The Many Faces of Nehemiah Persoff

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The great character actor Nehemiah Persoff, whose many roles included the mobster ‘Little Bonaparte’ in Some Like It Hot, has died at the grand old age of 102.

Nehemiah was born in Jerusalem in 1919. His parents had met as amateur actors fleeing the Jewish pogroms in Odessa, Ukraine for Israel. His father became a teacher and moved to New York, with the family joining him later. “This was 1929, close to the market crash that led to the Great Depression,” he wrote. “I hated this dirty place, Brooklyn … I cried myself to sleep for two years before I began to accept the fact that America was my new home.”

On the streets of Brooklyn, poverty and violence were commonplace, and the young Nehemiah – known to his friends as ‘Nicky’ – soon learned to fight back. “Actually, many of the so-called ‘lowlifes’ I knew were not bad guys at all,” he recalled. “They did what they did because that was the only way they could live. In playing gangsters later on, I always tried to find some good in them.” Continue reading

‘Dear Bobbybones’: Marilyn and Robert A. Miller

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Robert A. Miller, the film producer son of Arthur Miller, has died aged 74, as Billy Fried reports for the Laguna Beach Independent.

One of the privileges of hosting a radio talk show is getting to meet so many interesting personalities here in Laguna. But sometimes, serendipity reigns, and a fascinating person is plopped down right next door to you. Such was the case with Robert (Bob) Miller, who passed away on March 6, 2022, after a brief illness. It’s not easy being the son of anyone famous, let alone Arthur Miller, arguably America’s greatest playwright and third husband of Marilyn Monroe … You’d think these would be insurmountable odds for a normal life, but Bob was as humble, friendly and happy a guy as they come.

Robert Arthur Miller was born on May 31, 1947 in New York, to Arthur and his first wife, Mary Slattery, and their two-year-old daughter Jane. As Arthur Miller’s biographer, Martin Gottfried, wrote of this time, “Mary and Arthur had their bed in the living room while the master bedroom was used for ‘Junior,’ as Miller sometimes called him (at other times it was ‘Mister Robert’ after the current hit play) and the nurse … He certainly took to fatherhood, doting on little Jane while demonstrating a shamelessly conventional paternal pride in his infant son, regularly holding Robert in his arms and even feeding him.”

At the time, Arthur was enjoying his first Broadway success with All My Sons, which had opened in January. Two years later, his next play, Death of a Salesman, won the Pulitzer Prize. Mary, who had met Arthur in college, edited all of his early work and found Arthur his first publisher. Interviewed for the 2017 documentary, Arthur Miller – Writer, Robert recalled that his mother was “tough” and “spoke her mind.” He grew up in Brooklyn Heights, “back when the Dodgers were still there,” Billy Fried writes. “He would reminisce about walking the neighbourhood in summer and hearing the games broadcast out of every window, and always considered himself a Brooklyn boy at heart.” Continue reading

When Marilyn Met the Queen

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“Marilyn’s trip to England may have lasted just four months, but my journey with this book has endured for three decades,” Michelle Morgan writes in introduction to When Marilyn Met the Queen. She first began research in 1992, but was unable to find a publisher. Since then, she has written several books about Monroe, including the biography, Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed, and two other books focusing on specific periods of Monroe’s life (Before Marilyn, exploring her early days as a model; and The Girl, covering the years before Marilyn came to England, and her rebellion against the Hollywood studio system.) 

“I now know why I had to wait thirty years for this book to happen,” Michelle reflects. “I would not have had the skill, resources or experience to handle such a massive project … the time has finally come to tell the England story.” The Prince and the Showgirl is one of Marilyn’s most neglected films, remembered chiefly as the backdrop to her turbulent relationship with director and co-star Sir Laurence Olivier, and with little consideration of her achievements as a star producer, or her cultural impact on England at the time. “This book is not just about Marilyn’s experience of Britain,” the Northamptonshire-based author explains. “It is also about Britain’s experience of Marilyn.” Continue reading

Madonna and the Breakfast Club

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“I have been a fan of Madonna from the first time I saw her perform at a small suburban night club called Images on Long Island back in 1983. She was something otherworldly to me … I was mesmerised by her beauty, her bravado and her unique street vibe.”

Talking to fellow Madonna devotee Matthew Rettenmund on his Boyculture blog, make-up artist turned indie filmmaker Guy Guido revealed the encounter behind his first short, Physical Attraction (2015.) Named after a track from her first album—as performed by tribute artist Lorelei Prince—this 19-minute piece stars Jake Robbins as Jared, whose growing obsession with Madonna leads him to drag long-suffering girlfriend Stacey (Raquel Castro) along to a New York nightspot where his idol is throwing an after-party during her Virgin Tour of 1985. Although he fails to make an impression on Madonna, Jared will have a life-changing encounter that evening. An affectionate homage to the teen films of the 1980s, awash in day-glo and pastels, Physical Attraction has a fairy-tale quality inspired by the magic of Madonna.

For his first feature-length movie, Emmy and the Breakfast Club—the erstwhile Emmy would later be renamed for brand recognition—Guido interviewed key players from Madonna’s early years, including her first band. Their memories are interspliced with reconstructed scenes from the same era, featuring a cast of new faces led by 20-year-old Jamie Auld. “He discovered me behind the counter at Doughnut Plant,” Jamie told Windy City Times. “I know it sounds phony, because Madonna apparently also worked at a doughnut shop when she first came to NYC, but it’s the truth. When Guy first noticed me and inquired if anyone had ever asked me if I looked like Madonna, I just laughed it off.”

“What struck me first was the structure of her face, the jawline, the profile, the cheekbones and especially her nose,” Guido explained. “She was busy working and looking down, but I remember thinking, ‘Please have blue eyes, please have blue eyes.’ Then she looked up, and—lo and behold—I knew I had found my girl.” Madonna’s rise to fame has previously been dramatized in a made-for-TV movie, Innocence Lost, not to mention countless documentaries, but these have mostly been sensationalised, and often misogynistic—resting on what Guido described to Digital Journal as the “misconception that Madonna was a talentless girl who used her sexuality to get herself a record deal.”

Continue reading

The Actress and the Goddess: Joan Copeland and Marilyn

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Joan Maxine Miller was born to Augusta Barnett, a schoolteacher and housewife, and Isidore Miller, a Polish immigrant and clothing manufacturer, in Manhattan in 1922. She was their youngest child and only daughter, joining her older brothers, nine-year-old Kermit and six-year-old Arthur. While Arthur was his mother’s favourite, Isidore doted on little Joan. “After waiting so long for a girl,” she recalled, “there I was, this pretty angel … I was like a doll.” Continue reading