A multitude of problems began with the filming of Something’s Got to Give. Marilyn’s legendary lateness had become unbearable for her her co-workers, director and producers. Her difficult behaviour, absenteeism and late arrivals were probably the worst on SGTG than any other film. Out of 33 days of filming, Marilyn was present for 21. The rest of the time she claimed to be ill, specifically with “sinitus”. It annoyed her that she wasn’t allowed to be sick but studio executives were, at least that was Marilyn’s perspective. Whenever she arrived on set, Marilyn looked beautiful. She was alert but as usual, her lines were difficult and many takes had to be made to finish even a short scene. Paula Strasberg, every director’s worst nightmare on the set of a Monroe film, was in tow. She coached Marilyn about how to act in her scenes, even insisting how many takes Marilyn needed in order to complete a scene to her satisfaction. Marilyn paid Strasberg a great amount of money yet she regarded Strasberg as some sort of guru, essential to her performance and in her private life, her happiness. Yet people around Marilyn could see Strasberg wasn’t truly a friend; she was paid to accompany Marilyn onto the set. About Marilyn’s absenteeism, Strasberg never released a statement.
In morbid hindsight, it was almost a premonition that Marilyn’s role was that of a wife who was lost at sea on a deserted island and when she was rescued returned home to discover she had been declared legally dead. Lost at sea. Alone on a desert island. Legally dead. These creepy metaphors would become all to real in the following weeks.
In the middle of filming, Marilyn unwisely departed for two days from Los Angeles to travel to New York City in what would become known as The Night of the Tight Dress, to sing happy birthday to JFK at Madison Square Gardens. Fox producers watched the stunning blonde in her tight, sequinned gown, and decided to fire Marilyn upon her return. Angry more than distraught, Marilyn didn’t respond to the studio. She did however began a personal campaign of photo shoots, and a tell-all interview with Richard Meryman from Life Magazine, giving Fox the message that she didn’t need the studio in order to be Marilyn Monroe. Although no one could know it at the time, when Marilyn posed for photographs with Bert Stein it would become known as The Last Sitting. Similarly, her interview with Meryman would soon become known as The Last Interview. When Marilyn chatted about the trip to Madison Square she flippantly said “I was honoured when they asked me to sing at Madison Square Garden,” she said coyly. Marilyn said nothing else about the event or the President and Meryman didn’t push her.
Marilyn explained to Meryman why Fox had fired her. She didn’t take responsibility for her own actions and she didn’t explain the number of no-shows she’d pulled on the set of SGTG, except to say she’d had a cold. “If you have a cold, how dare you have a cold?” she said sarcastically in the interview more than once. She complained that studio executives could have a cold and stay home but she, a celebrity, could not.“I’ve never lost sight of the fact that i was not at the studio at any time for discipline, or to be disciplined,” she emphasized carefully. In other words, as bad as her actions were they weren’t bad enough to answer to the executives. That seemed to satisfy Marilyn that her lateness and absenteeism was not as extreme as the studio professed it to be.However George Cukor, frustrated about Marilyn’s absenteeism and her performance at Madison Square Garden informed one of the most notorious gossip columnists of the time, Hedda Hopper, that Marilyn was about to be fired. Cukor must indeed have been irate about his star: Hopper was known to have ended actor’s careers by writing scandalous and scathing reviews.
Most of Marilyn’s interview was about fame; Marilyn’s attempt to keep it and her fear of losing it. She professed the opposite, but the stress in her voice belied her words.“It’s certainly a
temporary and impartial happiness. I’m not calling myself an orphan but I was brought up a waif. I didn’t like the world around me too much ’cause it’s kinda grim.I just felt like I was on the outside of the world then suddenly everything opened up. I thought “gee, what happened?” The world became friendly. It opened up to me.”
The world opened up to the lonely orphan when she reached young womanhood and began wearing makeup and styling her hair. Soon Marilyn would be leaving young womanhood behind and the world would be closing its door again. Doubtless this was another concern for the gorgeous star. Her fame and her movies were based solely on her beauty. The public didn’t care for her ambition to be a “serious, dramatic actress,” and had made that clear during her last two movies.Where did that leave her? An aging goddess playing a bubbly shadow of her former self? It would be only four quick years before the girl with the fly-away skirt would turn 40.By then Fox would stop knocking on her door.Marilyn was an intelligent woman. She knew this and that was one of the motives for her long conversation with Meryman about fame.
Meryman stated “she had that wild laugh, sort of a trademark. but in the interview it seemed to come out at odd moments, out of place.Marilyn felt she never had respect from the Hollywood studios” For her part, Marilyn declared, “The studios always said remember one thing you’re not a star!” (a strange laugh). Marilyn also talked wryly about the press. “They had delivered the audience to her but she still didn’t trust them,” Meryman stated. “That’s why she wanted my questions in advance and clearance of the final story. Of course she loved the attention of the press but she hated being mobbed by reporters and photographers every time she came out in public.” Marilyn once stated, “you do want to stay intact!”
“Late in the interview Marilyn began to drink and the more she drank the more angry and defensive she became about her treatment by Hollywood and the studios for 15 years,” Meryman said.“To me she was like a record stuck in a groove.She felt they’d never treated her like a star. “The public would be quite disillusioned about the way the industry treats its stars,” Marilyn continued.”I remember when I got the part in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, I couldn’t get a dressing room. I said “look! After all I am the blonde! And it is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes! Because they always kept saying ‘remember you’re not a star!’ And I says well whatever I am, I am the blonde!” (a cackling laugh).
“You once read about me where some actor said kissing me was like kissing Hitler,” Marilyn stated. “Well I think that’s, you know, his problem.And if I really have to do intimate love scenes with an individual (Tony Curtis) who really has these kind of feeling towards me … out with him, in with somebody else. Put somebody else there, not him.” Brave words from a woman who dissolved into tears upon hearing the remark.
Decades later, “some actor”, Tony Curtis, would pen a memoir called The Making of Some Like It Hot, My Memories of Marilyn, in an effort to generate money (it’s always about the bucks). He would claim that he and Marilyn had a torrid affair during the filming of Some Like it Hot. Seriously. Curtis must have enjoyed kissing Hitler more than he mentioned in the 1950s. Curtis went so far in his memoir as to claim that Marilyn became pregnant with his baby, but miscarried during the making of the film. He also explained the context of his Hitler remark: “Someone said to me, ‘Hey, what’s it like kissing Marilyn?’ I said, ‘It’s like kissing Hitler. What are you doing asking me such a stupid question?’ That’s where it came from.” If that’s the case then Curtis was misquoted, causing his vulnerable co-star to unnecessarily carry a painful memory with her for the rest of her career.
As far as Marilyn’s pregnancy I don’t believe for a minute that Curtis was the father. I believe Marilyn did became pregnant while filming SLIH but I believe the baby belonged to Arthur Miller. She and Miller had been trying to have a baby and it made sense this could happen during filming. However if Marilyn truly had a sexual relationship with Curtis, it would have been quite sensible to use birth control to prevent pregnancy, which I’m certain Marilyn would have done. She didn’t want Curtis’ baby. She wanted her husband’s. Both stars were married at the time of the so-called pregnancy: he to Janet Leigh (the mother of Jamie Lee Curtis) and she to Miller.
In his memoir, Curtis claimed it was when they were admitting their affair to Miller that Monroe broke the news of her pregnancy. “I was stunned,” Curtis wrote. “I just stood there. The room was so silent that I could hear tires screeching on Santa Monica Boulevard.” Curtis says he was told to finish the film and stay away from Miller and Marilyn, and it was only after filming had finished that he learned of Marilyn’s miscarriage. Marilyn was known to tell stories and especially those that shocked people. It was the actress in her. She openly admitted to Richard Meryman that truth was inconsequential to her. “Sometimes I have to exaggerate to explain myself,” she stated. Could it be that Marilyn did indeed tell Miller and Curtis she was pregnant with Curtis’ child because they were having an affair? Considering Curtis’ many complaints about Marilyn’s work habits and his scornful attitude towards her, I have my doubts.
“Less than three weeks after her trip to Madison Square Garden, Marilyn was fired from the movie. To Fox Madison Square Garden was the last straw she had been absent 21 of 33 shooting days and to them she was obviously unstable and falling apart” Meryman recalled.She continued to paint herself as the victim.” “Fame is also a burden. An industry shouldn’t behave like a mother whose child has run out in front of a car so what do they do with the child? Instead of clasping the child to them they start beating up on the child.” Marilyn reverted to her painful past when comparing her studio and her industry as a “lover” or a “parent”, a strange analogy. Perhaps arriving late on the set and being absent was her childish way of testing the studio, like a child pushing its parent, to see how far she could stretch boundaries. Of fame she concluded with “I told you it was fickle!” (an odd laugh).The real reason behind Marilyn’s anger surfaced as the interview with Meryman came to an end. “But please don’t make me look like a joke! (a strange laugh). “Those were the last words she said to me,” Meryman mused.
If Fox’s treatment of her was a sore point of contention with Marilyn, in yet another irony in her life she would soon gain a strong foothold in her struggle against her employer. Just prior to the interview, Fox had re-hired Marilyn. Dean Martin refused to make the film without her and although Fox suspended him, he refused to budge.The studio admitted it had to acquiesce to Marilyn’s demands and they did. She set out a number of conditions under which she would work and they willingly welcomed their star back into the fold, rather like a mother clasping its child. Within three days of the Meryman interview however, Marilyn would be dead, the victim of an apparent drug overdose. Something had to give and sadly, it was Marilyn Monroe.