Debbie Reynolds Remembers Marilyn

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Actress Debbie Reynolds, whose extraordinary collection of Hollywood costumes was auctioned in 2011, has spoken to Australia’s Herald Sun ahead of the Bendigo Art Gallery‘s tribute to Marilyn, which will include several iconic dresses worn by Marilyn before passing into Debbie’s care.

“OH, that dress. That flouncy white, pleated halter-neck billowing around Marilyn Monroe’s knees as ‘delicious’ breezes gust up from a New York subway grate … Debbie Reynolds remembers it well.

Very well. Because once upon a time, she owned that dress.

It belongs to somebody else now … but visitors to the gallery’s much-anticipated Marilyn Monroe exhibition will be dazzled by so much more.

The gold lame gown Monroe wore in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The racy cocktail dress she sported in Some Like It Hot. A brocade evening cape from her personal wardrobe. A silk blouse she had on the last time she was photographed … And Bendigo can thank Reynolds — true Hollywood royalty — for having rescued several of the objects on display.

Marilyn in her gold Travilla dress, 1953
Marilyn in her gold Travilla dress, 1953

Reynolds is especially fond of ‘Billy Travilla’s gold dress for Gentlemen… so beautiful’ and the Edwardian-style evening gown that graces The Prince and the Showgirl(1956).

‘I loved how Marilyn dressed in that movie. Beautiful silks with little stars and pearls and decorative things … I would have bought it in a second if I could.’

“There was something that Marilyn had, a quality that just stood her above everybody else,’’ she says, “but what a little girl she was …'”

The article also suggests that Reynolds was a good friend of Marilyn. While they were acquainted – Debbie is listed in Marilyn’s last address book – there seems to be little evidence of a closer relationship. Reynolds claims that they attended ‘the same lovely little church’, but Marilyn was not a regular churchgoer.

Debbie also says that she tried to contact Marilyn two days before her death, but was unable to get in touch.  ‘Nobody could,’ Reynolds adds. ‘It was an impossible task. She was surrounded by too many moats.’ In fact, Marilyn spoke to many friends and colleagues in her final days. But if Debbie had left a message, or approached Marilyn through a third party, it’s quite feasible that she didn’t hear back in time.

Whatever the truth may be, there is no doubt that Debbie Reynolds admires Marilyn greatly, and of her sadness at having to sell off her collection when her attempts to establish a museum in Hollywood went unfulfilled.

Marilyn’s ‘Blondes’ Suit, and More, at Bonham’s

10659145_750351251704217_7588656055951611251_nBonham’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.

Misfits Footage (and More) at Profiles in History

H3257-L78855457The upcoming Hollywood Auction 74 at Profiles in History contains some interesting Marilyn-related items, mainly on Day 2 (September 30.)

  1. An early pin-up photo, signed by Marilyn.
  2. Artwork inspired by Marilyn’s nude calendar.
  3. Marilyn’s ‘topless cowgirl‘ calendar.
  4. Marilyn’s 1952 contract for The Charlie McCarthy Show.
  5. Marilyn’s hand-annotated script for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
  6. Travilla’s costume sketch for ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.’     H3257-L78859923
  7. Original transparencies of photos taken on location for River of No Return.
  8. Photos taken by Darlene Hammond at various public events in 1953.
  9. Original prints stamped by Milton Greene.
  10. Candid photos taken in Japan and Korea.
  11. Marilyn’s 1953 recording contract with RCA.
  12. Photos taken by Sam Shaw during filming of The Seven Year Itch.   123a
  13. Candid negatives of Marilyn in public, circa 1955.
  14. Books on psychology and mythology, owned by Marilyn.
  15. A painting of Marilyn and Sir Laurence Olivier in The Prince and the Showgirl, by Francis R. Flint.                                                              H3257-L78859604
  16. Posters from Marilyn’s ‘Fabled Enchantresses‘ session, signed by Richard Avedon.
  17. Letters to Marilyn from Pat Newcomb and Arthur Miller.
  18. 48 minutes of 8mm film shot on location for The Misfits by Stanley Killar, an uncredited extra.
  19. A Misfits autograph book, signed by Marilyn and others.
  20. Contact sheets for photos taken by Sylvia Norris at the Golden Globes in 1962.
  21. The final draft of Something’s Got to Give.
  22. A camera used for many of Marilyn’s films at Fox.
  23. An archive of vintage press clippings.

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Creating the Illusion: Marilyn’s Hollywood Style

creating the illusionCreating the Illusion: A Fashionable History of Hollywood Costume Designers, a new coffee-table book by Jay Jorgensen and Donald L. Scoggins, with an introduction by actress Ali McGraw, will be published by Running Press (in association with TCM) on October 6.

With a cover featuring Marlene Dietrich, this comprehensive study devotes separate chapters to the many designers who worked with Marilyn, including Renie, Elois Jenssen, Orry-Kelly, Charles LeMaire, Jean Louis, William Travilla and Dorothy Jeakins.

Nickens Marilyn in FashionFor Hollywood costume fans, Creating the Illusion will make a great companion to Christopher Nickens’ excellent 2012 book, Marilyn in Fashion.

Marilyn’s Style Lives On at the Golden Globes

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Memories of Marilyn lingered on the catwalk at last night’s Golden Globes. Marilyn herself won awards for Some Like it Hot, and as ‘World Film Favourite’. However, it was her appearance at a different ceremony – the Photoplay Awards in 1953 – that inspired the stars last night.

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Jessica Chastain, reported to be cast as Marilyn in an as yet unmade big-screen adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde, wore a Versace gown reminiscent of MM’s iconic gold dress, but in a darker shade.

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But singer Lana Del Rey – who has referenced Marilyn in several songs and videos – went the extra mile, wearing a vintage design by Travilla, who created the original gown in 1952.

‘Famous and Infamous’ at Christie’s

Impersonator Suzie Kennedy models earrings worn by Marilyn in 'How to Marry a Millionaire'
Impersonator Suzie Kennedy models earrings worn by Marilyn in ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’

David Gainsborough Roberts’ collection of Marilyn’s costumes and personal items is well-known to fans. I was lucky enough to see it at Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire in 2005 (the ancestral home of Marilyn’s poet friend, Dame Edith Sitwell.) He has also exhibited his Monroe collection at the American Museum in Bath, and London’s Getty Images Gallery.

However, Mr Roberts has also purchased items belonging to many other stars, historical figures, and even a few notorious criminals. A selection of his acquisitions – including Marilyn’s red beaded dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – is on display until September 2nd at Christie’s, South Kensington. In an interview with the celebrated auction house, he revealed how the red Travilla dress spurred a lifelong pursuit:

“It was 1991, I’d bought several things at Christie’s, and this Marilyn dress came up. The model was a good friend of mine, Pauline Bailey. I bid £16,000, something like that, and the press went bananas, she jumped up and down – I must have looked terrified! It took off from there, the next day I arrived back here in Jersey and my mother said to me ‘what have you been doing? The phone hasn’t stopped.’  And I said ‘believe me, seven days from now, Marilyn Monroe, Pauline Bailey and me – nobody will give a damn’ and the phone hasn’t stopped since 1991.”

Another MM lookalike, Suzie Kennedy, appeared at the opening of ‘Famous and Infamous’ yesterday, reports the Daily Mail.

Suzie Kennedy poses with Marilyn's red dress from 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes'
Suzie Kennedy poses with Marilyn’s red dress from ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’

Tom Tierney: Marilyn’s Paper Doll Artist

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Artist Tom Tierney, who created over 400 ‘paper dolls’ books, died on July 12 at his Texas home, reports the New York Times. He was 85.

He briefly knew Marilyn in 1958 when they were both living in New York, Tierney told Michelle Morgan, author of MM: Private and Undisclosed. Tierney’s neighbours at the time were magazine editors Jack Hamilton and Charles Schneider, and Marilyn often attended ‘interview parties’ in their apartment with husband Arthur Miller.

“Marilyn was a very quiet girl and Miller did all the talking,” Tierney recalled. “They came on several occasions so that I finally felt comfortable chatting with them, especially Marilyn.”

One day, Tierney met Marilyn on the stairs while he was taking out the garbage. She instantly offered to help. “She was definitely a sweetheart,” Tierney commented, “and I’ll never forget our brief acquaintance.”

tierney paper dolls

Originally published in 1979, Marilyn Monroe Paper Dolls was the first in the series to make the Times bestseller list – and is one of the few Marilyn-related books to remain in print ever since.

In 2012, Tierney was commissioned by William Travilla’s estate to create a book dedicated to the famed designer’s costumes for Marilyn. (More info here.)

 

 

How to Be Very, Very Marilyn

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Sheree North with Travilla

The Life archive has taken a look back at the career of actress Sheree North, who replaced Marilyn after she refused to appear in Fox’s How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955.) The parallels between them are also noted in a separate article by Jen Carlson for LAist.com.

Monroe didn’t take the threat very seriously, telling columnist Earl Wilson rather impishly, “Sometimes I kid the fans. They say, ‘Oh, you’re Marilyn Monroe!’ I say, ‘Oh no, I’m Mamie Van Doren’ – or, ‘Sheree North’ – if I’m in a real hurry.”

Six years Marilyn’s junior, Sheree was groomed by the studio as a stand-in for their rebellious star. This was not her decision, as she had no wish to dethrone MM. She later became a respected character actress, even playing Gladys Baker in the TV movie, Marilyn: The Untold Story (1980.)

In 2008, three years after her death, a photo of Ms North being dressed for her role in How to Be Very Very, Very Popular by costume designer Travilla was misidentified as Marilyn in a number of leading newspapers, including the Telegraph.

When Marge Met Marilyn

Everyone’s favourite cartoon mom, Marge Simpson, has a Marilyn moment in this illustration by artist AleXsandro Palombo for Vogue, in a series of classic fashion recreations celebrating 25 years of The Simpsons:

“‘There is a Marge Simpson in every woman and with this tribute I wanted to ignite the magic that is in every women; the strength, femininity, elegance, eroticism and beauty,’ Palombo told us. ‘I made a strict and careful selection of what, in my opinion, has really influenced the style of the last 100 years. Each of these dresses really changed the course of the history of costume, giving a new aesthetic vision that has anticipated major changes in our society. We may not consider these clothes as art, but the aesthetic vision that they emanate has played an important role in giving strength to the path of emancipation of women since 1900. In many cases it’s the dress that has transformed a woman into an icon, but in many others, it’s the personality of the women that has enlightened the dress.'”

UPDATE: Here’s another famous MM pose, based on Ed Feingersh’s 1955 photo of Marilyn dabbing on her favourite perfume, Chanel No. 5…

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