How Norma Jeane, filing cabinet model, became Marilyn Monroe
Published on November, 21, 2015
By Michelle Morgan and Astrid Franse
One day, while shopping for vintage items for their shop, Bennies Fifties in the Netherlands, Astrid and Ben Franse bought a box of old Marilyn Monroe memorabilia from a dealer in Los Angeles. They didn’t know what they really had: a treasure trove. In the box were letters and never-before-seen photos from Miss Emmeline Snively, who had run the Blue Book Modeling Agency — the agent who had signed a young Norma Jeane Dougherty. In the new book “Before Marilyn,” Astrid Franse and co-author Michelle Morgan reveal for the first time this archive and how Snively helped turn Norma Jeane into Marilyn Monroe.
In early August 1945, a photographer friend took Norma Jeane Dougherty from her home in West Los Angeles to be introduced to Miss Emmeline Snively, owner of the Blue Book Modeling Agency.
Norma Jeane was married, bored — and beautiful. Raised an orphan, she wed at 16 to escape a series of foster homes. But her husband shipped off with the Merchant Marines, and she worked an exhausting shift at the local defense plant.
Her face was her escape. She was noticed by propaganda photographers in the factory and after the war went looking for a job at Blue Book.
Snively, who had seen every kind of girl the profession had to offer, did not think there was anything too out-of-the-ordinary about the girl standing in her office at the Ambassador Hotel. She noted in her file: “Norma Jeane had been brought to the hotel by photographer Potter Hueth, wearing a simple white dress and armed with her modeling portfolio, which offered no more than a few choice snaps . . . You wouldn’t necessarily wear a white dress to a modeling job, and it was as clean and white and ironed and shining as she was.”
Norma Jean, then 19, was staring at the magazine covers and publicity photos gracing the walls.
“Those are the prettiest girls I’ve ever seen,” she muttered, almost to herself, before turning to Miss Snively. “Do you think I could ever get my picture on a magazine cover ?”
Snively looked her up and down. “Of course,” she smiled. “You’re a natural.”
Wiggle and quiver
Snively noted her statistics on an agency card: “Size 12, height 5.6, 36 bust, 24 waist, 34 hips. Blue eyes, perfect teeth and blonde, curly hair.” “Actually,” she later wrote, “her hair was dirty blonde. California blonde which means that it’s dark in the winter and light in the summer. I recall that it curled very close to her head, which was quite unmanageable. I knew at once it would have to be bleached and worked on.”
It cost $100 for a three-month modeling course, to teach her presentation, grooming and coordination — or how to sell yourself to the public. Snively noted that Norma Jeane was wonderful when it came to learning techniques such as makeup, hand positions and body posture, but she had concerns over other aspects. One problem was the way she walked, which went against everything a fashion model was trained to do. In short, she wiggled.
“When Marilyn walks, her knees lock,” Snively wrote. “She’s double-jointed in the knees, so she can’t relax and that is why her hips seem to sway when she walks into a room. Her walk is a result of that locking action every time she takes a step. This she turned into an asset.”
As Marilyn would later explain: “When you walk, always think UP in front and DOWN in back.”
Another “problem” was her smile, which the agency (and several magazine editors) felt made her nose look too long. This was easily rectified, as Snively later recalled. “She smiled too high, that’s what was wrong, and it made deep lines around her nose. We taught her how to bring her smile down and show her lowers.”
This resulted in the famous lip quiver that would often be seen in Marilyn’s film roles.
Norma Jeane’s first official assignment was as a hostess at an industry show being held at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. Described as “America’s annual tribute to the working man,” the Industry on Parade exhibition began on Labor Day weekend, 1945, with a motorcade traveling through downtown Los Angeles.
She found herself on a stand taken by Holga Steel Company, talking to visitors, giving out leaflets and showcasing one of the company’s items — a steel filing cabinet.
Described as “absolutely terrified” by Snively, Norma Jean traveled to the Pan Pacific Auditorium day after day. When she returned to the agency, Norma Jeane handed over all her earnings. “She gave me the whole $90,” Snively wrote. “Took nothing out for car fare or meals or clothes or anything. ‘This,’ she said, ‘will take care of most of my tuition.’ I knew at once she was a fair and honest and very fine girl, and I decided to get her as much work as I possibly could.”
Norma Jeane appeared in ads for Douglas Airlines and some magazine shoots. But when photographer Raphael Wolff hired her for a shampoo advertisement, it let Snively do what Norma Jeane had always resisted — change her hair.
“Look darling,” Snively told her, “if you really intend to go places in this business, you’ve just got to bleach and straighten your hair because now your face is a little too round and a hair job will lengthen it.”
Norma Jeane acquiesced, and Snively was thrilled with the results.
“She emerged a truly golden girl . . . From this point she went into her bathing-suit stage, and the demand for her was simply terrific. She averaged, I should say, $150 a week, and men began talking about getting her into the motion-picture game.”
One photographer paid to fix one bad front tooth. Another suggested Norma Jeane “eat more hamburgers.” But they didn’t need to teach her how to look sexy; she was a natural.
Later, Marilyn Monroe would reminisce about how most of the photos used of her were for “men’s” magazines.
“I was in See four or five months in a row,” she said. “Each time they changed my name. One month I was Norma Jeane Dougherty; the second month I was Jean Norman.”
Snively hustled to promote her. When Howard Hughes, who was recovering from a plane crash, called to ask who the girl was on the cover of Laff magazine, Snively promptly called columnist Hedda Hopper, who picked up the item and gave Norma Jeane her first coast-to-coast publicity.
The nude bomb
In July 1946, Norma Jeane got a screen test at 20th Century Fox, where she was signed to a starlet’s contract for a salary and training in the studio workshops.
Executive Ben Lyon took an interest, choosing the name Marilyn for her. “When he asked her if there was a last name she particularly liked, she said yes — her grandmother’s name had been Monroe,” the studio’s archives read.
“Mmmmarilyn Mmmmonroe, yes I like the way that sounds,” Marilyn said.
But Fox eventually dropped her, as did Columbia, after only a few background roles. By May 1949, she had returned to convention modeling, showing off antiques at the Pan Pacific Auditorium.
Marilyn was broke. One day, a man called to offer money and other luxuries in exchange for certain favors.
“For a dizzy moment, I had visions of being able to pay my rent,” she later recalled, “but as he went on giving the details of what I would be expected to do, my visions vanished. He was brutally frank, and all I could think of to say was that he shouldn’t talk that way over a public telephone. I didn’t realize how silly that sounded until I hung up, and then I started to laugh.”
At the time of the call, she was late with her rent at the Hollywood Studio Club and threatened with eviction. Something had to be done.
She called photographer Tom Kelley, who had used her in the past for a beer ad. He had asked her several times to pose nude and she always refused, but this time her home was on the line and she felt she may not have much choice. Marilyn did have a particular requirement — she would only take her clothes off for him if accompanied by his wife, Natalie.
In May 1949, she posed nude on a blanket of red velvet. “I decided I’d be safer with [Kelley] than with some rich old guy who might catch me in a weak moment when I was hungry and didn’t have enough to buy a square meal,” Marilyn explained. “Kelley told me he’d camouflage my face, but it turned out everybody recognized me.”
When later asked what it felt like to be photographed in such a way, she answered, “It was drafty.”
Kelley later told biographer Maurice Zolotow that he paid Marilyn $50 for her services and then sold the rights to a calendar maker for $500. It would be years before the calendar maker’s secretary realized who the girl was. “He made a fortune on it,” Kelley said. “Sold close to 8,000,000 calendars.”
Marilyn got some promising film roles in a Marx Brothers movie (“Love Happy”) and “The Asphalt Jungle.” But like the Kim Kardashian of her day, it was the nude photographs surfacing in 1952 that made her a star. Instead of destroying her career, as the studio thought it would, the scandal won the actress much sympathy after she announced that the reason she had posed in the first place was because without the money she would have been evicted.
In the next year, she would make “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “How to Marry a Millionaire.” The transformation from Norma Jeane to Marilyn was complete.
How to make it…
Marilyn was famous, but her insecurity never went away. In 1954, Snively learned Marilyn was making “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” She called the studio to see if Marilyn would pose for some publicity photos for Blue Book Models. Marilyn quickly agreed.
The pictures taken on the set that day show Marilyn in costume to perform a song and dance number called “Heat Wave.” The actress wasn’t a huge fan of the song, and her new husband, baseball star Joe DiMaggio, wasn’t an admirer of the outfit, considering it too revealing for his wife to wear. However, neither seemed to bother Snively, and photos show there is no doubt that Marilyn enjoyed meeting up with her old mentor once again.
Snively later recalled having a private word with Marilyn off set.
“She didn’t feel she was a qualified actress, [but] how could she have felt any different ?” Snively later wrote. “She’d signed her first contract before she had her first acting lesson.
“God I wanted to cry for her then. This can be the loneliest town in the world, and it’s even lonelier for you if you’re on top of the heap.”
Excerpted from “Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modeling Years” by Astrid Franse and Michelle Morgan. Out now from St. Martin’s Press.
'There was no sultry sexiness about her. That came much later': The astonishing treasure trove of rare images show Marilyn Monroe as you've never seen her before
By Astrid And Ben Franse
Published: 21:01 GMT, 20 June 2015
online on dailymail.co.uk
They languished for decades in an old box, yet these extremely rare photographs, many never seen before, reveal the stunning transformation of a naive young model into the world’s biggest movie star... but only after she reluctantly agreed to break open the peroxide.
Twenty years ago, Astrid and Ben Franse, owners of a Fifties memorabilia store, were in a vintage shop in Los Angeles when the shopkeeper came over with a box, telling them: ‘It’s press clippings and pictures of Marilyn Monroe. I only got a quick look. It was take it or leave it.’
The couple bought the box and took it home to the Netherlands, where it was stored under a desk and promptly forgotten – until 2012 when a dealer telephoned from the U.S. about a client who was a big Marilyn fan.
Ben remembered the box and went to check what it contained. He was stunned. It was the archive of Blue Book, the modelling agency that launched Marilyn’s career.
There were negatives, letters, telegrams, photos and worksheets.
Using this treasure trove of unseen images, Astrid and Marilyn expert Michelle Morgan, author of ‘Marilyn Monroe: Private And Undisclosed’, have been able to tell the little-known story of Marilyn before she was famous...
Emmeline Snively appraised the girl in front of her in the office of her model agency.
She was ‘in a simple white dress and armed with her portfolio, which offered no more than a few snaps. You wouldn’t necessarily wear a white dress on a modelling job, and it was as clean and white and ironed and shining as she was.’
Snively noted the 19-year-old’s measurements on an agency card: ‘Size 12, height 5.6, 36 bust, 24 waist, 34 hips. Blue eyes, perfect teeth and blonde, curly hair.’
But she would later recall: ‘Actually her hair was dirty blonde. California blonde, which means that it is dark in the winter and light in the summer.
'It curled very close to her head, and was unmanageable. I knew it would have to be bleached and worked on.’
It was August 2, 1945 and this was the first meeting between Norma Jeane Dougherty – later known as Marilyn Monroe – and the mentor who launched her career.
Norma Jeane (she was christened Jeane with an ‘e’, but this was often misspelt) had been raised in foster homes – her father was unknown, her mother mentally ill. At 15, she met James Dougherty. He was good-looking and sporty.
She was looking for a way to avoid another stint in an orphanage so, after prompting by her foster mother and future mother-in-law, she agreed to marry Dougherty in 1942, weeks after her 16th birthday.
Two years later, her husband joined the navy and Norma Jeane moved in with her in-laws and took a job in the Radio Plane munitions factory.
She hated the job and living with her husband’s parents. So when a photographer organised a few modelling assignments for her, it seemed to offer a way out.
James initially approved of the work but made it clear that he would only tolerate it until he returned.
While she was at the factory the family trusted Norma Jeane completely, possibly because mother-in-law Ethel worked there too and could keep an eye on her.
But when she was crowned ‘Queen of the Radio Plane Picnic’ during a company outing, they saw that a normal life with a house and children was not on her mind.
Things came to a head one evening when Norma Jeane, driving home from a modelling job and, by her admission, ‘dreaming again’, crashed into another vehicle and wrote off her husband’s car.
That was the beginning of the end for Norma Jeane and the Doughertys. Soon after she moved in with former foster parent ‘Aunt’ Ana Lower.
The long-distance marriage limped on for another year – even surviving a fling Norma Jeane had with a photographer. But while modelling might have caused problems with her husband’s family, she was determined it would be her key to a better future.
So, to put her nascent career on a serious footing she had come to Snively’s Blue Book Model Agency, based in Los Angeles’s opulent Ambassador Hotel.
Many in modelling believed Blue Book was essentially an escort agency, providing girls for lonely businessmen staying at the hotel to take to dinner.
‘The LAPD kept a close watch,’ said a source who knew the agency at the time.
Snively admitted: ‘Many of my girls whose husbands were overseas dated on several nights of the week. But not Norma Jeane. She was interested only in legitimate assignments.’
The reception walls were covered in glossy photos of clients past and present, as was Snively’s office. There was a statue of the ancient Eygptian princess Nefertiti on her desk – ‘the most beautiful woman of her era,’ Snively believed.
The boss spoke in an English accent, though she was American. And she was picky about who she took on.
‘Do you sing ?’ Snively asked.
‘Just a little,’ replied Norma Jeane.
‘Ambitions of becoming an actress ?’
‘No, none at all.’
‘Do you have your own wardrobe ?’
‘Not really,’ said Norma Jeane. ‘A few items but not many.’
Snively later recalled, ‘She had a white dress which looked terrific on her, although models usually shy away from white. It accentuated her bust and called attention to her figure. It was extremely tight across the front.’
The only other things she seemed to own were a bathing suit and a blue suit ‘that didn’t do a thing for her’, according to Snively.
‘She had a girl next door look. All right, you never saw a girl next door who looked like Marilyn but that’s how she looked the day she came in. For me that’s how she always looked.’
Norma Jeane’s looks, enthusiasm and naivity won over the agency owner. She signed her up and set about training her in grooming, presentation and coordination. There was ‘good solid work on my part to analyse and develop her best points (no pun intended)’.
She determined that Norma Jeane could do two types of modelling. She couldn’t enter beauty contests – a useful way of raising a model’s profile – because she was married, which disqualified her.
Nor could she do catwalk modelling. As Snively observed: ‘She did have a pleasant personality; an all-American girl personality – cute, wholesome and respectable.
'There was no sultry sexiness about her. That came much later, although I did realise immediately that Marilyn would never do as a fashion model. Most fashion models are tall, sophisticated-looking and slim-chested. Marilyn was none of these.’
And there was another problem – her walk. Her famous ‘wiggle walk’ went against everything a catwalk model was ever trained to do.
It has been claimed that she used to cut part of the heel from one shoe, causing her bottom to rock from side to side. Another suggestion was she had suffered from an illness as a child, resulting in a slight limp. Snively had a different theory.
‘She’s double-jointed in the knees, so she can’t relax and that is why her hips seem to sway.
'She couldn’t stand with a relaxed knee like most models, because her knees would lock in a stiff-legged position. Her walk is a result of that locking action... This she turned into an asset.’
Another ‘problem’ was her smile, which the agency felt made her nose look too long.
‘She smiled too high, that’s what was wrong, and it made deep lines around her nose,’ Snively later recalled. ‘We taught her how to bring her smile down, and show her lowers.’
This resulted in the famous lip quiver which lookalikes emulate to this day.
Finally, there was the hair. ‘It was so curly, so frizzy.’
While Norma Jeane was eager to soak up any advice about her smile, she was less happy with what Snively suggested for her hair: bleach and straightening. There was no way the young model could afford the upkeep of such a style, and she had no wish to be made into a glamour girl.
‘She was a believer in naturalness,’ wrote Snively. ‘Any suggestions about lightening her hair or even styling it met with defeat.’
1/ During 1948-49, as she waited for her film career to take off, Marilyn continued to take modelling jobs, occasionally doing nude work
2/ Magazine covers led to items in gossip columns which in turn led to a screen test at Twentieth Century Fox.A studio executive chose the name Marilyn, and she picked her grandmother’s surname, Monroe
3/ She won a contract and tiny roles in two minor films before being cast in the lead as a burlesque dancer in a film called Ladies Of The Chorus. It wasn’t a hit but Marilyn’s profile was raised
The agency boss tried desperately to change Norma Jeane’s mind. She made a compromise by blow-drying it straighter occasionally, but bleaching and permanently straightening? No.
Her first assignment was a ten-day industry show at LA’s Pan Pacific Auditorium. It wasn’t glamorous but it paid $90. She found herself on the Holga Steel stand, talking to visitors, giving out leaflets and demonstrating one of the company’s products – a filing cabinet. Holga sent Snively a glowing report.
Next she was in a series of photos for American Airlines – her first proper photo-modelling job.
The photographer was impressed by ‘her healthy good looks’ – there were photos of Norma Jeane applying make-up in the bathroom, in slippers and a robe.
Eventually, a job came up that required a model with blonde hair.
‘Look darling,’ Snively told her. ‘If you intend to go places in this business, you’ve got to bleach and straighten your hair; your face is a little too round and a hair job will lengthen it. Don’t worry about money, I’ll keep you working.’
She was hired for a shampoo ad on the understanding that she would sort out her hair. When the photographer offered to pay for the process, Norma Jeane finally agreed to go to the Frank and Joseph salon in Hollywood.
Snively loved it. ‘It was bleached to take it out of the obscurity of dishwater blonde,’ she wrote.
1/ In 1949, the year before her breakthrough role in The Asphalt Jungle
2/ A studio publicity shot from 1949
3/ In 1949, the year she appeared in the Marx Brothers film Love Happy. That paved the way for ever bigger parts and her iconic starring roles in the likes of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot
‘Marilyn emerged a truly golden girl... She went into her bathing-suit stage, and the demand for her was terrific.
'She averaged $150 a week, and men began talking to her about going into motion pictures.’
It was the beginning of Norma Jeane’s transformation into Marilyn Monroe and from modelling to movies. Around this time Marilyn was walking down the street one day when a man pulled his Cadillac up next to her. He rolled down the window and told the young woman that she was so beautiful she should be in movies.
The man said he worked for the Goldwyn Studio and she should come for an audition.
Unfortunately, his studio turned out to be a rented suite, where the ‘executive’ persuaded her to pose in a variety of inappropriate positions, while reading a script.
‘All the poses were reclining, although the words I was reading didn’t seem to call for that position,’ Marilyn recalled.
‘Naive as I was, I soon figured this wasn’t the way to get a job in the movies. I manoeuvred toward the door and made a hasty exit.’
But magazine covers led to items in gossip columns which in turn led to a screen test at Twentieth Century Fox.
A studio executive chose the name Marilyn, and she picked her grandmother’s surname, Monroe. She won a contract and tiny roles in two minor films before being cast in the lead as a burlesque dancer in a film called Ladies Of The Chorus. It wasn’t a hit but Marilyn’s profile was raised.
Her film career turned a corner when she was offered a part in the Marx Brothers movie Love Happy. That paved the way for ever bigger parts and her iconic starring roles in the likes of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot.
Snively later recalled a chat with Marilyn, now married to baseball star Joe DiMaggio, the actress confessed that she felt inadequate in her career.
‘Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years’ by Astrid Franse and Michelle Morgan is published by The History Press on July 14, priced £25.
Offer price £18.75 (25 per cent off), until July 12. Pre-order at mailbookshop.co.uk, with free p&p
Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modeling Years
Auteur: Astrid Franse, Michelle Morgan
Date de sortie: 10 novembre 2015
Relié 240 pages
Éditeur: Thomas Dunne Books
Prix éditeur: 32,86 Euros
ISBN 10: 125008590X
ISBN 13: 978-1250085900
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