Shooting Stars: Iconic Images of Hollywood’s Golden Age, a Bob Willoughby retrospective, is on display at the Elliott Halls Gallery in Amsterdam until January 19. Willoughby photographed MM at Ray Anthony’s ‘My Marilyn’ party in 1952 (see above), and on the Let’s Make Love set in 1960. Bob Willoughby died in 2009; you can read my tribute to him here.
Bandleader Ray Anthony, who had a hit in 1952 with ‘My Marilyn’, has shared his memories with the Hollywood Reporter – and unlike so many others who knew her (such as Mickey Rooney, pictured above), he has never embellished their brief acquaintance. A short film retelling the story, Marilyn and I, was released in 2015.
“When he wasn’t performing at A-list parties in his 1950s heyday, Anthony was recording music for 20th Century Fox Pictures (his rendition of ‘The Bunny Hop’ has been featured on soundtracks from 1955’s How to Be Very, Very Popular to TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond).
On the Fox lot, he met a beautiful starlet named Marilyn Monroe. ‘We threw this big party for Marilyn at my house in the Valley,’ recalls Anthony. ‘She was pretty happy about that. It probably helped a little bit with her fame.’
While the two were photographed together looking mutually enamored, Anthony says they were ‘just friends’ who were ‘pretty busy at the time’ focusing on their careers.
But he did woo another blond star — Mamie Van Doren, his wife from 1955 to 1961. Says Anthony of the Teacher’s Pet bombshell, ‘We had fun together.'”
Ray Anthony, the saxophonist who scored a hit with ‘My Marilyn’ in 1952 – and threw a star-studded pool party in his dream girl’s honour – is now 93, and the subject of a short film, Marilyn and I, directed by Phil Messerer. You can watch it here.
“What inspired me at first was the amazing quality of the original content. Ray spent most of his life in the limelight and so much of his career was documented with beautiful, high resolution photography. This allowed me to generate very dynamic camera movement within the photographs themselves and attempt to create a feeling that we were watching a motion picture rather than a slide show. And I tried pacing it like a modern day music video. It’s basically Ken Burns on speed. Most classic content is treated with great reverence by incorporating a very slow, deliberate editing technique. Our content was fairly lighthearted so I took the rare liberty of approaching historic documents with comic decorum. Most people forget that Marilyn was a comic actress. Her films were predominantly sex comedies. So I actually think this film is very much in tune with her body of work (no pun intended). After studying her career I felt it was practically called for. To do a somber Marilyn story would be a disservice to memory. But the film also has a very touching, very human element; something that I feel Marilyn had and is the reason for her longevity in the hearts of her fans.
Finally, (and I know this sounds a tad pretentious talking about a 14 minute short) I feel that Marilyn and I paints a picture of America itself. Mr. Anthony’s story wasn’t just filled with run of the mill celebrities. These were all Icons of Twentieth Century American culture. Glen Miller – Ray’s first bandleader – the tragic war hero who was the first to make Jazz ‘cool’. Hugh Hefner – Ray’s best friend – who ushered in the sexual revolution. Berry Gordy – Ray’s tennis nemesis – who started Motown and was at the center of the civil rights movement. And of course Marilyn Monroe – who gave us the term ‘sex goddess’.”
He was born in Philadelphia in 1919, and learned his trade as an apprentice for the Police Gazette. He won a Purple Heart for his work as a unit photographer during World War II, and as a freelance photographer for Life and other publications, was a pioneer of photo-journalism. He also worked extensively on film sets, and shot many classic jazz album covers. In 1961, Stern was hired by Frank Sinatra to document President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration.
In 1956, Marilyn returned to Hollywood triumphant after a year-long sabbatical. Once again, Stern captured her pensive side at a press conference. And in 1958, he took a long shot of a visibly pregnant Marilyn on the set of Some Like it Hot. (Sadly, she would later miscarry – making his picture both rare and poignant.)
In recent years, Stern opened a gallery in Los Angeles and published two books, Phil Stern’s Hollywood and A Life’s Work. ‘Stern has been sporadically selling prints of his photographs for years out of his modest Hollywood home,’ NBC reported. ‘But only the most persistent usually succeeded, and one of those was Madonna, who showed up at his doorstep to buy a photo of Marilyn Monroe.’
Active until the end, Stern was living at the Veterans Home of California. In 2012, an exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of Marilyn’s death opened at the Phil Stern Gallery.
He was modest about his gifts: ‘Look, Matisse I ain’t,’ he told the LA Times in 2003. ‘You know, how they have on the invitations, a reception for the artist will be held at…. And I say, Look, you gotta change this. I’m not an artist! I’m a photographer. A skilled craftsman.’
‘I have these dreams,’ Stern joked. ‘Those anxiety dreams. I’m at heaven’s gate and there is St. Peter, and they’re waiting to let me in. And there’s Davis, Sinatra, Wayne, Brando. They’re looking at me. You son of a bitch!‘
Actor Mickey Rooney has died aged 93. Born Joseph Yule Jr in Brooklyn, his parents were vaudeville players, and their son joined them onstage at fourteen months old. By the age of six, he had moved to Hollywood with his mother, Nell, and began appearing in silent comedy shorts for Hal Roach’s Our Gang series.
He then played Mickey McGuire in 78 eponymous shorts. His mother suggested ‘Mickey Looney’ as a stage name, though he later changed it to ‘Rooney’. He would later claim that Walt Disney named Mickey Mouse after him (although this has been disputed.)
With the coming of sound, Mickey graduated to bit-parts, signing with MGM in 1934. One of his first assignments was to play Clark Gable’s character as a boy in Manhattan Melodrama. The film is remembered today mainly because the gangster John Dillinger had just seen it when police shot him dead outside Chicago’s Biograph Theatre that July.
In 1935, Rooney played Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He then won a supporting role as bootblack Dick Tipton in Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), and played Jean Harlow’s kid brother in RiffRaff.
Rooney’s big break came in 1937, when he was selected to play Andy Hardy, teenage son of a small-town judge, in A Family Affair. Thirteen more Andy Hardy films would follow. He proved himself an actor in Boys Town (1938), opposite Spencer Tracy. In 1939, he played the title role in Huckleberry Finn. He then starred in Young Tom Edison (1940) and A Yank at Eton (1942.)
Another of MGM’s child stars, Judy Garland, formed an enduring song-and-dance team with Rooney. They starred in several films together, including Babes in Arms (1939) and Babes on Broadway (1941.)
‘Judy and I were so close we could’ve come from the same womb,’ he recalled in 1992. ‘We weren’t like brothers or sisters but there was no love affair there; there was more than a love affair. It’s very, very difficult to explain the depths of our love for each other.’
In 1942, he was briefly married to Ava Gardner, first of his eight wives. Offscreen, Mickey was far removed from the wholesome Andy Hardy – Ava divorced him after discovering his rampant infidelity.
After starring alongside another child actress, Elizabeth Taylor, in her breakout movie, National Velvet, Rooney joined the war effort in 1944, and enlisted in the US Army. Unfortunately, his film career slumped after his return to Hollywood, but he kept on working, onstage and in television.
In 1948, Mickey attended the premiere of Billy Wilder’s The Emperor Waltz with a little-known starlet, Marilyn Monroe. It was customary in those days for studios to send their young actors on public ‘dates’.
Monroe would play a small role in The Fireball (1950), a rollerball drama starring Rooney. In his 1991 biography, Life Is Too Short, Mickey claimed to have given the former Norma Jeane her stage name at the time, but she had already been using it for four Marilyn with James Brown and Rooney in ‘The Fireball’ (1950)He also alleged that she had offered him sexual favours in return for the part. This seems unlikely, as she was then under the wing of one of Hollywood’s most powerful agents, Johnny Hyde. In old age, Rooney discussed MM on numerous TV chat shows.
Actor James Brown, who also appeared in The Fireball, told John Gilmore, author of Inside Marilyn Monroe (2007), ‘She seemed nervous when we talked about Mickey Rooney, she said, “he’s really terrible, isn’t he?” She thought he would have been a nice person from all the movies she’d seen him, like when he was a kid…She said he’d whispered dirty things and she was frightened of him…’
By 1952, Marilyn was a huge star. Her first date with Joe DiMaggio at the Villa Nova Restaurant was interrupted by Mickey, who regaled the baseball legend with sycophantic banter. DiMaggio listened politely before returning to his lovely companion.
An illustration of how their fortunes had reversed is the appearance of Mickey at public events showcasing Marilyn, including a drumming stint in bandleader Ray Anthony’s launch party for a new hit song, ‘My Marilyn’, in August 1952. They would both participate in an all-star charity football game that September.
Rooney’s later film roles included The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), The Bold and the Brave (1956), for which he received an Oscar nomination; Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963.) But his comedic performance as Japanese landlord Mr Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) led to accusations of racist stereotyping.
He appeared in many TV series, including The Twilight Zone, Rawhide, The Golden Girls, Full House, The Simpsons, E.R., and The Muppets. He scored a late movie hit in The Black Stallion (1979), and provided the voice of Tod, the fox, in Disney’s The Fox and the Hound (1981.) He played a handicapped man in the 1981 TV movie, Bill.
Among Rooney’s stage successes were Sugar Babies, with Ann Miller, The Wizard of Oz with Eartha Kitt, and A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum. In 2006, he starred alongside Ben Stiller in the big-screen hit, Night at the Museum.
At the time of his death, Rooney was said to be filming an adaptation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, with two other projects in pre-production. In 2011, he accused a stepson of elder abuse. He separated from his wife of 37 years, Jan Chamberlin, in 2013.
Mickey Rooney died at his Hollywood home, surrounded by family. Rooney is survived by 8 children, 2 stepchildren, 19 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
He was one of the last remaining stars of the silent era, and was once described by Sir Laurence Olivier as the greatest film actor America has ever produced.
Actress Gloria Pall, aka TV’s ‘Voluptua’, died on December 30, aged 85, reports the Los Angeles Times. Gloria attended the party to celebrate bandleader Ray Anthony’s 1952 hit, ‘My Marilyn’, where Marilyn herself was the guest of honour.
In recent years, Gloria was a regular guest at the annual service for Marilyn at Westwood Memorial Park. She also penned a book about MM, The Marilyn Monroe Party, in 2002.
A young Marilyn lived in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, at various homes during the years 1937-47. Her cousin Eleanor ‘Bebe’ Goddard, and movie stand-in Evelyn Moriarty were Valley residents. And the bandleader Ray Anthony hosted the famous ‘My Marilyn’ party at his Studio City home in 1952.
For more of Mike Szymanski’s findings on Marilyn’s Valley connections, read his article in full here.
‘The images – which measure 1.5 inches by four inches – came to prevalence after photographer Lani Carlson decided to put them up for sale so that they could be enjoyed by Monroe fans the world over. He is also selling the copyright to them.
They were taken on a David White Stereo Realist Camera, a dual-lens point and shoot that creates a three-dimensional effect when seen through a special viewer.
Williamson added: “It wasn’t this guys profession but he was a great amateur photographer.
“He was just the sound man at this huge celeb party, but because of the great access that afforded him, he simply took advantage and went roaming with his new camera.
“He is still alive but has decided that he has had enough enjoyment from them and has decided to share them with other people.
“Understandably this is something that many film fanatics and fans of Marilyn will be interested in owning. We are estimating that it is going to sell for anything in between $70,000 and $90,000.”‘
The auction also includes candid shots of Marilyn visiting US troops in Korea, 1954, taken by Joseph Dominguez:
“It was February 1954 … and better yet, Marilyn Monroe came to Korea at this time to entertain the troops. I got to be one of her guards during her two day stay! I sneaked my cheapie camera into my field jacket and took several photos of her as I went about my guard duties … I got to exchange small talk with Marilyn and found her to be genuinely warm, tender and beautiful. I wrote some of our small talk ‘comments’ on the back of the photos … All photos are unpublished.”
Finally, some 1954-55 photos of Marilyn outside the St Regis Hotel and 21 Club in New York (possibly taken by Sam Shaw), and a contact sheet by Bob Henriques during filming of TheSeven Year Itch.