2014: A Year in Marilyn Headlines

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In January, Newsweek published a special issue, Marilyn Monroe: The Lost Scrapbook. Photographer Larry Schiller claimed to own a scrapbook given to Sam Shaw by Marilyn, though expert readers noted the handwriting was dissimilar to her usual style.

Also this month, Unclaimed Baggage – a documentary about ‘the unclaimed trunk of MM‘ – was screened on European television, and George Jacobs, valet to Frank Sinatra, died aged 87.

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In February, Life published The Loves of Marilyn, another magazine special with text by J.I. Baker (author of a conspiracy novel, The Empty Glass.) Many fans were surprised to see the widely discredited Robert Slatzer listed among Marilyn’s alleged paramours. It has since been republished in hardback.

Also this month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences acquired an archive of 58,000 pictures by press photographer Nat Dallinger. His photos of Marilyn at the Let’s Make Love press conference were featured in the Hollywood Reporter. And archive footage of Marilyn was featured in Bob Dylan’s Chrysler ad, screened during America’s Superbowl.

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In March, Icon: the Life Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe – Volume I, 1926-1956 was publishedMarilyn also graced the cover of Julien’s 90210 Spring Auction catalogue, and was the subject of another magazine special, part of the ‘Etoiles du Cinema‘ series in France.

Stanley Rubin, producer of River of No Return, died aged 96, and William Carroll, one of the first photographers to work with Marilyn, also passed away. Bob Thomas, the veteran Hollywood columnist who reported Joan Crawford’s verbal attack on Marilyn back in 1953, died aged 92.

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Playboy re-released its very first issue – with Marilyn as its cover girl and centrefold – in April, as part of an ongoing celebration of the magazine’s 60th anniversary. And a collection of Elia Kazan’s private correspondence – including a 1955 letter to his wife, Molly, regarding his prior relationship with Marilyn – was also published.

Also in April, Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney (Marilyn’s co-star in The Fireball) died aged 93. And Pharrell Williams released his hit single, ‘Marilyn Monroe’.

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In May, make-up artist Marie Irvine shared her memories of Marilyn with readers of the Daily Mail. AmfAR, the world’s leading charity for AIDS research, held a ‘Red Marilyn’-themed fundraising ball during the Cannes Film Festival.

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June 1st marked what would have been Marilyn’s 88th birthday. Also in June, actor Eli Wallach, Marilyn’s friend and co-star, died aged 98. An archive of ‘lost’ Milton Greene photos was auctioned in Poland, and a revised, updated edition of Carl Rollyson’s MM: A Life of the Actress was published.

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In July, Some Like it Hot was re-released in UK cinemas, winning a 5-star review in The Guardian. Sadly, several people with connections to Marilyn passed away in July, including psychic Kenny Kingston, journalist Robert Stein, and actors James Garner and Elaine Stritch. Meanwhile one of Marilyn’s old haunts – the Racquet Club in Palm Springs – was engulfed by fire.

August marked the 52nd anniversary of Marilyn’s death, with a live stream of the annual memorial service in Los Angeles. Also this month,  Lauren Bacall, Marilyn’s co-star in How to Marry a Millionaire, died aged 89; and Tom Tierney, ‘Marilyn’s paper doll artist’, also passed away.

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In September, Newsweek published a cover feature exposing the many inaccuracies in C. David Heymann’s posthumously-released Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love. And TV Guide released a special issue dedicated to Marilyn, part of their ‘American Icons’ series.

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Several rare photos of Marilyn were featured in Profiles in History’s Hollywood Auction 65 catalogue, while Britain’s Daily Express published a special supplement about Marilyn’s tragic death, as part of a ‘Historic Front Pages’ series.

Also this month, self-confessed ‘Marilyn Geek’ Melinda Mason launched a new exhibition at the Wellington County Museum in Ontario, Canada; and the chameleon-like actor John Malkovich posed as Marilyn for photographer Sandro Miller.

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In October,  A retrospective of photographer Nickolas Muray opened in Genoa, Italy. Carl Rollyson’s latest book, Marilyn Monroe Day by Day, was published.

A rather sensationalised documentary about Marilyn’s mysterious death – Marilyn: Missing Evidence – was broadcast in the UK. Her death was also the subject of a cover feature in the US magazine, Closer.

Also this month, Kelli Garner was cast as Marilyn in Lifetime’s upcoming mini-series, The Secret Life of MM.

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In November, Gary Vitacco-Robles’ Icon: The Life, Times and Films of MM – Volume II, 1956-1962 and Beyond was published, earning a rave review from columnist Liz Smith. Fansite Immortal Marilyn published a series of myth-busting articles at Buzzfeed. And Anna Strasberg, current owner of Marilyn’s estate, lost a lawsuit against Profiles in History, regarding a so-called ‘letter of despair‘ from Marilyn to Lee Strasberg.

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In December, items from ‘the lost archive of Marilyn Monroe‘ sold for high prices at Julien’s Auctions. Marilyn graced the cover of Esquire‘s Colombian edition, and a new CD boxset, Diamonds, was released. Finally, photographer Phil Stern died aged 95.

Susan Sarandon Cast as Gladys in ‘Secret Life’

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Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon will play Gladys Baker, Marilyn’s ill-fated mother, in Lifetime’s upcoming adaptation of J. Randy Taraborrelli’s The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, according to the Hollywood Reporter. It is set to be filmed in Ontario and Los Angeles, reported GlobalNews.ca earlier this week.

Taraborrelli focused heavily on Marilyn’s relationship with Gladys, although some of his claims have been disputed (more details here.) Gladys was previously played by Sheree North (in the 1980 TV movie, Marilyn: An Untold Story) and Patricia Richardson (in Blonde, the 2001 mini-series based on an eponymous novel by Joyce Carol Oates.) As Gladys was only 24 when Marilyn was born, I would hope that Sarandon – now 68 – will be playing her in later life.

Finally, there are two major errors in Secret Life‘s synopsis: firstly, Gladys’s mother did not commit suicide; and secondly, Marilyn’s first marriage did not end because she was frigid. She divorced her husband because he disapproved of her career.

“Sarandon will portray the blonde bombshell’s mentally ill mother, Gladys Mortenson. The character is described as a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, who is the product of a mother who committed suicide as a result of her own mental illness, and a father who died of syphilitic insanity. Frequently delusional, sometimes violent, Gladys sexually adventurous in her youth but taught her daughter that sex should be avoided at all costs. Deeply devoted to Christian Science, she urges Marilyn to reject her reliance on drugs and that her salvation will be achieved by returning to the tenets of the faith. (The role of Monroe has not yet been cast.)

24 and The Kennedys‘ Stephen Kronish is on board to pen the mini, with Sherrybaby‘s Laurie Collyer attached to direct the Marilyn Monroe entry.

Here’s Lifetime’s official description of the mini: ‘Marilyn is both the personification of sex, whose first marriage ironically collapses because of her frigidity, and a fragile artist who seeks the approval and protection of men.  But after tumultuous marriages with Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, she realizes she has the strength to stand on her own. She becomes the face and voice of an era, yet wants most of all to be someone’s mother and someone’s little girl. She’s the Marilyn you haven’t seen before, the artist who, by masking the truth with an image, gives her greatest performance.'”

Meeting George Zimbel

Melinda Mason’s account of meeting George Zimbel – one of the photographers who covered the famous ‘subway scene’ shoot from The Seven Year Itch – last week at the ongoing Marilyn exhibit at the McMichael, Ontario, is posted at The MMM Blog.

‘Marilyn in Canada’ Exhibit

Marilyn visited Canada at least three times: as 18 year-old Norma Jeane Dougherty, in 1944; and while filming two of her movies, Niagara (1952) and River of No Return (made in 1953, released ’54.)

In February 2011, the touring Marilyn Monroe: Life as a Legend exhibit arrives in Ontario. The McMichael Canadian Art Collection are also curating ‘Marilyn in Canada’, featuring photos by John Vachon and George S. Zimbel (taken in New York City during filming of The Seven Year Itch), as well as contemporary Canadian art inspired by Marilyn.

During the long ‘Family Weekend’ of February 19-21, the exhibition opens with guided tours, films and music along with special programming every day based on these shows.

I hope that photographer Jock Carroll, whose book, Falling for Marilyn, chronicled her time in Niagara, will also be featured.