blue book modeling agency

Hopper, Hedda
(1890 - 1966, B. Elda Furry)

An influential Hollywood gossip columnist, Hopper wrote a syndicated round-up of movie news. She had a wary eye on the future star even before Norma Jeane signed her first studio contract at Twentieth Century-Fox. Indeed, her piece, printed on July 29, 1946, hastened the studio’s decision by warning them they faced competition: “Howard Hughes is on the mend. Picking up a magazine, he was attracted by the cover girl and promptly instructed an aide to sign her for pictures. She’s Norma Jeane [sic] Dougherty, a model.” According to biographer Fred Lawrence Guiles, in actuality neither Hopper nor Hughes knew much about this item, as it was sent in directly by Emmeline Snively, the head of the Blue Book Modeling Agency. 

Hopper was still championing Marilyn in 1952: “Blowtorch Blondes are Hollywood’s specialty, and Marilyn Monroe, who has zoomed to stardom after a three-year stretch as a cheesecake queen, is easily the most delectable dish of the day.”

Later on, though, Hopper was not so popular with Marilyn. In 1960 she broke the story that Marilyn was having an affair with her then co-star Yves Montand, after obtaining this top secret information from the man himself over tea.

- The Marilyn Encyclopedia by Adam Victor.

Jasgur, Joseph

On the recommendation of Emmeline Snively (head of the Blue Book Modeling Agency) noted celebrity photographer Jasgur agreed to take some test photos of Norma Jeane in March 1946. He recalls that she arrived an hour late, “a shy girl, nothing like a typical model, all breathless and anxious.”

The photographs he took mark the passage of the keen novice to the consummately skilled stills model. In some photos she could be any young girl horsing around on the beach, in others she plays the vamp.

In his book of Marilyn photos Jasgur makes a bizarre claim that Marilyn had six toes - an allegation dashed by all the photos in the book except one, in which there is a ridge of and next to one of her feet. Jasgur also once claimed that Norma Jeane asked him to marry her…and that he turned her down.

- The Marilyn Encyclopedia by Adam Victor.

Hair

In all her childhood pictures, Norma Jeane’s hair is chestnut to reddish brown and straight. Then, around the age of puberty, her hair became wavy. 

“I wouldn’t ever want to be a bleached blonde,” Norma Jeane Dougherty told Emmeline Snively who ran the Blue Book Modeling Agency sometime in early 1946. But on the advice that with blonde hair she would photograph better, not to mention be in much greater demand for modeling work, within months Norma Jeane was dispatched to the Frank and Joseph Salon to have her naturally wavy hair cut, straightened, and bleached. They liked their work so much they used her to advertise to store. The actual before-and-after difference is plain to see in the photographs of Joseph Jasgur in his book The Birth of Marilyn. An alternative story runs that Marilyn went blond in order to land a job advertising a hair product called Lustre-Creme Shampoo, after photographer Raphael Wolff persuaded her that it was worth the six hours at $10 per hour to go blonde.

Going blonde was just the start. Before she became a major star in 1953, Marilyn’s hair went through just about every shade of blonde: from ash blonde in The Asphalt Jungle (1950), to golden blonde in All About Eve (1950), to silver blonde in As Young As You Feel (1951), to amber blonde in Let’s Make It Legal (1951), to smoky blonde in Love Nest (1951), to honey blonde in O. Henry’s Full House (1952), to topaz blonde in We’re Not Married (1952), to unbleached dark blonde in Don’t Bother To Knock (1952), and then, at last, to platinum blonde in Monkey Business (1952). 

Over the years, aside from at least a dozen studio hairstylists, Marilyn called on the services of Kenneth Battelle, Agnes Flanagan, Sydney Guilaroff, Peter Leonardi, George Masters, and Gladys Rasmussen. Naturally, these people were privy to Marilyn’s secrets.

Masters in particular is an oft-quoted source. He summed up Marilyn’s attitude to hair: “If i had done her hair in a way that would evoke the comment, ‘Your hair looks fabulous!’ I’m sure I would never have seen her again. She didn’t want to hear, ‘Your hair looks great,’ or ‘Your earrings are beautiful.’ She only wanted to hear, ‘You look fantastic!’” He also revealed: “She had one long blonde hair in her chest that she wouldn’t let me cut off. She liked to play with and fondle it. It was her security blanket.”

Gladys Rasmussen had this to say on the practicalities of getting Marilyn’s hair just right: “There are several problems with doing Marilyn’s hair. Her hair is very find and therefore hard to manage. It gets oily if it isn’t shampooed every day. And her hair is so curly naturally that to build a coiffure for her I have to first give her a straight permanent….The way we got her shade to platinum is with my own secret blend of sparkling silver bleach plus twenty volumes of peroxide and a secret formula of silver platinum to take the yellow out.”

In later year, every Saturday Marilyn would have her hair re-platinumed by a very old and ostensibly retired lady who came once a week from San Diego. Marilyn told Simone Signoret that this lady, Pearl Porterfield, had worked for MGM where she had been responsible for Jean Harlow’s platinum locks. Marilyn sent a car to the airport to pick her up every week, and take her to Signoret’s bungalow next door to hers at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Then, after the old lady picked at a buffet Marilyn laid out, she set to work on the two actresses, regaling them with tales of her time with the original blonde bombshell.

The damage to Marilyn’s hair from all those years of harsh treatments is evident in many of the last photographs taken of her in 1962.

- The Marilyn Encyclopedia by Adam Victor.