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A TGB READER STORY: Marilyn of My Young Dreams

By Barrie N. Levine who blogs at Into the 70s – 72 is the New 72

When I was a preteen in the 1950s, my cousin and I were fervent Marilyn Monroe fans. We subscribed to movie magazine - Photoplay and Modern Screen - with a feature on our favorite movie star in most every issue.

We made up scrapbooks and pasted in every possible picture and article we could find. When I visited my cousin in Philly, I always brought my updated scrapbook. We reviewed our new insertions immediately, and most seriously.

I also loved Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, the beautiful celebrity power couple of the time. In the spirit of today’s media name couplings, maybe they would have been known as “CurtLeigh.”

But Marilyn was my idol, bar none. I followed her life story and career faithfully. I can’t tell you how many times I saw her on the silver screen in the 1950s, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Jane Russell, How to Marry a Millionaire with Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall, The Seven Year Itch where she stood over a subway grate with her white skirt blowing, and with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in the perpetually hysterical Some Like it Hot.

The vibrant Technicolor productions brought the Hollywood experience to the Plaza Theater in my small New Jersey downtown. My allowance covered both the 50 cents admission and a box of Raisinets, the movie treat in those days along with Good & Plenty and Bonomo Turkish Taffy.

I decided to write to Marilyn Monroe herself at the Twentieth Century Fox movie studio to let her know I was a loyal fan and request an autographed picture.

On a day I will always remember, I arrived home from school to open a large envelope with a matte finish 8x10 black and white photo of Marilyn wearing a sparkling diamond necklace and leaning against a beautifully draped satin background. The personalized inscription in bright red ink read, “To Barrie, Warmest Regards, Marilyn Monroe.”

MarilynofmyYoungDreamsBarrieLevine

My mom gave me permission to place a long-distance telephone call to my cousin to share this amazing news. She could not wait for my next visit.

Fast forward to my adult life and an episode on Antiques Roadshow in 1999. A woman brought in the same exact photo of MM with the handwriting in red ink. The ephemera expert flipped out and said that Marilyn herself had used red ink, whereas the secretaries had used blue or black ink.

The appraiser estimated the value of the signed photo at $5,000!

I screeched, and then danced around the living room. I had saved the photo for more than 40 years, protected in a brushed gold wood frame worthy of the famous star.

Several years later, my internet research turned up information that the appraiser was mistaken. It was determined through archival research and handwriting analysis that the studio secretaries also signed for Marilyn in red.

Comparing my sample to verified signatures, I saw that the autograph on my photo came up short (it does have some value as a studio-signed fan photo, but only at a small fraction of an original).

My hopes to sell it to help pay a substantial portion of my daughter’s first year college tuition were dashed. But now I get to keep and treasure the photo - and the memory - of the sweet, sad and talented movie star I adored.

Rest in peace, Marilyn of my young dreams (1926—1962).

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]

Comments

My gosh, I sure enjoyed reading this. My mom (who passed 15 years ago) was a huge fan of 1950s Hollywood. She was especially fond of all things Marilyn Monroe & Liz Taylor, I'll never forget those Photoplay magazines always in the house (usually with Taylor & Richard Burton on the cover). Everytime one of their movies was on tv, Mom would sit myself & my sister down with her to watch it while she gave us the same backstories. Her 2 favorite films were ‘Some Like it Hot’ & ‘A Place in the Sun’, of course both are great films & everytime one is on I watch it again. I always will.

Anyway.. I’m sorry your red-signed photo was a studio signature, but it still makes for a great story and sweet memory. Thanks for sharing!

Yes, I guess Marilyn held much fascination for a lot of us! I remember a Life magazine cover of her. So exotic to me at age, maybe 12 or so! So unlike any women I'd ever seen or known, she seemed so vibrant and happy, and something else I liked but didn't understand. I confessed to my older sister that I liked her very much, to which my sister replied, "She's a slut." Without knowing for sure what that word meant, I knew, from my sister's tone, that it was very bad, and heatedly replied, "She is NOT!"

Thank you for your lovely story, and the memory jog.

Any photo of Marilyn, and sent 'by her' to a young fan, obviously carries value far in excess of any price quoted by an appraiser.

I remember writing letters to some movie stars asking for their photos but I don't remember to whom.
I slaved over the wording to make sure they knew how much I admired them. Years later I learned
that they seldom saw those letters. All they were interested in was how many they got. The more they got the more money their agents could ask for.

Wonderful story, thank you!
I didn't read Photoplay but did subscribe to TV/Radio Mirror for all the celebrity gossip & great photos. It was big on stories about the Lennon Sisters. I recall one photo of the heart- shaped swimming pool belonging to Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay, who were posed with wee baby Mariska. Every time I see the latter on L&O SVU, I think of her glam parents and how proud they would be of her today.

Enjoyed your recollection — so much we experience when we’re young that touch us throughout our life. I enjoyed “Some Like It Hot” heartedly laughing throughout, but basically tired of the dumb blond character, the only one she ever created as an actress in her other films, I thought. But we each connect with others in varying ways.

I recall as a young girl writing for a photo of some star at the time whose name I’ve long since forgotten. Instead of receiving a photo of that person, I was sent the picture of some other guy they were promoting at the time — Eddie Bracken, I think, but not anyone I cared about. I was surprised to receive that photo, then disappointment became anger they had sluffed me off. I never wrote again to any celebrity, had that much interest in any “stars” or popular magazines about them, then or today. I do enjoy, appreciate and value those performers of stage and screen who truly demonstrate ability to act in a more than one-dimensional way.

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