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Monday, April 14, 2008


Marilyn Monroe, in a refreshingly human portrait.

I have to confess that I just never got the whole Marilyn Monroe thing. Sure, she was pretty, turned in some memorable film performances, and posed for that iconic PLAYBOY spread on the red velvet — you have to see the bit in the documentary HEAVY PETTING that features the late Spaulding Gray discussing first seeing that shot during his adolescence; the sheer ecstasy on his face and the way he tells the story is like witnessing a religious experience — but what exactly was the big deal that elevated her to her status as a Hollywood goddess whose image is as ubiquitous as Santa Claus during the Christmas season? We've all seen the famous portraits of Marilyn with that dress being blown about in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1955), and the myriad of sleepy-eyed, come hither-faced shots of her peroxided kisser, but what is it about this demigoddess of 1950's celluloid sexuality that continues to fascinate and excite film fans, both male and female, some five decades after her heyday, while other contemporary blonde bombshells have faded into cult obscurity? I was always a Jayne Mansfield man and enjoyed her very much self-aware sense of humor about her zaftig, cartoonish looks and her in-your-face lampooning of that image, especially when one takes into account the fact that she possessed an IQ of 160, was a five-language polyglot, and held membership in MENSA.

The mighty Jayne Mansfield: smokin' hot, smarter than you, and, sadly, dead by the age of thirty-four.
Her status in my head as a live-action cartoon character was cemented by her role as sweet-as-could-be Jerri Jordan in THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT (1956), directed by former Looney Tunes animation director Frank Tashlin, one of the creators whose work helped the personality of Daffy Duck to emerge and solidify. Painfully charming, Jerri was a mobster's girlfriend who wanted nothing more than to settle down and raise a family, but her boyfriend hires a talent agent to groom her for a singing career. Jerri, of course, falls for the agent, and hijinx ensue, but that's all kind of beside the real point of the film, which is to allow an easy-on-the-eyes and very funny exaggeration along the lines of a refugee from Al Capp's Dogpatch to wiggle about the screen and cause men's higher brain functions to come to a complete halt. 
 In short, Mansfield had fun with her goofball-with-huge-cans image, and I found that tremendously appealing. 
But, as was the case with many of Hollywood's leading ladies back in the days, Jayne found herself saddled with debilitating substance addiction, largely brought on by being rendered obsolete when the era of the the blonde bombshell ended on that day in 1962 when Marilyn Monroe was found dead of an apparent suicide (yeah, right). Mansfield's career took a major nosedive, and she resorted to appearing in some fairly tame semi-nudie flicks in which she displayed pretty much every part of her luscious anatomy before famously dying in an horrific car accident in 1967. Contrary to popular belief, she was not beheaded, and her equally brilliant daughter, Mariska Hargitay of LAW & ORDER: SVU fame, was in the back seat, and today bears a facial scar from that tragic misadventure. 
Mariska Hargitay, the most high-profile of Jayne Mansfield's kids, as Detective Olivia Benson on LAW & ORDER: SVU; smart, good-lookin', and talented, just like her mom.
The other fifties bleach-goddess who struck a responsive chord in Yer Bunche was Mamie Van Doren, by far the "bad girl" archetype of the trio, largely relegated to B-movie roles that showcased her impressive dairies in impossibly tight sweaters. 
Mamie Van Doren, apparently having forgotten to button her blouse.
Whereas Monroe was the Olympian of the lot, a mid-twentieth century Aphrodite if you will, and Mansfield the more "obtainable" bosomy girl next door type with an infectious sense of humor, Van Doren projected an image of the sleazy, pulp fiction-style "broad" whose persona would have been equally at home in a Mike Hammer story, engaging in sweaty and borderline pornographic sex with the hard-boiled gumshoe, or steaming things up in some sleazy Tennessee Williamsesque potboiler. A classic Hollywood starlet with an appetite for man-flesh, the Mamester got it on with various notables including Elvis, Jack Palance, Tony Curtis, Tom Jones, Steve McQueen — while on LSD, no less —  Rock Hudson (who, according to her, was an occasional bisexual who splattered her studio-loaned dress with his DNA), and Burt Reynolds among many others, and also, disturbingly, claims to have been drugged and raped by Jack (DRAGNET) Webb. You can read about all of this, in Van Doren's own words, on her incredibly candid blog in the section labeled "Bedtime Stories." Go to (for some reason I'm having difficulty establishing a direct link to it); trust Yer Bunche, it's one hell of a read! 
Mamie, looking like she's on the cover of a paperback one might find in a bus station.
The majority of the films on Van Doren's resume could accurately be called "crap," but they're fun and frivolous, and she worked her slutty magic to great effect. HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL! (1958), GIRL'S TOWN (1959), THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ADAM & EVE (1960),
Mamie as Eve, ogled by Mickey Rooney (!!!) portraying a low rent devil.
and one of the very first movies I remember seeing, THE NAVY VS. THE NIGHT MONSTERS (1966) all featured Mamie's sneering, breathy sensuality, and she clearly enjoyed chewing the scenery. In fact, these days Van Doren revels in her "Queen of the B's" notoriety, still going strong at the age of seventy-seven, unexpectedly turning out to be the last of the old school bombshells. 
Mamie receives her star on the Walk of Fame, 1994.

But, again, I ask what's the deal with Marilyn? I find both Jayne and Mamie considerably hotter, but why does the majority of the rest of film geekdom enshrine Monroe? It's not like I hate her or anything, but she just doesn't register with me. If any of you can explain her appeal and mystique to me I will be eternally grateful. I'd especially like to have this explained by a woman who's into the Monroe thing. As a guy I can get why another hetero male could be into her, but many of us find ourselves totally C-struck by just about anything even remotely female, so ladies, please weigh in. As for my fondness for the other two, maybe my fascination with boobage factors in heavily? I honestly don't have an answer.  

Which brings me to this morning.  

I awoke and turned on NY1 news and was greeted by a segment announcing that some dude had just shelled out a cool $1.5 million bucks for a film that shows, clear as day, Marilyn Monroe administering oral kindness to some guy whose face does not enter into the frame. This purchase thrust MM back into the news again, and I was both shocked and kind of impressed with the buyer because he claims to have bought the footage to keep it out of the hands of the unscrupulous so it wouldn't be used to tarnish Monroe's iconic image. Hey, if it was me I probably would have marketed the shit out of that film and reaped untold gazillions from its DVD sales, but who knows how this film was obtained, or if she was coerced? Yeah, yeah, I can hear many of you saying that it was probably a "casting couch" scenario and that everybody who ever got anywhere in Hollywood probably engaged in such stuff — even a certain Teutonic bodybuilder who now holds political office —  but wouldn't it be a total mindfuck if it turned out to be one of the Kennedy's home movies? Oy vey iz mier... From this morning's New York Post:




April 14, 2008 --

Some really like it hot.

In the sordid tradition of peddling raunchy video footage of celebrities a la Paris Holton, a long-buried sex movie of Marilyn Monroe recently hit the market, a top collector told The Post.

An illicit copy of the steamy, still-FBI-classified reel - 15 minutes of 16mm film footage in which the original blond bombshell performs oral sex on an unidentified man - was just sold to a New York businessman for $1.5 million, said Keya Morgan, the well-known memorabilia collector who discovered the film and brokered its purchase.

The footage appears to have been shot in the 1950s. When it came to light in the mid-'60s, then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had his agents spend two weeks futilely trying to prove that Monroe's sex partner was either John F. Kennedy or Robert F. Kennedy, according to declassified agency documents and interviews, Morgan said.

The silent black-and-white flick shows Monroe on her knees in front of a man whose face is just out of the shot. He never moves into the shot, indicating that he knew the camera was there, but Monroe never looks at the lens, said Morgan, who saw the footage.

Morgan said he discovered the film while doing research for a documentary on Monroe, after talking with a former FBI agent who told him about a confidential informant who tipped G-men to the existence of the film in the mid-'60s. The feds eventually confiscated the original footage - but not before the informant made a copy of it, which is what was just sold by his son, Morgan said.

There are heavily redacted, declassified FBI documents talking about a "French-type" film. They state the informant "exhibited [to agents] a motion picture which depicted deceased actress Marilyn Monroe committing a perverted act upon a unknown male," Morgan said.

The informant was with at least one mobster at the time, the documents state.

According to the documents, "Former baseball star Joseph DiMaggio in the past had offered [the informant] $25,000 for this film, it being the only one in existence, but he refused the offer.

"Source advised that [redacted name of the mole] informed them that he had obtained this film prior to the time Marilyn Monroe had achieved stardom."

Morgan said he got the deceased informant's name from the former FBI agent who tipped him off to the flick - and was floored after he found the mole's son in Washington, DC, and the man retrieved a film canister from a safe-deposit box and spooled it up. "You see instantly that it's Marilyn Monroe - she has the famous mole," Morgan said. "She's smiling, she's very charming, she's very radiant, but she's known for being radiant," he said. "She moves away, and then it [the footage] stops."

Last month, he brokered its sale, leading the informant's son to a wealthy New York businessman who wants to keep this unseemly part of Monroe's past buried. "He said he's just going to lock it up," Morgan said. "He said, 'I'm not going to make a Paris Hilton out of her. I'm not going to sell it, out of respect.' "


Declan Shalvey said...

I'm sure he did by it out of respect, and fair play to him; cuz the last thing you'd want would be to have that footage floating around the internet for her to be remembered by.

But still, he's bound to knock one out lookin' at it.....


Jared said...

Duh, Mr. Burns and the Stone Cutters are responsible for her success. Everybody knows that.

John Bligh said...

Much as I'll hate to do it, once it's available, I'm going to have to see the footage for myself purely for research.


Red Stapler said...

Well, I'm afraid the only perspective I can give is a young one.

By the 80s, it was all over Marilyn, up to and including Madonna's "Material Girl" video.

I never really heard of Jayne Mansfield or Mamie Van Doren until I was a teenager. I may not have even heard of Mamie Van Doren until right now.

Of course, I'm not known for my film geekery, so that may just be me.

I think the hype over Marilyn may have been the Kennedys. Anyone tied to that family gets notoriety, whether they want it or not!

Anonymous said...

Jazzy Jazz said...

My love affair with Marilyn Monroe started at the young age of eight when I saw the movie “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Of Course at the time I had no idea about her troubled past or her tragic ending; all I knew was that I wanted to be as sexy, attractive and confident as the characters she portrayed in the movies.

Marilyn Monroe was so captivating, and glamorous. As a young artist I appreciated her beauty. The camera loved her. She took great pictures so effortlessly. She didn’t have to work at being beautiful and sexy. Marilyn Monroe reeked of sex appeal from her platinum blonde hair to her perfectly painted toes. Everything about her was sexy; the pouty lips, the bedroom eyes. She knew how to make men crawl. She knew the power she had over men, and she used that to get to the top. Her beauty is timeless and that never goes out of style.

Norma Jeane had the ability to turn the Marilyn Monroe charm on once the director yelled action. She could turn heads with her sex appeal. She made every woman jealous, because more often than not all the men in the room would be looking at her and not the date they’d brought.

As much as she was sexy she was also had the innocence of a child, which made her seem angelic. Not having too many friends in Catholic school, I thought maybe one day she could be my friend. I saw the love she displayed for the child actors in the movie “Something’s Got to Give,” her last movie which was never completed. She showed so much love for those children, and that was not acting.

Then, as I got older and started to read more about her, I was shocked and saddened by the life she lived. She truly was a “Candle in the Wind.” She was the most beautiful, sought-after woman in the world, but didn’t feel that way. She could have had anything or any man, but didn’t feel she deserved it. She worked hard and attended the Actor’s Studio in New York, but never felt she was a true actress. She was used and abused, from the lowest of the low all the way to the top executives of fox, to say nothing of the Kennedys.

I think every woman can relate to Marilyn Monroe at some point in their lives, wanting to be sexy and desired by any man but never feeling that way. Having low self-esteem. Never feeling good enough.

After learning all this about America’s Sweetheart, my heart bleeds for her. I wanted to help her and save her like Joe DiMaggio once tried to save her. She had it all: fame, beauty, men, but never knew what she had. Like so many of us we never really know our true ability.