Fox Film Historian Talks Marilyn (and More)

Michael Troyan, author of Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment, will be giving several talks at local libraries in his native Sacramento over the next few weeks, as Debbie Arrington reports for the Sacramento Bee.

(The story mentioned in the article about Marilyn shaving an inch off the heel of her shoe to achieve her signature wiggle – as told to Troyan by photographer Lawrence Schiller – may be apocryphal, as none of her shoes sold at auction appear to have been altered. As Marilyn once said, ‘I learned to walk at six months old and haven’t had a lesson since.’)

“How Troyan managed to compile a definitive history of an ever-evolving entertainment giant is an amazing accomplishment in its own right. First, he had to talk Fox into it.

‘I started this project in 2010 – five years out (from Fox’s 100th anniversary in 2015),’ he said. ‘It took them five years to decide yes.’Then, I spent two more years actually getting it done. You can’t do a book like this without the studio’s art and photos. I needed access to their archives.’

‘Unlike Disney, Fox had never done a book about its history,’ Troyan said. ‘They did one book on costumes (Styling the Stars, co-written by Angela Cartwright), but that was it.’

Once Fox gave his project its blessing, Troyan discovered a treasure trove of forgotten photos and movie mementos, stashed away in hundreds of file boxes for decades in studio storage. Fox archivist Jeffrey Paul Thompson became a collaborator, as did filmmaker and Hollywood historian Stephen X. Sylvester.

‘I wanted to see everything and hear everything,’ Troyan said. ‘You can read all the articles and books on a subject, but it’s not until you started interviewing people did you really get it – the full picture.’

‘This is a celebration of Fox and movie making,’ he said of his book. ‘We covered the scandals and controversies – and there were plenty – but most of all, I wanted (the book) to be accurate.'”

Disney Buys Fox From Murdoch

After months of speculation, the BBC has confirmed that 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets (including Marilyn’s many films for Twentieth) have  been bought by Disney for $52.4bn (£39 billion.) Previous owner Rupert Murdoch purchased Fox in 1985.

Marilyn Warned Joan Collins About the Casting Couch

Actress Joan Collins has told the Daily Mail about her early experiences in Hollywood, and how Marilyn warned her about sexual harassment. It’s not a new story, but in light of recent allegations, it makes for an interesting read. Interestingly, she recalled the meeting in her 1978 autobiography, Past Imperfect, but the ‘wolves’ story only appeared in Second Act, almost twenty years later. (Another star from Marilyn’s era, Rita Moreno, has also spoken out about how Fox executives preyed on young women.)

“Shortly after arriving in Hollywood aged 21, under contract to 20th Century Fox, I attended a party at Gene Kelly’s house. The star of An American In Paris and Singin’ In The Rain hosted a weekly gathering for an eclectic group of movie industry power-brokers, A-list actors and actresses, intellectuals and his friends. It was where I first met Marilyn Monroe.

At first I didn’t recognise the blonde sitting alone at the bar until she turned to me and said rather ruefully: ‘They wanted me for the lead in Red Velvet Swing, but I’m too old.’

The part of Evelyn Nesbit in The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing was one of my first lead roles in Hollywood, but I knew it had originally been intended for Monroe.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that the woman in front of me was the legendary figure herself. We started chatting and after a couple of martinis, Marilyn poured out a cautionary tale of sexual harassment she and other actresses endured from ‘the wolves in this town’.

I replied that I was well used to ‘wolves’ after a few years in the British film industry. I decided it definitely wasn’t something I’d put up with. I told Marilyn I was well prepared to deal with men patting my bottom, leering down my cleavage and whatever else.

She shook her head. ‘There’s nothing like the power of the studio bosses here, honey. If they don’t get what they want, they’ll drop you. It’s happened to lots of gals. ‘Specially watch out for Zanuck. If he doesn’t get what he wants, honey, he’ll drop your contract.’ It was a timely warning, because days later, Darryl Zanuck, vice-president of production at 20th Century Fox, pounced.

Marilyn and Joan Collins in the audience at a studio screening of ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’, 1954

Hollywood studio bosses considered it their due to b*** all the good-looking women who came their way and were notorious for it. Harry Cohn at Columbia Pictures, for example, had no qualms about firing any starlet who rejected him. He was totally amoral.

Another role I coveted was that of Cleopatra. The head of 20th Century Fox at the time, Buddy Adler, and the chairman of the board — [Spyros Skouras], a Greek gentleman old enough to be my grandfather — bombarded me with propositions and promises that the role was mine if I would be ‘nice’ to them. It was a euphemism prevalent in Hollywood. I couldn’t and I wouldn’t — the very thought of these old men was utterly repugnant. So, I dodged and I dived, and hid from them around the lot and made excuses while undergoing endless screen tests for the role of Egypt’s Queen.

At one point, Mr Adler told me at a party that I would have ‘the pick of the scripts’ after Cleopatra and he would set me up in an apartment he would pay for as long as he could come to visit me three or four times a week. Running out of excuses, I blurted out: ‘Mr Adler, I came here with my agent, Jay Kanter. Why don’t we discuss the deal with him?’

‘Honey, you have quite a sense of humour,’ he spluttered.

‘And a sense of humour is all you’ll ever get from me,’ I murmured as I left. In due course, Elizabeth Taylor got the role.

But it wasn’t just studio bosses and producers who were predatory. Many actors I worked with considered it their divine right to have sex with their leading lady … Anyone naive enough to believe the era of the casting couch had been consigned to history will have been shocked by the Weinstein scandal and the predatory institutional sexism of Hollywood power brokers it has revealed.

But it’s not just the film industry that’s been complicit in sanctioning this appalling behaviour, and it’s not just actresses subjected to it. It may occur in any business dominated by powerful, ruthless and misogynistic men, and it’s women (sometimes men) in subservient positions who are unfortunate enough to have to deal with them.”

Marilyn Book News: Directors and Co-Stars at Fox

Just published is Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment, Michael Troyan’s mammoth study of Marilyn’s home studio. It’s 736 pages long, with 150 photos in a landscape-size hardback.

Anne Bancroft, who made her screen debut in Don’t Bother to Knock and shared a dramatic scene with Marilyn, is the subject of two new biographies: one by Peter Shelley, and another by Douglass K. Daniel.

And one of Marilyn’s favourite directors, Jean Negulesco (How to Marry a Millionaire), is given the biographical treatment in a new study by Michelangelo Capua.

Coming in September is the much-anticipated Milton Greene retrospective, The Essential Marilyn Monroe (a German version and special edition are also available.) And in November, Marilyn graces the paperback cover of Cecil Beaton: Portraits and Profiles.

Looking further ahead, two intriguing new titles will be hitting our shelves in 2018: Colin Slater’s Marilyn Lost and Forgotten: Images from the Hollywood Photo Archiveand Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon, a biography by Charles Casillo. And Elizabeth Winder’s Marilyn in Manhattan will be released in paperback.

Remembering Marilyn’s Radio Days

Marilyn at a patriotic event in 1952

Over at Reader’s Digest, Tony DiMarco recalls interviewing Marilyn at Twentieth Century Fox for an army radio show in 1952. DiMarco, and presenter Dave Ketchum, broadcast a weekly program for Camp Roberts, which aired on KPRL in Paso Robles, California. It will come as no surprise to those who know of Marilyn’s loyalty to her fans in the military, but the producers found her a delight to work with, and nothing like the ‘difficult’ star her studio warned them about.

“Not only was Marilyn on time, she was friendly, cooperative and a great interview. When it was over she asked if she could add something and, of course, we said yes. She ad-libbed a touching and heartwarming tribute to the servicemen and women, thanking them for listening and wishing 
them the very best of luck. She was beautiful, bright and charming. She was the Marilyn 
we’ll always remember.”

Marilyn Goes From ‘Eve’ to ‘Niagara’ in Arizona

Marilyn’s steamy 1953 thriller, Niagara, will be screened on October 3 at the NAU College of Arts and Letters in Flagstaff, Northern Arizona, as part of a two-season retrospective, 20th Century Fox: The Stars. Prior to this, you can enjoy Marilyn’s supporting role in All About Eve on September 26. (Let’s hope Bus Stop gets an airing in the next season, as it was partly filmed in the state capital of Phoenix, Arizona.)

French Author On Marilyn’s Last Picture Show

Olivier Rajchman’s Hollywood Ne Repond Plus (Hollywood Unresponsive) is a new book in French exploring the crisis at Twentieth Century Fox in 1962, focusing on three films made that year: the scandalous Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor and helmed by Joe Mankiewicz; Darryl F. Zanuck’s magnum opus, The Longest Day; and Marilyn’s last movie, the ill-fated Something’s Got to Give. It is available now in paperback and via Kindle.

Thanks to Eric Patry 

Marilyn Gets Foxy at TK Maxx

In recent years, Twentieth Century Fox has released a wide range of products celebrating their greatest star, including calendars, mugs, and most recently, perfumes. Fox was also involved with last year’s Bendigo exhibition. Using original poster artwork from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire, they have now created a series of framed prints (£25 each), as spotted by Immortal Marilyn’s Fraser Penney at TK Maxx in Perth, Scotland.

Some fans have noted that the original movie posters have been altered, removing Marilyn’s co-stars. MM would no doubt raise an eyebrow at this belated recognition from her home studio!

Marilyn Book News: Reissues

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Several Marilyn-related titles are being reissued this year. Marilyn in Words and Pictures, due in May, is a repackaging of Richard Havers and Richard Evans’ 2010 book, Marilyn in Words, Pictures and Music – with a new cover, but minus the supplementary CD. (A condensed version was also published as a U.K. ‘bookazine‘ in 2011.)

CCA94DE9-D1EC-4651-9866-EB54A21A9591-COLLAGEDressing Marilyn, Andrew Hansford and Karen Homer’s look at the fabulous movie costumes of Travilla, will be reissued in April. Also next month, Angela Cartwright’s Styling the Stars: Treasures From the Twentieth Century Fox Archives will be republished in paperback.

April VeVea on Marilyn, Jayne and Typecast Blondes

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‘Bus Stop’ (1956)

April VeVea (author of Marilyn Monroe: A Day in the Life) has created a new blog, Classic Blondes – dedicated to Marilyn and her contemporaries. In her latest post, April examines the longstanding assumption that Marilyn’s talents were wasted due to her being typecast in ‘dumb blonde’ roles at Twentieth Century Fox.

“With the exception of Bus Stop, Marilyn’s dramatic roles were NOT making nearly as much as her comedic roles. Fox wasn’t going to throw money into pictures so Marilyn could play in serious roles when they could have hits if she stuck to her comedic skill set. The public was the ultimate typecaster of Marilyn, not Fox … Marilyn actually had a pretty diverse career. Her pictures were evenly spread out between serious and comedic and she shone brightly in most. Her ability to keep herself at a 50/50 split once achieving stardom is amazing. That deserves praise and recognition.”

In another article, April compares Marilyn’s career to that of another fifties bombshell, Jayne Mansfield.

“While Jayne’s movies never grossed as highly as Marilyn’s, it’s safe to say that she was a solid earner for Fox when she was in her element. People wanted to see Jayne in glitz and glamour but her movies also needed to have a solid story line, like Marilyn’s … Jayne wasn’t a bad actress nor was she ‘over’ before she hit 30. She was just promoted incorrectly by Fox and dumped when Marilyn went back to her niche.”