Blonde

Marilyn Monroe: The End (Dead Blondes Episode 8) by Karina Longworth

Marilyn Monroe by Bert Stern, 1962

Marilyn Monroe by Bert Stern, 1962

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How did a star whose persona seemed to be all about childlike joy and eternally vibrant sexuality die, single and childless, at the age of 36? In fact, the circumstances of Marilyn Monroe’s death are confusing and disputed. In this episode we will explore the last five years of her life, including the demise of her relationship with Arthur Miller, the troubled making of The Misfits, and Marilyn’s aborted final film, and try to sort out the various facts and conspiracy theories surrounding her death.

Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot, 1959

Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot, 1959

Credits:

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Special guest appearance by Rian Johnson as John Huston. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Marilyn Monroe: The Persona (Dead Blondes Episode 7) by Karina Longworth

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How did Marilyn Monroe become the most iconic blonde of the 1950s, if not the century? Today we will trace how her image was created and developed, through her leading roles in movies and her featured coverage in the press, looking specifically at the ways in which Monroe’s on-screen persona took shape during the height of her career.  We’ll pay special attention to the films Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, and Bus Stop, and the struggles behind the scenes of Seven Year Itch and The Prince and the Showgirl.

Marilyn Monroe in  How to Marry a Millionaire  

Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire 

Marilyn Monroe,  The Seven Year Itch  

Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch 

Carole Landis (Dead Blondes Episode 5) by Karina Longworth

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Carole Landis was a gifted comedienne, a decent singer, and -- once she dyed her natural brown hair blonde -- perhaps the most luminous beauty in movies of the early 1940s. Plus, she was one of the most dedicated USO performers of WWII, and her elopement with an Air Force pilot on her travels became the inspiration for a book, movie and long running tabloid narrative. But then Landis fell into an affair with Rex Harrison -- and this affair turned out to be Landis’ last.

Carole Landis with World War II troops 

Carole Landis with World War II troops 

Show notes:

Sources specific to this episode:

Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl, by Eric Gans

Fatal Charm: The Life of Rex Harrison, by Alexander Walker

Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley, by Jeffrey Spivak

Lovely Me: The Life of Jacqueline Susann, by Barbara Seaman

This is the issue of TIME Magazine mentioned in the intro.

The book containing the claims about Pat DeCicco’s violent involvement in Carole Landis’ changed nose is Carole Landis: A Tragic Life In Hollywood by EJ Fleming. Other than citing this one specious claim, I did not use this book as a source precisely because Fleming has a tendency to phrase conjecture as though it is fact. 

Credits:

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Rex Harrison and Carole Landis

Rex Harrison and Carole Landis

Veronica Lake (Dead Blondes Episode 4) by Karina Longworth

Veronica Lake by George Hurrell, c. 1942 

Veronica Lake by George Hurrell, c. 1942 

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Veronica Lake had the most famous hairdo of the 1940s, if not the twentieth century. Her star turn in Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels and her noir pairings with Alan Ladd made her Paramount’s biggest wartime draw behind Hope and Crosby, but behind the scenes, Lake was a loner with a drinking problem who didn’t give an F about Hollywood etiquette. Bankrupt and without a studio contract, in the early 1950s she consciously quit movies. She claimed she left Hollywood to save her own life -- so how did she end up dead at 50?

Veronica Lake, publicity shot for  I Wanted Wings,  1941.

Veronica Lake, publicity shot for I Wanted Wings, 1941.

Show notes:

Sources specific to this episode:

In researching this podcast, I always try to approach my sources with due skepticism, and in choosing details to include in these episodes, I’m very careful to note facts that are disputed or reported differently by different sources. If I have any doubt about whether or not an incident really occurred, I’m either transparent about my doubt, or I just won’t include it in the episode. In the case of Veronica Lake, there are only two books available to use as biographical sources: there’s Lake’s autobiography, Veronica, which was ghost-written and authorized by a woman who was penniless and whose life was dominated by the alcoholism that would soon kill her; and a book called Peekaboo by Jeff Lenberg, which uses as a main source Veronica’s mother, with whom she had an extremely combative relationship. This latter book, at least in the edition I purchased, is rife with typographical errors, and is also without footnotes or a section on sources. If I were to recommend either of these books, I would have to go with Veronica; unfortunately it is out of print, the copies on the open market are quite expensive, and it seems that the two copies once held by the Los Angeles Public Library system have gone missing.

It would be a stretch to call it a "source," but my understanding of the psychiatric landscape and the potential life of treatment awaiting the mentally ill in the mid-20th century was informed by Luke Dittrich's riveting Patient H. M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets.

Other sources:

Between Flops by James Curtis

“How to get Brie Larson’s Veronica Lake Hair” by Kathryn Romeyn, The Hollywood Reporter, January 9, 2017

“The Sad Tragic Fate Of Veronica Lake” by Dick Siegel, National Enquirer, January 22, 2015

“Working Toward Veronica Lake” by Laura Holson, New York Times, January 7, 2009

“Lake: To Work . . . and to Live” by Bill Gale, New York Times, August 24, 1969

“Spoonful of Ashes Inspires Town to Recall the Veronica Lake Look” by By Corey Kilgannon and Janon Fisher, New York Times, October 17, 2004

Veronica Lake Biography, Turner Classic Movies, TCM.com

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets by Luke Dittrich 

Credits:

This episode was edited by Sam Dingman, and produced by Karina Longworth with the assistance of Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.

Veronica Lake at Paramount Studios, early 1970's 

Veronica Lake at Paramount Studios, early 1970's 

Jean Harlow (Dead Blondes Flashback) by Karina Longworth

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Jean Harlow was the top blonde of the 1930s, and even though she didn’t survive the decade -- she died in 1937 at the age of 26 -- she’d inspire a generation of would-be platinum-haired bombshell stars. Today we revisit our 2015 episode on Harlow, to set the stage for the relentless forward march of Dead Blondes through the Twentieth Century.

This episode originally debuted in October 2015. The original show notes for this episode can be found here