Marilyn Monroe is putting my sad self to shame with her yoga poses shot back in 1948. She’s making it look easy here, but it’s actually not so easy if you’re a beginner. You have to work and gradually stretch yourself into these poses. It can take some time for your body to become this limber.
I’ve read that Marilyn Monroe was a devotee of yoga, but I’ve never seen that much photographic evidence for it. But here she is in all her yoga glory. And of course, looking stunning while posing.
From what I could find online, Indra Devi, who many consider to be the “The First Lady of Yoga,” claimed to have taught Monroe the life of yoga. But according to Wikipedia that seems to be untrue. There is zero proof the two women ever even met. Apparently there’s a popular photo of Indra Devi and Eva Gabor training together in 1960 and it’s often mistaken for Monroe.
Chicago: It’s 1929 and you’re a down on your luck sax player called Joe, when you and your buddy—a bass player named Jerry—witness a mob slaying—the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, no less. This is waaaaay bad juju—made worse when one of the gangsters—bossman “Spats” Colombo—eyeballs you. Spats don’t want no witnesses. So you and Jack are now dead men walking. You hightail it with hot lead snapping at your heels. No money. No jobs. And some mobster wants you dead. What are you gonna do? Take a Greyhound west? Mail yourself east? Join a monastery? Nope. You only got one option, kid—get dragged-up and take a job with the all female jazz band Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators on a train ride to Florida. Seems kinda logical.
This is what happens to Tony Curtis (Joe) and Jack Lemmon (Jerry) in Billy Wilder’s hit 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot. When the pair manage to disguise themselves as women they hook-up with Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), whose life has always been the “fuzzy end of the lollipop.”
Loosely adapted from a script by Robert Thoeren called Fanfares of Love—first made in France in 1935 and then remade in Germany in 1951—Some Like It Hot has been voted the best ever comedy film more times than Marilyn flubbed her lines during filming—a mere 47 takes for her to get “It’s me, Sugar” right.
The film is a classic because of the quality of the performances from its three leads, the razor sharp script by I. A. L. Diamond, and the supreme quality of direction from Billy Wilder.
Interestingly, Marilyn Monroe had a clause in her contract that stipulated she would only appear in color movies. This was intention until the make-up used to disguise Joe and Jerry as women gave their skin a hideous green cast. Black and white then became the only option. Curtis and Lemmon tested out their new feminine look by wandering around the studio and then entering a ladies’ room to put on make-up. No one (apparently) guessed they were men.
Seeing full color photographs from behind the scenes of Some Like It Hot gives the movie an added depth—an intimate sense of what was happening during so many of the film’s most memorable scenes. This is why these kind of photographs appeal so much—they give a separate yet concurrent narrative to a favorite movie. These beauties capture Curtis, Lemmon and Monroe at posed yet unguarded moments in their working time together—when Monroe was drug-addled, emotionally vulnerable and having an on-off affair with Curtis—by which, he later claimed, she became pregnant.
More on location photos from ‘Some Like It Hot’ after the jump…
The story behind this 1951 photoshoot appears to be contested. Some say it was a response to a journalist who criticized Monroe’s less-than-modest clothing, calling her “cheap” and “vulgar,” and saying she’d be better suited to a potato sack. Another, more complimentary version says the pictures were inspired by a comment that Monroe could make even a potato sack look good. Either way, it’s an endearingly defiant move on her part—eschewing her obvious bombshell typecasting to do something funny and kind of trashy. I can’t help but think John Waters would approve.
The pictures inspired an Idaho potato farmer to send her a whole sack of precious spuds, but Monroe never got to enjoy them, saying “There was a potato shortage on then, and the boys in publicity stole them all. I never saw one. It just goes to show why I always ask, ‘Can you trust a publicity man or can’t you?’ ”
Lines like that remind me of Monroe’s underappreciated wit and natural comedic talent, so I threw in an art-imitates-life clip from her role in the 1950 Bette Davis classic, All About Eve. It was a brief but memorable part very early in her career. She plays an aspiring actress—a wily girl with an ingenue’s disarming mannerisms—and she gets in some perfect one-liners on the self-importance of actors and boorishness of the industry.
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:
Lot 1011: “A Marilyn Monroe signed ‘United States of America Department of Defense’ identification card, 1954.” Sold by Bonhams for $57,000 (incl. premium), at an “Entertainment Memorabilia” auction, December 21st, 2008.
A Marilyn Monroe signed ‘United States of America Department of Defense’ identification card, 1954
Laminated with a black and white photograph of the star in the upper left-side corner, a date of “8 Feb. 1954,” and a typed name of “DiMaggio, Norma Jeane;” Monroe’s signature using this name is penned in blue fountain pen ink on the lower right-side corner; back of card shows her two finger prints as well as her personal statistics: “Height [5’5 1/2”], Weight , Color of Hair [Blonde], Color of Eyes [Blue], Religion [None], Blood Type [Unk], Date of Birth [1 June 26].” Though this ID card has been reproduced as a souvenir item and sold in stores and has also been seen in many books, this piece appears to be the actual one that Monroe used when she performed for the troops in Korea while she and Joe DiMaggio were on their honeymoon.
Italian film maker Paolo Gioli creates a haunting short movie by animating photographs taken by Bert Stern of Marilyn Monroe shortly before she died at the age of 36, fifty years ago today.
Filmarilyn is both beautiful and foreboding. As the film’s jazzy rhythms start to disintegrate and the images slow to a crawl, “X” marks on the contact sheets appear like magical curses and a fresh scar on Marilyn’s flesh transforms into a stigmata while her face, half-hidden by shrouds of white, eyes closed, turns impossibly pale and lifeless. In the final moments, close-ups of her hands in death-like repose seem almost saintly and as the film’s last frames unspool we are left with the sense of having seen an apparition, a ghost… a soul X-rayed.
It’s amazing how much power and sadness Gioli creates from so few elements - a testimony to his artistry, Marilyn’s radiance and Stern’s skill in capturing it.