Debbie Reynolds 1932-2016

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Debbie Reynolds, star of Singin’ in the Rain and other classic Hollywood musicals, has died after suffering a stroke, aged 84 – just one day after her famous daughter, Carrie Fisher, also passed away.

She was born Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas in 1932. As a child she moved with her family to Los Angeles, and was crowned Miss Burbank in 1948. She began her career at Warner Brothers, where she was renamed Debbie.

In Three Little Words (1950), a nostalgic musical about the heyday of Tin Pan Alley, she played Helen Kane, the singer famed for her 1928 hit, ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You‘ (later revived by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.)

Debbie Reynolds sings 'I Wanna Be Loved By You' to Carleton Carpenter in 'Three Little Words' (1951)
Debbie Reynolds sings ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ to Carleton Carpenter in ‘Three Little Words’ (1950)

After moving to MGM, Debbie’s big break came when she was cast in her first dancing role, as chorus girl Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), recently named as the all-time Greatest Movie Musical (and fifth-greatest movie overall) by the AFI. She went on to star in Frank Tashlin’s Susan Slept Here (1954), and with Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap (1955.)

In 1956, she played a bride-to-be in The Catered Affair. That year, her marriage to singer Eddie Fisher was feted by Hollywood’s fan magazines as the dawn of a new, all-American golden couple. They were swiftly paired in Bundle of Joy, with Debbie playing a shopgirl who takes in an abandoned baby.

Their daughter Carrie was born in 1956, followed by son Todd in 1958. He was named after Eddie’s mentor, theatrical impresario Mike Todd, who died in a plane crash soon after.  The Fishers’ seemingly idyllic life was shattered in 1959, when Eddie left Debbie for Mike Todd’s widow, Elizabeth Taylor. The scandal rocked Hollywood, although the two women resumed their friendship after Taylor divorced Fisher a few years later. Debbie married the millionaire businessman, Harry Karl, in 1960.

Debbie was the best-selling female singer of 1957, thanks to her hugely popular theme from Tammy. She later released an album, and went on to appear in Henry Hathaway’s How the West Was Won (1962), and opposite Tony Curtis in Goodbye Charlie (1964), in a role first offered to Marilyn Monroe.

Debbie With Tony Curtis in 'Goodbye Charlie' (1964)
With Tony Curtis in ‘Goodbye Charlie’ (1964)

In later years, Debbie would claim that evangelist Billy Graham approached her in 1962, after experiencing a premonition that Marilyn’s life was in danger. As Debbie did not know Marilyn well, she instead contacted a mutual friend, hairdresser Sydney Guilaroff, who allegedly spoke with Marilyn by telephone just hours before her death.

“She was a gentle, childlike girl who was always looking for that white knight on the white horse,” Debbie said of Marilyn, adding, “And why not? What sex symbol is happy?” Debbie also claimed that they attended the same church, although no further details have been uncovered.

Throughout the 1960s, Debbie played a three-month residency in Las Vegas each year. Her performance in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) earned her an Oscar nomination. Her second marriage ended in 1973. Four years later, her daughter Carrie Fisher found fame In her own right as Princess Leia in Star Wars.

With daughter Carrie Fisher in 2015
With daughter Carrie Fisher in 2015

Carrie would later become an acclaimed author. Postcards From the Edge, a novel about her close, if occasionally fractious relationship with her celebrated mother, was filmed by Mike Nichols in 1990, with Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine in the leading roles. Todd Fisher has also worked extensively in film, as well as assisting his mother with her business ventures.

The Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio opened in Los Angeles in 1979, and is still thriving. Her third marriage, to real estate developer Richard Hamlett, ended in 1996. She starred in several Broadway musicals and appeared in numerous television shows, including The Love Boat, Hotel, The Golden Girls, Roseanne, and Will & Grace. A former Girl Scout leader, she has also worked tirelessly for AIDS and mental health charities.

Debbie played herself in The Bodyguard (1992), and was reunited with Elizabeth Taylor for a 2001 TV movie, These Old Broads. One of her final roles was as Liberace’s mother in Behind the Candelabra (2013.) Her memoir, the aptly-titled Unsinkable, was published in 2015; and a new documentary, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, premiered at Cannes in 2016, and has since been acquired by HBO.

Debbie with her Hollywood costume collection
Debbie with her Hollywood costume collection

Debbie Reynolds will also be remembered fondly for her efforts to preserve the legacy of Hollywood’s golden age, which began when she purchased costumes from classic films (including many made for Marilyn) at an MGM auction in 1970. Her dream of opening a movie museum was sadly never realised, and in 2011, she relinquished her collection.

Among the many Marilyn-related items sold in a two-part event at Profiles in History was the cream silk halter-dress designed by Travilla, and worn by Marilyn as she stood over a subway grate in an iconic scene from The Seven Year Itch. The dress sold for $4.6 million, a sum surpassed only by the sale of Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ dress at Julien’s last month for $4.8 million.

Although the buyer was not named, the Seven Year Itch dress is rumoured to have been purchased by Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the Canadian company which is the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate.

Profiles in History: Hollywood Auction 83

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The showgirl costume worn by Marilyn while riding a pink elephant at a charity circus in 1955 is the centrepiece of Profiles in History’s Hollywood Auction 83, with a starting price of $250,000. Other Marilyn-related items up for bidding on June 30 include an original costume sketch by Travilla for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, rare candid photos from 1957, and batches of production stills, press photos and portraits.

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UPDATE: Marilyn’s ‘showgirl’ costume didn’t reach its reserve price, and thus went unsold. However, this Grecian-style dress owned by Marilyn reached its maximum estimate of $15,000.

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2014: A Year in Marilyn Headlines

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In January, Newsweek published a special issue, Marilyn Monroe: The Lost Scrapbook. Photographer Larry Schiller claimed to own a scrapbook given to Sam Shaw by Marilyn, though expert readers noted the handwriting was dissimilar to her usual style.

Also this month, Unclaimed Baggage – a documentary about ‘the unclaimed trunk of MM‘ – was screened on European television, and George Jacobs, valet to Frank Sinatra, died aged 87.

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In February, Life published The Loves of Marilyn, another magazine special with text by J.I. Baker (author of a conspiracy novel, The Empty Glass.) Many fans were surprised to see the widely discredited Robert Slatzer listed among Marilyn’s alleged paramours. It has since been republished in hardback.

Also this month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences acquired an archive of 58,000 pictures by press photographer Nat Dallinger. His photos of Marilyn at the Let’s Make Love press conference were featured in the Hollywood Reporter. And archive footage of Marilyn was featured in Bob Dylan’s Chrysler ad, screened during America’s Superbowl.

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In March, Icon: the Life Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe – Volume I, 1926-1956 was publishedMarilyn also graced the cover of Julien’s 90210 Spring Auction catalogue, and was the subject of another magazine special, part of the ‘Etoiles du Cinema‘ series in France.

Stanley Rubin, producer of River of No Return, died aged 96, and William Carroll, one of the first photographers to work with Marilyn, also passed away. Bob Thomas, the veteran Hollywood columnist who reported Joan Crawford’s verbal attack on Marilyn back in 1953, died aged 92.

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Playboy re-released its very first issue – with Marilyn as its cover girl and centrefold – in April, as part of an ongoing celebration of the magazine’s 60th anniversary. And a collection of Elia Kazan’s private correspondence – including a 1955 letter to his wife, Molly, regarding his prior relationship with Marilyn – was also published.

Also in April, Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney (Marilyn’s co-star in The Fireball) died aged 93. And Pharrell Williams released his hit single, ‘Marilyn Monroe’.

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In May, make-up artist Marie Irvine shared her memories of Marilyn with readers of the Daily Mail. AmfAR, the world’s leading charity for AIDS research, held a ‘Red Marilyn’-themed fundraising ball during the Cannes Film Festival.

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June 1st marked what would have been Marilyn’s 88th birthday. Also in June, actor Eli Wallach, Marilyn’s friend and co-star, died aged 98. An archive of ‘lost’ Milton Greene photos was auctioned in Poland, and a revised, updated edition of Carl Rollyson’s MM: A Life of the Actress was published.

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In July, Some Like it Hot was re-released in UK cinemas, winning a 5-star review in The Guardian. Sadly, several people with connections to Marilyn passed away in July, including psychic Kenny Kingston, journalist Robert Stein, and actors James Garner and Elaine Stritch. Meanwhile one of Marilyn’s old haunts – the Racquet Club in Palm Springs – was engulfed by fire.

August marked the 52nd anniversary of Marilyn’s death, with a live stream of the annual memorial service in Los Angeles. Also this month,  Lauren Bacall, Marilyn’s co-star in How to Marry a Millionaire, died aged 89; and Tom Tierney, ‘Marilyn’s paper doll artist’, also passed away.

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In September, Newsweek published a cover feature exposing the many inaccuracies in C. David Heymann’s posthumously-released Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love. And TV Guide released a special issue dedicated to Marilyn, part of their ‘American Icons’ series.

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Several rare photos of Marilyn were featured in Profiles in History’s Hollywood Auction 65 catalogue, while Britain’s Daily Express published a special supplement about Marilyn’s tragic death, as part of a ‘Historic Front Pages’ series.

Also this month, self-confessed ‘Marilyn Geek’ Melinda Mason launched a new exhibition at the Wellington County Museum in Ontario, Canada; and the chameleon-like actor John Malkovich posed as Marilyn for photographer Sandro Miller.

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In October,  A retrospective of photographer Nickolas Muray opened in Genoa, Italy. Carl Rollyson’s latest book, Marilyn Monroe Day by Day, was published.

A rather sensationalised documentary about Marilyn’s mysterious death – Marilyn: Missing Evidence – was broadcast in the UK. Her death was also the subject of a cover feature in the US magazine, Closer.

Also this month, Kelli Garner was cast as Marilyn in Lifetime’s upcoming mini-series, The Secret Life of MM.

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In November, Gary Vitacco-Robles’ Icon: The Life, Times and Films of MM – Volume II, 1956-1962 and Beyond was published, earning a rave review from columnist Liz Smith. Fansite Immortal Marilyn published a series of myth-busting articles at Buzzfeed. And Anna Strasberg, current owner of Marilyn’s estate, lost a lawsuit against Profiles in History, regarding a so-called ‘letter of despair‘ from Marilyn to Lee Strasberg.

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In December, items from ‘the lost archive of Marilyn Monroe‘ sold for high prices at Julien’s Auctions. Marilyn graced the cover of Esquire‘s Colombian edition, and a new CD boxset, Diamonds, was released. Finally, photographer Phil Stern died aged 95.

Verdict Reached in ‘Letter of Despair’ Trial

The ‘Letter of Despair‘ trial – concerning a draft note (later typed) from a distraught Marilyn to Lee Strasberg during filming of Some Like it Hot in 1958 – reached its verdict on November 19, with a ruling against the plaintiff, Anna Strasberg, reports the Pasadena Star-News.

“A judge ruled on Wednesday that a handwritten letter by Marilyn Monroe in which she talked about the difficulties of performing before the camera belongs to a buyer who purchased it at auction at $130,000.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin handed down his ruling in favor of Calabasas-based auction house Profiles in History and against 75-year-old Anna Strasberg, the widow of Lee Strasberg, who served for many years as Monroe’s mentor in her acting career.

‘Plaintiff has not proved by the civil standard that the letter was in the possession or owned by Ms. Strasberg,’ the judge said.

Strasberg, who was married to Lee Strasberg from 1968 until his death in 1982, once served as administrator of the Monroe estate and has a large collection of the actress’ memorabilia. She sued Profiles in May 2013, saying she learned the month before, after a New York Post article about it was published, that the letter was missing from her collection. She said she inherited the writing from her late husband and alleged it was stolen.

Profiles attorney Robert Enders maintained the letter was actually a draft version that was found by a housekeeper at the Hotel Bel-Air and it was never sent to Lee Strasberg.

‘I’m very pleased,’ Enders said outside the courtroom. ‘The judge made the right ruling.’

Fruin made multiple findings against Strasberg, including that she did not provide any inventory of Monroe items that included the letter and that there was no envelope showing the writing was sent to the acting pioneer husband.

Had the letter been stolen from Strasberg as she alleged, he noted, it seems likely other items would have been taken as well. Although Strasberg claimed her husband showed her the letter in the late 1960s and that she saw it again in the period of 1988-92 when discussing it with her son, David Strasberg, her account was undercut by the fact her offspring testified he never saw the letter.

Trial testimony showed that after the letter was found by the housekeeper, a series of transactions occurred in which it ended up being bought by a private party in 1996. That same person then used the services of Profiles last year to auction the writing to the current owner, who lives in another state. He and the 1996 buyer were never identified during trial.”

‘Letter of Despair’ Trial Begins

The latest developments in an ongoing legal battle over the ownership of Marilyn’s alleged ‘letter of despair’ to Lee Strasberg are reported at My News LA today.

“Testifying in a trial to determine who owns a letter handwritten by Marilyn Monroe, the widow of the actress’ former mentor told a judge Monday she never sold the correspondence or consented to it being auctioned.

Anna Strasberg, who was married to one-time Monroe acting coach Lee Strasberg until his death in 1982, said the correspondence — dubbed a ‘letter of despair’ in a New York Post article — belongs to her. She said she wants it back from the buyer who paid $130,000 last year as the highest bidder through Calabasas-based auctioneer Profiles in History.

‘I am telling you, somebody took it and sold it,’ Strasberg said during occasionally testy cross-examination by Profiles attorney Robert Enders.

However, the future of the case became uncertain late in the day when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin, who is hearing the trial without a jury, said he may have no basis for finding liability on the part of Profiles. He said he was unaware until today’s testimony that Profiles never owned the letter and that the auctioneer instead acted as the selling agent for yet another private individual who bought the letter in 1996.

‘I’m completely surprised by this,’ Fruin said.

Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, told Fruin he explained during a previous hearing that Profiles attorneys have refused to identify either the 1996 or the 2013 buyer, and that he had no choice but to proceed with the case against the auction house. The issue is further complicated by the fact that the current owner lives in another state and the person cannot be sued in California.

Fruin ordered the attorneys back to court Wednesday to discuss a future course of action.

Strasberg, who once served as administrator of the Monroe estate and has a collection of the actress’ memorabilia, sued Profiles in History in May 2013, saying she learned the month before that the letter was missing from her collection after the New York Post article was published. She said she inherited the writing from her late husband.

According to her court papers, Strasberg thought the handwritten letter was with other Monroe memorabilia, locked in a filing cabinet at home.

The letter was bought via the Internet and sold by Profiles in History.

The buyer is not a party to the case. Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, said that if his client wins at trial, there may be a second legal step needed to get possession of the handwritten letter if the buyer does not relinquish it.

The purchaser lives in another state, but Fruin said he believes he has jurisdiction over the letter because it was auctioned in California.

Asked by Enders if she can corroborate her claims to ownership of the letter, Strasberg acknowledged she never made a police report, filed an insurance claim or listed it in an inventory of former Monroe belongings. But she said the fact it is missing is sufficient.

‘If I don’t have it, that’s documentation enough,’ she said.

Strasberg said she donated some of Monroe’s property over the years for auction, but that it usually consisted of shoes and other items that people in need could use.

Strasberg downplayed Monroe’s tone in the letter, saying it is common for people to say they are ‘going crazy’ without meaning it. She also said her late husband told her it was not unusual for actors to complain about concentration problems.

Strasberg said she took great care after Monroe’s death to protect her image, including stopping commercial uses of her likeness on toilet paper and condoms.

Strasberg said she met Monroe a few times, including once during the actress’ visit to the United Nations, where the plaintiff worked at the time as an assistant to the agency’s cultural director.

Strasberg, a former actress who had roles in two films with Sophia Loren, is the godmother of Drew Barrymore.”

Pre-Trial Hearing for ‘Letter of Despair’

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A final hearing before a trial concerning ownership of Marilyn’s so-called ‘letter of despair’ to Lee Strasberg was held at the Los Angeles Superior Court this week, reports Westside Today.

“In a final hearing prior to a trial to determine who owns a letter handwritten by Marilyn Monroe on hotel stationery to her former mentor, an attorney for an auction house told a judge today that a version of the letter typed by the late actress exists.

Robert Enders, an attorney for Calabasas-based auctioneer Profiles in History, told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin that both the written and typed letters to Lee Strasberg have numerous misspellings and corrections.

The Beverly Hilton Hotel is crossed out on the typewritten stationery and the name of the Hotel Bel-Air is inserted, Enders said.

The handwritten letter is on Hotel Bel-Air stationery, Enders said. It is signed by Monroe, but the typed account is not, Enders said.

‘Did Marilyn Monroe type?’ Fruin asked.

Enders said the actress may have typed many letters.

Plaintiff Anna Strasberg, who is administrator of the Monroe estate and has a  collection of the actress’ memorabilia, sued Profiles in History in May 2013, saying she learned the month before that the written version, dubbed a ‘letter of despair’ in a New York Post article, was missing from her collection.

She inherited the writing from her late husband, Lee Strasberg, who also was Monroe’s acting coach.

Both letters are in a safe at a Los Angeles law firm selected by the buyer pending the outcome of the trial, Enders said. The nonjury trial is scheduled Nov. 17.

According to her court papers, Strasberg thought the handwritten letter was with other Monroe memorabilia, locked in a filing cabinet at home.

The letter was bought via the Internet and sold by Profiles in History.

The buyer is not a party to the case. Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, said that if his client wins at trial, there may be a second legal step needed to get possession of the handwritten letter if the buyer does not relinquish it.

The purchaser lives in another state, but Fruin said he believes he has jurisdiction over the letter because it was auctioned in California.

Enders told Fruin the consigner who provided the letter to the auction house said he got it from a member of the housekeeping staff at the Hotel Bel-Air in the 1970s and that it was a draft of a letter never sent Lee Strasberg.

Fruin said the fact that the written and typed versions have so many corrections makes him wonder if Monroe sent either letter to Lee Strasberg because people do not usually forward correspondence in that fashion.

Strasberg, who wants unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, became heir to her husband’s estate, including the Monroe letters, when he died in February 1982 at age 80.

Strasberg is 75 years old and lives on the East Coast, Mancuso said.”

Profiles in History: Hollywood Auction

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This gorgeous photo of a young Marilyn in her favourite Oleg Cassini dress is one of several rare, unseen pictures featured in the upcoming Hollywood Auction 65, to be hosted by Profiles in History from October 17-19.

Also featured are candid photos of Marilyn with Joe DiMaggio in Canada; outtakes from Joseph Jasgur; and many other rarities, including publicity shots and photos during taken during public appearances.

Legal Dispute Over Strasberg Letter

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A letter written by Marilyn to Lee Strasberg, which sold for $156,000 at a Profiles in History auction in 2013, is the subject of a continuing legal dispute concerning Anna Strasberg, executrix of both Lee and Marilyn’s estate, reports the San Fernando Valley Post-Periodical. (The letter was written on Hotel Bel Air stationery, and may date from filming of Some Like it Hot in 1958. You can read a transcript here.)

“A judge told an attorney for an auction house Monday that he wanted to know who was in possession of a letter written by Marilyn Monroe to her longtime mentor and acting coach, pending the outcome of a trial over its ownership.

Robert Enders, an attorney for Calabasas-based auctioneer Profiles in History, said the letter’s purchaser – who is not identified by name or gender in court papers – advised him last week that the letter would be sent to the purchaser’s personal attorney in Los Angeles for safekeeping.

Enders said the person in possession of the letter – from Monroe to acting coach Lee Strasberg – did not give him any specifics about who would receive the letter and when.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin said he wanted answers to both.

In an Aug. 11 hearing, Fruin suggested placing the letter with an independent third party, while its ownership was litigated.

He also asked plaintiff Anna Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, to let him know when his client would be available to be deposed by Enders. Mancuso said the deposition would take place today.

Strasberg sued Profiles in History in May 2013, saying she learned in April 2013 that the letter, dubbed a ‘letter of despair’ in a New York Post article, was missing from her collection, which she inherited from her late husband – the administrator of Monroe’s estate.

According to court papers, Anna Strasberg thought the letter was with other Monroe memorabilia, locked in a filing cabinet at home.

The letter was bought via the Internet and sold by Profiles in History.

The buyer, however, is not a party to the case. Strasberg’s attorney, Bradley Mancuso, however said he may name him as a defendant.

While today’s deposition of his client would be done, he said he would rather wait until he knows whether or not to bring the buyer into the case. That way, Strasberg would only have to be deposed once.

‘I’d like to know who we’re fighting and what we’re fighting over before I take the next step,’ he said.

Strasberg lives on the East Coast, is 75 years old and in poor health, Mancuso said.

Mancuso said Stasberg believed the letter was stolen. But Enders told Fruin the consigner who provided the letter to the auction house said he got it from a member of the housekeeping staff at the Hotel Bel-Air in the 1970s and that it was a draft of a letter never sent Lee Strasberg.

Strasberg, who wants unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, became heir to her husband’s estate, including the Monroe letters, when he died in February 1982 at age 80.”

Greene Photo Auction in Poland

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The ongoing saga of Milton Greene’s missing Polish photo archive has taken another unexpected turn, reports the New York Times. A collection of 3,100 prints will be auctioned this Wednesday, June 25 – on condition that the archive stays in Poland, and that the buyer give all but 100 prints to a Polish museum. You can learn more about the auction here.

“This Wednesday, DESA Unicum in Warsaw will be auctioning 3,100 of Greene’s pictures of Marilyn Monroe and other celebrities. It is the largest — and final — lot to be offered since a successful offer of 403 prints in 2012.

‘It was the greatest auction in Polish history,’ said Julius Windorbski, the chairman of the auction house. ‘From a P.R. point of view and a financial point of view. There were over 650 bidders. The average bidding and final price compared to starting price was 10 to 15 times more.’

Understandably, Joshua Greene, one of the photographer’s sons, differs. Already upset over the 2012 auction, he was flabbergasted to learned that a much larger lot was to be auctioned this week. He said he was outraged that the collection was no longer in the family’s possession and that it was being mishandled. ‘They misidentified things,’ he said. ‘They did not know the difference between a modern day print and a vintage print.’

Before Mr. Greene died of cancer in August 1985, he had named as heir and co-executor Joanna Thorman, a 29-year-old model whom he had met five years prior, and one whom the family had gone so far as to bar from the hospital during his illness. After a two-year legal battle, the estate became the Milton Greene Trust, with Ms. Thorman as the trustee and the two sons the primary beneficiaries.

Greene left behind vintage prints, negatives, color transparencies — and a great deal of debt. To save the estate from bankruptcy, Ms. Thorman hired an acquaintance named Dino Matingas, a Chicago real estate investor and steel-company owner who later admitted to American Photo magazine that he knew nothing about photography. He agreed to acquire the Greene estate, ‘to get Joanna to stop bugging me about buying it,’ he told the magazine in 1993.

Mr. Matingas purchased it for $350,000 without looking at it. The problem is he bought the copyright to the images, too.

While all of this was going on, Mr. Matingas had been doing business with the Polish Foreign Debt Service Fund, known as FOZZ, secretly buying up foreign debt. According to an August 1992 Chicago Tribune report, the Polish government sued Mr. Matingas, claiming he had used 20 or more investment subsidiaries in business dealings that resulted in his being unable to account for $15.5 million in Polish funds. A spokesman for Poland’s Ministry of Finance said that when the government liquidated FOZZ, they tried to recover Mr. Matingas’s debt.

All Mr. Matingas formally owned at the time was a collection of 3,500 photographs, mostly of Marilyn Monroe.

Mr. Matingas could not be reached for comment. A call to a number that had once been linked to him was answered by someone who said he no longer lived there. Nor could Ms. Thorman be reached.

A bank acting on behalf of the Polish government took possession of the prints and held on to them until 2012, when they were brought to Warsaw. That fall, two auctions were held at the DESA Unicum, generating 2.4 million zlotys (about $750,000 then) from the event.

Joshua Greene who runs Archives LLC in Oregon, where he sells digitally restored prints of his father’s historical collections, said he was unaware of this week’s Warsaw auction. ‘If that is something you know about, I would love to know about it, too,’ he said.

He had already been hit hard last year, when 75,000 of his father’s celebrity negatives and slides, including 3,700 unpublished black-and-white and color negatives and transparencies of his Monroe archive were sold at auction — along with copyright — through a website called Profiles in History, in Los Angeles.

The seller, according to the auction house, was an anonymous American photography collector who purchased the archive about 10 years ago, and the images came with their copyrights from the Greene estate via the financial institution in Poland.

‘That was a nightmare that came back to haunt me and my family,’ Joshua Greene said.

Mr. Greene explained he had agreed to the transfer of the copyright to Polish officials 10 years ago because he wanted to end the dispute that had arisen from Mr. Matingas’s financial dealings.

This week’s auction in Poland is very different. ‘We are not selling negatives and we are not selling the copyrights,’ Mr. Windorbski said. ‘We are only selling vintage and licensed prints.’

And they will be sold with one strict condition.

‘We decided with the Ministries of Culture and of Finance that this has to go to a museum or a city that creates a museum that is made up of this collection,’ Mr. Windorbski said.

Whoever buys the collection can keep only 100 prints. The rest must end up in a museum. In Poland.

‘Milton Greene will probably have his own museum in Poland,’ Mr. Windorbski said. ‘It’s quite strange, but we’re very excited.'”

The Market For Marilyn

Earlier this year, the $156,000 sale of an intimate letter from Marilyn to Lee Strasberg made headlines. Maine Antique Digest spoke to Marsha Malinowski of Profiles in History about the auction.

“Virtually every news organization highlighted a letter by Marilyn Monroe to her mentor Lee Strasberg. A celebrity with worldwide recognition was an understandable choice for them. But what does it say about the manuscripts market that the undated Monroe missive was the top lot of the sale? Selling for $156,000, it beat out all other results for items by men of state (John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson), men of science (Thomas Edison, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Louis Pasteur), men of letters (Jack London, Samuel Clemens, Charles Dickens), and women of many different talents (Billie Holiday, Louisa May Alcott, Virginia Woolf, Mata Hari, Catherine de’ Medici, Helen Keller, Isadora Duncan, and Jackie Onassis), to name a few.

Maybe the outcome says that a manuscripts sale is a great leveler, just like fame itself. (Flannery O’Connor once commented that her fame had made her feel like a cross between ‘Roy Rogers’s horse and Miss Watermelon of 1955.’) Maybe it says more about the past successes of Profiles in History. Its customer base may be international, but its headquarters is not far from Hollywood, and the auction house is known for its sales of high-profile movie memorabilia—e.g., the white cocktail dress that flew up as Monroe stood over a subway grate in The Seven Year Itch. The star of a $22.8 million sale in 2011, the costume fetched $5.52 million.

Asked for her take on the result, Malinowski said, ‘It’s so hard for me to understand that a Marilyn Monroe letter sold for more than a Beethoven letter.’ (The sale’s one-page autograph letter signed by the composer, a terse message to opera singer Friedrich Sebastian Mayer, fetched $96,000.) ‘It’s just incredible to me on so many different levels. Then again, that was probably one of the most poignant Monroe letters I’ve ever read in all my years in the business.’

Partly, the price can be explained by the fact that powerful contemporary material is selling for very high prices, Malinowski said. Yet, she added, there was something about this letter that transcended that trend. ‘It was such a poignant letter; it struck a chord with people across the board.’ And as if to underline that statement, the item went not to a Hollywood collector, as one might suppose. ‘It went to a good manuscript-collecting client of mine, and I was thrilled,’ Malinowski said.

‘When people die tragically young, they become iconic, whether it is JFK, James Dean, or Marilyn,’ Malinowski said. ‘So there’s also that aspect. These tragic figures always garner a lot more attention.’ And because their lives have been cut short, ‘There’s a limited amount of the material, and people just go for it. I’ve watched that happen over time, and it hasn’t changed.’