Tag Archives: Marilyn Monroe

Buckets of Marilyn Style

MM & her bucket bagSpeaking of Marilyn Monroe (currently the subject of a major retrospective at the BFI in London)  … this less well-known photo of the great lady has a lot to answer for … It was a huge inspiration to me style-wise when, as a film and fashion-mad teenager, I first clapped eyes on it – and it triggered a Holy Grail-like quest for a bucket bag which went on for nearly three decades!

My  desire for a Marilynesque classic leather bucket was almost satisfied when I was 15 years old, and on holiday in Brittany with my family. I pounced on a cream canvas version, with tan leather trim and strap, that I spotted at the local market.

Having decided that Marilyn’s bag (only ever glimpsed in this photo) was undoubtedly tan-coloured leather, the French bag, with its tan trim, seemed to be the closest I could find to my heroine’s. Apart, I quickly realised from one thing: the tan bits weren’t real leather. And even as a 15 year-old, I couldn’t bear fake leather. The bag was never used. Indeed, it only, finally, saw the light of day when I chucked it out to the charity shop about 20 years later.

There was another matter which thwarted my quest for my dream bag: for much of my adult life, bucket bags just weren’t in fashion and so weren’t available. During my student time in Paris, in the early 1990s, I had no money but I did manage to regularly window shop in Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. I noticed Lancel Neo Elsa bagthat the French brand Lancel seemed to have a similar weakness for the style – and produced them in wonderful jewel colours (ruby red, emerald green etc). But (not that I could have afforded one) where they differed from Marilyn’s was that they were too stiff and formal; I wanted elegant but slouchy, something that could be used every day and which enhanced an outfit but didn’t steal its limelight.

I finally found it, two years ago. In TK Maxx. It’s a tan leather Fossil bag, with a round base, gold fittings and the obligatory drawstring. It doesn’t look as sleek and expensive as Marilyn’s; it now hasMy bag a distinctly lived-in look to it. But I love it, and – to my surprise – it still gets regular compliments from bag admirers. Maybe they’re on a similar quest – but it should be a lot easier now, since the bucket has been declared the bag of the season  and, in its designer form, notably Mansur Gavriel’s version, has been generating waiting lists. I’m definitely in the market for BB number two: a bigger, smoother-leather one perhaps in a zingy colour – like Lancel’s yellow Neo Elsa (pictured above). When you’re a bag lover, the bucket shopping list is never truly complete.

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Mad About Marilyn’s Movies

A glamorous Marilyn Monroe in a red dress.

Marilyn Monroe in a publicity shot for How To Marry a Millionaire (courtesy of BFI)

This month, the BFI is treating London film-goers to a terrific retrospective of the ultimate movie star: Marilyn Monroe. It’s more than 50 years since her premature death  – and it’s certainly time to honour her in the way she would have wanted: as an actress and performer. After a half century of speculation about the myths that swirl around her suicide, we need to move on – and look past the legend, to the legacy on film. The riddles of Monroe’s mixed-up mind and the hushed-up circumstances of her death will never be fully understood – and the obsession with her personal life, her sex appeal and her status as a cultural icon overshadow one important thing: her work.

Marilyn Monroe’s was a dazzlingly impressive if spectacularly short career. Not only was she a phenomenally talented comedienne who created the definitive “dumb blonde” persona, but she was also an exceptionally gifted and affecting actress – some of whose performances are so raw that they make for uncomfortable viewing – and a wonderful singer whose recordings of even established pop tunes became iconic, if not definitive, versions. Like other geniuses who died young, she left a small body of work packed with moments of greatness and at least one bona fide masterpiece, in the form of Some Like It Hot.

Indeed, it’s astounding to realise that a star whose name has been known in every corner of the globe for half a century only had leading roles in 11 films spread out over the last decade of her 36-year-old life. Such was the impact of her unique brand of irresistible sex appeal –  vulnerability combined with voluptuousness, sensuality plus serenity, child-like naivete fused with a very wholesome and womanly guile – that her presence transcends much of the material she worked with. She was born to be a movie actress: the camera loved her. Billy Wilder, the only director who worked with her twice during herSome Like it Hot 4 leading lady phase, described her appeal on camera as “the flesh impact .. Some girls have flesh that photographs like flesh. You feel you can reach out and touch it.” He made great use of this when he filmed her in Some Like It Hot.

It was, of course, her physical appeal which first landed her a screen test – but it was immediately apparent to no less a figure than 20th Century Fox’s production chief Darryl Zanuck that she was more than a particularly sexy starlet. “It’s a damn good test,” he said when he saw the rushes. But that didn’t stop his studio, or others – like Groucho Marx who cast her in Love Happy (1949) on the strength of the fact that she had “the prettiest ass” – from casting her purely in decorative roles. This soon instilled in her the resolve to become an actress and win respect.

She won some especially valuable respect early on – from John Huston who directed her when she played a crooked lawyer’s naive young mistress in his superb heist movie The Asphalt Jungle (1950). She may only have been in two short scenes, and her name may have been omitted from the titles when the film was previewed, but Monroe caught the audience’s eye then – and again that year when she stole a scene from right under Bette Davis’s over-powdered nose in All About Eve. Those films got the public talking but Monroe’s launch into the bigtime was still a couple of years away. And she used that time to get professional help with her acting.

The breakthrough came in 1953. Monroe had the opportunity to get her teeth into a juicy dramatic role (and her bottom into a particularly tight skirt – essential for the scene in which the famous Monroe walk was first captured on camera) when she played the treacherous, man-eating Rose in Niagara. And, that same year, she created the definitive dumb blonde in the lavish comedies Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire. She may not have been the first dumb blonde but, with her combination of big-eyed innocence, dopeyness and a hapless way of always landing on her feet, she was the most lovable and the most enduring.

In those two career-making films, she revealed herself to be a great comedienne, up there with Mae West in the comic timing stakes (and in her own, offscreen, gift for one-liners) and willing to send herself up a la Carole Lombard or any of the screwball comedy era stars. This aspect made her particularly appealing to both sexes.

Director Nunnally Johnson later said: “I believe that the first time anyone genuinely liked Marilyn for herself, in a picture, was in Millionaire. She herself diagnosed the reason for that very shrewdly. She said that this was the only picture she’d been in in which she had a measure of modesty about her own Prince and the Showgirl 4attractiveness. She didn’t think men would look at her twice, because she wore glasses … . In her other pictures they’ve cast her as a somewhat arrogant sex trap, but when Millionaire was released, I heard people say ‘Why, I really like her!’ in surprised tones.”

Despite her success and the fact that she had proved that she was more than window dressing, Monroe was still trapped in what she described as “sex roles” – even River of No Return (1954), a western drama by no less serious a director than Otto Preminger, offered her little opportunity to show her worth as an actress. Announcing the formation of her own production company (and act which ensured that Fox renewed her contract and met her terms), she told the press : “I want to broaden my scope. I want to do dramatic parts. It’s no temptation to me to do the same thing over and over. I want to keep growing as a person and as an actress … in Hollywood they never ask me my opinion. They just tell me what time to come to work.”

Her next four films marked the peak of her short career. She gave a nuanced comic turn as “The Girl Upstairs” in Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch (1955) and a superb dramatic performanceas the flighty, southern “chantoosie” Cherie in Bus Stop (1956); a performance which prompted the film’s director, Joshua Logan, to later describe her as “as near genius as any actress I ever knew”. By this time, Monroe was studying with the Actors Studio in New York, and her un-starry, “courageous”, willingness to sacrifice her looks for the sake of her character was one aspect of her work on the film which impressed Logan. She may not have had a rapport with Laurence Olivier on The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) but this period drama garnered her more rave reviews. The pinnacle of her success came in 1959 with her gloriously endearing portrayal of the uber-naive Sugar Kane in the uproarious Billy Wilder comedy Some Like it Hot.The Misfits 5

Monroe was never better than as the gullible Sugar and her performance was the perfect blend of comedy and tragedy. Sadly, though, she was descending into her own personal hell – a troubled personal life that was so thoroughly and intrusively documented in the press that it became increasingly difficult to appreciate where reality ended and performance began. And which makes her final complete film, The Misfits (1961) – in which she played a damaged, child-like woman in search of direction and in need of protection – all the more poignant.

* The Marilyn Monroe season runs from June 1-June 30. For a full list of films and times, click here

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Dead Movie Stars Do Wear Make-up

Norma Jeane:MarilynMarilyn Monroe has this morning been revealed as Global Glamour Ambassador for Max Factor – and from tomorrow will be seen in advertising campaigns for Max Factor across the media. Is it just me or is it weird having a dead person as your “ambassador”? Sure, Marilyn’s iconic look – which was created by Hollywood make-up guru Max Factor – has timeless appeal and is still widely copied today. But frankly I am uncomfortable with these campaigns where you see dead people being used to advertise products that they didn’t advertise when they were alive, and/or where words are put into their mouths. I was surprised when Chanel used Marilyn Monroe for a No5 campaign in 2013, but at least they used newsreel footage of her, accompanied by her own voice giving the famous quote about wearing the perfume to bed – rather than manipulating her likeness to bring her back to life.

In recent times we’ve had cameo roles from computer-generated Marilyn, Grace Kelly and Marlene Dietrich in a Dior ad, while a sort of plastic, lookalike version of Audrey Hepburn has been used in a chocolate ad campaign. It was better – and arguably required more wit and brain power – in the pre-CGI days when clips from films were cut and pasted together (a la Carl Reiner’s inspired 1982 film noir pastiche Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid) to make such clever ads as the brilliant Holsten Pils ad, which used recognisable clips from Some Like It Hot and certainly wasn’t trying to imply that Monroe would have endorsed the brand.

And while I’m getting stuff off my chest, why does Max Factor keep insisting in its press material that Marilyn was a 1940s star?! She was certainly in Hollywood and playing small roles towards the end of the 1940s, but she only began to catch the eye of film-goers in 1950 when she had small but memorable parts in All About Eve and The Asphalt Jungle. And it was 1953 before she had her first starring role.

Pat McGrath, Max Factor Global Creative Design Director, is quoted as saying: “Marilyn made the sultry red lip, creamy skin and dramatically lined eyes the most famous beauty look of the 1940s.” Er, hello? No she didn’t. She may have made that combo the most emulated look of the 1950s, but the sultry red lips and natural yet defined eyes were around throughout the Second World War, when Marilyn was still Norma Jeane. Just look at pictures of Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable. Creamy skin, red lips and big lashes.

What’s disappointing about the Max Factor brand’s carelessness with dates and pedantic stuff like that is that it is, ironically, a company which is a key part of Hollywood history. However, it’s certainly true that Norma Jeane Baker entrusted her gradual transformation into the Marilyn Monroe we know and love to the team at the Max Factor Beauty Parlour on Hollywood Boulevard – and that what became her signature look is still hugely inspirational today.

But it’s not all complaints from me: Max Factor has also today announced the launch of #GlamJan, a rallying call encouraging women around the world to glam up with make-up in this drab month of January. Inspired by the transformation of Norma Jeane to Marilyn, #GlamJan is a social media campaign led by Pat McGrath and famous faces including fashion model Candice Swanepoel, which invites women to post their most glamorous self using the hashtag #GlamJan and a message about how good it feels to glam up.

(Norma Jean image – Photo Bernard of Hollywood (c)2015 Renaissance Road Inc. Marilyn Monroe image (c)2015 Archive Images. MH Greene 2013. J Greene.)

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Making Like Monroe

Max Factor - Gwyneth as MarilynOver the last 12 months, Max Factor – the make-up brand that was born in Hollywood – has been celebrating  “100 Years of Glamour” by transforming its poster girl Gwyneth Paltrow into a series of much-loved stars, each of whose signature look represents their era.

For her final close-up of the series, Gwyneth P has been made-up in the style of 1950s icon Marilyn Monroe, but with a modern-day twist. The statement lips, natural-looking eye shadow and luscious lashes was the Hollywood look from the 1940s into the 1950s, and – as you can see – it still looks fab today.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create it:Max Factor 1940s face sketch

1. Create a flawless base with Lasting Performance Foundation. Apply with a brush and concentrate on T-zone and problem areas for a pared back skin look that lets the eyes and lips do the talking.

2. Gently dust Crème Puff in Translucent all over for expert shine control and sealing the foundation.

3. Add a touch of retro femininity by enhancing your cheekbones using Flawless Perfection Blush in Natural. Apply with a brush using soft strokes and gently build up the colour.

4. Create a neutral toned eye-look so the emphasis is all on the lashes. Apply Masterpiece Colour Precision Eyeshadow in Pearl Beige across the inner and upper lid using your fingers to blend. Switch to the darker shade of Colour Precision Eyeshadow in Coffee to enhance eye shape and exaggerate out the outer corners using a small brush.

5. This look requires volumised lashes that look precise and polished. Use Clump Defy Mascara in Black and build the lashes with several layers paying Picture 7933particular attention to the upper outer corner lashes for a look that oozes Marilyn-esque glamour.

6. Line the lips and then fill using Colour Elixir Lipstick in Bewitching Coral. Use a small brush applicator for precision application, and build gradually for rich and colour saturated lips.

7. Don’t forget your nails! Add the essential finishing touch with Glossfinity Nail Polish in feminine Cute Coral.

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The Scarlet and the Pink

Gentlement Prefer Blondes - DAAGBFLet’s face it, Valentine’s Day can be a pretty lonely place. So I love the idea of a Valentine’s-inspired make-up range which you can buy for yourself and perk yourself up with – not that that was necessarily the concept that Bobbi Brown was going for when she devised her new, limited edition, Pink & Red Collection.

Hot pink and blood red is a combination that really shouldn’t work – but it does. Witness its most (if not only) iconic incarnation in the Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend sequence from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The key to the clash working is – I think – that you’ve got two bold shades. The only other pink-red combo I can recall is the Catherine Walker dress that Princess Bobbi Brown Pink & Red productsDiana wore to Kuwait in 1989, but the top half was a wishy-washy pastel pink so the effect was watered down and had considerably less impact than the purple-and-red outfits which the same designer created for her.

But back to Bobbi, whose own bold take on the colour scheme has resulted in a range that stands out from the many spring collections that are dominated by pretty, delicate, romantic pinks. She says: “With  this collection, I took an unconventional approach to the season’s traditional colour palette.

“The Pink & Red Collection isn’t about matching your lips, cheeks and nails. It’s about deliberately mismatching. I love pink and red worn together – it’s a very modern mix (and perfect for Valentine’s Day).”

Personally, I’ve been seduced by the beautiful and comfortable (even on dry lips) new Bobbi Brown Creamy Matte Lip Color in Hot (£18; www.bobbibrown.co.uk), a perfect match forBobbi Brown Pink & Red Marilyn’s dress, and the Bobbi Brown Nail Polish in Valentine Red (£11), a vampy crimson shade. But if you fancy inverting the look, you could team Bobbi Brown Creamy Matte Lip Color in Heart with Bobbi Brown Nail Polish in Pink Valentine…  Indeed, they’re next on my wish list!

Also in the collection are a pink and a red lip gloss and a pink and a red cheek tint.

In all, it’s the perfect antidote to the Valentine’s Day blues….

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“Just a few drops of Chanel No5″

Marilyn Monroe’s love affair with Chanel No5 – a meeting of two icons – has been well documented in both a beautiful photograph and in the famous quote she gave when asked what she wore in bed.. As part of an ongoing campaign about the history of the world’s most celebrated perfume, Chanel has just released this little film featuring – for the very first time – Marilyn caught on tape discussing the quote which not only linked her forevermore with No5, but highlighted how witty she was.

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November 17, 2012 · 7:38 pm

My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

I wouldn’t compare myself to Marilyn Monroe, but I did wake up on Monday morning looking as puffy as she does in this photo (presumably from her Actors’ Studio period) – especially around the eye area. Why? Because I’d just had my second night of virtually no sleep – at the Norwich Jazz Party. The “jazz party” format involves round-the-clock music until 12.30am, followed by the obligatory “hang” at the bar. For me, it also involved trying to cram in some writing, and some sleep – in a room which made very strange noises (room 211 of the Holiday Inn Express, Norwich, I’m talking about you!).

Despite all this, I was told I looked fresh-faced on Monday morning – the result, I’m sure, of a four-pronged attack on the signs of knackeredness. I used an eye mask (one of the discontinued Chanel ones) to reduce the puffiness round my eyes, exfoliator – Elemis Gentle Rose Exfoliator  – to brighten my skin, and Clinique Redness Solutions Daily Protective Base SPF15 to counter any high colour caused by late-night libations. And of course, the old reliable Guerlain Precious Light …. Never leave for a jazz fest without it!

TUESDAY

Knowing that some sleep was going to be lost in Norwich, I had planned to take the new Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel (£32.50; available from May 20; for stockists call 020-7493 3836) bronzing powder with me – to perk up my pale skin.

Luckily, I forgot to pack it: when I got home from Norwich and brushed some of the Rose palette on to my face, I realised that it’s not for me. The colours are beautiful, and I love the healthy glow a good bronzer/blusher can impart, but I am just too fair-skinned for even the lighter of the two colourways. It’s even a little too dark for me to use purely as a blusher (which is how I use the equivalent compact from Guerlain).  To paraphrase the Gershwins, s’wonderful – but not for me…

WEDNESDAY

Any help I can get in the eyelash department is always welcome and I love to experiment with any mascara that promises to beef up my featherweight lashes. So I was delighted to be given a tube of the latest from Dior, whose Extase I already love.

DiorShow Extase Flash Plumping Mascara (£22; www.houseoffraser.co.uk) may have a particularly daft name but it does the biz – not so much, I’ve been finding, with “plumping” up the lashes, but more in terms of lengthening and curling them. Ten out of ten for battability..

THURSDAY

I was thinking about how much my legs are currently worth, on Thursday morning. It’s not that they’re anything special – and I’ve not had them insured a la Betty Grable (left) – but I’ve certainly been investing in them recently. Let me explain: I’ve been testing out one of the pricier cellulite creams over the last few weeks.  Sisley Phyto-Svelt Global Intensive Anti-Cellulite Contouring Body Care (£123; www.sisley-cosmetics.co.uk) is the latest wonder cream from the French botanical company, and it has made a difference to my thighs – which is where I’ve been using it (might as well give it a challenge!). It has, as it claims to be able to do, improved the texture and tone of cellulite-afflicted areas and there’s a tautness to the skin that I’m pretty sure wasn’t there before. I’m not saying that the cellulite is a distant memory but it’s certainly not as obvious as before.

FRIDAY

Having finally caught up on my sleep, I met the PR for Aveda and Darphin – the charming Cemo – on Friday morning at the Hotel du Vin in Glasgow. I’ve yet to try out the new Darphin samples she gave me, but I had to point out that I’m already a convert to the conditioner and conditioning treatment she brought from the excellent Damage Remedy range.

As I have a few more trips coming up, I was very keen to hear about the Aveda Travel Size Collection (from £4; www.aveda.co.uk) of 50ml bottles of shampoo and conditioner, plus various hair styling and body products. Unfortunately, the Damage Remedy items don’t come in these plane-friendly sizes but at least you can continue using Aveda when travelling – and decant some Damage Remedy into the bottles when they’re empty!


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