Marilyn’s annotated script for her final, incomplete movie, Something’s Got to Give, has been sold at the Nate D. Sanders Hollywood Memorabilia auction for $25,000. While reporters have poked fun at her minor spelling errors – such as ‘leeding him on’ – her comments are often perceptive. ‘Needs more jokes’, she remarked – an opinion shared by others during this troubled production.
If this script looks familiar, that’s because it sold at Julien’s only a month ago for $10,240. Other items from the event have also been spotted on auction sites like EBay, confirming that Marilyn’s personal property is becoming a magnet for investors. A disused grave marker from her crypt, also sold in November, attracted no bids this time around.
“Monroe’s handwritten pencil notes begin with her character’s (Ellen Wagstaff Arden) introduction in the script on page 12 and carry through to the end on page 149, even including notes on the verso of the last page and back cover, such as a note reading, ‘Joke writers Mel Brooks / Herb Gardner / Need spice / raisins / Need some funny lines.’ There are notes in Monroe’s hand on approximately 42 pages in the script, ranging from simple dialogue corrections and changes to in-depth sense memory notes when doing a scene that required a deeper emotional connection and understanding. Regarding her character’s introduction, as she interacts with naval personnel who saved her after being marooned on an island for five years, Monroe writes, ‘1 – Gayity [sic] 2 – Excitement 3 – Then Dazed.’ In one scene, Monroe references Arthur Miller’s children to better help her relate to her character’s children, ‘Bobby M. / and early Janie / except their [sic] mine.’ Throughout the script, Monroe writes succinct dialogue and character notes: ‘Stunned / Dazed – sky high with adventure’, ‘dead pan/I really don’t know’, ‘anticipating the joys’, ‘Trying to think or remember’, ‘start to wonder what’s from now on’, ‘I don’t know he knows’, ‘easy/very intimate/very real’, ‘[L]et me get into something more comfortable / leading him on -‘. Included is a small card with call times and scenes to be shot, and a small scrap of paper with a note in Monroe’s hand wondering why they are shooting out of sequence, as well as notes about using Miss vs. Mrs.”
This copy of the script is dated March 29, 1962. Another version, including revisions dated April 23 and 27, and with eighteen pages annotated by Marilyn, went unsold, after being purchased at Julien’s last month for $12,800.
“Some of the highlights include notes Monroe made for Scene 168, in which she interacts with her children in the movie, who don’t recognize her as they were too young when she became stranded on an island for five years and presumed dead. These hand-annotated typewritten pages were inserted into the script for this particular scene – one of the few that Monroe completed before her untimely death. Within these pages, Monroe writes a series of notes regarding her preparation: ‘Real thought’, ‘Mental Relaxation’, ‘Look for the light’, ‘Place the pain/feeling where it is not in the brow’, as well as specific sense memories to help find the emotional truth with her character’s feelings toward her on-screen children, ‘Substitute children – B & J if necessary’, perhaps referring to Arthur Miller’s children Bobby and Jane. There are also some notes from Monroe regarding her work with a Swedish dialect coach. Peppered throughout the script are further dialogue notes, changes and line strikes. Interestingly, the script also includes notes in an unknown hand giving blunt, critical assessments and insights of the script’s scene descriptions, direction and dialogue. These notes start on the script’s first page, ‘Note for Marilyn/He has to woo her not the way it is / new blue pages’ and continue in blue pen, ‘Dull’, ‘Naggy, ‘Make it funny!’ and ‘Smugly’. Interestingly, Monroe reacts to some of these notes, either changing dialogue and scene direction or, in some cases, striking the note itself if she doesn’t agree with it.”
And in other news, a Frank Powolny portrait of Marilyn – signed by the lady herself to ‘Jimmie’ – was sold at R.R. Auctions for $24,959 this week, as part of the Tom Gregory Collection.
“Marilyn Monroe famously sang ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,’” Sheila Gibson Stoodley writes for Robb Report, “but collectors of her memorabilia disagree. Seven of the 10 most-expensive Marilyn Monroe items sold at auction are dresses—mainly costumes that the late star wore in her films. The few that she donned outside of the studio earn their high sums thanks to period photographs that prove Monroe wore them.” And over at his MM Collection Blog, Scott Fortner – who helped to catalogue this week’s auction at Julien’s – takes a closer look at the ‘I’m Through With Love‘ dress from Some Like It Hot, and the ‘After You Get What You Want‘ dress from There’s No Business Like Show Business. Both costumes are from the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, and will go under the hammer tomorrow.
Several other items which contributed to Marilyn’s glamorous look are also among the lots. From her modelling days onward, Marilyn often wore her own clothing in photo shoots. These brown leather sandals date back to a 1950 session with photographer Earl Leaf, shot at the Hollywood home of her agent, Johnny Hyde.
Unlike her cinematic alter-ego Lorelei Lee, Marilyn wasn’t really a material girl. These earrings, worn to the premiere of The Seven Year Itch, were made from simulated diamonds.
Marilyn’s movie costumes were made in duplicates, with her name next to the Fox logo on a sewn-in label. This green lace bodice from Bus Stop was won in a contest by a lucky reader of the British fan magazine, Picture Show.
These red satin platform shoes – designed by Annello & Davide – were born by Marilyn to the London premiere of Arthur Miller’s controversial play, A View From the Bridge.
John Moore’s pencil sketches for the form-fitting mermaid gown worn by Marilyn to the premiere of The Prince and the Showgirl are also on offer.
“A two-page, typed plan titled ‘Calorie Restricted Diet/ 1000 Calories/ 100 Grams Protein’ prepared for Monroe by Dr. Leon Krohn. The pages are undated, but some of the approved foods and meal plans are in line with the notations found in Monroe’s hand in the back of one of her notebooks from 1958. The diet put forth presents sound health advice even by today’s standards, recommending the restriction of sugar, fats and carbohydrates to whole wheat and ‘one small white potato boiled baked or riced’ as a substitution for one slice of bread.
Five sets of instructions, eight pages, from the Erno Laszlo Institute written out for Marilyn Monroe Miller, dated June 5, 6, 11, and 12, 1958, and July 3, 1958, outlining her constantly changing skincare regime in great detail. The instructions not only divide skincare into ‘Morning,’ ‘Evening if dressing,’ and ‘Evening before retiring,’ but also there are instructions on what not to eat: ‘Not one piece of any kind of nuts, olives, chocolate, clams and oysters.’ There are also separate instructions for California and ‘Instructions for Makeup While Making Films.'”
These white leather shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo are just one of several pairs that she owned. (The spiked heels were 3 inches high, and the size was 7.5B.)
In the spring of 1958, Marilyn made plans to appear at the Cannes Film Festival. Simone Noir sent her an invitation to visit Christian Dior in Paris. Unfortunately, the trip was cancelled, but a separate invoice shows that Marilyn bought a dress and coat by Dior from a Park Avenue boutique.
That Christmas, Marilyn’s longtime hairdresser, Agnes Flanagan, gave her a bottle of her favourite perfume, Chanel No. 5, purchased from I. Magnin in Beverly Hills.
Finally, a costume sketch by Bob Mackie for Something’s Got to Give. Based on a Jean Louis design, the red skirt suit with a swing jacket trimmed in leopard print, and matching hat, was intended as an ‘Outfit Worn on Day Off/Also in Courtroom Sequence.’ However, the ensemble was not worn by Marilyn during wardrobe tests, or any surviving footage from the ill-fated movie.
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.'”
As so many outlandish conspiracy theories have arisen in the 53 years after Marilyn’s death, it is instructive to look back at how the tragic event was covered in the days after the news broke. Firstly, an extract from Time magazine’s obituary, which focused on the ill-fated production of Something’s Got to Give, claiming that only a few minutes of usable footage were shot. This myth persisted until 1990, when Marilyn’s impressive, if unfinished work was shown in public for the first time. (Headlined ‘The Only Blonde in World’, Time‘s obit inspired a painting of the same name by British pop artist, Pauline Boty.)
“She had always been late for everything, but her truancy was never heedlessness. Beset by self-doubt and hints of illness, she would stay alone, missing appointments, keeping whole casts waiting in vain. In the past year, her tardiness was measured in weeks instead of hours … She seemed euphonic and cheerful, even while 20th Century-Fox was filing suit against her in hopes of salvaging $750,000 damages from the wreckage of Something’s Got to Give.”
The New York Times noted the gulf between Marilyn’s ‘golden girl’ image and her sad demise, echoing the shock felt by many fans:
“The life of Marilyn Monroe, the golden girl of the movies, ended as it began, in misery and tragedy.
Her death at the age of 36 closed an incredibly glamorous career and capped a series of somber events that began with her birth as an unwanted, illegitimate baby and went on and on, illuminated during the last dozen years by the lightning of fame.
Her public life was in dazzling contrast to her private life.
No sex symbol of the era other than Brigitte Bardot could match her popularity. Toward the end, she also convinced critics and the public that she could act.
During the years of her greatest success, she saw two of her marriages end in divorce. She suffered at least two miscarriages and was never able to have a child. Her emotional insecurity deepened; her many illnesses came upon her more frequently.
In her last interview, published in the Aug. 3 issue of Life magazine, she told Richard Meryman, an associate editor: ‘I was never used to being happy, so that wasn’t something I ever took for granted.’
Considering her background, this was a statement of exquisite restraint.”
Writing for The National, Lincoln Kerstein – co-founder of the New York Ballet – praised Marilyn’s comedic gifts and unabashed sexuality:
“Marilyn Monroe was supposed to be the Sex Goddess, but somehow no one, including, or indeed first of all, herself, ever believed it. Rather, she was a comedienne impersonating the American idea of the Sex Goddess … When people paid their forty millions to see Monroe, it was for an aesthetic performance, not a simple provocation. And she, perhaps even consciously, exemplified a philosophy which had come to her pragmatically, and which a lot of American women don’t like very much—a philosophy at once hedonistic, full of uncommon common sense, and, even to some intellectuals, deeply disturbing. Her performances indicated that while sex is certainly fun, and often funny, it is only one of many games … Marilyn Monroe’s life was not a waste. She gave delight. She was a criterion of the comic in a rather sad world. Her films will continue to give delight, and it is blasphemy to say she had no use. Her example, our waste of her, has the use of a redemption in artists yet untrained and unborn.”
The Los Angeles Times gave a detailed report about Marilyn’s final days, and the still-disputed circumstances of her death, under the headline ‘Marilyn Monroe Dies; Pills Blamed’…
“Two motion pictures executives were bidding for her services at the time of her death. One of them was reportedly J. Lee Thompson, director of the film The Guns of Navarone, who planned to meet with her Tuesday.
Producer Sam Spiegel also wanted her to star in a picture for him, it was reported.
Miss Monroe had received an offer of $55,00 a week to star in a night club appearance in Las Vegas recently, but she turned it down.
Further evidence that her career was on the upswing was indicated by a typewritten message on a table in her home.
It was from a representation of Anita Loos, creator of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and said:
‘Dear Miss Monroe: On behalf of Anita Loos, now in Europe, we would like to know if you would be interested star role new musical based on French play Gogo. Book by Anita Loos, lyrics by Gladys Shelley and enchanting music by Claude Leville. Can send you script and music if you express interest. (signed) Natalia Danesi Murray.'”
Finally, The Guardian‘s W.J. Weatherby published a personal tribute to Marilyn (click to enlarge.) He would later write a book about their friendship, Conversations With Marilyn.
Items from ‘the lost archive of Marilyn Monroe’ were sold at predictably high prices in the Hollywood Legends sale at Julien’s Auctions this weekend, reports Fox8.com. IM staffer Jackie Craig took several photographs at the Beverly Hills preview.
“Marilyn Monroe’s grave marker sold for 212,500 dollars. The item was originally estimated to sell between 2,000-4,000 dollars.
A dress worn by her from the movie Something’s Got to Give was sold for over $300 K.
A copy of Playboy magazine with Monroe on the cover and signed by Hugh Hefner, sold for 87,500 dollars.”
A chaise longue, used in Let’s MakeLove,sold for $56,250; and the Mexican rug Marilyn bought for her final home reached $16,640. However, while some of the most iconic – and occasionally ghoulish – items attracted large bids, other more intimate pieces failed to sell – perhaps because so many dedicated fans can’t afford to meet the reserves?
1) An employment card dated June 8, 1950 (when Marilyn was filming All About Eve at Twentieth Century-Fox); and a change of rate card from the same studio dated November 5, 1953, noting her salary increase from $750 to $1,250 weekly (she was by then starring in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.) Another letter from Fox’s casting director, Lew Schreiber advises Marilyn that filming of Time and Tide will commence on April 14, 1959. (Her role was ultimately played by Lee Remick in the renamed Wild River.)
2) A ‘Golden Dreams’ calendar from 1953; a ‘New Wrinkle’ lithograph by Tom Kelley; and the first issue of Playboy, signed by Hugh Hefner.
3) Candid photos of Marilyn dining with troops in Korea, 1954; and behind the scenes of Let’s Make Love (1960.) Also, a photo of Marilyn with Manfred Kreiner on location for The Misfits, and 3 photographs taken by Gene Daniels at the Golden Globes ceremony, 1962.
4) A scrapbook commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Princess Cafe, Iowa Falls, in November 1955. A telegram from Marilyn to actress Margery ‘Madge’ Meredith (once a waitress at the cafe, she gained notoriety in Hollywood after being jailed for complicity in an assault on her former manager – but was freed in 1951 after the court concluded she had been framed) and referring to the cafe’s owners, Harry Pergakis and Ernie Karrys, reads, “AM JEALOUS YOU INVITED INSTEAD OF ME. I STRUCK OUT WITH JOE AND CAN’T EVEN GET TO FIRST BASE WITH HARRY AND ERNIE =MARILYN MONROE=”
5) A drawing of a nude woman signed by Marilyn, who inscribed and gifted the drawing to Broadway set designer Boris Aronson. Sanguine on paper, inscribed in blue ink “For Boris -/ Waiting – Wondering -/ Woman – Marilyn Monroe Miller” mounted to matteboard and undated. The drawing has been referred to as ‘an erotic self-portrait.’
Arthur Miller worked with Aronson on A View From the Bridge around the time of Miller’s divorce and budding relationship with Monroe. Aronson, when he first met Monroe, is quoted by Elia Kazan as having said, ‘That’s a wife?’ Kazan shared that quote and evidently its sentiment by answering the question in his autobiography as, ‘Hell no!’
6) Marilyn’s own copies of Doctor Pygmalion by Maxwell Maltz, and The Unfinished Country by Max Lerner. A copy of John Huston’s 1930 script, Frankie and Johnny, with the inscription, “Marilyn dear/ All those years ago/ when you were hardly/ born I wrote this for/ you – the perfect Frankie/ Johnny (himself)/ Huston.” (So much for my theory that it was connected to the Elvis Presley movie!)
7) Personal letters to Marilyn from Jean Negulesco, Inez Melson and William Inge; documents regarding Marilyn moving to Milton Greene’s Connecticut home in 1954;
8) A lidded Wedgwood Jasperware trinket box owned by Marilyn, and assorted hair and make-up items, including a container of Erno Laszlo face powder.
9) The chaise longue featured in the title song from Let’s Make Love.
10) Limited edition etchings of Marilyn by Al Hirshfeld.
11) An expense form from Marilyn Monroe’s public relations agency, Arthur P. Jacobs Company Inc., dated June 11, 1962, for costs incurred through long-distance calls made to Monroe by Pat Newcomb in April 1962. Accompanied by a black and white photograph of Newcomb with Monroe at John F. Kennedy’s birthday gala held in May 1962.
12) A Mexican tapestry purchased by Marilyn for her final home in Brentwood, Los Angeles; her script for Something’s Got to Give, marked ‘revised screenplay’, from February 1962; a letter from Westwood Memorial Park to Marjorie Plecher (future wife of Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder), thanking Plecher for helping to dress Marilyn for her funeral; and the original grave marker, which has been replaced.
13) Photos by Joseph Jasgur, Andre de Dienes, Phil Burchman, George Barris, Bruno Bernard, Milton Greene, Philippe Halsman, John Bryson, Sam Shaw, Jack Cardiff, Lawrence Schiller.
A backless, floral shift dress worn by Marilyn in her final, shelved movie, Something’s Got to Give – as designed by Jean Louis – is a highlight of an upcoming Julien’s Auctions Hollywood Legends sale, set for June 26-27, with an estimated value of at least $400, 000, reports Artfix Daily.
“The figure hugging silk crepe dress is printed with scattered painterly roses in shades of persimmon and deep cherry with a plunging V back. The interior of the studio constructed dress has hand finished details, is lined with ivory soufflé and has boning to the waistline.
“Other highlights chronicling the personal life and career of the world’s most intriguing screen icon include rare items including a Marilyn Monroe black velvet bustier (Estimate: $8,000-$10,000), a black silk underskirt from the Estate of Marilyn Monroe (Estimate: $6,000-$8,000), Marilyn Monroe’s personal copy of behind-the-scenes footage of The Misfits (Estimate: $3,000-$5,000), Marilyn Monroe Frankie and Johnny script (Estimate: $10,000-$20,000), a 1961 black and white photograph of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable on the set of The Misfits ($5,000-$7,000), a photo layout sheet of four Marilyn Monroe color photographs (Estimate: $5,000-$7,000), a Marilyn Monroe owned hat (Estimate: $7000-$9000), a Marilyn Monroe side view x-ray from Cedars of Lebanon Hospital/Drs. E. Freedman and S. Finck dated 11-10-54 which was used by the radiology resident at Cedars for teaching which Marilyn was aware of. The x-rays are said to be from her visit to the hospital for her chronic endometriosis (Estimate: $8,000-$10,000). Also included are a collection of signed vintage gelatin silver photographs of Marilyn Monroe by Bruno Bernard known as Bernard of Hollywood (Various estimates), Marilyn Monroe eyeliner pencils (Estimate: $800-$1,200), a Marilyn Monroe cosmetic jar (Estimate: $2,000-$4,000), a Marilyn Monroe signed white glove (Estimate: $8,000-$10,000), a Marilyn Monroe grave marker (Estimate: $2,000-$4,000) and many more items from the life and career of Monroe.”
Arnold Schulman became a playwright and screenwriter after taking classes at the Actors Studio. He became the second writer to work on the beleaguered Something’s Got to Give. He shared his memories of Marilyn’s last, unfinished movie with author Patrick McGilligan for the 1997 book, Backstory 3: Interviews With Screenwriters of the 60s. (The book also includes an interview with George Axelrod, who adapted The Seven Year Itch and Bus Stop for MM.)
“I know from reading David Brown’s autobiography, ‘Let Me Entertain You’, that you had at least one not-marvelous experience in Hollywood in the sixties, working with Cukor again, this time on the last, never-completed Marilyn Monroe picture: ‘Something’s Got to Give’.
I haven’t read David’s book, but I’ve been told he said I wore a kimono and sat on the floor when I wrote. Clearly, I was crazy, so he fired me. I still wear a kimono and sit on the floor when I write, and lots of people think I’m crazy— maybe I am—but David and I recall the situation differently. Actually, I quit. Cukor wanted me because we had such a good experience on the Magnani picture, but when I found out what they were doing to Marilyn, I quit. They were setting her up. A guy from the advertising business named Peter Levathes had come in as head of the studio, having taken over from [Spyros] Skouras, who was kicked out, as I recall, because Cleopatra  went so much over budget. Levathes had to prove himself a hero. He had to prove he wouldn’t take any shit from any star. He wanted to humiliate Marilyn into quitting and then sue her, I was told.
You were Marilyn’s friend?
From way back. I met her when she first left Hollywood and came to join the Actors Studio. I got a call one night from Lee Strasberg, and he said, ‘I’ve got two tickets to a poetry reading at the Y. I can’t go. Will you take the person I’m supposed to go with?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ I had no idea it was Marilyn until she opened the door. This was at the peak of her fame. I didn’t have a car or anything, so we had to catch a cab. We got mobbed. We finally got to the Y. I’m thinking, ‘Why does she want to go to the Y? Why didn’t Lee tell me who I was going with?’ And, of course, the program couldn’t go on, because everybody left their seats to catch a glimpse of her. We escaped through a side door and ran up the street with a mob chasing us, and finally wound up on 125th Street in a dinky Chinese restaurant I knew about. That’s how I met her, and we became good friends.
What was her condition at the time when you were working on the script? Was she deteriorating, as everybody has written?
I didn’t see any of that. When I was with her, she was bright, warm and loving, and in good shape.
She wasn’t demanding?
Not at all.
She was on time for everything?
She didn’t have to be on time. This wasn’t even preproduction. I hadn’t written a word. But her agent would call and request things—I remember one thing in particular—and Fox would deliberately say no, doing everything to make her quit. She wanted her regular hairdresser, I remember. No—she couldn’t have her regular hairdresser. Whatever she wanted, the rule was, she couldn’t have it. Gradually, it became clearer and clearer what was going on—and then I overheard conversations about it between the executives. As soon as I realized it, I went ape. I think I grabbed David Brown, who is about two feet taller than I am, and shook him against the wall; if not, I wanted to, which is probably closer to the truth. I called Marilyn and told her. She understood what was happening, but there was nothing she could do about it.
You think they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams—driving her to her death?
It’s not that cut and dried. But they certainly didn’t contribute to her will to live.
Cukor was party to this?
He knew about it.
The whole thing was shocking to me. She asked me to come back and write the picture and be on her side. I told her I was on her side, and that is why I got out of it. I told her she had to get out of it. ‘If I go back,’ I told her, ‘I’m powerless.’ I have terrible guilt about that experience, still. Terrible guilt. The lingering feeling, however irrational, that if I had gone back, I might have made a difference, and she might still be alive today.”
David Brown was the original producer on Something’s Got to Give. He later said of Schulman, ‘He was a great writer, but I was somewhat alarmed when I passed his office and saw that he had removed his desk, and was writing in a yoga position. Bear in mind that the myth of Hollywood is much less than the reality.’
Author Keith Badman adds further detail in The Final Years of Marilyn Monroe (2010), claiming that Marilyn was dissatisfied with Schulman’s script. However, given that Nunnally Johnson’s original adaptation – which she loved – had been rejected, this may be a reflection of her growing concerns about the production rather than a personal attack on Schulman.
“He quit the film in protest when he discovered the menacing treatment Marilyn had been receiving from certain members of the Hollywood hierarchy. He had encountered the actress for the first time in 1955 during her first spell in New York and regarded her as a true and trusted friend. However, friendship meant little in the Hollywood movie industry and Marilyn soon made it clear she was unhappy with several parts of Schulman’s work. Her loathing of it was manifested in several handwritten notes, scrawled across the screenplay’s front page and across several pages inside. ‘This is funny?’ she asked. ‘Not funny,’ she maintained. ‘Not a story for me,’ she insisted.”
In late 1961, Brown was fired and replaced by Henry Weinstein, a rather inexperienced young producer who was a good friend of Monroe’s psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson. Schulman was later replaced by Walter Bernstein, who told biographer Donald Spoto, ‘Everbody was aware that Greenson had put Marilyn in a cocoon-like situation. I always felt that she had become an investment to people like him…’
Marilyn’s performance in The Misfits features in Esquire‘s list of the most memorable final roles (although I always think of the unfinished Something’s Got to Give as her last.) The only other woman on the list is Rita Hayworth (The Wrath of God, 1972.)
“The death that launched a thousand conspiracy theories, Monroe overdosed on barbiturates at home on 5 August 1962. She was 36-years-old and was in the midst of filming Something’s Got To Give (a film which 20th Century Fox re-filmed with a new cast and released 16 months later). Monroe’s last completed role was as divorcee Roslyn Tabor in drama The Misfits. The film was widely regarded as a career highlight for Monroe’s co-star Clark Gable while Monroe received the 1961 Golden Globe for ‘World Film Favourite’. Despite this, Monroe repeatedly claimed she hated both the film and her performance and tragedy struck for both actors, with Gable suffering a fatal heart attack two days after filming ended, while Monroe – who attended the premiere while on a pass from a psychiatric hospital – passed away less than 18 months later.”