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.

Celeste Holm 1917-2012

Celeste Holm at top right, with Marilyn in 'All About Eve'

Actress Celeste Holm – who played Karen Richards in All About Eve – has died aged 95, reports The Guardian.

Born in New York, Holm made her name as Ado Annie in the 1943 Broadway production of Oklahoma! She won an Oscar for Gentlemen’s Agreement (1947), and narrated A Letter to Three Wives (1949.)

After the success of Gentlemen’s Agreement, Holm asked Darryl F. Zanuck, head of Twentieth Century-Fox, for a pay increase. He responded by suspending her contract, and then ‘called the head of every other studio and said he had fired me because I was too difficult to work with.’

Celeste Holm, 'All About Eve'

Nonetheless, director Joe Mankiewicz cast Holm in All About Eve (1950) as Karen, best friend to temperamental stage star Margo Channing (Bette Davis.) According to Sandra Shevey, author of The Marilyn Scandal, Mankiewicz insisted that Holm be paid three times her contract salary. However, Zanuck got even ‘by having my dressing room put in the alley outside the soundstage. The others were inside.’

‘That girl will be a big star,’ said actor Gregory Ratoff, who played agent Max Fabian, during filming of All About Eve (1950). Holm rolled her eyes and retorted, ‘Why, because she keeps everyone waiting?’ To which Ratoff replied, ‘She has a quality.’

‘I confess I saw nothing special about her,’ Holm admitted. ‘My natural reaction was: “Whose girl is that?” She was scared to death, because she was playing in a pretty big league…I never thought of Marilyn as being an actress, even in the films she did later on.’

Holm was a friend of Dr Ralph Greenson, who became Marilyn’s psychoanalyst in 1960, and she would met Monroe at one of his house parties. This surprised Holm, perhaps because she considered herself to be part of Hollywood’s intellectual elite and had hitherto dismissed Marilyn as a dumb blonde.

Holm also noted that the young Marilyn idolised Betty Grable, with whom she would later co-star in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953.) This was confirmed by Grable herself, according to Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed.

Holm returned to Broadway, but later sang ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ with Frank Sinatra in High Society (1956.) In 1968, the won the Sarah Siddons award for Distinguished Achievement in Chicago Theatre. (Ironically, the Siddons award had featured in the storyline of All About Eve.)

Holm continued working in television and film until the early 1990s, and her former ambivalence towards Marilyn did not hinder her from appearing in various documentaries about her.

In recent years, Celeste Holm been treated for memory loss, and was in poor health for some time. She is survived by her sons and a fifth husband, opera singer Frank Basile.

Celeste Holm at 80

 

 

When Marilyn Sings

MM fan Tiina Lindholm found an older vinyl compilation in a Finnish thrift store. Remember Marilyn includes a 12pp photo book with a lovely tribute from Lionel Newman, Marilyn’s musical arranger on all her major films for Twentieth Century-Fox, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, River of No ReturnThere’s No Business Like Show Business, and Let’s Make Love.

“Marilyn Monroe was my friend – a very dear and special friend. She was an exceptionally warm, compassionate, surprisingly self-conscious girl. I found her to be fiercely loyal – sometimes to a fault.

An example of her self-consciousness happened while we were making the picture River Of No Return. In it Marilyn was to sing a very simple lullaby to a little boy with just a guitar accompaniment. Somehow or other she couldn’t believe she would be accepted doing something as gentle as this, due to her so-called ‘sexy’ image. It took many hours of reassurance to finally get her to believe in herself with regard to this sequence in the picture. The final result was most rewarding, especially to her.

Contrary to her glamorous ‘sexy image’, Marilyn would come to the recording stage wearing a plain pair of old slacks and a sweater, no makeup, and her hair looking like a tossed salad. But even in such casual dress she retrained that very warm, unaffected, detached appearance, yet still exuded sex.

Very often after a full and tiring day of recording, Marilyn, my wife Beverly, and I would take a long drive, grab a hamburger, eat in the car, and then just talk about anything except the motion picture business. She loved to laugh, and I had the fortunate ability to make her laugh.

The rumors about Marilyn being late for work never applied to her recording dates. She was always punctual if not ahead of time, and worked just as conscientiously and diligently as anyone else. A very odd thing happened when Marilyn would record her playbacks for whatever picture we were doing. I was happy to have the musicians show up – but with Marilyn the recording stage was always loaded with outside people. It literally appeared as though the studio had shut down. Secretaries, Sound Department employees, kids from the mail room, the Publicity Department, Construction, Art Department – you name it, they’d all be there. She was electrifying in that excitement always followed her. The men in the orchestra adored her. She was always congenial, courteous, not temperamental, and never forgot to thank everyone who worked with her on the stage. This included the orchestra, sound recording crew, etc. I must say, however, that she was damned sure of what she wanted without the sometimes big scene that other ‘super stars’ made. She would be up-tight at times when visitors got out of hand and made it necessary to have them clear the stage. Ten minutes later she would feel awful for having had to do such thing.

Many people didn’t believe – and still don’t believe she did her own singing. Well, that’s all a lot of nonsense. Marilyn did all her own singing – every single word. There was never any question about ‘dubbing’ her voice. She wouldn’t have allowed it since it was unnecessary, and to her, it would have been a cop out.

Another example of how hard she worked was when we were making Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. One of the big numbers was ‘Diamond’s Are A Girl’s Best Friend’. We made eleven takes on a very long and difficult number. (We recorded voice and orchestra simultaneously – Marilyn wouldn’t have it any other way. She felt that the performance would suffer if we recorded orchestra and voice separately on different days – ‘over dubbing’). I okayed the first take, but Marilyn felt she wanted to go on. In the end she went back to the first take, but she jumped up on the podium, apologized to the orchestra for having worked them so hard, and said ‘Lionel was right’. My association with her was just that straight and direct.

Marilyn used to call me her ‘personal music director’ and consequently I was assigned to do all her pictures at 20th Century-Fox. She was everything to all men, but to me she was really something very special. I miss her – I shall always miss her. She was literally one of a kind. I was fortunate to know her, to love her, let alone have the privilege of working with her.”

October 26, 1972

Lionel Newman

Zolotow’s Marilyn: Life With the Greenes

With business partner Milton Greene, 1955

These latest extracts from Zolotow’s 1960 biography, first published in the Los Angeles Daily Mirror, recounts Marilyn’s split from husband Joe DiMaggio, and her decision to leave Hollywood; her business partnership with photographer Milton Greene and her personal relationship with his wife, Amy (Marilyn stayed at their Connecticut home in the winter of 1954-55, before moving to New York.)

‘Strictly For Kicks’ at Bonham’s

Rare photographs of Marilyn Monroe in a 1948 stage show, Strictly For Kicks, will be sold in a Bonham’s and Butterfield auction of entertainment memorabilia, to be held in Los Angeles next month. Marilyn wore the same floral bikini and platform sandals in her first movie, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1947)

In 1948, Marilyn signed a 6-month contract with Columbia. However, she had previously worked at Twentieth Century Fox, and in March she appeared in a studio talent showcase at the Fox Studio Club Little Theater. An outside arena was built instead of using the stage on the lot, as studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck would be attending.

Marilyn appeared in two brief scenes, and the script included directions such as ‘Miss Monroe butts onto the stage…’

Marilyn appears to be wearing a costume from Ladies of the Chorus, which she filmed at Columbia in April.

In other pictures from the event Marilyn wears a light-coloured dress, which could be the same gown which she would wear in Love Happy (1949.)

Other items on offer at Bonhams’ include contractual papers for Bus Stop; a signed photo; personally-owned scripts for Let’s Make Love and Something’s Got to Give; a handwritten note by Marilyn, reminding herself to call poet Carl Sandburg; a mortgage agreement signed by Monroe and third husband Arthur Miller; a receipt for a gas payment, dated to Marilyn’s last birthday; and some airline tickets.

More details at Jezebel

Thanks to Megan at Everlasting Star