Marilyn Monroe – Wolves I Have Known
By Marilyn Monroe, as told by Florabel Muir,
“They say I’m whistle bait, could be, but I’m forever meeting guys who don’t stop at a whistle. I’ve learned to handle them all.”
“First I want to say that this would be a very uninteresting world if there weren’t any wolves, but a girl has to learn how to handle them, or she’ll run into a bushel of trouble. There are many types of wolves. Some are sinister, others are just good-time Charlies, trying to get something for nothing and others make a game of it. This last type is the most interesting.
The first real wolf I encountered should have been ashamed of himself, because he was trying to take advantage of a mere kid. That’s all I was and I wasn’t suspicious of him at all when he stopped his car at a corner and started to talk to me.
He looked at me all over and then came up with that famous line: “You ought to be in pictures.” That was the first time I’d ever heard it, so it didn’t sound corny to me.
He told me he had an office at the Goldwyn Studio and said why didn’t I come and see him and he would get me a screen test. It sounded pretty good to me, as I was crazy to get into the movies.
I was modelling at that time and I asked the people who ran the agency where I got my jobs what they thought of his offer. The manager called the studio, but was never able to get in touch with my would-be benefactor. However, the wolf called the agency and I made an appointment to go to his office on Saturday afternoon.
I didn’t know then that the producers and other movie officials don’t make Saturday afternoon appointments. I found that out later. I also found out that he really didn’t have any connection with the Goldwyn Studio, but had borrowed a friends office.
He was fat and jovial and of course drove a Cadillac. He gave me a script to read and told me how to pose while reading it. All the poses had to be reclining, although the words I was reading didn’t seem to call for that position.
Even as naïve as I was then, I soon figured out that this wasn’t the way to get a job in movies. He was getting sillier by the minute and I maneuvered towards the door and made a hasty exit.
The next wolf I met was in Policeman’s clothing. Now if you can’t trust an officer of the Law, then whom can you trust? At least that was how I felt one December evening when I stopped in at a little Hamburger joint on Hollywood Boulevard to have my dinner. I had a $50 check I got for modelling and I thought that I could have it cashed at the place, but they didn’t have that much money on hand.
The Policeman was having a coffee at the counter and offered to take me across the street to a clothing store and get it cashed. I thought he was very kind to make this offer and thanked him for his enthusiasm. I wrote my address on the check and I guess he must have made a note of it.
A few nights later when I was all alone at my home in Burbank. The people I was staying with had gone to the beach for the weekend. About 2am I heard someone prowling around the window.
I was scared silly. I got up and tiptoed around to the window and I could see that a man was trying to cut the screen. I ran out the front door and over to the neighbors. They called the police, but when they got there, the man was gone. I asked them to stick around the house for a little while for fear he would come back and sure enough he did. They caught him at the window again.
When they brought him in the house, I saw that his face was familiar. I told the Burbank Policaman that I thought I knew him. I said I thought he was a Policeman. They found his badge and identification in his pocket and he admitted he had met me and thought he would come and call on me.
They told him he was rushing it a little and that when a gent called on a girl, he ought to ring the front doorbell. They took him to jail and he doesn’t wear a badge anymore.
When I was modelling, I did mostly play clothes and bathing suits. I used to meet a lot of wolves among the buyers who wanted to take me to dinner and give me trinkets, but I always told them the agency people were very strict and wouldn’t let me go out with anyone I met during business hours.
I didn’t have much trouble brushing them off. I found out that in those days if I just looked sort of stupid and just pretended I didn’t know what they were talking about, they soon gave up in disgust.
If you are born with what the world calls sex appeal, you can either let it wreck you, or you can use it to your advantage in the tough show business struggle and it isn’t always easy to pick the right route.
For instance, there was a day when I woke up and I didn’t have a nickel to make a telephone call. I had a small part in a Marx Brothers picture called ‘Love Happy,’ finished in September 1949 and I thought I was on my way to success. But nothing else came until the following spring, when MGM hired me to play in ‘The Asphalt Jungle.’ Meanwhile, money was scarcer to me than Hen’s teeth.
It was at this very low ebb in my life that I got a telephone call from a man who said he’d seen me working on the set of ‘Love Happy’ and was quite impressed with me. I didn’t remember seeing him, but I guess he was there alright as he told me about a scene he saw me do. I wondered what he wanted with me and I soon found out. He said he was a married man, but that he and his wife didn’t see much of one another and so he was lonely for feminine companionship. Wouldn’t I like to go around with him when he made his trips into Los Angeles? He said he would make it worth my while. He said he’d give me a Cadillac, or money, or whichever I preferred.
Money! And I didn’t have a nickel!
For a dizzy second, I had visions of being able to pay my rent, but as he went on giving me the details of what he expected me to do, my visions vanished. He was brutally frank and all I could think of to say was that he shouldn’t talk that way over a public telephone. I didn’t realise how silly that sounded until I hung up and then I started to laugh.
That was the day I called up a photographer friend and his wife who had been coaxing me for weeks to pose for a nude calendar they had an order to do. I decided I would be safer with them than with some rich old guy who might catch me at a weak moment when I was hungry and didn’t have enough to buy a square meal. Of course, they told me they would camouflage my face and that nobody would know I ever posed for them, but it turned out everyone did a year later or so.
One afternoon a girl friend phoned me and asked me if I would do her a favour and go on a date with a man she knew who was very, very nice. I foolishly agreed and went with this fellow to the Ocean House in Santa Monica. There were two other couples in the party and we all went swimming. While we were sitting around on the sand, this fellow I was with kept poking his finger into the flesh on my leg and telling me how he liked girls on whom you could feel the bone. This was a strange approach and it made me feel uneasy.
He had dark piercing eyes that seemed to go right through me and I had began thinking up excuses to leave. I finally told him if he liked my bones so much, I’d have an x-ray picture made up for him, but he didn’t think that was funny and moved away from me. He told me just before I left that he didn’t like girls with brains, and I told him that was the finest compliment I had ever had.
An important Hollywood composer gave me quite a whirl one time and he thought he could get me off base by playing his songs for my ears alone. He cornered me at a party one night and asked me to sit on the piano bench with him while he played his latest song. He said he had written it while thinking of me.
As he sang and played, he kept moving closer and I kept moving away until I was sitting on the edge of the bench. I got out of that one quickly and he was never able to corner me again. But he kept on singing to me whenever I met him and sending me love verses he made up.
There was then the man about town who kept telling me about his wonderful cook and how she prepared much better food than you could find in Romanoff’s.
I didn’t see through this little plot until I accepted a dinner invitation at his home one night and I found out that he didn’t even have a cook. All the food was sent in from LaRue’s.
I developed a violent headache and lost my appetite. He suggested I lie down for a little while and offered me some aspirin, but I told him I had to go home and call my Doctor because I was on a special diet for such headaches.
I learned that this talk for such fine cooks at home is used quite often around Hollywood. This is a switch from the old line about coming up to see my etchings. I had similar invitations, but needless to say, I never fell for the same gag again.
The things a gal has to think up to outwit these predatory males!
Girls in every walk of life have to take great care that they don’t find themselves just another scalp on some man’s belt. But in Hollywood, we have to work overtime to outwit the wolves. That’s because wolves of all varieties come from far and near to snare the Little Red Riding Hood’s of the movies.
Once you’re fairly well established as a film actress, it’s open season on you. I thought it was bad enough when I was just a little girl on the outside looking into the studio gates, but that, I’ve learned since, was easy by comparison.
The men I met in those days who’s line was “you ought to be in the movies” were crude amatuers compared to the ones I met after my name began to appear in movies columns and fan magazines.
For instance, there was this screen writer who’s approach was strictly mental at first. He talked to me about my career and gave me books to read. He warned me not to be seen in night clubs too often and not to ever go out with playboys. He was like a brother to me and that’s how I felt about him because he seemed quite old to me and besides he was married.
That brother act is quite a routine when an intelligent man plays it. However I soon found out there isn’t any such thing as brotherly interest. One night, my big self-styled brother called me and said he had some fine steaks and would like to come over and cook dinner.
I asked him if he was going to bring his wife and he laughed heartily and he told me I was some little joker. I told him another big brother had asked me to dine at Romanoff’s and that I thought it was safer than his proposition. He lost interest in me from then on.
Then there are the Hollywood parties where carfree wolves think they have to howl. If you can get through one of them without having to put some too ardent swain in his place you’re lucky. A director famous for his roving eye picked on me one night at a party and he couldn’t believe I was in earnest when I gave him the brush. He followed me upstairs when I went to get my wrap and trapped me when he pulled the door shut on my foot.
I managed to get loose and ran into another room. Shut out, he pounded on the door and pleaded that he just wanted to talk with me. I found a magazine and sat quietly reading while he roared. After a while, he left.
Later when I went back downstairs, I saw another fellow bop him on the nose for flirting with his wife. And you know, it’s a funny thing, I’ve met the fellow several times since and he told me respected me for not letting him get fresh. He told me that any girl who wanted to get anywhere in the film business has to hold herself aloof.
Then there are very eligible bachelors who are in such constant demand as escorts that they become their own most ardent fans. They imagine any girl will do wingdings to get a chance to go out with them.
One of those characters telephoned me one night and said he would be over in ten minutes. I didn’t squeal with delight or anything. I just said “Oh yeah?” He said “What’s the matter? Don’t you want to see me?” I said not particularly and how did he get the idea that I did?
Then he went into his line about he’d been thinking about me ever since he’d met me the night before and that he couldn’t get me out of his mind.
“I’ve always gone for blondes with brown eyes,” he explained “I fall quick when I meet one. That’s why I can’t wait to see you again, so I’ll be right over.”
I told him not to come because he was going to be very disappointed on account of I didn’t have brown eyes and that he ought to look closer next time he saw me.
I had an experience with a fatherly type too. This man was an actors agent and he wanted to protect me from wolves by giving me $50 a week to live on until I could get established. I was pretty broke at the time and a steady income was tempting. However I didn’t want to be under too much obligation so I told him I would borrow the money. He said ok. I insisted on signing promissory notes for the first two installments and he took it as a great big joke.
He put the notes in a frame and hung them on the wall in his office. I told him I didn’t appreciate his letting everyone know I was in debt to him.
“I want all guys around town to know you belong to me” he said with a suggestive smile.
This didn’t seem to me to be a true fatherly interest, so I didn’t borrow any more from him. As soon as I could, I paid him back. I had quite an argument getting the notes and had to threaten to see a lawyer.
Whether a girl survives among a pack of wolves is entirely on her. If she is trying to get something for nothing, she often ends up giving more than she bargained for. If she plays the game straight, she can usually avert unpleasant situations and she gains the respect for even the wolves.”
Typed and transcribed by Lorraine for Marilyn Remembered.