Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed

While I don’t generally cover my non-Marilyn writings here, please allow me to make a rare exception. Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, my new biography of the legendary actress, is published today. My co-author is Eric Woodard, whom MM fans will know for his Marilyn-related titles, Hometown Girl and Travilla Film Fashions. Here’s a synopsis:

“The true story is finally told about Jeanne Eagels, legendary Broadway star as Sadie Thompson in Somerset Maugham’s Rain, celebrated silent movie actress, and Academy Award-nominated superstar in The Letter. She lived a life of renown, yet her rise to fame, her romances, her triumphs, her relentless perfectionism, and her fragile health propelled her into increasingly erratic behavior and a shocking climax that stunned the entire world. Illustrated with nearly 150 rare and unseen photographs.”

There are many parallels between Marilyn and Jeanne: both had short, tempestuous careers, and died in their late thirties; and Eagels was the first actress to play Sadie Thompson in Rain, a role Marilyn coveted. Jeanne’s legendary performance strongly influenced the teachings of Lee Strasberg, and he later wrote that Marilyn was the only actress who came close to her extraordinary presence.

I first explored the Eagels/Monroe connection in my novel about Marilyn, The Mmm Girl, and have posted two extracts here. I have also written an article exploring parallels between Marilyn and Jeanne, which you can read here.

‘Rain’: Marilyn’s Lost TV Movie

Photo by Terri Arden

In a fascinating, 3-part guest post for Elisa Jordan’s regular column at the Examiner, Eric Woodard looks behind at the ill-fated Rain, planned as a TV movie in 1961. Cast as prostitute Sadie Thompson, who clashes with an obsessive preacher in an adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s classic short story, Marilyn hoped to follow in the hallowed footsteps of Jeanne Eagels, Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford and Rita Hayworth, all of whom had previously played the role. (The project was suggested by her Actors’ Studio guru, Lee Strasberg, and her faith in his vision would cost her deeply.)

Eric is the author of Hometown Girl, and he also blogs about Marilyn’s favourite costume designer, Travilla.