Marilyn Monroe on her childhood: “As I grew older I knew I was different from other children because there were no kisses or promises in my life. … I would try to cheer myself up with daydreams. I never dreamed of anyone loving me as I saw other children loved. That was too big a stretch for my imagination. I compromised by dreaming of attracting someone’s attention (besides God), of having people look at me and say my name.”
I put this together last year and liked it so much I decided to run it twice. ; )
For what would have been Marilyn Monroe’s
86th 87th birthday (she was born on June 1, 1926), I’ve compiled quotations from her and about her. If you have a favorite quotation from or about MM, please send it and I will add it to the list. I have credited the photographers wherever possible; copyright of all photos belongs to the photographers and/or their estates/representatives.
FROM MARILYN …
“The real lover is the man who can thrill you by touching your head or smiling into your eyes or just staring into space.”
“I love champagne – just give me champagne and good food, and I’m in heaven and love.”
“The body is meant to be seen, not all covered up.”
“Sex is part of nature. I go along with nature.”
“My illusions didn’t have anything to do with being a fine actress, I knew how third rate I was. I could actually feel my lack of talent, as if it were cheap clothes I was wearing inside. But, my God, how I wanted to learn, to change, to improve!”
“I don’t mind living in a man’s world as long as I can be a woman in it.”
“Husbands are chiefly good as lovers when they are betraying their wives.”
“People had a habit of looking at me as if I were some kind of mirror instead of a person. They didn’t see me, they saw their own lewd thoughts, then they white-masked themselves by calling me the lewd one.”
“All the men I know are spending the day with their wives and families, and all the stores in Los Angeles are closed. You can’t wander through looking at all the pretty clothes and pretending to buy something.” – on why she hated Sundays
“Everyone’s just laughing at me. I hate it. Big breasts, big ass, big deal. Can’t I be anything else? Gee, how long can you be sexy?”
“Looking back, I guess I used to play-act all the time [as a child]. For one thing, it meant I could live in a more interesting world than the one around me.”
“No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl. All little girls should be told they’re pretty, even if they aren’t.”
“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
“My problem is that I drive myself … I’m trying to become an artist, and to be true, and sometimes I feel I’m on the verge of craziness. I’m just trying to get the truest part of myself out, and it’s very hard. There are times when I think, ‘All I have to be is true.’ But sometimes it doesn’t come out so easily. I always have this secret feeling that I’m really a fake or something, a phony.”
“Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.”
ABOUT MARILYN …
“Our marriage was a good marriage … it’s seldom a man gets a bride like Marilyn. I wonder if she’s forgotten how much in love we really were.” – Jim Dougherty talking to Photoplay magazine, 1953; they were married from 1942-46.
“It’s like a good double-play combination. It’s just a matter of two people meeting and something clicks.” – Joe DiMaggio; he was married to Marilyn from Jan. 14, 1954 to Oct. 27, 1954
“She was a whirling light to me then, all paradox and enticing mystery, street-tough one moment, then lifted by a lyrical and poetic sensibility that few retain past early adolescence. …
“She had no common sense, but what she did have was something holier, a long-reaching vision of which she herself was only fitfully aware: humans were all need, all wound. What she wanted most was not to be judged but to win recognition from a sentimentally cruel profession, and from men blinded to her humanity by her perfect beauty. She was part queen, part waif, sometimes on her knees before her own body and sometimes despairing because of it. …
“To have survived, she would have had to be either more cynical or even further from reality than she was. Instead, she was a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes.” – Arthur Miller, her husband from 1956-61
“There’s a beautiful blonde name of Marilyn Monroe who makes the most of her footage.” xxxxx– Liza Wilson of Photoplay magazine, writing about “The Asphalt Jungle,” 1950
She was, “a female spurt of wit and sensitive energy who could hang like a sloth for days in a muddy-mooded coma; a child girl, yet an actress to loose a riot by dropping her glove at a premiere; a fountain of charm and a dreary bore … she was certainly more than the silver witch of us all.” – Norman Mailer
‘‘From families that owned little but their own good names, she had inherited the fierce pride of the poor. Because she was sometimes forced to give in, to sell herself partially, she was all the more fearful of being bought totally.’’ – Gloria Steinem
“She deeply wanted reassurance of her worth, yet she respected the men who scorned her, because their estimate of her was her own.” – Elia Kazan
“All the sex symbols were endowed with a large portion of earthy coarseness. Marilyn had the most. … Only an inherent whore could walk like Marilyn and dress like Marilyn. … She had a trick of making all men feel she could be in love with them and I think she could be, a sort of saving each one for a rainy day, for when things would get tough again in her life and she would need help. … I saw the hope and the disappointments. The longing to give what the people wanted and, at the same time, to become a complete person herself. She was also selfish, rude, thoughtless, completely self-centered. She kept people waiting for hours.” – Hollywood columnist Sheilah Graham
“The luminosity of that face! There has never been a woman with such voltage on the screen, with the exception of Garbo. … She was an absolute genius as a comic actress, with an extraordinary sense for comic dialogue. … Nobody else is in that orbit; everyone else is earthbound by comparison.” – Billy Wilder
“If she’d been dumber, she’d have been happier.” – Shelley Winters
“Everything Marilyn does is different from any other woman, strange and exciting, from the way she talks to the way she uses that magnificent torso.” – Clark Gable, her co-star of 1961’s “The Misfits,” about which he said: “This is the best picture I have made and it’s the only time I’ve been able to act.
“Her mixture of wide-eyed wonder and cuddly drugged sexiness seemed to get to just about every male; she turned on even homosexual men. And women couldn’t take her seriously enough to be indignant; she was funny and impulsive in a way that made people feel protective. She was a little knocked out; her face looked as if, when nobody was paying attention to her, it would go utterly slack – as if she died between wolf calls.” – Pauline Kael
“What I particularly liked about Marilyn was that she didn’t act like a movie star. She was down to earth. Although she was 28, she looked and acted like a teenager. … I was most impressed that Marilyn was always polite and friendly to everyone on the set. She was no phony or snob. … Marilyn always seemed determined to talk to me about her childhood. We would be discussing a subject of current interest to her and she would somehow bring up an incident from her bygone days.” – Photographer George Barris
“I liked her. She was a good kid. But when you looked into her eyes, there was nothing there. No warmth. No life. It was all illusion. She looked great on film, yeah. But in person … she was a ghost.” – Dean Martin, her co-star in 1962’s (unfinished) “Something’s Got to Give”
“Nobody could be as miserable as she was in such a loving, good-natured way. No matter how sad she may have been, she was never mean, never lashed out at me. Instead she just wanted to hug me and have me hug her and tell her it was all going to work out. That it didn’t, broke my heart.” – George Jacobs, who was Frank Sinatra’s valet
“Marilyn Monroe was a legend. In her lifetime she created a myth of what a poor girl from a deprived background could attain. For the entire world she became a symbol of the eternal feminine.” – Lee Strasberg in his eulogy
To celebrate Marilyn Monroe’s birthday, on Saturday, June 1, Cinespia.org will present “Some Like It Hot” (1959, Billy Wilder) at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Though the film is considered one of Tinseltown’s all-time best comedies, Marilyn reportedly objected to the fact that her character, Sugar Kane, actually believed her fellow musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon dressed in drag) were women. No girl is that dumb, she said. Nevertheless, the movie was a hit and her performance is unforgettable. You can read Mike Wilmington’s review here.
From Marie Windsor’s character in “The Killing” telling her wounded husband (played by Elisha Cook, Jr.) to cab to the hospital because she doesn’t feel like calling an ambulance to Grace Kelly fending off her attacker and foiling the eponymous plot in “Dial M for Murder,” on-screen femmes fatales claimed their power at the TCM Classic Film Festival April 25-28 in Hollywood.
The film noir slate was particularly rich as was the experience of seeing these film on the big screen – the lighting, the compositions, the close-ups all popped in a way that just doesn’t happen when you watch these titles on TV. Additionally, the festival does a splendid job of finding guests to introduce the films.
At Thursday’s screening of “The Killing,” actress Coleen Gray shared memories of working with director Stanley Kubrick on what would turn out to be his break-though movie. “I knew he was good,” she said. “The cast is wonderful. The story, the director and the actors are in tune. And look at the cutting – it was cut to create a masterpiece. You go and see it and you bow to Mr. Kubrick.” She added that Kubrick spent much of his directorial energy working with Marie Windsor on her hard-as-nails dame Sherry Peatty.
Fans of Ms. Windsor’s got another chance to connect with her at Friday’s screening of “The Narrow Margin.” The special guest was actress Jacqueline White. Also during that time slot producer Stanley Rubin reminisced about Marilyn Monroe, Robert Mitchum and Otto Preminger before a showing of 1954’s “River of No Return,” a stunning example of CinemaScope’s capabilities.
“[Marilyn] and Otto didn’t like each other and so we became very friendly. She was a perfect lady,” he said, adding that she was friendly and professional with Mitchum as well.
Watching Monroe and Mitchum, at the height of their physical radiance in this picture, ignited in me a newfound passion for Westerns. (Believe me, this is quite a feat.)
It’s always a toss-up when deciding between a beloved classic and a little-screened rarity. We at FNB decided to mix it up a little and forgo “Notorious,” which I often liken to a glass of Veuve Clicquot, for the chance to see a 1956 Jean Gabin black comedy “La Traversée de Paris.” Gabin is always good, but the film is uneven, without much tension or humor, a bit like a flabby claret.
A much better rare treat was the definitive British film noir “It Always Rains on Sunday,” (1947, Robert Hamer), set in London’s East End, featuring a Jewish family and starring John McCallum as prison escapee Tommy Swann and tough yet oddly dainty Googie Withers as his ex-gf. The Film Noir Foundation’s Eddie Muller introduced the film, noting that it was less a crime flick than an effective portrayal of the plight of the poor and downtrodden.
We watched this with our friend Debra Levine of artsmeme.com. Our verdict: It’s a good, engaging film but what makes it great is the sleek, striking cinematography. “Tommy made some poor choices,” Ms. Levine overheard someone saying as we left the theater. Aah, but we all know that “choice” is but a futile joke in the world of film noir!
Another Friday highlight: the lovely and gracious Eva Marie Saint discussing “On the Waterfront.”
The next morning, early birds were rewarded with a talk by Polly Bergen at the screening of “Cape Fear,” one of Robert Mitchum’s most menacing roles. Later-risers could head to the Egyptian Theatre for the West Coast restoration premiere of 1929’s “The Donovan Affair” with live actors (from Bruce Goldstein and company) and sound effects to recreate the lost soundtrack.
Next up was a film noir must-see: “They Live by Night” (1949, Nicholas Ray), the quintessential young-lovers-on-the-run story, with an appearance by his widow Susan Ray and introduction by Eddie Muller. Commenting on Ray’s exploratory directing style, she said: “He did not go in with a preconceived idea of what should happen in a scene. He would set it up, light a fuse and watch. He would prod or provoke if necessary. He didn’t impose truth, he looked for it.”
And on Ray’s interest in telling the stories of young people, often loners or societal outcasts, she noted: “He saw the juice, potential, openness and flexibility of youth and he loved it.” Nick Ray’s gift as a visual poet is never more apparent than when you see “They Live by Night” on the big screen.
Continuing the noir mood was “Tall Target” (1951, Anthony Mann), a period noir, starring Dick Powell, Paula Raymond and Ruby Dee, based on an actual plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln before he could take the oath office in 1861. Film historian Donald Bogle gave an insightful introduction.
Then it was back to the Egyptian, where the line for “Mildred Pierce,” snaked down a busy side street of Hollywood Boulevard. Special guest actress Ann Blyth said of Joan Crawford, the film’s mega-star: “I have nothing but wonderful memories of her. She was kind to me during the making of the movie and she was kind to me for many years after.”
Popcorn, Coke, Raisinets and watching Crawford pull out all the shoulder-padded stops – what more could a noirista wish for?
Sunday morning kicked off with a choice between “Badlands,” “Gilda,” or sleeping in a bit and we hit snooze. Sorry. They don’t call me Lazy Legs for nothing. Our first movie was 1973’s “Scarecrow,” starring Al Pacino and Gene Hackman – it was one of the best and most resonant films we’ve seen in a long time. The acting is tremendous in this great-looking film, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Director Jerry Schatzberg discussed his work in a pre-film chat with Leonard Maltin.
Afterward, we managed to catch the very noirish “Safe in Hell” (1931, William Wellman), starring Dorothy Mackaill as a streetwise blonde who holds her own among a slew of unsavory men while she’s hiding out in the Caribbean. Donald Bogle introduced the movie and William Wellman, Jr. answered questions afterward.
A great way to wrap up the fest, before heading to the after-party at the Roosevelt Hotel, was a 3-D presentation of “Dial M for Murder.” Leonard Maltin and the always-entertaining actor-producer-director Norman Lloyd, 98, discussed 3-D and the working methods of Alfred Hitchcock. This Hitchcock gem, a perfect example of his subversive casting, is often underrated so we particularly enjoyed seeing it; we noticed that just about every seat was taken.
Hats off to TCM for another superb film festival! The staff does an excellent job running every aspect of this event and it is much appreciated.
Airing tonight: Kim Novak: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival. Taped at last year’s festival in Hollywood, this one-hour interview special kicks off a tribute night to Novak. Here, Michael Wilmington shares his appreciation for this actress.
My favorite Kim Novak line comes in “Pal Joey,” Columbia’s dubiously altered, shamefully bowdlerized but still entertaining adaptation of the great musical classic. Novak’s Linda English says to Frank Sinatra’s cabaret Casanova Joey Evans, in a girlish, amused, deliberately non-provocative voice, “You’re right. I do have a great shape. Confidentially, I’m stacked.”
Stacked she certainly was: a willowy but sumptuous blonde bombshell with short-cropped platinum hair and a 37-inch bosom that never knew a brassiere (“That’s right!” her “Vertigo” director Alfred Hitchcock once said tartly to François Truffaut. “She’s particularly proud of that!”)
Novak, born in 1933, was a Chicago railroad worker’s daughter and a natural beauty with haunting eyes and a vulnerable air, who became a movie star in her early twenties, with 1954’s film noir “Pushover” directed by her lover Richard Quine.
She then became a megastar with 1955’s “Picnic,” directed by the explosive Joshua Logan, in which – as playwright William Inge’s small-town Kansas princess Madge – Novak danced her way into the hearts and loins of William Holden’s ex-football star/drifter Hal, and many more of the males of a susceptible nation.
Her movies of course capitalize on the classic Novak image: a gorgeous fair-haired girl who’s a little troubled by her own long-legged, statuesque beauty, a bit hesitant about pushing herself forward, slinky and self-conscious, sometimes suspicious of men, a traffic-stopping but vulnerable glamour girl with brains and surprising sensitivity.
Like Marilyn Monroe, who often played it dumb, the real-life Novak was a reader. (Sinatra, one of her dates, wooed her with first editions, while Sammy Davis Jr. hit the jackpot in one of the more famous secret love affairs of the ’50s.)
By 1964, she was considered past her prime and, when she played Polly the Pistol, the girlish hooker (with the belly-button jewel and the requisite heart of gold) in Billy Wilder’s “Kiss Me, Stupid,” she shared in the movie’s lousy notices.
Today “Kiss Me” is rightly regarded as a flawed classic, and if original star Peter Sellers hadn’t had his heart attack and dropped out in mid shooting, we might see it as a masterpiece, as some of the French do (“Embrasse-moi, Idiote!”)
But maybe she was too much a creation of the ’50s, of the last fugitive years of the Golden Age, a kind of platinum blonde Jekyll and Hyde. Kim Novak could play it naïve and lower class, or tony and glamorous, and sometimes she played both in the same movie, as in her masterpiece, as Madeleine/Judy in Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”
She perhaps wasn’t a natural actress. She gave some awkward performances. But she was a natural-born star. Kim was one of the movie dream girls of my youth, and I still get a pang looking at her. Confidentially, she’s stacked.
A Raymond Chandler story, an all-star cast and a powerhouse director: ‘The Big Sleep’ works like a sexy dream
The Big Sleep/1946/Warner Bros. Pictures/114 min.
“The Big Sleep,” starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, is almost too much fun to be pure noir. Actually, it’s not pure in any way because under the thriller surface, it’s all about sex. The women in this movie especially are thinking a lot about the bedroom.
(That’s pretty much the case with most of the film noir canon, but this movie is an outstanding example.)
“The Big Sleep” was released in 1946, the year after World War II ended. Having been man-deprived for four long years while their guys were all over the globe fighting battles, all of a sudden, everywhere the ladies looked, Men, Glorious Men! For the vets, being welcomed home and hailed as heroes by women, who likely weren’t playing all that hard to get, was not too shabby a deal.
Based on the Raymond Chandler novel of the same name, “The Big Sleep” stars Humphrey Bogart as Chandler’s legendary private eye Philip Marlowe. Cynical, stubborn and streetwise, Marlowe is impervious to the trappings of wealth and power, though, given his line of work, he often finds himself dealing with the ultra rich. Marlowe flings sarcastic barbs as casually as they drop cash, even when his companions are slinky, sharp-tongued women, like spoiled society girl Vivian Sternwood Rutledge, played by Lauren Bacall.
Vivian’s Dad, a wise and way-old patriarch known as General Sternwood (Charles Waldron), has hired Marlowe to get a blackmailer named Joe Brody (Louis Jean Heydt) off his back and to track down a missing chum: Sean Regan (a character we never see onscreen).
Fueling Brody’s scheme are the, uh, antics of Sternwood’s other daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers), a sexy party girl who sucks her thumb and likes posing for cameras with very little on. Snapping the pics is seedy book dealer Arthur Gwynn Geiger (Theodore von Eltz), whose snippy clerk Agnes (Sonia Darrin), has, as her “protector,” feisty little Harry Jones, played by film noir’s number one patsy, Elisha Cook Jr.
That’s just one piece of a very complicated puzzle, full of false leads and red herrings, bad guys and blind alleys, and more plot twists than I can count. By the time Marlowe puts it all together, seven are dead. But the best part of the movie for me is the dry humor and that sexy subtext I was talking about. Even the title, “The Big Sleep,” referring to death, could be a play on the French phrase for sexual climax: “le petite morte” (the little death).
By the film’s end, Marlowe’s had propositions aplenty. For example, as Marlowe gathers info on Geiger, he strolls into the Acme Bookstore and meets a bespectacled brunette clerk(Dorothy Malone, later more famous as a blonde). They chat, she provides a description of Geiger, and Marlowe tells her she’d make a good cop. It starts to rain and he suggests they have a drink. Next thing you know, she removes her glasses, lets down her hair and says, “Looks like we’re closed for the rest of the afternoon.”
Then there’s the perky female cab driver who tells Marlowe to call her if he can use her again sometime. He asks: Day and night? Her answer: “Night’s better. I work during the day.”
Apparently, all Marlowe has to do is get out of bed in the morning to be inundated with offers to climb back in. Most importantly, of course, is Marlowe’s innuendo-heavy badinage with Vivian Sternwood. They’re attracted from the moment they meet and, with each subsequent encounter, they turn flirting and verbal sparring into an art form. Here’s a quickie (sorry, I couldn’t resist):
“You go too far, Marlowe,” says Vivian.
He replies: “Those are harsh words to throw at a man, especially when he’s walking out of your bedroom.”
Perhaps their most famous exchange occurs when they trade notes about horse-racing – with Vivian comparing Marlowe to a stallion.
Vivian: I’d say you don’t like to be rated. You like to get out in front, open up a lead, take a little breather in the backstretch, and then come home free.
Marlowe: You don’t like to be rated yourself.
Vivian: I haven’t met anyone yet that can do it. Any suggestions?
Marlowe: Well, I can’t tell till I’ve seen you over a distance of ground. You’ve got a touch of class, but, uh…I don’t know how – how far you can go.
Vivian: A lot depends on who’s in the saddle. Go ahead Marlowe, I like the way you work. In case you don’t know it, you’re doing all right.
Marlowe: There’s one thing I can’t figure out.
Vivian: What makes me run?
Vivian: I’ll give you a little hint. Sugar won’t work. It’s been tried.
The horsy banter was added after the 1945 version was completed and shown overseas to audiences of U.S. soldiers; several other changes were made for the 1946 stateside release. In the late 1990s, the original version of the movie turned up. Though the original made the plot points more clear, most critics and viewers prefer the altered (second) version.
Whichever version you prefer (both are available on the Warner Brothers DVD), “The Big Sleep” is full of all kinds of pleasure, thanks to director Howard Hawks, one of Hollywood’s greatest storytellers. Hawks was known for being a master of all genres, garnering great performances from stars like Bogart, John Wayne, Walter Brennan and Marilyn Monroe, and for perfecting the bromance, long before the term came into currency.
In “The Big Sleep,” the pace is brisk, the characters are richly drawn, there’s loads of action and the scenes with Bogart and Bacall truly sizzle. Though the cinematography by Sid Hickox doesn’t bear the expressionistic stamp of the more Germanic noir directors, the film certainly holds its own in terms of visual panache. And Max Steiner’s original music lends sonic verve.
Also brilliant, and not just for its subtext, is the screenplay by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman. The dialogue, much of which comes straight from Chandler’s novel, is both colorful and economical, as shown by this exchange between Gen. Sternwood and Marlowe:
Sternwood: You are looking, sir, at a very dull survival of a very gaudy life – crippled, paralyzed in both legs, very little I can eat, and my sleep is so near waking that it’s hardly worth the name. I seem to exist largely on heat, like a newborn spider. The orchids are an excuse for the heat. Do you like orchids?
Marlowe: Not particularly.
Sternwood: Nasty things. Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men, and their perfume has the rotten sweetness of corruption.
Flesh, perfume, sweetness and corruption permeate “The Big Sleep,” my favorite of Bogart and Bacall’s great noirs. (The others are “To Have and Have Not” 1944, also directed by Hawks, “Dark Passage” 1947, and “Key Largo” 1948.) What’s not to love, or at least lust after, for 114 minutes?
Too bad Lauren Bacall never made a guest appearance on “Sex and the City.” She could have taught Carrie and the girls a thing or two.
The Noir File: Marilyn, Jack and Tony: Still the best threesome in Billy Wilder’s classic ‘Some Like It Hot’
By Michael Wilmington & Film Noir Blonde
The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir, sort of noir and pre-noir on cable TV. All movies below are from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).
PICK OF THE WEEK
“Some Like It Hot” (1959, Billy Wilder). Saturday, March 2, 1:15 p.m. (10:15 a.m.)
The place: Chicago. The color: a film noirish black and white. The caliber: 45. The proof: 90. The time: 1929, the Capone Era and the Roaring Twenties, roaring their loudest. We’re watching “Some Like It Hot” and Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are playing Joe and Jerry: two talented but threadbare Chicago jazz musicians working in a speak-easy fronted as a funeral parlor. Joe, who plays saxophone, is a smoothie and a champ ladies’ man. Jerry is your classic Jack Lemmon schnook, with a couple of kinks thrown in.
After getting tossed out of their speak-easy band jobs by a police raid and accidentally witnessing the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (ordered by their ex-employer, George Raft as natty gangster Spats Colombo), they flee to Miami. They’re chased by the gangsters and the cops (Pat O’Brien as Detective Mulligan) but the guys are disguised as Josephine and Daphne, musicians in an all-female jazz orchestra.
The star of Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators, songbird and ukulele player Sugar Kane, is the Marilyn Monroe of our dreams. Sugar has a weakness for saxophone players. Josephine and Daphne have a weakness, period. Director Billy Wilder, who made lots of gay jokes in his time, deliberately keeps his two cross-dressing stars straight.
Read the full review here.
Wednesday, Feb. 27
Pegged to Friday’s release of “Gangster Squad,” Tere Tereba, author of “Mickey Cohen-the Life and Crimes Of L.A.’s Notorious Mobster,” will read and sign books at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 16 at Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood, 6644 Hollywood Blvd., 323-463-3273.
Tere will discuss Cohen and and his Hollywood connections, such as Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. She’ll also share rare photographs and talk about the real-life Gangster Squad.
Happy 2013, all! Here’s a look at FNB highlights from 2012.
Top 10 FNB posts (misc.)
Remembering Beth Short, the Black Dahlia, on the 65th anniversary of her death
TCM festival in Hollywood
Interview with Tere Tereba, author of “Mickey Cohen: The Life and Crimes of L.A.’s Notorious Mobster”
Marilyn Monroe birthday tribute
Marilyn Monroe exhibit in Hollywood
Film noir feline stars: The cat in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers”
Famous injuries in film noir, coinciding with my fractured toe, or broken foot, depending on how dramatic I am feeling
Panel event on author Georges Simenon with director William Friedkin
History Channel announcement: FNB to curate film noir shop page
Retro restaurant reviews: Russell’s in Pasadena
“Crossfire Hurricane” documentary
“Momo: The Sam Giancana Story” documentary
“Searching for Sugar Man” documentary
Tony Curtis, John Turturro and Rod Steiger portrayed him in TV dramas. He appears as a character in Norman Mailer’s historical fiction. His name pops up in rappers’ songs. His fame and power rivaled that of Al Capone. And, nearly 40 years after his death, Chicago born and bred mob leader Sam Giancana(1908-1975) continues to garner attention.
Lately, the public’s desire to know more has been sated on the big screen. “Momo: The Sam Giancana Story” has played at film festivals and won two awards – best doc at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival (which runs through Dec. 12) and the jury award for best doc at the Bel Air Film Fest in October.
Directed by Dimitri Logothetis, “Momo” was co-produced by Logothetis and Nicholas Celozzi, the grandnephew of Giancana. Logothetis and Celozzi have completed an episodic television project about Giancana and are scripting a new feature film as well.
Growing up in Giancana’s extended family meant tolerating a “controlled insanity,” said Celozzi in a recent phone interview. “It was high anxiety. There was a lot of whispering, some yelling, a lot of in and out. There were funerals. There was a lot of energy in that kitchen.
“But he took care of his family. If you needed money or advice, you went to him.”
Bright, ambitious and charismatic, Giancana (or Momo as he was nicknamed) is remembered as a standup father by his two daughters Bonnie and Francine, speaking on-camera about their father for the first time in 30 years. They clearly adored him. (Giancana’s eldest daughter Antoinette, who published 1984’s “Mafia Princess: Growing Up in Sam Giancana’s Family,” is not part of the film.)
He was also coldly lethal. “The thing that made him dangerous… was the willingness and ability to kill,” says FBI agent Ross Rice, one of many insiders featured in the doc, most of whom are longtime Chicagoans.
“Momo” explores Giancana’s impoverished childhood and bloody rise through the ranks of Chicago’s underworld (known as the Outfit), his alleged CIA connections (the filmmakers assert he was contracted to assassinate Fidel Castro), his influence in Hollywood and his relationships with Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, among others. The film also posits theories regarding Monroe’s death and the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Giancana liked the limelight and, after his wife Angeline died in 1954, he was romantically involved with singer Phyllis McGuire (of the McGuire Sisters). He courted her by making her gambling debt disappear. He was also reportedly linked with Monroe and Judith Campbell Exner, both of whom were widely believed to have had affairs with JFK. Giancana’s fondness for good times and headlines (anathema for the underworld) also contributed to his downfall. “His arrogance was his Achilles’ heel,” says Celozzi.
On the evening of June 19, 1975, in the kitchen of his Oak Park home, as Giancana was cooking sausage and peppers, likely for a dinner guest, he was shot multiple times. The filmmakers say they show “finally and irrefutably” who killed the storied gangster.
Some of the film’s arguments are more convincing than others and Francine’s wish that her father be remembered as a genuine, gentle person seems a little naïve. But what’s beyond doubt is that Giancana at the height of his “career” had immense power and throughout his life had a knack for making money, even after he alienated himself from the Outfit. Following his death, his stash was never located. Each year in June a rose mysteriously arrives at his grave.
“Momo: The Sam Giancana Story” will screen Friday, Dec. 7, at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival.