We’ve already heard about Marilyn’s Scottish ancestry (see here), but as Craig Williams reports for Glasgow Live, local art pioneer John McHale was inspired by Marilyn – while his London-based colleague Richard Hamilton featured her iconic pose from The Seven Year Itch in an early installation, as shown above – long before Andy Warhol made her his muse.
“The Maryhill area of Glasgow can lay claim to a few things of note … But few would ever imagine that it could hold claim to a title many might believe is held by New York – that of being the birthplace of Pop Art. It wasn’t Warhol who could be considered as the true ‘forefather’ of Pop Art, nor indeed did he coin the ubiquitous term we all know today thanks (in the most part) to his work. That belongs to the almost forgotten Scottish artist, art theorist, sociologist and future studies searcher John McHale – a man born and bred in Maryhill.
McHale coined the term ‘Pop Art’ back in 1954 to describe the aesthetic expressed in art in response to the commercialization of Western culture … Yet it was to be the groundbreaking and hugely popular This Is Tomorrow exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1956 that would light the Pop Art touchpaper. The exhibition – which McHale played a central part in – was described by esteemed art critic Reyner Banham as being the ‘first Pop Art manifestation to be seen in any art gallery in the world’. McHale, alongside Richard Hamilton and John Voelcker, presented images from popular culture from magazines, film publicity posters and comics as part of the exhibition.
And as part of the exhibition, McHale was able to provide plenty of the material, having returned from a scholarship at Yale University with a black metal trunk full to the brim with magazine clippings … Yet it wasn’t until 1962 when Pop Art was effectively ‘rubber-stamped’ in the America psyche via the “Symposium on Pop Art” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York – the same year that a certain Andy Warhol held his first ever solo exhibition in the city … Warhol’s exhibit featured some of his most well-known works, including ‘Marilyn Diptych’ … which repeated Marilyn Monroe’s image to evoke her ubiquitous presence in the media – it’s very possible that Warhol was inspired to produce the work by none other than Maryhill’s own McHale.
That’s because, in a collection of writings concerning popular imagery and fine art called ‘The Expendable Icon’ published in Architectural Design magazine in 1959, McHale referenced Marilyn Monroe in a section entitled ‘The Girl With The Most’. Monroe, who McHale regarded as ‘doubly interesting’ featured among many popular ‘ikons’ he identified alongside Elvis Presley – another of Warhol’s subjects. McHale wrote that the film star was ‘held up as an example of someone not only defined by personal iconography, but whose image is saturated in the media to such an extent that she serves as a model for universal imitation’.
1962 would see McHale emigrate to live in the US for definite … John McHale (Jr.) notes the difference between his father’s work and that of Warhol. Where Warhol was focused on being a celebrity artist, McHale’s agenda was to extend the boundaries of art to the masses according to his son … Incredibly, his father was also asked to explain his Pop Art ideas by Time magazine and be featured on the cover, but ‘regrettably refused for personal family reasons … From my discussions with my father it was apparent that he originally conceived of Pop Art as being more than just some glib advertising and reflection of popular culture … This may not seem radical in the present century, but half a century ago these were fighting words and cutting edge concepts. Pop Art was about opening up aesthetic possibilities and making art freely available to all …'”
Monkey Business will be screened on November 17-19, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on November 24-27, at the Glasgow Film Theatre, as part of a mini-retrospective for her two-time director, Cinemasters: Howard Hawks.
Further recent news about Marilyn’s Scottish roots (see here), it seems her Celtic heritage may go back even further, the BBC reports.
“A Highlands clan with links to Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe has traced its origins back more than a thousand years ago to Ireland.
The same project has traced American movie idol Monroe’s ancestors to a Munro family that lived in Moray. The seat of Clan Munro is Foulis Castle near Evanton in Easter Ross in the Highlands.
Clan chief, Hector Munro of Foulis, said for him the most interesting thing to have emerged from the project so far were the origins of the clan.
He said: ‘The origins of name Munro has puzzled historians for generations. Tradition has it that we were mercenary soldiers from near the River Roe in Derry, Northern Ireland, hence the name Munro – Mac an Rothaich in Gaelic. But it had proved impossible to verify.’
The chief said the DNA project had identified an Irishman from 1,750 years ago with four distinct male lines with living descendants. He said: ‘All four lines can be traced back to south west Ireland.'”
So many stage tributes to Marilyn veer into caricature. Fortunately, cabaret artist Viviana Zarbo has avoided the pitfalls in her latest performance piece – pointedly titled I Am Not Marilyn – currently showing as part of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. By intertwining tales about Marilyn’s life with her own, Viviana recounts how her life was shaped by Marilyn’s songs – earning a rave review from Lorraine at Marilyn Remembered.
“In I Am Not Marilyn, the title speaks for itself. Zarbo has created a show dedicated to Monroe, but there isn’t a trace of the blonde stereotype on stage before you. What you see before you is a proper, loving tribute to Marilyn’s talents as a singer. No gimmicks, no nothing… just an incredibly talented singer paying tribute to her idol. Viviana is accompanied on stage by two very talented musicians, Chris Neill on piano and Stephanie Legg on Saxophone, both complimenting her sweet, sultry, velvet tones and we’re treated to beautiful renditions of Monroe’s finest songs such as Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend, I Wanna Be Loved By You, My Heart Belongs To Daddy and a hauntingly beautiful arrangement of Kiss from the movie Niagara.”
Marilyn makes the front page of today’s Inverness Press & Journal, with news of her ancestral links to the Munro clan of Moray. This story is also reported in today’s Scotsman.
“New DNA evidence proves beyond doubt that Marilyn Monroe had Scottish roots. She was descended from the famous Munro clan, from Moray, despite the alternative spelling of her surname. The blonde bombshell was born Norma Jeane Mortenson in 1926, but took her screen name from her mother, Gladys Monroe.
Hundreds of members of Clan Munro will hear details of her Scottish kin during a clan gathering in the Highlands next weekend. They will meet at Foulis Castle, near Dingwall, for an update on the latest discoveries in the clan’s DNA project.
Monroe’s mother Gladys could trace her father’s line back to John Munro, a prisoner of war exiled to America after the Battle of Worcester during the English Civil War in 1651. No Munro men who shared the same signature pattern of the male Y chromosome had been found in Scotland, so the link to the Highland clan was uncertain.
Now, the Clan Munro DNA project has finally proved that Marilyn’s forefathers were related to a Munro family from the Moray village of Edinkillie, near Forres. Descendants of this Munro family, some of whom emigrated to the Bahamas in the 18th Century, carry the unique Y chromosome marker previously found only in descendants of exiled John Munro.
Another member of the Moray family, William Munro, emigrated from Scotland to Batavia, now Jakarta in Indonesia, in the early 19th Century. He married into a Dutch family, and William’s descendant Roelof Zeijdel said: ‘I was most proud to discover my clan Munro heritage, but very amazed that DNA could show also I was related to this big star that everybody knows.’
Clan chief Hector Munro said: ‘At Foulis Castle, Munros whose ancestors travelled throughout the world, as well as those who stayed in Scotland, will be coming together to celebrate our shared history, heritage and traditions, whatever their genes may tell us.’
Previously the Munro DNA project found that US President James Monroe was of a different male line, most closely related to the Munros of Teaninich Castle in Alness.”
Val McDermid may be one of the world’s most popular crime writers, but nobody would mistake her for Marilyn – until last week, when she sang ‘Happy Birthday, First Minister’ to Scottish premier Nicola Sturgeon at a literary festival in Harrogate this week, as reported in the Mail On Sunday.
Marilyn is featured in Andy Warhol and Eduardo Paolozzi: I Want To Be A Machine, an exhibition showcasing two masters of Pop Art, at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh until June 2nd.
Making Montgomery Clift will have its UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival, screening at the Everyman on Thursday, February 28, and Friday, March 1, following rave reviews in the US. (As yet, it’s unclear whether Monty’s friendship with Marilyn features in the documentary, but The Misfits was one of his most important films, and likely to be mentioned.)
Thanks to Fraser Penney
“Co-director Robert Clift is the film’s onscreen searcher, heard in incisively written voiceover and seen poring over an astounding, and often poignant, assortment of Clift family memorabilia, items that go well beyond the usual photo albums and home movies … the film unravels the accepted wisdom that Clift’s life was one of inner conflict and painfully guarded truths. In footage of him at leisure, his joy and exuberance light up the screen. He might not have been ‘out’ — who was in those benighted times? — but his intimates testify that he was anything but closeted. By refusing to sign a studio contract, he was not only maintaining his artistic independence but protecting his private life from the kind of show marriage, like Rock Hudson’s, that the Hollywood publicity machine insisted on for gay stars.” – Sherri Linden, Hollywood Reporter
“That ‘secret’ – that Clift was gay during an impossible era (the 1930s through the 60s) – led many interpreters to conclude that the actor must have led a life riddled with fear and shame. It hardly helped lend nuance to that reading that Clift was a well-known and long-time abuser of pain killers and alcohol, actions which likely sped his death from a heart attack at 45 in 1966 … In fact, the attitudes he and his family held towards his relationships with men were strikingly modern.
[Robert] Clift asserts that the actor’s use of alcohol and prescription drugs stemmed, primarily, from a near-fatal car accident in 1956. He used them to numb his physical pain. The accident changed his appearance, and many biographers assumed Clift felt ruined by it and, so, drank more.
Many of the myths surrounding Clift sprang from two biographies: a salacious one by Robert LaGuardia and another flawed work by Patricia Bosworth, titled A Life. The film-makers interviewed Bosworth extensively for the movie, but they contrast her words with old taped conversations she had with the actor’s brother. He pleaded with her to make changes to her book to correct the mischaracterizations. While she sounds apologetic, the changes were never made.
As to why Bosworth drew on the gay-self-hate narrative, and why that view took hold, the directors blame the homophobia of the time the book was written, in the 1970s. ‘The view then about queer people was that they would be inherently conflicted or tormented about their sexuality,’ said [Hillary] Demmon. ‘If you have a story that tracks along that line, that will feel true to people. Which gives that narrative a lot of traction. Now we’re at a historical point in mainstream queer discourse where that story seems less viable.'” – Jim Farber, The Guardian
“And an alternative version of Monty, laid out by Making Montgomery Clift: Montgomery Clift was open about his sexuality. He was not ‘tormented’ by it. The man even had a sense of humor! Some of his favorite work came after that crash. Montgomery Clift’s story is not a tragedy of self-loathing, but a tale of a man who refused to be put in a box by the Hollywood system—only to be put into a different sort of box after his death, when he was no longer around to counter the narrative that began to calcify soon after his passing.” – Rebecca Pahle, Film Journal