Marilyn featured heavily in Bonhams’ Modern & Contemporary Prints & Multiples auction this week, with a dye-transfer print for Tom Kelley’s ‘red velvet‘ nude calendar shot, mounted on illustration board and signed by Hugh Hefner, fetching $37,500 (£29,406.) Other photographers included Philippe Halsman, Andre De Dienes, Alfred Eisenstaedt, George S. Zimbel, Cecil W. Stoughton, George Barris, William J. Carroll, Laszlo Willinger, and Bert Stern. Some of the photos in this auction were previously displayed in 17 Years, Marilyn: The Making of a Legend, at the Andrew Weiss Gallery in Los Angeles.
The annual Hollywood Legends auction at Julien’s, set for April 29, features a number of Marilyn-related items, including a 1961 check book which, as UK tabloid The Mirror reports, shows she was overdrawn at the time.
Here are some of the more unusual lots…
“A Marilyn Monroe novelty game night set. The Brown & Bigelow set contains two decks of playing cards, one showing Monroe in the ‘A New Wrinkle’ pose and one of Monroe in the ‘Golden Dreams’ pose from her 1949 Red Velvet photo session with Tom Kelley, and a set of four tin coasters showing Monroe in the ‘Golden Dreams’ pose and ‘Marilyn Monroe’ printed on each. Contained in a black flocked presentation box, stamped with an image of Monroe and branded text that reads ‘Always First/ with the Best Figures/ T D F CO.’ at lower right.”
Rare photos taken by Bruce Davidson during filming of Let’s Make Love.
A number of items related to photographer John Florea, including this contact sheet from the ‘Heat Wave’ number in There’s No Business Like Show Business.
A personal note from photographer Zinn Arthur to Marilyn and Milton Greene, probably penned during filming of Bus Stop.
One of the few modern stars to achieve mythological status on a par with MM, David Bowie died this week. The above photo was taken in 1975, when Bowie was living in Hollywood, by Tom Kelley – most famous as the photographer of Marilyn’s ‘red velvet’ nude calendar.
Back in November 1972, Bowie released ‘The Jean Genie‘, which includes the line ‘Talkin’ ’bout Monroe and walking on Snow White’. The single reached No 2 in the UK, and also features on Bowie’s 1973 album, Aladdin Sane. A film clip was also released, portraying Bowie as his Ziggy Stardust persona, and model Cyrinda Foxe (in whose apartment the song was written) as a ‘consort of the Marilyn brand.’
Dean Martin’s former wife and a friend of Marilyn, Jeanne Martin, compared her with Bowie in an interview with Anthony Summers for his 1985 book, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. Jeanne captures the chimeric nature of our most beloved stars, but as Summers admitted, Marilyn ‘was much more than a Poster Person’ – and so, of course, was David Bowie.
“I call them the Poster People. They’re the most durably famous, yet in many cases they have nothing to them. You find them only through the roles they play in their films. I am not an uncompassionate person, but look at the way they were. The Montgomery Clifts, and the Marilyn Monroes, Elizabeth Taylor and David Bowie. In life they attract each other. They meet socially, they rush straight at each other, but they have nothing that means anything to mortals. History jettisons them forward into time, and I find their portraits on my son’s bedroom wall, pale and beautiful, but lost to reality.”
The award-winning novelist, Salman Rushdie, has praised the lyrics of Canadian rapper Drake in a video for Pitchfork, noting an allusion to one of Marilyn’s most famous quotes in ‘What’s My Name‘, Drake’s 2010 duet with pop star Rihanna.
“He also complements Drake on a subtle Marilyn Monroe reference in the What’s My Name line ‘Okay, away we go/Only thing we have on is the radio’. As he explains, ‘She [Monroe] posed in the nude and she was asked if she had nothing on, and she said ‘I have the radio on’.”
As Stacy Eubank reveals in her excellent book, Holding a Good Thought For Marilyn: The Hollywood Years, Marilyn’s remark was first reported by gossip columnist Erskine Johnson in August 1952, while she was filming Niagara on location in Canada. Marilyn’s candid humour won over the public, though her detractors questioned whether the quote was really her own.
In 1955, Roy Craft – Marilyn’s publicist at Twentieth Century-Fox – dispelled the rumour, telling the Saturday Evening Post‘s Pete Martin, “To give it a light touch, when she was asked, ‘Didn’t you have anything on at all when you were posing for that picture?’ we were supposed to have told her to say, ‘I had the radio on.’ I’m sorry to disagree with the majority, but she made up those cracks herself.”
Photographer Tom Kelley – who shot the nude calendar in 1949 – told Maurice Zolotow in 1955, “It wasn’t the radio. It was a phonograph. I had Artie Shaw’s record of ‘Begin the Beguine’ playing. I find ‘Begin the Beguine’ helps to create vibrations.’
In a 1956 interview with Milton Shulman, Marilyn herself explained, “It was a large press conference, and some very fierce woman journalist – I think she was Canadian – stood up and said: ‘do you mean to tell us you didn’t have anything on when you posed for that nude picture?’ Suddenly, an old nightclub joke popped into my head. ‘Oh, no,’ I said. ‘I had the radio on.’ I just changed the words around a bit, but I thought everybody knew it.”
Limited Runs, who curated a Marilyn-themed photo exhibition in 2014 (see here), have announced a new touring event – featuring Tom Kelley’s famous nudes, as well as photos by Len Steckler and Gene Lester. Opening in Los Angeles on July 29, ‘Marilyn Monroe: Red Velvet Collection’ will also visit San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, and New York. More details here.
“On May 27, 1949, an out of work and broke, Monroe posed nude for photographer Tom Kelley at his studio in Hollywood, California. Agreeing to the session under the condition that Kelley’s wife, Natalie, attend the shoot, Monroe signed the model release as ‘Mona Monroe’ and earned a paltry $50. Neither the photographer, nor 22-year old Monroe realized the historic moment they were creating.
Chicago-based printing company John Baumgarth Company acquired the prized ‘Red Velvet’ Kodachrome photograph in 1951. Baumgarth used them to create three iconic images of the bombshell that were then printed and sold in an estimated 9 million ‘Golden Dream’ calendars. Reproducing Monroe’s refined features, supple texture and luxurious tones was no small feat – print artisans painstakingly created and corrected the many layers of film for the full color printing process to make the original Chromalin color proof separations – a masterpiece of printer’s art.
Believed to have been lost forever, the Kodachrome and color Separations actually remained amidst Baumgarth’s massive print archives. Narrowly escaping destruction on multiple occasions, the separations changed hands several times through a series of corporate asset acquisitions until acquired as part of a corporate art collection purchased by the Messenger Art Collection in 2010. These are the only known surviving examples of the original separations used to produce Golden Dreams calendars.
The framed Kodachrome photograph and the color Separations are now mounted and protected in OP3 museum-quality acrylic frames (29” x 24”) and will be suspended from gallery ceilings across America.”
While Marilyn may have become Playboy‘s first pin-up in 1953, she never actually posed for the legendary men’s magazine – and finding her 1949 nude calendar (for which she was paid just $50) made the fortune of Hugh Hefner (who never met her), as Neil Steinberg explains in an article for the Sacramento Sun-Times.
“Everyone has seen that classic first Playboy centerfold photo of Marilyn Monroe, her creamy perfect flesh set off against red velvet. But who wondered how an unemployed nobody whose major financial backer was his mother, who kicked in $1,000, got the greatest sex goddess and movie star of the late 20th century to grace the cover of his first issue and pose in the buff for his first centerfold ‘Sweetheart of the Month?'(‘Playmate’ wouldn’t come until the second issue).
Short answer: he didn’t. He bumbled into it.
‘How did you manage that piece of good luck?’ a magazine called U.S. Camera asked Hefner, in its April, 1962 issue.
‘At that point the MM calendar was very, very famous, but almost no one had seen it,’ he replied. ‘It had received all kinds of publicity, but it never appeared anywhere.’ He noticed, in a newspaper clipping, that the photos were owned by a calendar company in the Chicago suburbs.
‘So I took a hop out there,’ Hefner said, driving his beat up ’41 Chevy.
The pictures were taken nearly five years earlier, at the request of John Baumgarth, a Chicago calendar maker, shot by Hollywood photographer Tom Kelley. Monroe was an unknown then.
‘When he made the picture it was just another picture of a girl. No one had heard of Marilyn Monroe at that time,’ Hefner said. ‘He paid about $500 for this and a number of similar photographs.’
The calendar company certainly wasn’t planning to use them again.
‘Thus from his point of view, he had gotten back all his initial expense in purchasing the photographs,’ said Hefner. ‘From my point of view, however, for $500 for the Marilyn Monroe and for a year’s contract for $300 for 11 more.’
Hefner had his first year of centerfolds without talking one woman, never mind Marilyn Monroe, out of her clothes.
‘This was our Playmate for the first year–simply straight calendar nudes from the Baumgarth Calendar Company,’ he said.
Playboy wasn’t the first magazine to print nude photographs. But it was first to print nude photographs of a well-known personality, and that made all the difference.
‘It legitimized nudity by embodying it in arguably the most famous woman in America,’ Roger Ebert wrote, celebrating the centerfold. And the results are all around us, to this day.”
After raising $405 for the Animal Haven charity with their ‘Flowers for Marilyn‘ Christmas appeal, Immortal Marilyn have started 2015 in style with updates to their website, including a 1956 article from Anything Goes magazine, about Marilyn’s calendar shoot with Tom Kelley; two new drawings from Bruno Doucin; and from me, an expanded profile of Pat Newcomb (which you can also read here.)
A rather provocative article, headlined ‘Marilyn Monroe Started Sexual Revolution’, has appeared at The Inqisitr. It’s an interesting proposal, but unfortunately the content is somewhat ill-informed.
Firstly, none of the quotes attributed to Marilyn can be substantiated. They are all quotes which have only appeared online in recent years. None of them can be traced back to an interview or reputable biography.
“I think that sexuality is only attractive when it’s natural and spontaneous. This is where a lot of them miss the boat. And then something I’d just like to spout off on. We are all born sexual creatures, thank God, but it’s a pity so many people despise and crush this natural gift. Art, real art, comes from it, everything.”
Secondly, Marilyn’s much-vaunted ‘affair’ with John F. Kennedy has been wildly exaggerated. The best evidence suggests that it was at most a weekend fling. And her last phonecall was not to JFK.
In private, Marilyn was perhaps more sexually liberated than most women were generally in her lifetime. But among other Hollywood stars, she wasn’t especially promiscuous.
Where she was arguably more radical is in how she expressed her sexuality in public life. The Inquisitr rightly states the revelation of her nude calendar, and Marilyn’s refusal to disown it, as a turning point in her career.
She was America’s greatest post-war sex symbol, which is all the more remarkable since she came to prominence in an era when women’s sexual freedoms were being curtailed.
In her first true star vehicle, Niagara, Marilyn played a ‘femme fatale’ with fierce, threatening sexuality. However, her bosses at Twentieth Century Fox subsequently placed her in comedic, ‘dumb blonde’ roles, in an attempt to neutralise her allure.
Despite being forced to play a stereotype, Marilyn managed to poke fun at her image, presenting sex in a way seldom seen before. Unlike the vamps who preceded her, Marilyn’s sexuality seemed both natural and joyous.
Richard Brautigan is the very essence of a cult writer. Born in Tacoma, Washington in 1935, he had a difficult childhood and was committed to Oregon State Hospital aged twenty. He was treated with electroconvulsive therapy twelve times. Upon his release in 1956, Brautigan moved to San Francisco and began writing. His novels included Trout Fishing in America (1967), which proved popular with America’s emerging hippie movement. He died in 1984, after shooting himself in the head.
Several of Brautigan’s stories and poems include references to Marilyn, most notably ‘The Post Offices of Eastern Oregon’, featured in the collection Revenge of the Lawn: Stories 1962-1970. The story is also posted on the F***YeahRichardBrautigan blog.
The story begins when the narrator visits a post office during a road trip with his Uncle Jarv:
“There was a large nude photograph of Marilyn Monroe on the wall. The first one I had ever seen in a post office. She was lying on a big piece of red. It seemed like a strange thing to have on the wall of a post office, but of course I was a stranger in the land.
The postmistress was a middle-aged woman, and she had copied on her face one of those mouths they used to wear during the 1920s. Uncle Jarv bought a postcard and filled it up on the counter as if it were a glass of water.
It took a couple of moments. Halfway through the postcard Uncle Jarv stopped and glanced up at Marilyn Monroe. There was nothing lustful about his looking up there. She just as well could have been a photograph of mountains and trees.
I don’t remember whom he was writing to. Perhaps it was to a friend or a relative. I stood there staring at the nude photograph of Marilyn Monroe for all I was worth. Then Uncle Jarv mailed the postcard. ‘Come on,’ he said.”
The story ends with a reference to a very different image of Marilyn:
“Strange is the thing that makes me recall all this again: the bears. It’s a photograph in the newspaper of Marilyn Monroe, dead from a sleeping pill suicide, young and beautiful, as they say, with everything to live for.
The newspapers are filled with it: articles and photographs and the like—her body being taken away on a cart, the body wrapped in a dull blanket. I wonder what post office wall in Eastern Oregon will wear this photograph of Marilyn Monroe.”