Author Richard Koper wrote about Marilyn and her rival bombshells in his 2016 book, Fifties Blondes. He has also written biographies of Jayne Mansfield, Joi Lansing, and Barbara Nichols, all of whom were contemporaries of Marilyn. His latest book, One Girl’s Confession: The Life and Career of Cleo Moore, focuses on another fifties blonde.
‘Bad girls make good parts.’ – Cleo Moore in 1953
“Cleo Moore endured in a profession in which only the strong survive – not only because she overcame her rural Louisiana background, but because she drew her strength from it.
Raised in poverty, she moved to California to seek a better future. Cleo soon became known as ‘Louisiana’s Canary Blonde Bombshell’ and reached her peak of fame when director, producer and actor Hugo Haas chose her to be his muse in the seven movies they made together.
Surpassed by Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Anita Ekberg and Jayne Mansfield, Cleo kept fighting for fame and recognition, carving out a remarkable career, in and out of the spotlight. She became a successful businesswoman, and married a real estate mogul, but money did not guarantee happiness. Having kept a secret all her life – why she left Hollywood in 1957 – she died far too young, unfulfilled in her career and her personal life.”
Interviewed by Stephanie Nolasco for Fox News Digital, Koper discussed the parallels between Cleo Moore and ‘La Monroe’.
“‘I was amazed by how determined Cleo Moore was to succeed in Hollywood, and yet there was so little information about her. The other blondes had big studios behind them. Cleo did everything herself. And unfortunately, she lost roles to Marilyn Monroe and the other blondes. Her films did get attention, and she was quite successful, but not with mainstream cinema. The other blondes got better publicity, better agents, better studios – that made all the difference.’
‘Cleo was determined to become someone. I didn’t even know she had her own production company. Marilyn is always credited for launching her own production company [see here], but Cleo did, too. I think the press rooted for her and saw her potential. She fought for everything in her life.’
‘Cleo connected with the right people. She was witty, down to Earth and, of course, beautiful. She had a lot of talent and people recognized that quickly. But all the blondes in Hollywood auditioned for the same parts. They all dated talent agent Johnny Hyde, who, of course, was enamoured with Marilyn Monroe. But all the people who worked with Cleo, the ones who are still alive, all said they enjoyed working with her. She was very likable and sweet. From cameramen to producers, she connected with them.’
Marilyn was always one or two steps before her, but Cleo also said she really liked Marilyn. She remembered Marilyn as a sweet girl. She was never hateful or vengeful. She wished Marilyn all the best. But she was frustrated with the studios and the men who tried to copy-paste these impersonators. She wasn’t mad at Marilyn but rather at the system. They wanted to groom and pass her as a better substitute for Marilyn. I think she hated it for Marilyn as much as she hated it for herself. But she never spoke badly about Marilyn.”