Shawn Levy is the author of several books about the entertainment in the 1950s and ’60s, including Rat Pack Confidential, which became a bestseller on its release twenty years ago. Marilyn’s association with the Rat Pack was covered in this entertaining book, but Levy’s style is gossipy and speculative.
In his latest tome, The Castle On Sunset, Levy explores the history of one of Hollywood’s most fabled hotels, the Chateau Marmont. Levy isn’t the first author to tackle the subject; Raymond Sarlot and Fred E. Basten beat him to it with Life At the Marmont back in 1987.
Marilyn stayed there while filming Bus Stop in 1956, although her official residence was a rented house in Beverly Glen. She most likely used Paula Strasberg’s suite for convenience, not to mention her secret trysts with Arthur Miller, who was waiting out his divorce in Nevada. (Miller’s legal battle with the House Un-American Activities Committee was hotting up at the time, and rather disturbingly, the FBI tracked the couple to the hotel.)
Levy also mentions that journalist Brad Darrach interviewed Marilyn there for her Time magazine cover story. This may seem a little odd, as the article’s author was Ezra Goodman. However, Darrach was apparently part of a team which assembled the piece. He first shared his memories with Anthony Summers for Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe in 1984. Here’s the original account, as related by Summers…
“When Time magazine mounted its first cover story on Marilyn, during the shooting of Bus Stop, its researchers began uncovering a good deal about Marilyn’s parentage. This was a vulnerable area because of her various deceptions. As a result, one of Time‘s youngest reporters, Brad Darrach, was granted a personal interview, in bizarre circumstances.
Darrach collected Marilyn at Fox at 11:00 A.M., and drove her to her hotel, the Chateau Marmont. Marilyn, herself a fast driver, asked the reporter to drive slowly. She seemed to him to be afraid, not of his driving, but ‘generally frightened.’ Once in her suite Marilyn soon declared she was tired, and asked if they could do the interview in her bedroom.
So it was that Darrach ended up, he laughingly remembered, ‘spending ten hours in bed with Marilyn Monroe’. She lay down with her head at one end of the bed. He settled at the foot, and there they talked until long after dark.
‘She was Marilyn, and reasonably pretty,’ Darrach remembered. ‘And of course there were those extraordinary jutting breasts and jutting behind. I’ve never seen a behind like hers; it was really remarkable, it was a very subtly composed ass. Yet I never felt for a moment any sexual temptation. There was nothing about her skin that made me want to touch it. She looked strained and a little unhealthy, as though there was some nervous inner heat that dried the skin. But there was no sexual feeling emanating from her. I am sure that was something that she put on for the camera.'”
A wide range of Marilyn-related items, including her 1956 Thunderbird, will be up for grabs at Julien’s Icons & Idols auction on November 17. Another high-profile item is the white beaded Travilla gown worn by Marilyn when she sang ‘After You Get What You Want, You Don’t Want It’ in There’s No Business Like Show Business, purchased at Christie’s in 1995; as yet it’s unclear whether this is the same dress listed at Julien’s in 2016.
Marilyn owned several pairs of checked trousers, wearing them repeatedly throughout her career. This pair, seen in one of her earliest modelling shoots, was purchased from Sak’s Fifth Avenue.
A number of photos owned by Marilyn herself are also on offer, including this picture with US troops, taken on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; a set of publicity photos for Love Nest; a photo of Joe DiMaggio in his New York Yankees uniform; and Roy Schatt‘s 1955 photo of Marilyn and Susan Strasberg at the Actors Studio.
A postcard from the Table Rock House in Niagara Falls was signed by Marilyn and her Niagara co-stars, Jean Peters and Casey Adams, in 1952.
This publicity shot from River of No Return is inscribed, ‘To Alan, alas Alfred! It’s a pleasure to work with you – love & kisses Marilyn Monroe.’
A set of bloomers worn by Marilyn in River of No Return (as seen in this rare transparency) is going up for bids.
Among the mementoes from Marilyn’s 1954 trip to Japan and Korea are two fans and an army sewing kit.
Also among Marilyn’s personal property is this ad for There’s No Business Like Show Business, torn from the December 24, 1954 issue of Variety.
Among Marilyn’s assorted correspondence is a latter dated August 22, 1954, from childhood acquaintance Ruth Edens:
“I have long intended to write you this letter because I have particularly wanted to say that when you used to visit me at my Balboa Island cottage, you were a shy and charming child whose appeal, it seems to me, must have reached the hearts of many people. I could never seem to get you to say much to me, but I loved having you come in and I missed your doing so after you’d gone away. I wondered about you many times and was delighted when I discovered you in the films. I hope the stories in the magazines which say you felt yourself unloved throughout your childhood, are merely press-agentry. In any case, I want you to know that I, for one, was truly fond of you and I’m proud of you for having developed enough grit to struggle through to success … I hope you are getting much happiness out of life, little Marian [sic]. I saw so much that was ethereal in you when you were a little girl that I fell sure you are not blind to life’s spiritual side. May all that is good and best come your way!”
Marilyn’s loyalty to the troops who helped to make her a star is attested in this undated letter from Mrs. Josephine Holmes, which came with a sticker marked ‘American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.‘
“My dear Miss Monroe, I was so happy to hear from Mr. Fisher about your visit to the Veterans Hospital. When I spoke to Mr. Alex David Recreation he said the veterans would be thrilled, probably the best present and tonic for them this holiday and gift giving season. I am sure it will be a wonderful memory for you, knowing you have brought happiness to so many boys, many have no one to visit with them. Thank you, and may God bless you and Mr. Miller for your kindness.”
Marilyn wore this hand-tailored black satin blouse for a 1956 press conference at Los Angeles Airport, as she returned to her hometown after a year’s absence to film Bus Stop. When a female reporter asked, ‘You’re wearing a high-neck dress. … Is this a new Marilyn? A new style?’ she replied sweetly, ‘No, I’m the same person, but it’s a different suit.’
Letters from Marilyn’s poet friend, Norman Rosten, are also included (among them a letter warmly praising her work in Some Like It Hot, and a postcard jokingly signed off as T.S. Eliot.)
Among Marilyn’s correspondence with fellow celebrities was a Christmas card from Liberace, and a telephone message left by erstwhile rival, Zsa Zsa Gabor.
File under ‘What Might Have Been’ – two letters from Norman Granz at Verve Records, dated 1957:
“In the September 5, 1957, letter, Granz writes, ‘I’ve been thinking about our album project and I should like to do the kind of tunes that would lend themselves to an album called MARILYN SINGS LOVE SONGS or some such title.’ In the December 30, 1957, letter, he writes, ‘… I wonder too if you are ready to do any recording. I shall be in New York January 20th for about a week and the Oscar Peterson Trio is off at that time, so if you felt up to it perhaps we could do some sides with the Trio during that period.'”
Also in 1957, Marilyn received this charming card from the Monroe Six, a group of dedicated New York teenage fans, mentioning her latest role in The Prince and The Showgirl and husband Arthur Miller’s legal worries:
“Marilyn, We finally got to see ‘Prince and the Showgirl’ and every one of us was so very pleased. We are all popping our shirt and blouse buttons. Now we will be on pins and needles ‘til it is released to the general public. You seemed so relaxed and a tease thru the whole picture and your close ups, well they were the most flawless ever. You should be real pleased with yourself. No need to tell you what we want for you to know now is that we hope everything comes out all right for Mr. Miller and real soon too. Guess what we are working on now. We are trying to scrape up enough money for the necessary amount due on 6 tickets to the premiere and the dinner dance afterwards. Well again we must say how happy we are about T.P.+T.S. and we wanted you to know it. Our best to you.”
Among the lots is assorted correspondence from Xenia Chekhov, widow of Marilyn’s acting teacher, Michael Chekhov, dated 1958. In that year, Marilyn sent Xenia a check which she used to replace her wallpaper. She regretted being unable to visit Marilyn on the set of Some Like It Hot, but would write to Arthur Miller on November 22, “I wanted to tell you how much your visit meant to me and how glad I was to see you and my beloved Marilyn being so happy together.”
In April 1959, Marilyn received a letter from attorney John F. Wharton, advising her of several foundations providing assistance to children in need of psychiatric care, including the Anna Freud Foundation, which Marilyn would remember in her will.
This telegram was sent by Marilyn’s father-in-law, Isidore Miller, on her birthday – most likely in 1960, as she was living at the Beverly Hills Hotel during filming of Let’s Make Love. She was still a keen reader at the time, as this receipt for a 3-volume Life and Works of Sigmund Freud from Martindale’s bookstore shows.
After Let’s Make Love wrapped, Marilyn sent a telegram to director George Cukor:
“Dear George, I would have called but I didn’t know how to explain to you how I blame myself but never you. If there is [undecipherable due to being crossed out] out of my mind. Please understand. My love to Sash. My next weekend off I will do any painting cleaning brushing you need around the house. I can also dust. Also I am sending you something but it’s late in leaving. I beg you to understand. Dear Evelyn sends her best. We’re both city types. Love, Amanda Marilyn.”
Here she is referencing her stand-in, Evelyn Moriarty, and Amanda Dell, the character she played. “Dearest Marilyn, I have been trying to get you on the telephone so I could tell you how touched I was by your wire and how grateful I am,” Cukor replied. “Am leaving for Europe next Monday but come forrest [sic] fires come anything, I will get you on the telephone.”
There’s also a June 30, 1960 letter from Congressman James Roosevelt (son of FDR), asking Marilyn to appear on a television show about the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute for Cancer Research, to be aired in October. Unfortunately, Marilyn was already committed to filming The Misfits, and dealing with the collapse of her marriage to Arthur Miller.
In 1961, movie producer Frank McCarthy praised Marilyn’s performance in The Misfits:
Rather touchingly, Marilyn owned this recording of ‘Some Day My Prince Will Come,’ sung by Adriana Caselotti. The record copyright is from 1961, but Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was originally released in December 1937, when Marilyn was just eleven years old.
This pen portrait was sketched by George Masters, who became Marilyn’s regular hairdresser in the final years of her life.
On July 5, 1962, Hattie Stephenson – Marilyn’s New York housekeeper – wrote to her in Los Angeles:
“My Dear Miss Monroe: How are you! Trusting these few lines will find you enjoying your new home. Hoping you have heard from Mr. and Mrs. Fields by now. Found them to be very nice and the childrens [sic] are beautiful. Got along very well with there [sic] language. How is Maff and Mrs. Murray? Miss Monroe, Mrs. Fields left this stole here for you and have been thinking if you would like to have it out there I would mail it to you. Miss Monroe Dear, I asked Mrs. Rosten to speak with you concerning my vacation. I am planning on the last week of July to the 6th of August. I am going to Florida on a meeting tour. Trusting everything will be alright with you. Please keep sweet and keep smiling. You must win. Sincerely, Hattie.”
Hattie is referring to Marilyn’s Mexico friend, Fred Vanderbilt Field, who stayed with his family in Marilyn’s New York apartment that summer. She also alludes to Marilyn’s ongoing battle with her Hollywood studio. Sadly, Hattie never saw Marilyn again, as she died exactly a month later. Interestingly, the final check from Marilyn’s personal checkbook was made out to Hattie on August 3rd.
After Marilyn died, her estate was in litigation for several years. Her mother, Gladys, was a long-term resident of Rockhaven Sanitarium, which had agreed to waive her fees until her trust was reopened. In 1965, Gladys would receive hate mail from a certain Mrs. Ruth Tager of the Bronx, criticising her as a ‘hindrance’ due to her unpaid bills. This unwarranted attack on a sick, elderly woman reminds one why Marilyn was so hesitant to talk about her mother in public.
The role of free-spirited Holly Golightly in the 1961 movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, was first offered to Marilyn before it became an unlikely star vehicle for Audrey Hepburn. But as Emily Temple writes in ‘20 Literary Adaptations Disavowed By Their Original Authors,’ an article for Literary Hub, novelist Truman Capote was unhappy with the casting.
Although Marilyn’s rejection of the part is usually attributed to (or blamed upon) Paula Strasberg, others also advised her against it – but on artistic grounds, and not, as reported, because Holly was a call girl (a detail sidelined in the movie.)
‘I can see Marilyn playing a part like Holly and even giving this present one all the elan it badly needs,’ Edward Parone wrote in a 1959 report, ‘but I don’t feel she should play it: it lacks insight and warmth and reality and importance.’ Parone was then working for Marilyn’s production company, and would be a script advisor on The Misfits – and despite Audrey’s success, it was a view with which many critics, including Capote himself, would have agreed.
“Famously, Truman Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe for the part of Holly Golightly in the film adaptation of his now-classic novella. As Capote explained: ‘I had seen her in a film and thought she would be perfect for the part. Holly had to have something touching about her . . . unfinished. Marilyn had that.’ But although in a lot of ways she was perfect for the role, and though Capote claimed ‘she wanted it so badly that she worked up two whole scenes all by herself to play for me,’ she was discouraged from accepting the part by her dramatic advisor and acting coach Paula Strasberg, who said ‘that she would not have her play a lady of the evening.’ The role ended up going to Audrey Hepburn. ‘Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey,’ Capote said. But it wasn’t just the casting that bothered him. ‘The book was really rather bitter,’ he told Playboyin 1968, ‘and Holly Golightly was real—a tough character, not an Audrey Hepburn type at all. The film became a mawkish valentine to New York City and Holly and, as a result, was thin and pretty, whereas it should have been rich and ugly. It bore as much resemblance to my work as the Rockettes do to Ulanova.'”
Among Marilyn’s possessions were many items of sentimental value. She kept this ballerina paperweight in her New York apartment next to a framed photo of 1920s Broadway star Marilyn Miller, who inspired her own stage name. In a strange twist of fate, she would also become ‘Marilyn Miller’ after her third marriage. She later gave the paperweight to her friend and masseur, Ralph Roberts, calling it “the other Marilyn.”
This silver-tone St Christopher pendant was a gift from Natasha Lytess, Marilyn’s drama coach from 1948-54. (St Christopher is the patron saint of travellers.) Marilyn cut ties with Lytess after discovering she was writing a book about their friendship. She later gave the pendant to Ralph Roberts, telling him, “I’ve outgrown Natasha.”
This gold and silver-tone Gemini pendant reflects Marilyn’s close identification with her astrological sign, symbolised by twin faces. “I’m so many people,” she told journalist W.J. Weatherby. “Sometimes I wish I was just me.”
Marilyn was exceedingly generous to her friends, as the story behind this bracelet reveals.
“A rhinestone bracelet owned by Marilyn Monroe and gifted to Vanessa Reis, the sister-in-law to May Reis, Monroe’s personal assistant and secretary. In a letter to the consigner dated November 28, 1994, Ralph Roberts writes, ‘Reference Marilyn robe and bracelet. As best I recall, late one Saturday afternoon Marilyn and I were in the dining area of the Miller 9th floor suite at the Mapes Hotel. She had just changed into a robe, sitting on one of the chairs and I was massaging her back and shoulders. She showed me a bracelet she’d brought to Reno with thought of possibly wearing it as a [undecipherable comment] for Roslyn [Monroe’s character in The Misfits]. Upon discussing it, she and Paula [Paula Strasberg was Monroe’s acting coach and friend] had decided somehow it wouldn’t be appropriate. Just then May Reis entered with Vanessa Reis (the widow of Irving Reis, May’s greatly loved brother and film director). Vanessa had come up from LA for a long weekend visit – there’d been some talk of our going out to some of the casinos to do a bit of gambling. Vanessa told Marilyn how lovely she looked in that robe. Marilyn thanked her + impulsively held out the bracelet, Take this + wear it as a good luck charm. I was wearing it during dance rehearsals for Let’s Make Love, smashed into a prop, so a stone is loosened. I wish I could go with you, but Raffe is getting some Misfits knots out. And I should go over that scene coming up Monday. They left. Marilyn asked me to remind her to have the robe cleaned to give to Vanessa. Whitey, Agnes, May – all of us – knew from experience we couldn’t compliment Marilyn on any personal items or had to be very careful. She’d be compulsive about giving it, or getting a copy – to you.’ Accompanied by a copy of the letter.”
Jack Dempsey, a former world heavyweight champion boxer, wrote to Joe DiMaggio’s New York Yankees teammate, Jerry Coleman, in 1954. “Have been reading a lot about Marilyn, Joe and yourself, here in the east,” Dempsey remarked. “Best of luck to you and your family, and send Marilyn’s autograph along.”
This small pine-cone Christmas tree, held together with wire and dusted in glitter, was given to Marilyn as a surprise by Joe DiMaggio one year when she had no plans, or decorations. Christmas can be a lonely time, and Joe made sure to bring some cheer.
This vintage Hallmark card was sent to Marilyn one Christmas by her favourite singer, Ella Fitzgerald.
Author Truman Capote sent Marilyn a personally inscribed 1959 album of himself reading ‘A Christmas Memory‘ (an excerpt from his famous novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.)
Marilyn’s 1954 trip to Korea to entertain American troops was one of her happiest memories. This photo shows her with the band and is accompanied by a letter from George Sweers of the St Petersburg Times, sent after their chance reunion when Marilyn took a short break in Florida in 1961.
This endearing note accompanied a gift from Marilyn to Paula Strasberg, who replaced Natasha Lytess as her acting coach in 1956: “Dear Paula, I’m glad you were born because you are needed. Your warmth is both astonishing and welcomed. Love & Happy Birthday, Marilyn.”
In April 1955, novelist John Steinbeck wrote a letter to Marilyn, asking her to sign a photo for his young nephew.
“In my whole experience I have never known anyone to ask for an autograph for himself. It is always for a child or an ancient aunt, which gets very tiresome as you know better than I. It is therefore, with a certain nausea that I tell you that I have a nephew-in-law … he has a foot in the door of puberty, but that is only one of his problems. You are the other. … I know that you are not made of ether, but he doesn’t. … Would you send him, in my care, a picture of yourself, perhaps in pensive, girlish mood, inscribed to him by name and indicating that you are aware of his existence. He is already your slave. This would make him mine. If you will do this, I will send you a guest key to the ladies’ entrance of Fort Knox.”
Television host Edward K. Murrow sent Marilyn a Columbia Records album, featuring excerpts from speeches by Sir Winston Churchill, in November 1955. She had been a guest on Murrow’s CBS show, Person to Person, a few months previously.
Marilyn’s custom-bound edition of Arthur Miller’s Collected Plays included a personal dedication. Miller had drafted a fuller tribute, but it was nixed – possibly because his first divorce was not final when it was published.
“This book is being written out of the courage, the widened view of life, the awareness of love and beauty, given to me by my love, my wife-to-be, my Marilyn. I bless her for this gift, and I write it so that she may have from me the only unique thing I know how to make. I bless her, I owe her the discovery of my soul.”
Costume designer Donfeld sent Marilyn this handmade birthday card one year, together with a small note that read, “M – I hope this finds you well and happy – My thoughts are with you now – Love, Feld.”
This engraved cigarette case was given by Marilyn to Joe DiMaggio during their post-honeymoon trip to Japan in 1954.
This souvenir brochure for the small town of Bement, Illinois was signed by Marilyn when she made a surprise appearance in 1955, during a festival marking the centennial of an historic visit by her idol, Abraham Lincoln.
Comedian Ernie Kovacs sent this rather cheeky letter to Marilyn in 1961. He would die in a tragic car crash in January 1962, aged 43, followed by Marilyn in August.
“The letter, addressed to ‘Marilyneleh’, invites Monroe to a get together at his home on June 15, giving the dress code as ‘… slacks or if you want to be chic, just spray yourself with aluminum paint or something.’ He continues, ‘I’ll try to find someone more mature than Carl Sandburg for you. … if Frank is in town, will be asking him. … don’t be a miserable shit and say you can’t come. … Look as ugly as possible cause the neighbors talk if attractive women come into my study.’ He signs the letter in black pen ‘Ernie’ and adds a note at the bottom: ‘If you don’t have any aluminum paint, you could back into a mud pack and come as an adobe hut. … we’ll make it a costume party. … Kovacs.'”
Always gracious to her fans, Marilyn gave child actress Linda Bennett a magazine clipping with the inscription, “I saw you in The Seven Little Foys. Great – Marilyn Monroe.” She also signed this photograph, “Dear Linda, I wish you luck with your acting. Love and kisses, Marilyn Monroe Miller.”
Darryl F. Zanuck may have blamed Marilyn for delays in the River of No Returnshoot, but co-star Robert Mitchum did not, writing on this letter, “Dig!!! Marilyn – my girl is your girl, and my girl is you. Ever – Bob.”
After a bitter legal battle with Twentieth Century Fox, Marilyn returned triumphantly to Hollywood in 1956, armed with a list of approved directors.
Her first project under the new, improved contract was Bus Stop. Several lots of annotated script sides are up for bids this week.
“This is the first film Monroe made after beginning to study at the Actors Studio in New York City with Lee Strasberg, and the notations in these script sides demonstrate her method. Some of the notes are sense memories, like the following notation written after the line ‘I can’t look’: ‘Effective memory (use Lester – hurt on lawn),’ most likely referencing Monroe’s childhood playmate Lester Bolender, who was in the same foster home with Monroe. Another note adds ‘(almost to myself)’ before a line to inform her delivery or ‘Scarfe [sic] around my arms) Embarrassed.'”
Arthur O’Connell, who played Virgil in the movie, sent Marilyn his best wishes after she was hospitalised with pneumonia.
“A collection of Marilyn Monroe envelopes, messages and notes, including a florist’s enclosure card with envelope addressed to Monroe and a message that reads ‘To make up for the ones you didn’t recall receiving at the hospital. Please stay well so we won’t go through this again’, signed by ‘Arthur O’Connell – Virgil Blessing.’ Also included are five handwritten notes in an unknown hand that reference Clifton Webb, Lew Wasserman and Paula Strasberg.”
“The letter is dated simply June 9, and it accompanied the latest version of the script for The Prince and the Showgirl. Olivier discusses Monroe’s dialogue and that he has ‘written some extra dialogue and a direction or two.’ He reports on where they are in the script writing process and that they have cut the script down from ‘well over 3 hours’ to 2 1/2, to 2 hours 10 minutes. He continues about the scenes that were and were not cut, including ‘The Duke of Strelitz is, I think essential, as otherwise they will be saying what’s the matter with them – why the heck can’t they get married, particularly in view of Grace Kelly and all that, and our only answer to that question must be Yes but look at the poor Windsors do you see?’
On an amusing note, Olivier mentions, ‘By the way Lady Maidenhead has degenerated to Lady Swingdale because I am assured the Hayes Office will not believe there is also a place in England of that name.’ He closes ‘I just called up Vivien at the theatre … and she said to be sure to give you her love. So here it is and mine too. Longing to welcome you here. Ever, Larry.'”
Marilyn had many advisors on this film, including husband Arthur Miller who made suggestions to improve the script.
“Some of your dialogue is stiff. Also some expressions are too British. If you want me to, I can go through the script and make the changes – – in New York. I think the part – on one reading, is really the Best one … especially with you playing it. You are the one who makes everything change, you are the driving force … The basic problem is to define for yourself the degree of the girl’s naivete. (It could become too cute, or simply too designing.) It seems to me, at least, that they have not balanced things in Olivier’s favor. … It ought to be fun to do after BusStop. From your – (and my) – viewpoint, it will help in a small but important way to establish your ability to play characters of intelligence and cultivation. … Your loving Papa – (who has to rush now to make the plane – see you soon! – free!) – Art.”
Marilyn had strong opinions about the casting of Some Like It Hot. In the minutes from a business meeting at her New York apartment, it is noted that “MCA on the Coast has told [Billy] Wilder that there are ‘legal technicalities holding up her decision’ so as not to offend Wilder. Actually, she is waiting for [Frank] Sinatra to enter the picture. She still doesn’t like [Tony] Curtis but [Lew] Wasserman doesn’t know anybody else.”
This short note penned by Marilyn is thought to be a response to Tony Curtis’ notorious remark that kissing her was “like kissing Hitler.”
Novelist Truman Capote wanted Marilyn to star as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. However, her own advisors deemed George Axelrod’s watered-down adaptation unworthy of her talents. The film was a huge hit for Audrey Hepburn, but Capote hated it.
“A clean copy of the screenplay for Breakfast at Tiffany’s written by George Axelrod and dated July 9, 1959. Monroe was considering the part, and she sought the opinions of her professional team including the Strasbergs, her husband, and management team. The script is accompanied by a single-page, typed ‘report’ dated September 23, 1959, which also has the name ‘Parone’ typed to the left of the date. Literary luminary Edward Parone was at the time running Monroe’s production company and most likely is the one who wrote this single-page, scathing review of the script, leading with the simple sentence, ‘I think not.’ It goes on to criticize the screenplay, determining, ‘I can see Marilyn playing a part like Holly and even giving this present one all the elan it badly needs, but I don’t feel she should play it: it lacks insight and warmth and reality and importance.’ It has been long reported that Monroe declined the part upon the advice of Lee Strasberg, but this document provides further evidence that other people in her inner circle advised her not to take the role. Together with a four-page shooting schedule for November 4, 1960, for the film.”
Marilyn was generous to her co-stars in Let’s Make Love, giving a framed cartoon to Wilfrid Hyde-White on his birthday, and an engraved silver cigarette box to Frankie Vaughan. She also asked her friend, New York Times editor Lester Markel, to write a profile of her leading man, Yves Montand. “He’s not only a fine actor, a wonderful singer and dancer with charm,” she wrote, “but next to you one of the most attractive men.”
A handwritten note by Paula Strasberg reveals how she and Marilyn worked together on her role in The Misfits. “searching and yearning/ standing alone/ mood – I’m free – but freedom leaves emptiness./ Rosylin [sic] – flower opens bees buzz around/ R is quiet – the others buzz around.”
In 1962, Marilyn began work on what would be her final (and incomplete) movie, Something’s Got to Give. This telegram from screenwriter Nunnally Johnson, who was later replaced, hints at the trouble that lay ahead.
“The telegram from Johnson reads ‘In Revised script you are child of nature so you can misbehave as much as you please love – Nunnally.’ Monroe has quickly written a note in pencil for reply reading ‘Where is that script – is the child of nature due on the set – Hurry Love & Kisses M.M.’ ‘Love and Kisses’ is repeated, and additional illegible notations have been crossed out.”
“Raw footage of Monroe performing with the children in Something’s Got to Give exists, and Monroe’s notations are evident in the footage. The top of the page reads ‘Real Thought/ Mental Relaxation/ substitute children – B & J if necessary/ feeling – place the pain where it is not in the brow.’ B & J likely refers to Arthur Miller’s children Bobby and Jane. Another notation next to one of Monroe’s lines of dialogue reads simply ‘Mona Lisa’, which does in fact mirror the expression she uses when delivering this line. Even the exaggerated ‘Ahhhhh—‘ that Monroe does at the beginning of each take in the raw footage is written on the page in her hand, reading in full, ‘Ahhh–Look for the light.'”
At first glance, it’s hard to imagine two stars more different than Marilyn and Bette Davis, although they briefly appeared together in All About Eve. Many on the set found Davis intimidating, and few escaped her catty remarks.
However, as Bette later told a biographer, “I felt a certain envy for what I assumed was Marilyn’s more-than-obvious popularity. Here was a girl who did not know what it was like to be lonely. Then I noticed how shy she was, and I think now that she was as lonely as I was. Lonelier. It was something I felt, a deep well of loneliness she was trying to fill.”
In her latest column for the Chicago Tribune, Liz Smith finds another similarity between MM and Davis – both actresses were, at different points in their careers, known for their ‘mannered’ speech.
“Last weekend I watched two films, one a classic, the other not so much — though it has a cult following. I do mean William Wyler’s The Letter, starring Bette Davis as a woman who murders her lover and River of No Return starring Marilyn Monroe as a tough saloon singer fighting turbulent rapids, Indians and Robert Mitchum. Quality wise there’s no comparison, although River, directed by Otto Preminger, is a great looking movie, with excellent use of early Cinemascope. It’s an entertaining potboiler. The Letter, based on Somerset Maugham’s novel, is one for the ages.
And while you might imagine Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe were as unalike as two actors could be, they shared one quality — an odd manner of speaking. Davis’ clipped tones became famous instantly, and as she grew older, the static quality of her delivery increased, rendering many of her performances artificial. It took a strong director and an inspiring script to wrench Davis out of her habits.
AS for Miss Monroe, shortly after she began working in films, she met a dramatic coach named Natasha Lytess who convinced the insecure Monroe that her diction was ‘sloppy’ and she needed to enunciate more clearly. Well, Monroe, whose diction was just fine actually, did enunciate. Boy, did she en-nu-ci-ate. She came down so hard on her Ds and Ts she all but bit them off. Even she was not entirely comfortable with this, and when given a good script, her speech would relax, no matter what Miss Lytess said. River of No Return was not a script Monroe liked. The result was a performance that varies wildly. It’s fun to see her as a smart-talking, back-talking woman. And when she unbends her diction, she’s earthy and effective — refreshingly strong. But in other scenes, she comes off like a gorgeous Martian, who is just learning our language. It’s a pity, because despite Monroe’s objections, River was a change of pace, and all contract actors did westerns. They just did. (The chief pleasure of ‘RONR’ is the sight of Monroe in her physical prime, athletically running around in skin-tight blue jeans!)
But unlike Bette, Marilyn’s vocal impairment didn’t last. (Even in The Seven Year Itch, she is merrily relaxed.) After Monroe abandoned Hollywood and her 20th Century Fox contract, she went into the Actors Studio. Lee Strasberg convinced her, first of all, that she was nothing, had accomplished nothing. Only he (and wife Paula) could help her. That she was the biggest female star in the world at that point didn’t impress the Strasbergs. At least that’s what they said. Presto! Out with Natasha — who didn’t go quietly — and in with Paula, who became even more hated on Monroe sets than Lytess. (Natasha at least lectured Marilyn on discipline. The Strasbergs told her only the ‘art’ mattered, and she should take as long as she liked.)
There was little change in the essentials of Marilyn’s acting, except the disappearance of her excruciating diction, although every so often it would pop up on a word or two. Lytess must have used hypnosis on her!”
The Mikimoto pearls given to Marilyn by Joe DiMaggio on their Japanese honeymoon in 1954 will feature in ‘Pearls’, a new exhibition opening at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in September, reports Professional Jeweller.
With typical generosity, Marilyn gave the pearls to Paula Strasberg after the DiMaggios divorced. The pearls were returned to Mikimoto in 1998.
A very private and rather sad letter that Marilyn wrote to Lee Strasberg is to be auctioned by Profiles in History on May 30th. It will also be included in a preview exhibition at the Douglas Elliman Gallery on Madison Avenue, New York, from April 8th-16th, reports Yahoo.
Personally, I find it distasteful that such an item has been put on the open market – especially since many news sites have sensationally described it as ‘suicidal’.
All of Marilyn’s letters have historic value, of course, and should be preserved – but in a university, library, or museum. Her emotional pain should not be exploited for profit.
It was written on Hotel Bel Air paper, and so may date from the filming of Some Like it Hot, a notoriously stressful shoot.
Her handwriting is quite difficult to read, but members of the Everlasting Star forum have been working on a transcript:
“Hotel Bel Air
701 Stone Canyon Road Los Angeles
I’m embarrassed to start this but thank you for understanding and having changed my life – even though you changed it I still am lost. I mean I can’t get myself together – I think it’s because everything is pulling against my concentration, everything one does or lives is impossible almost. You once said, the first time I heard you talk at the Actors’ Studio that ‘there is onlyconcentration between the actor and suicide.’ As soon as I walk into a scene I lose my mental relaxation for some reason, which is my concentration. My will is weak but I can’t stand anything. I sound crazy, but I think I’m going crazy.
Thanks for letting Paula help me on the picture. She is the only thoroughly warm woman I’ve known. It’s just that I get before the camera and my concentration and everything I’m trying to learn leaves me. Then I feel like I’m not existing in the human race at all.
In an article for the Huffington Post, author Joan Marans Dim – a neighbour of the Strasbergs as a teenager – recalls seeing Marilyn arrive for a party at the Belnord apartment building, Manhattan.
“In the mid 1950s, I was star-struck and addicted to movies and movie magazines. From my second floor bedroom window, I could see the likes of Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, James Dean, Wally Cox, Shelley Winters, and yes, yes, Marilyn. All of them coming to the Belnord to pay homage to their guru, Lee Strasberg.
During this period, I often thought how lucky Susan Strasberg was to have access to Marilyn. The movie magazines reported that they were bosom buddies. I knew Susan slightly. She was older than I and did not deign (understandably) to make me a bosom buddy. Once, however, Susan did invite me into the Strasberg enclave. I remember a sea of books in a rambling apartment and Paula, sitting on the sofa, glasses on the tip of her nose, absorbed in a Modern Screen(a woman after my own heart).
Alas, I only visited the Strasbergs once. Instead, much of the time, I perched at my window. Or I hung out with Sylvester, the building’s sterling doorman, who was always happy to see me, even when I made his life miserable as I careened around the courtyard on my Schwinn or slammed a Spaulding against a wall or drew a chalk hopscotch on the courtyard’s precious walkway, or, even worse, scaled the large marble fountain. On one occasion, I fell into the fountain — perhaps three feet of water — scaring Sylvester, who, saint that he was, rescued me with his long doorman arms. The Catcher in the Belnord!
Sylvester and I had our secrets. During this period, Marilyn was likely the Strasberg’s most frequent visitor. But only Sylvester and I knew who she really was. Marilyn arrived in the same outfit: Wrapped in an oversize camel-hair coat, her head swathed in a kerchief, a few sunny ringlets exposed. She wore large dark sunglasses and no makeup and was surprisingly petite. Amazingly, she wasn’t exactly ordinary, but she was no goddess. As she passed us, Sylvester tipped his doorman’s cap.
‘Good afternoon, Miss Monroe,’ he whispered.
She smiled ever so slightly. This was the ritual, almost every afternoon. Marilyn Monroe was invisible, except, of course, to the cognoscenti.
Then, one balmy evening, something astonishing occurred.
‘Today is going to be different,’ Sylvester reported.
‘What’s going on?’
‘The Strasbergs are having a party,’ he answered.
At that moment, a Cadillac Eldorado convertible, its top down, rolled into the arch’s driveway. Opposite the chauffeur sat Marilyn, not the Marilyn of the camel-hair coat, kerchief and sunglasses. But the Marilyn of myth and movies. Her mouth was slightly open. The breeze ruffled her pale hair and a lock suddenly fell over an eye. The Cadillac stopped and Sylvester tipped his cap and opened the car door. Marilyn stepped out of the car, shimmering in a clingy evening dress that displayed her milky white shoulders and sumptuous hips and bosom. I took a deep breath.
‘Good evening, Miss Monroe,’ Sylvester whispered.
Then, unexpectedly, Sylvester’s long arm reached for me. He wanted me to have the moment, too. I stood at his side directly in front of Marilyn. Such a doorman! Marilyn stopped, perhaps for two seconds, and looked me over. A smile that could melt icebergs. Teeth of gleaming porcelain. Then, she turned, and taking small quick steps, she bounced across the courtyard in pure MM style. She looked back at us once. Then she was gone.
When I think of that moment today, I recall the scene in Some Like It Hot when Jack Lemmon first spies Marilyn — the singer and ukulele-playing Sugar Kane — sashaying on a railroad platform. Bug-eyed, Lemmon marvels at the sight. ‘Like Jello on springs,’ he gushes. And so it was, too, at the Belnord that day. Like Jello on springs.”
In a CNN interview with Piers Morgan last week, Jane Fonda recalled meeting Marilyn:
“I was very, very drawn to her. To me, she was like a golden child. She radiated light and vulnerability. And I think that she was attracted to me as — she used to gravitate a little bit to me at parties, because she knew that I was not very secure, either. And she was fragile. I was very touched by her.
Michael Jackson, also, someone who was fragile. You know, both of them had these beyond famous iconic images. And yet in their innermost selves, they were very, very vulnerable, damaged people. And it was the tension between those two things, perhaps, that made them so brilliant in their — each in their own way.”
The daughter of actor Henry Fonda, Jane was eleven years younger than Marilyn. In her 2005 autobiography, My Life So Far, Jane explained how she decided to train at the Actor’s Studio after meeting Marilyn and the Strasbergs on the set of Some Like it Hot.