When Joan Collins was 21, Marilyn Monroe poured out a cautionary tale of sexual harassment she and other actresses endured from ‘the wolves in this town’. Just days after Marilyn’s warning, the actress was propositioned by Darryl Zanuck, the vice-president of production at 20th Century Fox. The meteoric descent of Harvey Weinstein has brought back memories for her.
Shortly after arriving in Hollywood aged 21, under contract to 20th Century Fox, I attended a party at Gene Kelly’s house.
The star of An American In Paris and Singin’ In The Rain hosted a weekly gathering for an eclectic group of movie industry power-brokers, A-list actors and actresses, intellectuals and his friends. It was where I first met Marilyn Monroe.
At first I didn’t recognise the blonde sitting alone at the bar until she turned to me and said rather ruefully: ‘They wanted me for the lead in Red Velvet Swing, but I’m too old.’
The part of Evelyn Nesbit in The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing was one of my first lead roles in Hollywood, but I knew it had originally been intended for Monroe.
Suddenly, it dawned on me that the woman in front of me was the legendary figure herself.
We started chatting and after a couple of martinis, Marilyn poured out a cautionary tale of sexual harassment she and other actresses endured from ‘the wolves in this town’.
I replied that I was well used to ‘wolves’ after a few years in the British film industry.
As a 17-year-old straight out of RADA and playing my first leading role, I’d experienced a torrent of sexual harassment and the kind of behaviour that today is classed as abuse.
When I confided in an older actress on set at Ealing Studios, she told me to ‘like it or get out of the business’.
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