Bruno Bernard’s Marilyn in Palm Springs

Marilyn with Bruno Bernard in Hollywood, 1953

Photographer Bruno Bernard (aka ‘Bernard of Hollywood’) collaborated with Marilyn on numerous occasions, from her early modelling days to the peak of her career in the mid-1950s. One of their photo sessions will be the subject of a lecture by the Palm Springs Historical Society, launching their ‘Let’s Talk’ series at the Palm Springs Cultural Centre on November 21 at 6 pm, as Tracy Conrad reports for the Desert Sun.

Marilyn poses for Bruno Bernard at the Racquet Club in Palm Springs, 1949

This piece raises a few questions, however. Firstly, Bernard photographed Marilyn at the Racquet Club in 1949, not ’47. Secondly, his claim to have introduced Marilyn to her agent and lover, Johnny Hyde, conflicts with other versions of events. Some believe it was a mutual friend, John Carroll, who introduced Marilyn to Hyde in early 1948, while others have suggested they met at a party in Sam Spiegel’s home. Nonetheless, the couple were photographed together by Bernard at the Racquet Club in 1949.

Marilyn at the Racquet Club with her agent and lover Johnny Hyde, photographed by Bruno Bernard (1949)

And finally, this photo dated 1961 does not, in fact, show Marilyn with Bernard. They had last worked together in 1954. Fraser Penney has suggested to me the lady may have been actress Paula Lane, who became a Monroe impersonator and later starred in the panned 1989 biopic, Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn. She died in 2015.

Bruno Bernard with unidentified Monroe lookalike (possibly Paula Lane, also seen on this 1980 magazine cover)

Paula Lane 1926-2015

The actress and Marilyn impersonator Paula Lane passed away in August this year, reports the Telegraph. Born in the same year as her idol, she played a bit part in What a Way to Go! (1964), in which Shirley MacLaine replaced MM. Some 25 years later, Lane starred in Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn (1989), a sequel to the 1976 exploitation movie, Goodbye, Norma Jean – alongside another lookalike, Misty Rowe, who reprised her role as the younger Marilyn.

With a low rating of 2.9 on IMDB, Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn is (perhaps too generously) described by one user as ‘offbeat, absorbing, but ultimately redundant.’

“In 1989 she appeared in Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn, a film which the director Larry Buchanan claimed would show what really happened on August 5 1962, when the star was found dead in her Bel-Air home of an overdose. ‘I play Marilyn at 36,’ said the by then 53 year-old lookalike. ‘It took a little doing, but I think I pulled it off.’

The critics were not so sure, one describing the film as ‘maybe the sleaziest movie of 1989, a perfect 100 on the Sleaze Meter’. Paula Lane, however, he suggested, should be given a ‘Drive-In Academy Award nomination’ for saying, ‘Do they have cameras in heaven?’

One Hollywood columnist described Paula Lane as ‘the girl most men would like to be stranded on a desert island with’. But by the 1970s acting and modelling work was proving irregular, so on the advice of an agent who suggested that she exploit her resemblance to Marilyn Monroe, she put together a song-and-dance act and took off on a three-week gig in Tokyo.

She had met the star on three occasions and as she recalled, ‘studied her every move, every gesture, every notion’. When she heard the news of her death on the radio, ‘I went to church to visit my priest. I needed answers. When my grief subsided and a couple of days later I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and felt this incredible force as if Marilyn was looking back at me. It was as if she had moulded herself in to my body! I started to cry. I hadn’t realised before just how much I looked like Marilyn. I was her.’

From the 1970s onwards Paula Lane performed as Marilyn Monroe in clubs from California to Las Vegas. Calling her act ‘The Super Star Award Show,’ she sang songs which Marilyn Monroe had made famous, including Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend and Heat Wave, and recreated the classic shot from The Seven Year Itch of Marilyn Monroe’s dress blowing up around her legs as she stands over a subway grating. To ‘do’ Marilyn, Paula Lane claimed, was ‘like a fix. To go out for a Marilyn job is an upper.'”