Actress Joan Collins has told the Daily Mailabout 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.
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.”
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.
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’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.)
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.
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!
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.”
Marilyn’s old studio, Twentieth Century Fox, is launching a line of fragrances named after her most famous movies, and a promotional video has been created for the first perfume, How to Marry a Millionaire, reports Wales Online.
“Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products developed a new collection based on the portfolio of 12 Hollywood film titles featuring Marilyn Monroe.
Bristol-based fragrance specialist Designer Fragrances then launched the How to Marry a Millionaire inspired women’s fragrance and gift sets in stores across Europe.
Luminous Media director Martin Downes, from Pontypool, said: ‘It is a massive honour for a local Welsh company to be able to produce a video for a product like this.’
‘As you can imagine, there are very strict guidelines for using images of a Hollywood legend like Marilyn Monroe. We came up with a storyboard for the motion graphic video that drew on elements from the movie as well as showcasing the fabulously designed fragrance bottle.'”
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.)