In 1953 the quirky 66-year-old English poet Edith Sitwell was in need of cash and came to California to write a commissioned article about Hollywood. She had already toured the U.S. doing poetry readings with her brothers Osbert and Sacheverell in 1948. She came from a famously eccentric family and had established herself as a modern poet interested in experimenting with rhythm and word play. Her own unusual style of clothing, jewelry, and make-up was notorious and made her an easy target for her enemies (like Noel Coward). She wore her hair in a colorful turban and had elaborate, lush clothing made in Elizabethan designs, which she wore with large, chunky jewelry. Edith was not a conventionally attractive woman or interested in modern fashions.
So who did Edith’s magazine editors in Hollywood think it would be fun to introduce her to during her visit to Hollywood?
They were expecting the two women to dislike each other, much like the time in 1992 when Camille Paglia was seated with Rush Limbaugh at the twenty-fifth anniversary black-tie party for 60 Minutes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and ended up bonding over cigars and Scotch. Instead of giving the waiting photographers a good scandal, Edith and Marilyn hit it off immediately. Edith described Marilyn in her autobiography Taken Care Of:
In repose her face was at moments strangely, prophetically tragic, like the face of a beautiful ghost – a little spring-ghost, an innocent fertility daemon, the vegetation spirit that was Ophelia.
Marilyn was an autodidact but her intellectual curiosity and love of books were not considered consistent with her sex symbol image. Marilyn and Edith sat together chatting happily about Austrian philosopher, esoteric spiritual writer, and founder of anthroposophy Rudolf Steiner, whose books Marilyn had recently been reading.
Edith and Marilyn met up again in 1956 in London when Marilyn was there with her third husband, playwright Arthur Miller, filming The Prince and the Showgirl.
Dame Edith Sitwell in 1959 discussing her strange family and meeting Marilyn Monroe (around 2:53), below:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘I Do Not Wish My Nose…Nailed to Other People’s Lavatories’: Dame Edith Sitwell on ‘Naked Lunch’