Jamie Adams: ‘Niagara Holiday’

'Niagara Holiday' by Jamie Adams
‘Niagara Holiday’ by Jamie Adams (2013)

Artist Jamie Adams has painted a series of black-and-white works inspired by tragic actress Jean ‘Jeannie’ Seberg, star of Saint Joan and A Bout de Souffle. After becoming involved in the Civil Rights movement during the 1960s, Jean was hounded by the FBI and eventually committed suicide.

Adams has also created another series in colour, transporting Jean to Niagara where she meets many characters, including Marilyn. While Marilyn’s presence is no doubt inspired by her 1953 movie, Niagara, her appearance is more reminiscent of Roslyn in The Misfits.

Both series are currently on display at the Philip Slein Gallery in St Louis, Missouri (until June 7.) Malcom Gay has reviewed ‘Jamie Adams: Recent Work’ for the River Front Times:

“In Niagara Holiday, for instance, Adams again wrestles with the notion of idealized femininity, painting an incandescent Marilyn Monroe in a bedroom scene overlooking Niagara Falls. A grouping of semi-clad figures romps on a bed to her right, but Monroe, oblivious to it all, dominates the canvas — her smile electric, her outsized breasts falling at odd angles, her masculine hand at her chest.

It’s as though there are two paintings here: one a dreamy bedroom scene, the other a subversive take on an oft-dissected cultural icon…”

Marie Irvine Remembers Marilyn

This week marks the 52nd anniversary of Marilyn’s fabled performance of ‘Happy Birthday Mr President.’ So many stories have been told about that evening, many of them untrue – as noted on the (unofficial) Our Marilyn Monroe Facebook page yesterday:

“52 years ago today Marilyn Monroe made history by singing Happy Birthday to President John F Kennedy.

This is one of the biggest factors that make people believe they had a passionate relationship. In reality, they met on a few occasions, only one being in private where they supposedly shared one night together. This was the same meeting where JFK asked Marilyn to perform this iconic rendition of Happy Birthday.

Little did either of them know what scandal it would cause years later to those ignorant enough to believe Marilyn and he were in a full blown affair and also believing that Kennedy and his family were the reasons for her untimely death. It’s unfortunate that these are the only things people see in Marilyn.”

In today’s Daily Mail, Laura Collins reports on an upcoming TV special about Marilyn’s final months, in which journalist Daphne Barak interviews former make-up artist Marie Irvine about her memories of the event.

Her presence is documented with a receipt, typed upon Irvine’s headed paper, and a note possibly written by Marilyn in the schedule, or ‘diary’ kept by her secretary.

“Entries in Marilyn’s meticulously kept diary, seen by Daphne Barak, show just how significant this performance was to the star.

Throughout the document her neat schedule is printed by her secretary. The only entry which merits a hand written note from Marilyn herself is May 19 ‘For Birthday Ball.’

Poignantly she seems to have harbored uncertain hopes that she might spend some time with the President.

In contrast with her otherwise rigid schedule the date of her return flight from New York is left vague:  ‘May 20th? May 21st?’ she wrote.”

No information about when or by whom this documentary will be broadcast is supplied. Daphne Barak is a controversial media figure, having drawn criticism for her ‘exploitative’ documentaries about Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse, among others (see here.)

Marie Irvine with journalist Daphne Barak

Marie Irvine was previously interviewed by author Keith Badman for his 2010 book, The Final Years of Marilyn Monroe. Her recollections are interesting, and seem genuine enough. However, her association with Daphne Barak may prove unfortunate.

Furthermore, the Mail‘s Laura Collins describes Marie Irvine as Marilyn’s ‘confidante’, which may be a stretch. Marilyn was kind and considerate towards all who worked for her. However, she was also a very private person who had only a few close friends.

Regrettably, the article also frames Marie Irvine’s memories within the more lurid context of the long-standing (and largely uncorroborated) rumours about Marilyn’s relationships with John  F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert – quoting an interview given by Kennedy aide George Smathers to Anthony Summers, author of Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, almost thirty years ago.

Marilyn relaxing during her ‘Fabled Enchantresses’ photo shoot with Richard Avedon, 1958
The Millers, by Avedon

However, Marie Irvine’s story, if genuine, is an interesting one – beginning with her first meeting with Marilyn.

“Marie had first met Marilyn as one of photographer Richard Avedon’s favorite make-up artists.

Born and raised in the tiny town of Pawling, New York, Marie had first arrived in the city with the intention of becoming a secretary. But she found the work boring and isolating and soon took a job as a treatment girl at Elizabeth Arden’s ‘Fifth Avenue Red Door Salon.’

She said, ‘I was so young and ignorant I wasn’t even scared.’ She soon became Arden’s confidante and was the last make-up artist trained by the great woman herself.

Her new position brought sudden glamour to her life. She was regularly on the set of shoots for magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, which is how she came to know Richard Avedon who asked for her services again and again.

Marriage and the birth of her daughter meant Marie had to leave her job with Arden but, she remembered, ‘the photographers kept demanding my services.’

It was how her friendship with Marilyn blossomed.

She explained, ‘I received a call from Richard Avedon. He said that he was shooting a special project for Life magazine with Marilyn Monroe. It was called The Look Alike project.

‘Marilyn would be dressed and made up as different legendary actresses. He told me that Marilyn was between movies.

‘She was living in New York with her husband Arthur Miller and she agreed to do the project whenever she had time.’

Recalling the first time she set eyes on Marilyn, Marie said, ‘How can I forget?! We were waiting at Richard’s studio. I was a bit nervous. She came covered with a big coat, so not to be recognised in the elevator.

‘When she entered, she took off her coat. I was taken by her smile – such perfect white teeth. Her hair was so light, her skin was perfect. She just looked at me and giggled.’

Ultimately that project took three months. Over that time Marie came to know Marilyn who was, she recalled, very much in love with her husband Arthur Miller at that time.

Marie said, ‘We could shoot it only when Marilyn felt like it. Sometimes it was in the middle of the night with a short notice. One time it was such a short notice, that I couldn’t find a baby sitter so Marilyn said, “Bring your baby to the set.”

‘I did. Marilyn was playing with her. She posed for photos with her. That is how my daughter has photos with Marilyn Monroe, taken by Richard Avedon. By that time we became friendly. You know, it was only Richard, his helpers, Marilyn and me.

‘So it was like a family atmosphere. She told me how much she wanted a baby. I heard she had lost one. She said she was trying to have a baby.’

At times Marilyn would produce bottles of champagne – sometimes half-drunk and recorked, ‘Can you imagine?’ ’ Marie laughed. ‘We could never figure out how she managed to put the cork back and keep the champagne bubbly.’

It is one of the reasons Marie doesn’t believe Marilyn had a drinking problem. If she did, she asked, ‘Would she have any unfinished bottles at home?’

At the time, Marie recalled, Marilyn and Miller ‘were so in love.’

‘Sometimes he would accompany her to the studio and watch her being made up and photographed. Other times he would show up at the end to pick her up and take her home.’

Marilyn’s home, as Marie remembered it, was a very ‘feminine’ space. She said, ‘After the divorce from Miller she stayed at the same home and didn’t change anything. It was all in grey and light beige colors…like her hair.

‘She had a small white piano and there was a coffee table she had borrowed from a friend in France. It was a mirror and the chairs reflected in it. She wanted to buy this table so much but her friend wouldn’t sell it. So one day she told me, “You know what? I will copy the table.” And so she did.’”

Irvine’s association with Avedon was previously reported in a 2011 article by Charlotte Bentley for Teen Vogue:

“My grandmother, Marie Irvine, was a makeup artist for New York’s elite… Along her journey, she even managed to become Marilyn Monroe’s go-to makeup girl in New York; she worked with the actress for Richard Avedon’s famed ‘Fabled Enchantresses’ shoot and even sewed her into the skintight nude gown she wore when singing ‘Happy Birthday, Mister President’ to John F. Kennedy (her last public appearance).
There’s a Polaroid of my mother as a baby, sitting on Marilyn’s lap that’s proudly displayed in my living room.”
Marilyn rehearsing at Madison Square Garden

In her interview with Daphne Barak, Marie Irvine also discussed the Kennedy gala, which took place on May 19th, 1962:

“‘She always called me herself, without any secretaries. She said she was coming to perform for President Kennedy’s birthday…Of course I read about the upcoming big birthday, and that Marilyn was supposed to be one of the stars attending, but it was exciting to be a small part of all that.’

The day itself didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts. Marie recalled, ‘I arrived to Marilyn’s home early in the morning as she asked. Nobody opened the door. I kept knocking. After an hour the door opened. Marilyn was standing there so apologetic.

‘She said she arrived on a late flight from LA and fell asleep. She felt so bad for me waiting that she went and squeezed fresh orange juice for me, and then went back to sleep.’

‘I was sort of putting her make up on for half a day, in between of her being on the phone because she was so upset. She said that (20th Century) Fox was threatening to suspend her from the movie, “Something’s Got to Give,” if she went to New York to perform at the president’s birthday.

‘She kept saying, “I don’t understand why I agreed to perform for John (Kennedy) before I signed the contract with Fox. It was in my contract that I needed to be in New York for John’s birthday.’

Marie said, ‘She was fired (by Fox) afterwards.’

Throughout the day, Marie said, ‘She kept practicing on her little piano, with a coach singing, “Happy Birthday. Mr Presidennnt.” She took a break when Nicky came and did her hair or, when I put more make up on. But the rest of the time she kept practicing. She wanted to be perfect. I heard this song so many times that day.

‘And then came the dress…designed by Oscar winning designer Jean Louis. It was layers and layers of material. Each one was see-through but all together, you didn’t see anything. It fitted perfectly to her body.’

The dress in nude-coloured mesh and marquisette, embellished with 2,500 rhinestones. It was so form hugging that Marilyn had to be sewn into it.

Surprisingly, Marie revealed, despite her starring role in the evening, Marilyn bought five tickets – at $1000 a head- to the gala event. It was the only way to guarantee an invite to the private supper afterwards, and an indication of just how insecure the star was in her own charms.

On the night itself she cut a solitary figure – accompanied by only her then father-in-law Arthur Miller’s father.

Marie said, ‘Well Marilyn was a loner. That is why she was so many hours on the phone. She would call people during the night.’

Moments after Marilyn left to head to the venue Marie noticed that she had forgotten the drop earrings that completed her look that night.

She said, ‘Marilyn didn’t like lots of jewelry, but this time the earrings were part of the whole look. So I grabbed a cab and rushed to Madison Square Garden. Go only knows how I convinced the security to let me inside but I made it in.

‘Backstage I saw several stars lining up waiting for their turn to perform. Only Marilyn had a dressing room, no-one else!

‘I remember Harry Belafonte standing outside her dressing room. I walked in. Marilyn was along. She turned, looked at the earrings and smiled. She said, “I knew you would come.”

‘That was the last time I saw her. She died several weeks afterwards.’

And however lonely a figure Marilyn evidently cut in the months across which Marie knew her, the make-up artist cannot believe that she committed suicide.

‘No way,’ she said. ‘I think she might have been confused, disoriented? Maybe she forgot how many pills she took.’

It is clear that the years have done nothing to diminish Marie’s memory or affection for the star she knew all those years ago and for whom being ‘sexy’ came effortlessly, though so much else in her life caused such anxiety.

‘Putting make up on her was easy because she had this perfect skin. She did use false eye-lashes that I used to curl and prepare ahead. But she never talked about a sexy look.

‘She was just “it” – naturally sexy.’”

Marilyn leaving the gala for an after-show party

Thanks to Laura Saxby, Lola Ramone and April VeVea

‘Marilyn on the Ball’ Sold for $491,748

A baseball painted with Marilyn’s image, and signed by Joe DiMaggio, has sold at auction for nearly $500,000 – wildly exceeding the original estimate of $6,000, reports the Miami Herald. ‘Marilyn on the Ball’ was sold via Heritage Auctions by collector Charles McCabe, to whom it was inscribed.


Sports artist LeRoy Neiman created a series of one-off baseballs painted with athletic legends.  “A special piece is a 1992 ball of Marilyn Monroe that is signed ‘To Charlie, Best Wishes, Joe DiMaggio,'” the Wichita Eagle noted. “‘What makes it rare is that DiMaggio, who was briefly married to the actress, famously refused to sign anything related to her,’ the auction house said.”

A small print of Neiman’s portrait, also inscribed to McCabe, was also included in the sale.

Girls Do Film: Marilyn as Harriet

Writing for the excellent Girls Do Film blog, Victoria Loomes takes a welcome look back at one of Marilyn’s lesser-known early roles, as secretary Harriet in 1951’s As Young As You Feel. (While you’re visiting the site, check out related posts on The Misfits and Some Like it Hot.)

“Monroe’s part is small but impactful: in one great scene she becomes so frustrated at her boss she sticks her tongue out. In fact, one of the most remarkable things about her performance is her voice: it lacks the breathy whispery tones for which she would become synonymous, instead it’s warm (almost husky) with a matter-of-fact edge. Although she might be a ditzy secretary, Monroe is actually a lot less ditzy that in some of her other roles, but the studio were keen to play up her bombshell role.

There’s a lot of characters and sub-plots in As Young As You Feel, but Marilyn’s wardrobe ensured that she stood out from the noise. Marilyn might have been ‘window dressing’ but Renié, the film’s costume designer, made sure she looked the part. Harriet’s wardrobe doesn’t exactly match her lowly secretary status…there’s no disguising Marilyn herself was a movie star in the making – it’s finished with rhinestone pins, stacked bangles and showy earrings.”

AmfAR to Honour ‘Red’ Marilyn at Cannes

Design by Ralph Lauren

AmfAR, the charity founded by Mathilde Krim and Elizabeth Taylor, will dedicate this year’s Cinema Against AIDS gala at the Cannes Film Festival to Marilyn, reports Women’s Wear Daily. (Dr Krim was the wife of Arthur B. Krim, the entertainment lawyer who hosted a party at his home after the John F. Kennedy birthday gala in 1962. Marilyn brought Isidore Miller along. And while she never visited Cannes, MM was chosen as the festival’s poster girl back in 2012.)

Sketch for Bulgari necklace, designed for AmfAR gala

Exclusive designs by leading houses from Salvatore Ferragamo to Alexander McQueen will be unveiled. Among the celebrities involved are Sharon Stone, Harvey Weinstein and Milla Jovovich, and Lana Del Rey is set to perform a song or two.

Design by Valentino

“The amfAR benefit on May 22, widely considered the social highlight of the annual Cannes Film Festival in France, will stage a red-themed fashion show of gowns created for the occasion. After shining a spotlight on the colors black and gold in previous years, Carine Roitfeld, who is overseeing the runway show for the third time, said she wanted to dedicate the show to Monroe.

‘She searched for love all her life, and I think she would have been a big supporter of the foundation,’ she told WWD.”

A Matter of Diction: Bette and Marilyn

All About Eve (1950)

At first glance, it’s hard to imagine two stars more different than Marilyn and Bette Davis, although they briefly appeared together in All About Eve. Many on the set found Davis intimidating, and few escaped her catty remarks.

However, as Bette later told a biographer, “I felt a certain envy for what I assumed was Marilyn’s more-than-obvious popularity. Here was a girl who did not know what it was like to be lonely. Then I noticed how shy she was, and I think now that she was as lonely as I was. Lonelier. It was something I felt, a deep well of loneliness she was trying to fill.”

In her latest column for the Chicago Tribune, Liz Smith finds another similarity between MM and Davis – both actresses were, at different points in their careers, known for their ‘mannered’ speech.

“Last weekend I watched two films, one a classic, the other not so much — though it has a cult following. I do mean William Wyler’s The Letter, starring Bette Davis as a woman who murders her lover and River of No Return starring Marilyn Monroe as a tough saloon singer fighting turbulent rapids, Indians and Robert Mitchum. Quality wise there’s no comparison, although River, directed by Otto Preminger, is a great looking movie, with excellent use of early Cinemascope. It’s an entertaining potboiler. The Letter, based on Somerset Maugham’s novel, is one for the ages.

And while you might imagine Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe were as unalike as two actors could be, they shared one quality — an odd manner of speaking. Davis’ clipped tones became famous instantly, and as she grew older, the static quality of her delivery increased, rendering many of her performances artificial. It took a strong director and an inspiring script to wrench Davis out of her habits.

AS for Miss Monroe, shortly after she began working in films, she met a dramatic coach named Natasha Lytess who convinced the insecure Monroe that her diction was ‘sloppy’ and she needed to enunciate more clearly. Well, Monroe, whose diction was just fine actually, did enunciate. Boy, did she en-nu-ci-ate. She came down so hard on her Ds and Ts she all but bit them off. Even she was not entirely comfortable with this, and when given a good script, her speech would relax, no matter what Miss Lytess said. River of No Return was not a script Monroe liked. The result was a performance that varies wildly. It’s fun to see her as a smart-talking, back-talking woman. And when she unbends her diction, she’s earthy and effective — refreshingly strong. But in other scenes, she comes off like a gorgeous Martian, who is just learning our language. It’s a pity, because despite Monroe’s objections, River was a change of pace, and all contract actors did westerns. They just did. (The chief pleasure of ‘RONR’ is the sight of Monroe in her physical prime, athletically running around in skin-tight blue jeans!)

But unlike Bette, Marilyn’s vocal impairment didn’t last. (Even in The Seven Year Itch, she is merrily relaxed.) After Monroe abandoned Hollywood and her 20th Century Fox contract, she went into the Actors Studio. Lee Strasberg convinced her, first of all, that she was nothing, had accomplished nothing. Only he (and wife Paula) could help her. That she was the biggest female star in the world at that point didn’t impress the Strasbergs. At least that’s what they said. Presto! Out with Natasha — who didn’t go quietly — and in with Paula, who became even more hated on Monroe sets than Lytess. (Natasha at least lectured Marilyn on discipline. The Strasbergs told her only the ‘art’ mattered, and she should take as long as she liked.)

There was little change in the essentials of Marilyn’s acting, except the disappearance of her excruciating diction, although every so often it would pop up on a word or two. Lytess must have used hypnosis on her!”

Warhol’s ‘Unforgettable’ Marilyn

Jonathan Jones, art critic for The Guardian, includes Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych in his list of the Top 10 Unforgettable Faces in Art, alongside the Mona Lisa, Nefertiti, Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, and Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream.’

“Is Marilyn’s face unforgettable, or is it already fading? Warhol’s eerie Diptych – a diptych is a two-panelled alterpiece in medieval art – asks this by contrasting two sets of screenprinted images. In one grid of repeated portraits Marilyn’s face is preserved in lurid colours, as bright and permanent as a golden death mask. In the other, her beauty decays before our eyes, lost in the copying process, preserved only as a crude inadequate trace of the beauty that has died.”

Writing Marilyn: Carl Rollyson

Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress, Revised and Updated, the upcoming new edition of Carl Rollyson‘s 1986 biography, now has a book trailer. You can see it here.

Rollyson has also spoken about the process of writing about Marilyn in an interview with the How Did You Write That? blog.

“HDYWT:  How did you come up with the idea for Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress?

Carl: While Norman Mailer’s biography of Monroe has been much maligned, it is, in fact, an important work not only about Monroe but about the genre of biography …Mailer used one word to describe Monroe that no other biographer had used. He called her ambition ‘Napoleonic.’  That was very astute.  The more I read about her, the more I could see his point.  She really did want to conquer the world and, in many ways, she has succeeded…I spent the summer of 1980 reading the literature about Monroe. I realized that even the most important books about her, including Mailer’s, missed the most important part of her biography. She had this terrific desire to be an actress.  Did she, in fact, become an actress, or just a star?

HDYWT:  How did you get started on the project?

Carl: I was fortunate that I knew Bruce Minnix, director of the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. Bruce had told me long before I ever dreamed of writing about Monroe that he knew two of her friends. So I called on Bruce, who put me in touch with Ralph Roberts, Marilyn’s masseur and confidant, and Steffi Sidney, the daughter of Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky, who helped Monroe invent some of the more dramatic stories about her life. They, in turned, connected me with others, like Rupert Allan, Marilyn’s most important publicist. Just as important were my contacts with Maurice Zolotow and Fred Lawrence Guiles, two of Marilyn’s early and most important biographers. They were wonderful to me, sharing their insights, and providing me with still others to interview. Guiles let me visit him in the hospital while he was recovering from a heart attack, and later he sent me a recording of his interview with Lee Strasberg, Marilyn’s most important acting teacher.

HDYWT:  How do you organize your research?

Carl: The breakthrough moment came when Susan Strasberg read part of an early draft. I had interviewed her about her memories of Monroe and Actors Studio, and we got along very well — in part, I think, because she could see I was going to write about Marilyn as an actress in a way no one else had done before. I sent her an early draft of the book, and she said: ‘When you tell the story of her life and her acting you establish your voice. But then there is also this other stuff that sounds like a treatise. Who are you trying to impress — your colleagues?’ That’s when I threw out about two thirds of the book and rewrote it as a narrative. As soon as I had my story, the organization of research fell into place.”

Inner Marilyn at the Jung Center

The Jung Center in Houston, Texas is a non-profit educational institute, named after Carl Jung and dedicated to the arts, psychology and spirituality. A new exhibition, ‘The Inner Marilyn‘, has just opened and will be on display until June 2.

The items featured are from the collection of Marie Taylor Bosarge, who produced and starred in the 2011 musical, Babydoll Reflects, and is president of the Music Doing Good foundation.

Associated events include ‘The Wounded Feminine’, a lecture and workshop led by psychoanalyst Sharon Martin, and a musical celebration of Marilyn’s life. This compassionate, humane approach sounds very promising.

However, I do have a few concerns – firstly, a chair said to be from Marilyn’s home comes with a letter of authentication by Robert Slatzer, who many consider a fraud (see here.) The chair may well be Marilyn’s, but I think a second opinion is needed.

Also, in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, the Jung Center’s Jerry Ruhl seems to imply that Marilyn may have had up to 13 abortions. This is an uncorroborated rumour propagated by Norman Mailer in his ‘factoid’ biography, Marilyn (1973.) In fact, Marilyn suffered from endometriosis which made her unable to carry pregnancies to term.

“There is no proof of it through medical records and stuff like that though, because abortions were illegal and so no records would have been kept,” Danamo notes on the long-standing MM Pages website. “However, to have that many ‘back-alley’ abortions would have surely messed Marilyn up gynecologically, but her autopsy report doesn’t report any abnormalities of this nature.”

Scarlett, Elle Under Marilyn’s Spell

Elle Fanning for Interview – photo by Craig McDean

Actress Scarlett Johansson – who is sometimes compared to Marilyn – talks to another famous MM fan, 16 year-old Elle Fanning (now starring as Princess Aurora in Maleficent), about her idol in the May issue of Interview magazine.

“JOHANSSON: Growing up, my idol was Judy Garland. I loved her fragility, but also her strength. I know that you love Marilyn Monroe. Do you relate to Monroe as a performer? What is your Marilyn story?

FANNING: I was seven when I first saw a picture of her. I didn’t know that she was such a big icon. But I would just look at her and I was mesmerized. She was beautiful and so … truthful. She’s not faking it. If she’s having a terrible day when the picture was taken, she’ll show that she’s really depressed and having a terrible day. You can see it in her eyes. There are all the layers behind it. She not like, “Oh, let me just put on a smile.” That year my dad got the DVD of The Seven Year Itch [1955]. I was probably way too young to watch it. I didn’t even know what the story was about, but I was just looking at her the whole time and the way she talked was so light. That year I was Monroe in the white dress for Halloween. It was interesting to me that she did mostly comedies but her life was so tragic.

JOHANSSON: Sounds like you were attracted to her, if not attracted to her tragedy—you could see there’s such a soul to her.

FANNING: I felt like there was something deeper. It wasn’t glossy—there were bumps. There was more to her than just her blond hair.

JOHANSSON: Have you seen The Misfits [1961]?

FANNING: No. I’ve seen most of them but I haven’t seen that one. I bought this Marilyn Monroe app on my phone, and I was reading all her quotes.

JOHANSSON: Wow. I think there’s something really interesting about a really young girl—seven at the time—noticing the depth to Marilyn, because so many people only respond to the surface glamour or movie star glitz of her.”