Beaton’s Marilyn in the Sotheby Archive

The Sotheby’s blog takes a look at Cecil Beaton’s extraordinary portraits of Marilyn today. The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive is located at the London auction house.

“Cecil Beaton had only one shoot with Marilyn Monroe, which took place at the Ambassador Hotel in New York in February 1956. The actress turned up at his suite 90 minutes late and in his diary Beaton admitted that he was: ‘startled, then disarmed, by her lack of inhibition’.

Marilyn shot to fame playing dumb yet witty blondes in films … Beaton acknowledged that while it was likely ‘press agentry or manufactured illusion’ that had helped her find success, it was ‘her own weird genius that [had] sustained her flight’ .

Prophetically, his diary entry ends, ‘It will probably end in tears’.”

Marilyn’s Lost Song in ‘The Shape of Water’

Diehard Monroe fans have noticed a little-known recording by Marilyn in Guillermo Del Toro’s new film, The Shape of Water. Set in the early 1960s, the film stars Sally Hawkins as Elisa, a laboratory assistant who develops a close bond with ‘Amphibian Man,’ the mysterious creature being held captive in a tank. This plotline is reminiscent of Creature From the Black Lagoon, the monster movie that Marilyn and Tom Ewell go to see in The Seven Year Itch. Afterward, Marilyn (as ‘The Girl’) famously declares: “He wasn’t really all bad. I think he just craved a little affection, you know? A sense of being loved and needed and wanted.”

According to fans at Marilyn Remembered, her voice can be heard in a song accompanying a scene in The Shape of Water, when Elisa’s friend Giles makes a pass at the waiter in a cafe and is asked to leave.. But while Marilyn’s singing voice may be familiar, the song is not.

‘How Wrong Can I Be’ was a song recorded by Marilyn, probably in the late 1940s (around the time Fred Karger coached her for Ladies of the Chorus), but its existence was not widely known until 1995, when it was listed for sale at Sotheby’s of London. Until now, only a 20-second snippet has been released, which you can listen to here.

Marilyn with Fred Karger (top) circa 1948

Unfortunately, it’s not featured on the soundtrack to The Shape of Water, but we finally have an opportunity to listen. Fraser Penney noticed it in the final credits:

And here’s some background information from a 1995 report in the New York Times.

“‘How Wrong Can I Be,’ recorded on a 12-inch acetate disk, was never released. The anonymous seller, whose father was in the music business, was sorting through a stack of his father’s recordings three years ago and noticed one with a hand-written label that read ‘Fred Karger at the piano, Manny Klein on the trumpet, vocal by Marilyn Monroe.’

The ballad, written by Mr. Karger and Alex Gottlieb, tells a story of sorrow and regret, from the point of view of a woman who has ended a love affair out of misguided jealousy.

The song begins:

‘How wrong can I be,

If my heart says to me

Love like ours never dies.

How wrong can I be,

When it’s sure plain to see

That a heart never lies…'”

Marilyn in the Blogosphere

Andy Warhol’s Nine Multi-Colored Marilyns (Reversal Series) (1979-86) sold for £3.2 million at Sotheby’s, London, last Tuesday, after the auction was interrupted by protesters campaigning against cuts to public services, including the arts.

John Reznikoff, of University Archives, has spoken publicly for the first time about the Cusack Papers, a series forged documents relating to Marilyn and John F. Kennedy, which surfaced during the 1990s. The papers initially duped many people, including certain biographers, until they were exposed as fakes by ABC News. For more details, and to listen to the interview, visit MM Collection Blog.

Meanwhile, over at The MMM Blog, Melinda reviews the current exhibition, ‘Marilyn in Canada’, at the McMichael, Toronto.