Laurette Luez, a Hawaii-born actress of Portuguese-Australian parentage, seated to Marilyn’s left in these 1949 photos by Philippe Halsman (for a LIFE magazine story, ‘Eight Girls Try Out Mixed Emotions’), is the subject of an interesting profile by Kristin Hunt for JSTOR. (Hunt previously wrote about Marilyn’s nude scene in Something’s Got to Give for Vulture.)
Like Marilyn, Laurette was a successful pin-up model, and in their acting careers, both were subjected to typecasting – Marilyn as a dumb blonde, Luez as a dusky temptress – but like other women of colour, Laurette was sidelined in Hollywood and is now all but forgotten.
In the article, it’s noted that she claimed to have given Norma Jeane her stage name. This is unlikely, however, as Marilyn herself created it with talent scout Ben Lyon in 1946. It’s also said that the starlets studied together, probably at the Actors’ Lab or with studio coach Helen Sorrell. They were first photographed by LIFE‘s Loomis Dean in 1948 with actor Clifton Webb in a rather obscure promotional shoot for his film Sitting Pretty(although neither played a role in it.)
“Laurette Luez first appeared onscreen as a dancing Javanese girl in 1944’s The Story of Dr. Wassell. Two years later, she was cast as a member of the Thai royal court in Anna and the King of Siam, and in 1950 as Laluli, the Indian ‘flower of delight,’ in the Rudyard Kipling epic Kim. For the 1960s films Man-Trap and Flower Drum Song, she played Mexican women. She was Persian in The Adventures of Hajji Baba, an indigenous African in Jungle Gents, and Egyptian in Valley of the Kings.
Like many actresses of her day, Luez was expected to be a one-size-fits-all ‘exotic,’ a beautiful siren in skimpy clothing who could be from almost anywhere—just not here. These roles provided a way for Hollywood to sexualize women with few repercussions from censors or moral crusaders, and they were practically the only parts in which Luez was cast during her 20 years in the industry.
The two actresses were linked again in 1953, when the trade paper Modern Screen wondered if Luez could be the heir to Monroe’s “sex stardom.” But in truth, their careers looked nothing alike … With the occasional exception—most notably, the United Artists noir D.O.A.—her credits consist solely of exoticized, eroticized women, who only get a name if they’re lucky. It was a fate that befell several actresses who couldn’t or wouldn’t pass for white, since there was a market for this type of stock character.
Luez still made occasional headlines throughout the 1950s, either for her latest movie or for her latest breakup. She was married four times, and briefly engaged to producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr. But by the mid-1960s, the work had completely dried up. Luez packed up her family and moved to Florida. Despite the repeated insistence from the press that she was on the cusp of stardom, the actress got trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle: she played the roles she was offered, and Hollywood saw her as nothing else.”
Marilyn’s first LIFE magazine cover, shot by Philippe Halsman, was published on this day, April 7, in 1952. Now, as The Guardian reports, this outtake is among over 120 ‘turning point’ images being sold by Magnum Photos for $100 each over the next five days to aid COVID-19 relief. Read more about the historic cover story at A Passion for Marilyn – and don’t forget, Marilyn also graces the cover (and eleven pages within) of a new Reporters Sans Frontières special issue on Halsman’s celebrity portraits.
A new picture disc featuring fifteen of Marilyn’s songs – and gorgeous images by Sam Shaw and Baron – has been released by VinylArt via Amazon. (And while you’re there, pick up a copy of French magazine Reporters Sans Frontières‘ tribute to Philippe Halsman, including eleven pages of Marilyn.)
Philippe Halsman’s celebrity portraits are the subject of the latest issue of Reporters Sans Frontières, with a photo from his Jump! series on the cover, and 11 more pages of Marilyn inside. (She previously covered the December 2012 issue, dedicated to Sam Shaw.)
Here in the UK, Marilyn’s early modelling career is featured in an article about movie stars’ lucky breaks, from the March issue of Yours Retro (with Lauren Bacall on the cover.)
PROOF: Photography in the Era of the Contact Sheet, on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art from February 2 – April 12, includes a section devoted to Marilyn and is accompanied by Marilyn X 4, a week-long film series with screenings of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Some Like It Hot, Bus Stop and The Misfits (from February 9-16.)
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 wassent 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.