Tag Archives: Sir Laurence Olivier

Marilyn at Julien’s: Lights, Camera, Action

Marilyn on the set of 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes'.
Marilyn hugs a co-worker on the set of ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’

The upcoming Julien’s Auctions sale includes many items related to the making of Marilyn’s movies. An annotated script for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes reveals that Marilyn worked hard on her comedic performance. “Sense the feeling with the body,” she wrote next to one line.

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Darryl F. Zanuck may have blamed Marilyn for delays in the River of No Return shoot, but co-star Robert Mitchum did not, writing on this letter, “Dig!!! Marilyn – my girl is your girl, and my girl is you. Ever – Bob.

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Candid photos from Frieda Hull’s estate show Marilyn filming the iconic ‘subway scene‘ for The Seven Year Itch, while Marilyn’s evening gloves from the ‘Rachmaninov scene‘ are also on offer.

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After a bitter legal battle with Twentieth Century Fox, Marilyn returned triumphantly to Hollywood in 1956, armed with a list of approved directors.

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Her first project under the new, improved contract was Bus Stop. Several lots of annotated script sides are up for bids this week.

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“This  is the first film Monroe made after beginning to study at the Actors Studio in New York City with Lee Strasberg, and the notations in these script sides demonstrate her method. Some of the notes are sense memories, like the following notation written after the line ‘I can’t look’: ‘Effective memory (use Lester – hurt on lawn),’ most likely referencing Monroe’s childhood playmate Lester Bolender, who was in the same foster home with Monroe. Another note adds ‘(almost to myself)’ before a line to inform her delivery or ‘Scarfe [sic] around my arms) Embarrassed.'”

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Arthur O’Connell, who played Virgil in the movie, sent Marilyn his best wishes after she was hospitalised with pneumonia.

“A collection of Marilyn Monroe envelopes, messages and notes, including a florist’s enclosure card with envelope addressed to Monroe and a message that reads ‘To make up for the ones you didn’t recall receiving at the hospital. Please stay well so we won’t go through this again’, signed by ‘Arthur O’Connell – Virgil Blessing.’ Also included are five handwritten notes in an unknown hand that reference Clifton Webb, Lew Wasserman and Paula Strasberg.”

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Marilyn clashed with Sir Laurence Olivier while filming The Prince and the Showgirl, although as this handwritten letter from Olivier indicates, their collaboration began cordially enough.

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“The letter is dated simply June 9, and it accompanied the latest version of the script for The Prince and the Showgirl. Olivier discusses Monroe’s dialogue and that he has ‘written some extra dialogue and a direction or two.’ He reports on where they are in the script writing process and that they have cut the script down from ‘well over 3 hours’ to 2 1/2, to 2 hours 10 minutes. He continues about the scenes that were and were not cut, including ‘The Duke of Strelitz is, I think essential, as otherwise they will be saying what’s the matter with them – why the heck can’t they get married, particularly in view of Grace Kelly and all that, and our only answer to that question must be Yes but look at the poor Windsors do you see?’

On an amusing note, Olivier mentions, ‘By the way Lady Maidenhead has degenerated to Lady Swingdale because I am assured the Hayes Office will not believe there is also a place in England of that name.’ He closes ‘I just called up Vivien at the theatre … and she said to be sure to give you her love. So here it is and mine too. Longing to welcome you here. Ever, Larry.'”

Marilyn had many advisors on this film, including husband Arthur Miller who made suggestions to improve the script.

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“Some of your dialogue is stiff. Also some expressions are too British. If you want me to, I can go through the script and make the changes – – in New York. I think the part – on one reading, is really the Best one … especially with you playing it. You are the one who makes everything change, you are the driving force … The basic problem is to define for yourself the degree of the girl’s naivete. (It could become too cute, or simply too designing.) It seems to me, at least, that they have not balanced things in Olivier’s favor. … It ought to be fun to do after Bus Stop. From your – (and my) – viewpoint, it will help in a small but important way to establish your ability to play characters of intelligence and cultivation. … Your loving Papa – (who has to rush now to make the plane – see you soon! – free!) – Art.”

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Marilyn had strong opinions about the casting of Some Like It Hot. In the minutes from a business meeting at her New York apartment, it is noted that “MCA on the Coast has told [Billy] Wilder that there are ‘legal technicalities holding up her decision’ so as not to offend Wilder. Actually, she is waiting for [Frank] Sinatra to enter the picture. She still doesn’t like [Tony] Curtis but [Lew] Wasserman doesn’t know anybody else.”

This short note penned by Marilyn is thought to be a response to Tony Curtis’ notorious remark that kissing her was “like kissing Hitler.”

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Although she never won an Oscar, Marilyn joined the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1959.

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Novelist Truman Capote wanted Marilyn to star as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. However, her own advisors deemed George Axelrod’s watered-down adaptation unworthy of her talents. The film was a huge hit for Audrey Hepburn, but Capote hated it.

“A clean copy of the screenplay for Breakfast at Tiffany’s written by George Axelrod and dated July 9, 1959. Monroe was considering the part, and she sought the opinions of her professional team including the Strasbergs, her husband, and management team. The script is accompanied by a single-page, typed ‘report’ dated September 23, 1959, which also has the name ‘Parone’ typed to the left of the date. Literary luminary Edward Parone was at the time running Monroe’s production company and most likely is the one who wrote this single-page, scathing review of the script, leading with the simple sentence, ‘I think not.’ It goes on to criticize the screenplay, determining, ‘I can see Marilyn playing a part like Holly and even giving this present one all the elan it badly needs, but I don’t feel she should play it: it lacks insight and warmth and reality and importance.’ It has been long reported that Monroe declined the part upon the advice of Lee Strasberg, but this document provides further evidence that other people in her inner circle advised her not to take the role. Together with a four-page shooting schedule for November 4, 1960, for the film.”

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Marilyn was generous to her co-stars in Let’s Make Love, giving a framed cartoon to Wilfrid Hyde-White on his birthday, and an engraved silver cigarette box to Frankie Vaughan. She also asked her friend, New York Times editor Lester Markel, to write a profile of her leading man, Yves Montand. “He’s not only a fine actor, a wonderful singer and dancer with charm,” she wrote, “but next to you one of the most attractive men.”

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With ‘Let’s Make Love’ director George Cukor, and co-star Yves Montand
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Test shots for ‘The Misfits’

A handwritten note by Paula Strasberg reveals how she and Marilyn worked together on her role in The Misfits. “searching and yearning/ standing alone/ mood – I’m free – but freedom leaves emptiness./ Rosylin [sic] – flower opens bees buzz around/ R is quiet – the others buzz around.”

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In 1962, Marilyn began work on what would be her final (and incomplete) movie, Something’s Got to Give. This telegram from screenwriter Nunnally Johnson, who was later replaced, hints at the trouble that lay ahead.

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“The telegram from Johnson reads ‘In Revised script you are child of nature so you can misbehave as much as you please love – Nunnally.’ Monroe has quickly written a note in pencil for reply reading ‘Where is that script – is the child of nature due on the set – Hurry Love & Kisses M.M.’ ‘Love and Kisses’ is repeated, and additional illegible notations have been crossed out.”

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Costume sketch for ‘Something’s Got to Give’ by Bob Mackie

“Raw footage of Monroe performing with the children in Something’s Got to Give exists, and Monroe’s notations are evident in the footage. The top of the page reads ‘Real Thought/ Mental Relaxation/ substitute children – B & J if necessary/ feeling – place the pain where it is not in the brow.’ B & J likely refers to Arthur Miller’s children Bobby and Jane. Another notation next to one of Monroe’s lines of dialogue reads simply ‘Mona Lisa’, which does in fact mirror the expression she uses when delivering this line. Even the exaggerated ‘Ahhhhh—‘ that Monroe does at the beginning of each take in the raw footage is written on the page in her hand, reading in full, ‘Ahhh–Look for the light.'”

Nine Years and Counting: the ‘Variety’ of Marilyn

marilyn-monroe-variety-ad-new-face-in-townWriting for Variety, Tim Gray recalls how the movie industry’s leading trade publication chronicled Marilyn’s ‘nine years of stardom and a legacy that won’t quit’…

“Few Hollywood stars have created such a powerful legacy based on such a small, brief output: starring roles in 11 films, released during a nine-year period.

Fox ran an ad in Daily Variety in 1952, the year Monroe starred in Don’t Bother to Knock, proclaiming her ‘a new star.’ Studios often took out ads to promote contract players and 20th Century Fox was building her career, so the promo wasn’t unusual. However, in her case, the words sound more factual than hype.

Her big breakthrough occurred in 1953, when she starred in Niagara, How to Marry a Millionaire and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, all for Fox. From that point until her death, at age 36, she was the hottest thing in Hollywood.

Her final completed film came in 1961 with The Misfits. The following year, Daily Variety ran regular updates on the progress of her planned role in Fox’s Something’s Got to Give, from which she was eventually fired for not showing up.

Undeterred, she sought other roles. When Grace Kelly, aka Princess Grace of Monaco, dropped out of the Alfred Hitchcock project Marnie, Monroe expressed interest in playing the role of the chilly, neurotic kleptomaniac. ‘It’s an interesting idea,’ a noncommittal Hitchcock told Variety’s Army Archerd. It is indeed. It would have been a very different film.

Monroe died on Aug. 5, 1962, and the coroner eventually declared the cause of death was ‘acute barbiturate poisoning’ resulting from a ‘probable suicide.’ Laurence Olivier, her co-star and director in The Prince and the Showgirl, said ‘She was a complete victim of ballyhoo and sensation.’ An op-ed piece in the Albany Times-Union said, ‘It’s hard to understand that a girl so many people loved could be so lonely.’

But, as always, the public had the final word. A week after her death, Variety reported a poll by Creative Research Associates of Chicago on public reaction. Men and women liked her equally, describing her as a sex symbol, ‘having a quality of innocence, an unawareness of her physical endowments.’ Of the films she starred in (or had supporting roles in), the respondents predicted she would be best remembered for Some Like It Hot, The Seven Year Itch and How to Marry a Millionaire.

Public tastes are very fickle, but her fans were on the money, even back then.

Though many of Hollywood’s biggest stars had long careers, like Charlie Chaplin, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Bette Davis and Marlon Brando, two other notable names also had short resumes: James Dean and Grace Kelly, who, interestingly, also rose to fame in the early 1950s.”

Marilyn in London: Brian Seed’s View

UK3510_LAURENCE_OLIVIER, MARILYN_MONROE_ARTHUR_MILLERThis photograph of a determined-looking Marilyn, arriving at the Comedy Theatre for the London premiere of husband Arthur Miller’s play, A View From the Bridge, in October 1956 – watched by a wanly smiling Sir Laurence Olivier, with whom she was filming The Prince and the Showgirl – was taken by Brian Seed, an Englishman who worked for Life magazine during the 1950s and 60s. A selection of his work is published today on the Time-Life website.

Unpublished at the time, Brian Seed’s photos of Marilyn are now in demand. In 2013, Brian – who now lives in Illinois – was interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘That Marilyn Monroe was a really smart cookie,’ he recalled. ‘Look at this picture — she’s looking directly at me, because she knows I’m likely the only photographer in there who’s working for a magazine, and that the photo that would result would not be used in one day’s paper and then gone forever.’

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When Vivien Met Marilyn

The Oliviers in 'The Sleeping Prince', 1953
The Oliviers in ‘The Sleeping Prince’, 1953

This year marks the centenary of the birth of one of cinema’s greatest stars, Vivien Leigh. An excellent new book by Kendra BeanVivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait, takes another look at The Prince and the Showgirl, and reveals how Vivien really felt about Marilyn Monroe playing opposite her husband, Sir Laurence Olivier, in a role originated by Leigh in 1953, when The Sleeping Prince made its debut on the London stage.

The Oliviers
The Oliviers

“The casting had been her idea to begin with. While performing in The Sleeping Prince in 1953, Vivien saw How to Marry a Millionaire at the cinema and became fascinated by Marilyn. ‘I thought, heaven help me, that she was very funny. I said to Larry: This girl is wonderful in comedy’*, and suggested Marilyn star in the film version. She added that she thought herself too old for the role. To her dismay, Olivier relished the idea and hoped that making a film with the Hollywood bombshell would be a new stimulus for his career. When Vivien changed her mind and suggested she might like to revive Mary Morgan** on screen after all, Olivier and Terence Rattigan said, ‘Oh, but you’re too old.'”

Olivier directs Marilyn
Olivier directs Marilyn

From the outset, Olivier’s classical training and Marilyn’s more intuitive approach were at odds, and the two stars soon became involved in a bitter power struggle.

To make matters worse, Vivien suffered a miscarriage in August 1956, a month into the shoot. “The feeling that she was responsible for the stress Olivier endured…compounded Vivien’s grief,” Bean comments.

Welcoming Marilyn to England
Welcoming Marilyn to England

Nonetheless, the Oliviers put on a brave face and even attended the London opening of Arthur Miller’s play, View From The Bridge, with Marilyn. So what did Vivien think of MM?

“It’s not impossible to think that Vivien and Marilyn might have formed a kinship had they gotten to know one another better,” Bean concedes. Vivien suffered from Manic Depression, while Marilyn had a history of emotional problems.

Theatre royalty: the Millers and the Oliviers
Theatre royalty: the Millers and the Oliviers

“But despite their troubles, they both had a vulnerability that endeared them to many people,” Bean reflects. “Both strived to avoid typecasting and to prove themselves as something more than just a pretty face or a sex symbol.”

Unfortunately, the tensions between Marilyn and Olivier did not permit the two women to bond in any meaningful way. “As it was though,” Bean concludes, “Vivien sided with Olivier and she and Marilyn remained rivals at best.”

To learn more about Vivien Leigh: A Portrait, please visit vivandlarry.com

* Quote from ‘Vivien Tells’, an interview with David Lewin in the UK’s Daily Express, August 17, 1960

** Mary Morgan was the name of the showgirl played by Leigh in Terence Rattigan’s original play, The Sleeping Prince. When the play was adapted for the screen, the character was renamed Elsie Marina.

Marilyn leaves London
Marilyn leaves London

V&A Acquires Vivien Leigh Archive

Vivien Leigh kisses Marilyn goodbye as she flies to the US after filming 'The Prince and the Showgirl', November 1956
Vivien Leigh kisses Marilyn goodbye as she leaves England after filming ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’, November 1956

This year marks the centenary of Vivien Leigh’s birth. Leigh is perhaps best-known for her roles in Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire – and offscreen, she became one half of England’s most celebrated theatrical couple when she married Sir Laurence Olivier.

In 1956, Olivier directed and starred with Marilyn Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl (with MM in the role Leigh had played onstage.) While their mutual enmity is well-documented, Leigh’s private thoughts on Marilyn are less clear.

Like Monroe, Vivien was prone to depression (she suffered from Bipolar Disorder.) During the filming of Prince, Leigh became pregnant – but she subsequently lost her baby. Marilyn was also said to have miscarried at this time, but the rumour remains unconfirmed.

As reported in The Independent, Leigh’s personal archive has now been acquired by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. The collection includes diaries, photos and letters from many famous names – including both Marilyn and Arthur Miller.

“The archive also contains more than 7,500 personal letters addressed to both Leigh and Olivier from the likes of TS Eliot, Arthur Miller, Sir Winston [Churchill], Marilyn Monroe and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother who thanks the couple for remembering her.”

 

 

Olivier ‘Flabbergasted’ by Marilyn

A new biography of Sir Laurence Olivier suggests that Marilyn wasn’t the only co-star he fought with. Philip Ziegler‘s Olivier will be published next month, reports The Independent.

“Before penning the book, historian Philip Ziegler listened to taped interviews with Olivier that were originally intended for the actor’s own memoirs. The star made some choice omissions: chiefly, the parts where he eviscerates some of old Hollywood’s brightest stars. Joan Fontaine, his co-star in Rebecca, was ‘loathsome’, according to extracts seen by The Sunday Times, while Merle Oberon was a ‘silly little amateur’.

Olivier ‘didn’t care to be taught acting’ by Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas on the set of 1959’s The Devil’s Disciple, and his ‘hatred’ for Marilyn Monroe – a flaky and undisciplined presence during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl – was ‘one of the strongest emotions I had ever felt’. He was ‘flabbergasted’ when the final cut was released by ‘how wonderful’ she was.”

 

Marilyn (and Dorothy) at the Plaza

One of Marilyn’s favourite New York hangouts was the Plaza Hotel, where in February 1956, she held a press conference with Sir Laurence Olivier – and, much to his amazement, chaos erupted when the strap on his co-star’s dress broke!

John F. Doscher, a bartender (or ‘mixologist’) at the Plaza during the fifties, remembers Marilyn and other stars in his new book, The Back of the Housereports Hernando Today.

“Take for instance his va-va-va voom encounter with Marilyn Monroe. The starlet stayed at the hotel numerous times.

Doscher said he was awestruck by the entourage of photographers, hair stylists and makeup artists accompanying Miss Monroe each time she came in.

‘They were from Life, Look and Photoplay magazines, all there for photo opps, he said, early paparazzis, you know?’

One day Monroe was having a late breakfast in what was the Edwardian Room and sitting by the window overlooking Central Park South. A few tables away with her back to Monroe sat Plaza-regular New York newspaper columnist, Dorothy Kilgallen.

Working the bar that day in the Edwardian, Doscher mentioned to Kilgallen that Monroe was sitting by the window. Kilgallen, he said, ‘Let out a “harrumph” and said, ‘Yes. I saw her. She looks like an unmade bed.’

‘Apparently, there was some animosity there,’ Doscher observed. ‘I mean, Marilyn Monroe has been described many ways in her lifetime, but never the description Kilgallen offered.'”

Marilyn with Dorothy Kilgallen, 1960

Dorothy Kilgallen was a syndicated newspaper columnist. In 1952, she reported that journalist Robert Slatzer was a rival to Joe DiMaggio for Marilyn’s affections. (Slatzer has since become a notorious figure in Monroe history, and biographer Donald Spoto considers him a fraud.)

After Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was released in 1953, a sceptical Kilgallen wrote to Darryl F. Zanuck, asking him to confirm that Marilyn’s singing was her own voice, which he did.

Needless to say, none of this endeared her to Marilyn, and in his essay, A Beautiful Child, Truman Capote wrote that MM had described Kilgallen as a drunk who hated her.

Kilgallen lived near the summer house where Marilyn and Arthur Miller stayed in 1957. In 1960, she was photographed with Marilyn at a press conference for Let’s Make Love.

Just days before Marilyn died, Kilgallen alluded to the star’s affair with a prominent man in her column. In the following weeks, she tried to investigate the circumstances behind Monroe’s death – particularly her alleged links to the Kennedy brothers.

In 1965, 53 year-old Kilgallen was found dead in her New York apartment, having overdosed on alcohol and barbiturates, and also having possibly suffered a heart attack.

However, some conspiracy theorists think Kilgallen was murdered, because of her critical comments about the US government.

 

‘Showgirl’ Publicist Remembers Marilyn

 Jean Bray, who worked as a publicist during shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl, will discuss Marilyn and others in ‘Life With the Stars’, as part of the Winchcombe Festival, near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, on May 25th.

‘Marilyn was never a diva,’ Jean – now 82, and an archivist at Sudeley Castle – tells the Cotswold Journal. ‘She was very fragile. She wanted to be a serious actress. She was trying her best to portray the character as she thought it should be. She fluffed her lines a lot and was often late on set. Olivier could be very cruel.’

 

Jean Kent on Marilyn, Olivier

Jean Kent as Maisie Springfield, right

Jean Kent has spoken to Richard Kay of the Daily Mail about her bittersweet memories of working with Marilyn on The Prince and the Showgirl.

“I can understand the enduring fascination with Marilyn, but, to be frank, I really couldn’t bear to discuss my own experience of working with her. She was, by that point, an extremely troubled girl…

I had only two brief scenes with her, but I think poor Larry must have aged at least 15 years during the making of that film. And Richard Wattis, who had a lot of scenes with her, took to drink because takes had to be done so many times…

If you passed her in the street, you would never have thought: ‘There goes the world’s number one sex symbol.’ But then she went into  make-up and some strange metamorphosis occurred, and the Marilyn all the world knew emerged onto the set.”


Shirley Anne Field on Olivier, Marilyn

British actress Shirley Anne Field starred alongside Sir Laurence Olivier in The Entertainer (1960), and it seems her experience of working with the great actor was no happier than Marilyn’s in The Prince and the Showgirl, four years earlier.

“I wasn’t impressed. I’m in bed with him, filming in a caravan. And he starts talking. ‘Now who’s your favourite actor or actress, dear?’ I said: ‘Marilyn Monroe,’  and he went off into a fit (saying): ‘Dreadful girl! Never shows up on time!’ Two days later he tries again, very patronising. ‘Who else do you admire?’ So I said: ‘I love Vivien Leigh,’ (Olivier’s ex-wife) and he went into a fury. He was horrible. I got out of his bed and said: ‘I’m not staying here with you.'”

Daily Mail