Monday, June 01, 2009

The Siren Has Wondered About This a Long Time.



Is Marilyn Monroe the most photographed woman in history? Every time I turn around there's another picture of her I've never seen before. She must have Princess Diana beat by a mile. I swear someday they will turn up unpublished photographs of her trimming her toenails, boiling an egg and picking lint off her sweater.

P.S. The Siren fears that this post makes her sound like she dislikes Monroe, and she doesn't, certainly not as an actress. Monroe was quite good in a lot of movies and at her best she was superbly funny. The best was Some Like It Hot; in terms of her performances alone the Siren loves How to Marry a Millionaire. As an offscreen personality, though, the Siren has no take on her whatsoever. There is this iron curtain of Death Cult Worship that prevents getting any bead on what she was like. Way too much information out there.

118 comments:

Peteski said...

Good timing - have you seen these ? :

http://www.life.com/image/88010878/in-gallery/27412/marilyn-neverpublished-photos

never before published.

from :
http://nevver.tumblr.com/post/116312377/griffith-park-1950-never-published

thanks.

Gerard Jones said...

I'm holding out for those unpublished photos of Irene Dunne.

Gerard Jones said...

I don't mean to be dismissive. It's just that I've never quite understood the Marilyn cult. Or let's say I understand it pretty well in my head but I just don't feel it.

And how do they keep finding pictures of her that should have been found years ago? Pictures in the Life magazine archives from 1950? How could those be undiscovered? There's something unearthly about it. Are aliens creating new Marilyn pictures and slipping them into our archives as part of some sinister plot?

Dan Leo said...

Just to make you envious, dear Campaspe...a long time ago I went up to NYC to see a friend dance, and I stayed overnight where she lived with her aunt in one of those rambling old Upper West Side apartments that had been in her family for about fifty years. She opened a drawer and brought out a bunch of unpublished "out-take" photographs of Marilyn taken in the 50s by one of her uncles or grand-uncles. We looked at them, and I remember thinking they were all beautiful, although each one had some little "flaw" (like a visibly bandaged ankle) that made them seem even more beautiful to me. Then my dancer friend just put them back into the drawer. For all I know, they're still there.

Campaspe said...

Peteski, welcome! Those are the ones I'm talking about; saw the story on CNN.com.

Gerard, you express my thoughts perfectly.

Dan, I would have loved to have seen those. She was certainly amazingly photogenic. If the camera loves certain people, it loved Marilyn like Dante loved Beatrice, like Abelard loved Heloise.

Charles Noland said...

Gerard, exactly. I mean, she's been dead for over 40 years, stop already, move on to someone who is actually alive. Her iconic status may partly be due to dying at the right time, so she is still preserved in everyone's memory more or less at her peak. Still, I'll never get this obsessive fascination some people seem to have with her.

X. Trapnel said...

Gerard, I forgot, are you the Dunnephobe around here?

The Marilyn/Elvis/Dean death cults are obviously related and show no sign of going away. How long, by contrast, did Valentino's last? There was never one for Jean Harlow. so why are these perpetuated along with Dead Diana and a bevy of dead rock martyrs?

One difference with "Marilyn" is that the cult is not genuinely popular like Elvis and Diana, but promulgated from the top down by the likes of Mailer, Steinem, J.C. Oates, A. Wormhole, C. Paglia, many more cultural thumbsuckers. Monroe undoubtedly has her loyal movie fans like any star, but who really cares anymore besides the cultural bigwigs who think that we ought to? but we've got to go on with it; never ask why.

Campaspe said...

XT, do you think she really isn't genuinely popular? I meet young women who still find her looks inspirational. And, sad to say, if they discovered pictures of Irene Dunne, even Irene Dunne in the altogether (impossible thought!) I very much doubt anyone at CNN.com would put the link on the front page.

I do see your point in the sense that many people who are very familiar with her face have never seen a single one of her movies. Although perhaps that is sadly true of Dean as well.

X. Trapnel said...

Siren, clearly legions still listen to Elvis, cult or no, and I don't think what you rightly call the death cult is necessary to keep his music alive. Monroe made one indisputably great film in which, like John Wayne in The Searchers, no one else is imaginable (I make the comparison because I'm not a fan of Wayne or Monroe but must concede their greatness here). The fact is though, older films are falling into the cultural keeping of film lovers and there's only a vague popular acknowledgement of the afterglow image even with much greater figures; they don't resonate with contemporary culture (Cary Grant, because such an elusive figure, may be the only one who truly does). I suspect the young women you mention are responding mainly to the Monroe of the photographs mediated by culture rather than a direct empathy. Why, after all, would a young woman want to assimilate Monroe's screen persona which was very limited and limiting?

I'd rather see Irene Dunne in all her god-given glory than MM any day. She's damn sexy in that nightgown in the last scene of The Awful Truth.

Gerard Jones said...

Dunnophobe? Me??? No, I'm as fervent a Dunnophile as you're likely to find outside Louisville, KY. Karen's the one who says he hates Irene. (Except in Love Affair, The Awful Truth and My Favorite Husband, which takes the edge off the hate.)

Have I characterized you correctly, Karen?

Gerard Jones said...

I don't want to give the impression that I don't like Monroe, either. I'm very much with Campaspe. I like both the Wilders, love her little turn in All About Eve, think she was impossibly perfect for the role in Asphalt Jungle (when she's being pawed by Louis Calhern...brrrr!), and really never dislike her at all. It's just the Goddess thing I can't quite empathize with. And I've never been able to generate any interest in her private life.

X. Trapnel said...

My apologies, Gerard. sometimes I get mental whiplash following the witty badinage here. Karen, give The Joy of Living, another Dunne delight, a chance.

Gerard Jones said...

This morning I woke up to find Love Affair on TCM (the climactic scene, when they're talking with forced cheeriness about the missed rendezvous years before) and after bringing my kid home from school turned it on again to find The Awful Truth (the nightclub scene). There should be a channel dedicated to doing that every day.

Gerard Jones said...

I like Theodora Goes Wild, too.

Gerard Jones said...

I think Karen saw Show Boat as a little girl and it traumatized her.

X. Trapnel said...

I have nothing against MM myself (just indifference) but for me two fifties blondes divide the world between them Eva Marie Saint and Gloria Grahame. There is no third.

X. Trapnel said...

Funny, Kern is my favorite of all the greats, but I don't like Show Boat at all, not one song.

Some years ago a close friend of mine got a job at the University of Oklahoma, giving me a once-in-a-lifetime chance to say, "And if you get bored you can always go to Tulsa."

Gerard Jones said...

Now Gloria Grahame: there's a private life I can get interested in! (And yes, she is astonishing on screen.)

Re Elvis, there are two very different camps of followers. There are those who into the whole death cult and Vegas tragedy, which doesn't interest me in the least, and then there are those of us who listen to all the false starts on Blue Moon of Kentucky from Joo-ly of 1954. To me they come from completely different points of view, and I don't know that there's much overlap.

Which makes me wonder: are there people who are really interested in and fond of Marilyn Monroe as an actress, the way one might be with Gloria Grahame, but have no interest in the personality cult?

Gerard Jones said...

"...go to Tulsa for the week-end." I love the way he bites off that British "week-end."

I don't like much of Show Boat either, although I do like Make Believe. And not the best way to meet Irene.

Gerard Jones said...

Karen: please note above that "says he hates Irene" was entirely a problem of typing too fast and there being two Ss in a row. I have never for a moment questioned or doubted your gender.

Frank Conniff said...

I would add "All About Eve" and Hawks' "Monkey Business" to the list of performances that MM was very funny in. And by the way, is there anything creepier than her relationship with Louis Calhern in "The Asphalt Jungle," where she calls him "Uncle?" Here's my in depth critical analysis of those scenes: Yuck!

Gloria said...

Wonder why there is not a Linda Darnell cult
: she was awesomely beautiful, she had memorable roles like Laura Mae in "A Letter to Three Wives", and died before her time.

Or maybe it's just that her Laura Mae, being a clever brunnette, beats MM's dumb blondes in a row for me

X. Trapnel said...

Gloria, I'll sign on for a Linda Darnell cult. You've nailed the essence of Marilynism: stupidity must triumph over intelligence; the child-woman is the parallel to (though not the mate of) the boy-man.

Yojimboen said...

“…for me two fifties blondes divide the world between them Eva Marie Saint and Gloria Grahame. There is no third.”

Seconded and agreed… But we are talking just H’Wood, right X.? Because I vaguely remember a certain alliteratively initialed strawberry blonde across the pond who made a couple dozen movies in the 50s… One of them was about some jewelry? Madame something…?

X. Trapnel said...

Zounds, Sir Y! That lady is for all time; nothing so paltry and negligable as a (snort) "decade" can contain her; a visitor from paradise she is who graciously descended to dwell among us.

Gloria said...

Hear, hear!

Why there is not a DD cult as strong as MM's? nd again, DD was a lady who could convey great intelligence in her characters... Maybe teh trouble is that DD has grown to become a grand dame, instead of dying young.

No personal bad feelings against MM though, but the cult is so overbearing... And with so many splendid film performers in history seems very limited affair.

I vindicate counteracting MM's monotheism with Linda Darnell, Gene Tierney, Hideko Takamine, Julia Gutierrez Caba, Jeanne Moreau, Danielle Darrieux, Ava Gardner, Anna Magnani, etc. cults... NOW!

D Cairns said...

I think MM may seem elusive because she's been written about almost as much as she was photographed, and so many writers have different takes on her. Interviews aren't particularly helpful somehow either, because they rarely intersect with what we see.

I like Truman Capote's short story about a day spent with her. It would be nice to think she was like that, at least some of the time. One of the few things written that suggests she might have been fun to be with.

I would bet Diana was photographed more often, but to less effect. There's an interaction between Monroe and the camera that makes every image interesting and memorable, whereas I always felt that Diana was a product of pure projection: nothing very interesting there at all, and certainly no special relationship with the camera. A blank people projected their own ideas on.

jesús cortés said...

I will like to add to Gloria´s list a fascinating actress who unfortunately has died last May, Jane Randolph, the girl in the "Cat people"´s pool".
Dunno the amount of photographs that she "deserved".

X. Trapnel said...

Gloria, the idea of Hollywood as a dream factory is an old, old cultural cliche, but it's still apt. The mind itself manufactures dreams out of experience, memory, and desire; they're unpredictable, impossible (I think) to intepret, terrifying or entertaining. Being a non-Marxist, I've never believed that the mode (or ownership of the means) of production determines the way a cultural product is perceived. What I like about old Hollywood was that it had dreams to sell for every taste: if you fancy an Irene Dunne-type, well here's your ticket and dream away in the dark. Say what you will about the studio system it was not guided by the spirit of monopoly or homoginization (admitting that minorities were excluded or condescended to, but that was the age).So we have Cagney and Astaire, Harlow and Margaret Sullavan, Gable and R. Colman, Joan Fontaine and Jean Arthur, Hope Emerson and S.A. Brugh. Someone for everyone. This began to change in the fifties whose every cultural effort from architecture to interior design to music and the visual arts was bent on banishing the salubrious darkness one might dream in (this was the era of glass box architecture). Dreaming is inefficient and neurotic and there's a Cold War to win. We'll manufacture your dreams for you and they'll be the same as everyone else's. Now, we'd like you to meet Marilyn, and we think you're gonna like her...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Her iconic status is due to the fact that she's such a superb camera subject, and a great star. Monroe worked her way up from the bottom -- on her back. Her status as a virtual prostitute was quite well-known in Hollywood and played an enormous part in the condescension that greeted her rise: "What's SHE doing there?"

After all she was supposed to be nothing more than "a graduate of the Copacabana School for the Dramtic Arts."


But as it turned out she was not a walking dirty joke but a genuine pehnom. In fact continued interest in her is based not on sentimentality of "guilt" of the "I could have saved her had I been there" sob-sister variety, but rather on the work itself. I never tire of watching her. She's incredibly charming and glamorous in ways that are quite unique. In The Prince and the Showgirl she totally overwhelms "Mr. Sir" -- and not just because she was the producer and he the director-co-star. She had "It" in spade.

When we think of Hollywood we think of Marilyn. And for good reason. I was looking at The Seven Year Itch the other day -- a film I've seen innumerable times since its premiere -- and I found myself lost in her.

She was, as she says in Some Like It Hot, just elegant.

X. Trapnel said...

David, you make a good case, which I very much disagree with, but that's inevitable with anything this subjective. I would argue that the films we love break away from Hollywood and take on a life of their own in the imagination. In that sense I agree, Marilyn is "Hollywood" but to me and some others here very little else. An icon is not a living portrait, but a frozen, rather abstract symbolic image, perhaps signifying "stardom" in this instance and stardom is a public rather than a private thing.

Karen said...

Gerard, thank you for re-sexing me. So to speak.

And now I'm away for a couple of hours and we're back to trashing Marilyn? This fills me with sadness. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was a huge influence on me in the '80s and I love her in so many films. Some Like It Hot, obviously, but also Niagara and The Prince and the Showgirl and How to Marry a Millionaire. And, yes, her small turns in All About Eve and The Asphalt Jungle and, god help me, even that big dreadful turkey There's No Business Like Show Business.

I never had her up on my wall--that was reserved for Dietrich, one of my earliest girl crushes--but I've always responded to something in her. As an actress. I don't care so much about her personal life.

If we're talking about careers built on blonde hair and big bazooms, my vote is for the visually shrill Jayne Mansfield.

(Oh, and Siren: Abelard's love for Heloise cooled somewhat after his unfortunate...accident, and turned completely spiritual, but her passion for him lasted until she died--so I'd reverse that formulation, if I were you!)

Arthur S. said...

I once spent an entire evening in a bookstore poring over a glossy fat coffee table book containing nothing except black and white photographs taken over the years. In all those photographs she felt amazingly real, as if she could see me and feel me seeing her, even if she's trapped forever in that frame.

The most beautiful are the ones where she smiles, there's a sense of genuine happiness about her, despite the problems in her life and the same happiness that you get when she's at her best in her films.

I love Marilyn as an actress and a star first and foremost. And I have loved her even before I knew all the stories revolving around her, ever since I saw SOME LIKE IT HOT, that scene where she sings "I want to love you?" or when she tries to feel up Tony Curtis.

One of my favourite Marilyn Monroe films is RIVER OF NO RETURN, Preminger didn't like the film, and the film was a box office failure but I think it's a masterpiece, a fantastic outdoors western in the tradition of Anthony Mann's THE NAKED SPUR and it has her in one of her best roles and performances, playing a character of nuance.

And of course she's great in THE MISFITS and, lesser known but also fun - LET'S MAKE LOVE by George Cukor. It's dated slightly but she's great in it.

surly hack said...

MM often seems to exist in a different world than the professionals working around her--maybe it's amateur land, but but I'm one who can't take his eyes off MM on film.

However she got her start I'll leave to the snarks. MM became and stayed a star and phenomenon because, as they say, the camera and public loved her. When has acting ever had anything to do with that?

Gerard Jones said...

Is anyone putting down Monroe's acting here? I think she was always good, sometimes way more than good. It's just that some of us don't connect with the same supernal mystique that others feel from her. That's not a criticism of her at all, and it's certainly not trashing her. It's just a different emotional response to her, and with it comes some bafflement at why she has such a powerful effect on other people.

I do notice, though, that attempts to say "Elvis/Dean/Monroe was terrific but I just don't get the whole cult thing" will usually be heard by some people as an insult. But I guess that's a very human response when we feel so strongly about someone.

Gerard Jones said...

I will say one negative thing, though, if it doesn't get me in too much hot water: I do find that some of her mannerisms start to annoy me in her later movies, as she became more conscious of her status as America's love-idol. I like her very much in Some Like It Hot and wouldn't want to see anyone else in that role, but even there I find some of her sexy/victim moments overplayed, including her breathy, P-popping lines about the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

But I still mostly like her, okay? And I blame Wilder's leering direction for a lot of that.

Karen said...

Gerard, with Yojimboen's permission I will direct you to our esteemed forum colleague's earlier post.

mndean said...

For me, Marilyn is fun to watch. She's no great actress, but she can be quite good and is always watchable. As far as being a dirty joke, well, lots of men and women in Hollywood have tried that route to success and basically stayed whores.

She came along at a perfect time, when she could be the polar opposite of Audrey Hepburn, the princess, and Grace Kelly, the ice princess. Marilyn is the woman men wanted in their fantasies, the stacked rack that didn't talk back, and who you could have genuine dirty fun with. No parry and thrust, no working for it, no waiting, just a quick look and a "how about it, babe?" Yes, it is sexist, but many depictions of women in '50s were a stark regression from even the '40s. Rosie the Riveter got unattractive because she earned her own living and didn't need a man. She turned into the dull, efficient secretary that nobody looked at twice. Also, look at some of the '50s films that have women bosses - they're ballbusters and are either past desirability or unattractive. Neither are inferred to be much fun on a date.

Marilyn's death cult was more of a creepy building of an idealized marble idol than an honest assessment of her gifts and limitations.

X. Trapnel said...

Yojimboen goes a bit farther than I would publically. Privately, I find it best to respond to asseverations of MM's talent as I do to aethereal rumours of Ronald Reagan's intelligence, murmuring, "Yes, yes, of course," before hurrying on to some safe topic like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, abortion, or which is you favorite among the Pep Boys (make mine Manny).

Gerard Jones said...

You're right, Karen, as usual. I guess I was reading Y's post as more flip than serious, and now I see that the laddie is, indeed, going after MM's acting, and surely deserves whatever he gets.

Still, I have found it hard in my life to stand comfortably on this middle ground, that Marilyn was fine and I have no desire to call her overrated but I like Ida Lupino and Gloria Grahame a lot better.

And X: can anyone really prefer Moe or Jack to Manny? I mean, honestly.

X. Trapnel said...

Personally I think Y deserves an octuple single malt whiskey and a 100 bagpipe salute.

There's something inscrutable about Manny; you don't know what he's conjuring behind those goggles, something dark perhaps, nothing to do with brake pads.

Karen said...

Hardly right "as usual"!!

I'm not staking a claim for Marilyn as one of the great actors of Hollywood. I'm merely saying that, in my opinion, she did have something. She was not the '50s equivalent to Ruby Keeler (whom it PAINS me to watch). Whether it was all constructed in the editing room or not (and I suspect not--I can't see how an editor could have constructed her magnificent paean to America in The Prince and Showgirl: "President Taft!"), she gives the viewer something to connect with emotionally, often quite powerfully.

Gerard, I'll grant you the mannerisms do get trying later in her career, when she was playing Marilyn more than playing her characters. And her cult attempts to impute more to her than what she had. But what she had was not, in my mind, negligible.

Gerard Jones said...

Cut and paste this in your browser, X:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mister_goleta/2151808343/

It's from Fresno, CA. That city may be the very model of nightmarish urban sprawl, it may be polluted and crime ridden and corrupt to the core, it may have voted 71-29% against gay marriage, but it can do SOME things right.

Gerard Jones said...

"Gerard, I'll grant you the mannerisms do get trying later in her career, when she was playing Marilyn more than playing her characters. And her cult attempts to impute more to her than what she had. But what she had was not, in my mind, negligible."

You see? You see what I have to put up with? I say I really like her and I think she was mostly really good but she had this one little thing that bothers me, and suddenly the Marylinistas are acting like I said her talents were "negligible"! Sheesh!

Verification word: abismia. The deep, sad land to which this conversation is rapidly descending.

X. Trapnel said...

mnd is probably right about the nature of MM's intended appeal. Some of us, however, like the thrust and parry in film (and real life), find charm, personality, intelligence, and many unquantifables essential to an actress's appeal. "Icon" may be just a fancy way of saying cliche.

Gerard, would you agree that Moe thought he was the ladykiller and Jack the brains of the outfit?

Gerard Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gerard Jones said...

X: Moe definitely thought he was God's peppy gift to women. But I'll bet Manny got into boudoirs Moe never got a whiff of.

Gerard Jones said...

And mndean: I think you absolutely nailed MM's appeal to male audiences of the time, probably the main reason for her initial rise. Audience responses got more complicated after a while, when the sadder side of that sexual fantasy began to emerge.

And she does deserve credit for that: she didn't stop at being a fantasy object as Mansfield did but actually led us to think about what it would be like to be a human being trying to inhabit that fantasy role. It's not only the script and direction that makes Sugar in SLIH such a sad and disturbing figure.

Damn. Now I'm starting to find her symbolically interesting. I'm slipping.

X. Trapnel said...

Thanks, Gerard. My sister lives in Fresno and will confirm the worst. But M,M & J are the saving salt.

Gerard Jones said...

Complete with Manny's see-gar! Almost miraculous that it's survived, and surely it wouldn't have in coastal California.

Karen said...

Poor Gerard. You suffer so.

Gerard Jones said...

I once knew a guy who said the best personality test he knew was to ask people who their favorite Beatle was. I wonder if something similar might be achieved with the Pep Boys. Or by asking people if they thrill, sneer, or duck their heads at the mention of Marilyn Monroe.

X. Trapnel said...

Gerard, the fact that YOU are getting clubbed with air bladders while Y and I watch from the sidelines points to something genuinely weird about Marilynism, this sense that she is owed something beyond what we normally accord to actors.

"Sometimes a cigar is more than a cigar"--Manny

Gerard Jones said...

Perhaps. But then there are those of us who feel Manny is owed something beyond what is normally accorded auto parts dealers.

Gerard Jones said...

Maybe that's exactly the difference between the "star" and the mere practitioner.

X. Trapnel said...

Right, but with Manny as with any truly great figure we pay hommage willingly, even gratefully for gifts received. There's no need for a coercive cult.

Gerard Jones said...

Ah, you say that now, because we don't have the numbers to organize such a cult. But if we could do it, if we could make them all see Manny as WE see him...God, it thrills me to think about!

Gerard Jones said...

Which, as ridiculous as that is, actually has me wondering if there's some explanation of the cult in that: people like universal images they can bond over. Especially young, fashion-conscious people. Old Hollywood is an appealing idea, and people like to put easily recognizable faces on their ideas.

So I wonder if someone would inevitably have become "the Hollywood love goddess," simply because people who "love old movies" but don't actually want to devote years of their lives to them want a "Hollywood love goddess." And if MM had never existed, if someone else wouldn't been drafted for the role. As if the cult is a cultural organism that exists apart from its object. And that object, no matter who she was, could on closer examination never possibly measure up to the cultish image of her.

Not even Irene.

X. Trapnel said...

MM, of course, isn't Old Holywood; Irene Dunne et al. are. Moreover Monroe has more to do with movieness than film, i.e., publicity and celebrity, which is why the photographs and stills have more social and cultural potency than anything she did in a movie. She may represent the breaking down of the last barrier between entertainment, advertising, and life. That's one reason she's so closely associated with Warhol. Maybe THEY were the same person when they weren't James Dean.

mndean said...

You know, I don't understand the Pep Boys thing at all. There weren't any Pep Boys around here until the 1990s, so there's no local cult of Manny Moe and Jack around here. We had a Mel's, we even had a Pig n' Whistle, hell, even Cal Worthington opened a car dealership out here before we saw hide or sparse, greasy hair of the Pep Boys.

Gerard Jones said...

Interesting about "Old Hollywood." To the likes of us O.H. may not include the '50s, but to a lot of young'uns everything before the ratings system feels like it's of the same cloth. Which again is about the way "old movies" are a symbol for a particular set of ideas (glamor, happy endings, no obscenity) and not really different things made by different people at different times. Much the way ancient Egypt is just ancient Egypt.

Gerard Jones said...

For me the Pep Boys are exotica. There've hardly ever been any in the Bay Area, but I'd catch glimpses of them whenever I'd whiz through LA. "Manny? Moe? Jack? Who are these strange and ancient figures?" I always thought they were an LA thing, like Hollywood and water scandals, and am still trying to make sense of the knowledge that they started in Philadelphia.

Oh, but here's something truly earthshaking in Pep Boyology: hasten to Wikipedia and look up "W. Graham (Jack) Jackson." Read the last line. I dare you.

DavidEhrenstein said...

None of the blather about Marilyn and the Kennedys, Marilyn and Sinatra, Marilyn and Arthur and Joe interest me in the slightest.

I just like HER

Campaspe said...

Karen, I totally wasn't trying to Monroe bash. I just clicked on that story at CNN and thought "what in the fresh hell?" I can see her appeal to photographers because indeed the camera worshipped her. (Aside: When I read Abelard's letters, albeit in translation, I always think he's lying to himself. Making the best of a bad situation. He still adored her. But then I am a sap, you knew this.) But for the life of me I cannot BELIEVE how many shots of Marilyn there are. Did she go a day in her life without the shutters snapping?

Anyway -- I can't imagine comparing her to Mansfield any more than I'd compare her to Mamie Van Doren. Monroe had talent, and Wilder always said so in interviews. He said she drove him to drink (or to attempt to, he claimed she left him too upset to even truly enjoy a bender) but he also acknowledged her gifts. And I do love her in How to Marry a Millionaire (although not as much as Betty Grable, who left movies just as she was getting genuinely funny). I also like The Prince and the Showgirl and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She's adorable in Monkey Business and yeah, her turn in The Asphalt Jungle was the moll to end all molls.

I have to say, though, that I cannot STAND The Seven-Year Itch. One long unfunny joke to me. Alone of all Wilder movies I get not so much as a smile from it. And the subway scene? too familiar to be any fun anymore.

X. Trapnel said...

Oh, I knew Jack was an impostor (but didn't know the Boys were referenced in Auntie Mame).

My awareness of the Pep Boys goes back to the dawn of consciousness; I would see their matchbook images around the house and assumed (with the same logic of childhood that thought Robert Frost and Spencer Tracy were the same person) that Manny, Moe, and Jack were my grandfather's pinochle buddies.

Gerard Jones said...

Campaspe, I'm with you on the Seven Year Itch. It's kind of fun to watch Marylin overplaying Marylin and knowing she's overplaying Marylin, but other than that I don't get much out of it. Even among those Wilder movies that he seems to have chosen just for the chance to be smutty, it's a thin one.

It would have been interesting to see Monroe as Irma la Douce. I can only think that her take on the character would've been 180 degrees from Shirley Mac's.

Gerard Jones said...

I'm sure I'll get over the news about Jack, X. But just knowing that those are in fact effigies of Manny, Moe and Ike makes everything suddenly feel suspect. Maybe the Kennedies did kill Marilyn.

Gerard Jones said...

Why am I suddenly typing "Marylin"? Is there such a thing as late-onset dyslexia?

DavidEhrenstein said...

I'm sure Wilder was thinking of Marilyn when he and Izzy Diamond created Polly the Pistol in Kiss Me Stupid -- but alas it was too late.

In Gavin Lambert's interview book Mr. Cukor speaks of Marilyn's problems (he thinks she was "ad") and lateness to the set. But also has scads to say about her charm. One day on Somethin's Got To Give he was brunging angry over her lateness when suddenly she came rushing in -- apologizing profusely with a big ear-to-ear smile. Se was so charming "that I forgave her."

The Demarest said...

Is it interesting that Marilyn continues to be an icon in a time when much thinner, anorexic women are the photographic model norm? You almost have to make a mental adjustment when you look at Marilyn, because she would probably have never made it before a camera today because she was of a normal weight. Does our continuing obsession with Marilyn say that the waifish women held out to us as the photographic ideal don't really suit us? Just a wild thought off the top of my head.

For me, the only Marilyn movie that matters is THE MISFITS. Seeing her and Gable there at the end, both so close to the end, breaks my heart every time.

Plus, I love the line from SLIH about getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

Larry Aydlette

X. Trapnel said...

Gerard, it is disturbing. I don't know whether Ike or Jack should be grouped with Gummo or that fifth Beatle whose name I forget or Orlando of Italy among the Big Four (Wilson, Clemenceau, Lloyd-George) at the Versailles conference.

When you start typing Mylinar or Malriny we'll call 911

Vanwall said...

Ya big banana-heads! MM had her perfect moments, and her style was often closer to the silent days, which in her case was not a detriment, but an advantage - she sold sex in the most casually natural manner onscreen with nothing more than her body and it's movements, who cared what came outta her mouth or whether Stanislavsky'd've made heads or tails of it? I like certain of her performances, and some of her still shots are unrivaled. She was what she was and that's all she was, to paraphrase Popeye.

Karen said...

I rejoin the fray to assure my beloved hostess that I in no way construed her post to constitute Monroe bashing. I was comforted to see Our Siren nip that notion in the bud in her P.S.

In the end, I will join hands with David and maintain that I simply like HER--as I know her from her films and photos. I'm not particularly interested in the trappings of cult.

Gerard Jones said...

Clearly she'd have been just right for Kiss Me Stupid, although Novak played the character probably about the way she'd have.

The replacement of MM with MacLaine in Irma la Douce seems like a drastic change to the whole sense of the character. Wilder seems to have decided just to stick with an actress he could count on rather than casting for the role. Not the only time he made odd choices when he didn't get his first choice. Cary Grant would have been just right for Sabrina...but Bogart as the fall-back?

Gerard Jones said...

As for the Pep Boys...I'm smelling some interesting ethnic/cultural history here, XT. That this "W. Graham Jackson" would be made a partner (a front, perhaps, to make them an easier sell to goyish clientele and neighbors in Philly?) only to bail very quickly, his name kept but his image replaced by that of cousin Isaac, though he doesn't look much like a W. Graham Jackson...

There's much about America in there, methinks.

Campaspe said...

I like Bogart in Sabrina. He is quite believable as a burnt-out executive. Needless to say he didn't have the same incredible charm Grant would have brought, but I was on board with Bogart from the minute he leaves that memo in the limousine giving his brother the address of his office.

Larry, so good to see you. I do think that a great deal of Marilyn's appeal to women my age and much younger is that she harkens back to a time when there was more than one ideal. We think of the 50s as the era of buxom but there were also Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, varying degrees of slender. On some of the beauty boards a perennial topic is "what size was Marilyn"? It's often said she was a 12 or 14 but as someone with a fairly extensive experience with vintage I can tell you a 12from the 50s is more like a 6 nowadays. Even at her biggest (probably SLIH) Monroe was not that big. But she is such a contrast to the incredible thinness demanded of today's actresses and models that she is refreshing. So is vintage Sophia Loren, for that matter. There's another great beauty who'd be told to lose 20 lbs nowadays.

My favorite piece about Marilyn was written by Simone Signoret, a simple essay about having dinner with her and Montand during the making of Let's Make Love. Signoret knew Montand was having an affair with Monroe but (at least from a distance of years) she bore Monroe no ill-will and as for Montand, said something along the lines of "how could he help himself?" She saw Monroe as a charming, intelligent but quite lost person. There is also a marvelous excerpt from The Red and the Blacklist by Norma Barzman, where an unknown Marilyn spots the Barzmans out on their lawn having a drink and walks over to chat. Monroe is on her way to a party and starts talking rather inanely about the necessity of having a signature drink to order at Hollywood parties. After a bit it becomes obvious that Marilyn knew Barzman and her husband were under scrutiny for their politics and she'd stopped by not to yammer, but to warn them that there were cops at the bottom of the hill asking about the Barzmans. It is a lovely anecdote and makes you like Marilyn a great deal.

X. Trapnel said...

Either that or W. Graham was the much put-upon shabbes goy who one day chanced upon a pamphlet that changed his life...

Karen, I have received so much joy over the years from Ruby Keeler's Promethian efforts to impart meaning and coherence to lines like "It was grand of you to come" and "I'm so glad." Surely you must grant the lady's good nature. Not so June Allison. I've been studying her face as she snaps "Down on your heels! Up on your toes!" There's a metallic rage there that I would warmly endorse if it were merely directed at Peter Lawford, but seems instead to encompass all humanity. Don't even think of crossing her.

mndean said...

Trapnel,
Which fifth Beatle? Billy Preston? Yoko Ono? Murray the K? I mean, it's a wide field.

mndean said...

One of the reasons I can't hate Ruby Keeler is her utter haplessness. The only part I can remember seeing her in where she plays something I can halfway believe is in Dames where she's the petulant young girlfriend of (who else) Dick Powell. How she somehow hypnotizes a dance director into believing she can dance is something I'll never understand.

Somehow I prefer it when she's not the focus of performance in a film. Which means that, yes, I have trouble with 42nd Street on that end. The best thing in Golddiggers of 1933 is how they subtly shift attention from Ruby to anyone else during the film. Joan, Aline, Ginger, even Warren William and Guy Kibbee. Anyone but Ruby.

Karen said...

X., your invocation of Keeler's Promethean efforts is lovely. Who was it who observed that Keeler dancing was like watching an elephant with sore feet? And oh! "It was grand of you to come!" It's like Hepburn's character in Stage Door trying to negotiate "The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower..."

MND, her haplessness is certainly...apparent, not least in contrast to such polished performers as Joan Blondell. Or Dick Powell--I've often wondered what went through his mind in some of their scenes.

Gerard Jones said...

Campaspe, I too buy Bogart completely as the burnt-out executive and amusing fuddy duddy, but not as the object of Sabrina's love. Not unless it's some sort of pity and feeling of obligation, which isn't as romantic as one would wish. Nor can I see marriage to this charming but silly slip of a girl as the answer to his life's fatigue.

On the other hand, Grant could have sold me as the romantic object but not as the cranky plastics manufacturer. It was a contradictory role, in the end. Perhaps only Bob Cummings could have pulled it off.

Gerard Jones said...

When celebrating Ruby Keeler dialogue let's not forget the line of lines:

"Gee, Jimmy. That was swell."

Delivered to one Richard Powell, of course.

For me the great mystery of Ruby is simply how she came to be. At first you'd think, "Oh, she was just an actress Hollywood tried to turn into a dancer because musicals were hot." Then you learn that she was a huge dancing star on Broadway and you think, "Oh, it's just because she was married to Al Jolson." But then you find out that Ziegfeld was already turning her into a musical-comedy star before she met him.

But why? Why?

Campaspe said...

M and XT and Karen have me laughing so hard about Keeler, and that's good because I needed a laugh. She seems to have been a nice woman but I agree, the Sphinx has nothin' on the mystery of how she became a star. My only guess is that she is one of those phenoms you can only understand if you were around at the time. She faded fast and furious though, when the fashion for backstage musicals sputtered out.

Glenn Kenny had a post last week about actresses who just walked away, and Ruby did after her divorce from Jolson. Remarried within a year and raised four children by the 2nd husband and her (adopted) son with Jolson. None of them are recorded to ahve been anything but fine and normal, far as I know. She had a small comeback in No No Nanette, in which she charmed everyone. She always steadfastly refused to discuss Jolson. He was 23 years older than her and no picnic, I am sure.

One fascinating bit from Wikipedia: "Frank Tashlin's 1937 cartoon The Woods are Full of Cuckoos featuring a porcine caricature of Ms. Keeler called "Ruby Squealer"." Anyone seen THAT?

Gerard Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gerard Jones said...

I've seen the Cuckoos cartoon. "Kind of amusing" is the best I'd give it. WB did a lot of those celebrity-caricature cartoons for a while and they really didn't offer much, maybe partly because they had to promote Warners product as much as they made fun of it. I don't remember Ruby Squealer having much wit or bite. Although better that some other cartoons trying to sell Bette Davis as a hot babe who made men stop and whistle.

Anyway, I don't much like Tashlin's frenetic, self-conscious style.

The one celebrity-gag cartoon I do like is Clampett's "Bacall to Arms," but that was about ten years later.

Campaspe said...

Oh, and according to IMDB (not always the most reliable quote source), she said: "It's really amazing. I couldn't act. I had that terrible singing voice, and now I can see I wasn't the greatest tap dancer in the world, either." How many actresses possess that kind of self-knowledge? I do kind of love her.

Gerard Jones said...

It is hard not to like someone who can talk about herself like that. Her ex-husband probably never spoke of himself that way.

My dad, who was born in '21 and saw all those Warner musicals when they first came out, said a lot of people made fun of Ruby at the time but also couldn't help liking her because "she was just so sweet."

Maybe it's the very fact that she seemed like a well-meaning tourist who wandered onto a movie set and got drafted to fill in for the injured leading lady that made her appealing. The early talkie years were a democratizing period for movies. Maybe she seemed like she was one of us up there, hopelessly outclassed but trying so hard.

Campaspe said...

"Maybe it's the very fact that she seemed like a well-meaning tourist who wandered onto a movie set and got drafted to fill in for the injured leading lady that made her appealing. The early talkie years were a democratizing period for movies. Maybe she seemed like she was one of us up there, hopelessly outclassed but trying so hard."

Gerard, that is beautifully put.

Gerard Jones said...

Oh, thank you!

It didn't even occur to me at the time, but that's basically Ruby's storyline in 42nd Street, isn't it? It's interesting that the Warner Baxter character doesn't say, "You're going out there a youngster but you're coming back a star," as if affirming her native star quality. He says, "You've GOT to come back a star." Like, whether you've got it or not, do it for the gang.

Gerard Jones said...

Nice to see that we've gotten the conversation off that poser Monroe and back to a REAL movie goddess!

X. Trapnel said...

Agreed Gerard; in the spirit of gradus ad parnassum, I see Ruby tapping and clomping her way up the sacred slope past MM to dwell among the Immortals.

mndean said...

Gerard,
The Warner frenetic styles of Tashlin and Clampett were different. Clampett always wanted to go a step too far, and only Avery dared as well, but that was after Tex was at MGM. I wonder if they were having a competition of sorts during WWII. I always thought the best way to measure Avery, Clampett, and Freleng's styles were with the three Tortoise/Hare cartoons. I always thought Jones developed late but hit on such a great gag, what Jeeves would call "the psychology of the individual". He could often be the stuffiest of the Warner crew, though, especially in the late '50s. I mean, for a guy who mocked Walter Keane eyes, he sure made heavy use of them later on.

Onto Keeler (no, I don't mean that. I don't WANT to mean that), It's true, she was really well received even when she was 15 and working at Texas Guinan's. It seemed everyone in New York loved her (though what the hell she saw in Jolson is as baffling as what New York saw in her dancing), even the Irish gangsters who wanted to keep her out of trouble.

Gerard Jones said...

"Gee, Apollo. That's swell."

mnd, a fine assessment of the WB cartoon crew. As divergent as Jones, Clampett, Avery, and Freleng were, they all still partook of a Termite Terrace sensibility. Those who were kicking around earlier, like Tashlin and Hardaway, feel out of place. I can see that Tish-Tash influenced the sensibility somewhat, but he never shared their charm.

And I want to put a good word in for Freleng, who always seems to be neglected in favor of those more idiosyncratic stylists. Friz did a lot of very solid work, more consistently than Avery and Clampett. He understood the characters and the Looney Tunes aesthetic well. In some ways I think he was the coherent center.

Then there was McKimson. A bold animator under Clampett but a consistent letdown as a director.

Gerard Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gerard Jones said...

Jumping back a ways, I want to say something good about Bogart's casting in Sabrina: namely that it keeps the romantic resolution from being too obvious. The first time I saw it I really wasn't sure which brother would get the girl, and that's an incredibly rare experience with a romantic comedy. It's true that the formula suggested it should be the solid fellow, not the rake, but Holden seemed like such a far likelier match than Bogart.

Cary Grant would have left no doubt at all. Wilder might just as well has cast Ralph Bellamy in the Holden role.

(Oh, and I've read that Bogart himself wasn't sure he'd get the girl during the filming and frequently thought Wilder was going to give her to Holden just to piss him off.)

X. Trapnel said...

What, mnd? You're not into Keeler?

mndean said...

Trapnel,
No, I really like her, but in a sort of seeing a kid sister over her head acting in a school play way. I'm pulling for her, but know she's getting the applause for making such a plucky attempt. Since I never had a kid sister, I put Ruby in that place.

Gerard,
Freleng was the steadiest of the crew of directors for solid entertainment and really had a flair for showbiz-themed 'toons. He's the only one that parodied himself, too. As for Bob McKimson, I actually preferred his brother Tom, but he was awfully good himself. When he directed, it's just that the barnyard didn't age well, and it's really dated. He did have one great inspiration, the Tasmanian Devil.

Funny thing was how the Roadrunner cartoons seem so different now than when I was a kid. Now I find myself saying, "Hey I get it, how stupid can that damn coyote be? There's no meat on that bird".

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

One thing to be said for Friz Freling is that he had a consistent musical sense, that his cartoons *responded* to music (as opposed to occurring at the same time as the music) in ways that were only sporadic with other Termite Terrace directors.

Jones was authentically musical in the Rossini and Wagner cartoons ("Rabbit of Seville" and "What's Opera, Doc?") -- but how many times elsewhere?

McMullen said...

Just wanted to let all Keeler aficionados know that the Warner Archive today released four highlights from her ouevre onto dvd: "Colleen", "Flirtation Walk", "Shipmates Forever" and "Ready, Willing and Able". With that last title, I guess they figured two out of three wasn't a bad way to describe Ruby's talents, hehe! Haven't seen any of these, but "Flirtation" and "Shipmates" were both directed by Frank Borzage.

X. Trapnel said...

mnd, I didn't doubt your fondness for dear Ruby; just making a lewd ref to your "onto Keeler" panic

Ruby to mnd: "It was grand of you to come."

Sorry. I'll go wash my brain out.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

"Oh, Pierre! You SHOULDN'T have COME!"

-- now tell me that Comden & Green weren't drawing on lewd jokes for *that* one!

Mrs. HWV
(washing out her/his brain)

Gerard Jones said...

That's a good observation on Freleng's musical sense, Mrs HWV. Jones, as the "smart kid" in the bunch, was able to immerse himself completely in whatever his stories were about and use it brilliantly--so when he set his mind to "a musical cartoon" it was a great musical cartoon. But when his attention was elsewhere music didn't figure much.

Although he did get some very nice moments out of Bugs singing, "Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat."

mnd: Am I right in thinking that Jones himself said he didn't think there should have been so damned many Roadrunner cartoons? They just did so well that WB kept ordering more.

X. Trapnel said...

Mrs. HWV, perhaps Comden and Green were drawing on GBS: "How kind of you to let me come"

laving (if not saving) my soul with industrial-strength Lava (with pumice).

Yojimboen said...

Here I was getting set to apologize to the group for the crassness of my horrid trashing of MM yesterday – (I’ll get to that tomorrow) and I find the place positively swimming in orgasmic innuendo.
I don’t feel so bad.
(Thanks, X.)

Re the divine Ruby, she was another ex-star who did the film festival round-up in the mid 60s – I saw her at the NFT in London – she was a tiny bit older and heftier, but the dazzling, innocent “Who, me?” smile was unchanged.
She lit up the theater.

Gerard: “Why” was she a success? Here’s a possibility: in those days before body mikes, her Clydesdale-style of tap-dancing was loud enough to reach even the cheap seats?
Why not?

Yojimboen said...

P.S. Gerard, the Pep Boys you probably mean is at the bottom of my hill at Hollywood and Gower. I shop there at least once a month.
No cigar.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Ruby Keeler "came to be" for one simple reason --

Al Jolson.

Back to Marilyn: Brace yourselves. There's a new book about her and Arthur Miller.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Bernie Schwartz is 84 today.

mndean said...

Gerard,
All I can say is better a Roadrunner cartoon than one of those daydreaming suburban kid (Ralph?) cartoons. I realize that Jones probably hated the RR assignments (he had a quite an ego by that time - I was disappointed by some of the pettiness (especially toward the then long-dead Clampett) in his book Chuck Amuck. None of the other Warner directors seemed to ever be less than generous), but he could have used them as a challenge than as a grind-em-out-quick-so-I-can-do-what-I-want assignments. I detested the dog/wolf cartoons even worse than the Ralph cartoons.

I really think the anarchy died in Warner animation when Leon Schlesinger sold out and studio guy Eddie Selzer took over. Plus, of course, WWII ended so the cartoons couldn't be so risque. Fortunately that's when Jones really came into his own.

My problem with Jones wasn't that he was musical, but that he hadn't a lick of jazz in him. The celebrated The Dot and the Line had a sneering attitude toward pop music to make its point (IIRC the crooked line was depicted with twangy, off-key guitar music), whereas the strsight line was pure orchestral. If you look at it one way, it was an attack on youth culture as much as a paean to math. Too bad they didn't know about fractals back then, the crooked pile of lines may have been utterly brilliant.

mndean said...

Nested parenthesis? I must be regressing to my Lisp days.

Gloria said...

For your viewing pleasure: Ruby Squealer and a bunch of friends

Yojimboen said...

If I may be permitted a step back to my previous snarky post on MM (‘Snarky Post’: snotty kid sister of the star of Night Court?); it was mean-spirited, cheap and nasty and I humbly offer apologies to one and all for lowering the tone of the conversation.

Not that I retreat from my evaluation of the lady’s acting skills, but truth be told, she was a rather sad – perhaps the saddest – example of the abuse inflicted upon women by the H’Wood machine.

Though she was used kindly and to reasonably good effect by some filmmakers – Hawks, Mankiewicz, Nunnally Johnson – I believe she suffered intentional cruelty at the hands of others – certainly Wilder treated her like a punch line to a dirty joke.

Virtually all of the men she knew and was used by were capable and culpable of some form of cruelty, be it studied or casual: DiMaggio, Miller, Kazan, JFK, RFK, and above all the envious, thuggish poseur, Mailer.

The least that can be said of her is that she struggled valiantly her whole life to be what others wanted and certainly did not deserve (whether meted out at the behest of the Kennedys or Sam Giancana or a combination thereof) the fate which befell her.

Goose said...

I never have understood the Marilyn cult, and am positively nauseated at the thought of the Happy Birthday, Mr. President event. I find her a usually limited actor who could make an impact under the right circumstances. As often as not, it was with a sadist or tyrant as director, such as the saloon girl with a motherly instinct in River of No Return with Preminger, the scheming vixen in Niagara with Hathaway, or SLIH with Wilder (although she really is not that funny in it, truth to tell).

In the face of assertions that George Cukor was sympathetic, I remember him telling Dick Cavett in essence that if Hollywood was so bad, there are plenty of buses and trains leaving it every day.

Karen said...

That's a lovely post, Yojimboen.

onlyanirishboy said...

I don't know how this thread got from Marilyn to Ruby Keeler, but one always has to view a performer's stardom in context. Don't you think that 50 years from now people are going to wonder how Tom Cruise became one of the biggest box office stars in the history of movies -- number one in the Quigley poll more times (7) than any other actor, and as of now behind only John Wayne (25 years) and Clint Eastwood (21 years) in number of years (20) in the top ten?
In "A Song in the Dark," Richard Barrios explains that Ruby Keeler's "heavy-footed [tap-dancing] technique, which seems absurd to those accustomed to the more stirring likes of Eleanor Powell or Ann Miller, is actually part of a different style of show dancing now obsolete. Instead of metal taps, the shoes had wood soles, producing more sound the harder they were banged down. Marilyn Miller does the same kind of tap in "Sally." Barrios explains that although Keeler "may strike the latter-day uninitiated as across-the-board incompetent" what made her popular was "an artless projection of total innocence and vulnerability... [s]he was sweet, she was good, she worked hard and was rewarded." And she hit the screen "at precisely the right moment" -- "encapsulating a myth Depression spectators were ready to believe" -- that someone could in those desperate times still go out there a youngster and come back a star!

That Keeler was able to project such innocence shows that she was not entirely untalented, especially when one considers that before she became Mrs. Jolson she was a gangster's moll, starting when she was 17, and, according to Herbert G. Goldman's "Jolson: The Legend Comes to Live," flourished under his patronage.
The gangster, Johnny "Irish" Costello, Owney Madden's right-hand guy, turned out to one one of nature's gentlemen. After Jolson wore down Keeler's resistance and her committment to Johnny Irish, the gangster, who bawled when Keeler dumped him in favor of Jolson, went to Jolson, who had both beat up his first wife and shortchanged her in the divorce, and told him (1) to pay Ruby $1 million before the wedding (2) to never lay a hand on Ruby. He didn't have to add "or else." Costello also promised Keeler that no harm would come to Jolson -- plenty of other gangsters thought they could ingratiate themselves with Madden by eliminating Costello's competition for Keeler's affections -- and so got all of his "friends" down to Atlantic City until the newlyweds were enroute to Europe on an ocean liner.
Keeler could also be witty: "Of course I know Al is the world's greatest entertainer; he tells me so himself every day at breakfast!"

VP81955 said...

Not that I retreat from my evaluation of (Monroe's) acting skills, but truth be told, she was a rather sad – perhaps the saddest – example of the abuse inflicted upon women by the H’wood machine.

Agreed. Did she inflict some of it on herself? Perhaps. But it didn't help her that she came to prominence during the 1950s, when Ameriica was suburbanizing and staying home and watching TV instead of going to movies. This was particularly true among women, who had been the mainstay of the film audience in the 1930s and early '40s. As a result, fewer vehicles were written for actresses and studios really didn't know how to build an actress' career. By the end of the '50s, they largely didn't care.

If Monroe had been born 20 years earlier and had gone into the movie biz, you can sure Paramount or MGM or RKO would have handled her much better than what she got in the '50s.

Marilyn was talented, but most of the roles she played don't hold up well today -- given women's changing role in society -- compared to what actresses like Lombard and Loy did (Myrna was cast as an aviatrix several times). They speak more to today's women than Monroe ever could...and that's not Marilyn's fault (the more candid pictures I see of her -- photos where she's herself, not some overblown, larger-than-life sex goddess -- the more I like her).

Finally, the question that started this all: was Monroe the most photographed star? Possibly, though by the 1950s studios weren't making as many publicity stills as they were in the '30s. Carole Lombard made more than 1,700 such stills in her seven years at Paramount, and Marlene Dietrich may have made about the same amount.

Campaspe said...

Onlyanirishboy, sorry it took me a while to get back to this one! I am fascinated by the bit about the wooden taps; I had no idea. She still can't act (I mean, just look at Ginger Rogers or Joan Blondell in the same movies) but since I put her in my 20 Actors I Don't Like post I have been thawing out toward Ruby. I will never sit up and yell "Oh goody" when I see her name in the credits but she seems to have been a survivor, a real-life version of what Rogers and Blondell were only playing on screen. How's that for irony?

VP, great post, and great to see you back. I agree, by the time the 1950s rolled around the careful nurturing of stars was in phase-out. I agree that she's at her most charming in candids. The posed shots often--not always, but often--seem to be overly determined to have the viewer react in one way and one way only.

As for the most photographed woman, it's true that every time I visit your site I am astonished by another Lombard picture I never saw before. Probably with Monroe it's just that she alone, after all these years, is newsworthy enough for me to get new pictures greeting me at Cnn.com, and so it seems there is an endless supply.

mndean said...

onlyanirishboy,
I think Ruby was a lot more streetwise than anyone ever gave her credit for. She got a notice in the New Yorker for her dancing when she was 15, and she worked at Texas Guinan's before it was padlocked. Those actions don't speak of a naive young woman. That she knew Irish bootleggers I was well aware of, but I didn't know there was a specific romance involved with a member of Owney Madden's gang, but they were all keeping an eye on her.

Her refreshingly blunt self-criticism is hardly what actors are noted for, even in retirement. I still think she was a limited actress, but one you couldn't hate. The wooden taps explain a lot about her dancing - I'd never even known of wooden taps being used on Broadway. Why someone at Warner didn't try to alter her style (she did seem a little bit more graceful in Colleen, but she was getting close to the end of her career by then), I can't really figure out.

The Europhile said...

Did you ever read Joyce Carol Oates "Blonde".

It's so bold, beyond, she really does channel MM. The scene alone between "Marilyn" and "Ava Gardner" is worth the purchase alone, especially you movie buffs. I gave or recommended this book to many women, in their 30's - 60's, they all reacted the same way.

It will blow you away, in the best possible way.

After that book, even though I wasn't such a fan, i bought MM's entire film collection and never looked back.

MM was much about what we loved, feared, exploited, etc about our own sex.uality.

Please read Blonde.