Marilyn: A Complicated Legacy

Marilyn at Amagansett, 1957 – photo by Sam Shaw

Over at the Huffington Post, Jill Lynne – who once spent a night at the Amagansett beachhouse where Marilyn and Arthur Miller stayed during the summer of 1957 – reveals her mixed feelings towards the icon:

“I didn’t want to allure men — or anyone — by my curvaceous torso, ample ‘girls,’ tiny waist, large baby blues or naturally platinum blonde hair. I wanted to be appreciated for who I was, what I knew, what I might contribute, my intellect, my spirituality and my God-granted talents — my visual art, my writing and my serious aspirations to make the world a better place.

Marilyn made it tough for women like me. It was an ongoing struggle — especially with men — to be taken seriously. I would attempt to engage in deep vis-à-vis, eye-contact conversation, only to notice meandering eyes no longer fixed on mine but having drop-down to boob-level.”

I have cross-posted my comment on the article here:

“Marilyn’s legacy to women is certainly complex. However, there was a strong side to her that is being missed here. During the repressive 1950s, MM luxuriated in her sexuality; she was outspoken about her experience of child abuse, at a time when the subject was still taboo; she was one of Hollywood’s first women to head her own production company; she stood up for her beliefs, whether political freedom (see Arthur Miller) or racial equality (see Ella Fitzgerald); she never relied on a man to make her living; and, despite little formal education, she pursued a lifelong quest for self-improvement.”

Hollywood’s Walk of Fame Under Threat

Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, where Marilyn Monroe and other stars dipped their hands in cement, is not what it used to be, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Donald Kushner of Grauman’s Chinese says the theater will need to begin taking out some imprints in the near future. ‘Some of the handprints are going to have to be removed so we can preserve them,’ he said. ‘Some of them, like Groucho Marx, have almost disappeared.’

This year has seen a record number of new entries – some perhaps reasonable enough, like Mickey Rourke, Jennifer Aniston and Robert Pattinson – and other more dubious choices, including Alvin and the Chipmunks and DJ David Guetta.

This had led some critics to protest that the ‘honour’ is being bestowed far too indiscriminately, and also to concerns that older stars’ prints may be removed to promote passing fads.

I suspect that Marilyn’s spot is safe enough for now. But Hollywood is where the American film industry began, and trifling as it may seem, the Walk of Fame is one of the few lasting memorials to the creative artists who made it great.

The Many Faces of Sadness

As part of the ‘Reel Sex’ series at Film School Rejects, Gwen Reyes looks back at My Week With Marilyn.

‘The thing about beauty is it can be a lonely sort of curse. One can only have the face she is born with, and no amount of doctoring or modern-day photo manipulation can truly change that. Look at Marilyn Monroe. At her peak, she was the world’s most beautiful woman; and at her lowest she was a tragic figure whose hidden sadness touched every character she performed—even the character “Marilyn Monroe.” It’s only fitting that a stunning actress best known for her ability to emote relatable sadness would take on the daunting task of playing Monroe.

Michelle Williams tackled the icon’s emotional instability with such aplomb and grace that it was often impossible to tell the actress from the character in My Week With Marilyn. Williams’ Marilyn dealt with her crippling sadness by playing with and seducing a young production assistant (played by Eddie Redmayne) who idolized the woman and relished in the moments of vulnerability she let escape her carefully crafted character. This tragic Monroe would smile through her tears, but the truth was always there under the surface—her pain was too great and too all encompassing to not use her sex appeal as a way to feel something, anything. Even if it was the intoxicating gaze of her male fans.’

Marilyn In Art: Rene Gagnon

One of six original prints by Rene Gagnon, from the series ‘Everything to Say, No Time to Say it’:

“I began this series on Marilyn Monroe for reasons beyond the reasons I used her years ago. Being an artist today, well any day for that matter, we are constantly being influenced by those who created before us and with us during our lifetime. I used her image originally because she was (is) still part of pop culture, obviously immortalized by Andy Warhol. I began to wonder what motivated Warhol and so many other artists to use her in the first place. Was it just about Warhol or was there more too it, more to her? I had questions, so I sought the answers. What I found is something I can’t quite put into words but it moved me to create this body of work.”

‘Niagara’ at Large

Journalist Doug Draper shares this baby photo of himself with his father and Casey Adams, who played honeymooner Ray Cutler in Niagara (1953.) After changing his name to Max Showalter, Adams would play a Life photographer in another Monroe movie, Bus Stop (1956.)

Tantalisingly, Marilyn was nearby when this snapshot was taken – however, one year-old Draper never took his chance to pose with the greatest movie star of all…

“So there I was in front of Niagara Park’s Table Rock restaurant with Casey while Marilyn Monroe was somewhere in the restaurant and people were coming out, saying to my parents how nice Marilyn was and ‘you should go in to see her’. My parents said maybe we should not go in with the baby – Meaning Me!!!!!

And all I am thinking, all these many years later is – ‘Please go in with the baby. Marilyn, who apparently always wanted a baby of her own, might quite likely have been willing to hold me – maybe even cuddle me (wow) – for just one moment for a picture from my dad. And what a picture that would have been, and I’ve never stopped making my poor parents feel guilty about this. And sorry for any offence to Casey Adams.”

Peter Lawford: Downfall of a Golden Boy

The English-born actor, Peter Lawford, was one of the last people to speak to Marilyn on the night she died. A new radio documentary, Brother-in-Lawford, about his glamorous life and tragic decline, airs tomorrow at 10pm on BBC Radio 2 – narrated by Buddy Greco, with input from Lawford’s son, Christopher, reports the Daily Express.

‘“Marilyn taught me to dance the twist but it didn’t feel amazing at six years of age – only when I told people later,” says Christopher.

Indeed his father introduced Marilyn Monroe to JFK and brought her to Kennedy’s 45th birthday party to sing her infamous rendition of happy Birthday.’

Facts, Fiction and ‘My Week With Marilyn’

Photo montage by Marilynette Lounge

Sarah Churchwell (author of The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe) talks to NPR about My Week With Marilyn. (Photo collage by The Marilynette Lounge)

“Michelle Williams’ performance is really quite extraordinary. And as you could hear even in the clip that you played there, she gets the voice unbelievably well. And she also gets Monroe’s in trademark mannerisms. But she resists the temptation to fall into the stereotype of the breathy whisper. She lets her speak like a human being and yet, it sounds and looks like Marilyn. So, that part I think they do really well.

Overall, however, the problem is, is what they’ve chosen to do is to film a story that is only very broadly based in fact. And a lot of its claims, I think most people who know about Marilyn’s life and work are pretty skeptical of the claims of the author of this book to have had some kind of a fling with her.

I mean, look, the basic facts of it are perfectly true. He was the third assistant director on “The Prince and the Showgirl,” which was made in 1956. He certainly met Marilyn and worked with her…(But) he does claim that she told him all kinds of intimate details, which coincidentally appear in virtually every biography of her.

So, there’s nothing in these books specifically about Marilyn that he couldn’t had found out. And more importantly, he waited some 40 years after the fact to publish them, which does make one think, you know, having read all of these biographies, that he capitalized on her fame and her familiarity and wrote a couple of books claiming a little bit more than happened.”


Marilyn, Through a Glass Darkly

Marilyn by Earl Gustie, 1959

Film-maker Joseph Lally (The Murder of Jean Seberg) argues that the many representations of Marilyn – in film and literature – can never match the original:

“The greater reality of Monroe was her talent, otherwise she be just another sad case, or one of many starlets. The soul of Monroe is in performance: that combination of comic timing, vulnerability as well as strength, and her precise body language, a grammar yet to be duplicated.”

Underlying Lally’s point about the latest wave of Marilyn mania, The Smoking Jacket features a montage of 13 celebrities in 81 Monroe-inspired poses. (In my opinion, the most appealing work comes from models who may not resemble MM exactly , but have clearly studied her essence while retaining their own.)

TrendHunter looks at Brigitte Lacombe’s portraits of Michelle Williams as Marilyn (in my view, more succesful than the movie she starred in.)

‘“Michelle was as close as you can get to becoming Marilyn; aware of my presence, but really in Marilyn’s world,” says the photographer who has worked on films with Martin Scorsese, Spike Jonze and Quentin Tarantino. “I was there for the very last scene on the very last night of filming, in this tiny pub just outside of London,” says Lacombe. “It was very intense and taut, [the crew was] almost delirious with fatigue—it was a smokey, crowded and elated atmosphere.”’