Marilyn is listed among ‘6 Extreme Students of Method Acting’ by Blake Hayek in an article for Crixeo, citing her clash with Olivier in The Prince and the Showgirl (though Bus Stop and The Misfits are arguably her most Method-y performances.)
“Many have rightly observed that method acting can tend to become a bit of a boys’ club and a self-validating reaction to the perceived trappings of being a ‘sissy in tights’ thespian. However, one performer certainly resets the balance somewhat. Marilyn Monroe famously played opposite theater heavyweight Laurence Olivier in The Prince and the Showgirl, and the two sparred on set over their respective — and diametrically opposed — acting techniques. A student of Lee Strasberg, Monroe no doubt would have seemed uncouth to the classically trained, old-school Olivier. Later Olivier famously quipped to Dustin Hoffman, who was exhausted after staying up three days to prepare for his role in Marathon Man(1976): ‘Try acting, dear boy. It’s much easier.'”
Anticipating this year’s Oscar ceremony, the current issue of Entertainment Weekly (dated February 23-March 2) features extensive coverage of the Academy Awards’ 90-year history. Of course, Marilyn never won an Oscar, nor was she even nominated. But her role in Some Like It Hot, which won her a Golden Globe, is mentioned in a list of legendary ‘Oscar disses.’
Although Some Like It Hot is her best-known film, Marilyn’s screen time was less than her co-stars. Were it not for her top billing, her performance would arguably be more suited to the Best Supporting Actress category. Marilyn’s bombshell image and flair for comedy both worked against her being taken seriously by the Hollywood establishment. But perhaps the most decisive factor was her rebellion against Twentieth Century Fox.
After winning her contractual battle with the studio, her acclaimed comeback in Bus Stop (1956) was overlooked by the Academy – a snub she never forgot. Her next performance, in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), won awards in Europe, while her last completed film, The Misfits (1961), was also her most mature dramatic role. But at the time, neither were particularly well-received in the US.
In 1964, columnist Sheilah Graham petitioned unsuccessfully for Marilyn to be given a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. However, this is not standard practice within the Academy and thus is highly unlikely to happen now. Nonetheless, Marilyn’s films remain hugely popular and for many, she is the most enduring symbol of movies and glamour – proof, if proof were needed, that you don’t need an Oscar to be a legend.
This lovely portrait of Marilyn – based on Milton Greene’s so-called ‘graduation sitting’, taken during hair tests for The Prince and the Showgirl – has a ‘sculptural quality,’ notes artist Ileana Hunter. Check out her Etsy store here.
Yours Retro is a great read for lovers of all things vintage, and after several prior appearances, Marilyn finally graces the cover of the latest issue, available now in UK newsagents and via Newsstand. ‘When Marilyn Met Larry ‘, a four-page article by biographer Michelle Morgan, focuses on Marilyn’s time in England filming The Prince and the Showgirl, and there are also pieces of related interest about Cyd Charisse, Picturegoer magazine, and Hollywood censorship. If you collect magazines featuring MM, this is a must-have. (Yours Retro has recently been launched in Australia; however, it is several issues behind, so the UK version is your best bet.)
Film historian Karina Longworth, who recently devoted three episodes of her ‘You Must Remember This’ podcast to Marilyn (which I’ll be reviewing soon), has compiled a list of ‘9 Movies You Need to Watch To Understand Old Hollywood‘ for Harper’s Bazaar. All nine films can be streamed via Warner Archive. Her choices, including Jean Harlow’s Bombshell (1933), are interesting. Last on the list is The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), which is surprising because it’s not really a Hollywood film, and Longworth considers it ‘boring.’
She compares it unfavourably to Bus Stop, stating that Marilyn produced both films, but in fact, Showgirl was her company’s only production to date. Although rather slow-paced, ithas plenty of old-world charm, and even Sir Laurence Olivier would later admit that “Marilyn was quite wonderful, the best of all. So what do you know?”
“This is definitely one of my least favorite Marilyn Monroe films, but it’s a fascinating period in her life. It was a very troubled production … though she did it through her production company, she had a very difficult time wielding power … Because this was such a pivotal point in Marilyn’s career, this is the artifact that comes out of that—out of a lot of struggle and sadness … her performance in [Bus Stop] is super great, and she was really excited about it because it was a way of her depicting her struggle in this industry where men are objectifying her. To go from that to The Prince and the Showgirl is kind of a letdown.”
Movie website Cheat Sheet has compiled a list of Marilyn’s best films. It includes some great picks, but I think The Prince and the Showgirl, and maybe Clash By Night should be up there too. Which are your favourites?
Lois Smith, publicist to Meryl Streep, Robert Redford and others, died in 2012, aged 84. “In a tough business known for steel-sharp elbows,” her New York Times obituary read, “Ms. Smith stood out for being nurturing. She was at the birth of Marilyn Monroe’s kittens...”
Born Lois Eileen Wollenweber of Brooklyn in 1928, she began working for publicist Ted Saucier in the 1950s. His most famous client was the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where he and Lois recruited celebrities who had come there to escape Hollywood’s crumbling studio system. One of them was Marilyn, who lived there for several months after moving to New York in 1955.
Lois later married journalist Gene Smith, and formed Pickwick Public Relations with Pat Newcomb – Marilyn’s publicist at the time of her death – in 1969. A number of items in the current Julien’s sale, ending today, come from her estate (under the name of Lois Weber.)
This photo was taken by Hans Knopf on February 22, 1956, when Marilyn was walking to Cecil Beaton’s studio for their famous session. Lois, who accompanied her that morning, is generally cropped out of the picture.
Two other photos taken by Knopf that day show Marilyn and Lois getting into a taxi cab en route to lunch at the Ambassador Hotel with society columnist Elsa Maxwell.
Interestingly, some copies of the candid photos taken by Frieda Hull and other members of the ‘Monroe Six’ were also in Lois’ possession. The young fans gave each other copies of their photos, so perhaps they shared a few with her as well.
A 32-page transcript of Marilyn’s 1960 interview with George Belmont, submitted by Lois to Look magazine, is also on offer. Perhaps the most significant items from her estate, however, are the many beautiful photos, negatives and colour transparencies from the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. Marilyn exercised a strict approval process over all images, and relegated these to a ‘Kill’ folder.
“Marilyn Monroe famously sang ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,’” Sheila Gibson Stoodley writes for Robb Report, “but collectors of her memorabilia disagree. Seven of the 10 most-expensive Marilyn Monroe items sold at auction are dresses—mainly costumes that the late star wore in her films. The few that she donned outside of the studio earn their high sums thanks to period photographs that prove Monroe wore them.” And over at his MM Collection Blog, Scott Fortner – who helped to catalogue this week’s auction at Julien’s – takes a closer look at the ‘I’m Through With Love‘ dress from Some Like It Hot, and the ‘After You Get What You Want‘ dress from There’s No Business Like Show Business. Both costumes are from the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, and will go under the hammer tomorrow.
Several other items which contributed to Marilyn’s glamorous look are also among the lots. From her modelling days onward, Marilyn often wore her own clothing in photo shoots. These brown leather sandals date back to a 1950 session with photographer Earl Leaf, shot at the Hollywood home of her agent, Johnny Hyde.
Unlike her cinematic alter-ego Lorelei Lee, Marilyn wasn’t really a material girl. These earrings, worn to the premiere of The Seven Year Itch, were made from simulated diamonds.
Marilyn’s movie costumes were made in duplicates, with her name next to the Fox logo on a sewn-in label. This green lace bodice from Bus Stop was won in a contest by a lucky reader of the British fan magazine, Picture Show.
These red satin platform shoes – designed by Annello & Davide – were born by Marilyn to the London premiere of Arthur Miller’s controversial play, A View From the Bridge.
John Moore’s pencil sketches for the form-fitting mermaid gown worn by Marilyn to the premiere of The Prince and the Showgirl are also on offer.
“A two-page, typed plan titled ‘Calorie Restricted Diet/ 1000 Calories/ 100 Grams Protein’ prepared for Monroe by Dr. Leon Krohn. The pages are undated, but some of the approved foods and meal plans are in line with the notations found in Monroe’s hand in the back of one of her notebooks from 1958. The diet put forth presents sound health advice even by today’s standards, recommending the restriction of sugar, fats and carbohydrates to whole wheat and ‘one small white potato boiled baked or riced’ as a substitution for one slice of bread.
Five sets of instructions, eight pages, from the Erno Laszlo Institute written out for Marilyn Monroe Miller, dated June 5, 6, 11, and 12, 1958, and July 3, 1958, outlining her constantly changing skincare regime in great detail. The instructions not only divide skincare into ‘Morning,’ ‘Evening if dressing,’ and ‘Evening before retiring,’ but also there are instructions on what not to eat: ‘Not one piece of any kind of nuts, olives, chocolate, clams and oysters.’ There are also separate instructions for California and ‘Instructions for Makeup While Making Films.'”
These white leather shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo are just one of several pairs that she owned. (The spiked heels were 3 inches high, and the size was 7.5B.)
In the spring of 1958, Marilyn made plans to appear at the Cannes Film Festival. Simone Noir sent her an invitation to visit Christian Dior in Paris. Unfortunately, the trip was cancelled, but a separate invoice shows that Marilyn bought a dress and coat by Dior from a Park Avenue boutique.
That Christmas, Marilyn’s longtime hairdresser, Agnes Flanagan, gave her a bottle of her favourite perfume, Chanel No. 5, purchased from I. Magnin in Beverly Hills.
Finally, a costume sketch by Bob Mackie for Something’s Got to Give. Based on a Jean Louis design, the red skirt suit with a swing jacket trimmed in leopard print, and matching hat, was intended as an ‘Outfit Worn on Day Off/Also in Courtroom Sequence.’ However, the ensemble was not worn by Marilyn during wardrobe tests, or any surviving footage from the ill-fated movie.
Darryl F. Zanuck may have blamed Marilyn for delays in the River of No Returnshoot, but co-star Robert Mitchum did not, writing on this letter, “Dig!!! Marilyn – my girl is your girl, and my girl is you. Ever – Bob.”
After a bitter legal battle with Twentieth Century Fox, Marilyn returned triumphantly to Hollywood in 1956, armed with a list of approved directors.
Her first project under the new, improved contract was Bus Stop. Several lots of annotated script sides are up for bids this week.
“This is the first film Monroe made after beginning to study at the Actors Studio in New York City with Lee Strasberg, and the notations in these script sides demonstrate her method. Some of the notes are sense memories, like the following notation written after the line ‘I can’t look’: ‘Effective memory (use Lester – hurt on lawn),’ most likely referencing Monroe’s childhood playmate Lester Bolender, who was in the same foster home with Monroe. Another note adds ‘(almost to myself)’ before a line to inform her delivery or ‘Scarfe [sic] around my arms) Embarrassed.'”
Arthur O’Connell, who played Virgil in the movie, sent Marilyn his best wishes after she was hospitalised with pneumonia.
“A collection of Marilyn Monroe envelopes, messages and notes, including a florist’s enclosure card with envelope addressed to Monroe and a message that reads ‘To make up for the ones you didn’t recall receiving at the hospital. Please stay well so we won’t go through this again’, signed by ‘Arthur O’Connell – Virgil Blessing.’ Also included are five handwritten notes in an unknown hand that reference Clifton Webb, Lew Wasserman and Paula Strasberg.”
“The letter is dated simply June 9, and it accompanied the latest version of the script for The Prince and the Showgirl. Olivier discusses Monroe’s dialogue and that he has ‘written some extra dialogue and a direction or two.’ He reports on where they are in the script writing process and that they have cut the script down from ‘well over 3 hours’ to 2 1/2, to 2 hours 10 minutes. He continues about the scenes that were and were not cut, including ‘The Duke of Strelitz is, I think essential, as otherwise they will be saying what’s the matter with them – why the heck can’t they get married, particularly in view of Grace Kelly and all that, and our only answer to that question must be Yes but look at the poor Windsors do you see?’
On an amusing note, Olivier mentions, ‘By the way Lady Maidenhead has degenerated to Lady Swingdale because I am assured the Hayes Office will not believe there is also a place in England of that name.’ He closes ‘I just called up Vivien at the theatre … and she said to be sure to give you her love. So here it is and mine too. Longing to welcome you here. Ever, Larry.'”
Marilyn had many advisors on this film, including husband Arthur Miller who made suggestions to improve the script.
“Some of your dialogue is stiff. Also some expressions are too British. If you want me to, I can go through the script and make the changes – – in New York. I think the part – on one reading, is really the Best one … especially with you playing it. You are the one who makes everything change, you are the driving force … The basic problem is to define for yourself the degree of the girl’s naivete. (It could become too cute, or simply too designing.) It seems to me, at least, that they have not balanced things in Olivier’s favor. … It ought to be fun to do after BusStop. From your – (and my) – viewpoint, it will help in a small but important way to establish your ability to play characters of intelligence and cultivation. … Your loving Papa – (who has to rush now to make the plane – see you soon! – free!) – Art.”
Marilyn had strong opinions about the casting of Some Like It Hot. In the minutes from a business meeting at her New York apartment, it is noted that “MCA on the Coast has told [Billy] Wilder that there are ‘legal technicalities holding up her decision’ so as not to offend Wilder. Actually, she is waiting for [Frank] Sinatra to enter the picture. She still doesn’t like [Tony] Curtis but [Lew] Wasserman doesn’t know anybody else.”
This short note penned by Marilyn is thought to be a response to Tony Curtis’ notorious remark that kissing her was “like kissing Hitler.”
Novelist Truman Capote wanted Marilyn to star as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. However, her own advisors deemed George Axelrod’s watered-down adaptation unworthy of her talents. The film was a huge hit for Audrey Hepburn, but Capote hated it.
“A clean copy of the screenplay for Breakfast at Tiffany’s written by George Axelrod and dated July 9, 1959. Monroe was considering the part, and she sought the opinions of her professional team including the Strasbergs, her husband, and management team. The script is accompanied by a single-page, typed ‘report’ dated September 23, 1959, which also has the name ‘Parone’ typed to the left of the date. Literary luminary Edward Parone was at the time running Monroe’s production company and most likely is the one who wrote this single-page, scathing review of the script, leading with the simple sentence, ‘I think not.’ It goes on to criticize the screenplay, determining, ‘I can see Marilyn playing a part like Holly and even giving this present one all the elan it badly needs, but I don’t feel she should play it: it lacks insight and warmth and reality and importance.’ It has been long reported that Monroe declined the part upon the advice of Lee Strasberg, but this document provides further evidence that other people in her inner circle advised her not to take the role. Together with a four-page shooting schedule for November 4, 1960, for the film.”
Marilyn was generous to her co-stars in Let’s Make Love, giving a framed cartoon to Wilfrid Hyde-White on his birthday, and an engraved silver cigarette box to Frankie Vaughan. She also asked her friend, New York Times editor Lester Markel, to write a profile of her leading man, Yves Montand. “He’s not only a fine actor, a wonderful singer and dancer with charm,” she wrote, “but next to you one of the most attractive men.”
A handwritten note by Paula Strasberg reveals how she and Marilyn worked together on her role in The Misfits. “searching and yearning/ standing alone/ mood – I’m free – but freedom leaves emptiness./ Rosylin [sic] – flower opens bees buzz around/ R is quiet – the others buzz around.”
In 1962, Marilyn began work on what would be her final (and incomplete) movie, Something’s Got to Give. This telegram from screenwriter Nunnally Johnson, who was later replaced, hints at the trouble that lay ahead.
“The telegram from Johnson reads ‘In Revised script you are child of nature so you can misbehave as much as you please love – Nunnally.’ Monroe has quickly written a note in pencil for reply reading ‘Where is that script – is the child of nature due on the set – Hurry Love & Kisses M.M.’ ‘Love and Kisses’ is repeated, and additional illegible notations have been crossed out.”
“Raw footage of Monroe performing with the children in Something’s Got to Give exists, and Monroe’s notations are evident in the footage. The top of the page reads ‘Real Thought/ Mental Relaxation/ substitute children – B & J if necessary/ feeling – place the pain where it is not in the brow.’ B & J likely refers to Arthur Miller’s children Bobby and Jane. Another notation next to one of Monroe’s lines of dialogue reads simply ‘Mona Lisa’, which does in fact mirror the expression she uses when delivering this line. Even the exaggerated ‘Ahhhhh—‘ that Monroe does at the beginning of each take in the raw footage is written on the page in her hand, reading in full, ‘Ahhh–Look for the light.'”
Charles Foster, a former Hollywood publicist, has just published his memoir, CBC reports. Mr Foster claims to have accompanied Marilyn to England in 1956, for the shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl. I must confess to not having heard of him before, but as Marilyn’s own publicist, Arthur P. Jacobs, also came to England with her, perhaps Mr Foster was working for him in some capacity.
From Old Hollywood to New Brunswick: Memories of a Wonderful Life includes a chapter entitled‘Smuggling Marilyn Into London’. This is rather curious, as Marilyn actually arrived in London amid a blaze of publicity, and immediately embarked on a series of press conferences.
Foster’s memories of Marilyn are frankly, a little hard to believe, and seem remarkably similar to My Week With Marilyn author Colin Clark (whose lively account has also been disputed. )They include plenty of star temperament, not to mention some minor nudity with just a dash of Chanel No. 5. But Foster goes one better than Clark with the allegation that he introduced Marilyn to John F. Kennedy.
The proof is in the pudding as they say, so if you’ve read Mr Foster’s book, don’t hesitate to comment!