Marilyn in the Saturday Evening Post

Marilyn graces the cover of The Golden Age of Hollywood, a  new one-off special from the Saturday Evening Post. It costs $12.99 and can be ordered directly here. (Unfortunately I don’t yet know if it ships outside the US, but I’ll update you if I find out.)

Marilyn has a long history with the Post, as one of her most revealing interviews with Pete Martin, ‘The New Marilyn Monroe’, was serialised over three weeks in 1956, and later published in book form with the playful title, Will Acting Spoil Marilyn Monroe?

On Marilyn’s birthday this year, the Post paid tribute with a blog about the sex symbols who preceded her – including Lillian Russell, Theda Bara and Clara Bow, all of whom she impersonated in her extraordinary ‘Fabled Enchantresses’ shoot with Richard Avedon. But she turned down the chance to play showgirl Evelyn Nesbit in The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (the role went to Joan Collins.) And of Mae West, she told W.J. Weatherby, ‘I learned a few tricks from her – that impression of laughing at, or mocking, her own sexuality.’ Jean Harlow, perhaps Marilyn’s greatest influence, is a surprising omission.

You can read Marilyn’s Post interview here.

Naked Truths: Drake, Rushdie and Marilyn

10373848_1451182991791300_5610828183029719260_nThe award-winning novelist, Salman Rushdie, has praised the lyrics of Canadian rapper Drake in a video for Pitchfork, noting an allusion to one of Marilyn’s most famous quotes in ‘What’s My Name‘, Drake’s 2010 duet with pop star Rihanna.

“He also complements Drake on a subtle Marilyn Monroe reference in the What’s My Name line ‘Okay, away we go/Only thing we have on is the radio’. As he explains, ‘She [Monroe] posed in the nude and she was asked if she had nothing on, and she said ‘I have the radio on’.”

As Stacy Eubank reveals in her excellent book, Holding a Good Thought For Marilyn: The Hollywood Years, Marilyn’s remark was first reported by gossip columnist Erskine Johnson in August 1952, while she was filming Niagara on location in Canada. Marilyn’s candid humour won over the public, though her detractors questioned whether the quote was really her own.

In 1955, Roy Craft – Marilyn’s publicist at Twentieth Century-Fox – dispelled the rumour, telling the Saturday Evening Post‘s Pete Martin, “To give it a light touch, when she was asked, ‘Didn’t you have anything on at all when you were posing for that picture?’ we were supposed to have told her to say, ‘I had the radio on.’ I’m sorry to disagree with the majority, but she made up those cracks herself.”

Photographer Tom Kelley – who shot the nude calendar in 1949 – told Maurice Zolotow in 1955, “It wasn’t the radio. It was a phonograph. I had Artie Shaw’s record of ‘Begin the Beguine’ playing. I find ‘Begin the Beguine’ helps to create vibrations.’

In a 1956 interview with Milton Shulman, Marilyn herself explained, “It was a large press conference, and some very fierce woman journalist – I think she was Canadian – stood up and said: ‘do you mean to tell us you didn’t have anything on when you posed for that nude picture?’ Suddenly, an old nightclub joke popped into my head. ‘Oh, no,’ I said. ‘I had the radio on.’ I just changed the words around a bit, but I thought everybody knew it.”

Marilyn Returns … to the Library

life overdue

Today’s New York Post reports on one Marilyn fan’s guilty secret – two exceeding rare (and now very valuable) vintage magazines, swiped by a 15 year-old boy from the Jefferson Market Public Library in Greenwich Village over fifty years ago. These long-lost issues of Life and Look, both published in 1953, are among Marilyn’s most iconic, sought-after magazine covers.

look overdue

“‘He said it was on his conscience all these years and that basically he wanted to make it right,’ said Frank Collerius, the public-library manager at the Jefferson Market branch in the Village, who told the Post it finally reclaimed the well-ogled Look and Life magazines last fall.

‘He was such a passionate fan, that in his passion, he inadvertently took them home,’ Collerius said of the 65-year-old. ‘Fifty years is a long time to make amends.'”

While reading this, I was reminded of the moral dilemma I faced while living in Derbyshire about ten years ago. I borrowed an original copy of Pete Martin’s 1956 book, Will Acting Spoil Marilyn Monroe? Now considered an essential resource by MM scholars, this book sells for high prices on Ebay.

I was sorely tempted to keep it, but my conscience got the better of me. I finally purchased a copy for myself earlier this year (minus the dustjacket, sadly.)

So, dear reader – do you have any Marilyn-related crimes to share?

Martin MM

‘Just What Was Marilyn Monroe Saying?’

Jeff Nilsson takes a fascinating look back at Marilyn’s conversations with Saturday Evening Post reporter Pete Martin, who coined the term ‘Monroeisms’, proves once again that her genuine quotes are wittier than fakes. (Their interviews were later published in book form, as Will Acting Spoil Marilyn Monroe?)

“By 1956, Marilyn Monroe had earned a national reputation for being a ‘star,’ a ‘celebrity,’ a ‘sex symbol,’ and… a ‘dumb blonde.’ This last attribute came from the popular assumption that a woman with such a strong sensual nature must be ignorant. It was reinforced by the movie roles in which she played dim-witted ladies. Partly, too, it was Marilyn’s speech, delivered in a high, breathy voice that made her sound continually startled. And it wasn’t helped by many of the things Marilyn said without thinking.

But many of her sayings were well thought-out before uttered: the Post staff interviewer called them ‘Monroeisms.’ Sometimes they were baffling, but they were usually amusing and containing a double meaning.

In truth, Marilyn was continually thinking up these quotable lines. A senior publicity agent [whom Pete Martin referred to as ‘Flack Jones’] told Martin that she was a skilled ad-lib artist. ‘She makes up those cracks herself. Certainly that “Chanel Number 5″ was her own.'”