For more than a year now I've resided only a few blocks from the little cemetery where Marilyn Monroe's crypt may be found. This cemetery is in the middle of the busy Westwood area of Los Angeles, near UCLA, but it can't be seen from the street. You have to know where to find it and you have to make some time to go there. So one day last week, on my way home from the library, I set aside some time. It was easy, because I really don't have anything very important to do.
I found Marilyn's crypt without difficulty and placed a dime on top of her brass name plate. There was quite a bit of change there already although none shows in this picture. The truth is I've never been very interested in Marilyn Monroe. But whenever I think of Laurette Luez, the actress pictured below -- and I think of her quite often -- I remember Marilyn as well. You see, it was Laurette Luez who thought of a new name for Norma Jeane Baker.
Laurette was in the same "freshman class" of Hollywood starlets as Marilyn. She had a theory that an effective name should unconsciously call to mind some powerful association. In Laurette's own case it was "Suez," which she hoped would suggest smoldering exoticism. For Marilyn it's a little trickier. One explanation might be the link between President James Monroe and the so-called "Era of Good Feeling."
Very well! Laurette Luez starred in a film called "Prehistoric Women," made in 1950. It had first first produced as a silent in the 1920s and was remade again in the late 60s. It's a great film in its way and I recommend it to anyone who has a chance to see it. One of the best scenes is a catfight between cave girl Laurette and her rival -- I'll have to look up her name -- who was actually even hotter than the lead actress. A cunning bit of casting there!
And now, the dénouement! One day in 1988 I was speaking with Roger Corman, the famous low budget producer and director, for whom I had just written a script called "Quest of the Sword Mistress." The film was going to be shot in Peru and before he signed off on it Corman wanted to make sure there were enough breast reveals -- one every ten pages or so. Corman seemed to me like a deeply bi-polar individual. Sometimes garrulous, sometimes dour, and often a bit sadistic with the poor schmucks who were reduced to working for him. In any case, as he leafed absently through the pages of my script I heard myself asking, "Roger, did you ever see a movie called Prehistoric Women?"
Corman looked up immediately. Suddenly he seemed sharply focused, hyper alert. Then a dreamy, wistful look appeared in his eyes. "Laurette Luez -- "
"She was....very beautiful."
"I would not dispute you, Socrates."
"Did you know that she married the director?"
"I did not know that."
The moment quickly passed. "Mitch, just make sure we see some breasts before page thirty --"
Laurette Luez died in 1999. Her grave is in Milton, Florida. Have a great day!