Mamie Van Doren is one of the last surviving bombshells from Marilyn’s era – and at 89, she is still glamorous and vital. Born in South Dakota, she came to Los Angeles in 1946 and was ‘discovered’ by Howard Hughes. She was married five times, including to bandleader Ray Anthony. As rock and roll music swept the nation, Mamie played the ‘bad girl’ in a series of teen movies, among them Untamed Youth (1957), High School Confidential (1958), and The Beat Generation (1959.) She later developed a nightclub act and starred in a stage production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Her autobiography, Playing the Field (1987), revealed affairs with famous names like Clark Gable and Tony Curtis.
Mamie spoke recently to Fox News‘ Stephanie Nolasco about her memories of Hollywood stars including Marilyn, whom she first met during the late 1940s.
“Fox News: How difficult was it to make your mark as a blonde bombshell at the same time Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield were stars?
Van Doren: I didn’t have much of a choice. Marilyn, I liked very much. I got along with her fine. I started going to her drama coach, Natasha Lytess. But she just wasn’t right for me. So I went to another one… But I went along with it because I really didn’t have much of a choice. And it was all men that ran everything. I don’t think I saw one woman in charge of anything. So I don’t know – I just managed to get it done and it seemed like I was able to do it. A lot of girls couldn’t. They would be on contract for six months and then disappear… But I was lucky. And when I did Untamed Youth, that’s when I really got to be myself.
Fox News: What’s your favorite memory of Marilyn Monroe?
Van Doren: It’s strange, but some of my memories of Marilyn are sad ones. When she wasn’t around people, she was sad. She was sad most of the time. But when she would go out, have a few drinks, she became Marilyn Monroe, the one everyone knew. She became what she wanted to be. But Marilyn expected too much from herself. As she got older, she wasn’t quite as popular as she used to be. And I think that really upset her very much because she had so much attention during those early years in Hollywood. She couldn’t do too much back then without everyone knowing. But as she entered her late 30s, things weren’t as easy for her. She also had a problem with men. She couldn’t seem to hang on to them. A very strange thing. She just couldn’t hang on to a man.
She had strained relationships. And she didn’t know very much except the movie business… She wanted to be a good actress. She worked very hard for that. But it didn’t come easy for her. It was hard to accept the fact that someone would reject you. Her expectations were way beyond what reality was like. She couldn’t accept that. I don’t think she had the ability to do that.”