2020: A Year in Marilyn Headlines

2020 has been a difficult year for all of us – but while there haven’t been many exhibitions or screenings for Monroe fans to attend, she still made plenty of headlines – and after 10 years, I made the move from my ES Updates blog (which is still online) to The Marilyn Report. Wishing all my readers, old and new, fondest regards as the holiday season begins.

In January, Eve Arnold’s photography on the Misfits set was featured in the Financial Times; and Bert Stern’s photos of Marilyn were displayed alongside images of Bob Dylan in a Paris exhibition, Bob and Marilyn. The Utah Theatre in Logan screened a month-long Monroe retrospective. Crazy For You, a French e-zine dedicated to Marilyn and Madonna, was launched. And Bill Ray – who photographed Marilyn singing ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ – and Gene London, who owned one of the world’s largest movie costume collections, both died.

In February, the Lee Rider denim jacket worn by Marilyn in The Misfits was relaunched; and Swiss watchmaker Blancpain unveiled a new Monroe-inspired design. More than 270 lookalikes took part in Australia’s annual Marilyn Jetty Swim. An entire section was devoted to Marilyn in an exhibition of contact sheet photos at Cleveland Museum of Art, and Bert Stern’s photos of Marilyn went on display at HGU New York. As Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey, Margot Robbie recreated the ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ number from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Also this month, Ann E. Todd – who starred in Marilyn’s second film, Dangerous Years; Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas; photojournalist Phil Stanziola, who interviewed Marilyn in her New York hotel suite in 1954; and authors F.X. Feeney and Roger Kahn, who wrote books about Monroe, all passed away.

In March, Marilyn was featured in Time magazine’s 100 Women of the Year project, and also graced the cover of Reporters Sans Frontières, in an issue dedicated to photographer Philippe Halsman. Bombshells, the first book by Loving Marilyn website owner Shar Daws, was published. Marilyn was referenced in Bob Dylan‘s ‘Murder Most Foul’, and a greatest hits album and picture disc featuring her own songs were also released on vinyl. An archive of 200 negatives taken by Jock Carroll during filming of Niagara was sold at RR Auctions, and Hard Candy cosmetics launched a Marilyn-themed range at Walmart. Also this month, the Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal – author of A Prayer for Marilyn Monroe – and Seward Johnson, who created the giant ‘Forever Marilyn’ sculpture, both died.

In April, Marilyn was chosen to front a campaign for RaiseAChild, a foster care agency based in Los Angeles. A compact set of Marilyn magnets, with accompanying booklet by Monroe biographer Michelle Morgan, was launched; and a 20th anniversary edition of Joyce Carol Oates’ controversial novel, Blonde, was published, with a new introduction by literary critic Elaine Showalter. Also this month, Bill Fredendall, who once lived with Norma Jeane at the Los Angeles Orphans Home; author Patricia Bosworth, who wrote about her encounters with Marilyn at the Actors Studio; and Shirley Knight, who played a Marilyn-inspired character in the award-winning Broadway drama, Kennedy’s Children, all passed away.

In May, Marilyn graced the covers of ReMIND magazine and Paris Match. Jeweller Bulgari launched their ‘Diamond Wonder’ necklace and earrings, inspired by ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’; and a Marilyn Funko Pop figurine was released. Marilyn: Behind the Icon, a new podcast series, was launched. A staged reading of Marilyn, Mom & Me – Luke Yankee’s play about Marilyn’s friendship with Bus Stop co-star Eileen Heckart – and the only live performance of Bombshell, the ‘show within a show’ from TV’s Smash, were streamed online. One of the first Monroe biographies, Fred Lawrence Guiles’ Norma Jean, was reissued; and ‘Ms. Monroe,’ a poem by Helen Mort, was published in the New York Times. And a risqué Earl Moran photo of the young Marilyn, signed by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, was sold for $11,874 at Nate G. Sanders Auctions.

June 1st marked what would be Marilyn’s 94th birthday, and an online sale of photographs and memorabilia was held at Julien’s Auctions. Also in June, Marilyn graced the cover of Yours Retro, with Michelle Morgan contributing an article about Monroe’s relationship with Joe DiMaggio. A touring exhibition of Marilyn’s personal property from the collection of Ted Stampfer came to Sweden. The fashion brand L’Agence launched a new collection featuring Bert Stern’s images of Marilyn; and contestants on BBC television’s The Great British Sewing Bee created designs inspired by Marilyn’s ‘subway dress’ from The Seven Year Itch. And President Kennedy’s last surviving sibling, Jean Kennedy Smith, died aged 92.

In July, 200 Monroe-related items went under the hammer in a Hollywood: Legends and Explorers auction at Julien’s, with a black evening gown from Marilyn’s personal wardrobe and a funeral program owned by Joe DiMaggio topping the bids. Day By Day With Marilyn, a lavishly illustrated journal with accompanying text by Michelle Morgan, was published. Marilyn was also featured in the latest issue of the ‘Icons’ series from Australian Women’s Weekly. U.S. chainstore  Shoe Palace launched a menswear range in partnership with Marilyn’s estate; while in Germany, her vintage Catalina bathing suit went on display at the new Bikini Art Museum.

August marked the 58th anniversary of Marilyn’s passing. Also this month, Andy Warhol’s iconic portrait of Marilyn was recreated in a limited-edition LEGO Art set; and the Japanese brand BAPE launched a Marilyn-themed T-shirt range. In another dual-subject exhibition, Douglas Kirkland’s classic images of Marilyn and Coco Chanel went on display in Helsinki. Marilyn’s ‘pool scene’ from her last, unfinished movie Something’s Got to Give was featured in Skin, a documentary about nudity in cinema.

In September, rare photos from Japan and Korea were sold at Heritage Auctions; and artist Hadi Karimi unveiled his 3D sculpture of Marilyn. Beauty Mark, a ‘verse novel’ about Marilyn, was published; and she also graced the cover of The Secret Life of the Savoy, a history of London’s most glamorous hotel. ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ headed up Pin-Up Girls, a vinyl compilation for Record Store Day; and singer Mariah Carey discussed Marilyn’s influence in her autobiography. Also this month, she was featured in the inaugural exhibit at New York’s Makeup Museum. And Sondra Farrell, whose father was Marilyn’s pharmacist, and Mexican actor Xavier Loyá – who studied with Marilyn in New York – both passed away.

October marked the 70th anniversary of one of Marilyn’s first major films, All About Eve. Also this month, Marilyn: The Last Interview was published. That Click, a documentary about photographer Douglas Kirkland, was released. Toymaker Blitzway launched a collectible Marilyn figurine, inspired by the ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch. Marilyn made the covers of Kenneth: Shear Elegance, a book about her favourite hairdresser; and another vinyl compilation, Hollywood Divas. Also this month, The Asphalt Jungle was featured in a book from TCM,  The Essentials Vol. 2; and the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes soundtrack was reissued on CD. Marilyn was mentioned in a new biography of photographer Richard Avedon, and her relationship with Arthur Miller was profiled in Australian Women’s Weekly: Icons.

In November, the gold lamé dress worn by Marilyn when she met Queen Elizabeth II in 1956 was sold at Profiles in History, and Forever 21 launched a Marilyn-themed fashion range. As Marilyn’s estate drew net profits of $8 million, she took 13th place in Forbes magazine’s annual ranking of the Highest Paid Dead Celebrities, the only woman to make the list; and a promotional still from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes made the cover of American Gold-Digger, a new book by historian Brian Donovan. A Monroe movie retrospective was held in Amsterdam, and Scenes magazine devoted a cover story to Marilyn’s career; while an article about her affair with Yves Montand appeared in Yours Retro.

And finally, in December a love letter from Marilyn to Joe DiMaggio was sold for $425,000 at Christie’s; and over 200 Monroe-related items went under the hammer in a special event at Julien’s, Merry Merry Marilyn. In Catalunya, an exhibition of photos by Milton Greene opened with an accompanying film retrospective. And Misty Rowe, star of the 1976 biopic Goodbye Norma Jean, published her autobiography.