Final Post: Book Review: The Girl

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Actress, Sex Symbol, Feminist?

What is the first thing one thinks of when they hear of Marilyn Monroe? “Happy Birthday Mr. President?” A sex symbol? An actress of the 1950’s? A woman who died mysteriously? What about a strong business woman? Or even a feminist? Biographer Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed, Before Marilyn, The Ice Cream Blonde, and Carole Lombard: Twentieth Century Star, makes an argument for the latter two options in her new book, The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist.

 

Some may shudder at the idea of a woman who has been labeled the ultimate victim personified and who, supposedly, fully relished in being objectified as a symbol of patriarchal sexuality, as being a feminist. Images of women such as Gloria Steinem, Andrea Dworkin, and Valerie Solanas easily come to mind for those who closely followed second wave feminists in the 60’s while millennials may think of Margaret Cho, Rose McGowan, and Meryl Streep but Marilyn Monroe is sorely lacking in the minds of many. Yet Morgan shows us the errors of our ways.

 

Composed of ten chapters, Morgan opens the book with a brief biography about Monroe’s life. Chapter one, where our story begins, follows Monroe during the preproduction of The Seven Year Itch, which closely aligns with her marriage to Joe DiMaggio. By the time filming was completed, so was her marriage. Chapter two, aptly titled “No Dumb Blonde,” shows the dedication that Marilyn spent to honing her craft and takes a deeper look at Monroe’s 1955 move to New York. Chapter three explores the press’ fascination with Marilyn seemingly giving up her career in Hollywood to focus on cultural aspirations in New York and the formation of Monroe’s production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions. Chapter four digs deep into what would become Monroe’s primary focus for the rest of her life, The Actor’s Studio, run by the man some call her Svengali, Lee Strasberg. We are taken on Monroe’s whirlwind acceptance into the famed acting school and Morgan shows us Monroe’s arguably idyllic life as a single woman in New York in 1955. Chapter five has Morgan exploring the idea of Monroe being a feminist, pointing out that the term received backlash from those who only ten years later would have almost assuredly embraced the title such as Vijaya Lakshmi and those who fully embraced it at the time, like singer Eartha Kitt. Morgan asserts that Monroe probably would not have accepted the term during this time (1955) but likely would have appreciated it in the latter 1960’s. Chapter six begins with examining more of Monroe’s business genius and the reader can’t help but feel that if Monroe had chosen a career closer to Elizabeth Moss’ Margaret “Peggy” Olson from Mad Men she would have easily become the next Don Draper. Morgan shows how she negotiated with not only Fox during this time (1955) but also notoriously stubborn screen legend Laurence Olivier. Chapter seven takes us through what many Monroe fans will argue was the beginning of the happiest time of her life, 1956, and shows the reader just what Monroe was up against even after she had won her contract disputes with Fox the previous year. A highlight of chapter eight, which primarily deals with the pre-production of The Prince and the Showgirl and the beginning of Monroe’s marriage to playwright Arthur Miller, is the impeccable research that Morgan has completed on Monroe’s former acting coach, Natasha Lytess and comments that Lytess’ made about Marilyn both before and after her death. Chapter nine takes us through filming and cast attitudes towards Marilyn during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl. Finally, chapter ten gives the reader an overview of Marilyn’s life from 1957-1962. Morgan paints a fascinating portrait of a woman who is still exhibiting a keen business sense behind the scenes after ridicule by the public for asserting herself but the feminist flame is not burning quite as brightly as the ideal period of 1954-1956, which is what the book primarily focuses on. That is not to say that Monroe was no longer a fighter, she most certainly was, and Morgan points that out, but society has seemingly doused Monroe’s flame and put forward the misconceptions of Monroe that are still alive and well today. An extra bright spot is the epilogue, featuring testimony from fans and luminaries alike such as Suzie Kennedy, Emma Watson, Daisy Morgan, Andrea Pryke, and Tara Hanks.

 

Morgan shines light on aspects of Monroe’s life that have been overlooked by most biographers. She accurately asserts that “…the public preferred their Monroe funny,” (17) and does not paint Twentieth Century Fox as being the primary “bad guy” in Monroe’s plight like most books do. Fox was a business. They were not there to foster her artistic ambitions. It’s refreshing to see Morgan acknowledge that society boxed her in which caused Fox’s typecasting. There are private Marilyn moments never before fully explored such as Monroe’s time at photographer Milton Greene’s Connecticut farmhouse in 1955. Morgan paints a wonderful picture of Monroe being able to enjoy literature and take jasmine and gardenia scented bubble baths (64). Another highlight is Morgan introducing us to another aspect of Monroe, the businesswoman with a much deeper understanding of the inner-workings of the studio system than previous authors have given her credit for. Morgan relays a story most likely told by Eli Wallach in a 1955 anonymous interview, “Marilyn gave me the kind of advice I’d only expect to get from a Hollywood lawyer. She knew the ins and outs and the fine-print tricks better than an agent.” (119)

 

This book is not simply a biography on Monroe and shouldn’t be mistaken as one. Instead it’s a detailed and accurate study of feminist culture in the 1950’s with Monroe as the primary case study. Morgan interweaves anecdotes about 50’s society and brings other women forward to show their plights and how they were similar to Monroe’s. A notable story in the book is that of Selma Silbert, the wife of a court reporter who was covering Monroe’s divorce from DiMaggio. After watching Monroe’s tear-filled testimony at her divorce hearing, Silbert bypassed meeting her husband, Mark, for lunch and instead jumped out of a ten story window. The cause, Morgan asserts, was postpartum depression, something that overlooked and written off as “normal” for many women during the 1950’s (46). While Monroe herself never dealt with this issue, she did struggle with feeling depressed quite often in her life and the reader can see why Morgan has chosen this story. Another current issue that has been ignored until recently is sexual assault by some lecherous men in Hollywood. Morgan shares both Monroe’s stories and those of other actresses who faced similar situations during this time. Harvey Weinstein types were alive and well and Morgan isn’t afraid to be frank about it (79).

 

The one thing that I wish Morgan would have focused on a tad more is the long line of female production studio owners and directors of the 1920’s and how Marilyn would have likely known about many of them being from Los Angeles and born during the era. Rita Hayworth and Ida Lupino both started production companies (Lupino was also a director and the only person, male or female, to both direct and star in two separate episodes of The Twilight Zone) well before Monroe but it is a testament to the time that they received very little publicity in fan magazines for these accomplishments. Morgan sufficiently covers that base in her book. Women’s accomplishments just were not as important as men’s in the 1950’s. Morgan notes that most women behind the scenes in prestigious roles in development (producers, directors, etc.) were before 1943.

 

Overall The Girl is the first book on Monroe that focuses almost exclusively on her achievements, both personally and professionally. Morgan uses a variety of sources including fan magazines, interviews, and newspapers from the time to show just what Monroe was facing from the public. Morgan gives us the good, the bad, and the ugly and we can fully appreciate just what Monroe faced during her lifetime.
The Girl will undoubtedly become a resource for not only scholars of Monroe, but also for those who want to study the roots of second wave feminism from the decade before and society’s view of women in the 1950’s. Was Monroe a feminist? Absolutely. She does not deserve the stigma that surrounds her as being nothing more than a dumb blonde who relied on her sexuality and became the eternal victim. Monroe was strong. Monroe was a fighter. Monroe was smart. Morgan is the first author to truly capture all of that. I don’t think it often on books on Monroe but The Girl truly is a must-have. If I had my way, it would be on the shelf of every person in the world.

Monroe and Fox

There’s a lot of backlash against Fox in the Monroe community as being the ultimate bad guy. They underpaid her and wouldn’t let her pursue dramatic roles. While I am not saying that I agree with how Fox handled everything with Monroe, I do believe that people need to take a step back and look at Fox as a business who made smart career decisions for their contract players that benefited their bottom line.  This article will dissect the two most common complaints that I see in the community: Monroe not being given dramatic roles and being underpaid.

Dramatic Comedian

Some people may remember my typecasting article. You can read that by clicking here to see figures. The primary argument I see is that Monroe wanted to do dramatic roles but Fox never gave her the chance. For argument’s sake, I am going to focus on films from 1950-1962. This will allow us to focus on Monroe’s movies after she signed her contract. I am including movies she did with other companies because Fox would have seen those profit margins. Comedies are noted with a “*” while dramatic works are noted with a “-“. Some movies are dramatic comedies so I will count them as both.

1.) A Ticket to Tomahawk *

2.) The Asphalt Jungle –

3.) All About Eve –

4.) The Fireball –

5.) Hometown Story –

6.) As Young As You Feel *

7.) Love Nest *-

8.) Let’s Make It Legal *

9.) Clash By Night –

10.) We’re Not Married *

11.) Don’t Bother to Knock –

12.) Monkey Business *

13.) O’ Henry’s Full House –

14.) Niagara –

15.) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes *

16.) How To Marry A Millionaire *

17.) River of No Return –

18.) There’s No Business Like Show Business *

19.) The Seven Year Itch *

20.) Bus Stop *-

21.) The Prince and the Showgirl *-

22.) Some Like It Hot *

23.) Let’s Make Love *

24.) The Misfits –

25.) Something’s Got To Give *

Final Totals: Comedies: 15 Dramas: 13.

15/13 is a pretty even split. Let’s look at someone else to see how they fared at this point. I’ll use Elizabeth Taylor being she was working steadily. Please note that 5 & 6 are uncredited cameos

1.) The Big Hangover *

2.) Father of the Bride *

3.) Father’s Little Dividend *

4.) A Place In The Sun –

5.) Quo Vadis –

6.) Callaway Went Thataway –

7.) Love Is Better Than Ever *

8.) Ivanhoe –

9.) The Girl Who Had Everything –

10.) Rhapsody *- /musical drama so not putting it directly as a drama

11.) Elephant Walk –

12.) Beau Brummel –

13.) The Last Time I Saw Paris –

14.) Giant –

15.) Raintree County –

16.) Cat On A Hot Tin Roof –

17.) Suddenly Last Summer –

18.) BUtterfiled 8 –

19.) Cleopatra –

20.) The VIP’s –

Final Totals: Comedies: 5 Dramas: 16

5/16. That is definitely the definition of typecasting. Finally, let’s do Betty Grable. For Betty, I am going to do 1943-1955.

1.) Four Jills in a Jeep *

2.) Pin Up Girl *

3.) Diamond Horseshoe *

4.) The Dolly Sisters *

5.) Do You Love Me *

6.) The Shocking Miss Pilgrim *

7.) Mother Wore Tights *

8.) The Lady In Ermine *

9.) When My Baby Smiles At Me *

10.) The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend *

11.) Wabash Avenue *

12.) My Blue Heaven -*

13.) Call Me Mister *

14.) Meet Me After The Show *

15.) The Farmer Takes A Wife *

16.) How To Marry A Millionaire *

17.) Three For The Show *

18.) How To Be Very, Very Popular *

Final Totals: Comedies/Musicals: 18 Dramas: 0

Now, I am not saying that Monroe didn’t fight hard on typecasting and she definitely deserves credit for that. I’ll never take that away from her. But to insinuate that she was heavily misaligned by Fox is simply untrue. Fox, especially in the beginning, did give her her fair share of starring roles in dramatic films. The returns just weren’t there when we compare them to her comedies. Fox wasn’t there to bolster a star’s artistic ambitions. They were a well oiled machine with each star having their place. Monroe’s career very well could have gone the way of Grable’s (who was very happy with what she accomplished) but she fought for it not to. Again, that’s wonderful, but to act like Fox took one look at her and threw her in comedies simply isn’t true. They followed the money and the public decided what they wanted. They did not want a serious Monroe.

Here’s the scenario I recommend thinking about: You employ a man named Bill. Bill can make you $10/hour if he is typing memos but if he is interacting with clients he can make you $30/hour. Where are you going to keep Bill? Bill is under contract to you and won’t be able to just quit without heavy spending on his part so you’re not going to really risk anything by placing him where you want. You’re going to keep Bill with customers. Once in awhile you may give him a memo day but you want to maximize your profits as much as the next company. That’s exactly what Fox did with Monroe. All stars went through a probationary period to find what genre the public responded to the most. Again, the public did not want a serious Monroe. If there’s anyone to blame for her typecasting, it’s the public.

Salaries

The two women I see Monroe primarily compared to are Jane Russell and Elizabeth Taylor in regards to salary. The main two points that tend to get overlooked are 1.) Both were proven box office successes and 2.) Both were freelancing. Russell earning $100,000 compared to Monroe’s $250/week seems extremely unfair but you have to understand that Monroe was a contract player with two (dramatic!) starring roles under her belt. Russell had been an A-lister in the business since the 40’s, was free lancing, and was a proven box office smash. Monroe was none of those things. She wouldn’t have been able to match Russell’s salary at any studio and frankly, at that point, she didn’t deserve to. Niagara and Don’t Bother To Knock had both been lackluster earners. Did Monroe have name recognition? Yes. But they weren’t box office smashes and she had yet to prove that she could make a film and command large crowds.

On the other hand we have Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor had been offered the lead in Cleopatra. She countered with $1,000,000 to do the picture as well as $50,000/week to do the picture after the million was paid (if filming went over, which it did) and 10% of the gross profits. Fox agreed (Much to their dismay. Taylor received roughly $7 million after the movie’s release). Again, Taylor was a freelancer with a better earnings track record than Monroe although their popularity with the public was pretty much the same. Taylor ran into serious health problems on set that were no fault of her own, causing filming to be delayed. Monroe may have hated that her home studio was paying an outsider 10x what she was getting but, again, Taylor was a freelancer who held the upper hand. If Monroe had finished out her original contract in 1958, she very well could have been the first woman to earn $1,000,000 a picture. While Monroe 1954-1956 negotiations with Fox are commendable, she ended up digging herself into a larger hole.

Note that contract star salaries were notoriously low, not just Monroe’s. It also kept hundreds of people in work. Movie are not just a director, the cameraman, and the actors. There may be upwards of 100 people on set, maybe thousands for scenes with extras. All of these people are getting paid as well. Movies also weren’t earning hundreds of millions or several billion dollars like they are now. A hit typically brought in $4 – $10 million in the mid-50’s but that wasn’t necessarily pure profit either, budgets tended to be around the $2 million mark.

In conclusion, I am not slamming Monroe and I do understand her point. I just believe we need to stop blaming everyone else for her problems. Taylor couldn’t control what Fox paid Monroe. Russell couldn’t control it either. Fox was a business and they expected their employees to follow their rules, just like businesses do today. It’s time for people to take a second look at just how much the public was involved with Monroe’s unhappiness.

Marilyn, Joe, and Allegations of Abuse

I have pondered how to go about this article for a very long time. It’s a tricky subject to navigate, especially being a survivor of two extremely abusive relationships myself. Yet it has to be talked about. So often we see “Oh if Marilyn had ended up with Joe again she would have been happier/saved/gotten away from Hollywood/etc.”

Look, I love Joe and Marilyn as much as the next guy and there is no denying that the friendship Marilyn posessed with Joe in the last year and a half of her life meant a lot to her. Joe was her rock at this point and he helped her immensely (he was not able to get her released into his custody at Payne Whitney but he did get Dr. Kris to pull her out). There are posthumous rumors of a remarriage between the two but there is nothing to support that from her time period, albeit rumors were swirling around the possibility. Personally, I find it unlikely being she was dating Frank Sinatra for a portion of 1961, supposedly when she was with Joe.

But, we need to focus on 1954. Joe and Marilyn were married in January and she filed for divorce in October. What went wrong” One of the strongest theories is that Marilyn left because of physical abuse by Joe.

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During her trip to Korea Marilyn’s thumb was fractured (although some say it was sprained) and there are two stories that explain how it happened. The first is that Marilyn gave Joe a hug from behind. Not expecting it, Joe threw her off of him. The second is more nefarious. Marilyn and Joe were arguing while packing for their trip. In a rage, Joe slammed the lid of the suitcase down on Marilyn’s thumb, resulting in the fracture.

Next you can see a bruise on the inside of Marilyn’s arm while visiting the set of Marlon Brando’s “Desiree.” At this point, Marilyn was asked by Louella Parsons how she obtained the bruises on her arm. Marilyn responded that she bit herself in her sleep. Based on the height on the bruises, it seems unlikely that Marilyn was biting herself right below her armpit. There are no other reports of her biting herself nor are there any other like bruises in any of her other pictures to suggest that this was a habit.

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Finally, the most famous story comes from various people who were there to Goddess author Anthony Summers.

Milton Krasner – cameraman for Itch – recalled screaming coming from their suite at the St. Regis.

Gladys Whitten – hairdresser and wardrobe mistress – Said that Marilyn came in the next day with bruises on her shoulders that were covered up because Joe had “roughed her up a little bit.”

Amy Greene – Friend of Marilyn and wife of Milton Greene – “I was sitting on the bed with her mink around me and Marilyn started to get undressed. She forgot I was sitting there and she was taking off her blouse. . . Her back was black and blue – I couldn’t believe it. . . She didn’t know what to say and she wasn’t a liar so she just said ‘Yes.'”

Whitey Snyder – Marilyn’s makeup man and one of her closest friends for over 15 years – “They loved one another but they couldn’t be married to one another. . . . Sometimes he gave her a bad time – he’d hit her up a bit.”

Marilyn finally had enough after that night at the St. Regis. A few weeks later she filed for divorce. You can see her divorce announcement video here:

Marilyn was strong. She realized she was in a toxic situation and left. THAT is what needs to be applauded, not the idea that she was helpless and needed a romantic interest to save her. Joe was old school and Marilyn was a feminist pioneer. She wasn’t going to stand for being mistreated and that, again, needs to be applauded. This is just another reason to love the world’s most famous blonde.

If you, or someone you love, is in an abusive relationship please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Is My Press Photo Authentic? When Was It Taken?

There are hundreds of thousands of press, wire, original, and publicity photos available on eBay at any given point in time. With such a large market there are bound to be thousands of fakes. I’ve been there myself. A seller will advertise something as being an original snapshot or press photo only for you to get it an a) realize that it’s fake, b) question its authenticity, or c) believe it’s real. But how can you tell?

The Paper

That plastic coating on the back of your modern photos? That came out in the late 1960’s. If you have a photo that claims to be before that but it has that coating, it is not authentic. Some people claim that photo paper branding, the name of the paper company printed on the back of the photo paper, came around in the 1970’s. This process actually started in the 1940’s with Velox. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Kobak/Velox/Paper stated appearing on the back of photos. A Kodak Paper will date your photo to the late 1960s and early 70’s. This Paper/Manufactured by Kodak was used in the 1970’s and 80’s. I haven’t seen a legitimate press photo with this but original snapshots can have branding. Original press photos’ backs will feel more like paper being that’s exactly what they are.

Age

I’m going to say this one time, press photos came from working newspaper archives. They were usually thrown in a file and pulled out when a story ran on someone to have a visual aid. They are very rarely in pristine condition because of this. Dings, small rips, scratches, and dents are not uncommon with these pictures.  There will be age on your photograph, regardless of how it was cared for. Yellowing and foxing are common on press photo backs from the 1920’s-1960’s.

Prints vs. Photographs

This can be confusing but there are significant differences. A print is just that, a print of a photograph. The print was not created using chemicals and light exposures, it was printed off of a machine. Lithograph, giclee, half-tone, laser print, digital prints, etc. are all different types of prints. Photographers will sometimes have prints and photographs made of the same image, with the prints selling for much less. Magazine and newspaper images are prints as well. An easy way to tell is to look at your image very closely. Magazines are a good place to start being you can see the dots (fuzzy but visible) that make up the image. You can also do this with help from a magnifying glass or microscope.

Original vs Not

Originals are the most collectible and hardest to obtain. These were printed from the original negative and are from the first (or only!) printing. Do note that the photographer may or may not have had anything to do with the actual process of developing the film (those that they were involved with usually will have their initials or a stamp).

Vintage photos are photos that were printed shortly after the photo was taken. My rule of thumb is within five years of the photo being taken if it was within the last century (This changes with the subject and time. A photo from the 70’s fits with this but a 1930’s reprint of a photo from the 20’s would be vintage). These don’t come up as often.

Printed later photos are just that, photos that were printed significantly later. You see a lot of these used for obituaries but this is also the number one category of fakes being it includes home prints or scans. I know I once received pictures that were claimed to be press photos but were instead home prints with horrible pixelation by a seller off of Etsy. I never received my money back and they claimed they didn’t know they were fakes. Beware of printed later photos that look too good to be true!

Original printed later photos are photos printed much later from the original negative. They can be released by the photographer or company that owns the copyright or someone who has bought a negative. They are remarkably popular on eBay and are usually priced around $9.99-$14.99. Most sellers will tell you that they are selling reprints from the original negative although I have seen some who post these as being original and it’s not until you read the listing that you see it is from the original negative. These are usually printed on demand. I have mixed feelings on these. You can find some beautiful rare photos if you are looking for something to frame and don’t want to worry about sun exposure, UV blocking glass, etc.. Yet they aren’t nearly as valuable and, depending on the subject you are looking for, can be priced about the same as an original.

Later generation and second generation photos are photos that aren’t vintage and are usually a photo of a photo (like one that I received from the Etsy order I talked about earlier) or a copy of the original negative. Their quality isn’t great. You see these on cheap illegal prints and in magazines. While magazines can be valuable, these photos are not. If you find a print or magazine you’re absolutely in love with for the photo, have at it, but realize that your chances of making a profit strictly based off of the photographs inside is nil.

Nearly all of the photos above can fall into one of two categories, official and unofficial. Press photos are official. The copyright holder allowed the newspaper, magazine, etc. to print it (or printed it themselves). These photos are usually stamped. Unofficial prints are the people I talked about in original printed later photos or someone printing them from their home. Unofficial prints are almost always illegal.

Stamps

Stamping is another way to make sure your photo is real but do note that stamps have been faked in the past. Stamps might contain the photographer’s name, as seen on the top right of the photo on the right or they may have the copyright holding company’s name, as seen on the top left Associated Press photo. Most companies used the same stamp font and wording for long stretches of time. They usually also stayed with the same color although you may find legitimate photos with different color stamps.

Another thing to look for is the zip code on the back of a photo. If it’s the US 5-digit, the photo was taken after 1962. Also note that some photos will have multiple stamps. Some will have the photographer and the news service while others will have multiple newspaper photo department stamps as archives have been bought and sold over the years. Look for the earliest date for help on figuring out when the photo was used and/or taken. Some photos will only have the date printed on the back. I tend to stay away from these unless it shows some of the other tell-tell signs of being a vintage photo or if it has a snipe (the photo’s caption) copied on the front. Some photos will only have a handwritten caption on the back. This was common with collector’s or small newspapers. Again, look for other signs but it’s okay to be weary.

Wire Photos vs. Press Photos

A lot of press photos you see on eBay were actually wire photos. These photos were sent over a wire and printed on a newspaper’s machine. Press photos were actually sent out by the copyright owner and were run in evening editions of newspapers or the next day. Wire photos tend to have a date stamp or the stamp from the archive. They also are usually less clear and “grainy” when compared to a press photo. Wire photos will have a look of being copied and include the snipe on the front being it would have been too expensive to send front and back.

Misc.

Editing marks are common. A lot of times, a newspaper might only want to run the face of a subject for their story, like in obituaries or gossip columns. These marks don’t personally bug me but some collectors find them to be unnecessary or ugly. I haven’t seen a fake with marking because this limits who will buy the picture.

Note that most press photos come in 8×10, 7×5, and 9×7. 11x14s are rare and their price will reflect that.

Look for silvering on silver gelatin prints. This is when the originally black tones on a photograph look silver from age. This is a natural process and is (one of the only) well received discoloration by collectors. Silvering will not be on all photos but if it’s on them, you have a winner.

Companies to look for: ACME 1923-1952, Associated Press (AP) 1926-1993, International News 1909-1957, UP & UPA late 1800’s-1958, UPI 1958-Present, various studios.

Dating

The most obvious date is the stamped date on the back of a photo but not every photo has this. My main advice is to really know the subject you’re looking to buy pictures of. Women tend to be easier because of changes in hairstyle, makeup, and clothing. This can at least help you find a range for a photo and will require further dating. Another thing to look for on publicity photos is the studio number. Recently I was in a Joan Crawford group where a photo of Joan was posted. Dates were narrowed down from 1932-1934. I noticed the publicity number and looked for a known picture of her with a similar number. Sure enough, there was a famous picture of her with Jackie Cooper from 1933 that was dated roughly 100 photos after the photo in question. With how many photos Joan was taking (around 5,000 a year at this point) so we know that the photo had to be taken soon before. Note that every photo was dated by a studio but not every photo was released. Stars would have a number attached to them. This usually was their initials or another letter identification that was used on only their photos. There are exceptions such as younger starlet photos with a bigger actress or actor. These photos will have the number of the bigger personality or a movie’s number if it was a publicity still but you will likely know when it was taken if you know your subject’s history.

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Publicity photo of Jayne Mansfield when she was at Warner Brothers. Based off of the number, we know that this was the third official publicity photo she took for them.

 

 

 

 

Where is the Cassini?

Marilyn fans have a mixed reaction with this dress. Some love it, some hate it, but we all seem to be able to agree that Marilyn looked good in it (especially when she wore the strap correctly!). But what happened to it?

Let’s start by establishing how the story goes. Oleg Cassini designed this dress for his wife, Gene Tierney, to wear in “Where The Sidewalk Ends.” Cassini retained the dress and put it in his store where a young starlet named Marilyn Monroe purchased the dress.

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The issue? Cassini’s shop was IN NEW YORK at 16 East 55th Street. Marilyn did go to New York in 1949 but photography didn’t start on Fox’s “Where The Sidewalk Ends” (which was filmed in New York) until December of 1949, 5 months after Marilyn’s trip. To make matters more complicated, Marilyn was filming “The Asphalt Jungle” in Los Angeles in December of 1949. She would wear this dress for publicity photos for the movie. Gene was back in Los Angeles with her daughter and husband by January 22, 1950.

 

So we know that Marilyn  never bought the dress from Cassini’s salon in New York. What’s complicated is how she actually got ahold of it. Costume designers in Hollywood went by the same method that they do now. The studio pays you for your designs and retains the costumes. Costume designers can (usually) buy them back. Gene didn’t want the dress so it seems likely that Cassini would not have bought this one back, especially being it had not officially been screen worn (“Where The Sidewalk Ends” was released after “The Asphalt Jungle”). The next problem with how Marilyn obtained it is that “Asphalt” was an MGM feature while “Sidewalk” was a 20th Century Fox feature. The most likely scenario is that Marilyn borrowed the gown from Fox during the filming of “All About Eve” in April of 1950. This would align with around the time the publicity photos for “Asphalt” were likely taken.

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Let’s also establish that Marilyn wore this dress a lot but it has never come up for auction. I find it highly unlikely that she would have discarded this dress, just from a sentimental perspective. If she had owned it, it’s likely that it would have been in the collection of Anna Strasberg that was mostly sold in November of 2016. It’s possible that it could come up in the next Julien’s auction but I personally doubt it. We know that Marilyn frequently borrowed from Fox and would borrow the same dresses multiple times. So what has happened to it? Personally, I believe that it was either never actually purchased by Marilyn and destroyed by Fox or given away by Marilyn. Has anyone seen anything else on this dress? Comment below.

Why Do We Believe Weatherby? OP-ED

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Weatherby’s Book, 1976

W.J. Weatherby’s book is beloved by fans and considered one of the main resources for Marilyn quotes. Indeed, it is a minefield of quips and stories but is it true? Weatherby states that he didn’t actually record his conversations with Marilyn while she was speaking, just that he would write in a series of shorthand after speaking. He goes on to say that being he had a reporter’s memory, it was easy for him to remember long blocks of conversation. This I don’t doubt at all. What comes to mind though is that she would have known she was speaking to a reporter. It doesn’t seem likely that she would bear her soul to someone with the press after her 1954-1955 debacle with Ben Hecht on My Story. It should also be noted that Weatherby gives no dates which is odd because A) it lets you know what was going on in her life during that time and B) most reporters date their work for their own memories. What can’t be disputed is that Weatherby was working on the set of “The Misfits.” What I question are the conversations after.

Weatherby released his book during an interesting time. The Marilyn community had Slatzer, Mailer, Guiles, Marilyn’s My Story, and countless other books written about her. It also was the mecca for celebrity gossip columnist to release their books as well.

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Rona Barrett, 1974

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Marilyn Beck, 1973

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Cindy Adams, 1975

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Sheilah Graham, 1964

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Sheila Graham, 1972

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Sheilah Graham, 1975

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Sheilah Graham, 1970

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Hedda Hopper, 1952

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Hedda Hopper, 1963

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May Mann, 1973

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May Mann, 1975

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Elsa Maxwell, 1963

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Florabel Muir, 1950

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Roy Newquiest, 1980

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Rex Reed, 1961

 

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Louella Parsons, 1961

 

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Rex Reed, 1974

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Rex Reed, 1977

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Sidney Skolsky, 1975

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Adela Rogers St. Johns, 1978

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Earl Wilson, 1971

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Earl Wilson, 1974

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Earl Wilson, 1976

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Earl Wilson, 1984

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Walter Winchell, 1975

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Maurice Zolotow, 1960 (this is the 90’s cover)

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Maurice Zolotow, 1974

 

 

So, not only was Weatherby’s book released at the coming of Marilyn books, it was also released during the prime of gossip columnist tell-alls.

But what about content? There are some great quotes in this book. That cannot be denied. Yet Weatherby falls right into the Slatzer circle, discrediting Ralph Roberts as someone who wasn’t an “old close friend” while claiming that Slatzer was just that. He also supports the Kennedy rumors:

MM – “Maybe I’ll get married again myself.”

W – “Have you someone in mind? Is there a leading candidate?”

MM – “Sort of. Only problem is, he’s married right now. And he’s famous; so we have to meet in secret.”

W – “And he’s getting a divorce?”

MM – “Arthur had to get a divorce, you know. He’s in politics.”

W – “In Hollywood?”

MM – “Oh no. In Washington.”

 

 

 

 

Weatherby then goes on to talk about the Kennedy rumors and seems to support them although it should be noted that he says an overdose by her own hand is possible while he continues to exalt Slatzer (Please note I use the 1992 edition which he wrote the forward to and insists is still true). So, are the memories real? Or was Weatherby just capitalizing? There are no witness statements to support his meetings in a dive bar (which, why would she risk being seen and recognized when she had a home?). In fact, an extremely close confidant of Marilyn revealed that she had never heard of Weatherby when asked by Anthony Summers. His book came out at a peak time. He didn’t mention knowing her in his obituary for the paper in 1962. His notes have never been revealed. It is unknown whether or not Marilyn put him in her personal address book AND, if she had, whether or not the number was a Reno number or a New York number.

My question for you is this: Why should we believe that Marilyn was having secret conversations in a bar with W. J. Weatherby?

 

 

Libel of the Dead…

Recently some pictures were purchased by Tony Michaels, a long lost friend of one of the Monroe Six, Frieda Hull. Here’s where things get tricky. Michaels claims that Frieda told him that Marilyn was PREGNANT in these photos with a child fathered by Yves Montand. I could spend a lot of time breaking this down but long story short, Michaels is full of crap or Frieda was (which I HIGHLY doubt Frieda even told him this story). For a great debunking, check out the article written by Marilyn Remembered’s Scott Fortner here.

From Frances Farmer getting a lobotomy, to Jean Harlow sleeping with truck drivers and killing Paul Bern, to Jayne Mansfield being a practicing Satanist, to Marilyn being pregnant with numerous love children, libeling and slandering the dead is a hot market. Books and articles can print nearly anything they want while any random person can say the same garbage. There is absolutely no consequence for defaming the dead (something I personally think should be overwritten being it can affect estate earnings but that’s another post).

Darwin Porter has cornered the market on these “hot” stories. Here is an excerpt from one of his sources, Liz Renay.

He was very proud of his noble tool, perhaps prouder than he should have been. I heard that when he wasn’t screwing Tallulah Bankhead or Marilyn Monroe – my rival – he liked to plug the boys, especially James Dean.

Who is the above about? Marlon Brando. Renay’s accounts have since spread like wildfire.

On Rory Calhoun:

He was Guy Madison’s longtime lover and those two gorgeous boys enjoyed banging each other more than they enjoyed banging me.

Porter then goes on to make gigantic claims about sexuality including Monroe, Astaire, Wayne, and countless others.  Who are his sources? I’m not able to tell you being a lot aren’t listed. Note that all of the celebrities mentioned were dead by the time Porter’s “Hollywood Babylon Strikes Again” was published.

So, we’ve covered the legalities and some of what you see but the main question is why? That’s where personal opinion comes in. What seems likely is being the studios shrouded their celebrities in mystery and kept actual scandals out of the papers, anyone who so much as whispers something scandalous is taken as repeating a fact. These whispers then get back to reporters and writers like Porter. I won’t say that Porter makes up his claims, it’s likely that he has heard that a friend of a friend of a friend’s third cousin seven times removed knows a guy who knows a guy whose best friend’s sister slept with Jeanne Carmen. So what now? All I’m calling for is writer and researcher responsibility.

Contemporaries – Anita Ekberg

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Over at Immortal Marilyn, I have been lucky enough to have another contemporaries article posted. This week I focused on Anita Ekberg. You can read the article here or click the picture above.

It’s interesting to note that as I write these articles an interesting pattern emerges. Most of the blonde women who reached a certain pinnacle of stardom during the 1950’s were created after Marilyn’s performance in Niagara. Marilyn’s contemporaries in age, (within two years of her birth) like Barbara Payton, usually experienced their stardom earlier, or, like Cleo Moore, had bit roles until being thrust into the Marilyn mold. It’s interesting to project Marilyn’s career if she hadn’t been 24 when she was first cast in the national spotlight in All About Eve and The Asphalt Jungle and 26 for full-fledged stardom in Niagara. Had she “made it” at only 21 or 22, it is likely that she we would have a different version of Marilyn.

 

Jayne Mansfield Contemporaries Feature

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Over at Immortal Marilyn, which I contribute as a writer to, I have had my first article released on Jayne Mansfield. Here it is in full:

Jayne’s Life and Career

Vera Jayne Palmer was born on April 19, 1933, nearly seven years after Marilyn, in Pennsylvania. Jayne’s father died when she was only three while he was driving, an event witnessed by the little girl who was in the front seat, sitting in her mother’s lap. Jayne never got over seeing his death. Jayne recalled her father introducing her to Shirley Temple and wanted to be just like her childhood idol. When Jayne was six, her mother remarried and relocated to Texas with Jayne in tow. Jayne quickly proved herself to be an intellectual and would eventually become a concert violinist and could also play the viola and piano. She also wound up being able to speak four additional languages to English: Spanish, German, Italian, and French and could speak a little Hungarian.

By 1950, Jayne was married to Paul Mansfield with her first child, Jayne Marie, being born in November of that year. Jayne soon enrolled in college and would frequently take her daughter with her to class but her Hollywood dreams never died. In 1953 Jayne finally moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of stardom. Jayne wanted to play ethnic roles but was told to dye her dark brown hair blonde in order to get signed. In early 1955, short a husband, she was signed to Warner Brothers but was dropped by June and went to film the independent production The Burglar in Pennsylvania. Jayne’s agent advised her to try out for George Axelrod’s new Broadway bound play Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter. Reluctant but willing, Jayne went in a bikini covered by a mink coat. She was instantly given the role.

ayne skyrocketed to fame in October. Critics praised her acting ability and Hollywood soon came knocking. After the dust settled, Twentieth Century Fox won out for signing Jayne in 1956, buying out Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter for $150,000 and signing Jayne for $2,500/week. Fox and newspaper columnists billed her, at this point, as the “Rich man’s Marilyn Monroe.” Jayne soon began making The Girl Can’t Help It, a technicolor “Rock and Roll” musical with Tom Ewell, Julie London, Little Richard, and Abby Lincoln. Right after filming commenced, Jayne started John Steinbeck’sThe Wayward Bus before filming Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter in 1957. All were successful with the public and Jayne looked to be the next Marilyn.

Jayne’s mistake was marrying Mickey Hargitay in 1958. Fox wanted a single blonde bombshell, not another married one. Jayne was cast in The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, her last “A” list starring production. While filming, Jayne discovered she was pregnant, the second of her five children. Jayne was given the career death sentence of being in European and independent productions in between nightclub acts in Las Vegas and pregnancies throughout the late 1950’s and 1960’s. By the time Jayne passed away on June 29, 1967, she was reduced to b-list movies and subpar nightclub performances.

Marilyn Connections

“Marilyn and I are entirely different. We’ve really never been in competition. I admire Marilyn and she’s told me she admires me.”

Besides being blonde and having exceptional figures, Marilyn and Jayne were very, very different. Jayne came from an upper-middle class background and had a stable home life. Jayne admired Marilyn but never aspired to be the next Marilyn, she wanted to be known for her own persona. Sadly, she was told the exact same thing as Marilyn had been told seven years before and she embraced the dumb blonde image with much more gusto that Marilyn. Jayne was confident in her 163 IQ and that the “dumb blonde” was a persona, although she did want to do more dramas as well, versus Marilyn thinking that people actually thought that was her.

Jayne and Marilyn took some of the same pre-fame steps. Both were signed to Emmeline Snively’s Blue Book Modeling Agency and both posed for Earl Moran. In fact, when recounting all the women he had drawn through the years, Moran remembered Jayne and Marilyn having two of the most exceptional figures and both being standouts. Photographers were also commonly shared amongst the two women. Jayne posed for Marilyn’s friend and frequent collaborator, Milton Greene in 1955 at his studio. Jayne and Marilyn both also posed for Bruno Bernard, Phillipe Halsman, Frank Powolny, and a host of other 1950’s and 1960’s photographers.

Jayne and Marilyn were spotted with four of the same men at different times in their lives. Marilyn dated Nick Ray, on and off, from 1950-1952, before meeting Joe DiMaggio. Jayne dated Nick Ray, on and off, from 1956-1957, before settling down with Mickey Hargitay. Ray even gifted Jayne a black baby bunny that she had to feed with a baby bottle. While in New York, Jayne was spotted dancing with Joe DiMaggio at El Morocco. Jayne and Marilyn were both spotted with George Jessell, Jayne in 1956 and Marilyn in 1948. The final male they had in common, albeit not romantically for either, was James Haspiel who followed Jayne almost as much as he followed Marilyn.

Jayne and Marilyn had other male connections as well, in the form of co-stars. Tom Ewell was the romantic lead for both, starring with Marilyn in The Seven Year Itch and Jayne in The Girl Can’t Help It.  Dan Dailey was Jayne’s love interest in The Wayward Bus yet played the father of Marilyn’s love interest in There’s No Business Like Show Business three years before. Tony Randall starred with Jayne in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter before starring in Let’s Make Love. Groucho Marks starred in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter as well and had been with Marilyn in Love Happy nearly nine years before. Probably the most well known collaboration is Jayne with Tommy Noonan in Promises, Promises. Noonan had starred with Marilyn exactly ten years before in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

One of the lesser known connections is Something’s Got To Give. Originally slated to begin filming in 1961, Jayne was at first promised the role. When Marilyn came in and agreed to do it, Jayne was dropped. While Marilyn was supposed to be the first A-list American star to appear nude in a mainstream production after the installment of the Hayes Code in Something’s Got To Give, the title wound up going to Jayne in Promises, Promises.

ayne and Marilyn were photographed together once, at The Rose Tattoo premiere. Jayne was openly snubbed by Marilyn. The women didn’t really run in the same social circles but did meet one another a few times, including when Marilyn attended Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter in October of 1955. It’s likely that is when Marilyn told Jayne she admired her. Any other meetings were reported to be cold although Jayne would claim a somewhat civil but distant friendship before and after Marilyn’s death.

One of the more interesting similarities is that Jayne was in high demand like Marilyn was, but on the nightclub and appearance circuit. While Marilyn was in “A-list” productions her whole life, Jayne was commanding a much higher salary for nightclub performances. In 1961 Jayne was making $35,000/week in Vegas while Marilyn was only offered $5,500/week in 1962.

Jayne and Marilyn both suffered with prescription medication addiction issues. Jayne was put on diet pills by Fox to lose baby weight and soon was addicted while Marilyn was put on barbiturates and other medication to help her obtain sleep. Both women also have JFK rumors swirling around them although, like Marilyn, Jayne’s rumors are unfounded and have a dubious beginning.

In closing, Jayne is much more than a Marilyn wannabe or impersonator. To refer to her as such is the same as saying that Marilyn wanted to be Betty Grable or Betty Grable wanted to be Alice Faye. Both women were beautiful, blonde, and intelligent and deserve to be given the same respect that they weren’t offered in their lifetimes.

Finally, the clothes. Jayne was spotted in more than one Marilyn outfit through the years being both women frequently borrowed from the Fox Costume Department.