on Leslie Caron in The Man Who Understood Women (1959), in the regular Film Buff column.

All About Eve features in a spread about ‘Oscar’s First Ladies.’ And the rise to fame of Diana Dors, labelled ‘Britain’s answer to MM’, is also profiled in this issue – but the comparison is unfair to both women, whose talents were on a par yet very different.

Georgie Currie’s Ode to ‘Norma Jean’

Norma Jean‘ is one of six tracks on Flowers For Your Worst Days, the debut EP from Australian folk singer Georgie Currie, released today, as Augustus Welby reports for the Beat website.

“The lyrics in ‘Norma Jean’ are cleverly layered. Initially it seems like a love letter to the woman Norma Jean, who you could interpret as Marilyn Monroe or a metaphor for a media-approved beautiful woman. But the second line of the chorus is a watershed moment, as Currie sings: ‘Norma Jean, she’s so much easier to love than me.’

‘I think I used the story of Marilyn Monroe as a bit more of a channel of how I was feeling at the time, which was not feeling like you ever really measure up compared to what you perceive to be all these beautiful people around you.'” 

Jazz DJ and Van Nuys Alumni Chuck Cecil Dies at 97

According to the Syncopated Times, the jazz radio DJ Chuck Cecil – who has died aged 97 – was a contemporary of Norma Jeane Baker. He was a student at Van Nuys High School, where his fellow alumni included Norma Jeane (who attended from September 1941 – February 1942, before moving on to University Senior High.) Marilyn’s future co-star, Jane Russell, and her first husband, Jim Dougherty, were also students. Five years older than Norma Jeane, they once appeared together in a school play.

Jim Dougherty and Norma Jeane

Moreover, the article states that Chuck Cecil attended Jim’s wedding to Norma Jeane in June 1942. Although he’s not usually mentioned among the guests at the intimate ceremony, it’s possible that Chuck may have joined them for their reception at the Florentine Gardens Restaurant. As Chuck was around the same age as Jim, he may have known the groom better than the bride.

On the cusp of stardom, Marilyn revisited her ‘alma mater’ (in reality, one of many) and was photographed chatting with students in 1951.