Tuesday Reads: Marilyn Monroe, Fifty Years GonePosted: August 7, 2012 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: 60 Minutes, Arthur Miller, Brooklyn, Marilyn Monroe, Mike Wallace, movies, nostalgia, Photography, popular culture, The Seven Year Itch 24 Comments
I’m writing this late on Monday night. I’m a little burned out on the news, and I haven’t been feeling so great today, so I thought I’d skip politics and devote my Tuesday morning post to noting the 50th anniversary of the day we lost Marilyn Monroe, August 5, 1962. We can talk about the news in the comments though!
LA Weekly has a report of the memorial. The main speaker was Professor Lois Banner, the author of a new biography of Monroe.
Lois Banner certainly must be considered one of the Marilyn religion’s rising gospel writers. Banner, a professor of women’s history at USC, is the author of Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox, her well-received, scrupulously researched and ten-years-in-the-writing biography, whose release was scheduled to coincide with the anniversary.
Banner’s book, which attempts to demolish any lingering image of Marilyn as a dumb blonde and merely the sexual object of male fantasy, asserts that the star was shaped by a complicated and deeply conflicted personality. Marilyn was marked by an intense intellectual curiosity but also by emotional and sexual abuse as child that would develop into full-blown sexual addiction and her ultimately tragic substance abuse.
Outside the memorial, the 73-year-old writer briefly spoke about Marilyn’s status as an “icon of the American character” and the key to her enduring fascination. The answer, according to Banner, is complex but begins with her tragically early death. Dying at the height of her beauty instantly made the star what Banner calls “the Aphrodite of the national imagination — the woman who represents our sexual desires and dreams.”
To that she adds the aura of mystery contributed by Marilyn’s involvement with the Kennedys and the conspiracy theories surrounding her death. Then there are the photographs. Marilyn was probably the most photographed woman of the 20th century, Banner says, “and the famous images of her literally run into the thousands. She realized herself in front of the camera, and many have said the camera was her real lover.”
Here are two Huffpo links to some lovely photos of Marilyn:
Marilyn Monroe Photos: Candid Shots Of The Woman Behind The Starlet
Marilyn Monroe ‘Intimate Exposures’: Exhibit Unveils Never-Before-Seen Bruno Bernard Photos
Between inventing pin-up photography, earning the nickname “Bernard of Hollywood” and discovering Marilyn Monroe, Bruno Bernard may just be the world’s most famous photographer.
In her new book “Marilyn: Intimate Exposures,” Bernard’s daughter, former Playboy Playmate Susan Bernard, has released a collection of her father’s most famous photographs of the one and only Marilyn Monroe–including 40 never-before-seen shots.
In the collection are the first professional photographs ever taken of Monroe (then named Norma Jean Dougherty), intimate backstage shots throughout her career, original negatives, Bernard’s work notes and letters from Monroe to Bernard, including one reading, “Remember Bernie, you started it all.”
Bernard is presenting the collection at the San Francisco Art Exchange for its United States premiere during the 50th anniversary commemoration of Monroe’s death.
The photos at both links are wonderful. I really enjoyed looking at them.
The LA Times reports on another exhibit of Marilyn photos.
One of the many disappointments to befall the actress’ tragic life was her struggle to have a child, having suffered multiple miscarriages. Very few images of a pregnant Monroe exist but famed celebrity photograper Phil Stern found himself at the right place at the right time during her last pregnancy with third husband, playwright Arthur Miller.
In 1958, Look magazine assigned Stern to capture what studio mogul Sam Goldwyn saw through his office window. Perched high and out of sight from the people below, he spotted Monroe walking across the lot during a break from filming “Some Like it Hot,” and snapped the photo just as the wind blew open her kimono, revealing her pregnant belly.
This photo is just one of many that Stern took of Monroe during an illustrious career that spanned six decades. Twenty-three images from his collection will be on view at The Phil Stern Gallery opening Sunday on the 50th anniversary of her untimely death. The exhibition continues through Nov 1.
You can view some of the photos at the link.
On Sunday night, 60 Minutes ran a 1987 interview with Playwright Arthur Miller by Mike Wallace.
During their relationship, Miller wrote the screenplay for “The Misfits,” with the lead role played by Monroe. She played a wounded young woman, who falls in love with a much older man. It would be her last film.
Despite the success of 1961’s “The Misfits,” Miller’s marriage to Monroe had been struggling for months, and the couple ultimately separated. In addition to drug and alcohol dependency, Monroe had endured several miscarriages and was battling depression.
“I guess to be frank about it, I was taking care of her. I was trying to keep her afloat,” Miller told Wallace. “She was a super-sensitive instrument, and that’s exciting to be around until it starts to self-destruct.”
When Wallace asked Miller if he knew Monroe’s life was destined for disaster, he said, “I didn’t know it was doomed, but I certainly felt it had a good chance to be.” Less than two years later, Monroe was found dead at the age of 36 in her California home.
There are some more lovely photos in this NY Daily News article: Marilyn Monroe, famed blond bombshell, yearned to retire to Brooklyn in her twilight years
The blond bombshell, who lived in New York City on and off for several years before dying in Los Angeles in 1962, called Brooklyn her “favorite place in the world” in a radio interview with NBC’s Dave Garroway.
“When I retire I’m going to retire to Brooklyn,” Monroe told the late “Today” show host. “That’s my favorite place in the world, so far, that I’ve seen.”
Monroe, then 31-years-old and inbetween her marriages to New York Yankees Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller, admitted she hadn’t “travelled much, but I don’t think I’ll find anything to replace Brooklyn.”
When asked what it was about Brooklyn she loved, Monroe’s answer was simple: “Almost everything.”
“I just like walking around,” she said in her soft, whispy tone.
Monroe said one highlight was the view of Manhattan which can only be seen from Brooklyn, but stressed her affection for the borough was more than that.
“It isn’t only the view, it’s the people,” Monroe said. “The people and the streets and the atmosphere, I just like it.”
On Weekend Edition, NPR ran a piece on Marilyn Monroe As An ‘All-Around’ Comedian.
I love just about all of Marilyn’s movies, but I guess my favorite is The Seven Year Itch.
The Rachmaninoff fantasy scene:
And the famous subway scene:
It’s hard to believe it was all so long ago. Sorry this post is so short, I should be back to my regular self in the morning. Now it’s your turn to fill me in on the real news of the day. I’ll pitch in some links too, of course.
Two Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Songwriters Left Us YesterdayPosted: August 23, 2011 Filed under: just because | Tags: Carole King, Elvis Presley, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, music, Nickolas Ashford, nostalgia, rock 'n' roll, The Drifters 15 Comments
Lyricist Jerry Leiber and his songwriting partner Mike Stoller wrote much of the soundtrack of my childhood and teenage years. The rest of it was probably written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, but that’s a story for another time.
When I was in junior high school, I started buying 45 RPM records, and I ended up with a huge stack of them over the years. On so many of them, the writing credit was “(Leiber and Stoller). I had no idea who those people were, but they sure made me and a lot of other kids happy back in the late ’50s and early ’60s.
Jerry Leiber died yesterday at 78. Here’s an incomplete list of artists who recorded Leiber and Stoller songs: Big Mama Thornton, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Fats Domino, Aretha Franklin, the Clovers, the Coasters, and of course Elvis and the Drifters. They even wrote a song for Peggy Lee, “Is That All There Is?”
The team of Leiber and Stoller was formed in 1950, when Mr. Leiber was still a student at Fairfax High in Los Angeles and Mr. Stoller, a fellow rhythm-and-blues fanatic, was a freshman at Los Angeles City College. With Mr. Leiber contributing catchy, street-savvy lyrics and Mr. Stoller, a pianist, composing infectious, bluesy tunes, they set about writing songs with black singers and groups in mind.
In 1952, they wrote “Hound Dog” for the blues singer Big Mama Thornton. The song became an enormous hit for Elvis Presley in 1956 and made Leiber and Stoller the hottest songwriting team in rock ’n’ roll. They later wrote “Jailhouse Rock,” “Loving You,” “Don’t,” “Treat Me Nice,” “King Creole” and other songs for Presley, despite their loathing for his interpretation of “Hound Dog.”
In the late 1950s, having relocated to New York and taken their place among the constellation of talents associated with the Brill Building, they emerged as perhaps the most potent songwriting team in the genre.
Here are some of my favorites:
Okay, so I love the Drifters….
Here’s one of my all-time favorite Leiber and Stoller compositions, Wilbert Harrison singing Kansas City.
This one was a huge hit when I was a kid.
Carole King, who also worked in the Brill Building back in the day “took to Twitter to pay her respects.”
“Farewell, Jerry Leiber: a legend, a friend, and a major influence on Goffin and King. Rest in peace.”
Motown songwriter Nick Ashford also died yesterday at age 70. Ashford and his writing partner (later wife) Valerie Simpson wrote songs that were recorded by Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, and many more great artists.
Nickolas Ashford was born in Fairfield, S.C., and raised in Willow Run, Mich., where his father, Calvin, was a construction worker. He got his musical start at Willow Run Baptist Church, singing and writing songs for the gospel choir. He briefly attended Eastern Michigan University, in Ypsilanti, before heading to New York, where he tried but failed to find success as a dancer.
In 1964, while homeless, Mr. Ashford went to White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem, where he met Ms. Simpson, a 17-year-old recent high school graduate who was studying music. They began writing songs together, selling the first bunch for $64. In 1966, after Ray Charles sang “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” a song Ashford & Simpson wrote with Joey Armstead, the duo signed on with Motown as staff writers and producers.
They wrote for virtually every major act on the label, including Gladys Knight and the Pips (“Didn’t You Know You’d Have to Cry Sometime”) and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (“Who’s Gonna Take the Blame”).
The Guardian had a great article today on songwriting duos by Laura Barton: From Leiber and Stoller to Lennon and McCartney: the alchemy of the duo
Jerry Leiber and Nick Ashford: may they rest in peace. The best way to pay tribute to them is by remembering their music. Please post your favorites in the comments, if you’re so inclined.