Marilyn Monroe: Mythos und Muse is a new German book edited by Barbara Sichtermann, and featuring various writings on Marilyn – including Truman Capote’s A Beautiful Child, and extracts from Arthur Miller’s autobiography, Timebends, and Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, Blonde. It is published by Ebersach & Simon as part of their Blue Notes series, profiling various cultural icons.
“Barbara Sichtermann draws a multifaceted portrait of Marilyn Monroe and a collection of texts of famous contemporaries, showing the desperate struggle of the most famous blonde in the world to love and recognition, their fragility and fragmentation, but also her exceptional talent. A fascinating look behind the Hollywood scenes and an intimate encounter with the woman behind the mythical MM, a versatile and still underrated actress.”
A few years ago, this photobooth shot of Marilyn by Richard Avedon was auctioned. Thanks to Everlasting Star member ‘Joan Newman’, we now know the story behind it (click the images to below to read at full-size.)
“Esquire publisher Arnld Gingrich says:
‘It happened like this. Richard Avedon, the photographer, invited a number of celebrities up to his studio and told them they could pose any way they pleased for a passport photograph type of camera. Marilyn said, I can?– then proceeded to undrape from the waist up.’
(Mr. Gingrich followed our telephone conversation by sending a message over with a preview copy of the November issue and sure enough, on pages 58 and 59, there is open-mouthed Marilyn again, along with tin-typey snapshots of Eddie Arcaro, Ethel Merman, Arlene Dahl, Ray Bolger, Willie Mays, Bert Lahr, Mel Ferrer, Audrey Hepburn and Truman Capote- everyone except Marilyn undraped from the neck up, not down.'” – Hy Gardner, Philadelphia Inquirer, October 11, 1957
“In 1957, Esquire magazine lugged one of Mutascope’s art deco booths into Richard Avedon’s New York studio. According to the article, Avedon ‘has long asserted that true photographic talent cannot be restrained by a camera’s technical limitations.’ The Esquire editors picked celebrities and challenged Avedon to produce photographs. The resulting photomatic essay is stunning, including images of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Truman Capote and Ethel Merman.” – From ‘A History of the Photobooth’, PanModern.com
The veteran Hollywood columnist, Bob Thomas, has died aged 92, reports the Los Angeles Times. Son of a film publicist, he began reporting for the Associated Press in 1944. He married in 1947, and had three daughters.
Thomas covered scandals like Charlie Chaplin’s paternity lawsuit, and witnessed the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. He was AP’s reporter for an incredible 66 Oscar ceremonies; published biographies of Harry Cohn, Howard Hughes and Marlon Brando; and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988. He retired in 2010.
Bob Thomas also chronicled Marilyn’s career, almost from beginning to end. In 1950, he praised her breakthrough role in The Asphalt Jungle, becoming one of the first writers to compare her appeal to Jean Harlow’s:
“I think cheesecake helps call attention to you. Then you can follow through and prove yourself,” Marilyn told Thomas in 1951, explaining her beginnings as a pin-up model, and her wish to become a respected actress.
In February 1953, Bob Thomas was involved in one of the great controversies of Marilyn’s career. She caused quite a stir by attending the Photoplay Awards in a diaphanous gold lame gown. A few days later, Joan Crawford was interviewed, and claimed that Thomas asked her off-record, ‘Didn’t you think that dress Marilyn Monroe wore at the awards dinner was disgusting?’
Crawford replied, ‘It was like a burlesque show. Someone should make her see the light; she should be told that the public likes provocative feminine personalities; but it also likes to know that underneath it all the actresses are ladies.’ On March 3, Thomas published Crawford’s comments in his syndicated column. Although initially upset by Crawford’s remarks, the incident ultimately worked in Marilyn’s favour, with friends and fans rallying to her defence. Crawford, meanwhile, was acutely embarrassed.
In October 1954, Thomas wrote an article for Movie Time magazine, headlined ‘Home Run!’ about Marilyn’s nine-month marriage to Joe DiMaggio. Soon after its publication, however, the couple separated – and Bob Thomas was at the scene of a press conference outside Marilyn’s home, where she appeared shaky and tearful. (Click on the image to enlarge)
After moving to New York in 1955, Marilyn became friendly with the novelist Truman Capote. In a discussion about the press, she described Bob Thomas as ‘a gentleman’ (quoted in Capote’s essay, ‘A Beautiful Child’.)
During her marriage to Arthur Miller, Marilyn lived in New York and Connecticut. Bob Thomas was one of the reporters she kept in touch with throughout those years. ‘I’m almost well again,’ she told him after suffering a miscarriage in 1957. ‘I don’t have all my energy back but it’s returning bit by bit.’
Marilyn was photographed with Bob at a press conference for Let’s Make Love in 1960 (unfortunately, my copy is watermarked.) By 1962, she was single again and back in her hometown of L.A. Thomas reported on the troubled production of Something’s Got to Give, interviewing Marilyn on the same day she filmed her iconic pool scene (click to enlarge.)
On August 5th, 1962, Thomas was one of the first to report Marilyn’s tragic death. ‘Somehow the pieces seemed to fit into place,’ he reflected. ‘It looked inevitable in retrospect…She had reached the end of her rope. She had run out of all that anxious gaiety with which she held on to life…But she left behind more than a string of glamor-filled, over-produced movies. She gave Hollywood color and excitement in an era when the town was losing its grip on the world’s fancy. No star of Hollywood’s golden era shone more brightly. Her brilliance was such that you overlooked the tragic aspects…’
Exactly 30 years later, Thomas examined the continuing fascination of Marilyn. ‘Like her contemporaries Elvis Presley and James Dean,’ he wrote, ‘and Rudolph Valentino in an earlier generation, Marilyn Monroe’s image in 1992 seems more vivid and intriguing than in her lifetime.’
“She was a great interview, just terrific. And funny,” he told the Los Angeles Daily News in 1997. “You’d ask her, ‘What did you have on when you posed for the calendar?’ And she’d say, ‘The radio.’ Or, ‘Chanel No. 5.’ … But in those days, there wasn’t any star that wasn’t available for an interview.”
A late contender for most bizarre Marilyn story of the year comes from entertainment website ContactMusic, who report that John Cohan – self-professed ‘psychic to the stars’ and alleged confidant of the late Truman Capote – claims to have seen a thirty-minute home movie, filmed in secret by Capote, of a confrontation between Marilyn and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (about Monroe’s supposed affair with the President) at Capote’s New York apartment in 1962.
Cohan says that the film was sold to US TV host Merv Griffin before Capote’s death in 1984. Griffin died in 2007.
“‘I was reminded of this film while I was recalling my friendship with Truman for a new book, titled The Pink Triangle.
Truman had been a friend to Jackie Kennedy but they had a falling out and when she asked him to arrange a meeting with Marilyn at his home, he bugged the room and filmed them. He did this because he could be devious and cunning.’
And Cohan was stunned when the author first showed him the footage.
He recalls, ‘I remember Marilyn arrived looking like the movie star she was, dressed in a stunning white dress and Jackie showed up in this very tailored black suit, which made her look very matronly… When MM (Marilyn) first started the greetings, she said, Hello Madam Jacqueline.
The two women were together a little over 30 minutes and Jackie basically told Marilyn she knew what was going on between her husband and Marilyn, and wanted it to stop. Jackie said she forgave MM for the affair with her husband because she knew too well Jack could charm a dead body and get a response.
Marilyn became hysterical because she didn’t want to end the affair. Money was exchanged. Jackie had with her a good size pink round hat box. In it was a lot of money. She said to MM, Take this and use it to make your new home more beautiful and the rest invest in stocks and other good ventures for your future. By the end of the film, Marilyn was a mess. Her hair was all messed up and her mascara was running.’
Cohan admits Capote was very guarded about the film and, as far as he knows, he’s the only person who has seen it other than the author and Merv Griffin.
He adds, ‘In the beginning, Truman kept it because he wanted to get back at Jackie and just by having this film he felt he had achieved that, but over the years he got so bored with it and told me, I’m going to sell it – and he did.
Merv Griffin treasured the footage and intended to keep it under lock and key until the 50th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. Like Truman, he was very guarded about this and I don’t think he showed it to anyone or talked about it.
Unfortunately Merv, another great friend of mine, died before his time and the footage is now lost, but I’m sure Merv took care of all his affairs before his death and had plans for this film. I’m sure it will see the light of day at some point.'”
I don’t really know where to begin explaining my extreme scepticism about this story. Suffice it to say that camera equipment was much larger and noisier in 1962, making it near impossible to film in secret. Also, it seems very convenient that Mr Cohan would divulge this secret on the eve of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination.
The Pink Triangle, an upcoming book referred to by Cohan, appears to have been written by Danforth Prince and Darwin Porter, an author well-known for his sensationalist tomes about politicians, gangsters and the stars of Hollywood’s golden age. Porter’s 2012 book, Marilyn at Rainbow’s End, was heavily promoted in US scandal sheets such as the Globe and the National Enquirer. (Cohan’s own memoir, Catch a Falling Star, was published in 2009.)
Capote knew both women well, but – and this bears repeating – there is no evidence that Marilyn and Jackie ever met. If you want real insight into MM, read Capote’s essay, ‘A Beautiful Child’.
Finally, I would love to know if WENN (named by ContactMusic as the source of this rumour) made any attempt at fact-checking before going public. (And if you’d like to know what last year’s silliest story about Marilyn was, click here.)
One of Marilyn’s favourite New York hangouts was the Plaza Hotel, where in February 1956, she held a press conference with Sir Laurence Olivier – and, much to his amazement, chaos erupted when the strap on his co-star’s dress broke!
John F. Doscher, a bartender (or ‘mixologist’) at the Plaza during the fifties, remembers Marilyn and other stars in his new book, The Back of the House, reports Hernando Today.
“Take for instance his va-va-va voom encounter with Marilyn Monroe. The starlet stayed at the hotel numerous times.
Doscher said he was awestruck by the entourage of photographers, hair stylists and makeup artists accompanying Miss Monroe each time she came in.
‘They were from Life, Look and Photoplay magazines, all there for photo opps, he said, early paparazzis, you know?’
One day Monroe was having a late breakfast in what was the Edwardian Room and sitting by the window overlooking Central Park South. A few tables away with her back to Monroe sat Plaza-regular New York newspaper columnist, Dorothy Kilgallen.
Working the bar that day in the Edwardian, Doscher mentioned to Kilgallen that Monroe was sitting by the window. Kilgallen, he said, ‘Let out a “harrumph” and said, ‘Yes. I saw her. She looks like an unmade bed.’
‘Apparently, there was some animosity there,’ Doscher observed. ‘I mean, Marilyn Monroe has been described many ways in her lifetime, but never the description Kilgallen offered.'”
Dorothy Kilgallen was a syndicated newspaper columnist. In 1952, she reported that journalist Robert Slatzer was a rival to Joe DiMaggio for Marilyn’s affections. (Slatzer has since become a notorious figure in Monroe history, and biographer Donald Spoto considers him a fraud.)
After Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was released in 1953, a sceptical Kilgallen wrote to Darryl F. Zanuck, asking him to confirm that Marilyn’s singing was her own voice, which he did.
Needless to say, none of this endeared her to Marilyn, and in his essay, A Beautiful Child, Truman Capote wrote that MM had described Kilgallen as a drunk who hated her.
Kilgallen lived near the summer house where Marilyn and Arthur Miller stayed in 1957. In 1960, she was photographed with Marilyn at a press conference for Let’s Make Love.
Just days before Marilyn died, Kilgallen alluded to the star’s affair with a prominent man in her column. In the following weeks, she tried to investigate the circumstances behind Monroe’s death – particularly her alleged links to the Kennedy brothers.
In 1965, 53 year-old Kilgallen was found dead in her New York apartment, having overdosed on alcohol and barbiturates, and also having possibly suffered a heart attack.
However, some conspiracy theorists think Kilgallen was murdered, because of her critical comments about the US government.
In tribute to Elizabeth Taylor, The Telegraphhas published a 1974 essay by Truman Capote on the great star. He made some interesting references to Marilyn as well:
‘At this point I recalled a conversation I’d once had with Marilyn Monroe (not that I’m making a comparison between Taylor and Monroe; they were different birds, the first being a take-or-leave-it professional, the other a morbidly uncertain, naturally gifted primitive). But Monroe’s moral attitude was similar: “I don’t believe in casual sex. Right or wrong, if I go for a guy, I feel I ought to marry him. I don’t know why. Stupid, maybe. But that’s just the way I feel. Or if not that, then it should have meaning. Other than something only physical. Funny, when you think of the reputation I have. And maybe deserve. Only I don’t think so. Deserve it, I mean. People just don’t understand what can happen to you. Without your real consent at all. Inside consent.” ‘
Another, lesser-known quality that Elizabeth shared with Marilyn was a love of literature:
‘The second surprise was how well-read Taylor seemed to be – not that she made anything of it, or posed as an intellectual, but clearly she cared about books and, in haphazard style, had absorbed a large number of them. And she discussed them with considerable understanding of the literary process…’
Capote concludes that Monroe, Taylor, and Judy Garland, despite their differences, were all risk-taskers:
‘… Not like Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland, both of whom had yearned to go over the horizon, some darker rainbow, and before succeeding, had attempted the voyage innumerable times. And yet there was some common thread between these three, Taylor, Monroe, Garland – I knew the last two fairly well, and yes, there was something. An emotional extremism, a dangerously greater need to be loved than to love, the hotheaded willingness of an incompetent gambler to throw good money after bad.’
‘Elizabeth Taylor’ is also published in A Capote Reader, alongside Capote’s portrait of Marilyn, ‘A Beautiful Child’.
“Another influence on Capote’s sense of this bright new character in American fiction was Marilyn Monroe. He loved the wit and the strange sadness Marilyn expressed in her friendship with him; the sense of aloneness and of running away from the past, which turns out to be the exact feeling behind the ”mean reds’’, the depressions that lead Holly Golightly to take a cab to 5th Avenue and eat breakfast in front of Tiffany’s window.
Capote wanted Marilyn for the film and he was never happy with the casting of Audrey Hepburn. The author had wanted a kind of literary magic to light up the screen, the book’s black lining to show through the tinsel and peroxide, but the film starring Hepburn would prove to be as light as soufflé and Givenchy-cool.
(Martin Jurow, the film’s co-producer, recalls a meeting at which Capote insisted he himself play the male lead. ”Truman, this role just isn’t good enough for you,’’ said Jurow, thus saving the author’s face and probably saving the film, too.) But Capote was always more bitter about the casting of Holly. ”Paramount double-crossed me in every conceivable way,’ he said. ‘Holly had to have something touching about her – unfinished. Marilyn had that. Audrey is an old friend and one of my favourite people but she was just wrong for that part.’
Sadly for Marilyn, the people around her (including herself: by this point she was failing, and more around herself than in her own skin) thought it too obvious that she play a hooker. When they first offered the part to Hepburn, she didn’t want to be a hooker either. The producer insisted Holly wasn’t a hooker, but ‘a dreamer of dreams, a lopsided romantic.’ The character was to become a midcentury classic: on screen, she was less vulnerable, less dark and less raw, but Hepburn gave her a classy easefulness that was more in touch with the Sixties.”
“Marilyn would have been absolutely marvellous in (Breakfast at Tiffany’s). She wanted to play it, too, but Paramount double-crossed me in every conceivable way and cast Audrey (Hepburn). The book was really rather bitter, and Holly Golightly was real – a tough character, not an Audrey Hepburn type at all. Holly had to have something touching about her – unfinished. Marilyn had that. Audrey is an old friend and one of my favourite people but she was just wrong for that part.”
*I agree with Capote that Marilyn could have played Holly wonderfully, and perhaps brought more grit to the role. However, it would be churlish to begrudge Audrey Hepburn her most iconic performance, and I’m glad she took the part.