In 1953 Marilyn Monroe wrote an article for Motion Picture and Television Magazine titled “Wolves I Have Known” – The article was her take on certain types of men, or wolves as she called them, that she had met in Hollywood.
Over the past few weeks I’ve followed the Harvey Weinstein scandal with great interest, as it left people shocked and disturbed. However, as shocking as it is to read the magnitude of his abuse, this is not a new thing amongst Hollywood studio executives. “The Casting Couch” has been a part of Hollywood since filming began. It became more common place once the “talkies” arrived in the 1920’s but it seems it’s always been around – Hollywood’s dirty little secret.
Of course, non of this is really news to any of us. Actresses have, for years, been trying to tell their stories of abuse by studio big-wigs, to no avail. In 1956 this article was published by Picturegoer – Joy Webster, Dorinda Stevens, Anne Heywood and Marigold Russell all admitted to abhorrent treatment but nothing ever came of it. No one was charged – no one even followed it up. Another case worthy of note is that of Patricia Douglas. Her treatment under MGM’s Eddie Mannix was nightmarish.
There was Louis B. Mayer, who founded Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios in 1924, Harry Cohn at Columbia and Jack Warner at Warner Bros. Stories of being chased around rooms, or forced to audition in bed were all par for the course when the likes of Judy Garland and Kim Novak were making their way to the top. Marilyn has long been maligned with rumours about her experiences and how she “made it” but the truth is not quite what has been reported.
Marilyn was signed to a contract with 20th Century Fox in 1946 at the age of twenty. She readily admitted that she dated men in the hopes of being spotted by someone, and, for the most part so that she could eat. At the time she was broke and needed to survive, however, going on a date with someone, or to dinner does not automatically equate to “putting yourself about” – In actual fact, it has been said by men who dated her during this period that she was so cautious, she would barely kiss them goodnight, let alone anything else.
During this period she was dropped twice by Fox, and it was whilst signed with Columbia Pictures in 1947, that Marilyn encountered studio head Harry Cohn. Cohn met with her under the illusion of speaking about her career but very quickly was inviting her on his yacht – Just Marilyn, no one else. She politely refused. Cohn became furious and she was dropped from her contract. She later said of their meeting that she’d “never seen a man so angry.”
It was also during this period that Marilyn attended dinner parties at the home of Joseph Schenck. As the head of Fox, much has been made of the fact that she went to his house for dinner often, and, although she became known as ‘Joe Schencks girl’, something which bothered her, she later said of him; “Mr. Schenck never so much as laid a finger on my wrist, or tried to. He was interested in me because I was a good table ornament and because I was what he called and “offbeat” personality.”
Personally, I believe what Marilyn herself said about her experiences. If you were to believe all the men who claim to have slept with her, she’d never have had time to make any movies. The trouble with Marilyn is that people who may have met her, have found over the years that if they say they slept with her, they got paid more money to talk about it. No one wants to hear that she was a nice young woman who respected herself. Sex sells, and unfortunately for Marilyn she was Hollywood’s biggest sex symbol.
“In Hollywood a girl’s virtue is much less important than her hair-do. You’re judged by how you look, not what you are. Hollywood’s a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul. I know, because I turned down the first offer enough and held out for the fifty cents.” – Marilyn Monroe
“I didn’t take their money, and they couldn’t get by my front door, but I kept riding in their limousines and sitting beside them in swanky places. Besides, there was the matter of food. I never felt squeamish about eating my head off. Food wasn’t part of any purchase price.” – Marilyn Monroe
“I met them all. Phoniness and failure were all over them. Some were vicious and crooked. But they were as near to the movies as you could get. So you sat with them, listening to their lies and schemes. And you saw Hollywood with their eyes – an overcrowded brothel, a merry-go-round with beds for horses.” – Marilyn Monroe
“They can be. You can’t sleep your way into being a star, though. It takes much, much more. But it helps. A lot of actresses get their first chance that way. Most of the men are such horrors, they deserve all they can get out of them!” – Marilyn speaking to W.J. Weatherby on whether the rumours of the casting couch were true.