The actress turned author Patricia Bosworth, who met Marilyn at the Actors Studio, has died aged 86 from complications of coronavirus, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Bosworth starred with Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story (1959), and later published critically acclaimed, yet controversial biographies of Montgomery Clift, Marĺon Brando and others. She appeared in documentaries such as Marilyn Monroe: Still Life (2005) and Love, Marilyn (2012), and wrote ‘The Mentor and the Movie Star,’ an article about Marilyn and the Strasbergs, for Vanity Fair in 2003. Her final book, The Men in My Life: Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan, also featured memories of Marilyn (see here.)
“At a party for new members, as Bosworth later wrote, she witnessed ‘a barefoot Marilyn Monroe, in a skintight black dress, undulating across the floor opposite Paul Newman.’ At the end of the evening, director Lee Strasberg offered her a ride home in his car. Bosworth slid in to find Monroe in the back, dreamily smoking a cigarette. ‘From outside came a voice,’ she later wrote. ‘”Hey Lee, going my way?” And Harry Belafonte hopped in beside me.’ The group fell silent as the ride got underway, each star daunted by the others. Finally Bosworth commented on Monroe’s gigantic pearls. ‘Yeah, the emperor gave them to me,’ Monroe said, offhandedly. She meant Emperor Hirohito of Japan, who had presented them to her at Monroe and Joe Dimaggio’s private wedding ceremony.”
Film historian Cari Beauchamp, who last year wrote ‘Atomic Blonde‘, an article detailing Marilyn’s mysterious 1953 PSA for the US Military, has now contributed a definitive history of the all-female Hollywood Studio Club, where Marilyn lived on and off during the late 1940s, to Vanity Fair. (Marilyn had mixed feelings about her stay, often finding it restrictive and perhaps reminding her of her time in an orphanage. However, there is little doubt that the Studio Club offered her some much-needed stability in the early days of her career.)
“For more than a century in Hollywood, young women have learned in horrendous ways that men in power often consider them goods to be bartered or simply consumed. There is little new about #MeToo, but what is new is that women are shattering their isolation by speaking out and finding strength and community as a result. Yet for nearly 60 years there was a residence that housed women (10,000 in all) in a protected and supportive environment. And though few people remember the Hollywood Studio Club, a recounting of its neglected history reveals how little has changed—and how powerful female friendships can be.
[Julia] Morgan’s multiarched structure, designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style, opened to much fanfare in 1926. The first floor featured a spacious lobby, writing rooms, a library, a large dining area, and a stage. The two upper stories consisted of single, double, and triple rooms to house 100 women—each paying 10 to 15 dollars a week for lodging and two meals a day. They were indirectly inspired by Hollywood luminaries such as Gloria Swanson, Jackie Coogan, and Frances Marion, whose names appeared on small brass plaques above the bedroom doors. (Each had donated $1,000 to the club. Norma Talmadge had pitched in $5,000.) The rules of the house were simple: You had to be working or seeking work in show business, be between 18 and 35 years old, and not stay longer than three years. Men were prohibited above the first floor.
Today, the fellow resident [Barbara] Rush remembers best is Marilyn Monroe: ‘She wasn’t a bombshell then, and was so sweet with that whispery voice.’ Robert Wagner, who, along with Monroe, was under contract at Twentieth Century Fox, recalls dropping off Monroe at the HSC and thinking ‘the concept of the place was just fantastic,’ especially for someone like her, who ‘everybody loved and felt protective of.’
In late 1949, Monroe secured a part in John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle. While she had had small roles at Fox, Monroe would later say that she so needed $50 in 1949 that she agreed to pose for what would become her infamous nude calendar. Even if the HSC suffered negative backlash as a result, house director Florence Williams fondly remembered Monroe. When asked who was the most stunning woman she ever encountered there, Williams answered, ‘Marilyn Monroe, because she was even beautiful first thing in the morning.’
As the ’60s and ’70s brought about enormous culture shifts, the number of residents dwindled to the point that the Hollywood Studio Club was no longer financially sustainable. The doors were closed in 1975 and the furnishings were auctioned off. Several years later, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places and continued to be maintained by the Y. In the fall of 2018, Faye Washington, CEO of the YWCA Greater Los Angeles, announced a new partnership with PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) to provide transitional housing for about 60 homeless women at the HSC. One of the rules: Residents, like the starry-eyed women of years past, would be allowed to stay for a maximum of three years.”
A collector of celebrity memorabilia is suing Vanity Fair for unauthorised use of this photo – showing Marilyn attending the Madison Square Garden concert where she famously sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to President Kennedy in 1962 – in their 2016 magazine special, Vanity Fair Icons: Marilyn Monroe, reports TMZ.
“In docs, obtained by TMZ, [Aric] Hendrix says he’s a collector of historical photographs and owns the photo AND the negative of Marilyn. He’s suing for damages in excess of $1 million. We’ve reached out to Vanity Fair, so far no word back.”
Hollywood legend Warren Beatty has given a rare interview to Vanity Fair‘s Sam Kashner, in which he revealed a brief encounter with Marilyn shortly before her death in 1962.
“Peter Lawford had invited him out to his house in Malibu for a night of tacos and poker, and Monroe was there. ‘I hadn’t seen anything that beautiful,’ Beatty recalls. She invited him to take a walk along the beach, which he did. ‘It was more soulful than romantic.’ Back in the house, he played the piano. (He’s a good pianist, by the way, enamored of jazz greats such as Erroll Garner.) Marilyn sat on the edge of the piano in something so clingy that Beatty could tell she wasn’t wearing underwear.
‘How old are you?’ she asked.
‘Twenty-five,’ he answered. ‘And how old are you?’ he asked cheekily.
‘Three. Six,’ she said, as if not wanting to bring the two numbers together. By then, the tacos had arrived, and no one really played poker that night. Warren noticed that Marilyn was already a bit tipsy from champagne, even before the sun had set.
The next day, the producer Walter Mirisch’s brother Harold called. ‘Did you hear?’ he asked. ‘Marilyn Monroe is dead.’ Warren was one of the last people to see Marilyn alive—a story that Beatty tells only reluctantly. He really is one of Hollywood’s most discreet people, in a town and an industry marinated in its own gossip.”
In his 1985 book, Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Summers that he had contacted Beatty about the rumour of him meeting Marilyn at Lawford’s home just a few hours before she died. Beatty responded that this was true, but did not wish to speak further at that time.
By his own account, Lawford had invited Marilyn to his home that evening but she declined. It may be true that Beatty met Marilyn not long before she died, as she was a regular guest of Peter Lawford and his wife, Pat. However, it seems unlikely to have occurred on the night of her death.
In 1962, Beatty was dating actress Natalie Wood, whose biographer Suzanne Finstad gives a similar account of their meeting (including the conversation about age), but stated only that it occurred at some point over the summer, and most significantly, she added that Wood was also present.
UPDATE: An extract from the newly-published book, Natalie Wood: Reflections on a Legendary Life, is featured in People magazine this week. Taken from a previously unseen essay by Wood herself, it includes her thoughts on Marilyn’s death, and may shed new light on Beatty’s story as well. (A former child actress, Natalie had a featured role in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!, the 1947 film in which Marilyn made her screen debut.)
“‘I had known her and seen her days before her death,’ Wood writes. ‘Her beauty, charming wit, and joy of life seemed paradoxical to the tense loneliness which she faced in her life, and was to me, clearly apparent. I realized that her tragedy reminds us all how vulnerable we are, and I chose to try to be stronger.'”
And finally … ‘doyenne of dish’ Liz Smith has also questioned the timing of Beatty’s anecdote, in her latest column for New York Social Diary.
“Beatty places the meeting on the night before her death — or the night of, really. He says he received a call ‘in the morning’ from an agent, telling him Marilyn had died. But the facts say otherwise. MM actually refused an invite from Lawford the Saturday night she died.
It’s most likely that Warren, fiftysomething years on, just forgot the exact evening. It is a very tender and considerate memory, in any case. This gallantry is typical of Warren, whose exes almost always adored him, even as they became his exes.”
Vanity Fair has released a one-off tribute magazine dedicated to Marilyn on the eve of her 90th birthday, as part of their ‘Icons’ series. It is currently available from newsstands in the US only, but can also be ordered from their website.
The cover image, by Bert Stern, has been used twice before by the magazine. It also appears excessively airbrushed, and is a disappointing choice overall. However, there are many more photos inside, as well as some of the better articles about Marilyn published in recent years.
Unfortunately, the special issue also includes more dubious pieces about Marilyn and the Kennedys, citing widely disputed sources like Robert Slatzer and Jeanne Carmen; and Tony Curtis’s questionable claims about his relationship with Marilyn.
Interestingly, the current issue of Vanity Fair‘s regular edition also includes a tribute to MM, with comedienne Amy Schumer recreating her ‘Golden Dreams’ calendar pose on the cover. And in France, Marilyn’s life is chronicled in L’Humanite, among twenty famous names from the 20th century – more details here.
UPDATE: Amy Schumer has been featured in another seemingly Marilyn-inspired cover shot, for American Vogue‘s July issue. (Marilyn wore a very similar red off-the-shoulder dress while promoting Monkey Business in 1952.)
Marilyn makes the cover of Vanity Fair‘s August issue (French edition only.) If the photo looks familiar, that’s because it was previously used on Vanity Fair‘s US edition, back in October 2008.
And by comparison with Bert Stern’s original photo, you can tell that poor Marilyn has fallen victim to the digital airbrush!
Some fans have suggested that another, more flattering Stern photo could have been used…
The magazine includes an article about Lawrence Schiller’s photos of Marilyn, filming the poolside scene in Something’s Got to Give. As some readers may recall, an extract from Schiller’s book, Marilyn & Me, was published in the US edition of Vanity Fair in June 2012. The French article, however, is written by MM superfan Sebastien Cauchon.
Which begs the question – why wasn’t a Schiller photo used on the cover? Many fans were asking the same question in 2012, when an Andre de Dienes photo was used on the US cover of Vanity Fair, and not Schiller.
The answer, according to Sebastien Cauchon, is that Schiller’s poolside nudes don’t include a full-face, colour shot of Marilyn making eye contact with the camera. Marilyn & Me‘s original cover (later rejected) showed a pensive, full-face shot of MM in a fur hat, on the set of Something’s Got to Give – but not a nude. Presumably Vanity Fair‘s editors felt that a cheerful beach shot from De Dienes – though taken 13 years previously – was more in keeping with the summery, au naturel theme.
And as Sebastien Cauchon explained to members of Immortal Marilyn’s Facebook group this weekend, his article differs from the 2012 extract because its main subject is the proposed Playboy cover shoot Marilyn was considering at the time of her death (though according to Schiller, she was having second thoughts about the project.)
The article includes Hugh Hefner’s letter to Schiller and fellow photographer Bill Woodfield, explaining the concept of the mooted cover – click on the photo below to read in full.
The photo shoot went ahead with model Sheralee Connors taking Marilyn’s place, and was featured in Playboy‘s 1962 Christmas issue.
Marilyn is featured three times in Vanity Fair‘s annual Hollywood issue: in adverts for Sexy Hair and Chrysler (US edition only); and in this full-page 1959 shot from Philippe Halsman’s ‘Jump’ series, illustrating an article about iconic women in movie history.
Model Kate Upton has sometimes been compared to Marilyn – mainly because she is blonde and voluptuous, and has been featured in several retro fashion shoots.
These comparisons are set to increase as Kate graces the cover of Vanity Fairthis month, photographed by Annie Leibowitz for the magazine’s 100th anniversary issue (with more pictures inside.)
Wearing just lingerie as she blows out a candle on a birthday cake, Kate looks more like any fifties blonde pin-up – a la Mamie Van Doren – than Marilyn per se.
However, news outlets have already likened the shot to MM in ‘Happy Birthday Mr President‘ mode, which will delight the editors of Vanity Fair, who have featured Marilyn herself on their covers no less than three times in the last five years.
Photographer Lawrence Schiller has spoken to the Huffington Postabout Marilyn & Me, recently featured in a Vanity Fair cover story.
“‘I was very flattered they printed 9,000 words of mine — the Taschen book is only 30,000 words, so in essence a third of the book was published in that issue,’ said Schiller at a book signing in Beverly Hills Thursday night. ‘But if you read the book in its entirety, you’ll see it has a little more intrigue and mystery. Of course, I think Graydon Carter, (the editor in chief of Vanity Fair) did a wonderful job. He and I certainly had some disagreements — not on the layout or the words but on certain other aspects — but I respect him immensely.'”
Actress Elizabeth Banks – who will read letters written by Marilyn in the upcoming documentary, Fragments – has posed as MM for Vanity Fair. (Interestingly, the photographer is one Norma Jean Roy!)
Banks starred as former first lady Laura Bush in W; more recently, she has appeared in The Hunger Games and TV’s 30 Rock. Following Marilyn’s footsteps, she played Cherie in a 2005 production of Bus Stop.