Miss Caswell: The Original ‘Arm Candy’

“Marilyn Monroe was the inspiration for the expression ‘arm candy’, which refers to any woman who decorates the arm of a man – to the envy of other men who see them together. Chicago journalist Marcia Froelke Coburn was commenting on Monroe’s appearance on the arm of actor George Sanders in the film All About Eve in a column in the early 1990s when she coined the phrase.”

Marilyn played an aspiring actress, Claudia Caswell, in the classic movie.

Definition from Wordspy:

“(ARM kan.dee) n. An extremely beautiful person who accompanies a member of the opposite sex to a party or event, but is not romantically involved with that person (cf. eye candy).

Earliest citation:

‘All About Eve’ (1950, FoxVideo). [Marilyn Monroe had] already had mini-roles in eight movies when she turned up as George Sanders’ arm candy in the party scenes of this film. But her jewel of a performance as an actress-on-the-make caught the public’s attention.
Marcia Froelke Coburn, ‘Marilyn’s enduring appeal’, Chicago Tribune, August 21, 1992″

Coburn’s essay was a review of a VHS movie collection, and her comments on Marilyn’s acting were sensitive and insightful.

“As time goes by, she appears more gifted than we knew. Not that this is always apparent in her movies. More often than not, she was miscast, badly used or even made fun of (she was the original blond joke). When she shines, it is sometimes by default.”

You can read Marcia Froelke Coburn’s article in full here

Saving Abel Inspired by Marilyn

US rockers Saving Abel‘s recent single, ‘Stupid Girl (Only in Hollywood)’ was inspired by Marilyn:

“As we were in the studio, I was reading some quotes from Marilyn Monroe, which I do give her credit for because she’s awesome and I’m one of her biggest fans. But she said once that ‘A wise girl always kisses before she’s kissed, leaves before she’s left, and forgets before she’s forgotten.’ Which if you kind of think about Marilyn that nails her — nail on the head. If you actually listen to the song, it actually says you’re not a stupid girl. So it’s basically a story about Marilyn Monroe and pretty much the Hollywood vibe.”

Jared Weeks, Point Music News

The quote, often attributed to Marilyn, goes like this:

“A wise girl kisses but doesn’t love, listens but doesn’t believe, and leaves before she is left.”

Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to trace where this quote came from, and this makes me wonder if Marilyn ever really said it. If she did, it is likely that it was said with a huge dose of irony, as Marilyn was rarely that calculating in love.

However, if Marilyn didn’t say it, then this quote doesn’t represent her at all. If anyone knows where the quote originates, please do leave a comment here.

There are several other unsourced quotes floating around the internet. Here are a few:

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

“I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go. Things go wrong so you can appreciate them when they’re right. You believe lies so eventually you trust no one but yourself. And sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

“I am good, but I am no angel. I sin, but I am not the Devil. I am pretty, but I am not beautiful. I have friends but I am not the peacemaker. I am just a small girl in a big world, trying to find someone to love.”

“Imperfection is beauty. Madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Marilyn’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame makes an appearance on the ‘Stupid Girl’ video. Here are the lyrics:

“When the lights hit your eyes at night
You’re hypnotized
Don’t be a fool for the wolves in disguise
You’re not a stupid girl
The grammar in your head is playing dead
Sugar-tongue rolling off your lips whispering
You’re not a stupid girl

Cause your climbing up the list
Pretty little, box office hit and miss

You always kiss before you’re kissed
You always wanna leave before you’re left
You’re never gonna be the same
Cause you’re flirting with fame in the city of angels
They’re calling your name
Only in Hollywood

I’m sorry for all the clouds in your life
You always were the kind who loved the rainy nights
You’re not a stupid girl
I think you only want, what you think you can’t have
You lie so much
You believe yourself
You’re not a stupid girl”

Washing Dishes With Marilyn

Marilyn at the Actor’s Studio, 1955, by Roy Schatt

Martha Coigney, who worked at the Actor’s Studio in the late 1950s, recalls meeting Marilyn Monroe in an interview with the Moscow Times. (Director Elia Kazan is named as the teacher here – he was a founder of the Actors Studio, as well as Marilyn’s friend.  By the time Marilyn joined, Lee Strasberg was the head teacher. Kazan was less active but still connected to the Studio, and probably kept a protective eye on Marilyn.)

“One of Coigney’s many tasks at the Actors Studio was to stop students who arrived late for class from entering the room until the first break. Monroe, whom Coigney recalls as a ‘lovely, sensitive woman that Hollywood typecast terribly,’ was invariably among that group.

Elia Kazan, the director conducting Monroe’s class, resolved to make an exception for the popular Hollywood actress. ‘When Marilyn arrives late, just let her in,’ he once told Coigney.

‘I can’t do that,’ Coigney told him. ‘I can’t make everyone else sit and wait and let her go in alone.’

‘Just do it,’ Kazan said.

But Coigney would not. When Marilyn invariably arrived late, Coigney would open the door, let Marilyn in and then invite the rest of the late students to enter with her.

This caused Kazan to have a private talk with the actress.

The next morning Coigney arrived at her usual early hour to open the studio and get it ready for the day’s work. A few minutes later Marilyn Monroe showed up.

‘What are you doing here so early?’ Coigney asked in surprise.

‘Kazan said he knew I would never come on time,’ Monroe explained. ‘But he said, Can’t you come early instead of late? So here I am.’ After a pause, Monroe added, ‘As long as I’m here, is there anything I can do to help?’

‘Sure,’ Coigney said, ‘you can help me wash the dishes.’

Monroe happily joined in cleaning plates and glasses.”

‘Colour Me Marilyn’ Reviewed

“My husband makes fun of me because I love to color.  Usually, I am coloring with a kid but there have been times when a kid stopped coloring and I just kept on going.  I really like this coloring book because I love Marilyn Monroe. The pictures are absolutely gorgeous, even before color hits the page.  I’ve almost colored all the pages, so now I need to get another one.”


‘My Week With Marilyn’

Michelle Williams

My Week With Marilyn, Colin Clark‘s 2000 memoir of his stint as a production assistant on The Prince and The Showgirl, the 1957 movie starring Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe, will shortly be filmed with Michelle Williams as Marilyn, Kenneth Branagh as Olivier, James Jagger as Clark and Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike, according to press reports.

Clark was the son of art historian Kenneth Clark (Lord Clark of Saltwood), and his better-known brother, Alan Clark, was a Tory MP in the Thatcher government of the 1980s, whose political diaries caused a sensation when they were published in 1993.

Colin Clark’s first memoir about Marilyn, The Prince, the Showgirl and Me (1995) was well-received (Joan Collins called it her favourite book of that year.) It was based on diaries Clark claimed to have kept during filming in 1956.

Five years later, Clark published a sequel, My Week With Marilyn, which he claimed was based on a ‘lost week’ not covered in his diary. He also claimed that he and Marilyn became quite intimate at this time, even (platonically) sharing a bed.

This second volume met with considerable scepticism, not least from Alan Clark who speculated that Colin had fabricated the diaries entirely. Nonetheless, it sold well and the BBC produced a documentary narrated by Colin himself, The Prince, the Showgirl and Me, first aired in 2003, a year after his death.

Though Clark’s books make for quite an enjoyable read, some Monroe researchers have found that dates in his published diaries do not match the original production notes for The Prince and the Showgirl.

Because the source material is contentious, many MM fans are already concerned that this will not be a fair representation of the events of 1956, and in particular the personal and artistic clashes between Monroe and Olivier.

However, it must be granted that the cast and crew appear stellar. Production of My Week With Marilyn is reported to begin in the UK this September, and will allegedly be produced by the Weinstein brothers (former heads of Miramax Films) and directed by Simon Curtis (who recently helmed the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford.

Michael Chekhov Festival in Connecticut

The life and work of Michael Chekhov is celebrated this weekend in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

The nephew of playwright Anton Chekhov, Michael was born in Russia in 1891, studied under Stanislavsky. He later developed his own theories of acting, and moved to the US on the eve of World War II. In 1939, Chekhov founded a drama school in Connecticut.

Chekhov’s most acclaimed screen performance was in Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945.) Six years later, Marilyn Monroe was introduced to Chekhov by actor Jack Palance, after each had talked about the problem of being typecast due to their distinctive physical appearance. Marilyn began studying with Chekhov twice a week, much to the chagrin of her on-set coach, Natasha Lytess.

Chekhov told Marilyn, ‘Our bodies can be either our best friends or our worst enemies. You must try to consider your body as an instrument for expressing creative ideas. You must strive for complete harmony between body and psychology.’ It was his contention that the only way to really enter a dramatic character was to use creative imagination, to ‘want to be another character’.

Marilyn studied Chekhov’s book, To the Actor, and on his advice, she also read Mabel Elsworth Todd‘s The Thinking Body. Chekhov once admonished Marilyn for her lateness, and she wrote him a letter saying how much she appreciated his patience and valued his friendship.

In 1952 they worked together on a scene from Shakespeare’s King Lear, in which Chekhov played Lear and Marilyn his daughter Cordelia. Though nobody else saw the performance, Marilyn considered it one of her most rewarding experiences as an actress.

At around this time, Marilyn gave Chekhov an engraving of Abraham Lincoln, with the note, ‘Lincoln was the man I admired most all through school. Now that man is you.’

Michael Chekhov died in September 1955. When she heard the news, Marilyn asked Arthur Miller to read with her from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

Marilyn stayed in touch with Chekhov’s widow, Xenia, and remembered her in her will. In 1962, Marilyn told reporter W.J. Weatherby that she wanted to see a statue of Michael Chekhov, and was prepared to petition President John F. Kennedy if necessary. Sadly, she would not live long enough to realise her dream.

Michael Chekhov is not as well-known as Marilyn’s other teachers, Natasha Lytess and the Strasbergs. His approach differed from the ‘Method’, which Marilyn would turn to after his death, in that he emphasised the creative imagination, whereas Strasberg urged his students to delve into their own psychological history to build a character.

This change of style proved controversial and while Marilyn won critical acclaim for her later performances, some friends felt privately that it made her too introspective and self-doubting. While Chekhov was deeply fond of Marilyn and believed in her talent, he never allowed her to become dependent on him as others did. Perhaps this is why she never felt used or let down by him.

More news on the second annual Michael Chekhov Theater Festival at Ridgefield Press or visit the website of The Michael Chekhov Center

Additional information from The Marilyn Encyclopedia by Adam Victor

‘Asphalt Jungle’: No. 1 Heist Movie

John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle tops a list of great heist movies  compiled by Joe Holleman in St Louis Today. In this classic thriller, Marilyn played Angela Phinlay, the young mistress of a corrupt businessman (Louis Calhern.) It was Marilyn’s first ‘big break’, and she remembered the experience with pride.

The Asphalt Jungle (1950): A fabulous film noir directed by John Huston, this is a tight, dark look at an ex-con trying to set up one more big job — a jewelry-store heist — after getting out of prison. Sterling Hayden is excellent in the lead, with great support from James Whitmore and Sam Jaffe. Marilyn Monroe has a small role.

Watch a trailer here

Maf the Dog: Call Off the Search

“My reporter was eager to ask Angelina Jolie about her plans to play Marilyn Monroe when they spoke at Monday’s premiere of Jolie’s new thriller, Salt. According to reports, author Andrew O’Hagan told the Edinburgh Book Festival that the star would fill Marilyn’s shoes in a film version of his novel, The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, opposite George Clooney as Frank Sinatra. But Jolie just looked bewildered. ‘Where did all these rumours come from?’ she asked. ‘I haven’t heard a thing about it! I don’t even know if I’d be the best person to play her.’ As to her rumoured co-star, she added, ‘I haven’t even talked to George about it.’ An embarrassed (or incensed?) O’Hagan – whose book contains the memories of Maf, a Maltese terrier given to Marilyn by Sinatra – went so far as to issue a statement about the confusion: ‘Despite what was said in the unchecked stories that appeared in the papers… I made no public statement about Ms Jolie or Mr Clooney… Everything about the film has still to be decided.’ Scarlett Johansson, anyone?”

The Independent

‘Blonde Bombshells’ in San Francisco

As Pola in ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’ (1953)

“Marilyn Monroe (1926-62) is the most famous Hollywood blonde, and she stars in several of the Blonde Bombshells movies playing the Castro Theatre from  Aug. 27-Sept. 5.”

Bay Area Reporter

Friday August 27 – MM Double Bill

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 3pm and 7pm

The Seven Year Itch 4:50 pm and 8:50pm

Saturday August 28 – MM Double Bill

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 3:20pm and 7pm

How to Marry a Millionaire 1:30pm, 5:10pm and 9pm

Sunday August 29

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 3pm and 6:45pm

Monday August 30

Bus Stop 3:20pm and 7pm

Friday September 3

Some Like it Hot 2:45pm and 7pm

Sunday September 5

The Misfits 2:30pm and 6:45pm

The ‘Blonde Bombshells’ season also includes films starring one of Marilyn’s favourite actresses, Jean Harlow, as well as Carole Lombard, Lauren Bacall, Lana Turner and Jayne Mansfield.

Full listings here