70 Years Ago: RKO Goes Crazy for Marilyn

In August 1951, Marilyn secured the role of Peggy in Clash By Night. Although her part was small, the project was prestigious. Set among the fishing community of Monterey, it was adapted by Clifford Odets from his Broadway play, and directed by the renowned German emigré, Fritz Lang. Marilyn’s co-stars, Barbara Stanwyck, Paul Douglas and Robert Ryan, were some of the most respected actors in Hollywood. The film was made at RKO, with Fox arranging a ‘loan-out’ of their rising star which was lucrative for the studio, if not Marilyn herself. This industry coup was promoted with a photo shoot by Bob Landry for LIFE magazine, documenting Marilyn’s meeting with producer Jerry Wald. (They would work together again on Let’s Make Love in 1960.)

This event is covered in the latest issue of French e-zine Crazy for You, noting that Marilyn’s simple ensemble of crisp white blouse and pencil skirt would become a style staple for her over the years. Although Clash By Night was Marilyn’s only RKO movie, the studio was not unfamiliar as her mother Gladys had once worked there as a film cutter. During her stay at the Los Angeles Orphans Home, the young Norma Jeane would often gaze at the nearby RKO water tower from the roof at night. Revisiting the scene of her childhood dreams must have been bittersweet for Marilyn, to say the least.