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.”

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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

Peter Bogdanovich: From Marilyn’s Classmate to Hollywood Auteur

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Peter Bogdanovich, the filmmaker, actor and historian, has died of natural causes at home in Los Angeles, aged 82. He was born in Kingston, New York in 1939, to immigrant parents who had recently fled Nazi-occupied Europe. Herma, his mother, was an Austrian-born Jew; while his father Borislav, a painter and pianist, was a Serbian Orthodox Christian. Peter attended classes at the Actors Studio as a teenager, and later studied acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory. Continue reading

2021: A Year in Books

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Among all the great new writing and reissues I’ve found this year, it’s clear that the world of books, like film, is becoming ever more diverse and we are all richer for it. After a long absence, Gayl Jones returned with the monumental Palmares, following a woman’s epic journey from slavery to an embattled free settlement and beyond. Set in 17th century Brazil, this story contains multitudes, offering an extraordinary meditation on the cost of freedom. Continue reading