The Days of Marilyn’s Years … at Julien’s

An online entertainment sale, featuring 78 Marilyn-related lots, is set for August 19 at Julien’s Auctions. In addition to photos by Andre de Dienes, Bert Stern and George Barris, and an original nude calendar from 1955, there are also numerous documents from her personal files which shed new light on her life and career. Here are some selected highlights:

“A counter check written entirely in Monroe’s hand in black ink dated February 26, 1952, and paid to Dr. A. Gottesman, in the amount of $160. The check is drawn on Monroe’s Bank of America account. Monroe lists her address as the Beverly Carlton Hotel. Gottesman was a psychoanalyst Marilyn started seeing in the early 1950s. “

A card to Marilyn postmarked December 19, 1954, from Academy Award winning actor Charles Coburn.

“A colorful birthday card sent to Marilyn for her 30th birthday by business manager and friend Inez Melson. In her message Melson acknowledges she’s been informed that Marilyn has transitioned the responsibility for the care of her mother Gladys away from Inez. Melson’s handwritten message reads, ‘Dearest Marilyn, This little card not only wishes you a Happy Birthday, but says “au-revoir.” I say this because Mr. [Irving] Stein was in this morning and told me of the new arrangement with the Arthur Jacobs Company with respect to taking care of all matters relating to Mrs. Eley. I am truly sorry, dear one, but you know you can always call upon me if you should ever need me. With fondest love, always, Inez.’ The original transmittal envelope is included. Melson managed Marilyn’s finances and business affairs throughout the early portion of Marilyn’s career. Interestingly, Melson ended up becoming the executrix of Marilyn’s estate after her death, which included ensuring the care of Marilyn’s mother who passed away in 1984. Inez passed away in 1985.”

“A September 8, 1956 letter to Marilyn from Mary Lee Fairbank reading in part, ‘We’ve just got back and looking forward to having you both for dinner – what night? How many? Who particularly do you want to meet – political, (undecipherable), fluff, philosophical, scientifical (sic).’ The original envelope, also included, is addressed to Mrs. Arthur Miller, Parkside House, Englefield Green, Surrey, where Marilyn and husband Arthur Miller stayed for four months while filming The Prince and the Showgirl.” [Possibly from Mary Lee Fairbanks, who married actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in 1939.]

“An April 2, 1957 letter to Marilyn from Margaret Hohenberg, M.D., reading, ‘I am sending you your file for the sessions you had during March. I hope you are getting along in your new analysis, yet I want to repeat what I said last time over the phone: Whenever and for whatever reason you may want to see me again – you will be always welcome.’ Hohenberg was Marilyn’s psychoanalyst from 1955 through early 1957.”

“An original program for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof from its run at the Erlanger Theatre in Chicago, IL for the week of July 7, 1957 signed by American character actor and producer/director Delos Smith. On the cover, Smith wrote, ‘How sweet of you to ask my autograph! We are closing Saturday, then I go to Kansas for two weeks on income taxes, then back to N.Y. Read page 13. Love, Delos.'”

Telegrams with well wishes from fans, all sent to Marilyn
in August 1957 at Doctors Hospital in New York, where she was recovering from an ectopic pregnancy.

“An August 21, 1957 letter from [theatre director] John Gerstad. The letter reads, ‘Dear Miss Monroe, Arnold Schulman introduced us in Sardi’s quite a few months ago. Arnold figured that since I had directed The Seven Year Itch for Broadway and you had made the picture that we should meet. This is just to tell you how much I enjoyed your picture The Prince and the Showgirl, particularly your fetching performance. I hope this note finds you in good health. Sincerely yours, John Gerstad.’ Also included, a carbon copy of a December 5, 1957 letter sent to Gerstad from Marilyn, reading, ‘I am sorry it took so long to answer your note. It was very nice of you to write telling me that you enjoyed my performance in The Prince and the Showgirl. Thank you for your kindness. Warmest regards. Sincerely …'”

A November 13, 1957 handwritten letter to Marilyn from Stefan Lorant, which reads, ‘I have sent you the picture in which Lincoln looks like your husband. I hope you like it. It was so good to meet you at Amagansett. With kindest regards to you and your husband, Stefan Lorant.’ Lorant is referred to as a pioneering Hungarian-American filmmaker, photojournalist, and author. Included is a carbon copy of the response letter dated December 4, 1957 reading, ‘I am so happy with the picture you sent me of Lincoln. It was kind of you to remember. My husband loves it a much as I do, and we both feel it is probably one of the best of the Lincoln portraits. Thank you again for your thoughtfulness. Perhaps we will be seeing you again soon. We haven’t seen Mary Bass since the summer but we hope to. With kindest regards from my husband and myself.’ Mary Bass was the executive editor of Ladies’ Home Journal.”

“A small notecard dated November 13, 1957 with a very unusual message. The card reads, ‘Please forgive this extreme personal intrusion: It is my utmost desire to learn if you were adopted from an Iowa orphanage around 1935. I am looking for a browneyed (sic) sister formerly named Geraldine. Sincerely, Ruth Webb.’ Included is a carbon copy of the response letter dated December 5, 1957 reading in part, ‘For your information, I am not the person you describe, as I have never even been in Iowa. I hope you will find the person you are looking for.’ Interestingly, Marilyn herself signed the original letter, and not a secretary as was the case for a great deal of Marilyn’s correspondence.”

“A July 16, 1958 letter to Marilyn from Dr. Eugen Grabscheid that reads in part, ‘I am sorry to hear that the complaints after your flight have increased. I am very sure that everything will come out all right as long as the treatment is not overdone.’ This letter is likely referencing Marilyn’s flight from New York to Los Angeles on July 7, to meet with director Billy Wilder about Some Like it Hot.”

“A carbon copy of an October 21, 1958 letter to Marilyn from Rex Taylor in reference to Marilyn’s interest in painting. The letter reads in part, ‘I just talked with Jon Whitcomb who tells me you are quite interested in painting. He also tells me that you would like too (sic) take the Famous Artists Painting Course. At Jon’s request we are making you a scholarship student but I am at a loss as to where to forward the textbooks since, as I understand it, you will be in Hollywood for sometime (sic) before returning to New York City,’ and ‘I thought you might be interested in seeing a recent story on the army of Hollywood painters.’ Included with the letter is a reprint of a story referencing film stars taking up painting with a picture of Tony Curtis featured.” (Marilyn did subsequently take this course, and some of her artwork survives – more info here.)

“A small notecard originally affixed to a floral arrangement with a personal message from Oscar winning American actress Eva Marie Saint and her husband American television director and producer Jeffrey Hayden. The notecard reads, ‘We are so happy about the beautiful news. Best Wishes.’ The greetings are likely in response to the news that Marilyn and husband Arthur Miller were expecting a child. Sadly Marilyn miscarried in December, 1958. Also included, the original carbon copy response letter from Marilyn to the couple reading, ‘Thank you so very much for the beautiful flowers and the good wishes. My best to you both.'”

“A July 23, 1959 letter to Marilyn from Mrs. Frank Klein, regarding an article her daughter had written for speech and drama class during her freshman year in high school. The assignment was to write about the voice of a well-known personality. The typed article, also included with this lot, reads in part, ‘Marilyn Monroe’s voice is high-pitched and soft-toned. Her manner of speaking is breathless and rapid. Her voice has an appealing little girl quality. It convey’s (sic) Miss Monroe’s screen personality, the only one with which I am familiar, to perfection.'”

More fan mail, including a torn-up 1958 letter from Phil D’Agostino, asking Marilyn to send two signed photos daily for 2 months; a small photo sent by Myrna E. Phaire, who also gave Marilyn artwork previously sold at Julien’s; and an unsigned drawing.

“A Western Union telegram from publicist Pat Newcomb, addressed to Marilyn at her 444 East 57th Street, New York apartment, dated April 16, 1961 reading, ‘Hey friend. You know I knew even before and that I understand, but please call me today. I want to talk to you. Love, Pat.’ It’s unclear what this telegram is referencing. A number of events were occurring in Marilyn’s life at this time. Just five days prior to the date of this telegram Marilyn attended an opening day baseball game at Yankee Stadium with former husband Joe DiMaggio. They’d been on vacation together in Florida just weeks prior. In early March Marilyn was released from Columbia Presbyterian hospital. On March 7, Marilyn attended the funeral for August Miller, the mother of third husband Arthur. “

“A greeting card from Rupert Allan, who handled Marilyn’s publicity and press inquiries for several years. The card’s message from Allan reads in part, ‘I am already much better after a day in the sun: none of the pressures of the office, and the fabulous mineral waters and whirlpool bath treatment for my pinched nerve. It is so hot and relaxing.’ Included is the original transmittal envelope date stamped May 4, 1961.”

“A small red gift tag with an attached red ribbon. The tag reads, ‘Happy Christmas, 1961,’ and ‘George Cukor,’ written in silver ink in Cukor’s own hand. Interestingly, research indicates that Cukor agreed to direct Something’s Got to Give in November of 1961, and this card was likely attached to a Christmas gift he gave to Marilyn considering they’d soon be working together again.”

“A small notecard, presumably originally affixed to a floral arrangement due to its size and artwork, with a personal message from two-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters. The card reads, ‘All your fellow students from the Actors Studio California branch at the moment thinking of you.’ The card is signed, ‘Shelley W.'” [UNDATED]

“A small notecard with embossed letters reading ‘WADLEY & SMYTHE, NEW YORK.’ The handwritten note on the card reads, ‘May the days of your years be gentle always. Sincerely, Joan Blondell.’ A comparison of Blondell’s known autograph resembles the signature on the card, indicating it’s very likely she wrote the note herself. Blondel starred in more than 100 productions both in film and television, her most notable being her performance in the 1951 film The Blue Veil, for which she received an Academy Award nomination. Younger generations will recognize her as Vi, one of the waitresses at the Frosty Palace in the 1978 cult classic, Grease. [UNDATED]

“An oversized birthday card with an image of Marilyn on the cover together with an image of Brigitte Bardot. The card’s cover reads, ‘Brigitte Bardot or Marilyn Monroe.’ The message inside offers the bearer a night with Bardot or Monroe for $2.00 with the coupon printed in the card. A handwritten message on the card’s inside cover reads, ‘Tell M.M.M. I’ve saved up $1.62 already yet. Love, Del’ under a greeting that reads, ‘For your Birthday.’ An interesting yet crass greeting card featuring Marilyn herself (and likely without her approval) sent to the film star by a fan. [UNDATED]

UPDATE: The nude calendar, and check to Dr. Gottesman were the biggest sellers among the Marilyn-related lots – more details here.

Donald Zec Turns 100 (And Remembers Marilyn)

As entertainment writer for the Daily Mirror, Donald Zec was the British equivalent of US columnists Sidney Skolsky and Earl Wilson, and he is seen here sharing a joke with Marilyn at Parkside House in Egham, Surrey after she flew into London on July 13, 1956 to begin filming The Prince and the Showgirl.  They had met a few months before, on a flight to Phoenix, Arizona where Marilyn would film the rodeo scene in Bus Stop. (You can read about their airborne chat here.)

By the time Marilyn came to England, Marilyn had married Arthur Miller and with an independent production deal for The Prince and the Showgirl, she was about to lock horns with her esteemed director and co-star, Sir Laurence Olivier. Finding her standoffish, the British press soon took his side and she would doubtless have been glad to see a friendly face.

After recently attending Donald Zec’s 100th birthday party, author Howard Jacobson has paid tribute in an essay for the Jewish magazine, Tablet – recounting his boyhood idol’s show-business exploits, including the story behind his photo opportunity with Marilyn.

“For a while I had a page from the Daily Mirror pinned above my bed. It showed Donald Zec and Marilyn Monroe standing so close they could have been secretly holding hands. She was throwing her head back in appreciation of something he’d told her. A Jewish joke was my guess. Rabbi walks into a bar. But nothing suggestive. Jews didn’t do suggestive. Not English Jews, anyway. And Marilyn’s mirth had a clear innocence about it. As did my passion for Donald Zec. But it alarmed my father. Why him? ‘He knows how to make Marilyn Monroe laugh,’ I explained. ‘Joe DiMaggio made her go hot all over; Arthur Miller made her read the Oxford English Dictionary from cover to cover; only Donald Zec makes her laugh.’

I have said that he had just become a widower when we met. Dancing cheek to cheek with Hollywood beauties notwithstanding, his marriage had been by all accounts spectacularly successful. So he was suffering the cruel heartbreak that a happy marriage has in store for us. I never heard a man speak more reverently of his wife. And yet he could make sublime comedy out of his grief. This was the opposite of disrespect. He knew that if you are to bring the whole range of your emotions to remembering and describing love, then laughter is as important as sorrow.

‘So anyway, Marilyn …’ I said to him once. He shook his head. Nothing doing. ‘It touches me to think you remained such a good Jewish boy all those years,’ I said. This time he put a hand on mine. ‘Let’s not make a nebbish of me altogether,’ he said. Make what you will of that. Every heart, as D.H. Lawrence wrote, has its secrets.

He did not intend to give speeches at his 100th birthday, then ended up giving three. He has the fluency a man a quarter of his age would kill for. His comic timing is still perfect. But there is a weight in his words that wasn’t there in 1955. The weight of grief; of experience touched by love. If you didn’t know how he’d earned his living you’d guess teaching philosophy at Oxford, not making Marilyn laugh in Beverly Hills.

To Marilyn, the last word. Never really grasping that London and Hollywood were in different time zones, she would ring up at some crazy hour. Donald told me of his phone going off in his London apartment in the middle of the night. His wife would take the phone and in the sweetest tone of understanding pass the receiver over to Donald. ‘It’s Marilyn for you,’ she’d say.

I hear that and all my old envious idolatry returns. I can’t decide which I covet most, the age he has reached while still accumulating accomplishments, or the fact that Marilyn Monroe rang him in his bed.”

Larry Burrows’ Marilyn: From London to New York

This photograph, showing Marilyn at a press conference with Sir Laurence Olivier and Arthur Miller at the Savoy Hotel after her arrival in London in July 1956,  is featured in a new exhibition, Larry Burrows Revisited, at the Laurence Miller Gallery in New York until June 29, the Guardian reports.

Larry Burrows (1926-1971) worked for LIFE magazine’s London bureau, and his other subjects included Brigitte Bardot and John F. Kennedy. He later covered the Vietnam War, and would die aged 44 when his helicopter was shot down in Laos.

Variant images of Marilyn by Burrows are part of the permanent collection at London’s National Portrait Gallery, and were featured in the 2012 exhibit, MM: A British Love Affair.

Young fans gather outside Parkside House, where Marilyn stayed while filming ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’

Marilyn: A Woman For All Times

Marilyn appears in The Times magazine today, so if you’re in the UK you might still find a copy (the online version is for subscribers only.) As part of their regular feature, ‘Contacts: The Story Behind the Picture’ – in which Marilyn has already appeared several times – Monique Rivalland looks at photographer Sidney Martin’s shots of Marilyn and Arthur Miller arriving at Parkside House, Surrey, in July 1956. They would stay there for four months, while Marilyn filmed The Prince and the Showgirl.

Marilyn also appears – among distinguished company, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Dame Sybil Thorndike, and Marlene Dietrich – in a new book edited by Sue Corbett, The Times: Great Women’s Lives – A Celebration in Obituaries. On August 6, 1962, The Times noted that her career ‘was not so much a Hollywood legend as the Hollywood legend,’ adding that she had a ‘gift for comedy that some thought outshone Olivier’s.’

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Marilyn’s English Adventure

Writing for London’s Time Out magazine, Wally Hammond investigates the true story behind Marilyn’s visit to England in 1956.

 “Marilyn’s transcendent, radiant quality is inimitable. And it would be fair to say that Williams’s performance in ‘My Week with Marilyn’ copies but does not capture it. This is despite the efforts of director Simon Curtis and his lighting, hair and make-up team to stress 31-year-old Williams’s physical similarity to Monroe. What Williams does do well, however, is suggest some of the complexities in her personality.

‘Marilyn was a very curious little person,’ Olivier told Michael Parkinson in 1969, ‘a divided personality… She wouldn’t know how humiliating she could be.’

Olivier didn’t know how humiliating he could be  either. Nor did his wife Vivien Leigh, whose presence on set crushed the insecure Monroe. Reports testify to the umbrage Monroe took to the ‘coldness’ of the Pinewood film crew. You could even read Rattigan’s script of ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’ as an essay on patronage, in its secondary, condescending, sense.”

An additional article – first published by BBC News in April 2010, includes local people’s memories of Marilyn’s stay at Parkside House in Surrey.

The widow of Marilyn’s chauffeur is interviewed, and her comments cast some doubt on Clark’s version of events in My Week With Marilyn. An attempt to trace Mabel Whittington – named as Marilyn’s English housekeeper in Randy J. Taraborrelli’s 2009 biography, also leads nowhere.

However, Nigel Hammett remembers meeting Marilyn at Parkside House, while Patrick O’Shea recalls that the tennis shoes which Marilyn wore while cycling were purchased at his parents’ shop.

The Queen, the Showgirl and Me


My Week With Marilyn continues to make headlines. People magazine reports the rumour that Queen Elizabeth may screen the movie privately at Buckingham Palace. Marilyn met the Queen at a premiere in 1956, and stayed at Parkside House, near to Windsor Castle and Eton. (Colin Clark claimed that he took Marilyn sight-seeing, though like the story in People, this may be stretching the truth.)

Among several newly-released clips from the movie is Michelle Williams’ performance of Heat Wave, which Marilyn immortalised in 1954’s There’s No Business Like Show Business.

Finally, costume designer Jill Taylor has been interviewed on the Vintage Seekers website about dressing Michelle as Marilyn:

“What I’ve always said about Marilyn is that she was way ahead of her time in terms of how she dressed in her everyday life. She really picked up on the American sportswear thing that was coming about with designers like Claire McCardell and Norman Morrill, who were making clothes that were less structured. In Britain we’d just come out of the New Look and were still wearing a lot of very tailored suits, but Marilyn’s wardrobe was much looser – how we ended up in the 60s is how she was in the 50s.

People pick up on the iconic Marilyn, the ‘tits ‘n’ ass’ sex symbol thing, but her sense of style is great. She wore simple lines and neutrals – a lot of white, beige, camel and black.

Someone like Audrey Hepburn had this wonderful style, thanks to Hubert de Givenchy, which she carried through from her private life to her film life, whereas Marilyn didn’t really do that; the Marilyn you see in her movies is a very different portrayal of the girl who went off to studios.”

The Millers at Parkside

Marilyn and Arthur cycling in Windsor Park, 1956

Mike Pope worked as a gardener for the Oliviers at their Notley Abbey home in Buckinghamshire when Marilyn Monroe came to England to film The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956. Marilyn and her husband, Arthur Miller, stayed at nearby Parkside House, Englefield Green, Surrey.

Pope recalls that Vivien Leigh loved tending roses, but his memories of the Millers are succinct:

“He was around for what he hoped would be the most amazing visitor of all – Marilyn Monroe, who was coming to discuss her role with Olivier in The Prince and the Showgirl.

‘We’d been brushing our hair for weeks in anticipation,’ he smiles. But then landed a major blow.

‘We were told by the head gardener that no one was to come up to the house while Marilyn and her husband, Arthur Miller, were staying.

We asked who was going to milk the cattle and remove the cowpats – the Oliviers liked it all tidied up – but they were adamant. In the end the security guards had to milk the cows by hand for two days!'”

Read Mike’s interview in full at the Dorset Echo

Michelle Williams on Reading ‘Fragments’

Michelle Williams, while filming ‘My Week With Marilyn’

“You just finished playing Marilyn. Was it amazing?
Many things — amazing being one of them. The movie (‘My Week With Marilyn’) takes place when she was making ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’ and married to Arthur Miller. I didn’t stop shooting that long ago, so I’ve still got one foot in it.

Did you read ‘Fragments,’ the book of Marilyn’s writings?
Oh, isn’t that a beautiful book? You know that was an auspicious day on set. We were filming at Park Side House, which is where she stayed when she was in London, and it was our first day there and it was the day the book came out and there are notes in the book written on Park Side House stationary.

Ever come home from work depressed?
Um, look, there is residue, always, always for me. No matter what the role, there’s some residue and rightly so, necessarily so. But my primary commitment in this world is my daughter and I cannot commit myself, not to say I haven’t, but I can’t stay there.

PopEater

Parkside House, photographed by MM fan