*yawn* What a refreshing nap. Oh, hello. How long have you been standing there and why do you have a banana in your pocket?
Above: a nice photo of Marilyn Monroe in bed, shot in 1953. That was arguably her pivotal year. It was when her massive hits Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How To Marry a Millionaire came out, and she made two appearances on The Jack Benny Show. No wonder she was tired.
Gentlemen prefer blondes. So do elderly billionaires, used car salesmen, and pornographers, but let's leave all that aside for now.
We said we'd get back to Anita Loos and here we are. We said that eleven years ago, but what can you do? Above you see a French edition of her classic comedy Les hommes préfèrent les blondes, better known as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, with Marilyn Monroe—who starred in the movie version—front and center on the cover. We read the book a while back—its full title is actually Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady—but haven't talked about it, so we'll just tell you that it's simply ingenious, taking the form of the diary of a somewhat vacuous and entitled socialite flapper named Lorelei, who is to gentlemen what sugar is to flies. Lorelei is a material girl obsessed with wealth and status, who expects adoration and basically plies most of these guys for gifts. But of course she does choose someone in the end.
The novel is built from short stories Loos wrote for Harper's Bazaar in the early 1920s. It was originally published in book form in 1925, with this edition coming in 1959, a few years after film version's French run. Loos' masterpiece wasn't loved by critics, but it was a runaway success anyway and ended up being printed in thirteen languages. Little known factoid—unlike the film version, which takes place on a cruise ship, a chunk of the novel occurs aboard the Orient Express, with Lorelei displaying herself to the crème of European gentlemen from Paris to Budapest. She even meets Sigmund “Froid.” Gentlemen Prefer Blondes obviously isn't pulp style at all, but Monroe had a pulp-worthy life, so that's connection enough for us. If you want a mental break from gunplay and mayhem, this is a good option.
And as far as gentlemen go, they’ll take whatever they can get.
Above is a brilliant poster for the film musical Gentlemen Marry Brunettes starring Jane Russell and Jeanne Crain. Both Brunettes and 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes had begun as novels written by Anita Loos, in 1927 and 1925 respectively. Blondes (it was actually the second time the book had been filmed) was of course a smash with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in the leads. A year later Monroe was unavailable to reprise her role as Lorelei Lee, so both leads were rescripted into entirely new characters and Jeanne Crain scored the new part opposite Russell. Gentlemen Marry Brunettes appeared in 1955, but the result wasn’t quite as electric as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Same old story—it’s almost always pointless trying to capture lightning in a bottle twice, and a sequel without Monroe was destined to disappoint, at least artistically. But it did become one of the top box office movies of 1955. Amazing, considering it’s almost forgotten today. Seems the audience has stated its preference rather clearly. Well, even if Brunettes fell short of Blondes in the memorability department, there’s nothing forgettable about its Japanese poster.
1963 post mortem on Marilyn Monroe’s life and career leaves plenty out but is still worth a viewing.
This nice poster was made for the Yugoslavian release of Marilyn, a 1963 documentary about her life and death. When Monroe died during the filming of Something's Got To Give, this feature was hastily cobbled together and rushed into cinemas to fill the gap that had appeared in Twentieth Century Fox's release schedule. It was narrated by Rock Hudson, which is why he appears on the art, and featured Monore's most memorable screen moments, including her song and dance "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" from the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. These days, more is known about Monroe’s life than was the case in 1963, so those looking for tabloid style dish will be disappointed. This is a tribute intended to burnish her legend, rather than a real documentary designed dig into it. But it’s a good movie, not least because it gives a clear portrait of her unmatched stature as a celebrity at that time. Marilyn premiered in the U.S. today in 1963. As a bonus, below are some images of Monroe at her most alluring.
Your kiss is on my list of the best things in life.
Promo photo of American film actress Alice White, née Alva White, who appeared in around forty films, including the original Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, seen here circa 1928 in the mode of Clara Bow, to whom she was often compared.
But with friends like these, who needs enemies?
The National Insider gets meta- physical in this fanciful story published today in 1963 about a cursed gemstone killing Marilyn Monroe. They’re talking about the Moon of Baroda, left, a 24-carat yellow diamond found in western India and owned for almost five-hundred years by a royal dynasty known as the Gaekwad Maharajas, and briefly by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, who was the only female monarch of the Hapsburg Dynasty. Sounds like something that absolutely needs to be stolen, right? But before you break out your ski mask and suction cups, you should know that the diamond supposedly brings grave misfortune to anyone who carries it across the sea. Maybe that explains why its eventual American owner, Meyer Rosenbaum of Detroit’s Meyer Jewellery Company, gave the stone to Marilyn Monroe. Monroe wore it while filming Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, during which she performed her immortal materialist ditty “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” That was in 1953. Monroe lived nine more years, and we’re pretty sure she had some laughs during that span, so it’s a stretch to say the diamond did her in, but it makes a great story.
In our research we actually discovered that most famous diamonds have curses associated with them, including the Hope Diamond (whose first owner was supposedly torn apart by wild dogs), the Kahinoor Diamond (which can only be safely worn by women), and the Black Orlov (three of whose owners committed suicide). Interestingly, all of these diamonds came from India, and two are said to have been pried loose from the eyes of Hindu gods. So basically, you mess with Brahma and you get the horns. We love the idea of karma, the possibility that evildoing will get you killed and reincarnated as a louse in the ass of a water buffalo, but perhaps a more scientific way of looking at all this is simply that diamonds are forever and we are not. Thus misfortune of one sort or another is always waiting for us humans, while our diamonds always survive to be passed along to the next mere mortal. But just to be on the safe side, we’ve told our girlfriends that we will never give them diamonds, or for that matter jewelry of any sort. It’s for their own good, really.
Their eyes were watching bod.
We love this cover for Anita Loos’ 1925 novel of ambition and materialism Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Brilliantly rendered by Earle Bergey, the so-called gentlemen here are leering caricatures evincing monstrous thirst for the beautiful young blonde. The book became a bestseller and, twenty-three years later, a film with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell which premiered today in 1958. The book’s cover image helped establish Bergey’s reputation as an illustrator without peer, and more than eighty years later it’s one of the most common pulp images on the internet. We’ll post more Bergey art later, and also revisit Anita Loos.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1955—James Dean Dies in Auto Accident
American actor James Dean, who appeared in the films Giant
, East of Eden
, and the iconic Rebel without a Cause
, dies in an auto accident
at age 24 when his Porsche 550 Spyder is hit head-on by a larger Ford coupe. The driver of the Ford had been trying to make a left turn across the rural highway U.S. Route 466 and never saw Dean's small sports car approaching.
1962—Chavez Founds UFW
Mexican-American farm worker César Chávez founds the United Farm Workers in California. His strikes, marches and boycotts eventually result in improved working conditions for manual farm laborers and today his birthday is celebrated as a holiday in eight U.S. states.
1916—Rockefeller Breaks the Billion Barrier
American industrialist John D. Rockefeller becomes America's first billionaire. His Standard Oil Company had gained near total control of the U.S. petroleum market until being broken up by anti-trust legislators in 1911. Afterward, Rockefeller used his fortune mainly for philanthropy, and had a major effect on medicine, education, and scientific research.
1941—Williams Bats .406
Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox finishes the Major League Baseball season with a batting average of .406. He is the last player to bat .400 or better in a season.
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