Here’s John Steinbeck Asking Marilyn Monroe for Her Autograph (1955)

When ask­ing a celebri­ty for a spe­cial favor, it helps to be a bit of a celebri­ty your­self.

As Kei­th Fer­rell details in his biog­ra­phy, John Stein­beck: The Voice of the Land, the Nobel lau­re­ate had lit­tle patience for auto­graph seek­ers, pushy young writ­ers seek­ing help get­ting pub­lished, and “peo­ple who nev­er read books but enjoyed meet­ing authors.”

The shoe went on the oth­er foot when Mrs. Stein­beck let slip to her nephew that Uncle John had met the boy’s movie star crush, Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe.

Sud­den­ly, an auto­graphed pho­to seemed in order.

And not just some stan­dard issue pub­lic­i­ty shot, but ide­al­ly one show­ing the star of The Sev­en Year Itch and Gen­tle­men Pre­fer Blondes in a “pen­sive girl­ish mood.”

Also, could she please inscribe it by name to nephew Jon, a young man with, his uncle con­fid­ed, “one foot in the door of puber­ty”?

The star-to-star tone Stein­beck adopts for the above let­ter seems designed to ward off sus­pi­cion that this nephew could be a con­ve­nient inven­tion on the part of some­one desir­ing such a prize for him­self.

Six­ty years after a sec­re­tary typed it up, Stein­beck­’s mes­sage fetched $3,520 at Julien’s Auc­tions, one of a wide range of items culled from hard­core Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe col­lec­tor, David Gains­bor­ough-Roberts as well as the estate of Mon­roe’s act­ing teacher, Lee Stras­berg.

In addi­tion to oth­er cor­re­spon­dence, the Mar­i­lyn auc­tion includ­ed anno­tat­ed scripts, an emp­ty pre­scrip­tion bot­tle, a bal­le­ri­na paper­weight, stock­ings and gowns, some pin­up-type mem­o­ra­bil­ia, and a pro­gram from John F Kennedy’s 1962 birth­day cel­e­bra­tion at Madi­son Square Gar­den.

One lot that is con­spic­u­ous for its absence is Steinbeck’s promised “guest key to the ladies’ entrance of Fort Knox.”

Could it be that the boy nev­er got his cus­tomized auto­graph?

We’d like to think that he did. Per­haps he’s still savor­ing it in pri­vate.

H/T Alan Gold­wass­er/Let­ters of Note/Flash­bak

Relat­ed Con­tent:

“Noth­ing Good Gets Away”: John Stein­beck Offers Love Advice in a Let­ter to His Son (1958)

The 430 Books in Mar­i­lyn Monroe’s Library: How Many Have You Read?

Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe & Elvis Pres­ley Star in an Action-Packed Pop Art Japan­ese Mon­ster Movie

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in New York City for the next install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain, this Mon­day, March 11. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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