Marilyn at Julien’s: Making a Star

In this second post about the November 14 event at Julien’s Auction, Collection of a Southern Gentleman, we look at Marilyn’s early career and rise to fame. (You can read all posts about this sale here.) This montage includes a typical cheesecake pose; two small headshots used to promote her first movie, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!, from which she was largely cut; and a selection of modelling photos taken circa 1947-49.

Photos SOLD for $875, $1,562,50, and $1,920, respectively

“Contract for Dangerous Years, housed in light blue covers, dated ‘July 30, 1947,’ outlining an agreement between the studio and ‘Sol M. Wurtzel Productions, Inc.’ for the loan-out of Monroe to act in the film as ‘Secretary’ even though her role ended up being that of ‘Evie,’ a waitress … signed by executives but not MM.” [And, sold separately, a retro-style poster produced in the 1980s.]

Contract SOLD for $1,024; poster SOLD for $125

“A group of two letters though both are severely water damaged and have substantial paper loss; likely from Henry Rosenfeld, one of MM’s early benefactors whom very little is known about; the first is three pages, handwritten in blue fountain pen ink on Barbizon Plaza Hotel (NYC) stationery, reading in part ‘I ran into Harry [Howard] Keel and his wife at the theatre last Sunday,’ ending with ‘best to your Aunt / H;’ with its original transmittal envelope addressed to MM at her Nebraska Avenue address in Los Angeles and postmarked ‘1947;’ the second one is two pages, also penned on the same stationery with the same ink, reading in part ‘Marilyn, / It was so wonderful / talking to you on the / telephone,’ other pages are now missing; frustrating to not read the letters in their entirety or even know who wrote them!” [And sold separately, a glamour portrait signed by Marilyn to Lois McCann.]

Letters SOLD for $256; photo SOLD for $12,800

[Marilyn’s first movie contract ended in 1947, but a year later, she was still spending time at Twentieth Century Fox.] “According to the original consignor, Robert Temple, Marilyn had a strange habit of taking home the commissary’s silverware every night, just to bring it back the next day to use it again. Temple was a busboy in the commissary at the time and when his boss noticed that Monroe seemed to be stealing, he told Temple to retrieve the utensils from the starlet and warn her that she would be kicked out of the cafeteria if she continued her odd practice. Temple did as he was told and took the utensils away from Monroe, but then he ended up stealing them himself. He had a crush on her and wanted to keep the silverware because it had been hers. He saved this flatware for 62 years and though his story is somewhat preposterous, its probably too weird for him to have made up and remembered all these years later. Additionally, Temple really did work at Fox in 1948 and he even acted in a small employees only talent show with Monroe (and others) called Strictly for Kicks as evidenced by a newsletter that surfaced at auction about nine years ago.”

SOLD for $1,152

“A model release form for Marilyn’s nude calendar session with photographer Tom Kelley, dated ‘May 27, 1949’, and signed by Marilyn under a pseudonym, ‘Mona Monroe‘. And sold separately, a group of ten sample pages produced by the calendar salesman, depicting Marilyn in the ‘Golden Dreams‘ pose with a blank space on the top margin where a business name would be printed; created circa 1952 to cash-in on her fame as text reading ‘Posed By Marilyn Monroe’ appears to the right side.”

Model release form SOLD for $37,500; photos SOLD for $1,280

“A single page of 20th Century Fox letterhead, typed, dated ‘July 11, 1949,’ sent to the then starlet from her friend, studio boss Joe Schenck, reading in part ‘…I shall be / pleased to see you when you come back,’ signed in black fountain pen ink in the lower right corner; included with its original transmittal envelope addressed to Monroe at the Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, Michigan where she was sent to promote the 1949 United Artists film, Love Happy.”

SOLD for $576

“Photo of Marilyn by Laszlo Willinger; and, sold separately, a standard check entirely penned in black fountain pen ink by Marilyn, dated ‘Nov 15, 1950,’ to ‘Helen Hunt‘ in the amount of ‘$100.30,’ signed ‘Marilyn Monroe,’ annotation in another hand in the lower left corner reads ‘beauty salon;’ interesting to speculate what MM had done at that salon that day for that amount which would be like spending $1,000 today.” [Helen Hunt had previously styled Marilyn’s hair during her Columbia contract in 1948.]

Photo SOLD for $1,920; check SOLD for $2,500

“Publicity still for Marilyn’s breakthrough movie, The Asphalt Jungle; and, sold separately, a handwritten list with penciled ‘notes to self’ on either side, circa 1950, relating to matters Marilyn wanted to deal with such as ‘ask agent not to take money from the top / ask for outside picture / forming of own company such as Rita H. [Hayworth] had at Columbia – deal made by J. Hyde / payment for mother / lesson – Checkhov [sic], Hal S., Lotty / anal – Gottesman’ and ‘Rena cleas’ among a few others — an intriguing quick look into the star’s head.” [Marilyn’s agent Johnny Hyde, acting coach Michael Chekhov, psychiatrist Dr. Gottesman, mime teacher Lotte Goslar, singing coach Hal Schaefer, and beautician Madame Renna appear to be mentioned here.]

Photo SOLD for $1,280; list SOLD for $5,760

A 1951 photo of Marilyn, credited to the Phil Burchman Agency. And, sold separately, a letter from photographer Philippe Halsman, “dated ‘March 10. 52,’ severely water damaged but some content still legible such as ‘We all three liked working with / you and I think that you are a / wonderful model,’ ending with ‘Sincerely, affectionally and / cordially / yours / Philippe H.;’ included with its original transmittal envelope addressed to the star at the ‘Beverly Carlton Hotel’ in Beverly Hills, California.”

Photo SOLD for $1,562.50; Halsman’s letter SOLD for $187.50

“A sterling silver hand mirror, back engraved ‘Los Angeles Mirror / Annual Award / Best Dressed / for / Her Life / 1951 / Marilyn Monroe;’ and sold separately, a 1952 headshot signed ‘to Dan, Warmest Thoughts, Marilyn Monroe’.

Award SOLD for $10,000; photo SOLD for $11,520

A selection of images from 1952: firstly, a Georgia Tech football program featuring Marilyn ‘used through the courtesy of Look Magazine’; second, two photos of a sultry Marilyn, possibly taken by Anthony Beauchamp, and seen in a one-off magazine special, Marilyn Monroe Pin-Ups, the following year; and finally, a framed photo by Sam Myers, showing Marilyn at the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City.

SOLD for $576, $768, and $1,024 respectively

Marilyn, Harold Lloyd and the ‘Careless Man’

Marilyn’s 1953 poolside photo session at the home of Harold Lloyd – and the mysterious accompanying clip, where she whispers seductively, ‘I hate a careless man’  – has long been the subject of speculation. Some have linked it to Coca Cola, as Marilyn was sipping a bottle through a straw. However, she was actually filming a PSA for the US military. In ‘Atomic Blonde’, an in-depth article for Californian lifestyle magazine Alta Journal, film historian Cari Beauchamp reveals the whole story.

“Hollywood was a relatively small community in the early 1950s. Lloyd and Monroe had become friendly when he accompanied his friend, Philippe Halsman, to her apartment to photograph the actress for Life magazine. Lloyd invited Monroe to Greenacres for a visit that could include a photo shoot.

Gloria [Lloyd’s daughter] was still living at Greenacres in 1953, and she recalled some details of Marilyn Monroe’s visit as if it had occurred the week before.

‘When Marilyn arrived, I took her up to the pool house,’ she told me. ‘She was my age, or maybe a year or two younger, but we came from very different worlds. She sat down to put on her makeup, and we just started chatting about our lives. She insisted on seeing the baby and talked about how she dreamed of having a child of her own one day. That’s what I remember most. That, and when daddy and the other men were taking her picture, she kept saying, “I hate a careless man” over and over again.’

A closer examination of the photos, zooming in until the letters are blurry, reveals the words ‘Lookout Mt. Laboratory’ on an equipment box and on the front of the jeep that Monroe arrived in. Lookout Mountain, snuggled near the top of a hill in the Laurel Canyon residential neighborhood of Los Angeles, began humbly in 1947 as a radar station for Southern California, but became a government film studio a few years later.

Recently, authors Kevin Hamilton and Ned O’Gorman, while researching their book, Lookout America! The Secret Hollywood Studio at the Heart of the Cold War, came across a bit of film with Marilyn saying, ‘I hate a careless man.’ When I heard about that, the puzzle pieces began to fall into place.

Lookout Mountain became the home of the 1352nd Motion Picture Squadron, which churned out training and recruiting films as well as documenting atomic bomb testing in the Pacific and the deserts of Nevada and New Mexico. Initially, the plan was to release edited versions of the films for public awareness, but when the Atomic Energy Commission saw the footage of the explosion of the first hydrogen bomb in 1952, it decided it would petrify the general population. Everything was suddenly top secret, but word of the tests kept leaking out through letters home and conversations with family and friends. Too often, these ended up published in local papers.

With a new series of tests, code named Operation Castle, scheduled to begin in early 1954 on Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, secrecy became paramount. As Hamilton and O’Gorman explain in their book, ‘posters saying “Loose lips sink ships” were no longer enough.’ Lookout Mountain’s commander, Lt. Colonel Gaylord, came up with the idea to make short films stressing the danger of leaking information to be used in orientation and as trailers shown during the servicemen’s regular movie nights. Gaylord believed it was important to get away from the ‘punishable by court martial’ attitude and make the trailers ‘friendly albeit flavorful.’

But what tied the military and Monroe to Greenacres and Harold Lloyd? The estate’s sheer size guaranteed isolation, and Lloyd could be trusted. As a good friend of Gov. Earl Warren and a delegate to the 1952 Republican Convention that nominated Eisenhower, Lloyd’s connections went way beyond Hollywood. His name was listed among the many in the visitor log at Lookout Mountain, as well as someone who helped with the unit’s work. But the person who may have suggested Harold’s participation was his son Dukie [Harold Lloyd Jr.], who was stationed at Lookout Mountain.

A total of 10 short films were made, each focusing on ways secrets could be leaked and the importance of confidentiality. (Apparently only one survives, available on YouTube.) In each film, Monroe was tacked on to the end, cooing ‘I hate a careless man.’ There she was, in all her glory, smiling broadly in her bathing suit and saying her line — and then she was gone. Jolting as it was, the message was clear: If you wanted a chance to sleep with Marilyn Monroe, you’d better keep your mouth shut.

According to the official records of the 1352nd Motion Picture squadron, the films ‘appeared to have done the job intended.’ A report by Lookout Mountain in 1954 proudly stated that there were ‘no security breaks on the part of the Castle personnel.’

While it may remain a small slice of film history, we finally know that what looked like a routine photo shoot — involving a luminous actress and an accomplished actor/producer/ photographer — also played a key role in keeping the nation as ignorant as possible as thermonuclear bomb tests exploded in the South Pacific.”

Halsman, Stern’s Marilyn in New York

Marilyn is at the centre of an exhibition of some of the world’s most iconic photographs, on display in Manhattan until May 25, as Carl Glassman reports for Tribeca Trib.

“If only size mattered, then Marilyn Monroe would be the star of this eclectic display of photographs, simply titled ‘Photo Show,’ now at the Hal Bromm Gallery. Upon entering the Tribeca art space, she greets you nearly from floor to ceiling in 10 poses, wearing that come-hither look and little else. The set of framed color photographs, faded into reddish hues, is from Bert Stern’s famed 1962 series, ‘The Last Sitting’ … While Marilyn may be the show’s dominant presence, she is just the opener in an unusual mix of artists and eras that come together in a logic all its own.

Others include … Philippe Halsman, represented by his own famous—maybe the most famous—Marilyn portrait.”

Meanwhile at Christie’s NYC, ‘Crucifix IV’, a chromogenic print by Stern from 1995, is among the lots from the Yamakawa Collection, to be auctioned on April 6.

Will Marilyn Be the End of May?

On the eve of the UK general election, a stencil painting of Prime Minister Theresa May wearing her favourite leopard-skin stilettos, in a recreation of Marilyn’s ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch (originally photographed by Sam Shaw) signed by street artist ‘Loretto’, has appeared in London’s West End, reports Fitzrovia News.

The merging of Marilyn, an icon of youth and beauty,  with a right-wing politician is either comical or grotesque, depending on your perspective. However, comparisons of this kind are nothing new, especially in the art world. Photographer Philippe Halsman started the trend with ‘Marilyn Mao‘, blending his own 1952 portrait of MM – her first Life magazine cover – with the head and shoulders  of the Chinese premier, Mao Tse-tung.

Perhaps it’s the rumoured affair with President Kennedy that triggered this strange phenomenon, or just that Marilyn’s own cultural reach rivals that of our world leaders. For me, these images evoke the contrast between her radiant humanity, and the dangerous aura of those who wield power.

Marilyn Jumps for Magnum

Philippe Halsman’s joyous 1959 portrait of Marilyn – part of his ‘Jump’ series – is one of seventy images chosen to represent Magnum Photos on its 70th anniversary in an exhibition in the  pedestrian tunnel at King’s Cross in London for a month from May 15, reports The Guardian.

Halsman’s Marilyn in Barcelona

Marilyn jumps for Halsman, 1959

Spanish fans may be interested to know that the touring exhibit, Philippe Halsman: Astonish Me! is now on display at the CaixaForum Barcelona until November 6, as Samuel Spencer reports for BlouArtInfo. (I have corrected some minor errors in the extract below.)

“Featuring 300 photographs and documents from the photographer’s extensive career, Astonish Me! is the first Spanish retrospective of the American photographer [born and raised in Austria] who, among other achievements, undertook 110 covers for LIFE magazine. Halsman also popularized the portrait concept of people jumping — at the time a revolutionary idea that has since become a photographic cliché, unavoidable at any graduation ceremony.

Termed ‘jumpology’ by Halsman, jumping was used by him as a psychological tool. He believed that it showed people without inhibitions; as he once said, when someone jumps, “the mask falls.” As such, Halsman saw it as a crucial tool for photographing celebrities, allowing him to cut through the façade of their media image.

Among the jumpologists Halsman shows in the exhibition are Marilyn Monroe, who he tried to convince for three years to jump for a shoot before she finally agreed. Monroe jumped 200 times for the resulting image, which became iconic when it appeared on the LIFE cover in 1957 [actually, it was in 1959.]

Halsman’s Marilyn at the Smithsonian

Philippe Halsman’s most iconic photo of Marilyn – chosen for her first Life magazine cover in 1952 – has won a Smithsonian Magazine readers’ poll, and will be displayed in the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, from January-March 2016.

“A portrait of Marilyn Monroe will be installed in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s ‘Recognize’ space, Jan. 22, 2016. The museum’s historians and curators selected three actresses’ portraits for voters to choose from—Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe and Mae West—three fan favorites who, despite long acting careers, never received Oscar nominations.

Thousands of votes were cast on Smithsonianmag.com, and Monroe’s portrait received the most votes. Philippe Halsman’s photograph of her will be on view on the ‘Recognize’ wall, near the north entrance of the museum, through March 6, 2016.

Last year, the Portrait Gallery created ‘Recognize’ as an opportunity for people to select what they would like to see on display. Twice a year, the museum presents three portraits, and the public votes for their favorite. In the last round of ‘Recognize,’ voters elected to display a portrait of the baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente by Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris.”

Halsman Retrospective in Paris

Marilyn at home by Philippe Halsman (1952)

Philippe Halsman: Astonish Me!, a new retrospective, has opened at the Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris, and will be on display until January 24, 2016, reports Time.com.

“All in all this retrospective showcases some 300 exclusive images and original documents (contact sheets and prints, preliminary proofs, original photo-montages and mock-ups) that shed a unique new light on the work and approach of an exceptional and atypical photographer.”