When Nikita Met Marilyn…

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Time magazine profiles Cold War Roadshow, an upcoming documentary about Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s historic visit to the US in 1959, on its website today – including footage of an evasive Marilyn being interviewed by reporters after a luncheon in Khrushchev’s honour at Twentieth Century-Fox.

Marilyn’s reluctance to comment may have been as a result of her husband Arthur Miller’s persecution by the rabidly anti-Communist House Un-American Activities Committee. Miller had been acquitted just a year before.

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In 2010, it was announced that a dramatisation of Khrushchev’s trip would be produced for HBO, but this has yet to materialise. Cold War Roadshow will be broadcast on PBS in the US on November 18: a DVD is also available.

‘Styling the Stars’: Treasures From Fox

Styling the Stars

Styling the Stars: Treasures From the Twentieth Century Fox Archive, a new coffee table book by Angela Cartwright and Tom McLaren, will be published in October. It is 320pp long, and measures 8.3 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches. Marilyn graces the cover in an unusual, elegant profile shot, taken during costume tests for There’s No Business Like Show Business.

“Revered for their indisputable sense of style, classic Hollywood films continue to inspire today’s fashions. But the carefully crafted appearances of the timeless characters personified by the likes of Clark Gable, Julie Andrews, and Audrey Hepburn came as the result of meticulous hairstyling, makeup, and costume design. In Hollywood’s trendsetting world of glamour and glitz, continuity photographs ensured that these wardrobe elements remained consistent throughout the filming process. Now, decades later, these shots provide a striking record of the evolution of Hollywood fashion from the 1930s to the early 1970s. Written by Angela Cartwright and Tom McLaren, with a foreword by Maureen O’Hara, this collection of candid rarities offers a glimpse into the details of prepping Hollywood’s most iconic personalities, plus revelatory stories about Twentieth Century Fox classics. Here readers find images of Shirley Temple as she runs a brush through her trademark curls, Marilyn Monroe as she’s fitted for an elegant evening gown, Cary Grant as he suits up for a swim, and Paul Newman donning a six-shooter. The result is a stunning collector’s volume of film and fashion photography, as well as an invaluable compendium of movie history.”

James Garner and ‘Something’s Got to Give’

james garner

Actor James Garner, who first found fame as a comedic cowboy in the 1950s TV series, Maverick, has died aged 86. His most popular role was that of private detective Jim Rockford in the long-running series, The Rockford Files. He also made over fifty films, including The Great Escape, Victor/Victoria, Murphy’s Romance, Sunset (as Wyatt Earp) and Maverick (a big-screen remake, starring Mel Gibson.) One of Garner’s final roles was in The Notebook (2004.) He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Lois Clarke, and two daughters.

Garner is best-known to MM fans as Doris Day’s leading man in Move Over Darling, the 1963 remake of Marilyn’s unfinished last film, Something’s Got To Give. What readers may not recall, however, is that Garner was originally chosen to star alongside Monroe, as Ted Schwarz explained in his 2010 biography, Marilyn Revealed.

“James Garner demanded $200,000 to do the picture, but Fox thought he was a $150,000-a-picture actor and would pay him no more. He quit. Then, in the convoluted thinking of Hollywood, the new producer, a man named Henry Weinstein, turned to Dean Martin that March, paying Martin double what Fox had wanted to pay Garner.”

Marilyn with Dean Martin, 'Something's Got to Give'
Marilyn with Dean Martin, ‘Something’s Got to Give’
Doris Day and James Garner in 'Move Over Darling'
Doris Day and James Garner in ‘Move Over Darling’

Garner commented on both projects in his autobiography, The Garner Files (2012.)

“The best part of this remake of the 1940 screwball comedy My Favourite Wife was Doris Day. I’d been slated to make it as Something’s Got to Give with Marilyn Monroe, but I did The Great Escape instead, so Dean Martin took my part. Twentieth fired Marilyn for chronic tardiness and stopped production, retitled it Move Over Darling, and made it with me and Doris.

Doris didn’t play sexy, she didn’t act sexy, she was sexy. Which is better in the bedroom than a lot of things. And Doris was a joy to work with.”

After Marilyn was fired, executives at Fox spread the rumour that her work on the film was ‘unwatchable.’ However, footage from Something’s Got to Give, uncovered in 1990, shows Marilyn looking better than she had done in years. Her screen chemistry with Dean Martin was evident, and the opening scene, in which she greets her long-lost children after being rescued from a shipwreck, ranks among her finest work.

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However, there is something undeniably stilted and weary about Something’s Got to Give – perhaps a combination of the hackneyed script, and George Cukor’s indifferent direction. Move Over Darling is a briskly efficient 1960s rom-com, though lacking some of the star-power Marilyn could have brought. Patrick Samuel compared the two versions in a 2011 review for Static Mass Emporium:

“Despite its shortcomings it has its charm and moments of fun but misses what Monroe and Martin brought to the unfinished Something’s Got To Give; sensuality and a high doses of sex appeal. Although, from watching what remains of Something’s Got To Give, it misses the charm and fun of Move Over Darling! Cukor’s version is sombre and swings more toward melodrama than screwball comedy. If only there was a way to move something over.”

Remembering Shirley Temple

shirley temple

Perhaps the most celebrated child star of all time, Shirley Temple, died on Monday, February 10th. Writing for Bust, Alanna Bennett notes that in her teenage years, Shirley looked a lot like the then-unknown Norma Jeane Baker.

“I mean, look at them. It could be chocked up to 1940s/1950s styles — the hair style is certainly that, and makeup trends also probably played a part — but there’s also a definite shared heart-shaped face, lip and eye shape, nose curvature, etc.

What’s interesting to me here is that these women did not spend the majority of their lifetimes resembling each other. It appears that they did, however, sort of meet in the middle: Temple spent her young childhood as one of the most famous people in the world, then went on to live a relatively ‘normal’ life thereafter; Monroe had that relatively ‘normal’ life roughly until her breakthrough in 1948, when she was twenty-two. Temple was also born only two years after Monroe, in 1928.

Both women made a big impact on the culture of their time — generations of women spent their childhoods wanting to be Shirley Temple, and their adolescence or adulthood yearning to be Marilyn Monroe. They obviously had very complicated lives in large part because of that, but there’s something calming in seeing their similarities.”

Temple delighted Depression era filmgoers, and some have said she helped to save Twentieth Century Fox from bankruptcy during the 1930s. Marilyn would later become the same studio’s most bankable star of the 50s.

Shirley Temple Black retired from acting in 1950, aged 22, and later became a US diplomat, travelling the globe under successive Republican administrations.

Marilyn’s biographer, Carl Rollyson, speculates that ‘it was the portrayal of Shirley as waif and orphan that appealed to Marilyn and formed the basis of some of Marilyn’s stories about her childhood.’

In later life, however, Marilyn did not always welcome the comparison, as this extract from journalist W.J. Weatherby’s Conversations With Marilyn reveals:

“‘I read your article about me,’ she said. ‘Who’s Mrs Patrick Campbell?’

I had described her in the article as a cross between a theatrical grand-dame like Mrs Campbell and a child star like Shirley Temple.

She beamed when I told her, but added that she took a dim view of being even remotely compared to ‘Lolita Temple.’

‘Sorry. Now that I know you better, I wouldn’t compare you to anyone.'”

Fox Publicist Julian Myers Dies

Legendary Hollywood Publicist Julian Myers showing his Amingo Day cufflinks

Writing for Deadline, Pete Hammond recalls his friend, Julian Myers – ‘the ultimate Hollywood press agent’ – who died on Saturday, December 21st.

“He started off as nearly  a charter member of USC’s Film School in 1937 and then worked in Columbia’s story department , but it was landing his job  in the Fox publicity department in 1949 that really got things cooking for him. That was about the same time as Fox’s most famous star, Marilyn Monroe also started. Julian would often tell me about those days when he would have to go try to get the famously difficult actress out of bed and on to the set. He wasn’t her publicist as some outlets wrongly said in their headlines today, he was a loyal studio publicist – or more accurately press agent – who had 20th’s back in those days. One of his earliest encounters with her was in 1950 when she had a small role in the iconic Fox Oscar winner, All About Eve. In pure ‘press agent’ fashion he even got  the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to block  out all the letters in its neon sign except ‘EVE’ when the film had its premiere across the street at Grauman’s Chinese.”

Marilyn at the Oscars, 1951
Marilyn at the Oscars, 1951

Marilyn does not seem to have attended the premiere, captured on newsreel from November 13, 1950. However, she did later present an Oscar to Thomas H. Moulton for Best Sound Recording on the film.

Julian Myers worked at Fox until 1961. In 2013, Myers shared his memories of Marilyn in a TV interview. He recalled accompanying her to visit troops at San Pedro. (He may be referring to her visiting the USS Benham in 1951, or Camp Pendleton in 1952.)

En route, they stopped at a gas station where Marilyn spent 45 minutes in the powder room. Despite her tardiness, the troops loved her.

Myers remembered Marilyn as an insecure young woman who never thought of herself as a sex symbol. “I was the only guy trying to get her out of bed,” he joked, noting that he “was a happily married man.”

Surfer Girl: Marilyn in Malibu

Marilyn at a surfer party, circa 1947
Marilyn at a surfer party,1947

Writing for the Malibu Times, Colin Newton explores the history of Cypress Sea Cove, a hangout for surfers since the 1940s:

“The story of Cypress Sea Cove begins in the 1940s with its original owner George “Cap” Watkins, a Bunyon-esque character who would eventually turn the place into his own private Shangri-La.

Between the palm trees, hammocks were strung up, and five-gallon plastic jugs were filled with rum drinks. Guests as varied as then-California Governor—and later Supreme Court Justice— Earl Warren and blond bombshell Marilyn Monroe showed up, as well as pioneer surfers and many of Watkins’ lifeguard friends.”

George 'Cap' Watkins presents Tommy Zahn with a paddle-boarding trophy.
George ‘Cap’ Watkins presents Tommy Zahn with a paddle-boarding trophy.

The article states that Marilyn was then the girlfriend of lifeguard Tommy Zahn. This would place her visits around 1946-7, during her first year as a Hollywood actress.

Zahn was signed to Fox at around the same time – mainly because studio chief Darryl F Zanuck‘s daughter, Darrylin, had taken a shine to him. It was while working as a contract player that Tommy met the 20 year-old Marilyn.

Anthony Summers interviewed Tommy Zahn for his 1985 biography, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe.

“‘[MM] was in prime condition,’ says Tommy Zahn, ‘tremendously fit. I used to take her surfing up at Malibu…She was really good in the water, very robust, so healthy, a really fine attitude towards life.'”

This echoes other recollections of a young, sporty Marilyn. In later years, however, she was less confident in water.

Zahn recalled that Marilyn was the most hard-working of all the young actors. They often worked together on dance, which they both found challenging.

After talking to Zahn, Summers formed an interesting theory as to why Marilyn was dropped by the studio in 1947, which may also partly explain why – even after she became a star – Zanuck was never a strong supporter of MM.

“Tommy Zahn, Marilyn’s lifeguard boyfriend, thinks he knows what happened, not least because he was fired at the same time. Zahn believes that he was only hired in the first place because Zanuck wished to groom him for marriage to one of his daughters. Zahn’s dalliance with Marilyn was noted and disapproved from on high, and both were fired. Zahn shipped out to Honolulu. Marilyn was adrift, professionally and emotionally.”

By the time Tommy Zahn died in 1991, he was a sporting hero, with a distinguished career behind him. You can read a recollection of his life by Craig Lockwood at EatonSurf.com. A biography of Zahn – including a chapter entitled ‘Hollywood & Marilyn’ – is downloadable from the Legendary Surfers website.

 

Fox Takes to the Stage

Deleted scene from ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’, 1953

Twentieth Century-Fox have announced plans to develop a slate of nine to 12 musicals based on Fox films, reports the New York Times. Their vast back catalogue includes many of Marilyn’s star vehicles. Which one, if any, would you like to see onstage?

Behind the Camera With Marilyn

Two intriguing new books caught my eye recently: firstly, Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustration, by Deborah Nadoolman Landis (who curated the V&A Hollywood Costume exhibit.)

The cover features a sketch by Travilla of Marilyn in one of his designs for There’s No Business Like Show Business. (For the film, the dress was made up in blue.) Inside are chapters on Charles LeMaire, Dorothy Jeakins and Orry-Kelly.

Marilyn’s friend and co-star, Betty Grable, features on the cover of Twentieth Century-Fox: The Zanuck-Skouras Years, 1935-65, to be published by the University of Texas Press on March 25th.

‘The studio’s biggest new star of the 1950s was clearly Marilyn Monroe,’ writes author Peter Lev. It should be a useful reference tool for anyone interested in the history of Marilyn’s home studio.

Focus on Spyros Skouras

Spyros Skouras, the Greek-born president of Twentieth Century-Fox, was an important ally of Marilyn during her early career. In September, the Greek America Foundation will research his life, including extensive study of the Skouras Papers at Stanford University, with the aim of producing a documentary. You can read more about the project here.