How did you come to collect Marilyn Monroe memorabilia?
I’ve basically been collecting Marilyn Monroe related pieces for as long as I can remember. In junior high I bought my first Marilyn book and also my first Marilyn Monroe collectible, which was a poster composed of a collage of Marilyn photos – I still have that poster today. For quite some time, my collection focused on Marilyn Monroe books. I bought (and still do) just about every book that came out about her.
In 1999, Marilyn’s personal estate went up for auction via Christie’s New York. Not long after that sale, Marilyn’s items started being auctioned on eBay, and that’s when I really started expanding my collection to include her personal property. My first item of Marilyn’s personal property was a screenplay for a Broadway play titled Maiden Voyage written by Paul Osborn. The part was offered to Marilyn in 1956 while she was filming The Prince and the Showgirl in England with Laurence Olivier. Although Marilyn ultimately didn’t accept this project, her annotations and markings can be seen throughout the script.
It’s a very expensive hobby and one that becomes more and more expensive all the time.
How extensive is your collection?
Today, my collection is one of the largest collections in the world of personal items that belonged to Marilyn Monroe and consists of several hundred pieces – items that actually belonged to Marilyn: clothing (including dresses, evening wear, casual garments, furs and belts), and many other items including books from her library, makeup and cosmetics, personal prescriptions, household items, mementos from her childhood, scripts, documents and receipts from her personal files, invoices, and bank cheques.
How do you finance your collection?
It’s a very expensive hobby and one that becomes more and more expensive all the time. Over 50 years after her death, items from her personal life and her films are only going up in value. Marilyn holds the record today for the highest price ever paid at auction for dresses – the gown she wore when she sang 'Happy Birthday' to President Kennedy in 1962 went for $1,267,500.00) and the flowing white halter dress from the Seven Year Itch went for $5,658,000.00. Needless to say, I save (and save) and then I buy.
Where do you house your collection and how do you care for it properly?
All of my items are stored using acid-free boxes and tissue, out of direct sunlight and in a secure area. I feel more like a conservator at times as compared to a collector.
Will there ever be a time to call it a day and say "I've collected enough"?
That’s highly unlikely. I’m always on the lookout for items to add to my collection and I don’t see stopping any time soon. I never know what might show up at the next entertainment memorabilia auction, or who might contact me looking with items to sell.
In real life she was a smart, contemplative and sensitive person. The sexy blonde image and persona was manufactured
Can you recall your introduction to Marilyn?
I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, and without cable. There weren’t many opportunities to see Marilyn’s films. I recall seeing Marilyn in Some Like It Hot on television. I didn’t have the opportunity to see other films until well into my adulthood. I remember experiencing the same magic that so many other people feel when they see Marilyn: Kind of a sense of awe, like, how does she do that? When she’s on the screen everyone else is eclipsed. She just has that draw, and that’s one of the things that made her such a star.
Many people think the “dumb blonde” Marilyn was who she really was in real life. Actually, Marilyn Monroe was a character created by Norma Jeane. In real life she was a smart, contemplative and sensitive person. The sexy blonde image and persona was manufactured, someone she turned into. It was an act, and she actually referred to Marilyn Monroe in the third person.
What are your favourite items in your collection?
I have several favourites in my collection, including the following:
- - A vibrant green Pucci blouse. Marilyn was very into Pucci in the early 1960s. Her wardrobe consisted of many Pucci pieces in many different colors. This specific blouse is significant because it’s what she was wearing when the last ever photos of her were taken when she was at the Cal-Neva Lodge at Lake Tahoe the weekend prior to her death. She also wore this blouse as she rehearsed her performance of “Happy Birthday” for President Kennedy. (Yes, she rehearsed it and planned for the performance to be breathy and sexy. Contrary to popular belief she wasn’t intoxicated.)
- - A mink fur collar. This was one Marilyn’s favourites and she was photographed wearing it on many occasions.
- A fox muff. This fur, along with the matching stole (which I unfortunately don’t own) was the very first fur Marilyn ever bought with her own money.
- - A Kodak Camera. This camera was gifted to Marilyn when she was a young child by “Aunt Ana,” who was actually the aunt of her legal guardian at the time, Grace McKee.
- - A maternity dress. This very casual button down day dress, red in color with a pattern of roosters and chickens, was owned and worn by Marilyn while she was pregnant in 1958, during the filming of Some Like It Hot.
You can find some of Fortner's treasures, including the Pucci blouse (a diaphenous boatneck, silk dream) on display at the Marilyn Monroe exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery from Sat Mar 5 to Sun Jul 10. Also, check out our interview with the exhibition's curator, Tansy Curtin.
You might be able to catch one of her films here
The announcement Palace Cinemas chain had reached a deal to take over Melbourne’s famous Astor Theatre was good news for local film buffs. But given the Astor’s fraught and uncertain history, some scepticism remained. These concerns have been allayed by the announcement of the Astor’s new general manager, Zak Hepburn. Hepburn has ten years of cinema experience and, perhaps most importantly from the point of view of the Astor’s loyal fan base, a long association with the cinema. “I grew up in Bacchus Marsh, where there was no cinema,” recalls Hepburn. “My mum first took me to the Astor to see The Beatles: Yellow Submarine. I was constantly asking my mother to drive me to the Astor, which was well over an hour and a half away and I’ve been a regular patron ever since.” Hepburn re-affirms that Palace Cinemas is committed to maintaining the key aspects of the ‘Astor Experience’: a single-screen theatre with a program of new and classic films in 35mm, 70mm and digital formats. “The focus is very much on establishing a cultural hub for movie fans, with double features and remastered classics, new and independent movies, film festivals and special events.” After minor refurbishment, the Astor re-opens for business on Sunday, June 7. Hepburn is finalising the new program, but it will include Kenneth Branagh’s four-hour plus Hamlet, an Astor favourite, and a digitally restored cut of the original The Terminator. There’ll be a 50th anniversary screening of spy thriller The
Watching all eight Harry Potter films in one feverish marathon is a bit like taking a roadtrip across the entire country or starting a vegetable patch: it's a feat often talked about, but rarely acted upon. Potter fans, now is the time to make the dream a reality. After a huge debut last year, the Astor Theatre is putting on the entire Harry Potter saga from 11am onwards on Saturday November 3. For all of y'all who are still awake the marathon also includes a screening of the 70mm version of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the sequel to which hits screens on November 15. This is an emotional rollercoaster lasting almost 24 hours; casual fans need not apply. For those hardcore enough to settle in for the entire journey, make sure you accio tickets ASAP, because tickets will sell out faster than the time it takes for Neville Longbottom to lose Trevor, his pet toad. The Astor will also be giving away prizes (fingers crossed for Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans). Dressing up is encouraged, so rustle up your best Yule Ball dress robes and get ready for a magical 24 hours.
The kitsch, whimsical world of Wes Anderson is coming to the Astor Theatre this month. From July 4 to August 9, Wednesday nights at the Astor will celebrate the entirety of Wes Anderson’s directorial career from 1996 comedy-crime Bottle Rockets right up to this year’s stop-motion animated hit Isle of Dogs. Inspired by the likes of Orson Welles and Federico Fellini, Anderson has spent his 20 or so years as a director carving out a rather fanciful niche. The seven-week retrospective at the Astor includes both single and double bills, as well as plenty of pastel-hued sets and Owen Wilson moments. For the full schedule of films check the Dates and Times tab above.
Good movies are great, but bad movies are often so much better. Every Wednesday, Classic Cinemas is celebrating B-grade films, with low-budget, cult classic and downright terrible movies getting their time in the sun. Weird Wednesday films are screening upstairs, at one of the Classic's four brand-new screens. Past Weird Wednesday films have included Jack Frost, about a murderous possessed snowman, and epically terrible horror film Birdemic, which includes graphics that look like they were made in MS Paint circa 1995. These underappreciated (or perhaps perfectly appreciated, for what they are) gems of cinema will be at the Astor every Wednesday throughout June and July. Grab the popcorn and choc tops, because it's going to get weird.
Let's be honest, you have probably spent time on social media looking at dog memes or videos of puppies getting frightened by its own sneeze. Well now you can take your dog video watching to a whole new level at the inaugural Top Dog Film Festival, a national festival of doggo-centric short films that's returning to Melbourne this July. Melbourne's getting two sessions – one at Village Cinemas Crown and one at the Astor Theatre. Expect a two-hour session of eight short films celebrating puppers of all shapes and sizes. Dog-loving audiences will gain an insight into the life of an inspiring dog trainer; delve into the competitive dog grooming scene; meet a crew of disabled dog adorers; and enter the wild world of the wolf. Tickets are on sale now – don't paws too long (come on, you knew something like that was coming, don't act like you weren't expecting it).
The owls may not be what they seem, but the good news is that five of the cast of Twin Peaks, along with the executive producer of the recent, revived, limited Twin Peaks series Sabrina S Sutherland, will be touring Australia in conversation. Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer herself), Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Moran), Michael Horse (Deputy Hawk), Al Strobel (Phillip Gerard) and Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs) will be appearing to talk front-of-camera and behind-the-scenes in the creation of the strange and popular cult TV series and movie. The event will be at the Astor Theatre on Sunday September 2 and tickets are on sale from Friday July 6 at 10am. For the truly obsessed, VIP Meet and Greet tickets will also be available, providing fans an opportunity to get an autograph and photo with cast members. Run, don't (fire)walk.
After midnight at the Astor during Melbourne International Film Festival is the Witching Hour, when the respectable veneer of cinema cracks open and unspeakable things fly out. Last year they held a marathon of some of the strangest science fiction movies we've ever seen. This year, in a stroke of mad genius, they will be showing back-to-back Nicolas Cage movies. Let that sink in for a moment. Twelve hours of non-stop Nic. He's been called the "most memeable" actor in history thanks to his maniacal turns in the likes of The Wicker Man ("Not the bees!") and Vampire's Kiss (yes, he really ate that cockroach). And we're willing to bet that those two masterpieces will be on the bill when the full program of MIFF 2018 is announced on Tuesday July 10. While you are watching the Cage-a-Thon, be sure to remind yourself from time to time that this man has won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Here are some sneak peek highlights of MIFF 2018.
WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE. Scrap The Oscars, The Emmys, The Tonys – the only awards that matter is The Dukes, The Astor Theatre's award show for cat videos. Named after the cinema's boss cat, who can often be often weaving his way through the lines for the candy bar or sitting on his kitty litter near the theatre entrance, the Dukes award will be an annual event and the first event will take place on Sunday October 2 at 4pm. On the day of The Dukes, feline film fans will be given score cards to vote for their favourite cat videos screened at the award event. The Astor team has put together an hour's worth of cat videos, from the obscure to the classic, featuring cats from the streets of St Kilda to the hills of LA. The results will be tallied and the audience's favourite video will be presented with the very first Dukes award. May the best moggie movie mogul* win. We have our money on this keyboard cat reincarnation. *Ed's note: I'd very much like to make my cat Tiger (pictured below) a star, but his greatest accomplishment to date is to sit in the recycling box. We've got a bit of work to do. Want to learn more The Astor's resident cat Duke? Check out our interview with this feline film buff.
Every Melburnian has had the Astor Theatre programme calendar at some point, and it turns out we're not the only ones who are fans of the old-school cinema, because the Supernormal Canteen team have teamed up with the Astor to create a one-off, next level movie snack for a double feature screening of Sofia Coppola's The Beguiled and Lost in Translation on Saturday September 30. Moviegoers going to the back-to-back screening will get a complimentary choctop based on Supernormal's most popular dessert – the peanut butter parfait. The dessert will get the cinema treatment: the creamy peanut butter parfait will be scooped into a waffle cone, covered in salted caramel and chocolate, and sprinkled with roasted peanuts. Supernormal Canteen head chef Tim Goegan says, “We’re huge fans of Coppola and are dead excited to work with the Astor which is such an institution in St Kilda. As soon as we saw Lost in Translation on the programme, synapses started firing!” Tickets to the double feature on September 30 are just $17 each and are available from the Astor's box office or online. Go on, this is your only chance to try the Supernormal classic in choctop form. Where (and how) to get cheap cinema tickets in Melbourne.
As for the opening reels, the principal motivating factor is money. After a deliberately confusing pre-credit sequence (not explained until the film's punch line), Tom Jeffers (Joel McCrea) and Gerry Jeffers (Claudette Colbert) are married. And so they lived happily ever after, exults a title card, ...or did they? Well, they didn't. After five years of marriage, Tom hasn't raised a dime with his pie-in-the-sky inventions. Using the sort of logic common to Sturges heroines, Gerry decides that the only way to help her husband is to divorce him, marry a wealthy man, and use the second husband's money to finance Tom's schemes. Borrowing money from a generous self-made business mogul known only as the Wienie King (Robert Dudley), Gerry boards a train to Palm Beach, FL, where all the rich folk go. En route, she is adopted by the Ale & Quail Club, a group of perpetually drunken millionaires whose idea of a good time is to shoot their rifles at everything that moves (among the club members are such Sturges regulars as William Demarest, Robert Warwick, Jimmy Conlin, Robert Greig, Jack Norton, and Dewey Robinson). Taking refuge from this rowdy crew, Gerry makes the acquaintance of likeable stuffed shirt John D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee), who happens to be one of the wealthiest men in the Western Hemisphere. While Gerry spoons with Hackensacker in Palm Beach, the confused Tom (remember him?) dallies with Hackensacker's man-crazy sister, Princess Centimillia (Mary Astor). How all th