Marilyn Book News: The Girl, Hollywood and More

2018 is shaping up to be another great year for Marilyn’s book-loving fans. Marilyn: Lost and Forgotten, featuring 150 images from Colin Slater’s Hollywood Photo Archive, is set for publication in October. For those who can’t get enough of those classic Hollywood beauties, a companion volume – Venus in Hollywood: Portraits from the Golden Age of Glamour – is due in November.

Michelle Morgan’s latest book, The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist, will be published in May. For the latest updates, follow Michelle’s blog here.

Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon, a full-scale biography by Charles Casillo, will follow in August.

Looking further ahead,  Amanda Konkle’s Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe, a scholarly look at her film performances, will be published in February 2019. (Only the Kindle version is available for pre-order as yet.)

In related interest, Marilyn graces the cover of Samantha Barbas’ Confidential Confidential: The Inside Story of Hollywood’s Notorious Scandal Magazine, due in September. (The notorious ‘Wrong Door Raid’ is also featured in Jim Heimann’s Dark City: The Real Los Angeles Noir, just published by Taschen.

Reno, a 2016 play by Roy Smiles about Marilyn’s conflicted relationships with husband Arthur Miller and director John Huston during the tumultuous filming of The Misfits, will be published shortly by Oberon Modern Playwrights (the Kindle version is currently available for pre-order.)

And finally, Elizabeth Winder’s Marilyn in Manhattan is now available in Turkish; and Marilyn Monroe: 1926-1962, a new study of her untimely death by Eva Enderström, has been published in Sweden.

‘Ms. Monroe’ Inspires Warsaw Radio

‘Ms. Monroe’, the new single from Brighton band Warsaw Radio (whose lead singer Brian McNamara hails from Limerick, Ireland), is inspired by Marilyn’s relationship with Arthur Miller, as Eric Lalor reports for JOE.ie. Taken from their debut album, Midnight Broadcast, ‘Ms. Monroe’ doesn’t mention the couple directly, but its lyrics evoke doomed love and the video’s use of found footage enhances the retro feel.

“The narrative imagines Monroe giving advice on relationships after the break down of her relationship with Miller when they were filming what would be Monroe’s last film (The Misfits) in Reno, Nevada … McNamara’s vocals have rarely sounded better … It’s a cracker from start to finish and would leave you wanting to hear more.”

UPDATE: In an interview with the Connacht Tribune, Brian McNamara revealed the inspiration behind the song…

“About two years I went to see a play about Marilyn Monroe at the Brighton Fringe Festival. I didn’t know anything about her, other than she was a movie star. I came home that night and started writing that song. A few days later it was finished. At the time we were recording our album and I was exploring this way of writing where you try to get other people’s perspective.”

Marilyn and the Truckee River Ring Myth

Did the newly divorced Roslyn Tabor (as played by MM) throw her wedding ring off Reno’s Virginia Street Bridge, and into the Truckee River in The Misfits? The answer is no – while her friend Isabel (Thelma Ritter) mischievously suggests it, Roslyn laughs and proposes to ‘get a drink’ instead.

As recently reported, the bridge is now being replaced. Lindsay of the IAmNotAStalker blog visited the location of Marilyn’s Misfits scene in 2011.

And as Mark Robison reports in today’s Reno Gazette-Journal, the long-held belief that divorcees commonly toss their rings in the river is somewhat exaggerated – but not without precedent. (In fact, Hollywood had burnished the myth for decades before Marilyn set foot on that bridge.)

“Some have speculated it started with the 1961 film The Misfits where Marilyn Monroe’s character thinks about throwing her ring into the Truckee.

Nevada historian Guy Rocha goes back further. In a Reno Gazette-Journal column published in 2008, he writes, ‘The first-known account of throwing wedding rings into the Truckee River (is) in the pamphlet titled: Reno! It Won’t Be Long Now’ NINETY DAYS AND FREEDOM from 1927.

This topic of freedom in Reno refers to the city’s liberal divorce laws, which allowed couples to get divorced after a short residency of three months, often spent in a hotel casino. (The time was shortened even more later.) Other locations in the first half of the 20th century made divorce much harder and required much longer waits before finalizing the decision. This made Reno especially popular among people who needed a divorce before they could marry someone else.

Rocha wrote that an early pop culture reference to tossing wedding rings into the Truckee River occurs in Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr.’s 1929 book Reno. A movie of the book released in 1930 ‘first introduced movie-goers to Truckee River ring-flinging, Rocha said.

A 1931 book called The Reno Divorce Racket has a photograph of Marjorie MacArthur and Dorothy Foltz throwing their wedding rings into the river, Rocha reported.

Many stories in magazines and newspapers followed, some debunking the trend, others celebrating it.

Rocha mentions a 1950 United Press news story about 50 Junior Chamber of Commerce volunteers cleaning the river and finding one — but only one — wedding ring.

Rocha concluded, ‘The tradition might have been fakelore originating in promotional literature, then reinforced many times by publicity gimmicks. While not common practice, real wedding rings found their way into the Truckee because some divorcées acted on what they believed to be a tradition.'”

Marilyn’s ‘Misfit’ Bridge Will Be Replaced


Marilyn and Thelma Ritter filming ‘The Misfits’ on Virginia Street Bridge, Reno

The Virginia Street Bridge, which stands over the Truckee River in Reno, Nevada – where Marilyn filmed a scene for The Misfits with co-star Thelma Ritter – is set to be replaced, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“Built in 1905, the reinforced concrete bridge has succumbed to years of wear and tear and is being replaced with a new structure. As portrayed in the 1961 film, the bridge was known as the place where newly divorced women who came to Nevada because of the state’s short residency requirement would throw their wedding bands into the Truckee River.

History and preservation buffs are disappointed that the bridge will soon be just a memory. Memories are still fresh of the loss of the historic Mapes Hotel, which sat on the north side of the bridge, imploded in 2000.

But residents are also excited about the new span, which will have a single arch and become a new gateway into the resurging downtown district.

Kerrie Koski, street program manager for the city Public Works Department, said the bridge is not only unsafe but also causes problems during flooding. It is the most unsafe bridge in the state, she said.

The new $18 million span will incorporate elements of the original bridge — to honor the history of the bridge — when it opens next May, including the lights. The historic railing has been salvaged and will be used in an area adjacent to the bridge.

According to an article in Reno Historical, a special project by the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries, the bridge was known as the ‘Wedding Ring Bridge’ and the ‘Bridge of Sighs,’ and became the subject of national folklore.

According to the article by Mella Harmon, the legend, dating to at least the 1920s, held that divorcees, upon receiving their final decree from a judge, exited the Washoe County Courthouse, kissed the columns supporting the courthouse portico and proceeded past the Riverside Hotel to the bridge to throw their wedding rings into the river.

In The Misfits, Marilyn Monroe’s character, Roslyn, is told the tale while standing on the bridge, considers it for a moment, then places her ring back in her purse and heads to Harrah’s for a drink, Harmon wrote.

[Hillary] Schieve said the city is looking at the potential of making pieces of the bridge available to the public, but details are still being worked out.”

Misfit Memories: Arthur Miller in Reno

American giants: Arthur Miller with Saul Bellow and John Steinbeck in New York, 1966. (Photo by Inge Morath)

Novelist Saul Bellow befriended Arthur Miller in 1956, when both were waiting out their first divorces in Reno, Nevada. During this period, Miller wrote a short story which he would later develop into The Misfits, a ‘valentine’ for Marilyn Monroe. Bellow’s next marriage would end in 1959, a year before Miller’s; and Bellow died in 2005, just a few months after Miller. Reviewing The Life of Saul Bellow, Zachary Leader’s recently-published, authorised biography, for the New Statesman, Leo Robson takes a closer look at this brief period which would come to define Miller’s future – and Marilyn’s.

“When he gets to the period in 1956 when Bellow and Arthur Miller were neighbours in Reno, Nevada, sitting out the six-week residency required to gain a divorce, Leader shuns the opportunity to define Bellow in relation to an exact contemporary, also at odds with his background (Bellow read Lenin in a coal delivery office; Miller read Tolstoy between fixing cars), also involved in Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, also rejected for military service, also reared on Marxist theory and concerned with the fragile status of the individual man in a city, a century, a mass, and so on. In a book bursting with allusions to forgotten book reviews, he doesn’t mention that Bellow had written about Miller’s novel Focus. (He complained that the heroism of Miller’s central character was ‘clipped to his lapel like a delegate’s badge at a liberal convention’.)

Life in Reno was quiet. The ‘biggest event’ of a typical day, Miller recalled, came when Bellow spent ‘half an hour up behind a hill a half-mile from the cottages empty­ing his lungs roaring at the stillness, an exercise in self-contact, I supposed’. Once a week, Bellow drove him to town in his Chevrolet to do shopping and laundry.

The writers, two decades after starting out, a decade after making their first mark, were at the pinnacle of their professions, Miller a Pulitzer winner, Bellow a National Book Award-winner. But Bellow’s second wife, Sondra, in a letter that Leader doesn’t quote, recalled that she ‘never heard a single literary exchange’ between the two writers, not least because Miller ‘talked non-stop’ about Marilyn Monroe – ‘her career, her beauty, her talent, even her perfect feet… all quite enlightening since neither Mr Bellow nor I had ever even heard of her before this’. Back in New York, the couples became friends. One night, at dinner in Little Italy, an area where Monroe, having recently left Joe DiMaggio, was unpopular, they had to make a quick escape to avoid potential mob violence. (Bellow and Monroe later dined alone: ‘I have yet to see anything in Marilyn that isn’t genuine,’ he wrote. ‘Surrounded by thousands she conducts herself like a philosopher.’)

Sondra Bellow said that if there was a ‘bond’ – her quotation marks – between Bellow and Miller, it had less to do ‘with their being writers, and more to do with their being in somewhat the same place’. She also recalled that Bellow didn’t consider Miller ‘a real intellectual (like the Partisan Review crowd)’. Miller would have agreed. In Timebends, he wrote that Bellow, who spent most of his life teaching in universities – Bard, Princeton and, for more than 30 years, Chicago – had brought with him a library of books ‘large enough for a small college’. (When Miller packed up his things, all his possessions – apart from his typewriter – could be carried in a single valise.) On the whole, Miller was more practical-minded. He saw no benefit in ideas as an end in themselves and thought hard about art’s importance in a changing society.”

Don Dondero: Marilyn in Reno

The camera equipment of photographer Don Dondero will be auctioned at the Holabird Western Americana Office, Reno, on April 17, reports Reno Gazette-Journal. The Reno-based photographer chronicled much of Marilyn’s 1960 stay in the city, including her arrival; a press conference with the cast of The Misfits, and a birthday party for John Huston at the Mapes Hotel; a weekend break at the Cal-Neva Lodge; and her return to the city after a week’s rest in hospital.

Marilyn with Arthur Miller and Clark Gable at a press conference for ‘The Misfits’.
With director John Huston on his birthday, August 5.

You can view Dondero’s photos of Marilyn at Getty Images.

“In the second half of the 20th Century, if a photograph from Reno appeared in a national or international publication, it likely came from the camera of the late Don Dondero.

When he died in 2003 at age 83, the lifelong Nevadan was eulogized by then Gov. Kenny Guinn, who said, ‘Thanks to Don Dondero, future generations of Nevadans will have a glimpse of our state’s history.’

Born in Ely and raised in Carson City, Don Dondero took his first ‘celebrity’ photo at age 12 when he snapped a shot of President Herbert Hoover outside the state capital.

He graduated from Carson High School in 1937 and enlisted in the Navy after Pearl Harbor, becoming a pilot and flying bombers. In 1944, his plane was shot down over the Philippines as he bombed a Japanese merchant ship in Manila Bay. Dondero parachuted safely into the bay and was hidden in the jungle by Filipino guerrillas for 40 days until he could be rescued. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for sinking the enemy vessel.

After the war, Dondero returned to Carson City and married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth Franks. He worked for the state of Nevada for several years before moving his growing family to Reno to open his own photography business.

Affable, talented, intelligent and dependable – he never missed a deadline – Dondero became Reno’s go-to photographer from the 1950s into the 1990s. His work appeared in publications around the globe. As longtime newspaperman Warren Lerude said, ‘Dondero owned the Reno dateline.’

Reno was the divorce capital of the world at the time and photos of celebrities in town to get ‘the cure’ were in high demand. In addition, the Mapes, Riverside and other downtown hotels were bringing in top-name entertainment. He photographed celebrities including Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, John Wayne and Frank Sinatra and political leaders including John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

‘He promoted Reno more through his photos than any one individual,’ said Harry Spencer, a former Mapes publicist and longtime friend of Dondero.”

Marilyn chats with Frank Sinatra after a concert at the Cal-Neva Lodge, August 13. (Arthur Miller at left)
Marilyn is welcomed back to Reno by producer Frank Taylor after a hospital stay. Photo by Don Dondero, August 20.

The House the ‘Misfits’ Built

A panel discussion will be held at the University of Nevada in Reno on July 9 at the Rotunda on the main floor of the Knowledge Center, focussing on a new exhibition, Post-War Bohemians in Northern Nevada, running until September 16.

Among the panellists are David Stix and Lisa Graeber, children of the group of artists who lived and worked in Virginia City after World War II.

‘ “Mother was always a painter,” Graeber, daughter of painter and sculptor Adine Stix, recalled. “But the time she dedicated to create art increased after The Misfits was filmed at our home.”

Stix was originally from the East Coast, but by 1950, she had settled at Quail Canyon Ranch, a few miles from Pyramid Lake, with a Nevada cowboy husband. She ended up raising two children on her own and managing the ranch, turning it over to be used in the filming of The Misfits, starring Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and other top stars, in 1960.

“Our house was torn apart for the film,” Graeber explained, “and part of the agreement was that when they rebuilt it, they would include a large art studio for my mother. There was never much room in our house to produce art before the studio was built. It was a small home, with no electricity or telephone. It’s amazing to think she produced such large-scale art with no electricity.” ‘

Read this article in full here

Rare ‘Misfits’ Pics, Screening in Reno

“This 1960 photo of Marilyn and Eli Wallach was taken with a Kodak ‘Brownie’ box camera by Lisa Graeber at Quail Canyon near Pyramid Lake, while filming The Misfits in Nevada.

Lisa Graeber (then Lisa Stix) was home for the summer after her first year at college when the movie crew took over their house in Quail Canyon, near Pyramid Lake. Graeber and her mother moved into their guesthouse during the filming, and got to know several of the cast and crew members. Graeber took personal photos with her Kodak ‘Brownie’ box camera, which have not yet been seen publicly and will be displayed at a free screening of The Misfits, on February 13 at 2pm, Wells Fargo Auditorium, Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno.

‘There is something special about Lisa’s unstaged photos,’ said Donnelyn Curtis, head of the University’s Special Collections Department.

Curtis explained that Graeber’s brother, Dave Stix, a University alumnus and rodeo team member, was hired to be a night watchman for the Quail Canyon movie set, helped with the rodeo sets in Dayton, and found extras to be rodeo performers in the movie.

Film critic Robin Holabird will provide commentary and share stories about the various set locations at the Feb. 13 screening.

The screening is in conjunction with the “Honoring the Horse” exhibit, on display at the Knowledge Center through March. Since other “stars” in the movie were four-legged creatures – wild horses, rodeo horses and trained movie horses, the exhibit pays homage to these horses, and horses in general, which have played an important role in Nevada’s history.”

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