Tag Archives: Year of the Dress

David Thomson on Marilyn, JFK and THAT Dress

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Film critic David Thomson is not Marilyn’s biggest fan. “Monroe wasn’t a serious actress,” he once wrote. “I don’t think she could really carry more than a line or two at a time.” Nonetheless, he seems drawn to her image, having penned a snarky introduction to Marilyn Monroe: A Life in Pictures (2007.) In anticipation of the November 16 auction at Julien’s, Thomson has written another gossipy article for The Guardian about the Jean Louis dress worn by Marilyn as she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to President John F. Kennedy in 1962. (You can see a gallery of fans posing with the dress over at Immortal Marilyn.)

“You can say that only demonstrates her victimhood and makes her wishing more wistful. But then you have to see the plain delight with which she did these preposterous things, these moments, as if she could not resist or do without the comfort that came with the gasps and the whistles at Madison Square Garden when she came into the platinum light, shrugged off her wrap and stood there, with her massed blonde waves jutting off to one side, like the control on tower an aircraft carrier, in a dress that could have been painted on her. And she did not seem like the hesitant neurotic of fame and constant lateness when she broke into the birthday song. Just take a look. She seems happy, and an actress is hired to give us some sort of good feeling. This is maybe her greatest moment – the most reckless – and she knows it, even if the summer of 1962 is her hell.”

UPDATE: The ‘Happy Birthday’ dress was sold at Julien’s for $4.8 million on November 16, 2016, making it the most lucrative dress in auction history. The buyer is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, who plan to showcase the dress in future exhibitions. Read a full report from Scott Fortner on his MM Collection Blog.

Marilyn at Julien’s: Happy Birthday Mr President

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The ‘nude’ beaded dress worn by Marilyn as she sang ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962 will be auctioned at Julien’s next month, with bids starting at $1 million. There are also several other items on offer from the historic gala, including Marilyn’s own ticket and program.

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Legendary costume designer Bob Mackie began his career as a sketch artist for Jean Louis, and his drawings of Marilyn’s dress are also up for sale. At the time of his first attempt, Mackie didn’t know who the dress was for (although he was already working with Jean Louis on Marilyn’s costumes for Something’s Got to Give.)

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Five colour photos from the collection of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull, and an eight-minute film comprised of clips from the night’s entertainment, take us back to the events of 1962.

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Illustrator LeRoy Neiman captured Marilyn’s unforgettable performance in art.

E1D9E973-EEE9-4F5F-A0D4-B3E6DAAAE45D-9504-000005C0FA06B634_tmpProducer Clive David kept a commemorative tile signed by various stars in attendance, including Marilyn, Ella Fitzgerald, Jack Benny and Maria Callas. It would be Marilyn’s last major public appearance, triggering over fifty years of rampant speculation.

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UPDATE: The ‘Happy Birthday’ dress was sold at Julien’s for $4.8 million on November 16, 2016, making it the most lucrative dress in auction history. The buyer is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, who plan to showcase the dress in future exhibitions. Read a full report from Scott Fortner on his MM Collection Blog.

Marilyn at Julien’s in November

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The full catalogue for the upcoming Marilyn-only event at Julien’s Auctions is now online. Among the 1,015 items on offer are movie costumes from the collection of David Gainsborough Roberts; rare candid photos formerly owned by Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull; and personal property from the Lee Strasberg estate.

Some items were previously sold at Christie’s in 1999, while various  writings, drawings and correspondence have been published in books like Fragments, MM Personal and GirlWaiting. However, there is still a great deal of unseen material, yielding fresh insight into Marilyn’s life and times.

In advance of the auction in Beverly Hills on November 17 the Happy Birthday dress will be on display for one week only from tomorrow at the Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge Silverware in County Kildare, Ireland.

ES Updates will be covering all aspects of the sale, including a series of detailed posts about what’s on offer. You can also read an article about it on Immortal Marilyn now, while Scott Fortner will be interviewing Anna Strasberg at his MM Collection blog on November 1.

When Whoopi Met Marilyn…

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Whoopi Goldberg attended the opening night of Marilyn: Character Not Image (which she curated) at MANA Contemporary in Jersey City this weekend, reports NJ.com.

“‘We have pieces of her as the actress, but it’s not the actress acting,’ she said. ‘It’s the woman reacting to what’s happening around her.’

Pointing to a Greene shot of Monroe with playwright Arthur Miller, Goldberg said, ‘This is the Marilyn you know.’ Then, pointing to a photo of Monroe coming out of a pool, beaming and wearing a black-and-white bikini, she said, ‘That’s the Marilyn you don’t.’

The exhibit also includes some of Monroe’s drawings and videos of the late screen star narrated by readings of her poetry. The dress, though, is the star of the show.

Made of soufflé gauze and 2,500 hand-stitched crystals, the gown is displayed on a mannequin standing on a white pedestal. When Goldberg saw it, she said, ‘She had a big derrière.’

Monroe’s legendary performance — ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President’— came at a Democratic Party fundraiser at Madison Square Garden held 10 days before Kennedy’s 45th birthday.

The gown is up for auction in November. It last sold in 1999 for nearly $1.3 million, then a record. Martin J. Nolan, executive director of Julien’s Auctions, which is handling the sale, believes it will go for up to $3 million, though he thinks it’s worth far more. He called it the ‘holy grail’ of collectibles.

‘It’s a piece of art, but it’s Hollywood, it’s pop culture, it’s Marilyn Monroe, it’s the Kennedys — everything wrapped up into one piece of fabric,’ he said. ‘It’s truly amazing.’

Nolan added that, despite Goldberg’s comment on Monroe’s backside, the actress was petite in May 1962, weighing about 112 pounds.”

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Meanwhile, Priscilla Frank has reviewed the show for Huffington Post.

“The drawing above, titled ‘Lover watching his love sleep,’ was made by Monroe herself in the late 1950s, with Conté crayon on paper. The sepia-toned image depicts a woman who may or may not be Monroe herself, unclothed and reclining leisurely while her lover watches on, entranced.

It’s a simple drawing, but powerful nonetheless, not only in its aesthetic qualities but in what it reveals about its maker. The artwork hints at a different Marilyn than the bold vixen we see on screen. Rather, a Marilyn who is thoughtful, introspective, and creative ― an avid reader and obsessive writer. “

Marilyn’s ‘Happy Birthday’ Dress For Sale

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While Marilyn’s white halter dress from The Seven Year Itch may be her most iconic movie costume, the beaded ‘nude’ gown she wore to sing Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy in 1962 is perhaps the greatest marker of her place in history. After selling for $1.627 million at Christie’s in 1999, it will now be the star item in the Marilyn-only sale at Julien’s Auctions in November, Vanity Fair reveals.

As previously reported by ES Updates, the auction will also include the collections of David Gainsborough Roberts, Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull and Marilyn’s estate.  Collector Scott Fortner, who is helping to curate the sale and touring exhibition, has offered fans a chance to win tickets to the event and a limited edition box-set catalogue. To enter the contest, visit his MM Collection Blog.

UPDATE: The ‘Happy Birthday’ dress was sold at Julien’s for $4.8 million on November 16, 2016, making it the most lucrative dress in auction history. The buyer is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, who plan to showcase the dress in future exhibitions. Read a full report from Scott Fortner on his MM Collection Blog.