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Marilyn Monroe Revisited

One hundred years ago on August 5, the International Herald Tribuneran the following article:

Marilyn and Shrek on Hollywood Boulevard. Photo by: Susan Marg

“A Call for Modest Dressing”

NEW YORK — An appeal is addressed by Miss G. Trenholm, the settlement worker, to fashionable women to inaugurate an era of modest dressing. Miss Trenholm declares that the greatest problem confronting the United States is the extravagance, inefficiency, lack of modesty, and selfishness of its women and young girls. Working girls, she says, slavishly imitate the styles of dress set by their fashionable sisters. She said there is quite a “subtle poisoning of all our femininity, and it is not working upward from poverty into prosperity, but downward from prosperity into poverty.”

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Values change.  Styles change.  And life in these United States changes.

Fifty years later, also on August 5, The International Herald Tribune ran the following article:

Marilyn Monroe Dies”

HOLLYWOOD — Actress Marilyn Monroe, sex symbol of her generation, was found dead early today [Aug. 5], her nude body lying face down on her bed and her hand clutching a telephone. Police said Miss Monroe, 36, took an overdose of barbiturates. A bottle which contained 40 to 50 sleeping pills was found empty by her bed when police arrived.

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This past August on the same date, 20th Century Fox, which had employed Monroe for most of her career, released a seven-disc Blu-Ray boxed set with five remastered Fox titles in which she starred, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, River of No Return, There’s No Business Like Show Business, as well as Some Like It Hot and The Misfits from United Artists.  The New York Times described the image and sound quality as “simply superb.”

Now recognized as much as being a fashion icon for her form-fitting, curve-enhancing attire, platinum blonde hair, and bright red lipstick as for her star turns on the big screen, Marilyn Monroe lives on.

Some things never change.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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If These Walls Could Talk

Marilyn certainly gave it her all.

What comings and goings at The Beverly Hills Hotel.

Marilyn Monroe preferred bungalows numbers 1 and 7 when she stayed there.  However, when she was prepping for her role in Let’s Make Love, a 1960 musical satire about a show within a show, she and her husband, Arthur Miller, resided next to her French co-star, Yves Montand, and his wife, actress Simone Signoret, in Bungalows 20 and 21.  Although the four were friends, it wasn’t a very good idea.

Monroe and Montand began an affair when Miller went to Reno to put finishing touches on his script The Misfits, to star Monroe, which would begin shooting in a few months.  Monroe, as usual, was feeling insecure and despondent.  Miller, in her mind, didn’t care, more concerned about his career than her welfare.  When he returned to Los Angeles and crossed a writer’s strike to rework scenes for Let’s Make Love, already considered a stinker, their marriage was unraveling.

Montand, for his part, was hoping to use his role, a role, by the way, turned down by such leading men as Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, James Stewart, and Yul Brynner, to break into American films.  Once production began, he soon learned what the others already knew: he was simply a foil for Marilyn.   His star would rise or fall with her performance, and he readily succumbed to her advances.

Word of their between-the-sheets activities was uncovered in the usual matter: by the press lurking and skulking about, buying inside information from hotel personnel, only too happy to earn an easy buck.   Neither Monroe nor Montand seemed at all concerned.

Neither was the studio.   Hoping a scandal would save the movie, they contributed to the gossip, sending columnist Hedda Hopper to interview Montand.  And he talked.

“I did everything I could to make things easier for her when I realized that mine was a very small part,” Montand told Hopper.  “The only thing that could stand out in my performance was my love scenes, so naturally I did everything I could to make them realistic.”

With these words, Montand might have saved his marriage, but Let’s Make Love is remembered as a flop.  Monroe, however, singing “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” was sensational.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Watch Yves Montand watching Marilyn Monroe sing “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QKK47bK_WA&feature=related

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Hooray for Hollywood Movie Stars

Marilyn and Jane: real movie stars.

Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell were immortalized at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard on June 26, 1953 before the release of their movie, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Looking their best in their low cut summer halter dresses showing lots of cleavage, the blonde bombshell and the statuesque brunette were all smiles as they stepped up to the plate.  Then they stretched out and settled in on a cushion put out for their comfort.

Officials of Grauman’s soundly ignored Monroe’s suggestion that they imprint their best assets for posterity – hers being her bottom and Russell’s being her breasts – so, they signed their names, left their shoe and handprints, and wrote the name of their movie across their adjoining squares in the cement.

Marilyn, concerned that she would mess up, had the opportunity to practice beforehand.  Rather than placing her high heel pumps into the wet material, she went barefoot.  The test slab, measuring 17 X 22” and weighing 23 pounds, was sold in 2010 for $30,000.

More Monroe memorabilia has been on the auction block the past couple of years. The tight red sequin dress with slits down the front and up her leg she had on when she and Russell sang “Two Little Girls from Little Rock” sold for $1.2 million about the same time.  While that’s not as much as her iconic white halter dress from The Seven Year Itch that went for $4.6 million, it’s not too shabby.

The strapless pink satin gown with the oversized bow that showed off Marilyn’s curves when she performed “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” went for $320,000.  While not quite in the same league as her other attire, Madonna commemorated the outfit when fittingly she wore a copy in her video “Material Girl.”

As Russell in character as Dorothy Shaw said of her best friend Lorelei Lei, “You know I think you’re the only girl in the world who can stand on a stage with a spotlight in her eye and still see a diamond inside a man’s pocket.”

This being Oscar season it’s worth noting that the famed classic, a commercial and critical success, didn’t receive any nominations, let alone any awards – not for best movie, best actress, best screenplay, best songs, or best costumes.  This begs the questions: what does the Academy know and when do they know it?

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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To see more of Marilyn and Jane at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, visit:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWNiTUmwf0Y

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Don’t Scratch That Itch.

Do husbands still send their wives and children off for the summer to escape the unbearable New York heat and humidity?  Probably not.   With so many women in the workplace, they go as a family or they don’t go at all.

Oh, that feels so good. Photo by: Jason Anfinsen

But when Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch was released in 1955 it was a different world.  Husbands stayed home to take care of business.  Wives were concerned about hearth and home.

In the opening scene 38-year old Richard Sherman takes his family to the train station for their trip to Maine. The little woman, fretting and fussing over him, reminds him, “You promised to eat properly and not smoke, like Dr. Murphy told you, and you promised not to drink for a while, like Dr. Summers told you.”

Richard spends the remainder of the film trying to live up to his promises, especially the one he made at the marriage altar.   When he meets his new neighbor played by Marilyn Monroe, referred to throughout the film as “The Girl,” he has his work cut out for him.  That’s part of the fun.

Of course, the other part is watching Marilyn, all fluff and sweetness, like pink cotton candy, filling out her clothes as if they had been painted on.  She just can’t be as innocent as she appears.

It’s apparent that Marilyn is in on the joke.  “The Girl” tells Richard that she’s a model, but she had lost a job after a picture of her was published in U.S. Camera. “They got all upset… It was one of these ‘artistic pictures,” she elaborated. “You could see three different types of textures: driftwood, the sand, and me.”

Only a blind bat living in a dark cave didn’t get the reference to the flap over Monroe’s nude photo in a pin-up calendar.

The movie alludes to many other pop topics of the times.  Home alone Richard, a book editor, settles down to proofread Of Man and the Unconscious by Dr. Ludwig Brubaker.  “Some title,” he grouses, and changes it to “Sex and Violence,” so the book will sell better. “Chapter three,” he continues reading, “The Repressed Urge of the Middle Aged Man: Its Roots and Its Consequences.”  The book takes direct aim at the controversial Kinsey Reports.

When his work doesn’t hold his interest, Richard daydreams about an extracurricular affair that takes place on the beach with waves lapping at the shore.  Is anyone familiar with From Here to Eternity?  It won the 1953 Best Picture Oscar.

In another fantasy Richard channels Liberace, dressed in a white tuxedo and tickling the ivories, as he woos the babe by his side.  Hardly coincidentally the renowned pianist was wooing them at the Riviera Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas for fifty thousand dollars a week.

The Seven Year Itch is so much more than a sex comedy.  Aside from leaving us with the lasting image of Monroe standing over a subway grate hoping to catch a breeze, it coined the phrase “the seven year itch.”  It’s an affliction for which there is still no cure.

 

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Will the Real Movie Star Please Stand Up.

Photo by: bigdmia

Marilyn Monroe wanted nothing more than to be a serious actress.  And she struggled for her art.

When Monroe first went to Hollywood, she was bounced from studio to studio and cast in bit roles in forgettable movies.

In 1949 just twenty-three years old, she was broke and needed to pay her rent, so she posed nude, not something nice girls did, for fifty dollars.  The resulting image of her lying on her side on red velvet and looking over her shoulder with her mouth slightly open was pure eroticism.  The photographer sold it for nine hundred dollars, making a nice profit.

Two years later  Collier’s magazine featured her as “1951’s Model Blonde.” It was wonderful publicity for a young woman who hadn’t yet appeared in a starring role, but it exposed her as one of the models in a popular pin-up calendar that hung in garages and barber shops around the country.

Studio publicists told Marilyn to deny it was she, but she told the truth.  “Why deny it,” she told a reporter.  “Beside, I’m not ashamed of it.  I’ve done nothing wrong.”

When pressed for details as to what she had on during the photo shoot, Marilyn answered, “The radio.”   She knew how to handle the media, and everyone was crazy about her.

I’m looking forward to seeing Michelle Williams as Marilyn in My Week with Marilyn.  The movie is  based on the diary of a young assistant on the London set of The Prince and the Showgirl starring Marilyn and Sir Laurence Olivier.

Scarlett Johansson had once been considered for the part.   She might have the looks, but she doesn’t have the attitude.

When leaked cell phone photos of the current A-list actress cropped up all over the Internet, she called her lawyer.  “The highly personal and private photos at issue capture our client self-posing in her own home in a state of undress and/or topless,” he wrote in a cease and desist letter to infringing websites, “If you fail to comply, you will be acting at your own peril.”

Wow.

Now hacking is a serious issue, and the FBI is on the case.  But wouldn’t it be better to lighten up?  If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen and take one layer off at a time.

Smile and say “cheesecake”.


© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Feeling Hot Hot Hot in Chicago

That platinum blond hair.  Those red-lacquered toenails and bright lipstick.  A white halter dress… and matching panties.

Yep, that’s Marilyn Monroe looming over passersby in Chicago’s Pioneer Court.  The 26’ tall statue by artist Seward Johnson was revealed  last week as the sweltering day gave way to a more comfortable summer evening.  It received both criticism and acclaim.  Is it sexy or sexist?  Public art or a tourist ploy?  And why Chicago?

Photo by: Joshua Melin

“Forever Marilyn” captures the iconic moment in Billy Wilder’s 1955 The Seven Year Itch in which Monroe stands over a New York subway grate, enjoying the breeze created by passing trains below.

While the scene was actually filmed on a soundstage in Hollywood, movie stills were taken at Lexington and 52nd Street creating a great deal of publicity.  Stories about Marilyn had dominated the news for days.

When she arrived in town to begin filming, one paper ran the headline, “Marilyn Wiggles In.”

Another announced, “There won’t be any admission charge when Marilyn appears for the shooting of street sequences for her new film… Miss Monroe’s costume is expected to be more revealing than the one she wore yesterday to stop traffic.”

Not surprisingly, fifteen hundred fans showed up, including her husband, Joe DiMaggio.  He had followed her from Los Angeles to the Big Apple, concerned about her welfare, as well as being disturbed by the commotion she was causing.  He was the jealous type.

Dropping by Toots Shor’s, a hangout for celebrities of the day, he met up with columnist Walter Winchell who induced him to check out the scene.  And what a scene!

The crowd was whooping and hollering, cheering and shouting.  “More, more, Marilyn,” they chanted. “We want to see more.”  With the aid of a wind-blowing machine, her skirt whipped around and flew up and down, exposing not only her bare legs but also her dark pubic hair through two pairs of panties.  The spectacle continued for  five long hours.

The media hype disgusted DiMaggio, as did his belief in his wife’s willing participation in the promotion.  “I’ve had it,” he shouted and left.  There were reports that he knocked her around later that night.

Two months later Monroe filed for divorce.  The marriage of the movie star and the Yankee Clipper had lasted less than ten months.  The lustful leering goes on forever.

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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