Saturday Evening Post
- The New Marilyn Monroe - Part 1
pays magazine: USA
paru le 5 mai 1956
article: 1ère partie "The New Marilyn Monroe"
en ligne sur saturdayeveningpost.com
The New Marilyn Monroe
This three-part series by Pete Martin was originally published in The Saturday Evening Post, May 5–19, 1956:
By Pete Martin
Originally published on May 5, 1956
A Post editor’s surprisingly candid report on the girl with the horizontal walk. He reveals things about the phenomenal blonde that even Marilyn herself doesn’t know.
The new Marilyn Monroe in Hollywood after returning from
her self-imposed exile in New York. Not quite 30,
she possesses what is possibly the most
photographed face and figure in history. (Gene Lester, © SEPS)
I said to Marilyn Monroe, “Pictures of you usually show you with mouth open and your eyes half closed. Did some photographer sell you the idea that having your picture taken that way makes you look sexier?”
She replied in what I’d come to recognize as pure Monroese. “The formation of my lids must make them look heavy or else I’m thinking of something,” she told me. “Sometimes I’m thinking of men. Other times I’m thinking of some man in particular. It’s easier to look sexy when you’re thinking of some man in particular. As for my mouth being open all the time, I even sleep with it open. I know, because it’s open when I wake up. I never consciously think of my mouth, but I do consciously think about what I’m thinking about.”
Tucked away in that paragraph like blueberries in a hot muffin were several genuine Monroeisms. I had studied the subject long enough to be able to tell a genuine Monroeism from a spurious one.
When I asked her, “Has anyone ever accused you of wearing falsies?” she came through with a genuine Monroeism.
“Yes,” she told me, her eyes flashing indignantly. “Naturally,” she went on, “it was another actress who accused me. My answer to that is, quote: Those who know me better know better. That’s all. Unquote.”
Another Monroeism followed hard on the heels of that. I said, “I’ve heard that you wowed the marines in Korea when you climbed up onto a platform to say a few words to them, and they whistled at you and made wolf calls.”
“I know the time you’re talking about,” she said. “It wasn’t in Korea at all; it was at Camp Pendleton, California. They wanted me to say a few words, so I said, ‘You fellows down there are always whistling at sweater girls. Well, take away their sweaters and what have you got?’ For some reason they screamed and yelled.”
Another example came forth when Marilyn was asked if she and the playwright, Arthur Miller, were having an affair. “How can they say we’re having a romance?” she replied. “He’s married.”
Still another Monroeism had emerged from a press conference in the Plaza Hotel, in New York City. It was held to announce her teaming with Sir Laurence Olivier in an acting- directing-producing venture — a get-together described by one of those present as “one of the least likely duos in cinematic history.” The big Monroeism of that occasion was Marilyn’s answer to the query, “Miss Monroe, do you still want to do The Brothers Karamazov on Broadway?”
“I don’t want to play The Brothers,” she said. “I want to play Grushenka from that book. She’s a girl.”
Listening to her as she talked to me now, I thought, Nobody can write dialogue for her which could possibly sound half as much like her as the dialogue she thinks up for herself.
Nunnally Johnson, who produced the film, How to Marry a Millionaire, costarring Marilyn, told me, “When I talked to her when she first came on the lot, I felt as if I were talking to a girl under water. I couldn’t tell whether I was getting through to her or not. She lived behind a fuzz curtain.”
Johnson also directed How to be Very, Very Popular, and when Sheree North took Marilyn’s place in that film, he announced: “Sheree will not use the Monroe technique in How to be Very, Very Popular. She will play the entire role with her mouth closed.”
Marilyn’s last sentence to me: “I never consciously think of my mouth, but I do consciously think about what I’m thinking about” seemed a trifle murky, but I had no time to work on it, for, without pausing, she said, “Another writer asked me, ‘What do you think of sex?’ and I told him, ‘It’s a part of nature. I go along with nature.’ Zsa Zsa Gabor was supposed to write an article for a magazine on the subject: ‘What’s Wrong With American Men,’ and I did marginal notes for it. The editor cut out my best lines. I wrote, ‘If there’s anything wrong with the way American men look at sex, it’s not their fault. After all, they’re descended from the Puritans, who got off the boat on the wrong foot — or was it the Pilgrims? — and there’s still a lot of that puritanical stuff around.’ The editor didn’t use that one.”
I carefully wrote down every word she said to me. She told me that she’d rather I wouldn’t use a tape-recording machine while interviewing her. “It would make me nervous to see that thing going round and round,” she insisted. So I used pencils and a notebook instead. But I didn’t use them right away.
I had to wait for her to walk from her bedroom into the living room of her apartment, where I sat ready to talk to her. It took her an hour and a half to make that journey. At 3:45, Lois Weber, the pleasant young woman who handled the Monroe New York publicity, admitted me to the apartment Marilyn was occupying. She pushed the buzzer outside of a door on the eighth floor of an apartment building on Sutton Place South, and a voice asked, “Who is it?”
“It’s me,” said my chaperone.
The lock clickety-clicked open, but when we went in, Marilyn was nowhere in sight. She had retreated into a bedroom. Her voice said to us through the door, “I’ll be out in just seven minutes.”
A publicity man to whom I’d talked at Marilyn’s studio in Hollywood had warned me, “She’ll stand you up a couple of times before you meet her. Then she’ll be late, and when I say late, I mean real late. You’ll be so burned at her before she walks in that you’ll wrap up your little voice-recording machine and get ready to leave at least three times — maybe four times — before she shows. But somebody will persuade you to wait, and finally Marilyn will come in, and before you know it, she’ll have you wrapped up too. For she’s warmhearted, amusing and likable, even if her lateness is a pain in the neck. And after that, if somebody says, ‘That was mighty thoughtless of old Marilyn, keeping you waiting like that,’ you’ll want to slug him for being mean.
“What you won’t know,” that studio publicity man went on, “is that while you’re having hell’s own headache waiting for her, whatever publicity worker is trying to get her to see you is having an even bigger headache. Marilyn will be telling that publicity worker that her stomach is so upset that she’s been throwing up for hours; she hasn’t been able to get her make-up on right; or that she’s got a bum deal in the wardrobe department and hasn’t anything to wear.”
So, in an effort to be witty, when Marilyn said, through the closed door, “I’ll be out in just seven minutes,” I said, “I’ll settle for eight.” Time was to prove it the unfunniest remark I’ve ever made. One hour later I asked Lois Weber, “What do you suppose she’s doing in there?”
“You know how it is,” my publicity-girl chaperone said soothingly, “a girl has to put on her face.”
“What has she got, two heads?” I asked politely. A half hour later I suggested that Lois Weber go into the next room and see what was causing the delay.
Waiting for Lois Weber, I roamed the apartment. On a table lay a play manuscript. Typed on its cover was: Fallen Angels, by Noel Coward. Among the books which seemed in current use were Bernard Shaw’s Letters to Ellen Terry, Shaw’s Letters to Mrs. Patrick Campbell, Gertrude Lawrence as Mrs. A., by Richard Aldrich.
Mute evidence of Marilyn’s widely publicized drama studies at the Actors’ Studio, where she was said to be seeking out the secrets of artistic acting, was a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Several lines of dialogue from that volume had been penciled on a piece of paper, obviously to be recited by or to a group of drama students; then the piece of paper had been thrust part way into the book. Lying on the floor was a large recording of John Barrymore as Hamlet.
That dialogue from Ulysses and the Barrymore recording represented one of the reasons why I was there. I’d read that Marilyn had gone “long hair” and “art theaterish,” and I wanted to see for myself. Just seeing it in print didn’t make it true.
Millions of words had been written about the alluring blonde in whose living room I sat, but most of those words had been of the “authorized” or “with-Marilyn’s-blessing” variety. Several millions of them had appeared in fan magazines — after having first been O.K.’d by the 20th Century-Fox publicity department.
I’d read a lot of those words, but I still felt that I didn’t understand this dame and I was sure that a lot of other people felt the same way about her and that, like myself, they’d been asking themselves for years, “What’s she really like?”
On top of that, they were probably asking themselves other questions — as I was doing. “Why did she blow her marriage with Joe DiMaggio? Why did she walk out on a movie career which was paying her heavy money? Why did she duck California in favor of New York? Why, after she holed up there, did she attend the art-for-art’s-sake Actors’ Studio — surely an unlikely place for a girl who, up to that time, had done most of her acting with her hips?”
I hoped that when I talked to her she would tell me the answers to some of these things. Maybe I’d even see the “new Marilyn Monroe” I’d heard existed.
Lois Weber came back to report: “She thinks the maid must have gone off with the top of her tapered slacks. She’s running around without a top on.”
In an effort to keep me from brooding, Lois Weber said, “The azalea people down in Wilmington, North Carolina, want her for a personal appearance in April, but I told them they’d have to call me in April. Who knows where she’ll be then?”
The minutes crawled by and I thought of various things that people had told me about Marilyn before I’d begun my marathon wait in her Sutton Place apartment. Every male friend I had told I was doing a story about Marilyn had asked me, “Can I go along to hold your notebook?” or “You call that work?” or “You get paid for that?” or “Can’t I go along and hold the flash bulbs?” Apparently they felt that if they failed to go into a blood-bubbling, heman routine at the drop of her name, their maleness was suspect. When Marilyn appeared breathless and friendly as a puppy, I told her of this phenomenon. “How do you explain it?” I asked. “Have you become a symbol of sex?”
She gave my query thought before answering. “There are people to whom other people react, and other people who do nothing for people,” she said. “I react to men, too, but I don’t do it because I’m trying to prove I’m a woman. Personally I react to Marlon Brando. He’s a favorite of mine. There are two kinds of reactions. When you see some people you say, ‘Gee!’ When you see other people you say, ‘Ugh!’ If that part about my being a symbol of sex is true, it ought to help at the box office, but I don’t want to be too commercial about it.” Quite seriously she said, “After all, it’s a responsibility, too — being a symbol, I mean.”
I told her I’d heard that among the titles bestowed upon her were Woo-Woo Girl, Miss Cheesecake, The Girl With the Horizontal Walk. “I don’t get what they mean by ‘horizontal walk,’” she said. “Naturally I know what walking means — anybody knows that — and horizontal means not vertical. So what?” I thought of trying to blueprint it for her; then decided not to.
The Hollywood publicity worker who had warned me that she would be “real late” had talked to me quite frankly about Marilyn; he had pulled no punches; but since it is unfair to quote a publicity worker by name, I’ll call him Jones. And since “flack” is Hollywood slang for publicity man, I’ll call him Flack Jones.
Jones worked for 20th Century-Fox during the years before Marilyn staged her walkout. Since then he has moved on to bigger — if not better — things. He has opened his own public-relations office, with branches in Paris and Rome. He is bald as a peeled egg. He is as broad as a small barn door; a junior-executive-size Mister Five-by-Five. He wears black-rimmed glasses instead of the clear tortoise-shell plastic variety.
“A thing that fascinates me is this,” I told Flack Jones: “the first time I ever saw her I was sitting with a friend in the Fox commissary and this girl came in without any make-up on. She was wearing a blouse and skirt, and she sat against the wall. She bore no resemblance to anybody I’d ever seen before, but, to my amazement, my friend said, ‘That’s Marilyn Monroe.’ What I want to know is: Does she have to get into her Marilyn Monroe suit or put on her Marilyn Monroe face before she looks like Marilyn Monroe?”
“This is true of all platinum blondes or whatever you call the highly dyed jobs we have out here,” Flack Jones said. “If their hair isn’t touched up and coiffured exactly right; if they’re not gowned perfectly and their make-up is not one hundred per cent, they look gruesome. This is not peculiar to Monroe; it’s peculiar to every other synthetic blonde I’ve ever known in picture business. There are very few natural blondes in Hollywood and, so far as I know, there have been no natural platinum blondes in mankind’s history, except albinos. They are strictly a product of the twentieth century. They’re created blondes, and when you create a blonde you have to complete your creation with make-up and dramatic clothes, otherwise you’ve got only part of an assembly job.”
I also talked to a member of the Fox Studio legal staff, who told me a Monroe story I found provocative. “One day,” he said, “she was in this office, and I said to her, ‘It would be better for you to sign this contract this year instead of next. It will save you money.’ She looked at me and said, ‘I’m not interested in money. I just want to be wonderful.’ Then she walked out.” The legal light looked at me helplessly and shrugged. “What do you suppose she meant by that?” he asked. I said I had no idea, but that I’d try to find out.
And I asked a friend high enough up in the Fox hierarchy to know the answer, “Why do you think your studio let her come back to work for it after she walked out and stayed in New York for fifteen months?”
“Our attitude was that she’d never work on our lot again,” he announced firmly; then he grinned, “unless we needed her.”
One of my longer talks was with Billy Wilder, who directed her in the film The Seven Year Itch.
“What do you want to know?” he asked when I went to see him in his Beverly Hills home.
“One of the interesting things about this Monroe girl, to me,” I said, “is she seemed in danger of spoiling what had begun as a successful career by running away from it. I began to ask myself: How long can a movie actress afford to stay away from moviemaking and still remain a star? The mere strangeness of her staying away gets her a terrific press for a while and makes everyone in the country conscious of her, but is it possible to stay away so long that you’re forgotten? Was that about to happen to Marilyn?”
“I don’t think there was any danger of Marilyn sinking into oblivion,” Wilder said. “A thing like her doesn’t come along every minute.”
I asked, “What do you mean ‘a thing like her’?”
“She has what I call flesh impact,” he told me. “It’s very rare. Three I remember are Clara Bow, Jean Harlow and Rita Hayworth. Such girls have flesh which photographs like flesh. You feel you can reach out and touch it.”
“I’ve heard that it’s a moot question as to whether Marilyn’s an actress or not,” I said.
“I’ve heard that, too,” he replied. “Before we go further I must tell you that I like the girl, but it’s also moot whether you have to be an actor or an actress to be a success in pictures. I’m sure you’ve heard the theory that there are two kinds of stars — those who can act and those who are personalities. I’ll take a personality any time. Something comes down from the screen to you when you see them, in a way that it doesn’t always come from the indifferently paid actors, although they may be perfect at their jobs.”
“It’s nothing against them or for them,” Flack Jones said, when I repeated Wilder’s idea to him. “It’s the way this business is put together. If the public likes a personality, he or she goes over. You take Tab Rock,” he said (only Tab Rock is not the name he used). “Old Tab’s a terrific personality. I doubt if he’s ever made a flop picture, but he’s never made a really good picture. This fellow can’t pick up his hat without instruction, yet he’s always picking up villains and throwing them across a bar singlehanded. He can clean up any barroom on the frontier, but he can’t clean up a kitchen. He’s a nice guy, but no one has ever called him an actor. You take Lloyd Nolan now, or Van Heflin. That’s acting for you. You believe them. There are lights and shades and meaning to what they do. But when old Tab Rock comes on the screen, he’s got to throw somebody around to prove his art. He can do this quicker than anybody in Hollywood, and this is his great value.”
“He sounds brave,” I said.
“No one is braver or more scornful about it,” Flack Jones said. “His bravery is without parallel in the industry. He’s the only man I ever saw who could take a forty-five and go to the Near East and clean the whole mess up in a day or two. He never fails. That’s the difference between a personality and an actor.”
When I talked to Wilder I said that I’d read that when Marilyn had announced that she wanted to appear in a movie version of The Brothers Karamazov, some people hooted.
“The hooters were wrong,” Wilder told me. “She meant that she wanted to play the part of Grushenka in that book, and people who haven’t read the book don’t know that Grushenka is a sex pot. People think this is a long-hair, very thick, very literary book, but Dostoevsky knew what he was doing and there is nothing long-hair about Grushenka. Marilyn knows what she’s doing too. She would be a good Grushenka.
“It was after she said that she wanted to be in The Brothers Karamazov,” Wilder went on, “that she started going to the Actors’ Studio School of Dramatic Arts in New York. She didn’t do it for publicity. She’s sincerely trying to improve herself, and I think she should be admired for that. She could have sat here in Hollywood on her pretty little fanny and collected all of the money any ordinary actress would ever want, but she keeps trying.
“Right now, as of today, no matter what she thinks, Marilyn’s great value is as a personality, not as an actress. [Wilder told me these things while Marilyn was still in New York being groomed by the Actors’ Studio. It may be that what happened to her during her Eastern schooling in new dramatic ways may change his opinion, but 1 haven’t talked to him since her return to Hollywood.] If she sets out to be artistic and dedicated, and she carries it so far that she’s willing to wear Sloppy-Joe sweaters and go without make-up and let her hair hang straight as a string, this is not what has made her great to date. I don’t say that it’s beyond the realm of possibility that she can establish herself as a straight dramatic actress — it is possible — but it will be another career for her, a starting all over.”
Back in New York, when Marilyn made that long, long journey from her bedroom to her living room in her apartment, I said to her, “I’ve heard your childhood referred to as ‘the perfect Cinderella story.’”
“I don’t know where they got that,” she told me. “I haven’t ended up with a prince, and I’ve never had even one fairy godmother. My birth certificate reads Norma Jean Mortenson. I was told that my father was killed in an automobile accident before I was born, so that is what I’ve always told people. There was no way I could check on that because my mother was put into a mental institution when I was little, and I was brought up as an orphan.”
I had read that she spent her childhood being farmed out to foster parents and to orphanages, but, talking to her, I discovered that there’d been only one orphanage, although it was true about the foster parents. “I have had eleven or twelve sets of them,” she told me, “but I don’t want to count them all again, to see whether there were eleven or twelve. I hope you won’t ask me to. It depresses me. Some families would keep me longer; others would get tired of me in a short time. I must have made them nervous or something.”
She thought of something else. “I had one pair of foster parents who, when I was about ten, made me promise never to drink when I grew up, and I signed a pledge never to smoke or swear. My next foster family gave me empty whisky bottles for playthings. With them I played store. I guess I must have had the finest collection of empty whisky bottles any girl ever had. I’d line them up on a plank beside the road, and when people drove along I’d say, ‘Wouldn’t you like some whisky?’ I remember some of the people in the cars driving past my ‘whisky’ store saying, ‘Imagine! Why, it’s terrible!’ Looking back, I guess I used to play-act all the time. For one thing, it meant I could live in a more interesting world than the one around me.
“The first family I lived with told me I couldn’t go to the movies because it was sinful,” Marilyn said. “I listened to them say the world was coming to an end, and if I was doing something sinful when it happened, I’d go down below, below, below. So the few times I was able to sneak into a movie, I spent most of the time that I was there praying that the world wouldn’t end.”
Apparently I had been misinformed about her first marriage, to a young man named Jim Dougherty. I’d got the idea that she’d married him while they were both in Van Nuys High School; that she’d got a “crush” on him because he was president of the student body there, and a big wheel around school.
“That’s not true,” she told me. “In the first place, he was twenty-one or twenty-two — well, at least he was twenty-one and already out of high school. So all I can say is that he must have been pretty dumb if he were still in high school when I married him. And I didn’t have a crush on him, although he claimed I did in a story he wrote about us. The truth is the people I was staying with moved East. They couldn’t afford to take me because when they left California they’d stop getting the twenty dollars a month the county or the state was paying them to help them clothe and feed me. So instead of going back into a boarding home or with still another set of foster parents, I got married.
“That marriage ended in a divorce, but not until World War Two was over. Jim is now a policeman. He lives in Reseda, in the San Fernando Valley, and he is happily married and has three daughters. But while he was away in the merchant marines I worked in the dope room of a plane factory. That company not only made planes, it made parachutes.
“For a while I’d been inspecting parachutes. Then they quit letting us girls do that and they had the parachutes inspected on the outside, but I don’t think it was because of my inspecting. Then I was in the dope room spraying dope on fuselages. Dope is liquid stuff, like banana oil and glue mixed.
“I was out on sick leave for a few days, and when I came back the Army photographers from the Hal Roach Studios, where they had the Army photographic headquarters, were around taking photographs and snapping and shooting while I was doping those ships. The Army guys saw me and asked, ‘Where have you been?’
“’I’ve been on sick leave,’ I said. “Come outside.’ they told me. ‘We’re going to take your picture.’
“‘Can’t,’ I said. ‘The other ladies here in the dope room will give me trouble if I stop doing what I’m doing and go out with you.’ That didn’t discourage those Army photographers. They got special permission for me to go outside from Mr. Whosis, the president of the plant. For a while they posed me rolling ships; then they asked me. ‘Don’t you have a sweater?’
“‘Yes,’ I told them, ‘it so happens I brought one with me. It’s in my locker.’ After that I rolled ships around in a sweater. The name of one of those Army photographers was David Conover. He lives up near the Canadian border. He kept telling me, ‘You should be a model,’ but I thought he was flirting. Several weeks later, he brought the color shots he’d taken of me, and he said the Eastman Kodak Company had asked him, ‘Who’s your model, for goodness’ sake?’
“So I began to think that maybe he wasn’t kidding about how I ought to be a model. Then I found that a girl could make five dollars an hour modeling, which was different from working ten hours a day for the kind of money I’d been making at the plane plant. And it was a long way from the orphanage, where I’d been paid five cents a week for working in the dining room or ten cents a month for working in the pantry. And out of those big sums a penny every Sunday had to go into the church collection. I never could figure why they took a penny from an orphan for that.”
“How did you happen to sign your first movie contract?” I asked.
She tossed a cascade of white-blond tresses from her right eye and said, “I had appeared on five magazine covers. Mostly men’s magazines.”
What, I asked, did she mean by men’s magazines? “Magazines,” she said, “with cover girls who are not flat-chested. I was on See four or five months in a row. Each time they changed my name. One month I was Norma Jean Dougherty — that was my first husband’s name. The second month I was Jean Norman. I don’t know what all names they used, but I must have looked different each time. There were different poses— outdoors, indoors, but mostly just sitting looking over the Pacific. You looked at those pictures and you didn’t see much ocean, but you saw a lot of me.
“One of the magazines I was on wasn’t a man’s magazine at all. It was called Family Circle. You buy it in supermarkets. I was holding a lamb with a pinafore. I was the one with the pinafore. But on most covers I had on things like a striped towel. The towel was striped because the cover was to be in color and the stripes were the color, and there was a big fan blowing on the towel and on my hair. That was right after my first divorce, and I needed to earn a living bad. I couldn’t type. I didn’t know how to do anything. So Howard Hughes had an accident.”
I wondered if I’d missed something, but apparently I hadn’t. “He was in the hospital,” she went on, “and Hedda Hopper wrote in her column: ‘Howard Hughes must be recuperating because he sent out for photographs of a new girl he’s seen on five different magazines.’ Right after that Howard Hughes’ casting director got my telephone number somehow, and he got in touch with me and he said Howard Hughes wanted to see me.
“But he must have forgotten or changed his mind or something,” she said, “because instead of going to see him, I went over to the Fox Studio with a fellow named Harry Lipton, who handled my photography modeling. Expensive cars used to drive up beside me when I was on a street corner or walking on a sidewalk, and the driver would say, ‘I could do something for you in pictures. How would you like to be a Goldwyn girl?’ I figured those guys in those cars were trying for a pick-up, and I got an agent so I could say to those fellows, ‘See my agent.’ That’s how I happened to be handled by Harry Lipton.”
Harry took her to see Ivan Kahn, then head of Fox’s talent department, and also to see Ben Lyon, who was doing a talent-scouting job for Fox.
I asked her how it happened that she changed her name from Norma Jean Dougherty to Marilyn Monroe.
“It was Ben Lyon who renamed me,” she said. “Ben said that I reminded him of two people, Jean Harlow and somebody else he remembered very well, a girl named Marilyn Miller. When all the talk began about renaming me, I asked them please could I keep my mother’s maiden name, which was Monroe; so the choice was whether to call me Jean Monroe or Marilyn Monroe, and Marilyn won.”
I asked Flack Jones, “What happened when she came to your studio?”
“She came twice,” he said. “The first time was in 1946. We did our best with her, but she just hadn’t grown up enough. She was great as far as looks went, but she didn’t know how to make the most of her looks — or what to do with them. That came with practice. Not that you have to mature mentally to be a star. In fact, it can be a holdback. It might even defeat you. Stars who are mature mentally are in the minority. But actually we had no stories lying around at that time in which she would appear to advantage. So we tried her out in a picture or two in which she played bit parts — secretaries, the pretty girl in the background. Then we let her go, and she went over to RKO and did a picture with Groucho.”
“I didn’t see the film,” I said, “but you’d think with the Marx Brothers chasing her, like a bosomy mechanical bunny romping about the sound stage a couple of jumps ahead of the greyhounds, the fun would have been fast and furious.”
“The trouble was that while the Marx Brothers always chased a dame in their pictures,” Flack Jones told me, “they never caught the dame. And usually the dame never became a star, so the whole thing was a waste of time. It was amusing while you were watching it, but the girls usually outran the Marx boys and a career.”
Marilyn gave me her own version of Flack Jones’ story:
“Most of what I did while I was at Fox that first time was pose for stills. Publicity made up a story about how I was a baby sitter who’d been baby-sitting for the casting director and that’s how I was discovered. They told me to say that, although it strictly wasn’t true. You’d think that they would have used a little more imagination and have had me at least a daddy sitter.”
Flack Jones had filled me in on some more Monroe chronology: “After she left us she went to Metro and appeared in The Asphalt Jungle, directed by John Huston,” he said. “Marilyn’s role was small. She was only a walk-on, but she must have looked good to Darryl Zanuck, for when he saw it, he re-signed her. Asphalt Jungle was one of those gangster things. There was a crooked legal mouthpiece in it, a suave fellow, played by Louis Calhern. Marilyn was his ‘niece’; which was a nice word for ‘keptie.’ She’d say a few lines of dialogue; then she’d look up at him with those big eyes and call him ‘Uncle.’”
“When did you first notice her impact on the public?” I asked.
“Once we got her rolling, it was like a tidal wave,” he said. “We began to release some photographs of her, and as soon as they appeared in print, we had requests for more from all over the world. We had the newspapers begging for art; then the photo syndicates wanted her; then the magazines began to drool. For a while we were servicing three or four photos to key newspapers all over the world once a week — and that was before she had appeared in a picture.
“Once this building-up process started,” Flack Jones explained, “other people got interested in her. We called up the top cameramen around town who had their own outlets, and we told them what we had, and we asked them if they’d like to photograph her. They said, ‘Ho, boy, yes.’
“We told them what the deal was,” Flack Jones went on. “We said, ‘We think this girl has a great future; she’s beautiful, her chassis is great, and are you interested?’ Each guy had his own idea of what he wanted, and he let his imagination play upon her. This is the way such things get done. They’re not created by one person. They’re the creation of all of the press representatives who cover Hollywood for all the publications in the world, which means about three hundred and fifty people.
“Everybody in the studio publicity department worked on her.” Jones ticked them off on his fingertips, “The picture division, the magazine division, the fan-magazine division, the planters who plant the columnists, the radio planters, and so forth. Then, when you make a motion picture, a ‘unit man’ or ‘unit woman’ is assigned to cover its shooting, and he or she handles publicity for that film alone. In addition, the whole department works on the same picture. Our department is highly specialized, but each specialist makes his contribution to the personality we’re erecting in the public’s mind.”
“I’ve met a couple of press agents who’ve been unit men on Marilyn’s films,” I said.
“But the unit man is not always the same for a certain star’s pictures,” Jones said. “Sonia Wilson’s been unit woman on Monroe pictures, and Frankie Neal’s been a unit man on her pictures, but Roy Craft has been her unit man more than anyone else. Roy likes her. He gets along with her fine.”
There was something else I wanted to know. “In addition to distributing her photographs,” I asked, “did you have her show up at different places where you thought her appearance would do her good?”
“We took her to all of the cocktail parties we thought were important,” Flack Jones said. “For instance, one picture magazine had its annual cocktail party, and we told Marilyn she ought to show so we could introduce her to various editors, columnists and radio and TV people. She waited until everybody had arrived; then she came in in this red gown. That gown became famous. She’d had sense enough to buy it a size or two too small, and it had what Joe Hyams calls ‘break-away straps.’
“When she came in, everybody stopped doing what they were doing and their eyes went, ‘Boing, boing,’” Flack Jones went on. “The publisher of the magazine who was picking up the tab for the party shook hands with her a long, long time. After a while he turned to one of his associate editors and said, ‘We ought to have a picture of this little girl in our book.’ Then he looked at her again and said, ‘Possibly we should have her on the cover.’”
Flack Jones grinned. “So that’s the way things went,” he said. “Some months there were as many as fifteen or sixteen covers of her on the newsstands at once. She came back to the Fox lot in 1950 to appear in All About Eve, but she was not anyone’s great, big, brilliant discovery until we got our still cameras focused on her and started spreading those Marilyn Monroe shots all over the universe.”
“What did she do in All About Eve?” I asked. “I don’t remember.”
“She’s the dumb broad who walks into a party at Bette Davis’ place leaning on George Sanders’ arm,” he said. “There’s dialogue which shows you that Sanders is a critic, like George Jean Nathan; and he brings this beautiful dish Marilyn in, and he sights a producer played by Gregory Ratoff. Sanders points at Ratoff and says to Marilyn, ‘There’s a real live producer, honey. Go do yourself some good.’ So Marilyn goes off to do herself some good while Sanders stays in his own price class with Bette.”
“Do you remember the first day she came to work?” I asked.
“Do I remember?” he said. “She was in an Angora sweater out to there. While we were shooting her in photography, the word got around and the boys rushed across the hall to get an eyeful. Next we did some layouts with her for picture magazines. We put her in a negligee, and she liked it so much that she wouldn’t take it off. She walked all over the lot in it, yelling, ‘Yoo hoo’ at strangers as far away as the third floor of the administration building. Pretty soon the whole third floor was looking down at her. The first and second floors looked too.”
Flack Jones did an abrupt shift into the present tense, “It’s a bright, sunny day; the wind is blowing and she has Nature working with her. It has taken Nature quite a while to bring her to the ripe-peach perfection she reaches on that day, but it finally makes it. The wind does the rest. She walks all over the lot, has a ball for herself, and so does everybody else.”
Then he shifted back again, “After that we took her to the beach with a lot of wardrobe changes. But the basic idea was that this is a beautiful girl with a great body, and that idea was always the same, although we had different approaches to it. We had color shots, we had black-and-white shots, we had mountain shots, we had field shots, faked water-skiing shots — every type of approach we could think of. Picnicking, walking — anything a person does, we let her do it. When we began to see what she did best, we concentrated on it.
“Women always hate the obvious in sex,” Flack Jones said, “and men love it.” Apparently he had given this matter a lot of thought. He had even worked out a philosophy about it. “Guys are instinctively awkward and blundering and naïve — even worldly-wise ones — and subtlety in sex baffles them. Not only that, but they don’t have the time. Women who are not supporting a husband have all the time in the world for it. But men have other things to do, like making a dollar; and they like their love-making without preliminaries which last four or five hours. Instinctively Marilyn knows this. She is very down-to-earth, very straightforward.”
I asked Marilyn when I talked to her back on Sutton Place, “Do you think men like their sex subtle or fairly obvious?” This was a double check. I already had the male answer.
It seemed to me that she hedged. “Some men prefer subtleties and other men don’t want things so subtle,” she said. “I don’t believe in false modesty. A woman only hurts herself that way. If she’s coy she’s denying herself an important part of life. Men sometimes believe that you’re frigid and cold in the development of a relationship, but if they do, it’s not always your fault. Religion has to do with it and how you’re brought up. You’re stuck with all that.”
I remembered something else Wilder had told me before Marilyn’s recent return to Hollywood to make the film version of the New York stage hit Bus Stop. “You take Monroe, now,” he remarked. “Aside from whether she’s an actress or not, she’s got this lovely little shape, it twitches excitingly, and the public likes to watch it, either coming toward them or going away. There are two schools of thought about her — those who like her and those who attack her — but they both are willing to pay to watch her. Their curiosity is good for eighty cents or a dollar and a quarter or whatever the price of the ticket.”
He shook his head thoughtfully. “And she went back East to study at a slow-take arty place, where they feature understatement. Here’s a girl who’s built herself a career on overstating something, and she’s made up her mind to understate. It won’t be long before we’ll know whether she’s right and whether she needs the wardrobe department and the hairdressing department as much as she needs artistic lines to say. It’ll be interesting to watch and I hope it works out the way she wants it to, but the lines that the public really wants from her so far are not written in English. They are her curves.”
The voice of Flack Jones echoed in the back of my head. “I forgot to tell you. When she finished that Marx Brothers picture, she went over to Columbia for a couple of shows, but she didn’t click, and they released her too. After that she was around town for a while going broke. It was then that she posed for that famous nude calendar — the composition of glowing flesh against a red velvet background which threw the public into a tizzy when they learned about it.”
I asked Marilyn to tell me the story of that nude calendar herself, and she said, “When the studio first heard about it, everybody there was in a frenzy. They telephoned me on the set where I was working in a quickie called Don’t Bother to Knock. The person who called asked me, ‘What’s all this about a calendar of you in the nude? Did you do it?’
“‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Is there anything wrong with it? So they’ve found out it’s me on that calendar. Well, what do you know!’
“‘Found out!’ he almost screamed. ‘There you are, all of you, in full color!’ Then he must have gotten mixed up, for first he said, ‘Just deny everything’; then he said, ‘Don’t say anything. I’ll be right down.’”
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copyright text by Saturday Evening Post.
Saturday Evening Post
- The New Marilyn Monroe - Part 2
pays magazine: USA
paru le 12 mai 1956
article: 2ème partie "The New Marilyn Monroe"
en ligne sur saturdayeveningpost.com
Part Two: Here She Talks About Herself
By Pete Martin
Originally published on May 12, 1956
Marilyn explains how Freud helped cure her inferiority complex and tells why she posed for that famous nude calendar.
“That nude calendar Marilyn Monroe posed for will probably be reprinted as long as we have men with twenty-twenty vision in this country,” Flack Jones told me. Jones had put in several years as a publicity worker at Marilyn Monroe’s Hollywood studio before opening his own public-relations office. “Curious thing about it,” Jones went on, “when that calendar first came out, it had no bigger sale than any other nude calendar.
“You may not know it, but there’s a steady sale for such calendars. You might think that there are too few places where you can hang them up to make them worthwhile. But there’re lots of places where they fit in very nicely — truckers’ havens, barbershops, bowling alleys, poolrooms, washrooms, garages, toolshops, taprooms, taverns — joints like that. The calendar people always publish a certain number of nude calendars along with standards like changing autumn leaves, Cape Cod fishermen bringing home their catch from a wintry sea, Old Baldy covered with snow. You’re not in the calendar business unless you have a selection of sexy calendars. The sale of the one for which Marilyn posed was satisfactory, but not outstanding. It only became a ‘hot number’ when the public became familiar with it.”
Billy Wilder, the Hollywood director who directed Marilyn in The Seven Year Itch, is witty, also pungent, pithy, and is not afraid to say what he thinks. “When you come right down to it,” Wilder told me, “that calendar is not repulsive. It’s quite lovely. Marilyn’s name was already pretty big when the calendar story broke. If it hadn’t been, nobody would have cared one way or the other. But when it became known that she had posed for it, I think that, if anything, it helped her popularity. It appealed to people who like to read about millionaires who started life selling newspapers on the corner of Forty-second and Fifth Avenue; then worked their way up. It was as if Marilyn had been working her way through college, for that pose took hours. Here was a girl who needed dough, and she made it by honest toil.”
“I was working on the Fox Western Avenue lot when this worried man from Fox came tearing in wringing his hands,” Marilyn told me recently. “He took me into my dressing room to talk about the horrible thing I’d done in posing for such a photograph. I could think of nothing else to say, so I said apologetically, ‘I thought the lighting the photographer used would disguise me.’ I thought that worried man would have a stroke when I told him that.
“What had happened was I was behind in my rent at the Hollywood Studio Club, where girls stay who hope to crash the movies. You’re only supposed to get one week behind in your rent at the club, but they must have felt sorry for me because they’d given me three warnings. A lot of photographers had asked me to pose in the nude, but I’d always said, ‘No.’ I was getting five dollars an hour for plain modeling, but the price for nude modeling was fifty an hour. So I called Tom Kelley, a photographer I knew, and said, ‘They’re kicking me out of here. How soon can we do it?’ He said, ‘We can do it tomorrow.’
“I didn’t even have to get dressed, so it didn’t take long. I mean it takes longer to get dressed than it does to get undressed. I’d asked Tom, ‘Please don’t have anyone else there except your wife, Natalie.’ He said, ‘O.K.’ He only made two poses. There was a shot of me sitting up and a shot of me lying down. I think the one of me lying down is the best.
“I’m saving a copy of that calendar for my grandchildren,” Marilyn went on, all bright-eyed. “There’s a place in Los Angeles which even reproduces it on bras and panties. But I’ve only autographed a few copies of it, mostly for sick people. On one I wrote, ‘This may not be my best angle,’ and on the other I wrote, ‘Do you like me better with long hair?”
I said to Marilyn that Roy Craft, who is one of the publicity men at Fox, had told me that he had worked with her for five years, and that in all that time he’d never heard her tell a lie. “That’s a mighty fine record for any community,” I said.
“It may be a fine record,” she admitted, “but it has also gotten me into trouble. Telling the truth, I mean. Then, when I get into trouble by being too direct and I try to pull back, people think I’m being coy. I’m supposed to have said that I dislike being interviewed by women reporters, but that it’s different with gentlemen of the press because we have a mutual appreciation of being male and female. I didn’t say I disliked women reporters. As dumb as I am, I wouldn’t be that dumb, although that in itself is kind of a mysterious remark because people don’t really know how dumb I am. But I really do prefer men reporters. They’re more stimulating.”
I asked Flack Jones in Hollywood, “When did this business of her making those wonderful Monroe cracks start?”
“You mean when somebody asked her what she wears in bed and she said, ‘Chanel Number Five’?” Jones asked. “You will find some who will tell you that her humor content seemed to pick up the moment she signed a contract with the studio, and that anybody in the department who had a smart crack lying around handy gave it to her. Actually, there were those who thought that more than the department was behind it. ‘Once you launch such a campaign,’ they said, ‘it stays launched. It’s like anyone who has a smart crack to unleash attributing it to a Georgie Jessel or to a Dorothy Parker or whoever is currently smart and funny.’ There was even a theory that the public contributed some of Marilyn’s cracks by writing or calling a columnist like Sidney Skolsky or Herb Stein, and giving him a gag, and he’d attribute it to Marilyn, and so on around town. But the majority of the thinking was that our publicity department gave her her best cracks.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“Like for instance. I’ll have to lead up to it; as you know, in this business you can be destroyed by one bad story — although that’s not as true as it used to be — and when the story broke that Marilyn had posed in the nude for a calendar and the studio decided that the best thing to do was to announce the facts immediately instead of trying to pretend they didn’t exist, we said that Marilyn was broke at the time and that she’d posed to pay her room rent, which was true. Then, to give it the light touch, when she was asked, ‘Didn’t you have anything on at all when you were posing for that picture?’ we were supposed to have told her to say, ‘I had the radio on.’”
Flack Jones paused for a long moment. “I’m sorry to disagree with the majority,” he said firmly, “but she makes up those cracks herself. Certainly that ‘Chanel Number Five’ was her own.”
When I told Marilyn about this, she smiled happily. “He’s right. It was my own,” she said. “The other one — the calendar crack — I made when I was up in Canada. A woman came up to me and asked, ‘You mean to say you didn’t have anything on when you had that calendar picture taken?’ I drew myself up and told her, ‘I did, too, have something on. I had the radio on.’”
“Give her a minute to think and Marilyn is the greatest little old ad-lib artist you ever saw,” Flack Jones had insisted. “She blows it in sweet and it comes out that way. One news magazine carried a whole column of her quotes I’d collected, and every one of them was her own. There’ve been times when I could have made face in this industry by claiming that I put some of those cracks into her mouth, but I didn’t do it. This girl makes her own quotables. She’ll duck a guy who wants to interview her as long as she can, but when she finally gets around to it, she concentrates on trying to give him what he wants — something intriguing, amusing and off-beat. She’s very bright at it.
“A writer was commissioned to write a story for her for a magazine,” Jones said. “The subject was to be what Marilyn eats and how she dresses. As I recall it, the title was to be ‘How I Keep My Figure,’ or maybe it was ‘How I Keep in Shape.’ The writer talked to Marilyn; then ghosted the article. He wrote it very much the way she’d told it to him, but he had to pad it out a little because he hadn’t had too much time with her. As a result, in one section of his article he had her saying that she didn’t like to get out in the sun and pick up a heavy tan because a heavy tan loused up her wardrobe by confusing the colors of her dresses and switching around what they did for her.
“The article read good to me, and took it over to Marilyn for her corrections and approval. Most of the stuff was the routine thing about diet, but when she came to the part about ‘I don’t like suntan because it confuses the coloring of my wardrobe,’ she scratched it out. I asked her, ‘What’s the matter?’
“‘That’s ridiculous,’ she said. ‘Having a suntan doesn’t have anything to do with my wardrobe.’ I said, ‘You’ve got to say something, Marilyn. After all, the guy’s article is pretty short as it is.’ She thought for a minute; then wrote, ‘I do not suntan because I like to feel blonde all over.’ I saw her write that with her own hot little pencil.
“The magazine which printed that story thought her addition so great that they picked it out and made it a subtitle. She’d managed to transpose an ordinary paragraph about wardrobe colors into a highly exciting, beautiful, sexy mental image. Some guys have said to me, ‘Why, that dumb little broad couldn’t have thought that up. You thought it up, Jones.’ I wish I could say, ‘Yeah, I did,’ but I didn’t. Feeling blonde all over is a state of mind,” he said musingly. “I should think it would be a wonderful state of mind if you’re a girl.
“One reason why she’s such a good interview,” Flack Jones went on, “is that she uses her head during such sessions. She tries to say something that’s amusing and quotable, and she usually does. When I worked with Marilyn I made it a practice to introduce her to a writer and go away and leave her alone, on the grounds that a couple of grown people don’t need a press agent tugging at their sleeves while they get acquainted. So if her interviews have been any good, it’s her doing.”
“One day she gave a tape interview and it was all strictly ad-lib,” he said. “I know, because I had a hard time setting it up. It was for a man who was doing one of those fifteen-minute radio interviews here in Hollywood, to be broadcast afterward across the country. We had a frantic time trying to get him the time with her, but finally he got his recorder plugged in, and the first question he pitched her was a curve. He wanted to know what she thought of the Stanislavsky school of dramatic art or whatever. Believe it or not, old Marilyn unloaded on him with a twelve-minute dissertation on Stanislavsky that rocked him back on his heels.”
“Does she believe in the Stanislavsky method?” I asked.
“She agreed with Stanislavsky on certain points,” Jones said. “And she disagreed on others, and she explained why. It was one of the most enlightening discussions on the subject I’ve ever heard. It came over the radio a couple of nights later, and everybody who listened said, ‘Oh, yeah? Some press agent wrote that interview for her.’ My answer to that was, ‘What press agent knows that much about Stanislavsky?’ I don’t.”
In the course of my research, before interviewing Marilyn, I’d discovered that Billy Wilder agreed with Jones. “I think that she thinks up those funny things for herself,” he said. Wilder’s Austrian background gives his phrases an offbeat rhythm, but because of its very differentness, his way of talking picks up flavor and extra meaning.
“I think also that she says those funny things without realizing that they’re so funny,” Wilder said. “One very funny thing she said involves the fact that she has great difficulties in remembering her lines. Tremendous difficulties. I’ve heard of one director who wrote her lines on a blackboard and kept that blackboard just out of camera range. The odd thing is that if she has a long scene for which she has to remember a lot of words, she’s fine once she gets past the second word. If she gets over that one little hump, there’s no trouble. Then, too, if you start a scene and say, ‘Action!’ and hers is the first line, it takes her ten or fifteen seconds to gather herself. Nothing happens during those fifteen seconds. It seems a very long time.”
“How about an example of when she’s bogged down on a second word,” I asked.
“For instance, if she had to say, ‘Good morning, Mr. Sherman,”’ Wilder told me, “she couldn’t get out the word ‘morning.’ She’d say, ‘Good …’ and stick. Once she got ‘morning’ out, she’d be good for two pages of dialogue. It’s just that sometimes she trips over mental stumbling blocks at the beginning of a scene.
“Another director should be telling you this story, not me,” Wilder said. “This other director was directing her in a scene in a movie, and she couldn’t get the lines out. It was just muff, muff, muff, and take, take, take. Finally, after Take Thirty-two, he took her to one side, patted her on the head, and said, ‘Don’t worry, Marilyn, honey. It’ll be all right.’ She looked up into his face with those big wide eyes of hers and asked, ‘Worry about what?’ She seemed to have no idea that thirty-two takes is a lot of takes.”
When I sat down to talk to Marilyn, I said, “I’ve tried to trace those famous remarks attributed to you and find out who originated them.”
“They are mine,” Marilyn told me. “Take that Chanel Number Five one. Somebody was always asking me, ‘What do you sleep in, Marilyn? Do you sleep in P.J.’s? Do you sleep in a nightie? Do you sleep raw, Marilyn?’ It’s one of those questions which make you wonder how to answer them. Then I remembered that the truth is the easiest way out, so I said, ‘I sleep in Chanel Number Five,’ because I do. Or you take the columnist, Earl Wilson, when he asked me if I have a bedroom voice. I said, ‘I don’t talk in the bedroom, Earl.’ Then, thinking back over that remark, I thought maybe I ought to say something else to clarify it, so I added, ‘because I live alone.’”
The phone rang in her apartment, and she took a call from one of the hand-picked few to whom she’d given her privately listed number. While she talked I thought back upon a thing Flack Jones had said to me thoughtfully, “I’m no psychiatrist or psychologist, but I think that Marilyn has a tremendous inferiority complex. I think she’s scared to death all the time. I know she needs and requires attention and that she needs and requires somebody to tell her she’s doing well. And she’s extremely grateful for a pat on the back.”
“Name me a patter,” I said.
“For example,” he said, “when we put her under contract for the second time, her best friend and encourager was the agent, Johnny Hyde, who was then with the William Morris Agency, although he subsequently died of a heart attack. Johnny was a little guy, but he was Marilyn’s good friend, and, in spite of his lack of size, I think that she had a father fixation on him.
“I don’t want to get involved in the psychology of all this,” Flack Jones continued, “because it was a very complicated problem, of which I have only a layman’s view, but I honestly think that Marilyn’s the most complicated woman I’ve ever known. Her complexes are so complex that she has complexes about complexes. That, I think, is one reason why she’s always leaning on weird little people who attach themselves to her like remoras, and why she lets herself be guided by them. A remora is a sucker fish which attaches itself to a bigger fish and eats the dribblings which fall from the bigger fish’s mouth. After she became prominent, a lot of these little people latched onto Marilyn. They told her that Hollywood was a great, greedy ogre who was exploiting her and holding back her artistic progress.”
I said that the way I’d heard it, those hangers-on seemed to come and go, and that her trail was strewn with those from whom she had detached herself. I’d been told that the routine was for her to go down one day to the corner for the mail or a bottle of milk and not come back; not even wave good-by.
“But she has complete confidence in these little odd balls, both men and women, who latch onto her, while they’re latched,” Jones said. “I’m sure their basic appeal to her has always been in telling her that somebody is taking advantage of her, and in some cases they’ve been right. This has nothing to do with your story, but it does have something to do with my observation that she’s frightened and insecure, and she’ll listen to anybody who can get her ear.”
“Johnny Hyde was no remora,” I said.
“Johnny was a switch on the usual pattern,” Jones agreed. “He was devoted to her. He could and did do things for her. I happened to know that Johnny wanted to marry her and Marilyn wouldn’t do it. She told me, ‘I like him very much, but I don’t love him enough to marry him.’ A lot of girls would have married him, for Johnny was not only attractive, he was wealthy, and when he died Marilyn would have inherited scads of money, but while you may not believe it, she’s never cared about money as money. It’s only a symbol to her.”
“A symbol of what?” I asked.
“It’s my guess that to her it’s a symbol of success. By the same token I think that people have talked so much to her about not getting what she ought to get that a lack of large quantities of it has also become a symbol of oppression in her mind. If I sound contradictory, that’s the way it is.”
When Marilyn had completed her phone call, I put it up to her, “I guess you’ve heard it argued back and forth as to whether you are a complicated person or a very simple person, even a naive person,” I said. “Which do you think is right?”
“I think I’m a mixture of simplicity and complexes,” she told me. “But I’m beginning to understand myself now. I can face myself more, you might say. I’ve spent most of my life running away from myself.”
It didn’t sound very clear to me, but I pursued the subject further. “For example,” I asked, “do you have an inferiority complex? Are you beset by fears? Do you need someone to tell you that you’re doing well all the time?”
“I don’t feel as hopeless as I did,” she said. “I don’t know why it is. I’ve read a little of Freud and it might have to do with what he said. I think he was on the right track.” I gave up. I never found out what portions of Freud she referred to or what “right track” he was on.
“What happened in 1952, when the studio sent you to Atlantic City to be grand marshal of the annual beauty pageant?” I asked Marilyn instead. “Did you mind going?”
She smiled. “It was all right with me,” she said. “At the time I wanted to come to New York anyhow. There was somebody I wanted to see here. This was why it was hard for me to be on time leaving New York for Atlantic City for that date. I missed the train and the studio chartered a plane for me, but it didn’t set the studio back as much as they let on. They could afford it.”
Flack Jones had told me that story too. “They’d arranged a big reception for Marilyn at Atlantic City,” he said. “There was a band to meet her at the train, and the mayor was to be on hand. Marilyn and the flacks who were running interference for her were to arrive on a Pennsylvania Railroad train at a certain hour, but, as usual, Marilyn was late, and when they got to the Pennsylvania Station the train had pulled out. So there they were, in New York, with a band and the mayor waiting in Atlantic City. Charlie Einfeld, a Fox vice-president — and Charlie can operate mighty fast when he has to — got on the phone and chartered an air liner — the only one available for charter was a forty-six-seat job; it was an Eastern Air Lines plane as I recall it — and they all went screaming across town in a limousine headed for Idlewild.
“The studio’s magazine man in New York, Marilyn and a flack from out here on the Coast boarded the plane and took off for Atlantic City,” Flack Jones said. “Bob and the Coast flack were so embarrassed at missing the train, and the plane was such a costly substitute that they were sweating like pigs. On this big air liner there was a steward aboard — they’d shanghaied a steward in a hurry from some place to serve coffee — but all of this didn’t bother Marilyn at all. She tucked herself into a seat back in the tail section, hummed softly; then fell fast asleep and slept all the way. The other two sat up front with the steward, drinking quarts of coffee because that was what he was being paid to serve. They drank an awful lot of coffee.”
Flack Jones said that Marilyn and her outriders were met at the Atlantic City airport by a sheriff’s car and that they were only three minutes late for the reception for Marilyn on the boardwalk. There she was given an enormous bouquet of flowers, and she perched on the folded-down top of a convertible, to roll down the boardwalk with a press of people following her car.
“She sat up there like Lindbergh riding down Broadway on his return from Paris,” Flack Jones said. “The people and the cops and the beauty-carnival press agents followed behind like slaves tied to her chariot wheels. That is, she managed to move a little every once in a while when the crowd could be persuaded to back away. Then Marilyn would pitch a rose at the crowd and it would set them off again, and there’d be another riot. This sort of thing went on — with variations — for several days. It was frantic.
“But,” Flack Jones explained, “there was one publicity thing which broke which wasn’t intended to break. It was typical of the way things happen to Marilyn without anybody devising them. When each potential Miss America from a different part of the country lined up to register, a photograph of Marilyn greet- ing her was taken. Those pictures were serviced back to the local papers and eventually a shot of Miss Colorado with Marilyn wound up in a Denver paper; and a shot of Miss California and Marilyn in the Los Angeles and San Francisco papers, and so forth.”
For a moment Flack Jones collected his thoughts in orderly array; then went on, “Pretty soon in came an Army public-information officer with four young ladies from the Pentagon. There was a WAF and a WAC and a lady Marine and a WAVE. The thought was that it would be nice to get a shot of Marilyn with ‘the four real Miss Americas’ who were serving their country, so they were lined up. It was to be just another of the routine, catalogue shots we’d taken all day long, but Marilyn was wearing a low-cut dress which showed quite a bit of cleavage — quite a bit of cleavage. That would have been all right, since the dress was designed for eye level, but one of the photographers climbed up on a chair to shoot the picture.”
The way Marilyn described this scene to me was this: “I had met the girls from each state and had shaken hands with them,” she said. “Then this Army man got the idea of aiming his camera down my neck while I posed with the service girls. It wasn’t my idea for the photographer to get up on a chair.”
“Nobody thought anything of it at the time,” Jones had told me, “and those around Marilyn went on with the business of their workaday world. In due course the United Press — among others — serviced that shot. Actually it was a pretty dull picture because, to the casual glance, it just showed five gals lined up looking at the camera.”
Jones said that when the shot of the four service women and Marilyn went out across the country by wirephoto, editors took one look at it and dropped it into the nearest wastebasket because they had had much better art from Atlantic City.
“That night the Army PIO officer drifted back to the improvised press headquarters set up for the Miss America contest,” Flack Jones said. “He took one look and sent out a wire ordering that the picture be stopped.”
“On what grounds?” I asked.
“On grounds that that photograph showed too much meat and potatoes, and before he’d left the Pentagon he’d been told not to have any cheesecake shots taken in connection with the girls in his charge. Obviously what was meant by those instructions was that he shouldn’t have those service girls sitting on the boardwalk railings showing their legs or assuming other undignified poses. There was nothing in that PIO officer’s instructions which gave him the right to censor Marilyn’s garb, but he ordered that picture killed anyhow.”
According to Jones, every editor who had junked that picture immediately reached down into his wastebasket, drew it out and gave it a big play. “In Los Angeles it ran seven columns,” he said, “and it got a featured position in the Herald Express and the New York Daily News. All the way across country it became a celebrated picture, and all because the Army had ‘killed’ it.”
He was silent for a moment; then he said, “Those who were with her told me afterward that it had been a murderous day, as any day is when you’re with Marilyn on a junket,” he went on. “The demands on her and on those with her are simply unbelievable. But finally she hit the sack about midnight because she had to get up the next day for other activities. The rest of her crowd had turned in too, when they got a call from the U.P. in New York, asking them for a statement from Marilyn about ‘that picture.’”
“‘What picture?’ our publicist-guardian asked, and it was then that they got the story. They hated to do it, but they rousted Marilyn out of bed. She thought it over for a while; then issued a statement apologizing for any possible reflection on the service girls, and making it plain that she hadn’t meant it that way. She ended with a genuine Monroeism. ‘I wasn’t aware of any objectionable décolletage on my part. I’d noticed people looking at me all day, but I thought they were looking at my grand marshal’s badge.’ This was widely quoted, and it had the effect of giving the whole thing a lighter touch. The point is this: a lot of things happen when Marilyn is around.” He shook his head. “Yes, sir,” he said. “A lot of things.
“Another example of the impact she packs: when she went back to New York on the Seven Year Itch location,” Jones went on. “All of a sudden New York was a whistle stop, with the folks all down to see the daily train come in. When Marilyn reached LaGuardia, everything stopped out there. One columnist said that the Russians could have buzzed the field at five hundred feet and nobody would have looked up. There has seldom been such a heavy concentration of newsreel cameramen anywhere. From then on in, during the ten days of her stay, one excitement followed another. She was on the front page of the Herald Tribune, with art, five days running, which I’m told set some sort of a local record.
“In the case of The Itch, there was a contractual restriction situation,” Flack Jones said. “The studio’s contract called for the picture’s release to be held up until after the Broadway run of the play. When Marilyn went back to New York for the location shots for Itch, the play version was still doing a fair business, but it was approaching the end of its long run. If you bought a seat, the house was only half full. Then Marilyn arrived in New York and shot off publicity sparks and suddenly The Itch had S.R.O. signs out again. The result was that it seemed it was never going to stop its stage run; so, after finishing the picture, Fox had to pay out an additional hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars to the owners of the stage property for the privilege of releasing their movie.
“Things reached a new high — and no joke intended,” Flack Jones went on, “when Billy Wilder shot the scene where her skirts were swept up around her shoulders by a draft from a subway ventilator grating. That really set the publicity afire again, and shortly after that The Itch location company blew town while they were ahead. The unit production manager had picked the Trans-Lux Theater on Lexington Avenue for the skirt-blowing scene. He’d been down there at two o’clock in the morning to case the spot; he’d reported happily, ‘The street was fully deserted,’ and he’d made a deal with the Trans-Lux people for getting the scene shot there because there was nobody on the street at that hour.
“It seemed certain that Billy Wilder would have all the room in the world to work, and he had left word that nobody was to know what location he’d selected, because he didn’t want crowds. But word leaked out. It was on radio and TV and in the papers, so instead of secrecy you might almost say that the public was being urged to be at Lexington Avenue on a given night to Marilyn’s skirts blow. Instead of having a nice, quiet side street in which to work, Wilder had all the people you can pack on a street. Finally the cops roped off the sidewalk on the opposite side to restrain the public, and they erected a barricade close to the movie camera. But that wasn’t good enough, and they had to call out a whole bunch of special cops.”
Flack Jones said that when Wilder was ready to shoot, there were 200 or 300 photographers, professional and amateur, swarming over the place. Then Marilyn made her entrance from inside the theater out onto the sidewalk, and when she appeared the hordes really got out of control and there was chaos. Finally Wilder announced that he’d enter into a gentleman’s agreement. If the press would retire behind the barricades, and if the real working photographers would help control the amateurs, he would shoot the scene of Marilyn and Tom Ewell standing over the subway grating; then he’d move the movie camera back and the amateur shutter hounds could pop away at Marilyn until they were satisfied.
“So the New York press took care of the amateurs and made them quit popping their flashbulbs,” Flack Jones said. “Wilder got the scene and the volunteer snapshooters got their pictures. Everybody was there. Winchell came over with DiMaggio, who showed a proper husbandly disapproval of the proceedings. I myself couldn’t see why Joe had any right to disapprove. After all, when he married the girl her figure was already highly publicized, and it seemed odd if he had suddenly decided that she should be seen only in Mother Hubbards.”
I asked Marilyn herself if she thought that Joe had disapproved of her skirts blowing around her shoulders in that scene. I said I had heard his reaction described in two ways: that he had been furious and that he had taken it calmly.
“One of those two is correct,” Marilyn said. “Maybe you can figure it out for yourself if you’ll give it a little thought.”
Something told me that, in her opinion, Joe had been very annoyed indeed. And while we were on the subject of Joe, it seemed a good time to find out about how things had been between them when they had been married, and the unbelievable scene which accompanied the breaking up of that marriage. “Not in his wildest dreams could a press agent imagine a series of events like that,” Flack Jones had told me.
When I brought the subject up, Marilyn said, “For a man and a wife to live intimately together is not an easy thing at best. If it’s not just exactly right in every way it’s practically impossible, but I’m still optimistic.” She sat there being optimistic. Then she said, with feeling, “However, I think TV sets should be taken out of the bedroom.”
“Did you and Joe have one in your bedroom?” I asked.
“No comment,” she said emphatically. “But everything I say to you I speak from experience. You can make what you want of that.”
She was quiet for a moment; then she said, “When I showed up in divorce court to get my divorce from Joe, there were mobs of people there asking me bunches of questions. And they asked, ‘Are you and Joe still friends?’ and I said, ‘Yes, but I still don’t know anything about baseball.’ And they all laughed. I don’t see what was so funny. I’d heard that he was a fine baseball player, but I’d never seen him play.”
“As I said, the final scenes of All-American Boy loses Snow White were unbelievable,” Flack Jones told me. “Joe and Marilyn rented a house on Palm Drive, in Beverly Hills, and we had a unique situation there with the embattled ex-lovebirds both cooped in the same cage. Marilyn was living on the second floor and Joe was camping on the first floor. When Joe walked out of that first floor, it was like the heart-tearing business of a pitcher taking the long walk from the mound to the dugout after being jerked from the game in a World Series.”
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Saturday Evening Post
- The New Marilyn Monroe - Part 3
pays magazine: USA
paru le 19 mai 1956
article: 3ème partie "The New Marilyn Monroe"
en ligne sur saturdayeveningpost.com
By Pete Martin
Originally published on May 19, 1956
The story of Marilyn’s brief marriage to Joe DiMaggio, her battle with Hollywood, and her surprising new career.
Milton Greene, vice-president of Marilyn Monroe Productions, playwright Terence
Rattigan, Sir Lawrence Olivier and Marilyn in New York. The occasion: To announce
plans for a movie version cf a Rattigan play, costarring Olivier and Monroe. (Hans Knopf, © SEPS)
I put this question to my friend and confidant, whom I call Flack Jones: “How did Joe DiMaggio happen to come into Marilyn’s life?” Jones is one of my principal sources of Marilyn Monroe information. As a skilled and articulate employee of the publicity department of the 20th Century-Fox motion-picture studio, he had worked closely with Marilyn for several years before her highly publicized departure from Hollywood to live in New York and “learn to be an actress.”
“Marilyn met him in a café one night on a blind double date,” Jones said. “DiMaggio had heard about her and wanted to meet her. They met through friends and had dinner. Everything went just fine and dandy, until ultimately their friendship ripened into a romance which led to their marriage.
“But to complicate things, late in 1952 she decided to mix her first holdout with her romance,” Flack Jones said. Then he corrected himself, “It must have been ’53, for she had made River of No Return and How to Marry a Millionaire. Anyhow, she decided — or else her confidential advisers had persuaded her — that she was worth more money. But instead of stalking into Darryl Zanuck’s office, slapping her next script down and saying, ‘I won’t do it!’ she simply hid out. She sneaked down alleys, didn’t answer her phone and couldn’t be reached by anybody.
“This was before she ran off and married Joe DiMaggio, and the studio was taking a firm tone with her — a very firm tone. But when the romance reached full flower, the studio had to do a fast switch,” Jones said. “Here we were, issuing communiqués about this ‘silly and stubborn girl who was ill-advised enough not to come back and take this important part’ in whatever the picture was — Pink Tights, I think — when all of a sudden she ups and marries Joe, the All-American Boy. After that, if we kept on beefing about her absence, the studio would be the big bully in the plot so far as the public was concerned.
“Then, to add to the studio’s confusion, the pair went off to Korea to entertain the troops. How are you going to snap a blacksnake whip at a girl’s calves for doing a thing like that? Snow White has married Prince Charming and they’ve gone off to Korea together to entertain the servicemen. So the studio started talking sweet in a hurry.
“However, the sharp-eyed and cynical could tell that that marriage was in danger as early as their arrival in the Orient,” Flack Jones went on. “The press interviewed Marilyn in Tokyo, and a story was radioed back which said that Marilyn had talked about this and about that, and — oh yes — there was a man in the far corner of the room whose name was Joe DiMaggio. It didn’t take much of a genius to figure that situation was the beginning of the end. Then, after an interval, the lovebirds flew back to Beverly Hills.”
“Did the studio start having its troubles making her report for work before she married DiMaggio or after she married him?” I asked.
“We were having trouble before,” Flack Jones told me.
“When was the first fly in the Monroe-Fox ointment?” I asked.
“I don’t know the exact time,” he said. “But it was not peculiar to Monroe alone. It’s peculiar to life in Hollywood. It almost invariably happens when money and success make an impact on a male or female ego. We expect it to set in when the fan mail of the party in question zooms up to over two thousand a week. It’s almost as much of a sure thing as the thermostat in your house turning on the heat. Two thousand fan letters a week is when we begin to say. ‘We’ll be having troubles with this doll.”
“What form does it usually take?” I asked. “‘I want more dough,’ or ‘I don’t like my contract.’ or ‘My script stinks’?”
“A better way to answer your question is to say that when they realize they’ve got weight to throw around, they start throwing it,” Flack Jones said. “They don’t do those things you mentioned right away; they do less serious things first. They complain about wardrobe, or, if it’s a musical, they complain about the songs or the dances, or, if it’s a plain comedy or a straight drama, they gripe about how a certain scene is being directed. Whatever’s handy, that’s what they complain about. It makes no sense, but it’s a means of saying that they have some weight now, and they want you to know it.”
“What’s the next move?” I asked.
Flack Jones rubbed his fingers over his scalp thoughtfully and said, “Ordinarily it’s a preliminary test of strength, like bracing the front office for more dough for your dramatic coach.
“When she found out that she had that much weight, she decided to go out for herself, and she did. Some people think that she has always been a naive, flibbertigibbet girl moving through life. This is utter nonsense. She wasn’t that way when she first was under contract; she was a grown person then. She kept her dates, she was always on time.”
From now on,” Jones said, “what I say is merely my own opinion, but I think that it was then that she discovered that there are people in Hollywood who respect other people who kick their teeth in. That’s not just Hollywood for you. Most people do.”
“Let’s cut to the split-up between Joe and Marilyn,” I said. “As I recall it, first there were rumors of strife, then things reached an impasse.”
“Joe and Marilyn had a rented house on Palm Drive, in Beverly Hills,” Jones said. “We had a unique situation there with the embattled ex-lovebirds both cooped in the same cage. Marilyn was living on the second floor and Joe was camping on the first floor. Then a famous attorney, Jerry Giesler, was brought into the act for Marilyn, although why they had to employ such a great lawyer to handle a simple divorce case I don’t know. The public was all worked up, the press was, too, and they’re circling the house like Indians loping around a wagon tram, waiting for somebody to poke a head out. The next move was Giesler’s announcement that came Wednesday, at eleven o’clock, Marilyn would hold a press conference in his office.
“In the Fox publicity department,” Jones said, “we concluded that if you call a press conference in a lawyer’s office, it presupposes an obligation to say something, and what could Snow White say when she was breaking up with Prince Charming, or Cinderella say when she was splitting from the All-American Boy? Any press conference would only bring more characters out to chase Marilyn from her house to Giesler’s office. And once they got there, if anybody issued one of those ‘They’re just a young couple who couldn’t make a go of it’ statements, it would only irritate everybody.
“So the studio issued a statement of its own in advance. We said that Marilyn wasn’t going to hold any press conference, but she’d be leaving for work at ten o’clock from her house, to fulfill her commitment on Seven Year Itch, based on the Broadway play of the same name and costarring Tom Ewell, in Cinemascope. Once we’d got in that plug, we said that while we didn’t promise an interview, the boys would get some pictures. So forty or fifty of the press congregated. In addition, there were several hundred volunteer reporters and photographers in the trees and trampling the lawn.
“Then an unbelievable thing happened,” Flack Jones said. He grinned when he thought of it. “They were all there to get a picture of Marilyn going to work, because it would be the first picture since her announcement that she wanted a divorce, and all at once, in front of the house a great, big, beautiful automobile pulled up. In it was a friend of Joe’s from San Francisco. As I’ve said, Joe’s been in that house for three days on the first floor, with Marilyn on the second. There was a back alley, and a rejected husband could have snuck out of that back alley and disappeared if he’d wanted to. But Joe faced up to his responsibilities and took them like a man. So what do the press and newsreels get? A bonus! Out of the front door comes Joe, grim-lipped, walking the last long mile, with his pal carrying his suitcase.
“The press stopped him on the lawn, but Joe had no comment to make. They got pictures of him as he climbed into the car slowly, and one guy asked, ‘Where you going, Joe?’
“‘I’m going home,’ Joe said.
“‘We thought this was your home, Joe,’ chirped the press like a Greek chorus.
“San Francisco has always been my home,’ Joe said. He stood there waving farewell, then he drove away.”
Looking at Flack Jones, I could see that he was still marveling at a scene which no press agent would have thought of inventing in his wildest dreams. He said, “I’ve always admired Joe for that. A lot of guys would have sneaked out the back way and gone to San Francisco, avoiding that encounter in the front yard. Not old Joe.
“About ten minutes later, Marilyn came down the stairs, sobbing, on Giesler’s arm. She was all broken up. Everybody was shoving and pushing. A lady columnist kicked the crime reporter for the Los Angeles Mirror in the shins. He turned on her and asked, ‘Who do you think you’re kicking?’ and she said, ‘I’ll kick you in the pants if you don’t get out of my way.’ All in all, there was quite a hubbub. The newsreel guys were grinding away, and somebody asked, ‘How about Joe, Marilyn?’ and Marilyn said, between sobs, ‘1 can’t talk! I can’t!’ And she got in a car and drove off.”
Later, when I talked to Marilyn in New York, I guided our conversation around to a story written by Aline Mosby, of the United Press. The story was about how Marilyn had told her that she had bought Joe a king-size, eight-foot bed because she didn’t approve of separate bedrooms. “People say it’s chic to have separate bedrooms,” Marilyn told me. “That way a man can have a place for his fishing equipment and guns as well as sleeping, and a woman can have a fluffy, ruffly place with rows and rows of perfume bottles. The way I feel, they ought to share the same bedroom. With a separate-bedroom deal, if you happen to think of something you want to say, it means you have to go traipsing down the hall, and you may be tired. For that matter, you may forget what you started out to say. Besides, separate bedrooms are lonely. I think that people need human warmth even when they’re asleep and unconscious.”
There were other things I wanted to ask her. “I’ve heard that in Asphalt Jungle you displayed a highly individual way of walking that called attention to you and made you stand out. I’ve heard a lot of people try to describe the way you walk, and some of those descriptions are pretty lurid. How do you describe it?”
She leaned forward, placed her elbows on a table and cupped her chin in her palms. She was very effective that way. “I’ve never deliberately done anything about the way I walk,” she said. “People say I walk all wiggly and wobbly, but I don’t know what they mean. I just walk. I’ve never wiggled deliberately in my life, but all my life I’ve had trouble with people who say I do. In high school the other girls asked me, ‘Why do you walk down the hall that way?’ I guess the boys must have been watching me and it made the other girls jealous or something, but I said, ‘I learned to walk when I was ten months old, and I’ve been walking this way ever since.’”
In California I had asked Flack Jones, “What would you say Marilyn does best? Is her walk her greatest asset?” Jones regarded the feathery top of a slender, swaying palm tree, as if searching for an answer. “She does two things beautifully,” he said. “She walks and she stands. Also, as I’ve already told you she has wit enough to buy her clothes one or two sizes too small, and with a chassis like hers, this infuriates women and intrigues guys. From a woman’s standpoint, there is no subtlety in such gowns. I remember when Marilyn came to a party. In a number which fitted her like a thin banana peel and the other women there thought it outrageous. Comments were made about that gown in a gossip column.”
“How did Marilyn react to that?” I asked.
“Marilyn asked me, ‘What should I have done?”’ Jones said. “I said, ‘Look, honey, the men loved it. Pay no attention to what the gossip-column cat said. You’re a man’s woman, so dress for men, not for other women. Any time you quit dressing for men you’re out of business.’”
I told Jones that I’d been trying to find a phrase which would describe her walk, but that I hadn’t been able to. “I can’t help you there,” Jones said. “I’ve heard the words ‘quivering’ and ‘trembling’ used in connection with her walk, but I don’t know a description that really does the job. But when she walks across a screen a couple or three times, she attracts attention — a whole lot. That much I know.
“The public laughed at her walk in Niagara,” Jones told me, “but Marilyn was only doing what the director wanted her to. It wasn’t up to her to cut the picture or to tell the director not to point the camera at her during a long walk across cobblestones. I challenge any girl to walkdown a cobblestoned street in high heels without wiggling at least once.”
After his analysis of Marilyn as a pedestrian, Flack Jones picked up our conversational threads where we’d broken them off with her parting from Joe DiMaggio, and tied them together again. “After that she came back and finished Seven Year Itch at Fox,” he said. “Her agent, Charlie Feldman, flung a snazzy party for her at Romanoff’s, and she went to New York. The next thing anybody knew, she announced that, with a New York photographer named Milton Greene, she had formed Marilyn Monroe, Inc. She’s the president of the corporation; Greene’s vice-president. But I have reason to think that she’d done that before she left Hollywood, for a hairdresser at the studio told me that one day when he had Marilyn in front of his mirror, she had said, ‘Gee, I feel good. I’m incorporated.’”
I put it to Jones, “When she left the studio that last time, was it a clean, sharp break or did her relations with the studio gradually become fuzzy and vague?”
“After Itch,” Flack Jones said, “she simply didn’t show up again. I don’t know whether you’d call that sharp or vague.”
I said, when I finally met Marilyn, “The way I get it, you invented a whole new system of holding out; you just disappeared.”
“I disappeared because if people won’t listen to you, there’s no point in talking to people,” Marilyn told me. “You’re just banging your head against a wall. If you can’t do what they want you to do, the thing is to leave. I never got a chance to learn anything in Hollywood. They worked me too fast. They rushed me from one picture into another.
“I know who started all of those stories which were sent out about me after I left Hollywood the last time,” she added. One paper had an editorial about me. It said: ‘Marilyn Monroe is a very stupid girl to give up all the wonderful things the movie industry has done for her and go to New York to learn how to act.’ Those weren’t the exact words, but that was the idea. That editorial was supposed to scare me, but it didn’t, and when I read it and I realized that it wasn’t frightening me, I felt strong. That’s why I know I’m stronger than I was.”
She thought for a while; then she said, “I’m for the individual as opposed to the corporation. The way it is, the individual is the underdog, and with all the things a corporation has going for them an individual comes out banged on her head. The artist is nothing. It’s tragic.”
Going back to a straight question-and-answer routine, I said, “You’re habitually late for appointments. What are the psychological reasons for your lateness?’
“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve never come to any conclusion. If I knew, I’d get over it.”
I said that I’d heard she was so nervous before appointments that she was sometimes became nauseated. I asked if this was caused by a feeling of pressure — of people pushing and hauling and pulling at her.
“You’d throw up, too, in some situations,” she told me. “I flew into New York at eight o’clock one morning and there were photographers waiting to take pictures of me at the airport, and all that morning I had a series of interviews with newspaper people. Those interviews came twenty minutes or a half hour apart. Then I was rushed to a luncheon with a group of magazine people, and right after luncheon I tore over to the Daily News Building. I don’t think anybody can take that routine very long. Another complication is that I have a certain stupid sincerity. I don’t want to tell everybody who interviews me the same thing. I want them all to have something new, different, exclusive. When I worry about that, I start to get sick at my stomach.”
I asked her if writers had ever prepared material for her to use in an “interview” or in a “by-line story.”
“I refuse to let articles appear in movie magazines signed ‘By Marilyn Monroe,” she said. “I might never see that article and it might be O.K.’d by somebody in the studio. This is wrong, because when I was a little girl I read signed stories in fan magazines and I believed every word of them. Then I tried to model my life after the lives of the stars I read about. If I’m going to have that kind of influence, I want to be sure it’s because of something I’ve actually said or written.”
“I’ve been told that you devote hours to selecting and editing pinup pictures of yourself,” I said.
“I haven’t so far,” she told me. “But maybe it’s time I did. At least I’d like to have my pictures not look any worse than I do. I’d like them to resemble me a little bit. With some photographers, all they ask is that a picture doesn’t look blurred, as if you’ve moved while they were taking it. If it’s not blurry they print it.”
“Somewhere,” I said, “I’ve read that at least half of the photographs taken of you are killed because they are too revealing.”
“That’s the Johnston Office for you,” she sighed. “They’re very small about stuff like that, and what the Johnston Office passes, the studio ruins with retouching. After one sitting of thirty poses, twenty-eight of those poses were killed. The Johnston Office spends a lot of time worrying about whether a girl has cleavage or not. They ought to worry if she doesn’t have any. That really would make people emotionally disturbed. I don’t know what their reasoning is,” she went on with a puzzled air. “They certainly can’t expect girls to look like boys.”
“I’ve read that your measurements are 37-23-34,” I told her.
“If you’re talking about my lower hips, they’re thirty-seven inches,” she said. “If you’re talking about my upper hips, they’re thirty-four.” Eying her, I tried to decide where “upper” hip left off and “lower” began. I gave up.
“Nowadays,” she said, “there’s a vogue for women with twenty-twenty-twenty figures. Models in the high-style magazines stick out their hipbones and nothing else. But I’m a woman, and the longer I am one the more I enjoy it. And since I have to be a woman, I’m glad I’m me. I’ve been asked, ‘Do you mind living in a man’s world?’ I answer, ‘Not as long as I can be a woman in it.’”
“There’s another thing I want to ask you,” I said. “It’s about something you said to a man in the Fox Studio legal department. You said, ‘I don’t care about money. I just want to be wonderful.’ He didn’t know what you meant by that.”
“I meant that I want to be a real actress instead of a superficial one,” Marilyn herself told me. “For the first time I’m learning to use myself fully as an actress. I want to add something to what I had before. I want to be in the kind of pictures where I can develop, not just wear tights. Some people thought that they were getting their money’s worth when they saw me in The Seven Year Itch, but in future I want people to get even more for their money when they see me. Only today a taxi driver said to me, ‘Why did they ever put you in that little stinker, River of No Return?’
“I thought it was a good question,” Marilyn told me. “I’m with that taxi driver. He’s my boy. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t accept River of No Return today. I think that I deserve a better deal than a Z cowboy movie, in which the acting finishes third to the scenery and CinemaScope. The studio was CinemaScope-conscious then, and that meant that it pushed the scenery instead of actors and actresses.” Without missing a beat, she switched gears into another subject. “One of the things about leaving Hollywood and coming to New York and attending the Actors’ Studio was that I felt that I could be more myself,” she said. “After all, if I can’t be myself, who can I be?” I shook my head. She had me puzzled too.
Nunnally Johnson had directed How to Marry a Millionaire, costarring Betty Grable, Lauren Bacall and Marilyn. “Do her pictures make a lot of money?” I asked him in Hollywood.
“Millionaire earned a tremendous amount,” Nunnally told me.
“What about The Seven Year Itch?” I asked.
“Variety reports it as the top Fox grosser for 1955,” he said. “But speaking for myself, I can’t say that I saw the ‘new Marilyn Monroe’ in The Seven Year Itch that some others did. I thought that essentially it was the same performance, just longer. Still, this could scarcely be a cause for worry for her; God had given her that equipment and it was still magnificent. She was still a phenomenon.”
“Maybe she’ll grow into a young Mae West and make people laugh at sex,” I suggested.
Johnson agreed that it might be a good thing if she could do that. “I believe that the first time anybody genuinely liked Marilyn for herself, in a picture, was in How to Marry a Millionaire,” he said. “She herself diagnosed the reason for that very shrewdly, I think. She said that this was the only picture she’d been in in which she had a measure of modesty. Not physical modesty, but modesty about her own attractiveness. In Millionaire she was nearsighted; she didn’t think men would look at her twice, because she wore glasses; she blundered into walls and stumbled into things and she was most disarming. In the course of the plot she married an astigmatic; so there they were, a couple of astigmatic lovers. In her other pictures they’ve cast her as a somewhat arrogant sex trap, but when Millionaire was released, I heard people say, ‘Why, I really liked her!’ in surprised tones.”
These comments of Johnson’s were made before Marilyn was enlightened by exposure to the Actors’ Studio. Upon her return from New York to work at Fox in Bus Stop, Johnson did see a “new Marilyn Monroe.”
“In contrast to the old Marilyn, in her present incarnation she is a liberated soul, happy, co-operative, friendly, relaxed,” he wrote me. “Actually, it is as if she had undergone a psychoanalysis so successful that the analyst himself was flabbergasted. Now she’s different; her behavior and her manner as a member of the social order are O.K. As for her acting, that remains to be seen.”
I told Marilyn that I had read an Associated Press story which estimated that her newest contract — scheduled to run for seven years — would bring her more than $8,000,000. When I mentioned this, she said, “Eight million dollars is a lot. However, no matter what they tell you, it’s not for money alone that I’m going back to Hollywood. I am free to make as many pictures for my own company as I do for Fox, and I can do TV and stage shows.”
Among others I’d talked to about Marilyn, before discussing her with herself, was Milton H. Greene, the New York photographer who’d become vice president of Marilyn Monroe Productions.
“I don’t know where they got that figure eight million, either,” Greene had told me. “Not from me or Marilyn.” He went on, “I don’t ask you what you make, do I? Everybody wants an exclusive release or an exclusive interview with Marilyn on the subject, and I want everybody to be happy, but things like that are confidential.”
Like Marilyn, Greene asked me not to use a tape-recording machine when interviewing him. “Makes me stutter,” he said. So, carefully, laboriously, and word for word, I wrote down everything he said to me. While doing it, I noticed no signs of stuttering. Evidently a notebook and pencils didn’t bother him. Greene had also asked me to put the initial “H” in his name, making it Milton H. Greene. “Would you mind very much?” he said. “There’re other Milton Greenes who are also in the photography business.”
He had met Marilyn when he had gone to California to do a series of photographs of Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Jean Simmons and Marilyn Monroe. It hadn’t been his idea to do anything too sexy. “After all,” he said, “in a national magazine you can only expose so much of a girl, even if the girl is willing. Marilyn turned out to be different from what I thought she’d be. More sensitive.”
Greene had gone to California on a second assignment, and had begun to think of doing a book of photographs of Marilyn. “The book isn’t out yet,” he said, “but I’ll show you a few of the pictures I made for it. It will be Marilyn in different moods and settings, as if she were playing different parts.” He went to a shelf and brought back a box of aluminum squares. Each square contained a color transparency. “Here’s one where she looks as if she’s in England,” he said. “As you can see, she’s wearing an Edwardian hat. Here’s one where she looks like Bernadette in The Song of Bernadette.” I looked at that one for a long time. It was, I thought, a novel idea.
Milton H. Greene watched me write down what he’d said in my notebook; then he went off on a slight tangent. “One day I plan to do a cookbook for dogs,” he said. “It would contain dog-dish recipes. I think it would be amusing.” I brought him back from his dog cookbook project to his association with Marilyn. “In Hollywood,” he said, “we got to talking. This was after she’d made Seven Year Itch and after her divorce from Joe, and I told her that I hoped to go into television and theatrical production. I found that all Marilyn wants is to make just enough money to be able to afford to make good pictures. That’s the way I feel about it, too, so Marilyn Monroe Productions hopes to buy a good story property; then approach the right studio about making and distributing the picture.”
He stood up, walked around his office and came back to his chair. “If Marilyn had been only interested in making money,” he said, “she wouldn’t have been interested in me.”
When I asked Marilyn to tell me about her association with the Actors’ Studio, she said that she not only attended classes there, but had also had private lessons from Lee Strasberg and his wife, who are the mainsprings of the project.
Greene told me, “Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean, Kim Stanley, Julie Harris and Montgomery Clift all studied under the Strasbergs. Marilyn observes, studies and watches. She listens to lectures. Occasionally she is allowed to take part.”
The Actors’ Studio lets interested people like Marilyn sit in on an informal, guest basis. She is not an officially enrolled student member of the Actors’ Studio, because you are not admitted there on that basis unless you have contributed something notable on the stage in a performance or have passed a series of exacting auditions. Just wanting to be in isn’t enough. This is very smart of the Strasbergs, because it eliminates all those who are without talent; otherwise the studio would be full of women all seven feet tall and all trying to be actresses.
I said to Marilyn that I’d heard she’d spent some time with Terence Rattigan, the British playwright, discussing the screenplay he was adapting for her from his London stage success, The Sleeping Prince, a vehicle in which Sir Laurence Olivier had played the prince. Sir Laurence had also agreed to play the same role opposite Marilyn and also to direct the film. “I had a bad cold the evening I spent with Mr. Rattigan, and he said I sounded like Tallulah Bankhead,” Marilyn told me proudly. Then she added thoughtfully, “Mr. Rattigan is young, but not too young.”
I asked her what she meant. She smiled and said, “I guess you want me to say over twelve and not quite ninety. I don’t know how old Mr. Rattigan is. I’d say he’s kind of ageless.”
I asked her to give me a hint of the story line followed by The Sleeping Prince. “I’m an American chorus girl in London, in it,” she said, “and the regent of a foreign country notices me and asks me to a reception at his country’s legation. I wriggle into my only formal and go, only it turns out it’s not a large gathering at all. In fact, it’s the same stale bit that’s been tried out on girls for the last three thousand years: dinner for two, candles, wine and soft music, when she’s expecting other guests. The next thing I know, I’ve had too much champagne and I’ve passed out. I won’t tell you any more. You ought to be willing to spend money to find out what happens next.
“The truth is,” she said, “the plot is about a man who’s been asleep — at least his emotional something or other has been asleep — but little by little a relationship builds up between him and this American chorus girl, and he begins to stir in his sleep, as you might say. He’s a married man, but that doesn’t complicate things because he’s sophisticated about the whole deal. Terence Rattigan describes it as ‘an occasional fairy tale or a comedy with serious overtones.’”
Weeks before, when I’d talked to Billy Wilder about Marilyn, I’d said to him, “I should think it would take a great deal of mature mental and moral strength to cope with becoming an enormous success overnight. It must be unsettling to suddenly become a sex symbol known all over the world.”
Wilder replied, “It’s my opinion that she’s basically a good girl, but what’s happened to her is enough to drive almost anybody slightly daffy, even someone who is armored with poise and calmness by his background and bringing up. You take a girl like Marilyn, who’s never really had a chance to learn, who’s never really had a chance to live, and suddenly confront her with a Frankenstein’s monster of herself built of fame and publicity and notoriety, and naturally she’s a little mixed up and made giddy by it all. However, I’d like to go on record with this: I worked with her in Seven Year Itch and I had a good time with her. She was seldom on time, but it wasn’t because she overslept. It was because she had to force herself to come to the studio. She’s emotionally upset all the time; she’s scared and unsure of herself — so much so that when I worked with her I found myself wishing that I were a psychoanalyst and she were my patient. It might be that I couldn’t have helped her, but she would have looked lovely on a couch.”
“You mean you didn’t get annoyed when she was late?” I asked.
“I understood the reasons for it,” Wilder told me. “There was no use getting annoyed. Even at the beginning, when I discovered that I had let myself in for a certain amount of trouble, I found myself liking her. At no time did I find her malicious, mean, capricious or anything but conscientious. There are certain urges and drives in her which make her different, but, as a director, I think it worth combating those things and living with them in order to work with her.”
I found myself hoping that Josh Logan, who will direct her in her next picture, the filmed version of Bus Stop, and Buddy Adler, the producer who bought that play for Fox, would feel the same way about her Wilder feels. That’s what she does to you. In spite of her spells of procrastination carried to fantastic lengths, in spite of her verbal convolutions, you wind up liking her.
By “her” I mean, of course, all of the various Marilyn Monroes — and there are several of them. There is the sexpot Marilyn Monroe; she’s the one who tries so hard to live up to the legend of her sexiness that even her own stomach sometimes can’t take it. Then there’s the frightened Marilyn Monroe, product of a broken home and a battered childhood — a girl named Mortenson who still can’t believe that she’s that girl on the screen they’re making all the fuss about. And last of all there is “The New Marilyn Monroe” — the one who is supposed to have emerged from the Actors’ Studio as a composed and studied performer, “having achieved growth” and “developed more.”
Somehow, as I neared the end of my interview, I found myself wondering if people would accept her as the new and different Marilyn Monroe she thinks she is. I had heard one man say, “Even if you hung Ethel Barrymore’s and Helen Hayes’ talent on Marilyn’s beautiful body, people wouldn’t take her acting seriously.”
To my surprise, I realized that I was dreading the possibility that when she turned on her new brand of acting, audiences might laugh at her, as they laughed at Zasu Pitts when she went in for “heavy drahma” after a lifetime as a comedienne.
“It doesn’t scare me,” Marilyn told me bravely, when I mentioned my fears. “If I have the same things I had before I started to go to the Actors’ Studio and I’ve added more — well, how can I lose?”
Whether she has really “added more” or not, I don’t know. But, as she herself points out, she does — emphatically — still have the same things she had before. My guess is that they’re still negotiable at the box office.
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copyright text by Saturday Evening Post.