Marilyn on the half shell

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BY JERRY TALLMER  |  Everybody on Fire Island was talking about Marilyn Monroe that summer. She was somebody’s houseguest, but nobody had seen her. Or nobody that I knew, anyway.

In any case, I was more interested in Willie Mays, who — my tiny all-purpose beach radio told me — had, on an unbelievable clothesline peg from deep center field, just thrown out the Dodgers’ speedy Billy Cox trying to score from third base.

The New York Giants at that instant in 1951 were 13 1/2 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers, with less than a month and a half to go. Maybe! I dared to tell myself, or perhaps to petition God… . Maybe!

At that instant there was a scurrying all up and down the sands, and a man and a woman came walking along the water’s edge, followed at some distance by a lone blonde person who was slowly picking up, examining and tossing away seashells.

The buzz reached my small group, one of whom was a stunning young woman — and promising first novelist — named Nancy Hallinan. She looked where everybody else was looking and then said: “That fat little girl is Marilyn Monroe?”

Well, I’ve remembered it, as you can see, for more than 60 years, and I thought about it again last night when watching the great Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot” on Turner Classic Movies. It’s true — she was a fat little girl in that 1958 comic masterpiece, too, but who cares now? Well, maybe Tony Curtis (a.k.a. Bernie Schwartz) would care were he still alive. He was very funny in that movie putting on a Cary Grant accent, but unfunny and ungracious enough to be widely quoted everywhere thereafter as saying: “Kissing Marilyn Monroe is like kissing Hitler.”

They did a great deal of kissing in one sequence in that picture — aboard his supposed yacht — and any fool could plainly see the jump from deep kissing to sexual intercourse, but let that go.

I write this, as it happens, on Sunday, August 5, 2012, which is exactly 50 years since the day Marilyn Monroe died, August 5, 1962 — and, to go from the painful to the unthinkable, 67 years and one day from the August 6, 1945, dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima — or 67 years and four days from the August 9 atom-bombing of Nagasaki, the mushroom cloud I saw from 135 airborne miles away.

It was long ago that one outwore one’s guilt — one’s nation’s guilt — every human being’s guilt — for those two gigantic mass murders. Why beat a dead horse? No percentage in it. I’d rather think about Marilyn Monroe — as I did when, newly arrived at the New York Post, I sat down to write about her on the day she died.

And suddenly realized I’d almost never missed a movie of hers, not even the grotesque “Niagara Falls.” Also that, for my money, her two purist cinematic performances were as the emotionally hungry psycho babysitter in Roy Ward Baker’s 1952 “Don’t Bother to Knock” and the hysteria-driven ally of wild horses in John Huston and Arthur Miller’s 1961 “The Misfits.”

“People who love people,” she says wonderingly as they lead her away in “Don’t Bother to Knock.”


I have always ruinously depended on the kindness of strangers.

“Happy birthday, dear Mr. President” — tiny ripple of laughter — “Happy birthday to you.”

My forever favorite anecdote. Actor Paul Sand (I think it was) is at home when the phone rings. “Hello, Mr. Sand? I have to do a scene tomorrow at the Studio and I was hoping you would work with me in it. This is Marilyn. You know, Marilyn from class?”

That fat little girl in any event didn’t drop an atom bomb on anything or anybody. And Bobby Thompson, come September, hit the home run heard around the world, with Willie Mays in the on-deck box, waiting to come to bat. “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”

You could look it up.