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Marilyn’s Hollywood

Marilyn’s Contemporaries: Vivian Vance

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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

Marilyn’s Contemporaries: Ronald Reagan

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Life and Career

Ronald Wilson Reagan started his life inauspiciously, born on February 11, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois to a working class family.  His early life was marked by a strong faith and an early belief in civil rights.  Nicknamed “Dutch” by his father for a rotund appearance, the young Reagan slimmed down by his teen years and became a lifeguard.  Moves around the Midwest in his youth eventually landed him in Des Moines, Iowa, where his life in the public eye began.

Reagan in Kings Row, 1942

Starting out as a radio announcer, Reagan eventually landed a job announcing games for the Chicago Cubs; it was this job that took him on the road with the team and to California, where he landed a screen test.  Radio and film collided in his first on-screen appearance in the film Love Is On The Air.  Two years later, his film credit count was up to 19.  His appearance in the film Knute Rockney, All American earned him a new nickname that would last a lifetime: “The Gipper”, but it was the 1942 film Kings Row that cemented him as a star.  During his rise to fame, Reagan met and married actress Jane Wyman.  The couple had two biological children although sadly the second child lived for only a day.  They later adopted a third child.

Ronald and Nancy in 1952

WWII interrupted Reagan’s film career, as it did for so many, and although he returned to films in 1945, he never rose to the same heights.  In 1948 political differences led to the end of Reagan’s marriage to Jane Wyman.  He continued to appear in numerous films; a notable film near the end of his movie career was Hellcats of The Navy – memorable because it was the first and only time he made a movie with his then-wife Nancy.  The pair had met in 1949 when she requested his assistance with the blacklisting of her name as a Communist, and married in 1952.  Their marriage would be among the longest of Hollywood unions, lasting until Reagan’s death and producing two children.

After his final film appearance in 1964, Reagan moved into television work.  In the meantime, his political aspirations were growing.  Originally a staunch Democrat, Reagan’s leanings moved to the right over time, and by 1962 was a Republican. In 1966 Reagan ran for, and won, the job of Governor of California on a strong anti-Socialism platform.  He made several major and controversial legislative moves, and spent two terms in the position before setting his sights higher.

The 1981 Presidential Inauguration

In 1976, Reagan made his first bid for the Republican nomination for the Presidency, losing to Gerald Ford, who in turn lost the election to Jimmy Carter.  1980 was a different story.  Reagan led the Republican party to a landslide victory over Carter, and became the 40th President of the United States.  Reagan survived an assassination attempt shortly after taking office, in 1981.  He won a second major victory in 1984, earning a second term in office.  Reagan’s 8 years in office included major controversies and changes, including his financial policies which were dubbed “Reaganomics”, the “War on Drugs”, a highly criticized response to the AIDS crisis, and the “Iran-Contra Affair”.  His Presidency also saw the escalation and eventual end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

After leaving the White House, Ronald and Nancy Reagan returned to California.  In 1994, the former President was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  The progressive disease, along with pneumonia, led to his death in 2004.  Nancy outlived him by more than a decade, dying in 2016.

 

Marilyn Connections

Marilyn with the Reagans in 1953

Although Marilyn and Reagan were in Hollywood during the same time period and eventually met, Reagan’s first connection to her occurred long before Marilyn Monroe was even an idea.  It was Reagan, working for the Army’s First Motion Picture Unit, who assigned photographer David Conover to the task of photographing attractive young women in factories aiding the war effort.  One of those young ladies was Mrs. Norma Jeane Dougherty, who was working at the Radioplane factory in Burbank.  The 1945 photos were her first modeling shots and started her career.

Marilyn later met Reagan at a party for the birthday of Charles Coburn, Marilyn’s co-star in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (and Reagan’s co-star in Louisa), in June of 1953.  It is the only time they were photographed together.

In spite of claims to the contrary, Marilyn did not have an affair with Reagan – he is one of many alleged lovers for whom there is no evidence.

Marilyn and Reagan do have a connection through Jane Wyman – she later married Marilyn’s one-time vocal coach with whom she had a love affair, Fred Karger.

The two co-starred with some of the same people, although at different times.  Marilyn had one of her first big breaks in All About Eve, starring Bette Davis.  Reagan appeared with Davis in 1939’s Dark Victory.  Reagan also appeared in That Hagen Girl with Rory Calhoun, who would appear in River of No Return with Marilyn, and in The Voice of the Turtle with Marilyn’s We’re Not Married co-star Eve Arden.  He starred with Barbara Stanwyck in Cattle Queen of Montana, who appeared in another pivotal film for Marilyn, Clash By Night.

Reagan had an uncredited role in Jean Negulesco’s first solo directing credit, the short Alice in Movieland – he would go on to direct Marilyn in How To Marry a Millionaire.

 

A controversial political figure, Ronald Reagan started life with no sign of who he would become.  He became one of the most influential people in U.S. history – and played a small role in launching the career of Marilyn Monroe, another person who started from humble beginnings to rise to great heights.

-Leslie Kasperowicz for Immortal Marilyn

Marilyn’s Contemporaries: Debbie Reynolds

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Life and Career

 

Mary Frances Reynolds was born on the 1st of April, 1932, in El Paso, Texas to parents Maxene and Raymond Reynolds.  Growing up during the Depression, Debbie spent the first seven years of her life in a very small house with her parents, brother William, and their grandparents. She never had her own bed, and instead to share one with her relatives. During this time, her father, who worked on the railroad, was saving up every penny in hopes of building a house to provide better living conditions for his family. That hope came true in 1939, when he purchased a lot in Burbank, California.

 

Although continuing to live modestly on the west coast, the Reynolds family was happier in California, and Debbie was raised with a relatively average upbringing, and even became a proud member of the Girl Scouts.

 

At sixteen years old, Debbie was preparing to participate in the local Miss Burbank beauty contest, upon hearing that all contestants would receive a free blouse and scarf. Debbie was only interested in the free clothes, but her parents convinced her to stick to her commitment and work for the accessories by going through with the contest. She unexpectedly won, catching the eye of talent scout Solly Baiano from Warner Brothers, who happened to be in the audience that night.

 

Before she knew it, young Mary Frances Reynolds from Texas was signed to a major Hollywood studio, her name changing to Debbie at the suggestion of a Warner Brothers executive, and became one of the youngest contract players on the lot at the time. From there, Debbie continued attending private tutoring to finish school, while juggling small parts in films. She appeared in bit parts in June Bride and The Daughter of Rosie O’ Grady in the late 1940’s before Warner Brothers began to cut back on musicals. Solly Baiano drove Debbie to the MGM lot where she auditioned for the upcoming film Three Little Words. Her talent was instantly recognized after singing and performing the same song and dance as she had in the Miss Burbank contest, and was hired at $300 a week.

 

With Gene Kelly for Singin’ In The Rain

After working on Three Little Words, nineteen year old Debbie was whisked away to start production on a film that would become her first big break, earning her a spot in one of  the most legendary classics of all time: Singin’ In The Rain. However, the work behind the scenes was not as joyful as the final product. Debbie was new to dancing, and sweated through rehearsals for eight hours a day. Although they would become great friends and have a mutual respect for each other’s’  abilities, she was driven to tears by co-star Gene Kelly for working her too hard, until Fred Astaire came to her rescue and helped her with her routines, reassuring her that “If you’re not sweating, you’re not doing it right.” Debbie once said: “Making Singin’ In The Rain and childbirth were the two hardest things I’ve ever done.”

 

In 1954, while making Athena, Debbie met and fell in love with singer Eddie Fisher. A year later, the young couple married and Debbie learned she was expecting her first child. Carrie Frances Fisher was born on October 21, 1956, and in 1958, Debbie gave birth to her second child, son Todd Emmanuel Fisher, on February 24. Todd was named after producer Mike Todd, Eddie’s best friend and mentor. The Fishers spent a lot of time with Mike and his new wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor, whom he had married in 1957.

 

Tragically, however, Mike was killed in a plane crash the following March, leaving Elizabeth, Debbie, and Eddie devastated. Not thinking much of it and wanting to help Elizabeth during this difficult time, Debbie allowed Eddie to go and stay with her and comfort her when she needed company. What resulted was one of the biggest scandals in Hollywood history. Debbie stated in one of her memoirs:

 

“[Elizabeth] was so devastated by Mike Todd’s death that she looked for comfort in a convenient person who also was Mike’s best friend. That connection made her grab on to Eddie in an attempt to get over the loss of her true love.”

 

Debbie with her children

Although Eddie had initially not been around much as a father due to his work, Debbie still wished he would come home to her and the kids. But unfortunately, Eddie chose Elizabeth, and the two were married in 1959, after his divorce from Debbie. Despite the dramas of their past, Elizabeth and Debbie reconciled, and ended up developing a close bond that would last for the rest of their lives.

 

Debbie would endure two more failed marriages after Eddie. The second to Harry Karl, a successful businessman. Their marriage lasted thirteen years, ending in 1973 because of Harry’s relentless gambling and cheating. The third would be to real estate developer Richard Hamlett. Debbie and Richard would be married for twelve years, and they even worked to open a hotel in Las Vegas in 1993 called the Debbie Reynolds Hotel, a place where Debbie could perform shows and finally start to realize her dream of building a museum to show off the precious movie memorabilia from her MGM days that she had begun collecting since the 1970’s.

 

Debbie called her third marriage being “married to the devil.” Not only was Richard wiping her out financially, but he was also backdating deeds to their shared estates and transferring them to his mistress. At one point, Debbie even feared for her life after Richard came home in the early morning hours from a rendezvous with his girlfriend, and Debbie confronted him. “I was sure he was going to toss me off the balcony. One shove and all his troubles would be over. I pictured myself plummeting twelve floors to the pavement.”

 

Debbie with daughter Carrie and granddaughter Billie.

Richard Hamlett would be her last attempt at marriage; they divorced in 1996. By then, her children were forty and thirty-eight years old. Todd had developed a successful career in the technical aspect of the entertainment industry, sound engineering, architectural design, and managing his mother’s hotel. Carrie had become an accomplished writer, an internationally famous actress with her timeless role of Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, and also an advocate for the awareness of bipolar disorder and prescription medication addiction.

 

On December 23, 2016, Carrie was rushed to UCLA Medical Center after suffering a major heart attack on a flight to Los Angeles from London. She was placed on a ventilator, but the damage had already been done. She passed away five days later on December 28, at just sixty years old.

 

Debbie’s biggest fear was her children pre-deceasing her. In her 2013 memoir, she poignantly and prophetically stated:

 

“It’s not natural to outlive your child. This has always been my greatest fear. Too many mothers have lost their children, for thousands of different reasons. I don’t know if I could survive that.”

 

Debbie was completely devastated and broken by the loss of her daughter. The morning after Carrie’s death, Debbie suffered a stroke, and passed away after being hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. Her son Todd released the statement, “She went to be with Carrie.”

 

Debbie was one of the few remaining Old Hollywood royalty we still had with us today. Her legacy has only just begun, and her memory and talent will continue to dazzle and warm the hearts of audiences around the world.

 

Marilyn Connections

 

In 2011, Debbie was forced to part with many items in her film memorabilia collection to pay off the seemingly endless debt leftover from her third marriage. She held the famous Debbie Reynolds Auction through Profiles in History. One of the hundreds of items on the auction block was Marilyn’s white subway dress from The Seven Year Itch. The dress made headlines after selling for an unbelievable total of $5.6 million.

 

Debbie with Marilyn’s costume from Let’s Make Love

Both women were presenters at the 1951 Academy Awards.

 

Both women knew the pain of losing an unborn child. During the filming of My Six Loves (1963), Debbie became pregnant with her third child during her marriage to Harry Karl. She lost the baby during her pregnancy, and was forced to carry it to term for seven months, resulting as a stillborn. In the beginning of 1963, she became pregnant again, and again she learned that the baby had died during pregnancy, and this time labor was induced. “The pain was excruciating. The experience left me depleted and emotionally devastated.”

 

In 1964, Debbie filmed Goodbye Charlie with Tony Curtis, who had worked with Marilyn on Some Like It Hot (1959). Debbie’s role in Goodbye Charlie was originally offered to Marilyn in 1960.

In addition to causing problems with Marilyn in the press by making a heated comment that kissing Marilyn was “like kissing Hitler,” Tony Curtis also made ridiculous claims that she carried his baby at one point, only coming forward after both Marilyn and husband at the time Arthur Miller had passed away. Curtis also caused problems for Debbie on the set of Goodbye Charlie. This was just a few years after Debbie’s divorce from Eddie Fisher. Tony had been spreading Eddie’s lies about her. “I didn’t realize that Tony had been telling people around town that my marriage to Eddie Fisher broke up because I was a lesbian and a lousy lay. I’m not a lesbian. I may be a lousy lay, but Eddie was my first love.”

 

Both Marilyn and Debbie have faced many hardships in life, and both will always be remembered for how strong they truly were. Both were raised in the heart of Hollywood, in and out of a studio every day in their adult lives. Debbie has always had nothing but respectful things to say about Marilyn, and her relentless efforts for the preservation of Hollywood memorabilia will never be forgotten. Both trailblazing women have earned iconic status in their own right, and will continue to be cherished for their contributions to film and to the world for generations to come.
-Ky Monroe for Immortal Marilyn

Marilyn’s Contemporaries: Lana Turner

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Life and Career

Lana was born Julia Jean Turner of Wallace, Idaho in 1921. Her father was murdered in 1930, and a year later, she moved to Los Angeles with her mother. Turner’s ‘discovery’ – while sipping a Coke at the soda fountain outside the Top Hat Café on Sunset Boulevard and after skipping a typing class – is the stuff of legend. She was just sixteen years old. Billy Wilkerson, publisher of the Hollywood Reporter, was struck by her youthful good looks, and in 1937 she was signed by MGM under a new name, ‘Lana’.

Lana in The Postman Always Rigs Twice

While initially more celebrated for her looks than her acting, Lana proved her critics wrong with a dramatic turn as an alcoholic starlet in Ziegfeld Girl (1941.) Perhaps her best-known performance is as the adulterous Cora Smith in the classic thriller, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946.)

Turner married seven times, and once said of her many failed relationships, “I’m so gullible. I’m so damn gullible. And I am so sick of me being gullible.” In 1957, her teenage daughter was charged with stabbing Lana’s boyfriend, gangster Johnny Stompanato, to death after she found him beating her. It was later ruled as justifiable homicide.

She earned acclaim for her performances in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Peyton Place (1957), Imitation of Life (1959), and Madame X (1966.) Turner’s career continued until the early 1980s, when she acted in TV soap opera Falcon Crest. She died in 1994.

Marilyn Connections

“Sweater girl” Lana Turner

Sweater Girls: In her movie debut, They Won’t Forget (1937), Lana played a character loosely based on Mary Phagan, whose murder in 1913 led to the lynching of an innocent man. Lana’s first scene, in which she walked down a street wearing a form-fitting top, led to her being labelled ‘The Sweater Girl’, a name she detested. This trend was later adopted by Marilyn. She joked about it during a performance for US troops in 1952: “You fellows are always talking about sweater girls. I don’t know what the fuss is about. Take away their sweaters and what have they got?”

Mickey Rooney: Another of Lana’s early films was Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, America’s most popular young star at the time. In his 1991 autobiography, Life is Too Short, Rooney claimed that he and Lana had an affair and that she aborted his baby. “Mother was livid and adamantly denied it,” Cheryl Crane noted. “I know that it was very important to her to fight this accusation because she even phoned her attorney … If Rooney’s story had been true and she wanted to keep it a secret, it would have been more like her to act as though he didn’t exist.”

Rooney also claimed an affair with Marilyn, and even that he invented her name. In the latter case, it is well-known that her name was created in 1946 by Marilyn herself and the Fox talent chief, Ben Lyon. (‘Marilyn’ was inspired by a Broadway star of the 1920s, Marilyn Miller, while ‘Monroe’ was the maiden name of Marilyn’s own mother.

MGM: As her career rocketed during the early 1940s, Lana was managed by Johnny Hyde, “a dear friend for years” according to Cheryl Crane. In 1949, Hyde met Marilyn in Palm Springs, and was instantly smitten. “He said that he had discovered Lana Turner and other stars,” she recalled, “and that I had more than Lana and it was a cinch I would go far.”

Marilyn had sought an MGM contract as early as 1947, while under the management of Lucille Ryman Carroll, a talent scout for the studio. Ryman had earlier served as a mentor to Lana Turner. But with Lana on their payroll, the studio didn’t need another sexy blonde. Then in 1950, Johnny Hyde secured a breakthrough role for Marilyn in MGM’s The Asphalt Jungle. All that year, Hyde tried to negotiate with Dore Schary to take on Marilyn permanently. But though Monroe would make two more films for MGM – Right Cross and Hometown Story – Schary wasn’t interested.

When Lana’s career began, MGM was Hollywood’s most lavish studio. Marilyn, on the other hand, made her name at Fox during the 1950s, when the studio system was in decline. She never enjoyed the protection that stars of Turner’s generation had.
In 1951, Dore Schary replaced Louis B. Mayer as head of MGM. Lana felt unsupported by Schary, and left the studio for good in 1956.

Drama Queens: Turner was generally cast in romantic dramas, but Monroe also shone in comedies and musicals. Of all the roles she played, the most similar to Lana’s characters was that of amoral Rose Loomis in the film noir, Niagara (1953.) Like Cora in The Postman Always Rings Twice, Rose persuades her lover to murder her husband. While Niagara was not as compelling as Postman, it looked spectacular and in one famous scene, Marilyn was filmed taking the longest walk in cinematic history.

Lana was also famed for her style of walking. “She would try to teach it to me, but I never quite got the hang of it,” Cheryl Crane admitted. “It was a manner of twisting the ball of the foot with each step. One unusual feature of hers that had an effect on it was that her left leg was a bit shorter than the right … She also wore high heels, usually four inches, sometimes with platforms. Hers was a rolling, subtle kind of glide, not a hip-swinging Marilyn Monroe walk.”

Lana Turner in The Merry Widow

Dancing Girls: Though Lana, unlike Marilyn, was not an outstanding singer, she danced superbly and was once nicknamed Hollywood’s ‘Nightclub Queen’. In The Merry Widow (1952), she worked with choreographer Jack Cole. “The Waltz musical sequence featured a chorus of beautiful dancers dashing about all in pink,” author Cindy De La Hoz observed. “It appears Cole looked back to his work in these moments the following year in his choreography of Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ number” (in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.)

Betty Grable: From the 1940s onward, Lana was friendly with another glamorous blonde, Betty Grable. ‘At the height of their fame, fans who ran into them would mistake them each other occasionally,’ Cheryl Crane revealed. ‘Mother happily obliged them with a “Betty Grable” autograph.’ Monroe, who was often shy around others, nonetheless bonded with Grable when they starred together in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953.)

Otto Preminger: Marilyn’s 1954 western, River of No Return, was by her own estimation, “a grade-Z cowboy movie.” Director Otto Preminger bullied Monroe, and she reputedly considered him ‘a pompous ass’. In 1958, Lana was offered a role in one of Preminger’s best films, Anatomy of a Murder. After clashing with Preminger over her wardrobe demands, however, Turner rejected the part, and later reflected, “God forbid my family should ever be so hungry that I have to work for him.”

Lana Turner and Clark Gable

Clark Gable: In 1941, Lana starred alongside the ‘King of Hollywood’, Clark Gable, in Honky Tonk, a western which became MGM’s highest grossing movie that year. She and Gable were featured on the cover of Life magazine, and went on to make three more films together. Gable and Turner were branded ‘The Team that Generates Steam’. In 1942, while they were filming Somewhere I’ll Find You, Gable’s wife, actress Carole Lombard, was killed in a plane crash. Gossip spread that Lombard had taken an early flight because she was nervous about leaving Gable ‘alone with Lana Turner,’ which she denied.

Gable was one of Marilyn’s childhood idols, and she realised her dream of working with him with The Misfits in 1960.  Sadly, it was to be the last film either star would complete. Gable died of a heart attack shortly after filming ended, and Marilyn was devastated by reports that Gable’s widow, Kay Spreckles, blamed his collapse on Marilyn’s erratic behaviour during filming. But Kay later reassured Marilyn by inviting her to the christening of Gable’s son.

Children: Lana’s chronic endometriosis made her unable to have more children, but she remained close to daughter Cheryl throughout her life. Marilyn, who also suffered from endometriosis, endured at least two painful miscarriages and would never have children of her own.

Legends: In Lana: The Memories, the Myths, the Movies, co-written with Cindy De La Hoz (author of two books on Monroe), Cheryl Crane states that her mother “thought Marilyn Monroe was a fine actress besides being a fascinating personality.”

Marilyn’s death is considered one of Hollywood’s greatest tragedies. While Lana never found lasting love, ultimately she survived. Both women came from humble backgrounds, and achieved immense fame through their beauty and talent. Like so many sex symbols, they were rarely given the respect they deserved, and their difficult private lives contrasted poignantly with the upfront glamour they projected.

Marilyn’s Contemporaries: Tippi Hedren

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Life and Career

Nathalie Kay Hedren was born in the small town of Lafayette, Minnesota, on January 19, 1930 to parents Dorothea and Bernard Hedren, becoming the baby sister to Patricia Hedren, who was four years older. The name change to “Tippi” came not from a studio, but from her adoring father, who called her tupsa as a child, the Swedish term for “little sweetheart,” which soon evolved into “Tippi.”

 

Tippi was incredibly shy as a child, but quickly developed a passion for figure skating, fantasizing about one day becoming a professional figure skater when she grew up.However, once a severe inflammation in her left heel prevented her from escaping to her favorite childhood hobby for a long while, she decided to consider other career opportunities, until a chance meeting on her route home from school.No sooner had Tippi stepped inside the local drugstore did a woman she’d never met approach her and hand her a business card.  She wanted Tippi to model in the town’s fashion shows. Tippi was overjoyed, and soon fell in love with the business, and her hard work paid off. She was earning money and experience through several modeling jobs, a career path she embraced for about ten years.

After graduating high school in 1947 and briefly attending Pasadena City College, she received a call from Eileen Ford of the Ford Modeling Agency in New York. Ford was interested in meeting Tippi, who had phoned a few weeks before. The hopeful model immediately boarded a train straight to the east coast.While working for Ford, she gained valuable modeling experience, was taught by the best, and was always booking jobs.

Tippi photographed by Milton Greene in 1952

While on set for a small role in the TV series The Aldrich Family, Tippi met Peter Griffith, a former child actor, and the two quickly fell in love after he saved her from falling off of a stage. The couple married in 1952, and in 1956, Tippi learned she was pregnant.

Daughter Melanie Griffith was born on August 9th, 1957, and became the ultimate source of happiness in Tippi’s life. “Melanie Griffith was and is my great fortune, my best friend, my love, my luckiest blessing in a life that’s been filled with them.”

Unfortunately, Tippi and Peter’s marriage wasn’t doing so well. Peter was unfaithful and was hardly around. In 1961, Tippi obtained a divorce, and she soon took Melanie and made the move to Los Angeles, where the next major chapter in her life would begin.

 

On October 13, 1961, after Tippi was settled on the west coast, she received a call. A representative of MCA was on the line, asking if she was the girl that had appeared in a recent Sego diet drink commercial. Apparently, a powerful director in Hollywood was interested in meeting her, but she would not see this person face-to-face until she was already under contract.

The Birds, 1963

That man was the legendary Alfred Hitchcock.  Once her contract was signed without much hesitation, she was on her way to Paramount Studios to meet with the infamous director.  The two enjoyed a pleasant conversation over lunch and not once spoke about acting, a field which Tippi had virtually zero experience in. All she knew was that she was now under a lucrative contract, which was about to provide her the money she needed to take care of herself and her young daughter. Although she did not expect to become such a prominent Hollywood star, she was excited about the prospect of working with such a reputable and talented man, trying out real acting, and being able to provide for her family after their big move.

The filming of her only two Hitchcock films was a complete nightmare. At first, Tippi was beyond elated; Hitch wanted her to star in his next big thriller: The Birds. What should have been a rewarding experience turned into a horrible couple of years. Hitchcock soon became obsessed with the young blonde, stalking her and making unwanted sexual advances on her. She firmly refused him multiple times, and he became angry with her. As a result, he made her days on set as aggravating as possible. In one famous incident, he replaced the mechanical birds that should have been used during an attack scene, with real ones. “The [attack] scene lasted a minute in the final cut of The Birds. Hitchcock spent five days filming it before he finally decided he had all he wanted.”  Despite the horror she was enduring, Tippi courageously kept returning to work, and soon dove into her final Hitchcock film: Marnie.

In her 2016 memoir, she speaks of one incident during Marnie: “I’ll simply say that he suddenly grabbed me and put his hands on me. It was sexual, it was perverse, and it was ugly, and I couldn’t have been more shocked and more repulsed.”

Once Marnie was finished, Tippi demanded to be let go from her contract, and Hitchock made a promise that he would ruin her career. He did for a while, turning down big names and offers for Tippi to appear in various films and at various events while she was still under contract. Even though those few years were a nightmare, Tippi was still grateful that he had given her a chance as an unknown, and for teaching her valuable acting techniques.

 

Tippi with one of her many lions.

The next life journey she would embark on would be a wild one.  In 1964, Tippi married for the second time, to her agent, Noel Marshall. Not long after, she was offered to star in a film called Satan’s Harvest, which would be shot on location in South Africa. It was on this trip that Noel and Tippi would have an encounter that would change the course of their lives forever. The couple visited a game preserve, and were fascinated by a “Portuguese-style” structure that housed an incredible amount of lions. They were so greatly inspired by these breathtaking creatures that they soon decided to dedicate their lives to creating a massive film about the preservation of lions. But it would be many years before this dream was realized. They could not just pluck whatever big cats they wanted and place them into their feature film. On the expert advice of lion trainers, they had to be comfortable around the lions, and the lions had to be comfortable around them. And in order for that to happen, they would need to perform the dangerous task of raising their own lions in close quarters. And that’s exactly what they did.

 

From the time Noel and Tippi fantasized about this idea in 1969 until the time the final product was finally realized and released in 1981, the couple and their children (Melanie, along with Noel’s three sons from a previous marriage) spent their lives surrounded by large cats, familiarizing themselves with the creatures and even going to such great lengths as allowing them to sleep in their beds, walk around their house, and play in their backyard. While the original project was to be centered around lions, it eventually evolved into the addition of tigers as well. For years, the Marshall family worked endlessly on not only the film, but taking in abused and/or homeless lions and tigers into their home, nurturing them, and placing them in their own “lion pride” house they had built on their elaborate film set in Soledad Canyon. Tippi, decades later, however, did later admit that, “I cringe when I see those pictures now. We never should have taken those risks.”

 

Tippi in 2015

Despite the backlash she received, and still does today, for living in such close quarters with these animals and allowing them around her daughter, Tippi became a dedicated advocate for the preservation and protection of these beautiful cats, providing a safe haven for them, and today continues to maintain her spacious preserve and speaks out against important causes involving the mistreatment of them. She is currently President of the Roar Foundation.

 

 

Marilyn Connections

Milton Greene – close friend, business partner, photographer of Marilyn’s. Photographed Tippi many times and she became friends with he and his wife Amy. Shot Tippi’s her first Life magazine cover.

Marilyn and Tippi were even at Milton’s house at the same time, but whether or not they met is up for debate. In her memoir, Tippi recalls: “I looked up to see her descending the stairs, presumably to come down and join the group. Instead, she stopped on the landing, where she sat down in the corner and stayed there.  I never saw anyone approach her, and I kind of lost track of her. Later I noticed she’d just disappeared. Perhaps back to her room or who knows where. I wrote it off to terrible shyness or insecurity and left it at that. So that was the perfectly lovely Sunday afternoon in Connecticut when I either did or didn’t meet Marilyn Monroe.”

John F Kennedy- Friend of Marilyn’s. In her memoir, Tippi also claims that Kennedy, in the early 50’s when Tippi was still only a young model, was briefly introduced to her in France. After she returned to her hotel room that night, she received a call from the concierge who relayed to Tippi that Kennedy had a car waiting for her outside the hotel. Tippi, furious, refused to meet him and hung up.

 

Although the two led very different lives, they both entered Hollywood by storm, leaving a modeling career behind them and delving into the world of acting. They can both be considered Hollywood royalty: Marilyn the blonde bombshell of the 50’s and Tippi one of Hitchcock’s greatest leading ladies.

 

  • Ky Monroe for Immortal Marilyn

Marilyn’s Contemporaries: Audrey Hepburn

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Life and Career

Audrey Kathleen Ruston was born in Belgium on May 4, 1929 to Joseph Hepburn-Ruston and his wife, Baroness Ella van Heemstra.  Ella was twice divorced and had two boys from a previous marriage. The couple constantly fought and Joseph’s drinking became a major contributing factor to the end of their marriage. As a result, Joseph walked out on the family when Audrey was just six years old, an event which left her traumatized.

A young Audrey

A young Audrey

When World War II broke out in 1939, Audrey and her mom were living in Arnhem in the Netherlands, which Ella believed to be safer from Nazi occupation; however, Hitler’s army soon invaded, taking over the town in 1940 and leaving Audrey to spend her childhood and part of her teen years in poverty and suffering from malnutrition and depression.

“People have fears now which are mostly distant and unknown: fears of death or cancer or getting killed in a car smash. I knew the cold clutch of human terror all through my early teens: I saw it, felt it, heard it and it never goes away. You see it wasn’t just a nightmare: I was there and it all happened.”

There was one hobby that became Audrey’s escape.  Not long before the Nazis came, Audrey had taken up ballet. She was a natural and ballet soon became her passion. Her mother even ran a dancing academy at one point in which Audrey taught young students to help raise more money for food.

Although the Nazis had gone by 1945 with the German surrender, Audrey was still without much food and money, and at the time, the Red Cross was providing emergency rations, an action which started a fire in Audrey’s heart for wanting to help others as the Red Cross had helped her family.

From there, Audrey continued her dance classes and was soon approached by Dutch film director Charles van der Linden, who was scouting her class one morning in search of a young girl for a small part in his film Dutch in Seven Lessons. Audrey was chosen immediately and was a natural in front of the camera, even with no prior acting training. She soon began auditioning for chorus-girl roles in West End musicals to make more money so that she could continue attending her ballet classes.

By the 1950’s she was signed to Ealing Studios, receiving minor roles and cameos in films. Her first serious relationship was to wealthy Jimmy Hanson. Although they announced their engagement in 1952, it was soon broken off because of conflicting schedules.

Audrey’s big break came one fateful day in Monte Carlo, where she was on location for a comedy. Famed French writer Colette was quickly running out of time searching for the perfect girl to star in the upcoming stage adaptation of her story Gigi. Colette was fascinated by Audrey and her vision of Gigi had come to life; Audrey was soon cast as the lead and was on her way to Broadway.

During filming of Roman Holiday

During filming of Roman Holiday

Gigi was a sold-out hit and Audrey became an overnight success. Her Broadway publicity got her noticed by Hollywood director William Wyler, who had just acquired the option to the comedy Roman Holiday. Gregory Peck was already cast as the male lead, and Wyler was searching for a European actress for his princess for the picture. This film became her next major success. When it opened in 1953, it received rave reviews. This led to Audrey’s first Oscar win, and the first of five academy award nominations.

Following the success of her first Hollywood film, Audrey’s future in movies was secured, next appearing as the female lead in the 1954 hit Sabrina. Soon after, at a cocktail party hosted by Gregory Peck, Audrey met her future husband, actor/writer/director Mel Ferrer. The two quickly fell in love and married in September of 1954 at Lake Lucerne.

Audrey continued her work in motion pictures, landing memorable roles such as Natasha Rostova in War and Peace (1956), Jo Stockton in Funny Face (1957), and Sister Luke in The Nun’s Story (1959). In January of 1960, she welcomed her first and only child with Mel, son Sean Ferrer. Her next major project came in 1961, when she starred in Breakfast At Tiffany’s with her timeless performance as New York party girl Holly Golightly, further cementing her iconic status as an actress. Sadly, Audrey’s marriage with Mel was beginning to crumble. The couple finally divorced in 1968.

Audrey with her son, Luca

Audrey with her son, Luca

Once her marriage with Mel ended, so did her film career, for the most part. After the completion of Wait Until Dark (1967), she retired to Switzerland to devote more time to being a mother to Sean, and made frequent trips to Rome to visit with friends. She soon met her second husband, Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti, and the two were married in January of 1969. Her second and last child, son Luca Dotti, was born the following year.

With Dotti’s increasing reputation as a womanizer, this marriage also did not last. The couple would divorce in 1982. Audrey would appear in only four more minor films, returning to Hollywood for Robin and Marian in 1976. Four years later, at a dinner party held in New York, Audrey met her final and greatest love: Dutch television actor Robert Wolders. Although they never married, they would be devoted to each other until her death in 1993.

Although by this time Audrey had become one of the most appreciated stars in the world, the most rewarding experience in her life came when she was given the title of Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF in 1987. This allowed her to travel to many third-world countries and help hundreds of starving children in horrible living conditions. By working with UNICEF, she felt she had finally reached her life’s mission that had come full circle: to help children in need just as the Red Cross had helped her over 40 years ago.

In September of 1992, upon her return to Switzerland from a UNICEF mission in Somalia, she began suffering from severe pain in her lower stomach. She had unknowingly been carrying a rare form of abdominal cancer which had been slowly growing over the course of several years. By December that same year, after undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, the cancer had metastasized and had become terminal. She passed away peacefully at her home in Switzerland in January of 1993. In her final farewell letter to her sons, she wrote,

Audrey Hepburn, UNICEF ambassador in Ethiopia

Audrey in her work for UNICEF

“If you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm. As you get older, remember you have another hand: the first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.”

In 1993, her son Sean accepted her posthumously awarded Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Marilyn Connections

Anthony Beauchamp – Photographed both Marilyn and Audrey

Anita Loos – Author of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Script writer for Gigi on Broadway.

Richard Avedon – Photographer and friend of both Marilyn and Audrey at around the same time.

Billy Wilder– Director of Sabrina. Director of Seven Year Itch (1955) and Some Like It Hot (1959)

Cecil Beaton – friend of Audrey. Photographed her beginning in the late 1940’s. Worked with her on My Fair Lady. Photographed Marilyn in 1956.

Breakfast At Tiffany’s – Truman Capote initially wanted Marilyn for the role of Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. She considered the role, but she was advised by various people in her professional circle not to accept it.

Personal Connections

In 1960, Marilyn, married to Arthur Miller at the time, engaged in an affair with Let’s Make Love co-star Yves Montand, who was also married to another woman. During the filming of Sabrina, Audrey, although herself not married at the time, had an affair with married co-star William Holden.

Like Marilyn, who suffered the loss of a child due to a miscarriage in 1956, Audrey had two miscarriages before giving birth to her two healthy sons Sean and Luca.

Also like Marilyn, Audrey is one of the most popular women who have fallen victim to endless misquotes. Nearly everything you encounter on a shirt, Instagram post, purse, or poster is not said by her.

Both Marilyn and Audrey are two incredibly talented women of the silver screen who will stand the test of time. Marilyn will forever live on as America’s beloved bombshell with a heart of gold and a creative mind, and Audrey as both a fashion and movie icon, a symbol of classic elegance, and someone whose tireless efforts as a humanitarian sparked a legacy that will forever be appreciated.

-Ky Monroe for Immortal Marilyn

 

Marilyn’s Contemporaries: Rita Hayworth

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Life and Career

Margarita Carmen Cansino was born in Brooklyn in 1918. Her father, Eduardo, had emigrated from Spain five years before, as one half of The Dancing Cansinos. He was newly married to showgirl Volga Haworth. In 1927, the Cansinos moved to Hollywood, where Eduardo established a dance studio.

At thirteen, Margarita left school and replaced Elisa as her father’s dancing partner. Between shows, Eduardo urged his daughter to mingle with the guests, including many Hollywood executives.

Margarita had already played bit parts in a few movies, and Max Arnow, then casting director at Warner Brothers, arranged a screen test. Winfield Sheehan – then Vice-President of the Fox Film Corporation – was so impressed by Margarita’s beauty that he offered her a short-term contract. But when Sheehan was ousted by Darryl F. Zanuck, Rita was also sacked.

Aged seventeen, Rita began dating Eddie Judson, an older businessman who quickly recognised her potential. They married in 1937, shortly after she was signed by Columbia, the ‘Poverty Row’ studio headed by Harry Cohn. She underwent a dramatic makeover, and began using the surname ‘Hayworth’ (a modification of her mother’s name.)

Rita in Blood & Sand

Rita in Blood & Sand

Rita landed her first important role opposite Cary Grant in Howard Hawks’ Only Angels Have Wings (1939.) Realising he had a valuable property on his hands, Harry Cohn loaned her out to Twentieth Century Fox for Blood and Sand. “She had a tremendous magic back then,” said bandleader Fred Karger, “and you’ve got to remember this town was full of beautiful women.”

But while her career continued to soar, Rita’s marriage had turned into a nightmare. Judson pressurised her to sleep with studio executives, and when Harry Cohn invited the couple to join him and his wife for a weekend on their yacht, Judson urged her to seduce Cohn. This was the last straw for Rita, and an ugly, protracted divorce ensued.

As America entered World War II, a string of hit musicals allowed Rita to show off her warm, vivacious side. She was paired with Fred Astaire in You’ll Never Get Rich and You Were Never Lovelier. In Cover Girl, an early Technicolor musical, Rita danced with Gene Kelly.

With Orson Welles and daughter Rebecca

With Orson Welles and daughter Rebecca

Her second husband was the most brilliant, controversial man in Hollywood. Orson Welles had recently seen Bob Landry’s seductive photo of a negligee-clad Rita in Life magazine, and vowed to marry her. Rita was delighted by the birth of their daughter Rebecca, but Welles had no interest in children or domesticity; and though he adored Rita, his career would always come first.

Rita in Gilda.

Rita in Gilda.

By 1946, Rita had separated from Welles, but was reluctant to get a divorce. She had also started making a movie that would change the course of her career. A definitive ‘film noir’, Gilda told the tale of a wild, free-spirited dancer who runs into an old flame. While many critics found Gilda immoral, the public loved it. Rita would forever be associated with the role, confiding sadly to a friend, “Every man I have ever known has fallen in love with Gilda, and awakened with me.”

Harry Cohn was further aggrieved by Rita’s attempts to reconcile with Orson Welles. Nonetheless, he agreed to allow Welles to star alongside her in The Lady From Shanghai – another classic film noir, but in an even darker vein.

Still hoping to save her marriage, Rita sailed to Europe. The spark was not rekindled, but at a party in Cannes, Rita was introduced to Prince Aly Khan – son of the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Muslim world. Although married, Aly had been separated from his wife since the war. In 1949, after Aly’s divorce was finalised, they married in a whirl of publicity. Their daughter Yasmin was born in December. However, life with Aly Khan did not bring the security Rita had hoped for. Like Orson, he had fallen for Rita Hayworth, the love goddess – not the insecure woman she really was.

In 1953 she married Dick Haymes, a former big band singer who exploited her star status to revive his ailing career. After a rocky two-year marriage,she divorced him. She starred opposite Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak in Pal Joey (1957), her last film at Columbia. Her final marriage, to producer James Hill, ended in 1961.

By the early 1960s, Rita was frequently missing cues and blowing lines, which seemed out of character for such a consummate professional. Her final, abandoned role in Tales That Witness Madness (1973) was a sad coda to a magical career.

In 1981, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Friends and colleagues who had been frustrated with her behaviour now realised the truth of her situation. Rita’s daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, was appointed her legal guardian. Rita died in 1987, aged sixty-eight.

Marilyn Connections

Early Years: Marilyn also married young in the hope of escaping a difficult childhood. By nineteen she was divorced, and using a stage name inspired by Broadway star Marilyn Miller, and (like Rita) her own mother’s maiden name.

Bob Landry: In 1947, a young Marilyn was photographed by Bob Landry, who had immortalised Rita Hayworth six years before. When Landry worked with Marilyn again, she was a cover girl in her own right. Then in 1953, she was photographed by Milton Greene in a white negligee with black lace overlay, similar to the garment worn by Rita in Landry’s famous pin-up.

Fred Karger: In 1948, Marilyn was briefly under contract at Rita’s home studio, Columbia. While playing the lead in Ladies of the Chorus, she was coached by Columbia’s Head of Music, Fred Karger. He encouraged her to develop her fine singing voice, and an affair began. But he was often cruel, undermining her self-esteem.

Harry Cohn: Marilyn also incurred the wrath of Harry Cohn, refusing to join him for a weekend alone on his yacht. She was quickly dropped by the studio – a decision Cohn would live to regret.

Johnny Hyde: On the advice of her agent, Johnny Hyde, Rita asked Harry Cohn for a 25% share in the net profits of this and all her future films. When he refused, she went on suspension and formed an independent production company – becoming one of the first women in Hollywood to do so. Cohn was forced to concede. Hyde later guided Marilyn through her first significant roles in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve.

Rita with Jack Cole

Rita with Jack Cole

Jack Cole: In Tonight and Every Night, Gilda and Down to Earth, Rita was choreographed by Jack Cole. I evolved a working routine with [Rita] that I used a lot later, when working with Marilyn Monroe,” Cole told author John Kobal. “So I rehearse with Rita a couple of times around and we’re ready to start. Well, baby, I don’t know what hit me when they turned the camera on. Monroe was the same way – when it was for real, it was like look out!”

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: Marilyn achieved stardom in this 1953 musical comedy. Director Howard Hawks’ description of her as “unreal,” with a “fairytale” quality, echoed his earlier assessment of Rita. For her signature number, ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, Marilyn wore a strapless sheath gown and long gloves – similar to Rita Hayworth’s attire when she danced to ‘Put the Blame on Mame’ in Gilda. Marilyn was choreographed by Jack Cole, and would work with him many times more.

Cohn vs Zanuck: “The only thing [Rita] got worked up about was Harry Cohn,” Cole recalled. At Columbia, he said, “they didn’t treat Rita the other way other studios treated a star … Zanuck was that way with Monroe,” he added. In 1955, Marilyn won a bitter legal battle with Twentieth Century Fox, and formed her own production company in a bid for better roles.

The Story on Page One: “Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield can have all the headlines,” Rita said in 1958. “From now on the only headlines I want are on my acting.” Rita played a battered wife in Clifford Odets’ The Story on Page One (1959), a role first offered to Marilyn. Something’s Got to Give: Marilyn died of an overdose in 1962, shortly after being fired from her last, incomplete movie.  Rita later said of Marilyn:

Marilyn wasn’t put on.  Her femininity was real, and there are very few who are really women on screen – I like to think I was. But I never met Marilyn, so I don’t really know…”

Like Marilyn, Rita was over-worked and under-appreciated during her studio heyday; but as time passed, her myth grew. Both women were named among the roll-call of Hollywood icons in Madonna’s 1990 hit, ‘Vogue’; and in the acclaimed 1994 film, The Shawshank Redemption, one scene shows the hero, wrongly imprisoned for murder, gazing at his only possession – a poster of Rita Hayworth.

Marilyn’s Contemporaries: Ginger Rogers

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Life and career

In most cases, up-and-coming stars modify their birth names to something catchier with the help of their studio heads. This was not the case for Ginger Rogers, born Virginia McMath on the 16th of July in 1911. When her cousin Helen was a toddler, she had trouble saying the name “Virginia,” so instead began saying “Ginga,” and the rest is history.

Ginger as a child

Ginger as a child

Ginger’s parents, William McMath and Lela (Owens) McMath were estranged before Ginger was born. William even attempted to kidnap his daughter on two occasions, succeeding the first time. Little Ginger went missing for several days, but with the relentless praying and sleuthing conducted by her mother and the town of Independence, Missouri, she was located at her father’s parents’ house in Kansas City. Her mother remarried to John Logan Rogers in 1920.

“My mother told me I was dancing before I was born.”

Ginger’s career began in 1925 when a fellow schoolmate taught her how to perform the popular dance of the 20’s: the Charleston. Ginger performed remarkably well, which prompted her to enter a Charleston dance contest. The competition brought her to Fort Worth, Texas, where she claimed victory and was offered a chance to perform in the Interstate circuit for four weeks. Later, after getting together with a small group of friends, the stage act “Ginger and the Redheads” was formed. At fourteen years old, Ginger and her trio traveled across the country from 1925 to 1928 performing shows at several theaters. Once they disbanded, Ginger continued to pursue more roles onstage and began getting more and more noticed. Through this, she gained valuable stage experience.

After catching the eye of Walter Wagner of Paramount and being screen tested, Ginger was signed to a seven year contract in January of 1930. Her first film under a major studio was Young Man of Manhattan (1930). She soon divorced Jack Pepper, whom she had married at seventeen, the first of her five eventual divorces. In June of 1931, she was contacted by a producer at RKO who was interested in signing her on for a picture for Pathe Exchange. After successfully cancelling her contract with Paramount, she was off to Hollywood, bringing her strong-hearted mother, who also acted as her manager, with her.

rio

With Fred Astaire in Flying Down to Rio

It was there in 1933 that Ginger began her legendary on-screen partnership with Fred Astaire. Beginning with Flying Down To Rio and ending in 1939 with The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, the handful of Astaire-Rogers productions that were made went down in history. These days, rumors love to circulate about the true nature of their relationship, but the truth is that they were only close friends. Years before working together, Fred and Ginger did go on a date after they met in New York, but nothing serious came of it. Both had a mutual respect for each other’s work, and by the time they were reunited in Hollywood, Fred was married to Phyllis Potter, who wouldn’t even allow them to kiss on screen. Although the dancing duo eventually parted to pursue more diverse roles with different co-stars, they will forever be remembered as two of the most beloved dancers in cinema history.

Ginger in 1950

Ginger in 1950

Once her memorable stint with Fred was completed, she moved on to receive more parts in comedies and dramas rather than TV musicals. In 1941, she won an Oscar for her performance in Kitty Foyle. Throughout the rest of her career, she appeared in countless films, not to mention a long list of stage productions and several television spots. In 1971, she performed the Charleston for the first time in decades for a television episode of Lucille Ball’s Here’s Lucy. She divorced five times, the cause most often because of her spouse’s problem with alcohol. Ginger was raised with a prominent Christian Science background which she practiced and carried her entire life. She was adamantly against drinking and serving alcohol. Instead of beer, the bar at her Hollywood home served ice-cream soda.

Her final film performance was in the 1965 film Harlow, in which she played Jean Harlow’s mother. Her last public appearance was in 1995, when she was honored with the Women’s International Living Legacy Award. That year, she suffered a stroke, leaving her wheelchair bound. As a believer in Christian Science, she chose not to receive modern medical help. She passed away of a heart attack on April 25, 1995.

“Looking back at my life’s voyage, I can only say that it has been a golden trip. A thousand words are not enough to express my gratitude for the excitement, glamour, adventure, and infinite variety I have experienced.”

 

Marilyn connections

Billy Wilder – Directed Ginger in his first American film The Major and the Minor (1942). Directed Marilyn in The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Some Like It Hot (1959).

Jean Louis – A favorite designer among both women. He worked with both for several years.

Harry Cohn Terminated Marilyn’s contract with Columbia. Paid to test Ginger in the early 30’s but did not sign her. Ginger was disgusted by the passes he made at her. “I stood up fearlessly to his advances by reminding him that I knew his wife.”

Christian Science – Marilyn was surrounded by the influence of Christian Science beginning in her early teen years. Her mother became a Christian Scientist once she was introduced to the belief system by Marilyn’s Aunt Grace and Aunt Ana, who were also believers. Lela Rogers was an adamant Christian Scientist, and Ginger was raised the same way from birth. She carried her faith with her throughout her life.

Misquoting Although Ginger isn’t misquoted nearly as much as much as Marilyn is, she does occasionally fall victim to her name being wrongly attached to phrases she did not say. The most popular example would be “I did everything [Fred Astaire] did, but backwards and in high heels.” A clever and true quote, but one that has relentlessly been attributed to not only Ginger herself, but a plethora of other individuals. This quote originally comes from a newspaper comic by Bob Thaves.

Ginger and Marilyn in Monkey Business.

Ginger and Marilyn in Monkey Business.

While Marilyn and Ginger never became close friends, they worked well together on two films, Monkey Business (1952) and We’re Not Married (1952). Both actresses also did not have children.

In her 1991 autobiography, coincidentally titled Ginger: My Story, Ginger tells of a time in which she was at work for 20th Century Fox on Black Widow while Marilyn was in the middle of filming There’s No Business Like Show Business. According to Ginger, Marilyn stopped by her dressing room one day for a visit, and recalled Marilyn getting slightly emotional and teary-eyed when Ginger asked how things were going with Joe DiMaggio, who Marilyn had been newly married to. Another memory with Marilyn is one Sunday morning when Ginger was attending her regular church on North Crescent Heights Boulevard in Los Angeles. Upon looking towards the back, she observed Marilyn seated in the last row.

“It was the only time I saw her there. Perhaps if Marilyn had become seriously interested in this way of thinking, the tragic end of her life might have been avoided.”

Ginger in 1976

Ginger in 1976

 

Ginger Rogers will always remain one of the brightest stars of her time, as will Marilyn Monroe. Although Ginger is most commonly remembered as the dance partner to Fred Astaire, she rightfully earns her spot as one of the most talented actresses on the silver screen for her large variety of other film credits. She will continue to illuminate screens across the world with her grace, talent, and loveable charm for generations to come. Both Ginger and Marilyn have earned iconic status in the hearts of millions in their own unique way.

-Ky Monroe for Immortal Marilyn

Marilyn’s Contemporaries: Vivien Leigh

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Life and Career

Vivian Mary Hartley was born in 1913, in Darjeeling, India, where she took to the stage for the first time at the age of 3 to recite Little Bo Peep.  She travelled around Europe with her parents and was educated in multiple schools in locations like London and Paris.  In 1931, the family settled back in England, and Vivian began her efforts to be an actress in earnest.  She enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art that same year, and also met the man who would become her first husband, Leigh Holman.  They were married in 1932.

Vivien Leigh in Fire Over England, 1937

Vivien Leigh in Fire Over England, 1937

Although marriage and the birth of daughter Suzanne took her away from acting, she was drawn back.  A small role in the film Things Are Looking Up led to an agent and a new name: Vivien Leigh.  She soon after took a stage role in The Mask of Virtue, and it was in this play that she caught the eye of actor Laurence Olivier.  It was the beginning of one of the great love stories in Hollywood history.

 

By the time Vivien and Laurence appeared together in Fire Over England in 1937, their friendship had developed into an affair; both were still married.  Vivien had read the novel Gone With the Wind and set her sights not only on Olivier, but on the most coveted role in Hollywood.  As David O’Selznick hunted for his Scarlett, Vivien’s star was on the rise.  She appeared in multiple stage productions and films, gaining notice in America.  When Olivier headed to America to film Wuthering Heights, Vivien followed, and presented herself as the future Scarlett O’Hara.  The rest, as they say, is history.

On the set of Gone With the Wind

On the set of Gone With the Wind

With filming already underway, Vivien threw her hat in the ring and won the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind opposite Clark Gable, in spite of having been previously considered “too British” to play a Southern Belle.  She would win the Best Actress Oscar award for her role, and became one of the biggest stars in the world.

In 1940, both Vivien and Laurence divorced their spouses, and were promptly married in California.  Devoted to each other, the two aimed to take on as many projects together as possible, both on the stage and in films.  While both enjoyed film success, their hearts were in the theatre.  In 1947, when Olivier was knighted, Vivien Leigh became Lady Olivier.

Leigh won her second Academy Award for Best Actress in A Streetcar Named Desire in the role of Blanche DuBois, which she had previously played on the stage.  It was 1951, and a young actress named Marilyn Monroe was rising to stardom.  Meanwhile, troubles were ahead for Vivien Leigh.

Previously diagnosed with tuberculosis (which didn’t stop her from a lifelong smoking habit), Leigh now faced mental illness.  In 1953, she had a breakdown on the set of Elephant Walk.  She was replaced by Elizabeth Taylor in the film.  Olivier took her home to England, where she faced months of recovery.  Later that year, she recovered enough to return to the stage opposite Olivier in The Sleeping Prince.  Three years later Olivier would film the movie version with Marilyn in the role originated by his wife on the stage.

The Oliviers

The Oliviers

During this same time period, a miscarriage led to another period of mental trouble for Leigh.  She had been diagnosed with manic depression, and her marriage to Olivier was nearing the end.  They divorced in 1960.  Vivien would battle mental illness for the rest of her life.

Vivien continued to have success on the stage and screen, winning a Tony Award in 1963 for Tovarich.  In 1965, she made her final film appearance in Ship of Fools.  Two years later, tuberculosis claimed her life at the age of 53.

 

 

 

 

Marilyn Connections

Marilyn with Lord and Lady Olivier at the premiere of A View From The Bridge, 1956

Marilyn with Lord and Lady Olivier at the premiere of A View From The Bridge, 1956

Vivien Leigh’s most obvious connection to Marilyn was The Prince and the Showgirl, the film version of The Sleeping Prince which starred Marilyn opposite Laurence Olivier.  The strain in the Olivier marriage was already evident during filming, and Leigh’s mental illness no doubt had an impact on the difficulties that plagued the set.  In 1960 Vivien stated in an interview that it was her idea to cast Marilyn, having seen How to Marry a Millionaire:

“I thought, heaven help me, that she was very funny. I said to Larry: This girl is wonderful in comedy”

Aside from that movie, Vivien and Marilyn had other connections.  Vivien famously starred opposite Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind – Marilyn would star opposite him in The Misfits.  Another Gone With the Wind co-star, Rand Brooks (Charles Hamilton) starred opposite Marilyn in her first starring role in the film Ladies of the Chorus.

In A Streetcar Named Desire, Vivien starred opposite Marilyn’s friend and Actor’s Studio colleague, Marlon Brando.  The film was also directed by Marilyn’s friend Elia Kazan.

The original director of Gone With the Wind was George Cukor, who would go onto direct Marilyn in Let’s Make Love and her final unfinished film, Something’s Got to Give.  Unlike Marilyn, Vivien was said to have gotten along well with Cukor.

Like Marilyn, Vivien frequently felt that her beauty kept her from being taken seriously as an actress:

“People think that if you look fairly reasonable, you can’t possibly act, and as I only care about acting, I think beauty can be a great handicap, if you really want to look like the part you’re playing, which isn’t necessarily like you.”

Both women faced a struggle with depression, and both also suffered from severe insomnia.  Like Marilyn, Leigh’s mental illness put serious strain on her marriage and was a factor in her divorce from Olivier.  Sadly, both also passed away too young.

 

-Leslie Kasperowicz for Immortal Marilyn

Marilyn’s Contemporaries: Lucille Ball

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Before the world’s most iconic blonde came the world’s most beloved redhead. Lucille Désirée Ball was born on August 6th, 1911 to mother Désirée “DeDe” (Hunt) Ball and father Henry Ball. When Lucille was three years old, the family moved to Detroit for Henry’s work. “DeDe tried dressing me in ribbons and bows, but I rebelled, never being the prissy doll type. My father roughhoused with me as he might with a boy, tossing me to the ceiling and catching me a few feet from the floor, and giving me piggybacks. I screamed with delight while DeDe worried about the tomboy she was raising.”

Lucy as a child.

Lucy as a child.

Sadly, Lucille’s time with her father was cut short in 1915 when he died of typhoid fever at twenty-eight. DeDe was only twenty-two, and five months pregnant with her second child, Freddy, who was born shortly after Lucille and Dede returned to DeDe’s parents’ Jamestown apartment.

After DeDe remarried to Ed Peterson in 1918, the family was back under one roof again by 1920 in Celoron, New York. Lucille, Freddy, and their cousin Cleo were the best of friends, and often put on stage plays at home to entertain the adults. Lucille, the oldest, spent much of her time taking care of the children, making beds, and cooking dinners while her mother worked full-time selling hats at a dress shop to make ends meet.

Lucille developed a passion for performing on stage. She took part in many school productions throughout her high school career and cherished the joy and laughs she could provide for an audience. However, she was a feisty teenager and often got into fights at school. She would run away, taking her little fox terrier, with her. DeDe, becoming increasingly worried for her daughter’s future, but always supportive of her acting aspirations, decided to help her attend dramatic classes.

Lucille began her training in New York at the John Murray–Robert Milton theater school where Bette Davis was also a student. She worked incredibly hard but couldn’t dance or sing, and was dismissed as talentless by her teachers and fellow pupils.

Lucille as a young model.

Lucille as a young model.

After leaving the academy, Lucille wandered around New York, managing to get cast in bit parts in a few musicals, but rarely stayed long enough to be part of the finished product. She earned money by modeling until a chance meeting became her ticket to Tinseltown. Theatrical agent Sylvia Halo recognized Lucille on the street from a billboard she had posed for to advertise Chesterfield cigarettes. MGM had chosen twelve poster girls to appear in a film called Roman Scandals, and one of the girls had dropped out last minute. Lucille was hired on the spot by Sam Goldwyn’s New York agent, and was off to Hollywood three days later.

Following Roman Scandals, Lucille landed a contract with RKO. This led to an essential build up in her career, training under the renowned Lela Rogers, mother and manager of Ginger Rogers. The late 1930’s were a happy time for Lucille; she made friends and reunited with her family who moved into her bungalow in Hollywood. She was given small parts in Astaire-Rogers productions including Top Hat and Follow The Fleet.

At the end of 1939, Lucille met her “Cuban skyrocket,” Desi Arnaz. They met for the first time in New York where Arnaz was starring in a Broadway show called Too Many Girls. They instantly fell head over heels in love, and it wasn’t long before they slipped away to Connecticut to elope in November of 1940. The young couple had countless verbal fights, but were passionately devoted to each other. Lucille called it their way of love-making. Years later, Lucille delivered two healthy babies: Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr.

Desilu Productions was formed in 1950. After collaborating for a vaudeville act, CBS agreed to finance a television show starring the husband-wife duo. I Love Lucy ran from 1951-1957 before switching to a longer time slot for The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, which ran from 1957 until their divorce in 1960. During this time, Desilu made a huge financial decision: the company bought out RKO Pictures for over $6 million. By 1960, their marriage had fallen apart but still they finished working on The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.

Shortly after her divorce, Lucille started a romance with stand-up comedian Gary Morton after being introduced to each other by mutual friends in New York. Morton loved Lucille, was great with the kids, and after a busy career, was ready to settle down with a family. In November of 1961, the couple married.

Lucy with her children.

Lucy with her children.

By 1962, Lucille and Desi kept in touch more often, communicated easier about the children, and got along nicely. They would even collaborate on The Lucy Show (1962-1968) in which they brought back beloved I Love Lucy star Vivian Vance. Soon after, Lucille made the decision to buy Desi’s controlling interest in Desilu Productions, making her the first female in Hollywood to become president of a major television studio.

Lucille went on to film Here’s Lucy (1968-1974) and made a comeback in 1986 with Life With Lucy. She made several films and musicals in between. She received a plethora of awards throughout her career and donated an incredible amount of time and money to various charities and benefits. She passed away suddenly at her home in Beverly Hills at the age of seventy-seven from an acute aortic aneurysm on April 26, 1989.

Career Similarities

Both Marilyn and Lucille pursued modeling before being signed to major studios. Their common flaw was being told by their superiors that they were “un-photogenic.” This, although discouraging, didn’t stop the girls from working even harder to succeed. Lucille modeled fashion while Marilyn’s photos were cheesecake style. Marilyn was known among photographers and the head of her modeling agency that fashion modeling just wasn’t for her. Lucille was skinny and avoided bathing suit shots.

Both went through the usual up and coming procedure of an actress by appearing in a lot of bit parts in films, Lucille being casted in more A-films and Marilyn in B-films. They have many studios in common such as MGM, RKO, United Artists, Columbia Pictures, and 20th Century Fox.

Each woman published a posthumous autobiography. As her career was reaching its peak, Marilyn worked with Ben Hecht on a story of her life in the form of magazine articles, but they were not published in book form, titled “My Story,” until 1974, when it was compiled by Hecht using his original interviews and notes. In the early 60’s, Lucille began working with Betty Hoffman to create an “as told to” autobiography. She wrote a manuscript and recorded herself telling the story of her life up until 1964, when the project was shelved. The discovery of this work didn’t come until Lucille’s attorney was sifting through file boxes after Lucille’s death. The contents became “Love, Lucy” published in 1996.

Personal Connections

Unfortunately, a tragic similarity can be found in these two women. Marilyn suffered an ectopic pregnancy in 1957 and a miscarriage in 1958. She desperately wanted to have children, but was never able to. Lucille had children later in life, but before then, she also endured the pain of two miscarriages, which occurred in 1942 and 1950.

Name and other Connections

Sydney Guliaroff – Began styling Marilyn’s hair at MGM for The Asphalt Jungle during her short time at MGM. Styled Lucille when she was signed again to MGM in 1942

Ginger Rogers – Became quick friends with Lucille at RKO in the late 1930’s. Marilyn worked with Ginger in We’re Not Married (1952) and Monkey Business (1952).

Harry Cohn – Terminated Marilyn’s six month contract with Columbia Pictures in 1949, and is said to have made some degrading remarks about her.  In 1950, Lucille was also having trouble with Cohn; he wouldn’t let her pursue an important role at Paramount. Lucille outsmarted him in the end. Her contract required one more film of her to which she would earn $85,000. She agreed to appear in a “Class E” film that only took five days for her to complete. She pocketed half the film’s budget.

Keith Andes – Starred alongside Marilyn in Clash By Night (1952). Starred alongside Lucille in the musical Wildcat (1960).

HUAC – Arthur Miller, Marilyn’s husband at the time, was famously called to appear before the HUAC in 1956, although there was no evidence to substantiate him belonging to the Communist party. In 1936, Lucille registered as a Communist at the insistence of her grandfather so that her and her brother could vote for his friend who was running for city council at the time. Lucille never actually voted Communist or contributed to Communism in any way, and after a long struggle, she was cleared.

Marilyn and Lucy at Walter Winchell's birthday party.

Marilyn and Lucy at Walter Winchell’s birthday party.

Marilyn and Lucille even met on at least one occasion at a party for Walter Winchell at Ciro’s nightclub in Hollywood in 1953.

Both Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe have achieved legendary status in their own ways. Lucille will always be treasured as the zany redhead who “made some noise” in Hollywood and throughout the world, just as she set out to do. Marilyn will live on in the hearts of millions as the blonde who challenged the censors and took her career by the horns. Both timeless, classy ladies were two of the most successful women in Hollywood, leaving behind countless films and other media and will be honored forever.

 

-Ky Monroe for Immortal Marilyn