15 December 2014

Now that we have made up...

One of my earlier posts (here) showed an angry telegram from playwright Arthur Miller to Billy Wilder. Wilder had publicly criticised Marilyn Monroe for her behaviour during the shooting of "Some Like it Hot" (1959), and in the telegram -dated 11 February 1959- Miller basically accused him of having contributed to Marilyn's miscarriage (which occurred shortly after production). That same day Wilder sent Miller a lengthy telegram back, saying (in part): 

"Of course I am deeply sorry that she lost her baby, but I must reject the implication that overwork or inconsiderate treatment by me or anyone else associated with the production was in any way responsible for it. The fact is that the company pampered her, coddled her and acceded to all her whims. The only one who showed any lack of consideration was Marilyn, in her treatment of her co-stars and her co-workers right from the first day, before there was any hint of pregnancy... Her chronic tardiness and unpreparedness cost us eighteen shooting days, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and countless heartaches. I recall one typical morning when she showed up two and a half hours late, carrying a copy of Thomas Paine's The rights of man, and when a second assistant director knocked on her dressing room door and humbly asked her if she was ready, her humanity shone through and she replied quote drop dead unquote. This having been my second picture with Marilyn, I understand her problems. Her biggest problem is that she doesn't understand anyone else's problems. If you took a quick poll among the cast and crew on the subject of Marilyn [you] would find a positively overwhelming lack of popularity." [source: "Arthur Miller" by Christopher Bigsby (2008)]  

Tony Curtis. Billy Wilder and Marilyn Monroe at a party for "Some Like it Hot". Curtis was also more than annoyed with Marilyn during production of the film. And his remark "Kissing her is like kissing Hitler" didn't really help matters between the two of them.

I don't know what happened after Wilder sent his telegram, but the two men apparently reconciled judging from Wilder's note to Miller several months later:

Source: heritage auctions/ image reproduced with permission


April 20, 1959

Mr. Arthur Miller
444 East 57 Street
New York, New York

Dear Arthur:

Now that we have made up (I hope!), I want you to read this stunning review of our picture. In case you don't read Hebrew, I suggest you have Elizabeth Taylor translate it for you.

My best to Marilyn.

Fond regards,


*Note: Billy Wilder and Arthur Miller were both Jewish, and Elizabeth Taylor had just converted to Judaism earlier that month--hence Wilder's remark. 

On the set of "Some Like it Hot" with Billy Wilder, Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe


  1. I love this site, the letters you post are both priceless and fascinating. Can't help but smile at ever-the-cynic Billy Wilder's crack about Elizabeth Taylor translating from Hebrew. I remember another quote of his, this one about working with Marilyn Monroe: "I had no problems with Monroe. It was Monroe who had problems with Monroe."

    1. I wasn't really sure what to make of his remark on Liz but, as you say, it must have been his cynical humour. Thank you, and I will try to keep on posting interesting stuff.