Category

IM Articles

The 55th Memorial For Marilyn Monroe – Thanks to Our Sponsors and Donors!!!

By | IM Articles, Marilyn Memorials & Gatherings | No Comments

The 55th Memorial for Marilyn Monroe is in the books, and we here at IM have a lot of thanks to give.  IM hosted two fun events that we could not have managed on our own.  Many people gave of their time, money, and Marilyn collections to make our raffles, door prizes, and general atmosphere a success.

 

We’d like to specifically thank:

Melody Lockard for her astonishingly beautiful logos created just for our events.  Buy our logo merchandise here.

Tracie Finite for her graphic design help creating the Pool Party Beverly Carlton key tags, check out her website here.

Holly Beavon for her help with arranging prizes, providing an audio system to the Pool Party, singing our Happy Birthday tribute, and generally being awesome!  Visit Holly’s website here.

Jill Adams for allowing us to store mountains of items at her home and delivering them to us at the Avalon for our events!

Gary and Oscar Vitacco-Robles (buy Gary’s books here) for their invaluable assistance in setting up for the pool party, and everyone else who pitched in to get us ready!

 

Cash Donations were offered by:

David Marshall

Shaney Evans

American Icon/American Rehab Campuses

 

Raffle and Door Prizes were gratefully received from:

Gary and Oscar Vitacco-Robles

Carolien Krijnen

Michelle Morgan

The Shaw Family

Tom Kelley, Jr.

Douglas Kirkland

Boze Hadleigh

Flatiron Books

David Wills

Eric Woodard

Richard Hanna

Tina Garland

Susan Bernard

Nathalie Terhorst-Lensink

Joshua Greene

Heather and Sean Williams

Melinda Mason

Debra Holden

Colin Glassborow

Emily Finch

Jill Adams

Marcelline Block

Eiji Aoki

Suzanne Sumner-Ferry

Mary Sims

Leslie Kasperowicz

 

More special thanks to our awesome venues and their staff:

The Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills

Mariasol Restaurant

The Orchid Suites Hotel

 

THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS!

Marilyn’s Contemporaries: Judy Garland

By | IM Articles, Marilyn's Hollywood | No Comments

Frances Ethel Gumm, born in Minnesota on June 10, 1922, was the youngest of three girls by married couple Frank and Ethel Gumm. The family of five was settled in the city of Grand Rapids, where the former vaudeville parents had purchased a movie house. Little Frances was known only as “Baby,” and at just three years old began singing with her sisters in between shows at their theater.

 

Judy as a child

Searching for better business opportunities, the Gumms bid farewell to Grand Rapids and migrated across the country to California, where Frank purchased a new theater in Lancaster. There, Judy lived an average childhood for a little girl with a mother pushing her children to make it in show business. The Gumm sisters sang and danced their hearts out for performances both in California and across the country. But as time went on, it became clear that Baby Gumm was destined to become the star. She stood out among her siblings, and the audiences melted at the child’s impressive, mature vocals and poignant performances.

 

It would be close to ten years before Judy finally got her chance at becoming a star. After a successful booking in Chicago in 1934, Judy returned to Los Angeles with a newfound confidence. In fact, it was during this trip that George Jessel gave the sisters the stage name Garland. Judy had chosen the name Judy after the song of the same name by Hoagy Carmichael. She continued perform at significant venues such as Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Cal-Neva Lodge. It was at the Lodge that Judy privately put on a chance performance for four important men from Hollywood. One of these men was agent Al Rosen, who finally convinced Ida Koverman of MGM to give Judy an audition. After vocal auditions, she was signed to the studio without a screen test. However, just as this beacon of light from MGM was shining her direction, she suffered a traumatic loss. Frank Gumm passed away just one month later as a result of fluid from an ear infection reaching his brain and spinal chord. This was a devastating loss, as Judy adored her father and was closer with him than her mother.

 

With the untimely passing of her father weighing heavily on her heart, Judy continued to pursue her work as an actress. She eventually landed her first role in a full-length film titled Pigskin Parade. She was disappointed in the final product, and in how she looked on screen. It was around this time that MGM began the deadly routine put upon many of its stars: taking prescription medication to control weight. At just fifteen years old, Judy was regularly consuming Benzedrine, Phenobarbital, and Seconal tablets.

 

At the premiere of Broadway Melody of 1938

By February of 1937, Judy’s vocal coach, Roger Edens, saw an opportunity to utilize a studio event to showcase her vocal talent to her superiors: Clark Gable’s birthday party. Using an original story and music by Carmel Myers, Edens rewrote material specifically for Judy to perform at Gable’s party. That song was called “Dear Mr. Gable.” She received an incredible reception from the crowd, especially from Gable himself. As a result of this event, Judy received just the boost she needed to become cast in a big feature film to be titled Broadway Melody of 1938, in which she performed the song she made famous at Gable’s party that day.

 

Not long after, songwriter Arthur Freed was determined to find a vehicle specifically for Judy. That project became the timeless musical The Wizard of Oz. Several years prior, Mayer had bought the property where it remained in his studio’s possession for years before it was decided that this would be the perfect film to center on a young, doe-eyed Judy Garland, who the public was vastly coming to adore.

 

Not long after Oz, Mayer awarded Judy a seven year contract at MGM. She was having a difficult time at home; her mother had recently eloped with a neighbor of the family who Ethel had been seeing even during her marriage to Frank Gumm. This was traumatizing for Judy, and distanced her even further from Ethel, who was already trying to control Judy’s finances.  Her next film would be her first real adult role: For Me And My Gal. Judy campaigned for newcomer Gene Kelly to play opposite her in what would become his first picture.

 

It wasn’t long before Judy met musical arranger David Rose. There was a large age difference; Judy was only nineteen years of age while David was thirty-one. Ethel made it known that she was against their union, but the two eventually married in the summer of 1941, a marriage that would last only a year and a half. They grew farther apart as time went on, each becoming too busy in both of their careers.

 

Judy with daughter Liza

Judy then began a romance with director Vincente Minnelli beginning on the set of Meet Me In St. Louis. The two married in 1945. The first of Judy’s children, daughter Liza Minnelli, was born the following March. It wasn’t long before Judy was back to work at MGM, reunited with her former co-star, Gene Kelly, for The Pirate. By this time, she and Minnelli were already having difficulties in their marriage. They would remain together for only six years.

 

Her heavy reliance on pills made it difficult for her to appear at the sets on time. There were frequent changes in her behavior, and MGM was already putting her under enough pressure. In 1949, she was replaced by Ginger Rogers for the film The Barkleys of Broadway, and after that, Betty Hutton for the musical Annie Get Your Gun. These events would lead to her suspension from the studio, a suspension she was relieved of after just a few months of rest, to return to film Summer Stock. By 1950, she was officially fired from MGM.

 

Penniless with no job, Judy soon ran into manager and producer Sid Luft, who she had previously met several years before in Hollywood. They began to see each other while Judy’s divorce from Minnelli was being finalized. She soon signed with the William Morris Agency, where she was thrust into the world of radio shows with big names such as Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

 

In April of 1951, Judy received a tremendous reception for her stage comeback at London’s Palladium, a performance that inspired a European tour. Judy became Mrs. Sid Luft in 1952, and she gave birth to second daughter Lorna that same year in November. After Lorna’s birth, Judy dove straight into filming the musical remake of A Star Is Born (1954), after which her third and last child, son Joey Luft, was born.

 

******* With another marriage on the rocks, she struggled to pay off her debts with theater engagements after settling in London during another comeback at the Palladium. Her divorce from Luft, who had become her manager, wouldn’t become final until 1965, after which she immediately began a romance with little-known actor Mark Herron, who she married that same year.

 

In the 1960s

One of the highlights of her stage career came in April of 1961, when she put on a historic performance at Carnegie Hall. Still relentlessly adored by the public, she was able to reach audiences at home when CBS picked up “The Judy Garland Show,” which ran for four years before it was dropped in 1964.

 

She divorced Herron in 1967, and in 1969, just months before her death, married night club businessman Mickey Deans. Tragically, at just forty-seven years old, Judy passed away suddenly as the result of an overdose of Seconal tablets.

 

“What it amounts to, really, is that I’ve been a little girl who hasn’t quite known where she is going. But now, at least, I know. Finished? Why, I’m right at the beginning of something.” –Judy Garland, 1967

Personal Connections

Judy was introduced to dangerous prescription drugs as a teenager at MGM to help her sleep, keep her awake, and control her weight. Marilyn also battled prescription drug addiction, frequently consuming large amounts of sleeping pills for her insomnia. Both women relied heavily on their therapists, and would both die from an accidental barbiturate overdose.

 

Both women were distant from their mother; Marilyn never saw her mother after the 1940’s due to her mental illness and in Judy’s case, the two only grew more apart as time went on. Ethel was overly controlling of her daughter’s finances and personal life, and allowed her to be mistreated by MGM.

 

Judy was introduced to psychoanalysis early on in her career.. Marilyn began psychotherapy in 1952, but delved into it deeper beginning in 1955 at the suggestion of Lee Strasberg, and continued to see a therapist often throughout the rest of her life.

 

Judy and Marilyn at the 1962 Golden Globes

Judy and Marilyn even met on a few occasions. Two of which were the 1959 dinner to welcome Nikita Khrushchev to Hollywood, and the 1962 Golden Globes ceremony. In 1967, Judy spoke about Marilyn in an article for Ladies Home Journal:

 

“That beautiful girl was frightened of aloneness – the same thing I’ve been afraid of. Like me, she was just trying to do her job. To garnish some delightful whipped cream onto some people’s lives. But Marilyn and I never got a chance to talk [about our struggles]. I had to leave for England, and I never saw that sweet, dear girl again. I wish I had been able to talk to her the night she died.”

 

Marilyn and Judy had a lot in common in their personal lives, both negatively and positively. But, one thing can be said for sure about them both: neither will be forgotten. Their contributions to movies, television, and the tremendous light they gave to the world during their brief but beautiful time on this earth will live on forever.

 

-Ky Monroe for Immortal Marilyn

In Memorium: David Gainsborough-Roberts

By | IM Articles, Marilyn News | No Comments

David Gainsborough-Roberts was a legend in the world of Marilyn collecting, in fact, collecting full stop. He will be known to every Marilyn fan as the owner of one of the biggest collections of personal/film worn memorabilia in the world.

And yet, we knew him. He was not one of those anonymous collectors who scoops up a precious item and never allows it to be seen again. He was extremely kind and generous with his pieces, displaying them all over the world, giving accompanying talks on Marilyn and interacting with her fans. Always friendly, always charming.

His passion for collecting began when he was nine and an elderly aunt gave him a fragment of HMS Victory.

Born in Buxton, Derbyshire in 1943, His early aspirations to become an actor soon waned and he became a promoter for of all things, professional wrestling. This was followed by a period working for his father’s merchant bank, Hardy Roberts & Sons. In true David style, he then entered the world of music promotion (his clients included The Kinks).

However, his life changed forever when he purchased Marilyn’s dress from ‘There’s no Business Like Showbusiness’ at Christie’s in 1991.

“I was buying certain stuff, not with any idea of buying Marilyn, when, in 1991, I bought her dress from There’s No Business Like Show Business. The sale became such a big smash hit. It got in the papers and everybody seemed to be talking about it. There was a near riot in Christie’s when I bought it. That was how it all started: April 29th 1991. It was a day that changed my life – and goodness knows I had no intention of it doing so. When I got back to Jersey, my mother said: I don’t know what you’ve been doing, but the phone won’t stop ringing!”

Even though you could say Marilyn was the biggest part of his collection, it was a mere fragment in an unbelievable time capsule. Other items included keys and coats from the Titanic, Winston Churchill’s hat, John Lennon’s cufflinks, Elvis’ ring, guns owned by Billy the Kid and John Dillinger, and even, Queen Victoria’s underpants. There were hundreds of items, and he was content to share them all. He once described his passion for collecting as ‘turning the pages of a history book’. However, it was Marilyn that people wanted to know about ‘she kind of took over’ he said. People from all over the world would contact him and he was always happy to respond.

He made his home in Jersey, and was a huge part of island life. The Jersey Museum commissioned a portrait of him in 2016 to thank him for their most successful exhibition ever, on, of course, Marilyn.

In November 2016 David sold his collection, raising £1.5m for charities on his beloved Jersey. On selling, he said “I hope my insatiable appetite for the curious, the famous and the infamous will inspire a new generation of custodians”.

His brother described him as someone who had a zest for life whom everyone loved, a character. And it was true.

Thank you, David, on behalf of Marilyn fans everywhere.

Remembering James Spada

By | IM Articles, Marilyn News | 4 Comments

James Spada, author of the much-loved 1982 book, Monroe: A Life in Pictures, has passed away aged 67.

He was born in Staten Island, New York, in 1950 – the year in which a young Marilyn Monroe made her breakthrough in Hollywood. “When I first saw a photo of her in the newspaper,” James said, “I was totally enamored.” He would later write that his father, Joseph Spada, “always encouraged me in my love for Marilyn.”

Like many others, James vividly remembered hearing of her tragic death in 1962. “I was twelve – a kid with a scrapbook,” he told Immortal Marilyn in 2013, recalling that when a friend of his brother called to tell him the news, he turned on the radio and burst into tears. “After she died there wasn’t much interest in her in the press,” James recalled, “not like there is today.” In 1963 he founded the Marilyn Monroe Memorial Fan Club with fellow fan George Zeno. Over the next four years, the friends produced regular bulletins and yearbooks, mailing them to other admirers.

While in college, James edited EMK, a quarterly dedicated to Senator Edward Kennedy. In 1970, he worked as an intern in Kennedy’s Boston office. His debut book, Barbra: The First Decade, was published in 1974. The multi-talented Streisand was the quintessential star of her era, and James would become a leading authority on her remarkable career. This was followed by The Films of Robert Redford in 1978. And in 1979 came The Spada Report, based on hundreds of interviews with gay men, and documenting a social revolution in progress.

Twenty years after Marilyn died, James reunited with George Zeno for a lavish tribute. Monroe: A Life in Pictures combines more than 200 black-and-white photographs, including film stills, studio portraits and newspaper shots, with a mid-section of full-page, glossy colour images by Andre De Dienes, Cecil Beaton and others. At the time, many were unknown to the public. Douglas Kirkland’s gorgeous cover photo epitomises Marilyn’s unique blend of sex and innocence, and a life poised between beauty and sadness. Inside, Spada retold her fabled story through extended captions, enhancing each photograph with his impeccable research and sensitive commentary. Monroe: A Life in Pictures was a bestseller, spawning many imitations but seldom equalled. Its success enabled James to produce similar volumes on Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli, Katharine Hepburn, and Jane Fonda.

In 1987, James published his first non-pictorial biography, Grace: The Secret Lives of a Princess. This was followed by Peter Lawford: The Man Who Kept All the Secrets (1991), and Bette Davis: More Than a Woman (1993.) He also wrote several coffee-table books about America’s political families, including Jackie: Her Life in Pictures (2000.)

In more recent years James completed a biographical novel about Edgar Allen Poe and three collections of his own erotic photography, as well as an anthology, The Romantic Male Nude. His final book, Barbra Streisand: In the Camera Eye, was published in 2014. Monroe: A Life in Pictures is now available on Kindle, and in 2016, a rather gossipy extract from his biography of Peter Lawford was reprinted in a one-off magazine special, Vanity Fair Icons: Marilyn Monroe. He also mentioned Marilyn frequently on his entertaining blog, James Spada’s Hollywood.

James was a popular speaker at the annual memorial services hosted by our sister club Marilyn Remembered in Los Angeles, including the fiftieth anniversary of her death in 2012. Many fans have spoken fondly of their personal encounters with this gentle, approachable man. Set apart by visual elegance and a genuine enthusiasm, Monroe: A Life in Pictures remains a classic of its kind. If you don’t have a copy it can still be found online or in used bookstores, earning a rightful place in every fan’s library, and all our hearts.

James Spada attended Immortal Marilyn’s 2012 Pool Party during Memorial Week.  Below are photos of James, who was happy to sign autographs and pose with fans.

 

-by Tara Hanks

Natural or Not? The Facts About Marilyn Monroe And Those Plastic Surgery Rumors

By | IM Articles | No Comments

When a woman is so timelessly and stunningly beautiful as Marilyn Monroe, people are curious as to whether it’s all natural born beauty or if she’s had nips, tucks, lifts, and enhancements. Rumors circulate all the time about whether or not Marilyn Monroe had plastic surgery and to what extent, and lengthy debates never seem to come to a conclusion. So what are the facts about Marilyn’s alleged plastic surgery?

1. Rhinoplasty

An x-ray of Marilyn’s nose. 

Comparison of Marilyn’s nose.

Some authors have claimed that Marilyn had minor rhinoplasty, i.e., a nose job, although they do not allege that she had her entire nose reshaped but simply had the tip of it trimmed to appear less bulbous. Comparison photos do not show much difference in her nose, and any minor changes could also be attributed to greater makeup skill and lighting techniques. The source of the nose job claim is unknown, as it does not appear anywhere in her known medical records. Her medical records do indicate that she was seen for a possible nasal fracture on June 7, 1962, but there is no mention of previous surgery.  The nurse who worked for Marilyn’s surgeon, Dr. Gurdin, was Dorothy Henderson. Henderson stated that while she did assist  with Marilyn’s medical treatments, she had no recollection of anything being done to her nose.  Until solid evidence is forthcoming, this claim is dubious.

2. Electrolysis

A comparison of Marilyn’s hairline across many years.

 

Some books have alleged that Marilyn underwent hairline electrolysis, a method that in her era utilized a thin metal probe to reach into the hair follicle to permanently remove hair. Some sources claim she did it to minimize her widow’s peak while others state contrarily that she did it to emphasize it. In the 1940s and 50s, electrolysis was a painful and lengthy process, it would have caused redness and irritation along her hairline and could take up to a year of treatments before being considered complete. Marilyn was modeling nearly nonstop during this time and there are certainly no photos of her with a reddened and inflamed forehead. Also, comparison photos show that her widow’s peak remains practically the same over the entire course of her career. This claim appears to be a myth.

 
3. Chin Implant

In 2013, the rumors of Marilyn having had chin augmentation were finally put to rest when the medical records of Dr. Michael Gurdin came up for auction. Dr. Gurdin’s notes from July 14, 1958 state that Marilyn had come to see him about a ‘chin deformity’ and that she’d had a  small cartilage implant in 1950. His notes further state that the implant had become reabsorbed over time, there was ‘mild flatness’ of the chin, and that he could not feel the implant anymore under the skin. There are also a handful of photos where the small scar on her chin is visible, further proving that this rumor is in fact true.

 

4. Breast Augmentation

Nudes shot late in life show no sign of breast augmentation.

Also in 2013, a salacious rumor was started by Joan Kron, editor of Allure magazine. She wrote that a ”friend” of Marilyn’s,  Rosemary Eckersley, stated that near the time of her death, Marilyn had painful breast infections as a result of silicone injections. One does not have to dig very deep to find these allegations absurd. Firstly, there is no record of Marilyn having a friend by the name of Rosemary Eckersley. Marilyn authors, scholars, and colleagues were left befuddled by the name, as it does not appear anywhere in correlation to Marilyn’s life and had never been mentioned until the 2013 article.
While Marilyn’s breast size did fluctuate, as nearly all women experience, if one looks at the topless photos taken by Bert Stern in June 1962, her breasts are actually significantly smaller than in the zaftig figure Marilyn had throughout the 1950s. Following her gall bladder surgery in 1961, Marilyn’s weight dropped down to 115 pounds, and naturally her breasts reflected this weight loss. If she had the alleged breast infection, she certainly would not have felt comfortable posing topless as her breasts would have been red and sore. Her autopsy also indicates there was nothing unusual about her breasts, an infection and injected silicone would certainly have been noted. This rumor is utterly false.

5. Dental/Orthodontic Work

Marilyn’s “perfect teeth”

It is said that in 1948, Marilyn’s then boyfriend Fred Karger took her to see orthodontist Dr. Walter Taylor, and paid for a retainer to correct an overbite and teeth bleaching. Details are vague and documentation is difficult to locate so this story is hard to confirm or deny. It is interesting, however, that Marilyn’s file for the Blue Book Modeling Agency in 1946 makes significant notation that her teeth are ‘perfect’. Her long time dentist, Dr. LeRoy Nisson, recalled in 2015 that Marilyn had  ‘the most beautiful set of teeth” and “the best teeth I’ve ever seen”
A more macabre and salacious rumor was started in 2015 by mortician Allan Abbott. The ghoulish Abbot made outrageous claims about the condition of Marilyn’s body, including that she had false teeth. He went so far as to claim this was noted in her autopsy report. Abbot has a long history of telling exaggerations and outright falsehoods in regards to Marilyn and other celebrities, and this is no exception. There is zero evidence that Marilyn had dentures, and her autopsy report makes no mention of her teeth which by all other accounts were her own.

Based on known documentation, the only plastic surgery claim about Marilyn that can be confirmed for certain is that she had a small chin implant. It’s very telling that this is the only rumor that has substantiation, both through doctor’s records and photographs, while the other speculations have little to support them other than hearsay. The truth of it is that Marilyn had extremely minimal work done- so minimal that it’s undetectable in before and after photos, so minimal that when her chin implant was reabsorbed it didn’t alter her stunning face in any perceptible way.  However, even if every single claim of plastic surgery were true, it does not diminish Marilyn’s remarkable beauty. Often comments about her having had cosmetic surgery are made in an effort to demean and belittle her, as if the person stating it refuses to accept that she could have possibly been that beautiful all on her own. These statements reveal far more about the insecurities of the person making them than they do about Marilyn. One does not need to use allegations of plastic surgery as an insult or a put down, and women shouldn’t be demeaned for their nips and tucks or however else they choose to present themselves to the world. Marilyn faced a litany of scrutiny under a microscopic lens during her lifetime and our society has progressed to criticize women’s appearances even more harshly. Let us appreciate her for how she chose to look without picking apart what was natural and what may have been enhanced, and let us stop trying to assuage our own insecurities by feasting on the flaws, real or imagined, of other women.

 

Marijane Gray for Immortal Marilyn

Review – Marilyn Monroe: Auction of a Lifetime

By | IM Articles, Marilyn News | No Comments

A new Channel 4 documentary, Marilyn Monroe: Auction of a Lifetime, begins with some footage of the star in 1960, arriving in New York for test shots on what would be her last completed movie, The Misfits. The grainy clip was filmed by Frieda Hull of the Monroe Six, a gang of teenage fans based in Marilyn’s adopted city. One of the perks of Frieda’s job – airline stewardess – was a proximity to her idol on both coasts, and with Monroe’s goodwill, she amassed a large archive of candid photos which remained unseen until her death in 2014. A batch of colour snapshots taken the same day, was purchased recently by a former acquaintance of Hull, who claimed she told him Marilyn was secretly pregnant at the time by her Let’s Make Love co-star, Yves Montand. This random piece of hearsay was reported in the Daily Mail, and the National Enquirer who upped the ante by stating the father of this phantom baby was future president John F. Kennedy.

“She was an object of desire for men and an inspiration to women,” says narrator Tracy Ann Oberman, as familiar images of Marilyn cut to a still of Madonna in her Blond Ambition days. Ever since the first dedicated auction at Christie’s in 1999, her possessions have become the most covetable of any modern celebrity. After a touring exhibit stopping off in London, Ireland, the USA (via a transatlantic cruise) and China, Julien’s Auctions held the largest sale to date in November 2016, drawn mostly from the estate of Lee Strasberg, and ranging from household goods and cosmetics to sketches and poems; the British collector David Gainsborough Roberts, who has amassed a number of her most famous movie costumes; plus smaller archives like Frieda Hull’s, and mementoes from the estate of Lois Weber, Marilyn’s former publicist. Even the four-volume catalogue, spread over 1,000 pages, is a collectors’ item priced at $400.

“This is the last chance to see her through the things she loved,” Oberman says, although several lots (especially photographed) have reappeared on EBay. Even the auction’s centrepiece, the beaded ‘nude’ dress worn by Marilyn on John F. Kennedy’s birthday, first went on the block in 1999. It was sold again last November for $4.8 million – the most ever paid for a dress. The buyer, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, will present it in future exhibitions. Some of Marilyn’s cash-strapped fans wish her property had been kept together, perhaps in a museum, but not even the Smithsonian can afford to invest now. Nonetheless, the diehard fans are a fairly close group, and I recognised several familiar faces among the bidders – including lookalike Suzie Kennedy, who also voiced some of Marilyn’s private notes for the documentary. Decorated for the occasion with giant, wall-to-wall photographs, the Beverly Hills auction house resembled the ‘Church of Marilyn’ in Ken Russell’s rock opera, Tommy.

Although there are some tantalising remnants from Norma Jeane’s early days, the narrative quickly skips ahead to the ‘red velvet’ calendar shots taken by Tom Kelley in 1949, when Marilyn was still relatively unknown. By 1952 she was on the cusp of fame, and as Sarah Churchwell observes, she would be the first major star to survive a nude photo scandal. “You don’t become the biggest movie star in the world by accident,” Churchwell concludes. At dinner with her agents, Marilyn jotted down notes on the menu, spelling out her vaulting ambition (“I can be one of your greatest stars”) and dramatic technique (“Think with your body – let go physically to pick up emotionally…”)

As actress Ellen Burstyn points out, this holistic approach was inspired by one of Marilyn’s favourite books, The Thinking Body by Mabel Elsworth Todd. Winning the role of Lorelei Lee in the glitzy musical, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), would be her reward. The dress worn by Marilyn in the opening number, says fashion historian Amber Butchart, made her “the quintessential showgirl – blood red, sequins everywhere, and form-fitting with that incredible plunging neckline.” (However, some experts believe the costume sold at auction may actually have been Jane Russell’s identical number.)

“I was astonished that a girl could be that sexy on purpose,” Ellen Burstyn recalls of Marilyn’s screen persona. “She revolutionised the female image.” Her explosive sexuality would also wreck her marriage to Joe DiMaggio. Candid photos by Frieda Hull show Marilyn on a New York street one September evening in 1954, preparing to film an outdoor scene for The Seven Year Itch. Arriving on Lexington Avenue, she wore her mink coat – a gift from Joe – over a cream, silky halter dress designed by Travilla for the movie. Her hair was still pinned, and she clutched a script. A raucous crowd gawped as she stood over a subway grate, her skirt blowing in the cool night air.

The city became her sanctuary, as she left marriage and Hollywood behind. Sarah Churchwell – author of a ‘meta-biography’, The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe – describes the move as “a laudable attempt to create professional control … a new side of Marilyn was emerging.” She also came under the influence of Lee Strasberg, head of the Actors Studio. Marilyn in Manhattan author Elizabeth Winder says he taught Marilyn to “lean into her sensitivity.”

When Marilyn renegotiated her contract with Twentieth Century Fox, Time magazine praised her as a “shrewd businesswoman.” Her ‘comeback’ movie, Bus Stop, established her as not only a sex symbol, but also a formidable actress. Co-star Don Murray recalls that she dubbed her skimpy costume as weary nightclub singer Cherie a “snake outfit,” making serpentine gestures while singing ‘That Old Black Magic’ to a room of drunken cowboys. Amber Butchart notes that Marilyn chose authenticity over glamour, ripping up her fishnet stockings and clumsily darning them.

This UK-made documentary, helmed by Rosie Schellenberg, places a special focus on The Prince and the Showgirl, the film Marilyn made (and produced) in England. Agent Jay Kanter remembers her hiding in the bedroom “like a frightened deer” when she first met her co-star and director, Sir Laurence Olivier, but the venerable actor believed she could revitalise his career. Torn between Olivier’s disdain for method acting, and criticisms of the script from her new husband, playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn’s confidence was shaken.

Biographer Lois Banner cites the alleged incident when Marilyn found Miller’s diary, claiming that he had written “words to the effect of ‘I married a whore.’” However, Miller’s diary has never been made public, and Elizabeth Winder may be nearer the mark when she suggests that Arthur simply felt that living with Marilyn was not what he expected. Banner also claims that Arthur “never had good sex before Marilyn,” whom she describes as “very practiced and experienced,” adding, “she blew his mind.” How Banner could know such intimate details is unexplained, and while Miller may have admired his wife’s sensuous nature, theirs was a traditional marriage, and Marilyn’s longest relationship.

After a brief sabbatical – rather melodramatically characterised as “a desperate attempt to save her marriage” – she returned to Hollywood for Some Like It Hot, her greatest success. She was also pregnant, but would later suffer a miscarriage. “She sometimes didn’t show until noon,” recalls Marian Collier, one of the last surviving members of Sweet Sue’s band. Director Billy Wilder was “calm and patient,” but leading man Tony Curtis “got a little upset.” The seamy black dress Marilyn wore to sing ‘I’m Through With Love’ was so tight that she had to be lifted onto the piano. “That was her voice, you know,” Collier says – many other stars of that era were dubbed. “Marilyn Monroe gives the film a heart,” Sarah Churchwell remarks. “She makes it touching and poignant.”

Marilyn’s brilliant performance in The Misfits is overlooked, as the narrative skips to her 1961 photo shoot with Douglas Kirkland, in which she lay nude under silk sheets. “She found the images that portrayed the Marilyn she felt she wanted to see portrayed,” Kirkland comments, remembering how she expertly manoeuvred the project from beginning to end.

“Six months later she was sleeping with JFK,” the narrator continues, although no conclusive evidence of an affair can be found among the thousand lots at Julien’s. As so often happens in Monroe lore, the legend has surpassed reality. As the camera pans over the prescriptions and pillboxes she left behind, Sarah Churchwell offers a sobering analysis of Marilyn’s final decline: “There was no stability in her childhood. The Hollywood environment exacerbated those anxieties … She was often isolated, lonely …”

Last year’s auction at Julien’s raised $11,000,000 – Marilyn died with only a few hundred dollars in her checking account. She had been fired from her last movie, and although the narrator adds that a lucrative new deal was in place, this had not been finalised. The modesty of her estate stands in stark contrast to the vast profits still being made from her name. The woman who wanted her possessions to be divided among her friends would probably be bewildered by events like this, but it is perhaps an inevitable consequence of her enduring fame. “There was a sweetness about her,” says Ellen Burstyn, who knew Marilyn during her Actors Studio days. “She never played dark characters – always played characters filled with light, like a sexy angel. There has never been anyone like her.”

-Tara Hanks

Marilyn in Manhattan: Elizabeth Winder On Her New Book

By | IM Articles, IM Interviews, Marilyn News | 12 Comments

When Marilyn Monroe pulled a disappearing act and resurfaced in New York ready to take control of her career, Hollywood was shocked and everything changed for the world’s favourite blonde.  Author Elizabeth Winder looks at her year of rebirth in the newly released book Marilyn in Manhattan: Her Year of Joy, available now in hardcover and ebook formats.  She talks about her book and her inspiration in an interview for Immortal Marilyn.

 

 

What inspired you to write a book about Marilyn Monroe?  Do you consider yourself a fan, and were you a fan prior to writing it?

I actually came late to Marilyn Monroe.  The most popular images of Marilyn are highly stylized– the caked on makeup and gummy red lipstick, the glued on lashes, skintight skirt and baby-doll coo. Somehow I picked up a copy of Norman Mailer’s fictional biography of Marilyn– which is sexist and horrifying but just so beautifully written– I read it in one night and started googling Marilyn obsessively, and found all those amazing photos by Milton Greene.  He photographed her with very little makeup, wearing baggy slips and sweaters or coarse wave skirts and heavy boots. Those photos really made me fall in love with Marilyn.

You went from writing about Sylvia Plath to Marilyn.  On the surface those seem like two vastly different people.  Do you feel there were similarities between them?  If so, did that surprise you?

It’s interesting to compare Sylvia Plath and Marilyn Monroe– I quite like the way Carl Rollyson compares them in his Plath bio American Isis.  They both had such sensitivity and ambition.  They both could command a room– that much is clear from anyone who remembers them.  But Marilyn sparked something protective and nurturing in those who knew here, whereas Sylvia presented as much more self possessed.  I wasn’t surprised by the similarities– I’m drawn to thin-skinned, creative women. Sometimes I imagine Sylvia and Marilyn as roommates.  Marilyn would have driven Sylvia crazy– eating ice cream in bed, crumbs and cigarette butts strewn everywhere, probably borrowing Sylvia’s lipstick because she couldn’t find her own.  Sylvia labeled her nail polish bottles so no one else would use them.   But Sylvia was fascinated by Marilyn, particularly her relationship with Arthur Miller.  I think Sylvia was ahead of her time– she looked beyond Marilyn’s blonde bombshell facade and saw something nuanced and special.

Why did you choose Marilyn’s first year in New York as the focus for your book?

After clicking through pages of photos Milton Greene took of Marilyn I began to read more about their relationship. I was touched by the potential he saw in Marilyn, the way he risked everything for her. I saw a real story there, a story that unfolded over the course of a year. I was shocked that no one had devoted a book to it yet– it seemed almost too good to be true.


The move to New York was a major turning point in Marilyn’s life and career.  Do you think, in the end, that it was a good move for her, in spite of the fact that by the end of her life she found herself back in LA making another fluff comedy?

Breaking from Fox and teaming up with Milton Greene was the best move Marilyn ever made.  In New York she was loved and appreciated. Carson McCullers, Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams befriended her.  William Motter Inge wrote a play for her.  I think we underestimate how much this meant to Marilyn– she adored writers, she worshipped them.  In LA she was ridiculed, abused and incredibly lonely. And her friendship with Milton was so life-enhancing, so positive, so full of mutual support and creativity.  If Arthur Miller hadn’t broken them up, I think Marilyn would have lived happily for decades, making movies and possibly even directing.

Marilyn is one of those people about whom there is an incredible amount of misinformation.  What one thing do you most wish the average person knew about her?

I wish they knew that Marilyn was funny– I don’t mean the witty media quips but that warm-hearted kind of funny that makes you smile and want to hug someone.  I wish they knew that Marilyn actually read Ulysses and didn’t just pose with it.  I wish they knew that as a starving model she spent her money on books instead of food. I could go on and on– that’s why I wrote Marilyn in Manhattan– I totally fell in love with her!

 

Want to win this book?  IM is giving away five copies courtesy of Flatiron Publishing!  Leave us a comment telling us why you’d love to have a copy to be entered in a drawing to win!  

CONTEST CLOSED.  Congrats to our winners!

Marilyn’s Contemporaries: Vivian Vance

By | IM Articles, Marilyn's Hollywood, Uncategorised | No Comments

Life and Career

 

Vivian with her older sister, Venus

Euphemia Mae (Ragan) Jones and Bob Jones welcomed their second baby girl, Vivian Roberta Jones, on July 26th, 1909, in Cherryvale, Kansas. The Jones family would have a total of six children. Vivian’s mother Euphemia “Famie” was heavily religious, and growing up, she always hoped that Vivian, an outgoing and independent child, would pursue a career in teaching, rather than the stage, where Vivian knew in her heart she was destined to be from a young age.

Searching for better financial opportunities, the family soon moved to the town of Independence, Kansas, where Bob and brother Ralph opened the Jones Brothers Grocery Store. There, Vivian’s childhood consisted of staying out late with friends, getting out of the house as much as possible, and being adventurous. Despite heated arguments between Vivian’s parents, especially regarding Bob’s extra relationships with a few other women, he and Famie remained together and in 1928, the Jones family packed their bags once again and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico for a fresh start.

 

However, Vivian did not go with them. By this time, she was in her late teens, and longed to be freed from the strict and limiting confines of her home. She needed an environment to express her unique talents and passions; she was not being given the encouragement she needed at home. A couple years before her family made the move to New Mexico, Vivian had made the decision to move to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to pursue her passion for singing and stage acting. She spent her Tulsa days in a small hotel room while performing at the Crystal City Amusement Park. It wasn’t long before she fell for a man named Joe Danneck, a booking manager for the musical Broadway, which was making its way across the Midwest at the time. With Joe’s help, Vivian eventually landed a chorus role in the show and began touring with the company. The couple’s relationship quickly became serious, and they were married on October 6, 1928.

 

Vivian soon reunited with her family in Albuquerque, moving into a small apartment there with her new husband. However, she and Joe were leading separate lives, and didn’t see each other often. By 1930, they were divorced. From there, Vivian became an overnight sensation in Albuquerque with her role in the vaudeville show Cushman’s Revue. This helped secure her a spot in the new Albuquerque Little Theater, where she landed lead roles in the seasons’ productions and shined among the cast, receiving great audience and critical appreciation. She was so loved by the community that the proceeds from a 1932 performance of The Trial of Mary Dugan were transferred to a special bank account for Vivian to be sent to New York.

 

Forever feeling that she owed Albuquerque for her opportunity, Vivian was determined to do well and become a successful stage actress. For years she worked to build her acting and singing experience, appearing in both lead and minor roles in several theatrical productions, and even made appearances on Broadway. At one point she was the understudy to Ethel Merman, and the rival of Gertrude Lawrence.  By 1933, Vivian married again, this time to musician George Koch. They had little in common, and marriage didn’t stop Vivian from seeking other opportunities from other men. She soon suffered a blow to her reputation in the press when she was caught seeing stage actor Phil Ober by his wife who had hired a private investigator.

 

“Men and marriage didn’t seem important to [Vivian], only as a means to an end. Her whole focus was on becoming successful.” – Vivian’s roommate Anne Farleigh

 

Vivian in the 1940s

In 1941, not long after Vivian’s divorce from George, she was married to Philip Ober. It was around this time that Vivian’s mental condition began to take form. Vivian had previously suffered bouts of depression, with symptoms such as fatigue or other physical ailments that would manifest as a result of stress. However, by now her condition was becoming more severe. She would sleep for twelve hours a day and suffered major depressive episodes, paranoia, violent nausea, swollen tongue, and panic attacks. By this point, Vivian was in the middle of a successful stage run of Voice of the Turtle. She immersed herself in books on psychology and various analysts that were recommended to her.

 

By the late 1940’s, shortly after the breakdown which caused her to seek help, Vivian reluctantly reprised her role in Voice of the Turtle to perform in La Jolla, California. This would change the course of her life and career forever. Three important people were in the audience that night: director Marc Daniels, writer/producer Jess Oppenheimer, and actor/bandleader Desi Arnaz. Arnaz and his wife Lucille Ball were at the beginning of creating what would become the most successful program in television history: I Love Lucy. The group was impressed with Vivian, and she was hired on the spot for the role of Ethel Mertz.

 

With husband Philip Ober

After her big break as Mrs. Mertz, Vivian filmed two more Lucy programs: The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour and The Lucy Show. She would later make several cameo appearances in later shows. By 1959, she was divorced from Philip Ober, and by 1961, she was married to successful publisher John Dodds. While Vivian had cemented her fame with the success of the Lucy shows she filmed, she longed to return to her home in Connecticut to lead a quieter life and take care of her husband and become a proper housewife.

 

“My ambition was never to be a big star. I’ve seen very few happy stars, and I was determined that that wasn’t going to happen to me.”

 

In I Love Lucy

Once her memorable stint with Lucy was over, Vivian turned her focus back to stage productions and using her experience with depression to help those going through the same struggles. However, her next battle was just beginning. In 1973, Vivian was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent a six hour surgery in order to eliminate the disease. Under the impression she was cancer-free, Vivian reunited with Lucille Ball for their last television show appearance together in 1977 for Lucy Calls The President. Not long after, Vivian received more devastating news: she now had bone cancer. By now, she and husband John Dodds were living in Belvedere, California, where she would spend her last days. Vivian was in incredible pain, and finally came to accept that she wouldn’t have much longer to live. Her husband and siblings always by her side, she was finally ready to go. “We all sat around praying, ‘Let her go. Please let her have her wish.’ A lot of people might think that was weird but it was her wish and we wanted her to have her wish. When she did, it was a mixture of jubilation and great sadness.” – Lou Ann, Vivian’s youngest sister

 

Vivian succumbed to her cancer on August 17, 1979. She was seventy years old.

Personal Connections

 

Marilyn suffered the loss of two unborn children in 1957 and 1958. Vivian also knew the pain of a miscarriage.

 

Both women were distant from their mothers, who were heavily religious and did not approve of their career choices.  Marilyn’s mother was schizophrenic, which left Marilyn traumatized and abandoned as a child. Vivian had almost no good memories with her mother. When Vivian’s fame escalated, Mae would send her letters criticizing her for her for participating in the sinful industry that was show business. Mae, like Marilyn’s mother, offered no support for her daughter’s passion, and, if anything, advised against it. However, it was only   a couple years before Mae died that she finally came to appreciate the success of her daughter.

 

Both women suffered major bouts of depression. While they both sought professional help, it was Vivian who gained support and a better mindset through psychotherapy. Marilyn is an example of how psychoanalysts fail by overstepping their patients’ boundaries and enable them rather than help them. Vivian, however, received a great deal of help through her journey. She not only developed a healthier mind, but she used this newfound knowledge and confidence to help others in need. Vivian was one of the first celebrities to speak openly about mental illness and depression at a time when these types of conditions weren’t focused on or deemed as very severe. Vivian visited countless hospitals to speak one on one with patients suffering from depression, and changed a lot of lives for the better just from her heart to heart talks with them.

“The most important thing she felt she ever did in her life was bust open depression.  She healed more people in this country than anybody has any idea of.” –Paige Peterson, close friend

 

With Lucille Ball and their husbands

Both women despised being stereotyped in their work. Marilyn worked relentlessly to rid the “dumb blonde” image her studio had always given her, and Vivian couldn’t stand to be called “Ethel” in public. Vivian, in real life, was the polar opposite of Ethel Mertz, and hated being stereotyped with the frumpy housewife she portrayed on-screen, let alone that the public could actually picture her with the elderly William Frawley.

 

Vivian Vance and Marilyn Monroe may have led very different careers, but they share quite a bit in common personally. Vivian may always be remembered for her role as the loyal Ethel Mertz and Marilyn as the blonde bombshell, but both women should and will continue to be celebrated for the unforgettable mark they made as actresses in television and film. They will always be treasured for their talent, compassion, and timeless brilliance.

 

-Ky Monroe for Immortal Marilyn