A few weeks ago while out driving, I pulled my car to a screeching halt when I noticed a large sign reading “The Marilyn Monroe Theatre” on the side of a building in West Hollywood. I had never heard of a MM Theatre in Los Angeles before, so of course I just had park my car to go investigate. 🙂 It turns out that the theatre is part of the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. For non-Marilyn fans, Lee Strasberg and his second wife Paula were MM’s beloved acting teachers and private acting coaches for the seven years leading up to her death. While Marilyn never attended the Los Angeles branch of the Actors Studio, she did study at the New York studio beginning in March of 1955.
By that time, Marilyn was already a huge celebrity with 26 films under her belt. The already famous actress, who once said about acting “I am not interested in money. I just want to be wonderful.”, enrolled in regular classes at “The Studio”, studying alongside far less successful performers than herself. During class, due to her severe shyness and stage fright, Marilyn often sat in the very last row of seats in the very back of the room. I find it so admirable that a star of her caliber at such a high point in her career would be humble enough to study in a regular acting class. You don’t see many stars of today doing that! While at the studio, Marilyn studied alongside the likes of Eli Wallach (with whom she would later star in The Misfits), Kevin McCarthy, Maureen Stapleton, and Kim Stanley. Of her acting Lee Strasberg said “I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of actors and actresses, and there are only two that stand out way above the rest. Number one is Marlon Brando, and the second is Marilyn Monroe.” It is so sad to me that while outsiders could see and appreciate Marilyn’s immense talent, she was never able to recognize it in herself.
When Marilyn passed away in 1962, she willed the bulk of her estate to her beloved acting coach and his wife. Paula Strasberg died only four years later and a short year after that Lee Strasberg met and married a woman named Anna. The two remained married until Lee’s death in 1982, upon which Anna inherited Marilyn’s vast fortune and control of her image. In an ironic twist of fate, because Lee didn’t meet Anna until 1967, some five years after Marilyn’s death, the image and estate of one of the most famous stars in Hollywood history is controlled by a woman she never even met.
In 1969, as a present to her husband, Anna purchased the property where the Marilyn Monroe Theatre and the Los Angeles branch of The Actors Studio now stands. In the theatre’s early years, Lee’s acting classes were held there. As time went on, though, the theatre became one of the most prestigious stage venues in Los Angeles. And while Marilyn never set foot inside of the theatre that now bears her name, over the years it has premiered many revered plays and has also played host to many famous actors and actresses including Sally Kirkland, Rebecca DeMornay, Joe Mantegna, Amy Madigan, Andrew Prine, Renee Taylor, Joseph Bologna, Burt Young, Kim Cattral, and Boy Meet’s World’s Ben Savage. Movie screenings are also often held at the theatre. Actors who have participated in screenings at the MM Theatre include Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, John Voight, Bridget Fonda, Claire Danes, Martin Landau, Lesley Ann Warren, and Robert Wagner.
Of course, I highly recommend stalking the Marilyn Monroe Theatre. Any fan of MM will definitely appreciate being there. 🙂 On a side note while researching the theatre, I happened upon a link with an address to a Marilyn Monroe Memorial Theatre located in San Francisco. I am DEFINITELY going to have to stalk that the next time I am up there!!
Until next time, Happy Stalking! 🙂
Stalk It: The Marilyn Monroe Theatre is located 7936 Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. San Francisco’s Marilyn Monroe Memorial Theatre is located at 96 Lafayette Street. The Actors Studio in New York where Marilyn once studied is located at 432 West 44th Street.