Marilyn, Bruce Dern and ‘Wild River’

At 83, Bruce Dern is one of Hollywood’s most enduring character actors, with a career spanning almost 60 years. In 2013, he spoke about meeting Marilyn at the Actors Studio, and her advice that success would come to him in later life (see here.) Now in an interview for the New York Post, Dern describes a conversation with Marilyn before he made his big-screen debut in 1960; and while his recollection probably isn’t verbatim – I doubt she used the word ‘wunderkind’, or that she would have made cutting remarks about her husband with a passing acquaintance – it does shed light on a film Marilyn almost made with Dern (and her fragility certainly rings true. )

“I’m sitting in the back row my second day at the Actors Studio, and just before the session starts, this woman comes in with a yellow babushka over her head and sits down next to me.

‘You’re Gadge’s new wunderkind,’ she says — Gadge was Mr. [Elia] Kazan’s nickname. ‘The movie you’re gonna do, Wild River, I was gonna do — but I have to do this dumb movie my husband wrote, so they gave it to Lee Remick.’

Marilyn’s husband was Arthur Miller, the movie she was doing was The Misfits, and the star was Clark f - - king Gable. ‘What if he doesn’t like me?’ she asked. ‘He’s the biggest star that ever lived!’

She was as fragile as anyone I’ve ever seen in show business.”

Wild River was a Twentieth Century Fox production, directed by Elia Kazan and starring Montgomery Clift as an official from the Tennessee Valley Authority who tries to persuade an old woman to give up her home to build a hydroelectric dam on her land. He also becomes involved with her granddaughter Ella (Remick.) Bruce Dern played a small, uncredited role as a TVA agent (see inset, below.)

Marilyn was indeed committed to The Misfits, but it was Kazan who chose Lee Remick to play the lead – perhaps because sensing that his past relationship with Marilyn, and his falling out with Miller would cause conflict. Wild River was a good film, but a less glamorous role than Marilyn usually played, and arguably more suited to Remick.

Marilyn was still contracted to Fox, although she hadn’t worked there since 1956. After losing Wild River, she starred in the lightweight musical, Let’s Make Love, at Fox instead, before making The Misfits independently. Whatever her misgivings, The Misfits was probably a better fit for Marilyn than Wild River, and she finally got to co-star with her friend, Montgomery Clift.

Lee Remick was briefly set to replace Marilyn in the ill-fated Something’s Got to Give (1962), and would go on to narrate a 1987 documentary, Remembering Marilyn. Meanwhile, Miller and Kazan were finally reconciled (with Marilyn’s support), and later collaborated on After the Fall (1964), Miller’s autobiographical play in which Kazan’s wife, Barbara Loden (who had also appeared in Wild River), played a character based on Marilyn.

‘The Misfits’ in Morehead, KY

The Misfits will be screened at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) in Morehead, Kentucky this fall, as part of the Osher Classic Film Series which runs on Wednesdays at 12:30 pm from September 25 – October 30 (enrolment is free, but limited to 35 places.)

Wednesdays With Marilyn in Palm Springs

The Palm Springs Cultural Centre is hosting a summer season of Marilyn’s movies each Wednesday at 7 pm, with Niagara on July 10; followed by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on July 17, How to Marry a Millionaire on July 24, and Some Like It Hot on July 31. On Wednesdays at 7 through August, catch The Seven Year Itch, Bus Stop, Let’s Make Love and Monkey Business. And finally, the retrospective winds up in September with Don’t Bother to Knock and The Misfits.

Thanks to Eric at Marilyn Remembered

Marilyn Goes From Grand Marshal to Usherette

These candid photos of Marilyn, taken circa 1961, will go under the hammer at RR Auctions on June 12, as part of their latest Fine Autographs and Artifacts sale.

Although usually credited to Inge Morath, these photos (taken in 1960, during filming of The Misfits) are stamped with the name of Henri Cartier-Bresson, her colleague at the Magnum Photos agency (they visited the set in tandem.)

This wire photo was taken during Marilyn’s visit to the 1952 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. Another photo taken with these young servicewomen caused a minor scandal, as mentioned in the caption. Some more information from the shoot is posted below (although the quote attributed to Marilyn was later refuted by her own publicist in a 1955 interview with the Saturday Evening Post‘s Pete Martin.)

“The low-cut summer dress she was wearing caught the attention of a photographer, who stood on a chair to better capture the outfit’s full effect. Upon seeing the photo, an Army information officer ordered it killed because he did not want to give the parents of potential recruits the ‘wrong impression’ about Army life. Information about the suppression of the photo was leaked to the press and then turned into frontpage news.

‘Leg art’ photo sessions were a never-ending part of Marilyn’s career, and one that she worked at with enthusiasm and good humor.

When asked her opinion of the situation for a story titled ‘Marilyn Wounded by Army Blushoff,’ Marilyn replied in her tongue-in-cheek manner, ‘I am very surprised and very hurt. I wasn’t aware of any objectionable décolletage on my part. I’d noticed people looking at me all day, but I thought they were admiring my Grand Marshal’s badge!'”

Susan Doll, How Stuff Works

Another Misfits photo from Magnum’s Eve Arnold.

One of the distinctive photo manipulations of Arthur ‘Weegee’ Fellig, based on his image of Marilyn at the Racquet Club, Palm Springs in 1949.

This photo of Marilyn with fellow celebrity usher Marlon Brando at the 1955 premiere of The Rose Tattoo comes from the collection of George Zeno, who has contributed to books including James Spada’s Monroe: A Life in Pictures (1982), and Christopher Nickens’ Marilyn in Fashion (2012.)

This photo shows Marilyn arriving at Phoenix Airport to film the rodeo scenes for Bus Stop in 1956.

This classic glamour shot (taken by Frank Powolny in 1953) is inscribed, ‘To Cheryl, Love & kisses, Marilyn Monroe.’

This shot of Marilyn singing alongside pianist Hal Schaefer, taken by John Florea in 1954, is part of a complete first series set of ‘Marilyn Monroe Trade Cards’ in their original packaging, entitled ‘Marilyn and Her Music,’ containing cards #1-20.

UPDATE: View results here

Marilyn’s Movies: A Birthday List

On Marilyn’s 93rd birthday, Sophia Waterfield aggregates online ratings from Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes to gauge the 10 highest scoring Monroe movies with critics and audiences today in a post for Newsweek. The results are surprising, with her dramatic roles in Don’t Bother to Knock and The Misfits tying for first place; followed by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Asphalt Jungle, with perennial favourite Like It Hot coming in fifth. The ranking continues with All About Eve, Monkey Business, The Seven Year Itch, Niagara, and How to Marry a Millionaire.

Meanwhile on the Gold Derby website, Zach Laws and Chris Beachum pick their top 15, with Some Like It Hot, The Misfits and The Seven Year Itch on top. Three more of my favourites – Bus Stop, Clash By Night and The Prince and the Showgirl – occupy the 5th, 13th and 14th places respectively, with River Of No Return ranked 11th and There’s No Business Like Show Business at 15th. (Of all Marilyn’s major movies, Let’s Make Love is the only one not to make either list.)

Manfred Kreiner’s Marilyn at Julien’s Legends

SOLD as part of set for $625

Following reports that the bathrobe worn by Marilyn in How to Marry a Millionaire will be auctioned at the annual Legends sale at Julien’s on June 13-14 (see here), the full listings are now available online here. I will review Marilyn’s personal and business correspondence in a future post, but today I’m looking through the archives of German photographer Manfred ‘Kreiner’ Linus.

UPDATE: I have now added the final bids for each item.

Marilyn opens the Time-Life building in New York, July 1957 (SOLD for $640)
This group of photos includes images from the Time-Life building (bottom, centre), and with Arthur at the Crystal Awards, where Marilyn received an award for The Prince and the Showgirl at New York’s French embassy in February 1959 (top left, and bottom right) SOLD for $1,280
Arriving in Chicago, March 1959 (SOLD as part of set for $625)
Meeting the press at Chicago’s Ambassador Hotel (SOLD for $3,840)
Arriving at the New York premiere of Some Like It Hot, March 1959
(SOLD as part of set for $625)
This group of photos includes an image of Marilyn attending the Hollywood reception for Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev in September 1959 (top right) SOLD for $320
This slide shows Manfred Kreiner with Marilyn during filming of The Misfits, 1960 (SOLD for $320)

Marilyn and the ‘Hollywood Liars’

Hollywood Menteur (or Hollywood Liar) is a new comic book inspired by The Misfits, from the French cartoonist Luz. As you may recall, a despairing Marilyn calls her cowboy friends ‘liars’ during her furious speech in the desert. It’s also the subject of an exhibition in Paris, as Jacques LeRoux tells Marilyn Remembered.

“Today in Paris, I stumbled by accident on the new show at Huberty Breyne Gallery (specialist in Comics Art). It’s the first show ever of caricaturist Luz, who just released his latest comic book … The exhibition presents the original comic strips for show and sale.

You might not have heard about Luz but here in France he is very well know because of his provocative Charlie Hebdo covers and because he is one of the few survivors of the January 7, 2015 terrorist attack and killings at Charlie Hebdo. Shortly after the attack, he decided to quit his work as a newspaper caricaturist and receded into anonymity, guarded 24/7 by government security agents.

Today, I started chatting with the gallery’s owner who told me Luz was at the opening of the show last Thursday (he came heavily guarded, what a life…) and when asked : ‘Why Marilyn?’, he said he became obsessed by Marilyn and The Misfits shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Watching the movie again and later reading all he could about its stars and the filming, he felt he could relate to the anguish and pain Marilyn was going through at the time (and that himself still goes through, for a whole different reason). And that he felt in love with her all over again.

Hollywood Menteur shows a very violent and disturbing image of Marilyn (and Monty, and Clark, and John…). Marilyn is a woman fighting for her own survival among a team of colleagues, some of them also on their way to extinction. Luz did not want to draw Marilyn in a realistic way but as a metaphor for fright and anger. Just what Luz still feels, 4 years after the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Isn’t it intriguing and moving that Luz found in a screaming Marilyn Monroe his own way of expressing his frustration over the ordeal he went through on that dreadful day at Charlie Hebdo?

One room in the show is all devoted to 8 expressionist portraits of Marilyn. Blood red.

Very intense and powerful stuff indeed…”

Cléo, Meet Marilyn (From 5 to 7)

In a tribute to filmmaker Agnès Varda, who died last week aged 90, Genna Rivieccio notes on her Culled Culture blog the parallels between Marilyn’s life and the tragic young heroine faced with a cancer diagnosis played by Corinne Marchand in Cléo From 5 to 7, the movie released just a few months before  Marilyn’s death, and which helped to launch the French New Wave.

“Although Cléo is beautiful and has a relatively successful singing career, the dark shadow potentially case by the reaper above her won’t go away, nor is it remedied by seeing a fortune teller at the outset of the movie, one who confirms all her worst fears about waiting for some potentially fatal test results from her doctor.

Distraught at first over the reading, Cléo insists to herself that ‘as long as I’m beautiful, I’m alive,’ because ‘ugliness is a kind of death’ so how can she be suffering from it if she’s not aesthetically hideous? Even so, she is aware that if she is dying, it’s only the inside that will matter now–not from a personality or ‘good person’ standpoint, but in terms of it affecting whether or not her demise is imminent. To that former notion, however, Cléo suddenly becomes hyperconscious of the vacuity of her life. Buying hats, lounging around, cursing men. What does it all mean? And what can she do to go on preserving that vacuous little life? Thus, she tells her maid, Angèle (Dominique Davray) that she’ll kill herself if it turns out to be cancer. Angèle does little to comfort her, noting that ‘men hate illness’ and that Cléo ought not to wear a new hat on Tuesday as it’s bad luck.

So, too, did Cléo, a singer who bemoans wanting to project more poignant lyrics but then grows filled with melancholy as she sings a new composition filled with too much death imagery to bear. She wants to remain as she always has been in order to survive, to feel somewhat happy: at the surface of things. Unfortunately, like Marilyn Monroe before her, the woman endlessly preoccupied with her image and looks ends up driving any potential for real and meaningful love away. And as we all know, especially Narcissus, a reflection can’t reciprocate anything, nor love or hate you as much as you do it. Cléo’s childlike [im]maturity, is, in fact, directly related to her self-obsession. In being faced with the reality that her death is imminent, however, she is forced to come to grips with certain truths both about herself and existence that she never would have otherwise.”

PS: And if you should doubt Marilyn’s influence on the nouvelle vague, this photo taken by George Barris just weeks before her death is glimpsed briefly  in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a 1964 musical directed by Varda’s husband, Jacques Demy, and starring lifelong MM fan Catherine Deneuve. (According to IMDB, the film is set in 1957 which makes it a goof.) And in Demy’s 1963 film Bay of Angels, Jeanne Moreau donned a Monroesque blonde wig to play an unhappy divorcee (not unlike Roslyn in The Misfits) who becomes addicted to gambling.

Why Marilyn’s Denim Is Always in Style

Marilyn was one of the first female stars to wear denim, both on and offscreen – and it’s a timeless look, as Elle India reports. (Before embracing double denim in The Misfits, Marilyn had sported jeans in Clash By Night and River Of No Return.)

“Denim might be the norm today but back in the 1950s, Hollywood’s favourite bad boy James Dean popularised it in Rebel Without A Cause (1955). He was a young, edgy star and his blue dip-dyed Lee 101 Riders became synonymous with the same characteristics. In some ways Marilyn Monroe was the female equivalent of this sexy, rebellious sentiment—donning a Storm Rider by Lee jacket (which until then had mainly been sported by male celebrities) and a pair of jeans while filming her last cinema outing, The Misfits (1961).”