‘Timeless Marilyn’ in Bury St. Edmunds

Marilyn Monroe: Timeless, a new photo exhibition, has opened at Moyse’s Hall Museum in Bury St. Edmund’s, Suffolk, following a preview performance by lookalike Suzie Kennedy last night. Among the artists featured are Alfred Eisenstadt, Frank Powolny, Philippe Halsman, Elliott Erwitt, Milton Greene, Bert Stern and George Barris. Additionally, a silver-framed triptych of portraits and text by Cecil Beaton (a wedding gift to Marilyn and Arthur Miller from Joshua and Nedda Logan in 1956), is also on display (see video here.)

Arts editor and MM fan Andrew Clarke has reviewed the exhibit for the East Anglian Daily Times.  (The lovely image below, credited in the article to Andre de Dienes, was actually taken by Joseph Jasgur in 1946.)

“Part of her enduring appeal can be put down to the fact that she is adored by women (particularly young women) as much as she is by men. This is down to the fact that she was a strong woman, who refused to bow to the studio system, went to work on her terms, and was always looking to improve herself … She loved the camera and she recognised its value and the support it gave her, even at her lowest moments. Even when she had been fired from her unfinished film Something’s Got To Give, opposite Dean Martin, she commissioned at least two photo-sessions to not only keep her name before her loyal public, but to let them know she was evolving and moving on.”

In the same article, Clarke also interviews curator Brian White of Kudos Memorabilia…

“One of our personal favourites, however, is a bewitching black and white portrait of Marilyn, from 1953, by famed portrait photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995). Marilyn, age 26, is posing informally in a simple black pullover and white slacks. Her nuanced expression is exquisite, and her warm, yet casual, intimacy, combined with an almost palpable vulnerability, memorialises an authentic Marilyn that many studio photographers failed to capture. This image was originally shot by ‘Eisie’ as a potential cover image for Life Magazine. At the time, editors considered it to be too understated to make the grade, but, every year since 1953, this image has grown in prestige amongst collectors of classic Marilyn Monroe photography. This beautiful silver gelatine print also features Eisenstaedt’s personal signature.”

‘Avatar Marilyn’ Created at Pinewood

Monroe impersonator Suzie Kennedy has been transformed into an ‘avatar’ for a new film project, as Lauren Probert reports for The Sun.

“Suzie spent hours having her face and body scanned to produce a ‘digital double’ which will play the part of the troubled star in the movie. The project is the brainchild of London producer and writer Chris Ongaro. He teamed up with writer Kim Fuller, who penned the Spice Girls movie Spice World, produced by his brother Simon, the band’s manager.

To make the digital Marilyn, Suzie had more than 3,000 photos of her face and body taken, working with Amanda Darby, head of Pinewood 3D. She had to stand on a platform surrounded by 181 cameras snapping every inch of her. Markers were drawn on her face and another 60 cameras were used to pick up her facial expressions. She then had a motion capture session with Phil Stilgoe of Centroid, experts in the field, in which she moved about in a bodysuit with a helmet and camera attached to map all her movements.

Kim [Fuller] said: ‘Marilyn Monroe is a an iconic figure and we’re giving her a 21 century digital makeover. This is a very exciting project and it will be as much Marilyn as it is possible to be without her actually being there. As she’s digital, you can do anything. You have a lot of license dramatically. We want to do a movie which re-interprets her in a modern context and shows she is still relevant. She was a massive glamour star and was exploited. If she was around today, there would be a lot of #MeToo.’

The Marilyn Monroe project is in its early stages but there are already plans for films with celebrities who are long dead. Chris [Ongaro] said: ‘’There is very keen interest in Hollywood in the concept of bringing dead celebrities back to life. It’s an exciting time. Al Capone is next.'”

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.

Marilyn and the Presidents Club Scandal

Images of Marilyn have been used to promote a controversial gala held last night at London’s Dorchester Hotel for the Presidents Club, a men-only organisation, as Martin Belam reports for The Guardian. Female staff at the most recent ball have complained of groping and sexual harassment, leading to calls for better protection of workers in the hospitality trade. It’s unclear whether the use of Marilyn’s image has been approved by her estate, but regardless, this is yet another example of corporate branding at its most crass.

However, Monroe impersonator Suzie Kennedy, who has performed at a past gala, takes a different view, as she told LBC Radio‘s Shelagh Fogarty today…

“It was three years ago. It’s rich men having a night out. They are usually very powerful in business and are very generous to the charities. The charities need these balls to happen.

Everybody at that job was told what the job is. It’s a businessman’s night out. Everyone’s going to drink, they are going to have cigars, they are going to have fun.

I didn’t see any of the girls thinking ‘Oh no, I have to wear this’. They were fine with wearing it. In nightclubs in London, girls are wearing a lot less.”

Gainsborough-Roberts Collection in London

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Marilyn Monroe: The Legacy of a Legend, an exhibition of the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, opened at London’s Design Centre last week. Fellow collector Scott Fortner attended the launch, alongside impersonator Suzie Kennedy and actress Linda Gray (aka Sue-Ellen Ewing from TV’s Dallas.)

Photo by Scott Fortner

In an article for the Telegraph, Bethan Holt discussed the ‘lipstick, diamonds and cigarettes’ among Marilyn’s personal effects, while Ben Miller looks at the ‘vulnerability and humanity’ revealed by her drawings and notes in his review for Culture24.

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After closing on June 20, the collection will move to the Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge in County Kildare, Ireland, where it will be on display from June 25-July 25.

All photos by Scott Fortner @MarilynMonroeCollection

‘Famous and Infamous’ at Christie’s

Impersonator Suzie Kennedy models earrings worn by Marilyn in 'How to Marry a Millionaire'
Impersonator Suzie Kennedy models earrings worn by Marilyn in ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’

David Gainsborough Roberts’ collection of Marilyn’s costumes and personal items is well-known to fans. I was lucky enough to see it at Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire in 2005 (the ancestral home of Marilyn’s poet friend, Dame Edith Sitwell.) He has also exhibited his Monroe collection at the American Museum in Bath, and London’s Getty Images Gallery.

However, Mr Roberts has also purchased items belonging to many other stars, historical figures, and even a few notorious criminals. A selection of his acquisitions – including Marilyn’s red beaded dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – is on display until September 2nd at Christie’s, South Kensington. In an interview with the celebrated auction house, he revealed how the red Travilla dress spurred a lifelong pursuit:

“It was 1991, I’d bought several things at Christie’s, and this Marilyn dress came up. The model was a good friend of mine, Pauline Bailey. I bid £16,000, something like that, and the press went bananas, she jumped up and down – I must have looked terrified! It took off from there, the next day I arrived back here in Jersey and my mother said to me ‘what have you been doing? The phone hasn’t stopped.’  And I said ‘believe me, seven days from now, Marilyn Monroe, Pauline Bailey and me – nobody will give a damn’ and the phone hasn’t stopped since 1991.”

Another MM lookalike, Suzie Kennedy, appeared at the opening of ‘Famous and Infamous’ yesterday, reports the Daily Mail.

Suzie Kennedy poses with Marilyn's red dress from 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes'
Suzie Kennedy poses with Marilyn’s red dress from ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’

Art and Myth: Alison Jackson’s Marilyn

Photo by Alison Jackson, using lookalikes
Photo by Alison Jackson, using lookalikes

Over at Mental Floss this week, artist Alison Jackson‘s photograph of two lookalikes impersonating Marilyn Monroe with President John F. Kennedy topped a list of ‘10 Internet Lies That Just Won’t Die.’ Of course, Jackson’s work is not intended to deceive – it’s an artistic interpretation of the fantasies so many of us harbour about the rich and famous. However, many people do believe her photos of Marilyn to be real and cite them as proof of an MM-JFK affair. And many others have since ‘Photoshopped’ Kennedy into photos of Monroe and vice versa, giving no indication that the images are fake. In fact, only two verified photos of the alleged lovers have ever been published, and both show them among the company of others.

Alison Jackson
Alison Jackson
Alison Jackson
Alison Jackson

tumblr_muoc1wrabQ1szxilso1_500 UPDATE: Jackson’s first, and most intriguing image of Marilyn was taken in 1999, with lookalike Suzie Kennedy crossing a Paris street alongside a Princess Diana impersonator, both carrying shopping bags. The image was created just two years after Diana’s death. Part of its charm is that unlike the Kennedy shots, it cannot logically be mistaken for a ‘real’ photo (Diana was born in 1961, just a year before Marilyn died), and is therefore pure fantasy. The picture is included in a new French exhibition focusing on paparazzi photography, reports The Observer.