Bonham’s will auction Marilyn’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes suit – in which she sang ‘When Love Goes Wrong, Nothing Goes Right’, back in 1953 – at their TCM Presents … Treasures From the Dream Factory sale on November 23. Other MM-related items include her red saloon gown, also designed by Travilla, and worn while singing ‘One Silver Dollar’ in River of No Return (1954); Marilyn’s signed contract for The Asphalt Jungle (1950); Paddy Chayevsky’s annotated early screenplay for The Goddess (1958), a thinly veiled portrait of Marilyn, starring Kim Stanley; and Natalie Wood’s bound screenplay for Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1947), in which Marilyn made her screen debut.
Actress Kim Stanley, who played Cherie in the original Broadway production of Bus Stop – and was dubbed ‘the female Brando’ – also starred in perhaps the first Marilyn-inspired movie, The Goddess (1958.)
The melodrama was written by Paddy Chayevsky, and some think his downbeat portrayal of an actress whose life is very similar to Marilyn’s was prompted by his failure to interest MM herself in a previous script. (Reportedly, Arthur Miller advised her to reject it. Curiously, Miller’s sister, Joan Copeland, would play a supporting role in The Goddess.)
“Stanley’s performance in The Goddess represents the archetypal Hollywood bleached blonde’s misguided dreams of being a star, instead winding up at the wrong end of the bottle, wasted on her own demons. Stanley neither condemns nor condones her character’s erratic behavior, despite screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky’s near-insistent judgments. Stanley never allows him to use Rita as a simple cautionary tale, and her shockingly complex, empathetic performance gives him no control over the character’s turbulent interior. Rita is owned by Kim Stanley, not by the man who wrote her, not by the film’s director, and certainly not by the audience. This brusque defiance of conventionality cements Stanley’s icon status—her Rita lives on as a genuine miracle of film acting.”
The myriad imitators of Marilyn Monroe have been much-discussed of late. Perhaps the most interesting analysis comes from The AV Club, considering past film portrayals in The Goddess, The Sex Symbol, Insignificance, and Mister Lonely; Marilyn-inspired characters in The Munsters and Gilligan’s Island; famous fans like Anna Nicole Smith and Lindsay Lohan; the music of Marilyn Manson; fictionalisations by Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, and John Varley’s Gaea trilogy; recreations of Marilyn’s birthday song for President Kennedy, by Madonna and Jennifer Lopez; and the forthcoming NBC series, Smash.
Over at PopMatters, Matt Mazur casts an eye at 1961’s Oscar nominees, and argues that Marilyn should have been on the list: ‘Marilyn Monroe’s final, haunting dramatic turn in John Huston’s The Misfits is a subtle marvel.’
1961’s winner was Sophia Loren, for Two Women. Mazur has previously contended that Marilyn merited a nomination for Some Like it Hot (1959), and also Kim Stanley for her MM-inspired role in 1958’s The Goddess.
Whenever Mazur gets around to 1956, I hope he’ll mention Marilyn’s extraordinary performance in Bus Stop. Not only should she have been nominated that year, I think she deserved to win outright.
Actress Joan Copeland, 83, is the sister of Arthur Miller. Marilyn is photographed with Joan, above, at the 1957 opening of Noel Coward’s Conversation Piece.
Joan’s Show, a solo performance featuring reminiscences about her famous family and highlights from her long career, will be staged at the Acorn Theatre, 42nd St, New York, on August 15 (at 7 pm) and August 18 (at 2 pm.)
Copeland began her career on Broadway, and has appeared on television and in films including The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009), written and directed by her niece, Rebecca Miller.
In 1958, Joan appeared in The Goddess, a bleak melodrama believed to have been based on Marilyn’s life. Monroe had previously rejected another movie project by its author, Paddy Chayevsky.