Marilyn’s Prayer Book Sold (Again)

Marilyn’s Jewish prayer book or ‘Siddur’, given to her by Paula Strasberg when she converted to Judaism and married Arthur Miller in 1956, was resold yesterday for $8,750 at J. Greenstein & Co. in Cedarhurst, NY, reports Antiques and the Arts. Originally auctioned at Christie’s in 1999, it was resold for $26,000 at Greenstein’s in November 2018 (see here), before going under the hammer again at a lower price just a year later.

Interestingly, the book was published in 1926, the year of Norma Jeane’s birth; and was first gifted to one Kenneth Wasserman on August 4th, 1934 – Monroe would pass away exactly 28 years later. It seems to have passed through several owners, including a Marilyn Cooper-Smith, nee Miller (1931-2014) who like her famous near-namesake, also received it upon her marriage.

Marilyn at Julien’s: In the Beginning

Goodman Basil Espy III, M.D. was “a true Southern gentleman.” He began collecting memorabilia for his beloved Georgia Tech, and sports in general. He was also a Marilyn Monroe fan, and his collection – which includes original photos and important documents plus key fashion items – enables us to review her life in a unique way. One of the auction’s four catalogues is devoted solely to Marilyn (you can order the entire set for $150 plus shipping here.)

Marilyn Southern Gentleman’s Collection will go under the hammer at Julien’s Auctions next Thursday, November 14. In the first of several posts, I look at items relating to Marilyn’s childhood and family background. (You can read all posts about this sale here.)

“An original print with a semi-gloss finish, depicting five young women in the 1920s standing in front of a Spanish-style building, Norma Jeane’s penciled annotation on the verso reading ‘Mother, second from End on Right / with her girl friends;’ also included are two other snapshots: another 1920s-era original print with a glossy finish, depicting Gladys Baker and two girlfriends, and a 1940s-era original print with a glossy finish, depicting a middle-aged Baker standing on a street in Reno, Nevada.” [Marilyn would later film The Misfits in Reno.]

SOLD for $768

“An original childhood snapshot with a glossy finish, depicting a six or seven year-old Norma Jeane crouching outside of someone’s house in rural-looking 1930s Los Angeles, a pre-printed decorative black border has an Olympic theme showing images of the Coliseum plus two bears displaying the initials ‘LA,’ thus seeming to date the photograph to 1932 or thereabouts. And sold separately, a set of two letters; the first a single page, now yellowed with age, typed, dated ‘December 4, 1935,’ sent to ‘Mrs. Dewey’ of the Los Angeles Orphans Home (later known as Hollygrove) by Grace Goddard, outlining how Goddard didn’t want Ida Bolender to see the 9 year-old Norma Jeane anymore ‘as her visits seem to upset the child,’ though Goddard does allow that many others can visit including ‘Elsie or Harvey Giffin, / Maude, George or Nell Atkinson, or her Aunt, Olive / Monroe, or Mrs. Martin, Olive’s Mother’ but poor Ida was banned; the second is a single page of letterhead from the Los Angeles Orphans Home Society, typed, dated ‘Dec. 6, 1935,’ Mrs. Dewey’s response to Goddard, reading in part ‘I’ll do as you request. We want to do all we can to / make Norma happy, and to please you’ — interesting documents illustrating some of the early childhood strife Norma Jeane went through.”

Photo SOLD for $2,187.50; letters SOLD for $2,812.50

“A group of seven though only one is annotated, original prints with a glossy finish, taken circa 1942-1944, four show a small house at 6707 Odessa Avenue in Van Nuys, CA, and three show its interior; one has Norma Jeane’s penciled annotation on the verso reading ‘6707 Odessa Ave / Van Nuys, Calif. / Where I lived when I first / ment [sic] Jimmy’ [Dougherty, her first husband]. Interestingly, this house was owned by Ana Lower, the paternal aunt of Grace Goddard, Gladys Baker’s best friend and on-and-off guardian of the child Norma Jeane. Grace seemed to use this house of her aunt’s as a temporary crash pad from time to time, such as in the early 1940s when she moved there with her third husband, ‘Doc’ Goddard, his children (including Eleanor ‘Bebe’ Goddard), and a teen-aged Norma Jeane Baker.”

SOLD for $1,000

“A set of two snapshots taken circa 1942-1944; the first depicts Ana Lower [Grace Goddard’s paternal aunt and sometime guardian of the child Norma Jeane] in front of the house she owned at 6707 Odessa Avenue in Van Nuys, CA, with Norma Jeanes penciled annotation on the verso reading ‘Aunt Ana;’ the second depicts Ana standing next to four others, NJs penciled annotation on the verso reading Taken at Aunt Alices & Uncle / Arts wedding / Aunt Ana, John, U. Art, A. Alice, Opal — interesting to see that NJ did have a family growing up, albeit a non-blood one. And, sold separately, a single sheet of onion skin paper, no date but circa 1944, penciled on the front and back with a number of tenets and quotes about the Christian Science religion such as ‘Thank God I’m not a mortal; / living in a material world subject / to a material law; But I am / an Immortal living in a spiritual / world subject to a spiritual law’ and the like, ending with ‘He who gets much out of Christian Sciences / puts much into it’ and ‘Am going to make a book on good / thoughts and helpful things in C.S.;’ likely an assignment for the young Norma Jeane from her ‘aunt’ Ana Lower who was a strict practitioner of the religion as was Monroe’s mother, as much as she could be.”

Photos SOLD for $437.50; Essay SOLD for $3,200

“A two pager on plain stationery, penned in blue fountain pen ink on both sides, addressed to ‘Dear Norm,’ dated ‘May 25, 1942,’ sent to a 15 year-old Norma Jeane from Grace Goddard’s step-daughter, Eleanor ‘Bebe’ Goddard, who had just moved to Virginia; Bebe blathers on about mundane goings-on but does mention NJ’s pending nuptials ‘…I know / that you’ll be very happy. I hope the / first one is a boy,’ and interestingly, she does mention a number of people the two young girls both knew such as Grace [Goddard, NJ’s mother’s best friend and her on-and-off childhood guardian], Enid [Knebelkamp, Grace’s sister], Sam [Knebelkamp, Enid’s second husband], ‘Daddy’ [Ervin Silliman Goddard aka ‘Doc,’ Grace’s third husband], Mrs. Dougherty [Ethel, NJ’s soon to be mother-in-law], and others such as Mrs. Watson, Bub, Diane, and Pat, ending with ‘give the Doughertys our love / Love / Bebe’ — a sweet letter to an unknown teenager who would become world famous less than a decade later.”

SOLD for $640

“A 12 page booklet titled ‘Our Wedding Day‘ noting a 1938 copyright date, on page 7 someone filled in the blank spaces in blue fountain pen ink that related to the event, noting the details ‘Nineteenth / June / 1942 / James Edward Dougherty / of Van Nuys / Norma Jeane Mortenesor [sic] / of Westwood / 432 South Bentley, Westwood / California,’ three witnesses’ names are evident but only one is legible: ‘Marion C. Dougherty,’ brother of the groom, and coincidentally with the same first name as Norma Jeane’s maternal uncle. And sold separately, a snapshot depicting James Dougherty wearing sweats, inscribed in blue fountain pen ink on the verso by his then wife ‘Jimmie in his gym / clothes, also these are the / work clothes of the Physical / Training Instructors. This was / taken at the Catalina Ball / Park where he works.’ (Both items are water damaged.)”

Photo SOLD for $640; wedding card SOLD for $2,812.50

A framed modelling photo of Norma Jeane by Andre De Dienes; and sold seperately, two love letters sent by Norma Jeane to Andre in 1946. The first is on a single page of stationery, no date but circa 1946, penciled on one side in full ‘Darling W.W. [Worry Wart, a nickname NJ gave to De Dienes], I’m writing today / I miss you. I love you with all / my heart and only you;’ and penned in blue fountain pen ink on the other in full ‘Dear Andre, / I’m not doing anything / much except just existing. / Darling there is absoltly [sic] / no one but you. Please / believe me. Absolutly [sic] / absolutely;’ most likely never sent as the then called Norma Jeane was figuring out how to spell the word ‘absolutely’ which she finally got on the last try. The second is penned in black and blue fountain pen ink, dated ‘June 4th, 1946‘ when Norma Jeane had just turned 20 years old, addressed to ‘My Dearest W.W.’ [Worry Wart – a nickname NJ gave to AD], reading in part ‘I’m so much in love with / you, Andre my darling…Don’t worry W.W. I’m being / a good girl. I wouldn’t for / the world be insincere toward / you… / all I / think about is Andre, Andre, / Andre. When will he ever get / here’ — a true love letter penned by a very smitten young girl,” seeming to prove De Dienes’ assertion that the two did indeed have a love affair.

Photo SOLD for $1,280; Letters SOLD for $2,187.50 and $5,625, respectively

Two telegrams and a love letter from Andre De Dienes, dated 1946-47; together with a snapshot of Norma Jeane and a man described as ‘possibly De Dienes’, but actually another photographer, Richard C. Miller. Sold separately, a 1946 model release form signed by Miller and Norma Jeane.

Correspondence SOLD for $750; model release form SOLD for $8,750

“A set of two letters from Jim Dougherty, then serving abroad in the Merchant Marines; the first on a single sheet of stationery, penned in blue fountain pen ink on both sides, dated ‘May 23, 1946,’ basically imploring his wife to write him, ending with ‘I get Mom’s letters O.K. but none / from you / …P.S. No Mail No Souvenirs,’ signed ‘Love / Jim;’ the second a birthday card probably from the same year as the letter, signed in black fountain pen ink ‘All my Love / Jimmie’ — little did poor Jimmie know he’d be divorced just four months later.”

Letters SOLD for $768

Handwritten letter from Norma Jeane to her half-sister Berniece, undated but from 1943; photo of Berniece with her husband Paris included. And sold separately, a single piece of plain paper, no date but July 1946 by postmark, penned in black fountain pen ink, a newsy letter from Berniece Miracle, sent to Norma Jeane (though Berniece leaves off the final ‘e’), reading in part ‘Your picture was in / the paper…I’m so / proud of you’ and ‘I was sorry to hear / about you & Jimmie,’ ending with ‘Tell Grace & Doc “hello”;’ with its original transmittal envelope addressed to ‘Norma Jean Dougherty’ at her ‘11348 Nebraska Ave’ address in Los Angeles but also addressed to her temporary Las Vegas address where she was staying during her divorce proceedings from James Dougherty.”

Norma Jeane’s letter SOLD for $12,500; Berniece’s letter SOLD for $1,125

“Two mysterious notes from Norma Jeane (or as she would soon be known, Marilyn), sold separately: firstly, a small gift card from Bullock’s Los Angeles, penned in black fountain pen ink, ‘Heres [sic] a little salt / for someone who is / “The salt of the earth” / Love, / Norma Jeane;’ included with its envelope but it’s not addressed so we’ll never know who NJ bought this gift for or what it was! By contrast, the second is a cryptic handwritten note, penciled on the front side ‘Do Not Call me / Neither on the Phone nor / in person do not want / to go into any explainations [sic] / this is absolutely final.’ — seems like she was breaking it off with some overzealous suitor, but who was it?”

Notes SOLD for $2,560 and $12,500, respectively

Four books, including three purchased in ‘an obscure Butterfield’s auction’, described as belonging to Norma Jeane and possibly passed on by family members: “1) Hammond’s Handy Atlas of the World by C.S. Hammond & Company, printed in 1933, signed in pencil on the front free end page ‘Hollywood, Cal. / Columbia Studio / Grace McKee / Dec. 29th 1933;’ 2) The Female Impersonators by Ralph Werther, printed in 1922, signed in green fountain pen ink on the front free end paper ‘Property of / John G. Eley M.D. / Fellow College of Phys / Physo-Gyn-Diseases;’ 3) Male and Female by Jack Woodford, printed in 1946; and 4) Illegitimate by Jack Woodford, printed in 1946, with dust jacket.” [John Eley was the bigamous third husband of Norma Jeane’s mother Gladys.]

SOLD for $2,500

“A group of eight pieces given to Norma Jeane during her childhood by her beloved guardian. ‘Aunt Ana’ Lower including: 1) a partial two page letter penned by Lower in blue fountain pen ink to ‘My darling,’ dated ‘June 1st 1947’ [NJ’s 21st birthday], reading in part ‘A girl needs a father, mine / was never a help, so you and / I are alike in that respect,’ last pages now missing; 2) a single sheet of paper with notes penciled by Grace Goddard [Lower’s niece] about the history of her friend’s [Gladys Baker, though she’s never mentioned] mental breakdowns from 1935 to the early 1950s; 3) a prayer card inscribed on the verso by Lower in blue fountain pen ink ‘To Norma Jeane / With love / Aunt Ana / June 10, 1940;’ 4) a 1947 Christian Science pamphlet; 5) a 1947 schedule for a Christian Science meeting; 6) two pages removed from a prayer book; 7) two of Ana Lower’s business cards plus an envelope flap printed with her name and famous address of ‘11348 Nebraska Avenue / West Los Angeles, 25, California;’ and 8) a 1943 newspaper clipping about Mary Pickford adopting a son. And sold separately, a letter from Gladys Baker, dated ‘May 30, 1948,’ addressed to ‘Grace and all’ [Goddard, Gladys’ best friend and Norma Jeane’s on-and-off guardian], a newsy yet somewhat sad letter written to her old friend, Gladys references how she’s in debt for the first time in her life and how she hates it, she further writes ‘…why didn’t / you let me know of / Aunt Ana’s passing away? / Didn’t you have my address? / Or what?!’, and then she briefly mentions her daughter as an afterthought (even though NJ’s 22nd birthday was just two days away) with ‘By the way how is / Norma Jeane getting / along(?)’ Gladys oddly signs off as ‘Gladys V. Baker’ as if Grace wouldn’t know who she was if she had just written her first name; included with its original transmittal envelope addressed to Grace at her Van Nuys address and coincidentally with a postmark of ‘June 1, 1948.'”

Anna’s correspondence SOLD for $896; Gladys’ letter SOLD for $768

“A single page of small lined notebook paper, with penciled scribblings by Marilyn, reading in full ‘We can only / merge spiritually / never physically – no matter / contact your partner / focus your look / your thought on the partner;’ evidently some musings on her religion; also included is a small black and white cheesecake photograph of MM.”

SOLD for $576

“A small group of seven items all sent to Norma Jeane/Marilyn ranging in date from the mid-1940s to about 1952, though sadly all are severely water damaged; including: 1) a two page letter handwritten in blue fountain pen ink from her half-sister Berniece Miracle; 2) a birthday card also from her sister; 3) a black and white snapshot of Berniece and her daughter, Mona Rae; 4) a black and white snapshot of Berniece and her husband, Paris Miracle; 5) a black and white snapshot of a good-looking young man; 6) a completely damaged black and white snapshot with a partial inscription on the verso reading in part ‘Bill;’ and 7) an early 1947 fan letter sent to MM at 20th Century Fox from someone in Italy.”

SOLD for $384

Atlanta Celebrates the Jewish Marilyn

Bob Bahr explores Marilyn’s spiritual side in a cover story for the Atlanta Jewish Times (dated August 30.)

“Monroe once told Paula Strasberg, her drama coach at the time, that she felt a special kinship with her newfound faith. ‘I can identify with the Jews,’ she said. ‘Everybody’s out to get them, no matter what they do, like me.’

On the front door of the home where she died, she had affixed a mezuzah with its tiny parchment scroll of sacred Jewish writings. She still had the prayer book with her personal notes written in its pages, a gift from Miller that had once belonged to the Brooklyn synagogue where he had had his bar mitzvah. On her mantle she kept a bronze menorah, which played ‘Hatikvah,’ the national anthem of the State of Israel. It was a present from Miller’s Yiddish-speaking mother.

Rabbi Robert Goldburg had worked with her during her conversion and provided her with a number of Jewish historical and religious works to study. About three weeks after her death, he wrote of his impressions of her at the time.

‘She was aware of the great character that the Jewish people had produced. … She was impressed by the rationalism of Judaism — its ethical and prophetic ideals and its close family life.’

When she rebelled against the exploitation of the Hollywood studio system, broke her contract with 20th Century Fox and fled Hollywood in 1954 for a new life in New York, it was at the urging of Milton Greene, a popular Jewish photographer with whom she founded Marilyn Monroe Productions. For a while she lived with Greene and his wife and helped take care of their year-old son.

Even before the move she lived and worked in what was largely a Jewish world. In Hollywood her agent and publicist and an early drama coach and mentor were all Jewish. She owed her early success, in part, to personal relationships with the powerful Jewish studio executive Joseph Schenck and the important talent agent Johnny Hyde, who had originally emigrated from the Jewish Ukraine. Her three psychiatrists were Jewish as well as many of her doctors. One of her closest journalistic confidants was the newspaper columnist Sidney Skolsky.

But all that accelerated when she moved to New York and enrolled in Lee and Paula Strasberg’s Actors Studio … She quickly fell in with their circle of friends, who made up the theatrical and literary elite of Jewish New York. She volunteered to be the star attraction at a United Jewish Appeal dinner.

The poet Norman Rosten and his wife and children were close friends. She was a regular at a summer of brunches and picnics and cookouts with the Strasbergs in Ocean Beach on Fire Island. She frequently dug into what Paula Strasberg called her ‘Jewish icebox’ there, with its salamis from Zabar’s on New York’s Upper West Side and the honey cakes and fancy European pastries from some of the bakeries started in New York by refugees from Nazi persecution.

It was, in the words of one Monroe biographer, ‘a year of joy,’ made even more joyful by a newfound romance with [Arthur] Miller … Gloria Steinem, the Jewish American essayist and feminist, wrote a perceptive analysis about the relationship and Monroe’s decision just before their marriage to convert to Judaism.

‘Miller himself was not religious, but she wanted to be part of his family’s tradition.”‘I’ll cook noodles like your mother,” she told him on their wedding day. She was optimistic this marriage would work. On the back of a wedding photograph, she wrote “Hope, Hope, Hope.”‘

Her public commitment to Judaism in the mid-50s was just one of the signs that Jews were winning new acceptance in America after the end of World War II and of the changes that the war had brought.

Although she’s been gone these many years, she is not forgotten. Time has treated the memory of Monroe with kindness. Her estate, most of which she left to the Strasberg family, has consistently earned tens of millions of dollars over the more than 50 years since her death … As for that prayer book that Arthur Miller took from his Brooklyn synagogue and Monroe kept to her dying day, it sold at auction last year for $18,000.”

Thanks to Marco at Marilyn Remembered

‘Forever Marilyn’ in Stamford, Connecticut

The world’s media has been eager to report on the alleged controversy caused by the summer-long installation of Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn‘ at Latham Park in Stamford, Connecticut. The sculpture, inspired by the iconic ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch, shows Marilyn’s dress blowing in the wind – and its placement has her rear end facing a local church.

Although the headlines would have us believe that the church’s response has been one of puritanical outrage, the reality is more nuanced – with even the harshest critics stating that it wasn’t Marilyn herself that they found distasteful, but the overtly sexual way in which she is depicted.

“I just find the position to be offensive,” local resident Lorri Tamburro told the Stamford Advocate. “I looked at it and it was, in my eyes, very disrespectful. I think because with what I saw with all the little kids looking up, the height is ruining it. It’s ruining beautiful Marilyn.”

Parishioner Jean Meyer, however, felt differently. “You’re going to have different opinions on it, but you have to have a sense of humor,” she said. “There are bigger issues to worry about,” said another church member, Maureen Matthews. “But I’ll be interested to see how people talk about it on Sunday.”

“It is art and we don’t believe it’s offensive,” said Sandy Goldstein, who helped to organise this year’s ‘Art in Public Spaces’ exhibit. Pointing out that many nude female statues can be seen in Europe (including near churches), she added, “We absolutely mean no disrespect to the church.”

“The issue is, why that statue?” Rev. Dr. Todd Grant Yonkman of the First Congregational Church wrote in an email to the Associated Press. “Marilyn Monroe was an artist deserving our respect. Why appropriate her image in this way. Is this the best we can do?”

In a report for HuffPost, Carol Kuruvilla spoke with Yonkman:

“He said he understands the statue is a ‘piece of art’ that is ‘designed to make the viewer uncomfortable … It makes me uncomfortable,’ Yonkman told HuffPost in an email. ‘The question for each one of us is, What will you do with your discomfort? I am choosing grace.’.

Yonkman said he and his congregation, which is part of the progressive mainline Protestant denomination the United Church of Christ, don’t plan on taking any action about the placement of the statue. Instead, they want to use it as an opportunity to connect with their community.

The church has been planning to host a Pride event in Latham Park to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community. ‘Marilyn is a gay icon, so it turns out that this may be a fortuitous coincidence,’ Yonkman wrote.”

Marilyn and Arthur in Philadelphia

In an article for the Jewish Press, Saul Jay Singer explores the Judaism of Marilyn and Arthur Miller, including their 1959 appearance at an American Friends of the Hebrew University dinner at Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia.

“Invited along with her husband to address a United Jewish Appeal (UJA) conference in Miami, Monroe wrote a speech about why she believed that Jewish institutions, especially Israel, deserve broad public support, but she ultimately declined to deliver the address when the UJA rescinded its invitation to Miller after his House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC ) indictment. She did, however, later attend a dinner held on September 27, 1959 in Philadelphia by a chapter of the American Friends of the Hebrew University where Miller was awarded an honorary degree to commemorate his ‘distinguished achievement in the Dramatic Arts.’

Shown here is a unique and rare item from my collection, a program from that historic event on which Monroe has signed and inscribed ‘To Stevie – Happy Bar Mitzvah! Marilyn Monroe.'”

Bad Faith: Marilyn and the Mormons

Marilyn’s name has all too often been exploited for profit, but a recent incident involving a posthumous ‘proxy baptism’ by the Church of Latter Day Saints is downright creepy, as revealed in an Associated Press report for The Guardian. Despite having no living connection to the Mormon faith, Marilyn is one of several dead celebrities to be appropriated in this manner.

“Mormons have recently posthumously baptised at least 20 Holocaust victims, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe and the Queen Mother, according to a researcher who has spent two decades monitoring the church’s massive genealogical database.

The researcher, Helen Radkey, is a former Mormon who left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the mid-1970s and was excommunicated after publicly criticising it. She was blocked from the baptisms section of the massive collection of genealogical records the Utah-based church makes available to the public through its website, familysearch.org, until she was given a login by a friend.

Printouts and screenshots show that in the past five years, proxy baptisms were performed on at least 20 Holocaust victims. Radkey said she found no evidence of ancestral ties to Mormons in those baptisms or in those linked to famous people.

Her discoveries will bring new scrutiny to a practice that has become a sensitive issue for the church. In a statement, the church acknowledged the ceremonies violated its policy and said they would be invalidated.”

Marilyn’s Prayer Book Heads to Auction

A Jewish daily prayer-book acquired by Marilyn at the time of her 1956 marriage to Arthur Miller will be auctioned at William Doyle Galleries of New York as part of their Rare Books, Autographs & Maps sale on Tuesday, November 7. The book, which numbers some 648 pages, is described as ‘quite worn’ and includes a few notations in pencil, apparently by Marilyn herself. It was originally sold at Christie’s in 1999. The estimated price this time around is $4,000-$6,000. For more information on Marilyn’s conversion, read this excellent article by Simone Esther.

Also featured in the auction is a postcard reproduction of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn, signed by the artist.

UPDATE:  The Warhol postcard sold for $1,250, but Marilyn’s prayer-book went unsold.

Marilyn’s Journey to Judaism

Marilyn with Arthur Miller and his parents shortly before their wedding in 1956

In a fascinating blog post, MM fan Simone Esther looks at Marilyn’s conversion to Judaism in 1956 in the context of a lifelong spiritual journey.

 “Norma Jeane’s interest in [Christian Science] drastically subsided when Aunt Ana tragically died of heart failure in 1948, but with her natural intellect and eager curiosity it did not take long for an interest in psychoanalysis and philosophy to develop; an interest which would stay with her until her death.

Perhaps this is one thing that Marilyn found attractive in the Jews that she came to be surrounded by in the 1950s – the tradition’s affirmation of critical thinking, rationalism and natural embrace of philosophical ideals (see The Haskalah).

Already Marilyn’s closest associates were Jews  – including photographer Milton Greene, his wife Amy, poet Norman Rosten and her former acting coach Natasha Lytess – and she held a deep admiration for Jewish physicist Albert Einstein; But it was when she moved to New York to become a ‘serious actress’ at The Actor’s Studio in 1955, that the Jewish home of Lee Strasberg and his wife Paula became her second dwelling. There, she became Paula’s third child and she took comfort in the strong family values instilled by the tradition, something she never had the pleasure of enjoying in her youth. Susan Strasberg once recounted how Marilyn had told her, ‘I can identify with the Jews. Everybody’s always out to get them, no matter what they do, like me.’

So when Marilyn became engaged to Arthur Miller, whom she had known since 1951, it seemed natural for her to approach him and inquire about  joining the faith of his forefathers; Arthur found the entire thing wholly unnecessary, but supported his bride’s decision nonetheless.

Truth be told, Judaism played little role besides providing community in Marilyn’s life once her initial enthusiasm faded – she even later described herself as a ‘Jewish atheist’. Yet in the brief time of her observance, no matter how valid we consider her conversion to be, she provided a platform to other Jews-By-Choice and paved a path for many of her contemporaries to soon, perhaps more stringently, venture for themselves.”

When Jane Met Marilyn…

In Scotland’s Sunday Post this weekend, Craig Campbell looks back at the life of Marilyn’s most congenial co-star, Jane Russell, who would have turned 96 this week. The article was first published in the June 17 issue of Weekly News – and you can read my own tribute to Jane at Immortal Marilyn.

“This most-unusual woman, by Hollywood standards, also started a weekly Bible study group, something she would invite a most-unexpected guest to in years to come.

Jane was an established star by the time that she made Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1953 with the most-famous blonde of them all — but her opposite number certainly hadn’t yet attained iconic status.

Already an ‘old, established broad who’d been around’, Jane felt Marilyn Monroe might like to come to some faith discussions, but the idea didn’t quite click.

‘At that time, Marilyn didn’t even have her own dressing-room, which sounds insane now!’ Jane laughed. ‘She only got one for that movie.’

‘She was super-sensitive, had her feelings hurt a lot, and the guys around the studio weren’t exactly tactful.’

‘We had a group called The Hollywood Christian Group, and I asked Marilyn along.’

‘She did say the next day: It’s not for me!’

What both leading ladies did have in common, however, was movie success … Jane’s razor-sharp wit was the perfect foil for Marilyn’s portrayal of gold-digger Lorelei Lei, and the song ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ became a classic.

Russell would also star in the follow-up, Gentlemen Prefer Brunettes, which was lacking the Monroe effect and didn’t fare so well.”

Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn

Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn, a new exhibition at New York’s Jewish Museum, explores the parallels between Marilyn and Elizabeth Taylor, who both converted to Judaism, and Andy Warhol’s fascination with the cult of celebrity.

As Flavorpill reports, the exhibition (opening on September 25, through to February 7, 2016) is divided into three sections – Celebrity, Conversion, and Myth & Legend.

The New York Observer reveals that Marilyn’s Menorah will be on display, alongside two 1962 paintings by Warhol, ‘Mint Marilyn’ and ‘Blue Liz’, as well as two print portraits of the women, and assorted photographs, letters, and ephemera.