Michael J. Pollard 1939-2019

Michael J. Pollard, the veteran character actor known for his short stature and boyish looks, has died aged 80. He was born in New Jersey to parents of Polish descent, and began attending the Actors’ Studio in the late 1950s. He later shared a memory from that time with Charles Casillo, author of Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon

Aged 19 or 20, Michael was sitting in class when he noticed a beautiful blonde, and said to a fellow student, ‘That looks like Marilyn Monroe’. After learning that the blonde was indeed MM, Pollard asked her to do a scene with him, and she agreed without hesitation. Marilyn suggested a scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote’s novella which was soon to be produced at Paramount. 

As Pollard walked with Marilyn to her 57th Street apartment, several passers-by noticed her and called out, ‘Hi, Marilyn!’ There was no screenplay, so Marilyn adapted a scene from the book where Holly Golightly climbs through her neighbour’s window. ‘I’ve got the most terrible man downstairs,’ she says, stepping in from the fire escape.

As the day approached when they were due to perform the scene, Marilyn admitted, ‘I’m really worried about the lines.’ She tore out pages from the book so they could spread them out over the stage area. When the scene was over, the formidable Lee Strasberg told Pollard it was the best work he had done. 

According to another Monroe biographer, Gary Vitacco Robles, Truman Capote was also present and thought her performance ‘terrifically good’. She was Capote’s first choice to play Holly, and George Axelrod (who had worked with her on The Seven Year Itch and Bus Stop) was hired to write the screenplay, but the role ultimately went to Audrey Hepburn.  

Among Pollard’s early movies was a small part in The Stripper (1963), which had been written by William Inge with Marilyn in mind. After her death, Joanne Woodward was cast instead. He also worked in television, with a memorable role as a child cult leader in Star Trek.

Pollard became a household name as C.W. Moss in Bonnie and Clyde (1967.) He went on to star as Billy the Kid in Dirty Little Billy (1972), and with Robert Redford in the biker movie, Little Fauss and Big Halsy. Michael J. Fox would adopt his middle initial as a tribute to Pollard, whose later films included Dick Tracy (1990), opposite Warren Beatty and Madonna. 

Carol Lynley 1942-2019

Carol Lynley, 1960

Carol Ann Jones was born in Manhattan and worked as a child model, making the cover of LIFE magazine at fifteen. She made her Broadway debut as Carol Lynley in The Potting Shed (1957), which also starred Dame Sybil Thorndike (fresh from co-starring with Marilyn Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl.)

Carol went on to play the lead in Blue Denim (1958), a teen drama directed by Joshua Logan (who had made Bus Stop with Monroe two years previously.) The play deals with themes of unwanted pregnancy and abortion (which was then illegal in the US.) Carol would reprise her role in the 1960 movie of the same name, produced by Twentieth Century Fox, with Macdonald Carey among the cast. (Carey had worked with Marilyn in Let’s Make It Legal back in 1951.) Blue Denim earned Carol a second Golden Globe nominations as Most Promising Newcomer, having first been nominated for The Light in the Forest (1958.)

In 1960, the eighteen-year-old Carol married Michael Selsman, who was six years her senior and a publicist for the Arthur P. Jacobs Agency, who also represented Monroe. Selsman occasionally worked with Marilyn when Pat Newcomb was unavailable. In November 1961, he drove with Carol to Marilyn’s Doheny Drive apartment.

Marilyn was then 34 years old, and in the process of approving images from her photo shoot with Douglas Kirkland for Look magazine. As Selsman told biographer Michelle Morgan, she refused to let Carol come inside although she was heavily pregnant. This seems rather selfish and uncaring, but it’s possible that Marilyn distrusted the blonde starlet, sixteen years her junior and also under contract at Fox. Or perhaps she simply wanted to continue her work without interruptions. (Carol never commented on the story, so we have only Selsman’s word to go by.)

Their daughter Jill was born shortly afterwards. Carol worked both in television, and movies such as Return to Peyton Place (1961), and The Last Sunset, opposite Marilyn’s Niagara co-star, Joseph Cotten.

In 1963, Carol appeared in The Stripper (known in the UK as A Woman of Summer.) Adapted from William Inge’s play, A Loss Of Roses, it was originally pitched to Marilyn, but after her death in 1962, Joanne Woodard took her place as Lila, a former burlesque star who falls in love with a much younger man, Kenny (played by Richard Beymer, this was a role first offered to Warren Beatty.) Carol Lynley played Miriam Caswell, Kenny’s girlfriend and Lila’s unwitting rival. (Another curious coincidence: Marilyn had played Claudia Caswell in All About Eve, her breakthrough role at Fox.)

In 1963, Carol starred with one of Marilyn’s favourite leading men, Jack Lemmon, in a romantic comedy, Under the Yum Yum Tree. Also that year, Carol worked with one of Marilyn’s least favourite directors, Otto Preminger, in The Cardinal. John Huston, who had directed Marilyn twice, also acted in the movie, as did Tom Tryon, previously cast as Marilyn’s desert island companion in the shelved Something’s Got to Give.

Carol divorced Selsman in 1964, and later had a long affair with the British newscaster, David Frost. She starred alongside Lauren Bacall in the controversial Shock Treatment (1964.) This was followed by The Pleasure Seekers, pitting Carol with two other young beauties, Ann-Margret and Pamela Tiffin, and directed by Jean Negulesco (of How to Marry a Millionaire fame.)

Carol Lynley as Harlow (1965)

Marilyn Monroe had once considered playing Jean Harlow in a biopic. It never came to pass, but in 1965 Carol starred as the original ‘platinum blonde’ in the low-budget indie, Harlow, shot over eight days, and with Ginger Rogers playing the domineering ‘Mother Jean’. The film was overshadowed by Paramount’s rival Harlow, starring Carroll Baker and released a month later. Neither were well-received, and the bizarre saga is recounted in Tom Lisanti’s 2011 book, Duelling Harlows: Race to the Silver Screen. (Carol also posed nude for Playboy that year.)

Carol’s next performance, as a young mother in Preminger’s Bunny Lake Is Missing, was one of her best. Her co-star was Sir Laurence Olivier, and she more than held her own. She then starred in The Shuttered Room and Danger Route (1967), Norwood (1970), and Cotter (1973), with Don Murray. Her greatest success was in The Poseidon Adventure (1972.)

For the rest of her career Carol worked mainly in television, making several TV movies and appearing in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Big Valley, Mannix, Quincy M.E., Kojak, Hawaii Five-O, The Love Boat, Charlie’s Angels, Hart to Hart, Hotel, and Fantasy Island. Her final short film, Vic, was released in 2006. Carol Lynley died aged 77 of a heart attack at home in Pacific Palisades, California on September 3, 2019.

Claire Trevor’s Concern for Marilyn

While she may not have achieved the pinnacle of stardom, Claire Trevor was that Hollywood rarity: a beautiful blonde who broke the mould and became an acclaimed character actress. She began her career at Fox in the 1930s, and like Marilyn after her, was frustrated by Darryl F. Zanuck’s indifference to her talent. She fared better at other studios, and played her first great role in John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939.) She went on to star in Farewell My Lovely (1944), and would win an Oscar for her outstanding performance in Key Largo (1948.)

By the 1950s, Claire was still working steadily in film, stage and television, and had found lasting happiness in her third marriage, to producer Milton H. Bren. As author Derek Sculthorpe reveals in his new biography, Claire Trevor: Queen of Film Noir, she was aware of the pressures faced by younger stars.

“At the same time, she talked more frequently about retirement. ‘What’s all this about, anyway?’ she asked. ‘The fame is nonsense – I’ve found that out – and I’ve been to all the parties I want to go to and had the social chi-chi. I can’t take it anymore.’ She expressed concern over some young actresses such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor and the physical and emotional effects the filmmaking business was having on them. She wondered why Monroe became ill whenever she made a film. ‘Is it exhausted nerves or a bronchial condition?'”

In 1963, Claire played Richard Beymer’s mother in The Stripper, adapted from William Inge’s play, A Loss of Roses. As Sculthorpe points out, the script had originally been earmarked for Marilyn in 1961, under the title Celebration. Costume designer Travilla had drawn up sketches for Marilyn’s character before she ultimately declined, committing instead to Something’s Got to Give.

“Joanne Woodward is a marvellous actress who did well wearing a platinum blonde wig looking for all the world like Marilyn Monroe. It was no surprise that the part was intended for Marilyn Monroe, which would have put the film in a different league. Monroe would have been a natural to convey the little girl lost at the heart of the piece, but died a short time before filming began. The male lead was offered to Pat Boone, who turned it down on moral grounds. Warren Beatty was also offered the role and he too declined. The part of the mother was offered first to Jo Van Fleet, who turned it down, after which it was given to Trevor.”

John Gilmore 1935-2016

John Gilmore, author of Inside Marilyn Monroe, has died aged 81. Like Marilyn, he was born in the charity ward of Los Angeles County General Hospital, and spent time in Hollygrove, the orphan’s home where she had stayed a few years earlier.  After serving an apprenticeship as a child actor, Gilmore became a contract player at Twentieth Century Fox. In 1953, he was introduced to Marilyn by actor John Hodiak, who lived nearby her apartment complex.

Eight years later, Gilmore was up for a part in Marilyn’s next movie, an adaptation of William Inge’s play, A Loss of Roses (renamed as Celebration.) The project was shelved, and would finally be made after Marilyn’s death, starring Joanne Woodward as The Stripper.

After penning a series of pulp novels, Gilmore turned his hand to true crime, publishing books about Elizabeth Short (aka The Black Dahlia) and the Manson Family. He also wrote memoirs, detailing his encounters with James Dean and many others.

Inside Marilyn Monroe (2007) grew from the story of his acquaintanceship with Marilyn to a full-scale biography. Gilmore interviewed many Hollywood insiders who had not spoken about Marilyn before, and created a nuanced psychological portrait, while debunking some of the fantasists who have profited from her legacy.

Gilmore was a member of Marilyn Remembered, and spoke fondly of her at the annual memorial services at Westwood. His final book was On the Run With Bonnie and Clyde (2013.)

Inge Festival in Kansas

This year’s William Inge Theatre Festival – marking the centenary of playwright – will feature a staging of perhaps his most enduringly popular work, Bus Stop, at Independence Community College, Kansas, starring actress Sarah Shaefer as Cherie, reports the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise.

In his 2003 book, The Bad and the Beautiful: Hollywood in the Fifties, Sam Kashner wrote, ‘[Inge] also struck up a friendship with Marilyn Monroe, who was drawn to [his] intelligence and creativity. The fact that he was not interested in her sexually also seemed to give their relationship a kind of tenderness it might have lacked otherwise. Inge and Monroe would occasionally be linked in the media during the mid-1950s, but their interest in each other was purely platonic.’

In his 2007 book, Inside Marilyn Monroe, John Gilmore notes that Marilyn considered starring in Inge’s A Loss of Roses, but ultimately decided on the ill-fated Something’s Got to Give instead. (Gilmore was up for a role in the project, renamed Celebration. Costume designer Travilla had even drawn up sketches for Marilyn’s character.) Inge’s project was eventually filmed with Joanne Woodward, under a rather less poetic title – The Stripper.