Thursday, 14 November 2013

Exclusive News - Thelma Todd Book!


Several weeks ago I promised you some exclusive news.  Well here I am, and at last I can finally tell you that I have just signed a contract with Chicago Review Press, to write my long-awaited book about Thelma Todd.  This is a huge deal for me because I have wanted to write the book for almost four years now.  It took a long time to get together a proposal that both myself and my agent were happy with, but finally last year we found the perfect words, and two months ago, Chicago Review Press made an offer to publish.  CRP are also the authors of the new book on Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, entitled 'Room 1219,' which has had fabulous reviews.  For this and many other reasons, I know that CRP are the perfect publisher for my Thelma book.

Provisionally titled '271 Steps: The Mysterious Life and Death of Thelma Todd', the book will chart Thelma's life from birth to death, and will include a special investigation into what I believe happened to her on that last, fateful evening.

I am hard at work on the research and writing of the book, and am currently looking for anyone who can help with rare documents, letters, photographs etc, and would love to hear from anyone in that regard.  Perhaps you know someone who owns something rare, or was related to Thelma in some way; or maybe you have a photo that you would like to share.  If that is you, I'd love to hear from you.  Just leave a message and your email address in the comments section, and I will get straight back to you. (please note that all comments are private until I approve them, so you can leave your email address in confidence that it won't be published here).

So that is my news, and I hope you are as excited about it as I am. You will see the finished product in December 2015, to coincide with the 80th anniversary of Thelma's passing.  It seems far away, but when you have 80,000 words to write before September 2014, it is actually quite close!  So I must get back to it, but look out for news and updates along the way towards publication.

Thanks for all your support!


Thursday, 31 October 2013

News!

Hello Everyone!

I just wanted to share some news with you all, about my forthcoming and current projects.....

First of all, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has bought my book, 'The Mammoth Book of Hollywood Scandals' so far.  The response has been very positive and I'm so glad that people are enjoying it.  One thing I'd like to address, are the publication dates, which are as follows:

UK (published by Constable & Robinson) - 17th October.
USA (published by Running Press) - 3rd December (though Amazon seems to have the Kindle version available now).

The rest of the world seems to be coming out at any time between those two dates, so if you can't find it straight away, please ask your local book shop and they'll be able to tell you when the book is out.  It is currently available in hundreds of Waterstones stores up and down the UK, and of course is on sale at Amazon, WH Smith etc.  I am absolutely thrilled with the way the book came out, and it makes a great Christmas present for anyone and everyone interested in scandals from the 1920s to the present day!

I'd also like to thank everyone who continues to buy the Marilyn biography, which is still selling well, over a year after publication.  It truly was a great honour for me to tell Marilyn's story in the updated book and so I'm glad people are enjoying it.

'Marilyn's Blue Book Days' is going well and I'm hoping to bring you some good news about that, some time next year.  In the meantime, please join the FaceBook page dedicated to the project:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/629269130427851/

I am currently working on a secret project which - when finished - should be huge!  It is one of the hardest, but most rewarding things I have worked on and I can't wait to share that news with you as soon as possible.  It won't be until next year, but believe me, if all goes well it will be worth the wait.

After the success of my V & A talk, I'm happy to say that I will probably be returning next summer, to talk about The Mammoth Book of Hollywood Scandals.  Watch this space for more details....

Lots of people have been asking me about the Carole Lombard book.  Well I am still writing it, but the focus has changed from a straight-forward biography, to what I  hope will be a beautiful coffee-table book.  My ideas changed after receiving a great many fabulous photos which need to be published in a glossy book in my opinion.  With that in mind, the search is on for a publisher who will be able to do this, and I will keep you up-to-date on all developments.

Finally, in a few weeks time I will be able to share some very, very exciting news about an upcoming project with you all.  For now my lips must remain sealed but I am ecstatically happy and will look forward to being able to tell you all about it soon....

I promise I will update the blog with more news soon.  Until then, please feel free to join my official page on FaceBook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/124973377514850/

Thanks everyone and Happy Halloween!!

Love
Michelle






Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Mammoth Book of Hollywood Scandals



I am thrilled that publication day is finally here for my new book, 'The Mammoth Book of Hollywood Scandals'.  I'm really excited to learn that Amazon seems to be re-stocking their supplies, after selling out of pre-ordered copies, and almost every Waterstones store in the UK is currently selling more than one copy of the book.

Some people have been asking me if I have plans to do some book signings.  I don't at the moment, but anything I do decide to do, will be reported here so please keep checking back.

Until then, thanks to everyone who has bought the book and I hope you enjoy it!!!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Marilyn's Blue Book Days

Astrid Franse, Michelle Morgan and Van Osch Film Produkties are proud to announce Marilyn’s Blue Book Days, (working title) comprising a book and documentary, celebrating Marilyn Monroe, the Blue Book Model Agency and agency boss Emmeline Snively. 

In 1945, Norma Jeane Dougherty walked into the Blue Book Model Agency and was immediately signed to their books.  From that moment on, her career went from being a little-known model to an International starlet, with her image gracing magazine covers around the world.  It wasn’t long before Norma Jeane was signed to Twentieth Century Fox, her name changed to Marilyn Monroe and her acting career began.  However, Marilyn still modelled occasionally for Blue Book and its associated photographers, and Miss Snively kept in touch with the young woman who the agency had catapulted into stardom.

When Marilyn sadly passed away in 1962, Miss Snively put her agency records into a storage box, where they stayed until Astrid and Ben Franse discovered them many years later.  The box was taken to the Netherlands, and the announcement in 2012 of what was found inside, created headlines around the world.  Eager to tell the story of Marilyn and Emmeline, Astrid has now begun work on the documentary project with film-makers Frank van Osch and Suzanne van Leendert, and the book with author Michelle Morgan.  The intention of both is simple: during her lifetime, Miss Snively tried to make the files into a book or film herself, so everyone is adamant that this project should be an extension of what Miss Snively began all those years ago.

The book and documentary are not biographies; they are instead a unique look into Marilyn’s early career in the 1940s, and her continuing relationship with the Blue Book Agency.  At the same time the projects will also give an insight into Emmeline herself; telling the fascinating story of how she played her part in creating a legend.  “If Miss Snively hadn’t been around, there would not have been a Marilyn,” says Astrid.  “She discovered her, she saw her potential.”

The book, Marilyn’s Blue Book Days will begin with Emmeline Snively discovering that her most famous client has passed away, and will then travel back in time to the early days of the agency, and of Marilyn Monroe’s early life and modelling career.  We will discover how she became a Blue Book Model in 1945; what Miss Snively thought of the young girl who walked into her office; and the modelling jobs and personal appearances she had during the years ahead.  The project will be a tribute to Marilyn, Emmeline, the agency itself, and the models who walked through its doors in search of fame and fortune.

There is a FaceBook page dedicated to the project, which all fans are very welcome to join.  You can join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/629269130427851/

For Archive and Exhibition queries, please contact Astrid Franse: astridfranse[at]Hotmail[dot]com.


For book queries, please contact Astrid Franse: astridfranse[at]Hotmail[dot]com and Michelle Morgan: Michelle[at]MichelleMorgan[dot]co[dot]uk

For documentary queries, please contact Suzanne van Leendert: Suzanne[at]vofprodukties[dot]tv


 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

News, news and more news....

Goodness, has it really been so long since I updated my blog?  Time flies by when you're having fun, and I can certainly say that I'm having lots of that!

I'm working on many projects at the moment (some I'm not allowed to talk about but believe me they are very exciting!) and here is some news about everything I'm up to:

1) The V and A talk was amazing and lots of people turned out to see me and have their books signed afterwards.  I'm really pleased about that and I'm happy to say that they have asked me back to do a talk about the Hollywood Scandals book!  My parents had a lovely time too and we all enjoyed a beautiful meal and a wander round London afterwards.  Here are a few photographs taken at the event....


 
 

2)  I'm happy to say that I'm in the process of having a play published.  It was written several years ago with Hollywood scriptwriter Steve Hayes, and will be available soon (more news on that later).  For now, take a look at the fun cover:

 
 
3) The Mammoth Book of Hollywood Scandals is going to be published in the UK in October and the USA in December.  I will be receiving my author copies next month (eek!!) so I will share my thoughts with you then.  I'm very excited about this book and can't wait until it is released.  I'm crossing my fingers that it becomes a bestseller like the Marilyn book did, so we will wait and see!
 
4)  Carole Lombard: Twentieth Century Star is still being worked on.  I must admit that for the past month I have not been able to do as much work as I had hoped (for reasons I will reveal soon!) but it is still on course to be finished in early 2014, with a summer 2014 release date.
 
 
I think that's about it for now but I promise to update you all on more news very soon.  Until then, have a very happy summer and thanks for your continued support!!
 
Love
Michelle


Friday, 24 May 2013

Marilyn Monroe - The Victoria and Albert Museum

Hello Everyone

I'm so sorry I haven't updated my blog in so long.  I have lots of work at the moment and promise to fill you in very soon. 

In the meantime, there are still some tickets left for my talk at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, on 6th June. If you would like to come, please check out the website attached and call the number to book your tickets... (You don't need to be a member). Thanks!! 

http://www.vam.ac.uk/whatson/event/2361/marilyn-monroe-private-and-undisclosed-3646/

Monday, 11 March 2013

The V & A

Tickets for my talk at the Victoria and Albert in June, go on sale today.  Tickets are mainly for members only, but I have arranged for some to be reserved for my readers.  If you would like to come and hear me speak, and then have refreshments/book signing afterwards, the website has all you need to know, as well as the telephone number to call.

Here is a link to their site:

 http://www.vam.ac.uk/whatson/event/2361/date/20130606/

Monday, 4 March 2013

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Ladies and Gentlemen, here is my big announcement....
 
On the afternoon of Thursday 6 June I will be appearing at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, to give a one hour talk about Marilyn and my book. It will be followed by refreshments and a book signing. Tickets are strictly for members of the museum only but I have arranged for a limited amount to be put aside for my friends and readers. Tickets go on sale next Monday and more information can be found by clicking the link below. I have known about this since last year, so it's lovely to be able to share it with you now! I hope to see some of you there!
 

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Hollywood Scandals

Ladies and Gentlemen.... Here is the cover for my book, The Mammoth Book of Hollywood Scandals, coming October 2013......

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Dale Robertson

I was really sad today, to hear the news of Dale Robertson's passing.  I interviewed him whilst writing the first edition of 'Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed' and he had nothing but the nicest things to say about Marilyn.  In addition to that, he was also extremely sweet to me when I spoke to him on the telephone, and it was an absolute honour for me to interview him.
 
The thing about being a biographer of people long-gone, is that you come into contact with many people who knew your subject but who are in advancing years themselves.  They are often happy to talk about the person you are writing about as well as anything else too - the weather, the state of the world, their favourite films...  I can't remember much of what we spoke about outside of Marilyn, but I do know I told him that I thought he was a gorgeous looking man.  I can't remember what he said in reply, but I do know he laughed and made a little joke of it.  But who can blame me for thinking he was good looking - take a look at the man and you'll know exactly what I mean!
 
I don't know about other biographers but I for one have become very close to some of the people I have interviewed.  I won't pretend that I was close to Dale Robertson, in fact I never spoke to him again after I had interviewed him back in 2006, but he was such a lovely person that I truly felt very blessed to have been in touch with him, no matter how short our association had been.
 
For my book, Dale told me that he knew Marilyn and the two would often go to ball games together.  They enjoyed each other's company, but there was never a question of romance between the two.  "We just weren't attracted to each other," he admitted.
 
While he did find Marilyn to be a good sport and someone he enjoyed being with, underneath her persona he sensed a sadness in her which he still remembered over fifty years later.  "She had a rough time for a while," he told me, "and her biggest enemy was herself."
 
So now the time has come to say good bye to Dale Robertson.  He lived a long life, and left behind films and memories that will live on forever, but he will be sadly missed by everyone who's life he touched.  I for one will never forget the kindness he showed me when talking to me about his friendship with Marilyn.  I am a true believer in the after life and I hope that when he meets Marilyn in heaven, they'll go to another ball game together.  You never know, they may even see Joe DiMaggio play, while they are there.
 
I hope they do.
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

MY BOOK HAS A TITLE!!!

Excuse me for shouting, but I am proud and happy to say that my Carole Lombard book now has an amazing and fabulous final title.

After Swing High, Swing Low turned out to be a rugby song, I knew I'd have to put my thinking cap on and decide again.  Well tonight I was chatting with my author friend Lyndsy and she suggested...

Wait for it.....

CAROLE LOMBARD: TWENTIETH CENTURY STAR.

What do you think?  I absolutely love it.  Twentieth Century was one of Carole's films, plus she was a very forward thinking and modern lady for her time and so the title fits Miss Lombard perfectly.  I am absolutely thrilled to pieces to finally have a title I am truly happy with.

Hooray!

Now back to work to get this biography finished!!!

Marilyn's Footsteps

My book, 'Marilyn's Footsteps' is still on sale. It is a book filled with addresses and background on the places Marilyn lived, worked, played, ate, and much more! 

Marilyn's Footsteps

It can be ordered here:
http://www.lulu.com/shop/michelle-morgan/marilyns-footsteps/paperback/product-20058020.html

Monday, 25 February 2013

Carole and Co

The Carole and Co website has done a piece about the Carole Lombard biography, which can be seen by clicking the link below, along with some nice photos of Carole too:

http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/578542.html

Please note, the cover of my Marilyn book that can be seen in the feature, is not actually the one used in the published version.  This was a very early version of the proposed 2007 cover, so don't panic if you see it and think it is a whole different book - it isn't. :-)

Also, I've had lots of feedback about the proposal title of my book, 'Carole Lombard: Swing High, Swing Low.'  Some people love it, while others have said it is also the title of a rugby song (which I did not know previously.)  Of course I chose the words Swing High Swing Low because of Carole's film of the same name, but perhaps if it has too close an association with rugby, I may have to change.

Do you have any ideas for a great title?  If so, leave a comment here.  I'd love to hear from you!!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Changeling... And Christine Collins

Here is the trailer of an amazing film, and the lady at the heart of the story - Christine Collins - is featured in my Hollywood Scandals book. 

I often have a romantic idea of what 1920s Los Angeles was like, but the story of Christine Collins shows that evil has always existed, no matter what era.... If you haven't seen this film, I truly consider it a 'must see.' http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PmfjureC-5I


News, news, news....

I have been working hard on the Carole Lombard biography over the past few weeks and have acquired a great many photographs, as well as articles, interviews, documents and much more.  I am really enjoying it very much I must say, though I will admit that it took me a while to get back into it after the intensity of writing Hollywood Scandals.  BUT I'm now very much into Carole and I couldn't be happier.

So do you want to know the title of the book?  Well I have today decided that it will be called.... drum roll please..... 'Carole Lombard: Swing High, Swing Low.'  The subtitle is the name of one of her films, and also quite fitting for her life too, which did have swings of great highs and sad lows....  I'm very happy with the title, and hope that readers will be too!

I am still on the look-out for photographs, articles, interviews, letters and documents related to Carole's life, so if you have anything that can help me, please, please, please leave a comment on the bottom of this page so that I can contact you.  I'd be really grateful!  Also, if you know anyone who knew someone who knew Carole.... well I'd love to hear from you too. :-)

In other news, this week my Hollywood Scandals book will be going to the copy editor who will be contacting me with any queries he has in the next few weeks.  I'm looking forward to it because I know then that the book will be moving forward in a positive way and I will be able to clear up anything that needs to be ironed out in the manuscript.  After that I will be looking forward to Easter, when I will receive the proofs, which is always a hugely exciting time for me.  I love looking through everything when it is starting to look like a real book, and as soon as that's done, it will be onto the publication date which will be in October for the UK and December for USA.

Several weeks ago I received a photograph of the cover, which I will be revealing very soon.  It is fabulous.  Very different than I thought; very modern and colourful, and I love it.  Watch this space for more details!

Finally, my Marilyn book is up to 103 reviews on Amazon.com!  I can hardly believe it!  Okay so I'd quite happily throw at least 15 of those out of the window, but the rest of them are great, and I'm very proud of the amount of comments my little book has received.  If you haven't yet reviewed the book, please consider doing so.  But please be kind! :-)  Thank you!

And with that, I shall get back to working on the Carole book.  Thanks for all your support!

M.



Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Amazon reviews.....


My Marilyn book has received 99 reviews on Amazon! Who will be number 100?

I will send a little something to the person who writes the 100th review (but only if it's a nice one of course! LOL!)

Click here to review the book yourself:

http://www.amazon.com/Marilyn-Monroe-ebook/dp/B00946RGJE/ref=zg_bs_917064_2

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Hollywood Scandals is finished!


I'm really sorry I haven't uploaded anything on my blog recently but I was trying very hard to get my Hollywood Scandals book finished.  Thank goodness I can now tell you that I finished a week ago and the manuscript is now with the publisher.  Hooray!!  I am waiting to see what they think of it before I get too excited but hopefully they will approve it sooner rather than later so I can breathe again!

Of course now that I have finished on Scandals I am going full-steam ahead with my Carole Lombard book which I am extremely excited about.  After working full-time on Scandals for the best part of a year, it is a strange feeling to be beginning a new project, but I'm very lucky in that a lot of the Lombard research was done some years ago so I have a good start on the project.

But of course there is still a long way to go and with that in mind I have just posted the following on my FaceBook page so if you can help with my queries I'd be so grateful.  Thanks:

"To all my author friends and Hollywood-loving friends... As work has now begun in earnest on my Carole Lombard book, I would love your help.  I am currently looking for anyone who has Lombard photographs that I can use in the book, along with cuttings, letters, interviews, contacts etc etc.  Basically anything and everything related to Lombard I would love to hear about.  I'm also looking for a Los Angeles based friend who wouldn't mind doing some research for me at the Herrick library.  Please leave a comment here or PM me if you can help.  Thanks!! Xx"


Saturday, 12 January 2013

Keep Connected...

If you'd like to keep connected with me, you can join my FaceBook page here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/124973377514850/

And my Twitter account is @MMWriterGirl although I'm guilty of FaceBooking much more than Tweeting I must say!




BBC Radio Tees

I did an interview this morning with BBC Radio Tees, talking briefly about the success of the Marilyn book and then quite in-depth about the new Hollywood Scandals book.  We spoke about Lupe Velez, Roscoe Arbuckle, Clara Bow and many others and apart from accidentally calling John Belushi 'Jim' (that's his brother of course!) it went very well.  Can't believe I got the two names mixed up but it's very early here so that's my excuse.  It's spelled correctly in the book I promise. :-) 

If you missed the interview, you can find links to it for the next week or so, on their website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctees

Monday, 31 December 2012

Bye Bye 2012!

Well here in the UK we are just seven hours away from the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013.  As I look back on this year, I can't help but smile.  What an absolutely amazing year this has been for my career!

I started 2012 not sure what was going to happen with my writing, and I am absolutely amazed at what has occurred  including a bestselling book, two book contracts, numerous signings, talks, an up-coming film appearance, translations of my Marilyn book, interviews and even a spot on television!  To say I am shocked that this has happened to me would be an understatement, but I am so happy with everything I have been able to achieve and I look forward to 2013 with great excitement.

In January I will be editing my Hollywood Scandals book, which will be published in the UK and USA in October 2013.  Then as soon as the manuscript goes to my publisher, I will be diving into writing the Carole Lombard book which may be out a little later than originally thought - in early 2014.  I don't want to rush the work and while I have lots of research already done, there is still much more to do, so to give myself extra time will be beneficial all-round.

Of course then there is the Thelma Todd book which my agent is scouting to publishers at the moment.  Hopefully that will find a home during 2013, ready for a publication date of around December 2014.  As well as that, there will be other projects and appearances coming up too, which I will share in due course.

Before I sign off I would just like to thank everyone for taking the time to buy my books, and for making my Marilyn biography into a bestseller.  This year has literally been a dream come true for me and I thank you all very much for turning my dreams into reality.

I wish all my friends and readers a very Happy New Year and I look forward to keeping in touch with you all during 2013!!

Much love
Michelle


Saturday, 29 December 2012

Marilyn on Kindle

I would like to wish all my friends and readers a very Happy New Year.  I hope you had a terrific Christmas!

US friends might be interested to know that Amazon currently has the Kindle version of my Marilyn Monroe book at a very nice price indeed and it is number 117 in their bestseller chart!  Yippee!  I am hoping it will enter the top 100 so my fingers are crossed!

You can order the Kindle version here, but hurry as it won't be on special offer for long!

http://www.amazon.com/Marilyn-Monroe-ebook/dp/B00946RGJE/ref=zg_bs_917064_1

Friday, 21 December 2012

Thrive in Life

I just realised that I forgot to tell you all about an article I wrote for Thrive In Life magazine, which was published several weeks ago.

The article is all about how I became a full-time writer, and the struggles I went through to get here.  I wrote it for all those who want to be something 'out of the ordinary' and don't get much support in their endeavours.  I wanted to show that if you work hard enough and ignore the detractors, dreams really do come true, so I hope it will inspire others to go after their dreams and ambitions too.

You can read the article here:
http://www.thriveinlife.ca/thrive/index.php/when-all-my-dreams-came-true/

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Hollywood Scandals

My Hollywood Scandals book will be published on 17 October 2013 in the UK and in December 2013 in the USA.  It may be almost a year away, but hopefully worth the wait, and until then here (in no particular order) is a list of the people and events you can expect to read about in the book:


  • Lou-Tellegen
  • The Wrong Door Raid
  • Marilyn Monroe's nude calendar
  • Thelma Todd
  • The rape of Patricia Douglas
  • Albert Dekker
  • The death of Marilyn Monroe
  • The Clark Gable baby scandal part one and two
  • Norman 'Kid McCoy' Selby
  • Florence Laurence
  • The Choy Ling Foo Dance Troupe
  • Peg Entwistle
  • Lottie Pickford
  • Madonna and Sean Penn
  • Whitney Houston
  • Hugh Grant
  • George Michael
  • Madonna nude pictures
  • Lupe Velez
  • Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston
  • Paris Hilton 
  • Madonna's stalker
  • Russ Colombo 
  • Anna Nicole Smith
  • Christine Collins and the Chicken Ranch murders
  • Charlie Sheen
  • Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher
  • The Suicide Apartments
  • Marie Prevost
  • Aleta Freel Alexander and Ross Alexander
  • Karl Dane
  • The Knickerbocker Hotel
  • Ramon Novarro
  • Clark Gable tackles a burglar
  • The deaths of Charles Wagenheim and Victor Kilian
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor slaps a policeman
  • Pete Duel
  • Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes
  • River Phoenix
  • Winona Ryder
  • Carole Lombard
  • Jean Harlow
  • Paul Bern
  • Clara Bow's love life
  • Clara Bow's lawsuit
  • Kelsey Grammer and Camille Grammer
  • Mommie Dearest/My Mother's Keeper
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Lucille Ricksen
  • Carole Landis
  • Peggy Shannon and Albert Roberts
  • The Almost Perfect Murder
  • Rock Hudson
  • John Belushi
  • Michael Jackson
  • Elvis Presley
  • Roscoe Arbuckle
  • Lana Turner
  • Natalie Wood
  • John Denver
  • James Dean
  • Sal Mineo

No words

As mother to a beautiful 8 year old daughter, I can find no words to describe how I feel for the poor parents, teachers and children affected by the disgusting events held in Connecticut yesterday.  My heart goes out to them all.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

RIP Hal Schaefer

I am very sorry to hear about the death of Hal Schaefer, respected musician, Hollywood voice coach and friend of Marilyn's.

Hal was a lovely man; a true gentleman and he helped me a lot with my book.  I really didn't expect him to - I had heard that he no longer spoke to authors, but I thought I'd give it a go anyway; write to him and see what he said.  I remember getting his reply very, very early one morning during the writing of the first edition of my book.  I was up with my daughter at about 5 am (her standard time to wake up when she was 2!) and there in my in-box was a lovely email from Hal, telling me that he never spoke to authors any more, but that something about my letter had intrigued him and made him want to talk to me.

I was really thrilled and we arranged for a time to speak on the telephone, which was just after he had taught a music lesson to one of his students.  When we spoke, I could really tell immediately just why Marilyn was so fond of him.  He was softly spoken, very intelligent, calm and just a really beautiful soul.  After the ups and downs she had encountered with Joe DiMaggio, it wasn't really a surprise to me that she had turned to Hal as he seemed to such a calm, reassuring presence, and I told him that on the phone.

I spoke to Hal on several occasions on the telephone and we corresponded by email too. During that time he told me about his CDs, which you can see here and order below.  One of his albums he was still working on when I first interviewed him was called 'June 1st' and he told me it would include music for Marilyn and his beloved wife Brenda on it.  I have added a link to that CD below.

I had such a great respect for him, because in spite of him being way past the age of retirement, he kept on going, working all the hours he could, doing what he loved.  I admired him so much for that.

During our interviews he told me that he'd really encouraged Marilyn to listen to Ella Fitzgerald, and made it clear to her that he would not suffer any of her lateness.  He wanted her at the lessons on time and prepared!  He also revealed everything about the Wrong Door Raid to me - the truth finally after all these years, and it became a really important part of the book.

It was hard during one part of the interview because I had read that when Marilyn cooled their friendship in order to try and make it work with DiMaggio (before the Wrong Door Raid, not after as some have reported,) Hal responded by trying to commit suicide.  This obviously is a terrible thing for a person to do; to be so desperate that they can see no way out but that.  I knew that while 1954 might seem a long time ago to us, it isn't so long to someone who lived through it and of course the memories of that event were still fresh in Hal's mind.  I had to tread carefully, but actually Hal made it very easy for me to talk about it.  He told me why he had done it; what happened afterwards and then that was that; we moved on and never spoke about it again.

Many people think that Marilyn was the love of Hal's life, and that after she left him, he never really recovered from it.  This is wrong and it was very important for me to get that across in the book.  Yes he did very much love Marilyn, but he lived a wonderful life after she left, so with that in mind, here is a section from my revised book, which explains a little about what Hal did after breaking up with Marilyn:

"Before Marilyn left for New York she had a few loose ends to tie up, including breaking the news of her departure to Hal Schaefer. He remembered: "Shortly after the Wrong Door Raid she went to New York to begin her new life, and that was the last time I ever saw her. She phoned me and said she didn't know how long she'd be there, but I never saw her again." 


But it wasn't all bad news for the respected vocal coach, as not long after he met the woman who was to become the love of his life: "I was extremely happy with my wife, Brenda - who shared the same birthday as Marilyn. Brenda was the best thing that ever happened to me. She was a remarkable woman."


After the first edition of my book was published, one of Hal's students emailed me to say thank you for presenting him exactly as he was - a respectful and decent human being. I am very, very sad to hear he passed, but he lived a very full, happy life and inspired thousands of people including myself, so his life was very much one of value.

Now he will get to see his dear wife again, and I'm sure at this very moment, Hal and all his old Hollywood friends are all gathered round his piano in Heaven, playing the numbers he so loved to play during his life time.

RIP Hal - you will never be forgotten and through your music, your memory will live on forever.

---------

You can visit Hal's website here: http://www.halschaefer.com

You can order his CD, 'Just His Own Sweet Self' here: http://www.cduniverse.com/productinfo.asp?pid=7944126&style=music

You can order the CD, 'June 1st' here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/June-1st-Schaefer/dp/B00005B59R/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1355400118&sr=8-8

You can read the New York Times' obituary for Hal, here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/arts/music/hal-schaefer-jazz-pianist-and-marilyn-monroes-vocal-coach-dies.html?_r=1&

And you can order 'Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed' here:

UK - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Marilyn-Monroe-Private-Undisclosed-expanded/dp/1780331282/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355398885&sr=8-1

USA - http://www.amazon.com/Marilyn-Monroe-Confidential-Michelle-Morgan/dp/1616087196/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355398914&sr=8-1&keywords=marilyn+monroe+private+and+confidential

Sunday, 2 December 2012

I'm back!

Firstly I must apologise to you for not updating my blog before now.  When I saw just how long it had been since the last entry, I was quite embarrassed, but I promise you I have a good excuse!  I've been working really, really hard on the Hollywood Scandals book, and at the moment I have written 152000 words with 18000 left before it is finished.  All being well I should have it all done in the next two weeks, which would be absolutely awesome as it would mean I can put my feet up for Christmas and not have to worry about my impending deadline!

I need to have the book with the publisher on 1 February which - if I get the writing done in the next few weeks - means that I have a nice month or so to proof-read and edit before I hand it over.  Some of it has been edited already but there's still lots to do, which I'll look forward to in January.

I've enjoyed writing the book very much indeed but I'm ready to move on now, so I can't wait for it all to be finished.  After that I will be working on the Carole Lombard book which I am just so excited about.  I've already sourced a lot of photographs over the past few weeks, and various other items that are helping to shed light on Carole's life and career.  I will be working hard on the book during 2013 and hopefully it will be out by Christmas next year, or failing that, early 2014.  Then of course there is the Thelma Todd book which is being shown to publishers as we speak.  If I have my way this book will be out - I hope - by the end of 2014.

Working on the Hollywood Scandals book has been amazing for finding new subjects, and as a result I now have lots more ideas for people I desperately want to write about.  Watch this space to find out who is being added to my list of book subjects in the future!!

In the meantime, you may be interested to know that the Kindle version of my Marilyn book, 'Marilyn Monroe: Private and Confidential' is available at a fantastic price on Amazon for a limited time only.  You can order it here: http://www.amazon.com/Marilyn-Monroe-ebook/dp/B00946RGJE/ref=zg_bs_917064_1 Don't forget it is also available as a paperback and makes a great stocking stuffer! ;-)

I think that's about it for now but I promise I will write another blog post soon!!


Friday, 12 October 2012

The Alan Titchmarsh Show

I had a wonderful time at The Alan Titchmarsh Show on Wednesday and now that I'm back to reality, it all seems as though it was a strange but fun dream!

The moment I walked into the ITV studios I bumped straight into Carol Vorderman coming down the stairs. This was the beginning of a long line of celebrity encounters that day, including Bradley Walsh, Kevin McLoud, the Loose Women, Jane Asher, Mathew Horne, and Joanna Page.  I was lucky enough to speak to Kevin and Bradley and they were extremely friendly and down-to-earth - exactly as they seem on the television in fact.


I began the day by greeting my friend Suzie Kennedy who is a Marilyn Monroe lookalike and was there to sing and take part in the same feature as me.  I was then rushed to make-up and into rehearsal with Alan Titchmarsh himself.

The first thing I will say about Alan is just how wonderfully warm and welcoming he is.  I was sitting on the stage while he had his back to me, checking his introductions for the day.  He suddenly looked round and realised I was there.  He rushed over, apologised profusely for not saying hello earlier, and then sat down to chat with me about Marilyn, my book, the film 'My Week with Marilyn' and much more.  It was then time to have our quick rehearsal before we headed off to lunch.

In a segment that was being taped that day but scheduled for the next, there were a variety of lookalikes including Simon Cowell and Kate Middleton.  The one that excited me the most, however, was the Margaret Thatcher lookalike who I immediately recognised as Steve Nallon who was very famous in the 1980s as an impersonator of the Iron Lady, as well as providing her voice for her Spitting Image puppet.  We had lunch with Steve and the other tribute artists and we had such a relaxed time that to be honest I forgot that I was there to do a live television show, and just enjoyed my day.  My only regret is that I didn't get a photo of Steve, but I hope you like the picture I got of me, Suzie, 'Kate' and 'Simon.'

By the time 3 pm came, it was time for Suzie to do her first song and she was ushered backstage to wait to go on.  Then a few minutes later the producer came in search of me too, and before I knew it I was sitting in the dark backstage area, whispering to Ashley the showbiz correspondent who was coming onto the stage to talk about Marilyn with me.  Then before we knew it, it was the commercial break and we walked up the steps onto the stage, where hundreds of people in the audience were being entertained by a warm-up man.  Then the floor manager shouted "30 seconds until we're live" and everyone started cheering as the music played once again.

Alan gave me a nice introduction and then we saw Marilyn in action on screen, before finally it was time for me to talk about my book.  The funny thing is, that while I felt nervous backstage, I was absolutely fine on-stage, probably because Alan has a real knack at putting you at ease.  I forgot there was an audience in the studio, although I was always very much aware of the millions of people watching at home - the vast amount of cameras kept reminding me of that!  Still, I really did feel okay about the interview and the questions were friendly and informal, which was a great thing.

Suzie entertained the crowd with her singing once again, and then we chatted for a few minutes before finally it was time to wrap things up and say good bye.  Alan was then whisked onto the next set to speak to Jane Asher and Michael Horne, while we sneaked off backstage, trying not to get caught by one of the ever-present cameras.


After that it was time to leave the studio, and just an hour after my appearance, I was back on the train, whizzing away from London and back to my 'normal' life.  It was an amazing day and one that I certainly won't ever forget.  What a great experience it was and I'm happy to say that since my appearance, my book has gone shooting up the Amazon charts once again and I've received some lovely emails and comments on FaceBook and Twitter.



The next day my parents' next-door-neighbour was very kind and gave me a photo montage of the day, which was a really super surprise.  I've included it here and I hope you like it!


You can see a video of the show below.  It is a little shaky as it was taped from my laptop onto my iPad, but hopefully it will still be enjoyable:


If you like to order 'Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed' (or Private and Confidential as it is called in the USA), you can do so here:




Classic Images - Carole Lombard


I was recently asked to write an article about the Carole Lombard book I am working on, for inclusion in Classic Images magazine.  It ran in the September issue, but in case you didn't see it, here it is:

The Carole Lombard project
By Michelle Morgan

I am a 42 year old English writer, and yet all of my subjects are about old-time Hollywood stars: Marilyn Monroe; Thelma Todd, and Carole Lombard.  I’ve loved Hollywood since I was a teenager in the 1980s, first through being a fan of Marilyn Monroe, then Jean Harlow, Clara Bow, and the wonderful Bette Davis.  I fell in love with Bette when I discovered I was born on her birthday, and I’ve adored her ever since; collecting not only books about her, but recently items from her personal collection, and signed volumes too.


My first book was ‘Marilyn’s Addresses’ which was a 1995 guidebook to the places Marilyn Monroe lived, worked and played.  Next came ‘Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed’ which was published in the UK by Constable and USA by Carroll and Graf in 2007.  It became a big success and lead me towards my ultimate goal of becoming a full-time writer, which happened very recently.
Once the Marilyn book was finished, I was desperate to find another subject to write about.  I had flirted with the idea of writing about Vivien Leigh or Grace Kelly, but they just didn’t feel right to me.  I admired both actresses, but there was something not quite exciting enough about either project and I decided to go on the lookout for another subject to concentrate my efforts on.
To this day I have no idea how Carole Lombard came to me as a possible biography subject.  It may have been a photograph of her and Gable together; or possibly a film on the television.  Whatever it was though, something just clicked and I knew that Lombard was to be my next project.  I collected everything I could find: old newspaper reports, magazine articles, interviews and photographs.  Fans of Lombard very kindly sent me a number of her movies, which I devoured for hours on end, and others sent me rare clippings and little titbits that they’d discovered over the years. 
I didn’t know much about Carole at first, but quickly discovered the basics.  Born Jane Alice Peters on 6 October 1908, Carole Lombard was raised for the first six years with her brothers, Stuart and Fred, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  However, the divorce of her parents spurred on her mother, Elizabeth (Beth), to take her children away from their hometown and to move west in order to settle in Los Angeles, California.


Lombard made her debut in the 1921 movie, ‘A Perfect Crime,’ and became a very popular silent star throughout the 1920s.  She had the world at her feet, but it all threatened to come crashing down in 1926 when she was involved in a terrible car accident which saw the actress’s cheek being sliced to such a degree that she required plastic surgery. 
Thankfully it left only a small scar, (which actually made her look even more beautiful) and after taking some time off, the young actress was finally able to resume her career and her love life; marrying actor William Powell in 1931 (though the two later divorced) and then dating singer Russ Columbo.  Sadly, this romance came to an abrupt and tragic end when he was accidentally shot dead by a friend, one day in 1934. 
Her love life in tatters, Carole concentrated on her career, and made a successful of films including Bolero’ (1934) and ‘We’re Not Dressing,’ (1934.)  Later films included, ‘My Man Godfrey,’ (1936) which she played opposite her ex-husband William Powell; and ‘Hands Across the Table,’ (1935) which teamed her up with tragic star Marie Prevost.
Carole became romantically linked to Clark Gable in the mid 1930s, and the two eventually married in 1939 after Gable’s much publicized divorce from his older wife, Ria.  Clark and Carole were known as Hollywood’s happiest couple, though they were forever parted in January 1942 when Lombard was tragically killed in a plane accident while on tour to sell Defense Bonds.
I found the story of Carole Lombard to be deeply tragic and extremely unfair.  Here was a young woman with the world at her feet, and yet it was cruelly snatched from her one winter’s night at the peak of her career.   My research into her life completely consumed me and I ordered documents from libraries; found letters in auction house websites; and on and on it went. 
I collected quite a lot of material, but unfortunately I was unable to find a publisher who believed in the project as much as I did.  This was sad, but I was determined that one day I’d finally get the book done.  Until then I filed everything away and started work on revising my Marilyn Monroe biography, which was recently published in the US as ‘Marilyn Monroe: Private and Confidential.’


Once again, after finishing the rewrite for the book, I began looking around for another project.  I started a book about Thelma Todd which I am still working on and loving immensely, but I also had my Carole Lombard files too, and I desperately didn’t want to give up on her.  I felt she needed a good biography and was determined to find someone who would want to publish my work.
Fortunately I didn’t have to look far.  While I had always admired BearManor Media’s books (and have rather a lot in my possession), I had never thought to ask them about the Carole Lombard project.  This is something that has amused me ever since, but I guess everything happens when it is supposed to, and as it turns out, now is most definitely the time.
Within minutes of emailing Ben Ohmart, the founder of BearManor Media, I was offered a contract.  I couldn’t believe it!  After all the time of worrying that I would never get a publisher interested in Carole’s story, here I was being offered a contract by someone who was more than interested in doing a book.  It was definitely a dream come true.
Since then I have been working hard on three projects – a Hollywood Scandals book which will be published in the USA by Running Press in 2013; the Thelma Todd book which I’m hoping to see published in the coming years, and of course my beloved Carole Lombard.  I’ve decided to make it an illustrated biography which will be fun to put together and it will be published by BearManor Media in either late 2013 or early 2014.  Needless to say, I can hardly wait.
Researching Carole’s life has been a long process, with many stops and starts due to the other projects that have come my way, but it is a book very definitely worth doing.  As far as I can see, she has never had an illustrated biography, and it is my job to give her the best book I can possibly do.  I know I will do my best, and in the safe hands of BearManor Media, I know it will look amazing too.

&&&&&&&

Carole Lombard: The Illustrated  Biography will be out in late 2013

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Alan Titchmarsh Show


I am thrilled to tell you that I will be on ITV's The Alan Titchmarsh show on Wednesday 10th October.  My segment will see me discussing Marilyn and her time in England with the curator of the National Portrait Gallery exhibition, and possibly another guest too (details to be confirmed.)  Marilyn lookalike Suzie Kennedy will also be appearing, performing one of her Marilyn songs and talking about her life as a tribute artist.

I am really, really excited to be part of the show and it will be fabulous exposure for my book.  I can't wait to tell you all about it when I get back, but for now, please tune into the Alan Titchmarsh show on Wednesday at 3 pm to see me talking with Alan!


Sunday, 7 October 2012

Thursday at the National Portrait Gallery

When I was first asked to do a talk and book signing at the National Portrait Gallery, it was February 2012, and October seemed a very long way away.  However, time has a habit of moving on and before I knew it, I was travelling to the city with my mum and dad, clutching my 6000 word speech in my hand.

My mum and I at Russell Square, one of my favourite parts of London

To say I was nervous would be an understatement.  When I was a teenager I took acting lessons and various public speaking courses, but that was really the last time I'd ever done anything like this, so as we sat in Foyles' restaurant, it was all I could do to choke down half a croissant and pray that I could make it through the day.

My lecture on the Billboard!  Who would ever have thought it?!

We arrived at the National Portrait Gallery at 12 pm and were amazed to see the billboard outside with my name on it, and details of the lecture.  For seventeen years I worked a day job I disliked and would dream of being a full-time writer, whilst doing endless hours of photocopying.  Who would have ever thought I'd one day see my name outside the National Portrait Gallery?  And yet here it was, for all to see.  It was, to say the least, a very surreal experience.

Me outside the huge gallery.  Deep breaths!

Inside we were met by the wonderful staff who were to look after me during the afternoon: Mary and Catherine.  I really can't thank them enough for being so wonderful to me, as without their calm and caring attitudes, I'm pretty sure I'd have run out of the nearest fire door.

Me doing the soundcheck in the empty theatre... But not empty for long!

By the time we arrived at the gallery theatre, there was already a small line of people, waiting to be let in, and after doing a sound check and familiarising myself with the fabulous theatre, I sat down to get myself together and calm my nerves.  The doors weren't supposed to open until 1 pm but at 12.50 a gentleman came in to ask if he could open the doors early.  Apparently the line had by then stretched all the way across the large hall, down a flight of stairs and into the book shop, which was quite a way from the theatre.  The man estimated that there must be about 50 people lined up, but when the doors opened, it became extremely clear that there were many, many more and by the time the doors closed, all 150 seats were taken; it was standing room only and people were being turned away as there was just no room left in the theatre.  Needless to say, this was a terrifying but absolutely wonderful sight.  These people had come to see me talk about Marilyn; it was quite literally a dream come true.

As I was sitting waiting to go on, a beautiful young woman approached and introduced herself to me.  She said that she was on holiday from New Zealand and had been thrilled to discover that I was speaking at the gallery.  She told me that I was one of her favourite authors, and she just had to meet me.  This was absolutely amazing, to think that someone from New Zealand loved my books and wanted to see me.  We chatted for a while about Marilyn and Carole Lombard before it was time for her to take her seat.  Then it was 1.15 and it was time for Mary to introduce me to the stage.

I remember walking across the stage and the light being on me, and Roger G Taylor's beautiful Marilyn portraits being projected behind me.  Everyone was clapping and I made a little joke that perhaps it was too late for me to run away now.  Everyone laughed and it was at this point that I knew I was going to be all right.  That the people who had come to see me were on my side and there because they wanted to hear what I had to say.  That was a great moment for me because after that I was able to relax and enjoy the next 35 minutes, talking about how I became a fan, what started my fascination for Marilyn's trip to England and the ups and downs of writing a book about Marilyn's life.  

People laughed at the funny parts, gasped at the more serious ones, and at the point where I started to sum up what Marilyn means to me, the entire audience were silent.  I could have dropped a pin and it would have sounded like an explosion, such was the silence in the theatre at that moment.

My mum, dad and myself, posing for the camera.  It was so nice to have them here on my big day.


Once I ended my talk, the lights went up and there was a huge round of applause, which made me so happy.  I was relieved it was over, but I had enjoyed speaking so much that I felt like a million dollars.  Once I had exited the stage, I was met by friends and family before being whisked off to a lovely, calm space next to the book shop, where people began arriving for me to sign their books.  I don't know how many I signed, but it was a lot and I achieved my dream of having a line of people waiting to meet me.  What a thrill that was!  

I think I'm somewhere behind all these people!

I met so many interesting people, including readers who had travelled from all over the UK to see me; friends; my publishing team; the wonderful curators at the Gallery and so many more.  I can't begin to tell you just how many hugs I received, and was over-come when I was presented with gifts such as a book from the gallery staff; a big gift bag of goodies from my friend; a typewriter charm from my parents and some beautiful bath essence and perfume from Marilyn's favourite London perfume shop, Floris.  I felt like a superstar and I still can't believe that it actually happened.

After the signing was finished, we went into the Marilyn exhibition which is just lovely.  Full of photographs of Marilyn from various points in her career; it is small but perfectly formed.  There were a great deal of people in there and everyone seemed to really enjoy the items on display.

Gabriella and I have a laugh while I'm signing her book.

And then it was time for everyone to go their separate ways, and we found ourselves in the Gallery Restaurant with my literary agent and friends, talking about the day and enjoying a laugh.  The day went so quickly, it is as if it was over in the blink of an eye, but it will definitely be one I remember forever more.  My feet were covered in blisters by the time we got back to the station, but I don't care; it was all completely worth it and if I could turn back time and live the day over and over again, I really, truly would.

Suzie, me and a reader pose for the cameras.

I'd just like to end by thanking everyone from the gallery and those readers and friends who came to the talk from near and far.  You all made my day; my week; my year and I will never forget how very special you made me feel.  It truly was a dream come true and one I will remember for the rest of my life.

Thank you!!!!

Friday, 5 October 2012

My Marilyn Monroe talk

Thank you to everyone who came to my Marilyn Monroe talk yesterday at the NPG.  I will be writing a full blog about the awesome day very soon, but for now, here is a copy of the talk for those who were unable to attend.  If there are spelling mistakes, I apologise - this is copied straight from my transcript!

I hope you enjoy it!

----------


Thursday 4th October 1956.  Marilyn Monroe was on the set, shooting one of the scenes for ‘The Sleeping Prince’, which of course would later become The Prince and The Showgirl.  She was not happy.  She had been in England since 14th July and the shoot had been long, painful and difficult for just about everyone.  Still, Marilyn was encouraged by the fact that she had just been offered the part of Grushenka in the ABC production of The Brothers Karamazov.  She had no intention of taking it, however, though being asked to do it, certainly raised her confidence that someone believed she could in fact act.

Thursday 4th October 2012.  56 years since Marilyn Monroe lived and worked in England and here we are, talking about her in the National Portrait Gallery no less.  For the girl who always dreamed of being taken seriously, I think that if she had known this would happen, she would have been very proud indeed.

I think it is interesting that the exhibition taking place here at the gallery is entitled a British Love Affair, because in a way you could say that that is exactly what I've had with Marilyn over the course of the last 27 years; ever since I discovered her at the age of fifteen.  That is when I really started to take an interest in the woman we are talking about today.

In the spring of 1985 I watched 'River of No Return' on television.  It was a film of never-ending disasters and I remember my parents asking if we could turn it off; as the leaping from one perilous encounter to another was not their cup of tea.  Then in July of that same year, I travelled with my parents and brother to Devon; listening to 'Live Aid' on the way.  It was hot; we were happy and I was hoping for the best holiday of my life.  And when I look back, it really was.

We stayed in a run-down house that we nicknamed 'The Shack,' and my brother Paul and I spent our time playing silly games and crab hunting on the beach.  That was until one day when we were in a gift shop and I noticed a photograph of Marilyn in a gold dress, pouting towards the camera. Something intrigued me about it, and that evening I decided that I was going to buy a book about her to read on the beach.  There was no deep thinking behind my decision; I just purely wanted to read something about this woman who kept popping up everywhere I went.

The next day I bought a book which quite strangely had a picture of Marilyn on the cover, standing in exactly the same pose I had seen on the photograph the day before.  After that there was no more crab hunting on the beach for me, and instead I read the book throughout the holiday; completely transfixed by this amazing woman.  Despite her difficult childhood, she had achieved her dreams and I was so inspired by her fight; her strength, and her determination to succeed.  She suddenly went from someone I wanted to read about on holiday, to a person who was going to inspire me for ever more.  I can't fully put my finger on exactly why; but she just spoke to me like no other star had ever done before.

I remember over the course of our trip, that we visited many souvenir shops and I bought every one of their Marilyn postcards.  I remember my mum telling me she was concerned I was wasting my holiday money and would have none left to buy other things.  Little did she know; little did any of us know that 27 years later, I’d be standing here, talking about that same lady I discovered during an innocent childhood holiday.

At that time I didn’t know anyone who was a Marilyn fan, so in 1991 I decided to create a fan club, called The Marilyn Lives Society.  For the next 16 years, I wrote a newsletter every month, and made many friends; some of which are here today.  It was because of my Marilyn club that I decided to start researching Marilyn’s trip to England.

In 1993 I wrote a small booklet for the members of my club, which was dedicated to the places Marilyn lived, worked and played throughout her life.  This book was picked up by a publisher in 1995 and was published as ‘Marilyn’s Addresses.’  This book had a section dedicated to the England trip, and when I had finished writing, I was inspired to find out more about what exactly had gone on and how Marilyn had spent her four months whilst living here.  My idea was to turn my research into a full-length book dedicated purely to the England trip, full of photographs, memories and stories from those who had met Marilyn whilst she was here.

It was quite a task knowing where to start, but in the end I decided to begin by going through the cast list of The Prince and the Showgirl, and contacting as many actors and crew members as I could.  Unfortunately, by the time I’d started, many had already passed away, but others were still very much alive, and I tried very hard to get them to talk to me.

My endeavours sometimes did not go quite to plan, however.  I telephoned the agent of one actor, asking if I could interview him for a forthcoming book.  I didn’t even get to say what the book was about, before the woman on the other end of the phone, said in a very rude way: “If this book has anything whatsoever to do with Marilyn Monroe, my client will not be interested in talking.”  She then hung up the phone before I had any chance to lie and pretend that it was about someone else entirely.

Several other people said they couldn’t talk to me as they were working on their own books, while another told me that he would be willing to speak; though gave me strict instructions to never call him on the telephone.  If I wanted to talk, he said, I needed to write to him.  Unfortunately, by the time I wrote back, he had decided that even corresponding via mail was not a possibility and backed out of the project. 

By this time I realised that I was not getting very far, so I decided to put letters in several newspapers, asking for people to come forward.  I had quite a few replies but not the kind I was actually after.  For instance, one person demanded to know why I would want to write about Marilyn Monroe when there were so many other more interesting people out there; another told me that he could not help, had never met Marilyn, knew nothing about her life, but could assure me that she came to England not in 1956 as had been reported, but in 1954 instead.  This change of date, he told me, was made by the FBI for ‘security reasons.’

As you can imagine, these letters did not help me one little bit, but there were more arriving on a daily basis which were even more frustrating…

One lady told me that she was a farmer’s wife, living near Englefield Green, close to the house where Marilyn had stayed.  According to the woman, Marilyn had visited the farm many occasions and she was happy to share her stories with me.  Things were finally looking up, until I spoke to the woman on the telephone and she told me dozens of stories involving Marilyn doing everything from ploughing the fields with a tractor, to cleaning out pig sties, making Sunday roast in the farm house and everything in-between.  How Marilyn ever had time to make a movie as well as playing the role of farm hand was beyond me. 

Sadly I had to discredit this story, as well as the one told to me by a gentleman who said that he had visited the set of The Prince and the Showgirl one day, and had witnessed Marilyn in an extremely tormented state; shouting for John F Kennedy, and demanding that someone get him on the telephone immediately.  The fact that Marilyn was newly married to Arthur Miller at this point and didn’t even know Kennedy, was obviously lost on this poor fellow.  Unfortunately I had to file this story in the make-believe file and start again.

Happily for me, however - away from the fame-seekers and fibbers, I was able to speak to a great many people who did in fact meet Marilyn, such as photographer Horace Ward who photographed Marilyn at Heathrow Airport, and Vera Day and Daphne Anderson who both met her on the set of ‘The Prince and the Showgirl and were only too happy to share their memories and stories with me.  It was while speaking to Vera and Daphne that I was able to get a first hand account of life on the set of The Prince and The Showgirl, and the difficulties that everyone encountered there.

Vera Day told me that when she walked into the office of Laurence Olivier Productions she was 20 years old, and had been in show business for about a year.  Olivier, who was not only Marilyn’s co-star but her director too, looked at the blonde-haired actress and exclaimed, "Oh dear, she's so like Marilyn".  Vera was naturally flattered by such a comparison, but Olivier feared the worst, knowing that Marilyn would not take kindly to another blonde on set.  With that in mind, by the time Vera was allowed anywhere near the film, she was sporting a brunette wig, in an attempt to look as different to Marilyn as she possibly could.

Daphne Anderson shared her memories with me, but said that unfortunately, due to the amount of entourage on set, nobody was able to spend any time socialising with Marilyn at all.  This seems to have been a real problem during the making of ‘The Prince and The Showgirl’ and the fact that Marilyn often seemed so aloof, did not go down well with the other actors.  Vera Day recalled a particularly eye-opening experience, when Olivier was setting up camera angles and politely told Marilyn that he couldn’t see her in the position she was standing in.  “Oh well, if you can’t see me I will go home,” she retorted, and swept dramatically from the set.

However, in spite of the difficulties, Marilyn actually had some allies on set.  Vera Day told me that she cared deeply about her co-star.  “Marilyn was difficult yes,” she said.  “But there was only one Marilyn and she jolly well deserved to be difficult.  She was sensationally beautiful and I know she irritated nearly everyone but she was surrounded by a lot of po-faced actors who gave her a hard time.”

Another such supporter was Dame Sybil Thorndyke, who was cast as Laurence Olivier’s mother-in-law.  Although I never got to speak to the actress myself, I did discover in my research that she never gave up praising Marilyn; often telling Olivier off if she thought he’d been too hard on her.  She once told him that Marilyn was the only one of them who really knew how to act in front of a camera, and later when interviewed, she denied that Marilyn was ever hard to work with, saying that she was the most charming person, who just didn’t take direction very well.  “But then I don’t see why she should,” Dame Sybil said.  In the vintage interview she also spoke about the relationship Marilyn had with Laurence Olivier: “He wanted her to do certain things,” said Dame Sybil, “and I said why don’t you leave her alone?  She is married to the camera; she is a darling girl and I never found any difficulties with her.”

Someone else who loved Marilyn was Norman Wisdom, and I was delighted one Saturday morning to receive a lovely letter from him, sharing his memories with me.  In the note, he said:

“I was delighted to meet Marilyn Monroe at Pinewood Studios when she was making ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’ with Laurence Olivier.  At that time I was making my film ‘A Stitch in Time’, and on several occasions she came in to watch my work.  In fact, she quite unintentionally ruined a couple of takes.  Obviously, of course, once the Director has said ‘action’, everyone must remain silent, no matter how funny the situation might be, but Marilyn just could not help laughing and on two occasions she was politely escorted off the set.  The nicest thing that happened was that we passed each other in the long hallway one lunchtime.  It was crowded but she still caught hold of me, kissed and hugged me, and walked away laughing.  Everybody in the hall could not believe it, and I remember my Director, Bob Asher, shouting out ‘you lucky little swine’ – I agreed with him.”

While talking to and interviewing people who met Marilyn during her stay in England, I was happy to discover that while things on the set were at times fraught, she did take a great deal of happiness from the local people who lived close to her house at Englefield Green. 

I received a letter from the local paperboy who remembered delivering the newspaper and receiving a wave from Marilyn while he did so, while another local lad recalled how he frequently hung around the gates of the house, only to be asked by a newspaper reporter if he would mind delivering a letter to Marilyn.  The young boy was only too happy to do so, and after scaling the fence, he managed to deliver the note to Marilyn’s husband, Arthur Miller, who quickly told him to leave the property.  Whatever was in the note is a mystery, but the young boy didn’t mind being thrown from the property too much as he had come within inches of Marilyn Monroe and even got his photograph in the local newspaper.

There were also several ladies who remembered seeing the star.  One lived in a house that Marilyn passed every evening on her way home from work.  The two built up a little friendship whereby they would wave at each other whenever the lady happened to be in her garden.  She ended up receiving a signed photograph of Marilyn which she still has to this day.

Another lady, Mrs Jackson, didn’t have such a great memory unfortunately, when she encountered Marilyn and Arthur Miller in Windsor Great Park.  The lady was walking with her husband, their three-year-old toddler and twelve-year-old nephew, when Marilyn and Arthur cycled up behind them.  According to Mrs Jackson, her nephew was trailing a long stick behind him, and this made Arthur Miller angry that his wife could somehow be knocked off her bicycle.  Unconvinced, Mrs Jackson aired her concerns that the couple shouldn’t be riding in the park, to which Miller allegedly said, “But this is Marilyn Monroe, and I am her husband.”  The couple then went on their way, leaving Mrs Jackson very unimpressed with her ‘Marilyn encounter’.

One gentleman wrote to tell me that while he didn’t meet Marilyn himself, his dad, Tommy had the pleasure of doing so, one evening when Marilyn’s car had broken down in one of the country lanes.  As the chauffeur stood gazing vaguely under the bonnet, Tommy, a long distance lorry driver, got out of his cab to help.  The driver was happy to let him have a go and after some work he was able to get the car going again.  As he was about to walk away, Tommy was told by the chauffer that the lady passenger wanted to thank him for his time.  With that, the back window of the car rolled down and a blond head popped out. 

Tommy’s son told me: “My dad was no movie fan and rarely went to the cinema unless there was a James Cagney or John Wayne movie showing but he thought the woman was familiar.  He asked if she was an actress and she said yes and he asked her if she was Diana Dors.  The lady laughed at this but didn’t say yes or no so he thought she must be Diana Dors and she was laughing at him for not being sure.  Dad told her that my mum was a really big film fan and she would never believe that he had met her, so the lady offered to give him an autograph to prove it.  She asked if he had any paper but he said no, he only had a pencil, so she reached around and came up with a copy of a theatre magazine that someone at the studio had given her.  The magazine showed Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh together as they appeared in the play ‘The Sleeping Prince’ and the lady said she thought it was meant as a mean joke but dad had no idea what she was talking about and just nodded.  She signed the magazine and gave it to him and he said goodbye and thanked her.”

Tommy returned home that evening, still thinking he had met Diana Dors, until some weeks later when his wife spotted the magazine and put him straight.  It was not Diana he had met that evening, but Marilyn Monroe.  Tommy was stunned to say the least.

Hearing all these stories from the public was absolutely amazing to me, as no other book had ever gone into any detail about what impression Marilyn had made on the man and woman on the street.  She had always said that it was the people who made her a star, so to hear stories from the likes of paperboys, residents and good Samaritans made Marilyn all the more real in my mind.  Some of my favourite such memories involved a group of students who decided they were going to meet Marilyn in a very unusual way.

At around 8 pm, on the night of 16th July 1956, a group of eighty students met in front of Shoreditch Training College in order to make the two-mile hike to Marilyn's house.  The plan was to sing under her bedroom window, and some of the students even took along trumpets and other musical instruments to add further excitement to the proceedings. 

However, everything did not go to plan, when the College Principal, Ted Marshall, turned up to try to persuade the revellers to go home.  Unfortunately for him, most of them had just finished their exams, so feeling that there was nothing the college could do to stop them, Mr Marshall's attempts at discipline went unheard.  The trip to Marilyn's house further exasperated Mr Marshall when he discovered that one of the young men had borrowed his car to catch up with friends.  The vehicle was even stopped by police during the short journey, and the driver cheekily gave his name as that of the Principal, Ted Marshall before abandoning it near Parkside House.

Once the group reached the vicinity of Marilyn's home, they immediately started chanting, "We want Marilyn, We want Marilyn", before lifting the gates clean out of their hinges, marching up the driveway and singing the 23rd Psalm outside Marilyn's bedroom window.  However, it soon became clear to most of them that she had no intention of coming out to meet them. 

Nevertheless, although they didn't get Marilyn's attention, they did receive a great deal of notice from the police, who had been tipped off and were making their way to Parkside House.  As they approached, most of the fans scattered, and one former student, Allan R Pemberton shared his memories with me:

"It was dark and I had fled into long, wet grass,” he said.  “I got soaking wet and I recall clearly seeing the searching lights being scanned over the area where I was hiding.  I'm not sure how long I remained in hiding, but when I thought it safe, I returned to the college, where quite a few of the group had already returned.  Quite a few hadn't, I remember [and] there were many stories of 'escapes', but no-one saw Marilyn and we never knew whether she was aware of our escapade." 

 Marilyn was, indeed, very aware of what went on outside her bedroom window that night.  In his autobiography, 'Timebends: A life', Arthur Miller described waking up to the sound of singing outside.  Once awake, he and Marilyn both watched out of the window in amazement at the spectacle below, but because of security concerns, neither of them talked to or met any of the students.

The next morning, Principal Ted Marshall was still furious and quick to bring the subject up.   One former student, Donald W J Foot remembered:
“He gave a sharp word the next day at College assembly, but those who participated were quite unabashed."  Although the Principal threatened all sorts of sanctions, none were ever carried out, and Marilyn’s housekeeper, Dolly Stiles later told me that students’ obsession continued throughout her stay, and although they never serenaded her again, they were often seen at Parkside, shouting for Marilyn to come out and see them.

One of the most exciting things that happened during my research was when I had the privilege of speaking with a man called Alan, who as a young teenager, was offered a position as Marilyn’s piano player at Parkside House.  The idea was that he would help her with her singing practice, but in the end she became so fond of him that their association became so much more.

Alan was privy to at least one amusing incident on the set of The Prince and The Showgirl, when Marilyn discovered that someone in the crew – she suspected it was Olivier himself – was running a book to bet on how many takes she would need for a fairly tricky scene.  When Marilyn got wind of this she was furious and not at all amused by what she considered to be an overt insult to her capabilities.

She went home to Parkside House and studied so hard that on the day of shooting she was more than prepared for the scene.  She delivered the lines perfectly and then left the room, closing the door behind her as directed.  However, within seconds the door flew open again and Marilyn stuck her head through the gap.  “Pretty good huh?” she exclaimed, before shutting the door for a final time.  This line was not in the script and was an obvious dig at those who doubted her ability to do the scene.  However, it fitted in so well that it wasn’t re-shot and can now be seen in the final cut of the movie. 

One of my aims in writing a book about Marilyn’s trip to England, was to find out what kind of things she did away from the set, and Alan was a huge help in this regard, as he had been with her on quite a lot of her adventures.  The two would get out of Parkside House through the service route, go under trees and through the property next door, just to escape the over-the-top security.  Marilyn would wear various disguises – an overcoat and floppy hat – and would carry a shoulder bag which would always have a novel or a book of poetry inside. 

Together they would sneak off to Salisbury to visit the Cathedral and eat fish n chips out of newspaper.  They’d also head to London, where Marilyn would behave just like any other tourist, squealing when she heard Big Ben chime, visiting the National Portrait Gallery, as well as Piccadilly Circus and Charing Cross Road.  She visited perfume shop Floris where she loved their Rose Geranium perfume so much that she ordered several bottles on her return to the USA.  As well as that, Marilyn also spent such a huge amount of time in Foyles book shop, that Alan would always have a hard time getting her out again and would almost have to drag her out when it was time to leave.  This was something that particularly interested me as I frequently give my husband and parents the slip whilst in this shop, so I can spend hours staring at the books, lost in my own little paperback world.

One day Marilyn took a ‘sicky’ from work and escaped into the city with Alan.  Once there they did some sight-seeing in Trafalgar Square, and it wasn’t long before the pigeons had left a rather unwelcome present on the brim of her hat.  Of course she didn’t want to take it off because it was part of her disguise, so the two had to use a hanky and nail brush to scrub most of the mess off using water from the fountain.  An amusing conclusion to this story came many years later when the same hat came up at auction and it still boasted the pigeon stains on the brim.

Another amusing incident also happened in Trafalgar Square when an old lady came up to her.  According to Alan, this lady was about 5 foot tall, dressed all in black, wearing a hat decorated with fruit and carrying a shopping bag.  She stood right in front of Marilyn, poked her between her ribs and said ‘Ere, you’re that Marilyn Monroe tart ain’t ya?’ 

The poke was so extreme that Marilyn was temporarily winded, but nevertheless she still managed to look down at the woman and in her best posh, English voice said ‘Oh thank you, you’re so kind.  I’m often being compared to her.’  ‘Snotty cow’ said the old woman and stormed off, leaving Marilyn laughing hysterically.

It was fantastic talking to all the people who remembered Marilyn in her every day life and because she always made such a huge impact – good and bad – the memories were always vivid and really helped make her into a real-life, three dimensional person for me.

But I knew that in addition to interviews, I also had to get to the nitty gritty of what had gone on during the actual making of the film.  Yes I knew that there had been lots of problems, but it was important to me to find the production records to see for myself what kind of problems they really had, and what had inevitably been exaggerated.

I spent many years trying to find the Laurence Olivier papers where I believed the production records would be.  I wrote to every library and museum I could think of; contacted his widow, Lady Olivier; wrote to his former London club, but had no luck at all.  Then one day in 2004 I read that his papers had just been donated to the British Library and I couldn’t believe my luck when they told me that yes, they now had them, and while they hadn’t been catalogued yet, I would definitely be allowed access to them.

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was on that first day, sitting in the library, looking through one huge folder after another.  To my excitement, I discovered that Olivier had kept everything related to his life, from notes, to receipts, to scraps of paper and everything in between.  It really was a wonder to behold.

The first folder I looked through included Olivier’s script for The Prince and the Showgirl.  This was interesting enough but not quite what I was looking for.  The next was full of legal matters related to the distribution of the movie, which again were intriguing, but didn’t include what I’d come to see.  However, after a bit of digging I discovered exactly what I was looking for and much, much more.  Not only a document which included a full list of dates and times of Marilyn’s coming and goings on set, but also dozens of letters and telegrams about every aspect of the making of the film.

I was happily turning them over one by one when suddenly my eye caught a glimpse of handwriting I recognised.  It was Marilyn’s.  A letter from her to Lord and Lady Olivier, thanking them for a gift they had sent to her at the beginning of production.  To say I was excited would be an understatement.  I held the letter in my hand for several minutes, just staring at it.  This was the first item I had ever held that had actually been written by Marilyn herself, and after researching her life since 1985, it was quite an experience.

I kept looking around at the people near me, all doing their studies into things that obviously were not half as exciting as my discoveries, and I just wanted to lean over and whisper – Guess what I’m holding?!  I bet you’re jealous??  But in the end I didn’t tell anyone; I just held it for a moment before tucking it carefully back inside the folder.  It was a delicious secret that I was extremely lucky to have found.

The document which really helped me a lot was a list of dates and times, related to Marilyn’s comings and goings on the set, and how it had affected the production.  Every single date was noted, with when she was on set, when she wasn’t required, and when she was off sick.  All latenesses were included – ten minutes here, an hour there, but while the paper was obviously intended to show just how much time had been lost; for me it actually proved just how many lies have been said about exactly how late she was on the set.  Yes there were many latenesses and she very rarely made it to the set on time, but it wasn’t half as bad as people have previously said.  This was a huge eye-opener for me and a really important find.

Another wonderful discovery was the Terence Rattigan archive.  He had written the play, The Sleeping Prince which the film was based on, and he also presented Marilyn with a party shortly after she arrived in England.  His files were full of party-related documents, such as guest lists, and shopping lists for the huge amount of drink and food required for such an occasion.

The guest list included many actors and actresses, including Sir John Gielguid who had been kind enough to share his memories of the party with me, after I had written to him in the 1990s.  In his letter to me, he wrote:

“Marilyn wore an Edwardian dress - she had, I think, worn it in the tests for the film - and she held court in a tent in the garden, where everyone queued up to shake her hand.  As I was speaking to her, a rather formidable-looking lady in black suddenly appeared at Marilyn’s side and introduced herself as Louella Parsons.  Arthur Miller kept at a discreet distance.  I had no opportunity of talking further with Marilyn, but remember how graceful she looked, dancing with Terry Rattigan as I took my departure.”

One document in the Terence Rattigan file was very intriguing.  It was a letter from Rattigan to the local police sergeant, donating a sum of money to his local charity, for his handling of a ‘difficult situation.’  This situation was explained to me when I found a newspaper report telling the story of a local policeman being threatened by one of the guests with a broken wine glass.  The report also claimed that the policeman – P C Packham – had no idea who Marilyn Monroe was, and had demanded to see her invitation before she entered the party.

Being the nosey person that I am, stories like this really interest me, so I set about finding P C Packham, and as luck would have it, I was able to track him down and persuade him to share his memories with me.  In a wonderful letter, which often read exactly like a police report, he gave me a full – blow-by-blow account – of what really happened that night:  This is what he told me:

“The peace was shattered when what was clearly a VIP limo travelling from the Sunningdale direction, swung into the drive to stop abruptly at my feet.  Some lunatic immediately leapt from the nearside front passenger seat and, actually brandishing an empty wine glass in my face, told me aggressively to get out of the way.  It was, to say the least, an unusual greeting; neither did his arrival inspire confidence regarding the other occupants of the car.  I relieved him of the wine glass and was desirous of knowing what precisely he was up to.

“‘It’s Marilyn, you fool’, he hissed, ‘get out of the way.’

“Of course!  In a blinding flash of the absolute obvious the penny dropped.  Everyone in England must surely have known that Marilyn was in town.  The tabloids were full of it. 
“I looked in at the open door of the limo.  It was, of course, Marilyn and, had any further proof been necessary, she was accompanied by her then husband, Arthur Miller.  I told the driver to carry on, closed the door, and they sped away without the little dogsbody, or whatever he was.  He was last seen hoofing it up the long drive to the house, muttering as he went dire imprecations on all coppers.

“Press cars which had tailed the limo down the A30 had by then been bumped up on to the grass verges at the side of the main road, their occupants coming hot-foot to join the fray.  They were a trifle late, for their real quarry had by then sped off, but they were not too late to weave their usual fairy tales.  The Tabloids’ following day’s accounts were founded principally on the story of one of ‘yer ole tyme rural bobbies’ who spoke with a rich west country accent, called men ‘Zur’, and didn’t know Marilyn.  Any semblance of accuracy in their reports was purely coincidental.”

The research into Marilyn’s trip had been eye-opening and extremely interesting, and after a decade of digging, I was ready to put the entire story into a book.  I was happy to do a book purely about the England trip, but then my agent suggested I should instead write a full-scale biography of Marilyn’s life.  The idea terrified me to say the least and I had absolutely no idea if I could possibly do such a thing.  Besides, it had taken me a full ten years just to research the four months she had lived in England.  If I worked at that pace for Marilyn’s entire 36 years, I’d probably never see it published in my lifetime.

However, I took a few steps into the fog; approaching it in the same way that I had done with the England trip, and soon discovered that in my view, Marilyn’s real story – the story of a human being not a movie star – had not yet been written.  I took on the challenge and I’m now happy to say that the resulting book – Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed - has been very well-received around the world.  However, my England research did not go to waste and in the revised, paperback edition, it takes the form of two chapters and a full forty pages, which has never been done in any other Marilyn book.

It's now fifty years since the world lost Marilyn Monroe.  Fifty years; half a century, and in the immortal words of Marilyn’s character from Some Like It Hot, "It makes a girl think."  

Marilyn’s life was one of fire and magic; of great triumphs and terrible lows.  But to me she will always be my inspiration and I will never stop admiring, respecting and defending her, for as long as I live.

Marilyn Monroe always worried that she wasn’t being taken seriously enough, and often doubted her abilities as an actress and a person.  I truly believe that she really shouldn’t have worried.  All of us here today – some of us who weren’t even born during her lifetime – have all come here because we remember who she was and what she gave us in the shape of her movies, her life and her aspirations.  Personally I think she would be astounded that fifty years after her death she is still spoken about, loved and admired around the world.

On a personal note, I would just like to end by saying thank you so much Marilyn, for everything you have brought into my life.  I am truly, truly grateful and I will forever hold a good thought for you.  

Thank you.

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