This photograph, showing Marilyn at a press conference with Sir Laurence Olivier and Arthur Miller at the Savoy Hotel after her arrival in London in July 1956, is featured in a new exhibition, Larry Burrows Revisited, at the Laurence Miller Gallery in New York until June 29, the Guardian reports.
Larry Burrows (1926-1971) worked for LIFE magazine’s London bureau, and his other subjects included Brigitte Bardot and John F. Kennedy. He later covered the Vietnam War, and would die aged 44 when his helicopter was shot down in Laos.
Variant images of Marilyn by Burrows are part of the permanent collection at London’s National Portrait Gallery, and were featured in the 2012 exhibit, MM: A British Love Affair.
In an article for The Independent, Andy Martin explores the subject of public humiliation, citing Marilyn’s ‘dumb blonde’ stereotyping as a prime example of character assassination. He also looks at her marriages and battles with directors, although I would argue that it is her continuing misrepresentation in the media – and in particular, false and degrading conspiracy theories – that is most damaging to her legacy today.
“Consider the case of Marilyn Monroe. Unequivocally one of the icons of the 20th century …The ‘Stradivarius of sex’ as Norman Mailer described her. But therein lies the rub. Did she necessarily want to be some kind of instrument? Does anyone? … Anything is possible, but more likely she was the victim of humiliation.
There is a case for saying that Joe DiMaggio, her baseball player husband, was humiliated on account of the shoot when she is standing on a subway grate and her dress is being blown up in the air and she is trying to hold it down … She is exposed. But it is DiMaggio – coming from a working-class Italian-American family – who feels humiliated …
She was certainly no airhead, no kind of ‘bimbo.’ You would think that, all in all, the Monroe-Miller combination ought to have been workable. But it wasn’t … He wanted an All-American Girl to symbolically get him off the hook of the McCarthy black list … Maybe Monroe could save him. But she needed him to save her. And instead of that he humiliated her … Laurence Olivier was another of her humiliators (an ugly word, I know, but then it is ugly) …
She almost certainly committed suicide. Overdosed on barbiturates. Or, rather like Amy Winehouse, abdicated life … No one can coincide (at least, not for very long) with their own myth. But everyone else wanted her to be nothing but the thing she was supposed to be. She strove to be something else, quite what she never knew, or was never allowed to know. She was asked to get back in her box. But she didn’t want to. So she ended up in a box anyway. No living being wants to be reduced to a thing, like a frying pan. Not even a Stradivarius.”
Marilyn is listed among ‘6 Extreme Students of Method Acting’ by Blake Hayek in an article for Crixeo, citing her clash with Olivier in The Prince and the Showgirl (though Bus Stop and The Misfits are arguably her most Method-y performances.)
“Many have rightly observed that method acting can tend to become a bit of a boys’ club and a self-validating reaction to the perceived trappings of being a ‘sissy in tights’ thespian. However, one performer certainly resets the balance somewhat. Marilyn Monroe famously played opposite theater heavyweight Laurence Olivier in The Prince and the Showgirl, and the two sparred on set over their respective — and diametrically opposed — acting techniques. A student of Lee Strasberg, Monroe no doubt would have seemed uncouth to the classically trained, old-school Olivier. Later Olivier famously quipped to Dustin Hoffman, who was exhausted after staying up three days to prepare for his role in Marathon Man(1976): ‘Try acting, dear boy. It’s much easier.'”
Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, has died aged 91.
In 1953, he acquired Tom Kelley’s nude calendar shot of Marilyn for the magazine’s first issue, also putting her on the cover. (You can read the full story here.) ‘She was actually in my brother’s acting class in New York,’ he told CNN. ‘But the reality is that I never met her. I talked to her once on the phone, but I never met her. She was gone, sadly, before I came out here.’
In 1960, Playboy published another laudatory feature headlined ‘The Magnificent Marilyn.’ If Marilyn sometimes resented others profiteering from her nude calendar – for which she had earned a flat $50 back in 1949 – by 1962 she was considering posing for Playboy‘s Christmas issue (although some sources indicate she changed her mind.)
Lawrence Schiller’s poolside nudes, taken during filming of the unfinished Something’s Got to Give, were published by Playboy in 1964, two years after Marilyn’s death.
The women’s rights campaigner Gloria Steinem, who would later write a biography of Marilyn, went ‘undercover’ as a Bunny Girl in a Playboy club for a magazine assignment durging the 1960s, and found the experience degrading – an opinion echoed by feminists today, as the BBC reports. Cultural historian Camille Paglia takes a different view, citing Hefner as ‘one of the principal architects of the social revolution.’
Marilyn has made many posthumous appearances on Playboy covers through the years. The magazine has also revealed rare and unseen images, such as Jon Whitcomb’s 1958 painting of Marilyn (based on a photo by Carl Perutz), and illustrator Earl Moran’s photos of a young Marilyn.
Many distinguished authors have written about Marilyn for Playboy, including John Updike, Roger Ebert, and Joyce Carol Oates. More dubiously, the magazine also published detective John Miner’s contested transcripts of tapes allegedly made by Marilyn for her psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson.
Since his death was announced earlier today, Twitter users and even some news websites have mistakenly posted a photo of Marilyn with Sir Laurence Olivier, confusing him with Hefner, as Mashable reports (a final absurdity that all three would probably have found hilarious.)
In 1992, Hefner reportedly purchased the crypt next to Marilyn’s in Westwood Memorial Park for $75,000. If he is buried there, it will either pave the way for extra security measures, or make Marilyn’s final resting place even more of a spectacle.
Yours Retro is a great read for lovers of all things vintage, and after several prior appearances, Marilyn finally graces the cover of the latest issue, available now in UK newsagents and via Newsstand. ‘When Marilyn Met Larry ‘, a four-page article by biographer Michelle Morgan, focuses on Marilyn’s time in England filming The Prince and the Showgirl, and there are also pieces of related interest about Cyd Charisse, Picturegoer magazine, and Hollywood censorship. If you collect magazines featuring MM, this is a must-have. (Yours Retro has recently been launched in Australia; however, it is several issues behind, so the UK version is your best bet.)
Darryl F. Zanuck may have blamed Marilyn for delays in the River of No Returnshoot, 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.”
After a bitter legal battle with Twentieth Century Fox, Marilyn returned triumphantly to Hollywood in 1956, armed with a list of approved directors.
Her first project under the new, improved contract was Bus Stop. Several lots of annotated script sides are up for bids this week.
“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.'”
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.”
“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.
“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 BusStop. 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
“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.'”
Writing 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.”
This 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.’
This year marks the centenary of the birth of one of cinema’s greatest stars, Vivien Leigh. An excellent new book by Kendra Bean, Vivien 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 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.'”
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”