Carol Richards: Singing With the Stars

Carol Richards (1922-2007) was an American singer who also dubbed many stars in classic Hollywood films. She began her career at a radio station in Indianapolis. After winning a Bob Hope talent contest, she moved to Hollywood and appeared in many television shows. Best-known for her duet with Bing Crosby, ‘Silver Bells’, she was also a vocal double for actresses Vera Ellen in Call Me Madam, and Cyd Charisse in Silk Stockings, among others.

Marilyn rehearsing a number for ‘Some Like It Hot’

Interviewed for SeaCoastOnline, Carol’s grandson, Michael Scharff, claims she also worked with Marilyn:

“Richards was hired to dub for Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot, but instead convinced Monroe to do her own songs, and trained her to ‘act the song,’ Scharff says.

The lesson shared with Monroe informs his own work as a singer and vocal teacher, ‘acting as singing,’ he says. ‘I say every song is a monologue set to rhythm with melody. It’s a singer’s job to interpret those lines. It comes right from my grandmother.'”

Personally, I find it unlikely that Marilyn ever seriously considered being dubbed. She had already proved herself in several musicals, released hit records and performed live. Marilyn also worked closely with the Matty Malneck Orchestra for Some Like It Hot. Furthermore, the film is not among Carol’s credits.

However, Some Like It Hot was Marilyn’s first movie in two years, so she have needed to brush up her vocal skills; and with the possible exception of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, her songs as Sugar Kane are probably the most ‘in character’. So while unconfirmed, it’s possible that Carol did help to coach her for the role.

Marilyn, Billy and the Fabulous Fifties

As part of an ongoing series for The Guardian, Wendy Ide names the 1950s as her favourite decade in film.

“Marilyn Monroe was the blond bombshell of choice – although for a while it looked as though Judy Holliday (Born Yesterday) might be a contender – and became a global icon. Hers was a career that played out almost entirely during the 50s. A supporting role in All About Eve led to a studio contract and a star-making double whammy of Niagara and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Highlights of her decade, The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot, saw her teamed with director Billy Wilder …”

And over at Film School Rejects, Will DiGravio argues that the comedy classic, alongside other greats like Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Hawks’ Rio Bravo, makes 1959 the best year in movies.

“Today, it seems as though many know Monroe only for her beauty, not as the greatest comedic actress of all time. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are hilarious in the film as two musicians pretending to be women in order to play with a female band in Florida and escape the Chicago mob after they witness a murder. Yet, their performances pale in comparison to Monroe’s, whose comedic timing and delivery is so effortless it is easy to under-appreciate her brilliance.”

Billy Wilder Seminar in Michigan

The films of Billy Wilder were the subject of a day-long seminar at Hillsdale College in Michigan last week, as reported in the Hillsdale Daily News.

“The final seminar focused on the life and legacy of Director Billy Wilder, 1906-2002. Addressing a gathering of students and community guests were editor Anthony Slide; film producer and author Alain Silver; author Daniel M. Kimmel; film critic Leonard Maltin; and faculty members Daniel B. Coupland, James M. Brandon, Justin A. Jackson and Paul Moreno.

Speaking on another aspect of Wilder’s genius on March 20 was Daniel M. Kimmel, film critic and author of I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind the Scenes of the Great Romantic Comedies. Kimmel spoke on the comedies of Wilder, especially the hit film Some Like It Hot.

Kimmel said that, while this comedy was certainly one of Wilder’s best films, Wilder’s greatest achievement was the variety of his works: ‘What is fascinating about Wilder to me is that he excelled at both comedy and drama,’ said Kimmel. ‘One will find instances of his sardonic humor in all of his films.’

Kimmel noted how disguise, a major theme in many Wilder themes, is particularly used in Some Like It Hot as a tool for character development. ‘Both Jerry and Joe get to explore other aspects of their personalities, indeed the opposite of who they ordinarily are by donning drag,’ Kimmel said. ‘When they finally revert to their male identities at the end of the film, they are different people as a result.'”

‘It’s Me, Sugar’ Previewed on Youtube

A preview clip of the new short film, It’s Me, Sugar, set during production of Some Like It Hot and starring Gemma Arterton as Marilyn, is now on Youtube. Heading the new season of Urban Myths on the UK satellite television channel, Sky Arts, It’s Me, Sugar will be broadcast on April 12. If you’re in the UK but not a Sky subscriber, Sky Arts is also available on the Now TV streaming service.

The series has a somewhat checkered history: the last season included an episode featuring actor Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson, which was pulled after accusations of whitewashing. Further episodes will cover a wide range of celebrity subjects. ranging from the disappearance of Agatha Christie to the Live Aid concert in 1985.

At first glance, It’s Me, Sugar seems to perpetuate the myth of Marilyn as a dumb blonde, playing an even dumber blonde. It will be interesting to see if it covers the theory proposed by author Donald Wolfe, who witnessed her playing the scene, that Marilyn ‘played dumb’ and blew her lines on purpose, to wear down director Billy Wilder into letting her play it her way.

Oscars 2018: The Shape of Marilyn

Marilyn may never have won an Academy Award, but she is so intrinsic to Hollywood lore that fans can usually find a Monroe reference or two on Oscar night.  This year, a brief glimpse of Marilyn singing ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ in Some Like It Hot was featured in the opening ceremony’s roll-call of all-time greatest movies.

On the red carpet, Irish actress Saoirse Ronan – nominated for her role in the delightful Lady Bird – wore a beautiful pink sheath with spectacular bow, designed for her by Raf Simons, creator-in-chief at Calvin Klein. As some commentators have noted, the dress echoes the famous Travilla gown worn by Marilyn when she sang ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Blade Runner 2049 – which features a cameo appearance by impersonator Suzie Kennedy as a futuristic Monroe clone – won Englishman Roger Deakins this year’s Oscar for Best Cinematography.

And finally, The Shape of Water – in which Marilyn’s long-lost song, ‘How Wrong Can I Be’, is heard in full for the first time – was the night’s big winner. taking home four gongs, including Best Picture and Best Original Score.

First Look: Gemma as Marilyn in ‘It’s Me, Sugar’

The first photo of Gemma Arterton in It’s Me, Sugar, the new TV comedy recreating the troubled production of Some Like It Hot, has been posted at Deadline (so at least they’ve got Marilyn’s orange robe right), along with a few more details: firstly, it’s produced by UK satellite channel Sky Arts; secondly, that Billy Wilder will be played by James Purefoy; and thirdly, it is just 30 minutes long and will be aired later this spring. You can read Gemma’s comments on the role here.

Marilyn’s 90 Years Without Oscar

Anticipating this year’s Oscar ceremony, the current issue of Entertainment Weekly (dated February 23-March 2) features extensive coverage of the Academy Awards’ 90-year history. Of course, Marilyn never won an Oscar, nor was she even nominated. But her role in Some Like It Hot, which won her a Golden Globe, is mentioned in a list of legendary ‘Oscar disses.’

Although Some Like It Hot is her best-known film, Marilyn’s screen time was less than her co-stars. Were it not for her top billing, her performance would arguably be more suited to the Best Supporting Actress category. Marilyn’s bombshell image and flair for comedy both worked against her being taken seriously by the Hollywood establishment. But perhaps the most decisive factor was her rebellion against Twentieth Century Fox.

After winning her contractual battle with the studio, her acclaimed comeback in Bus Stop (1956) was overlooked by the Academy – a snub she never forgot. Her next performance, in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), won awards in Europe, while her last completed film, The Misfits (1961), was also her most mature dramatic role. But at the time, neither were particularly well-received in the US.

In 1964, columnist Sheilah Graham petitioned unsuccessfully for Marilyn to be given a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. However, this is not standard practice within the Academy and thus is highly unlikely to happen now. Nonetheless, Marilyn’s films remain hugely popular and for many, she is the most enduring symbol of movies and glamour – proof, if proof were needed, that you don’t need an Oscar to be a legend.