Marilyn, Joan Crawford and a Catty ‘Letter From Hollywood’

Letters From Hollywood: Inside the Private World of Classic American Film-Making – compiled and edited by Rocky Lang and Barbara Hall, with an introduction by Peter Bogdanovich – is the latest coffee table book from Abrams, the publisher who brought us MM – Personal and more recently, Hollywood Book Club. Marilyn’s own correspondence isn’t included (although she was featured in another anthology, Dear Los Angeles.)

However, Letters From Hollywood does include a reference to the night in 1956 when Marilyn met Queen Elizabeth II in a letter from Joan Crawford, also present at the London gala. Clearly Joan hadn’t changed her opinion of Marilyn’s revealing attire since publicly slating her in 1953 (see here.) And once again, her censorious tone does seem rather hypocritical – maybe she was triggered by Marilyn’s gold lamé…

“The book includes her handwritten 1956 note to Hollywood biographer and novelist Jane Kesner Ardmore about a royal premiere in London. After gushing about meeting Queen Elizabeth, Crawford included a few jabs at sex symbols Marilyn Monroe and Anita Ekberg.

‘I was presented to the Queen last night — nearly died of excitement and fear,’ Crawford wrote. ‘Of course, I was not too happy about being presented with that group of people representing the Motion Picture Industry, such as Marilyn you-know-who, and Anita Ekberg. Incidentally, Marilyn and Anita were howled at because of their tight dresses — they could not walk off the stage. It was most embarrassing.'”

Los Angeles Times

The Queen meets Joan Crawford (top) and Marilyn (above)

Kylie – With a Hint of Marilyn…

London street artist Pegasus – who has created several tributes to Marilyn – pays homage to Australian singer Kylie Minogue in a new Chelsea artwork. There’s more than a hint of MM, too – Kylie is wearing Marilyn’s ‘Blue Dragon’ costume, from that famous scene in Bus Stop (1956.) In her unforgettable role as beleaguered nightclub ‘chantoosie’ Cherie, Monroe sang ‘That Old Black Magic’ to an audience of rambunctious cowboys.

Kylie is a well-known Monroe fan, having performed ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in the past. And this isn’t the first time Pegasus has merged two icons, either – he once recreated Betty Grable’s most famous pin-up pose, using the face of Queen Elizabeth II.

Marilyn, Queen Featured on Proof Coin

Marilyn and Queen Elizabeth II – who were both born in 1926, and met in 1956 – will appear on this limited edition, 2012 Marilyn Monroe™ 1 oz Silver Proof Coin, soon to be released by The Perth Mint of Australia, reports Coin Update.

2012 marks 60 years since the Queen’s coronation, and 50 years since Marilyn died.

The Queen, the Showgirl and Me

My Week With Marilyn continues to make headlines. People magazine reports the rumour that Queen Elizabeth may screen the movie privately at Buckingham Palace. Marilyn met the Queen at a premiere in 1956, and stayed at Parkside House, near to Windsor Castle and Eton. (Colin Clark claimed that he took Marilyn sight-seeing, though like the story in People, this may be stretching the truth.)

Among several newly-released clips from the movie is Michelle Williams’ performance of Heat Wave, which Marilyn immortalised in 1954’s There’s No Business Like Show Business.

Finally, costume designer Jill Taylor has been interviewed on the Vintage Seekers website about dressing Michelle as Marilyn:

“What I’ve always said about Marilyn is that she was way ahead of her time in terms of how she dressed in her everyday life. She really picked up on the American sportswear thing that was coming about with designers like Claire McCardell and Norman Morrill, who were making clothes that were less structured. In Britain we’d just come out of the New Look and were still wearing a lot of very tailored suits, but Marilyn’s wardrobe was much looser – how we ended up in the 60s is how she was in the 50s.

People pick up on the iconic Marilyn, the ‘tits ‘n’ ass’ sex symbol thing, but her sense of style is great. She wore simple lines and neutrals – a lot of white, beige, camel and black.

Someone like Audrey Hepburn had this wonderful style, thanks to Hubert de Givenchy, which she carried through from her private life to her film life, whereas Marilyn didn’t really do that; the Marilyn you see in her movies is a very different portrayal of the girl who went off to studios.”

Brigitte Bardot Remembers Marilyn

Brigitte Bardot in London, 1956

Brigitte Bardot, the iconic French ‘sex kitten’ of the 1950s and 60s, is one of the few actresses to come close to Marilyn Monroe’s impact in beauty and charm.

The two women met just once, in the ladies’ room of the Empire cinema, Leicester Square, London, at a Royal Command performance of The Battle of the River Plate on October 29, 1956, moments after Marilyn had been formally introduced to Queen Elizabeth II.

‘I stared at (MM) hungrily,’ Brigitte recalled in her 1995 autobiography, Initiales BB, admitting that she was too nervous to speak, and simply gazed at Marilyn’s reflection in the mirror. ‘I found her sublime. She was always for me what every woman, not only me, must dream to be. She was gorgeous, charming, fragile.’

Monroe, then 30, was filming The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier. Bardot, at 22, was still on the cusp of fame, having appeared in seventeen films. Her big break came almost a year later, with the release of And God Created Woman.

Bardot retired from films in 1973, aged 39. Since then she has largely abandoned her glamorous image, devoting herself to campaigning for animal welfare. (Marilyn also loved animals and nature, and once told a reporter that she wanted ‘to grow old without facelifts’.)

Brigitte turns 76 later this month, and in recent years has come under fire for her uncompromising views on everything from immigration to homosexuality.

‘People reproach (Bardot) for still being alive, for putting out an image that they don’t want to see,’ Dominique Choulant, author of Brigitte Bardot: The Eternal Myth (2009) and CineMarilyn (2006), tells the Los Angeles Times today.

‘People abandon their icons as they get older,’ Choulant adds. ‘Every 10 years, there is an extraordinary actress who has a sexual impact on a new generation, someone who represents a new type of woman sexually.’ (Often, Choulant notes, they are iconic enough to become known by a single name: Marilyn. Bardot. Madonna. Angelina.)

‘I have a lot of things in common with Marilyn,’ Bardot wrote, ‘and she is very dear to my heart. Both of us had childish souls despite our starlet bodies, an intense sensitivity that can’t be hidden, a great need to be protected, a naivete! We stopped our careers at the same age, but, unfortunately, not in the same way.’