Eli Wallach on Marilyn

“I had first met Marilyn Monroe when she came backstage after seeing me perform the role of Sakini in Teahouse on Broadway. She was in the midst of a contractual dispute with 20th Century Fox, and while the air was full of suits and countersuits, she decided to spend some time in New York. After that night’s performance, a press agent had ushered her into my dressing room—I remember that she looked nothing like the movie star I’d seen on-screen; she wore a simple dress and had short blond hair. She was pale, shy, and wore no lipstick.

The first thing she said to me was, “How do you do a whole play?” Though she was by now perhaps the world’s most famous movie star, she had never appeared in a play, and she seemed both awed and curious about it. I had the impression that she might not have ever seen a stage production. After we’d talked for a while, she asked if she could come see the show again and watch from backstage. I told her I was afraid that management wouldn’t allow it, so she said she’d watch from the balcony, which she did many times after our first meeting.

…Marilyn began taking private lessons with Actors Studio head Lee Strasberg, and my wife and Marilyn soon became very friendly. She would come to visit us at home and play with Peter and Roberta. She even occasionally babysat for us while Anne and I went off to the theater. I was impressed with her adjustment to the world of theater and her determination to remake her image, also with her professionalism. She once even helped me rewrite a contract to make sure that I got the best possible deal. I remember her putting on her little Ben Franklin spectacles to read the contract. “All right,” she told me, “take out clauses three and four. And make sure they clarify your billing.”

Wallach, Eli. The Good, The Bad, And Me (p. 211). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.


Marilyn + Eli backstage at Teahouse of the August Moon in 1955.

Marilyn had actually seen an earlier performance of Teahouse of the August Moon on September 13th, 1954 with Joe. There are photos of her taken with Joe and David Wayne backstage (who played the part of Sakini before Eli). It was definitely not the first stage production she’d seen!

Fun fact: David Wayne costarred with Marilyn in 4 films: As Young as You Feel, We’re Not Married, O. Henry’s Full House, and How to Marry a Millionaire.


Marilyn + David Wayne backstage at Teahouse of the August Moon in 1954 (photo: Sam Shaw)


Marilyn + Joe backstage at Teahouse of the August Mooon in 1954

(photo: Sam Shaw)