Marilyn and the Students

When Marilyn Monroe arrived in England on 14 July 1956, she was met by hundreds of reporters, photographers and fans, all anxious to gain a glimpse of her. But while the media were trampling each other for photos at London Airport, some enterprising youngsters had a more imaginative way of attracting Marilyn’s attention!

Photo sourced from the Media History Digital Library

Shoreditch Training College was located approximately two miles from Parkside House (Marilyn’s home for the next four months), and like most of the local people, the students who studied there had long anticipated the star’s arrival.  For two days before Marilyn landed in England, gossip swirled around the college, and there was a great deal of lobbying to form a group that would be willing to go to Marilyn’s house and entice her out. 

At around 8 pm, on the night of 16th July, a mammoth group of students met in front of the college, to make the two-mile hike to Marilyn’s house.  The plan was to sing under her bedroom window, and some of the students even took along trumpets and other musical instruments to add further excitement to the proceedings. 

Headline from the Daily Mirror, 17 July 1956. Sourced from the British Newspaper Archive.

However, everything did not go to plan, when the College Principal, Ted Marshall, turned up to try to persuade the revellers to go home.  Unfortunately for him, most of them had just finished their exams, so feeling that there was nothing the college could do to stop them, Mr Marshall’s attempts at discipline went unheard.  The trip to Marilyn’s house further exasperated Mr Marshall when he discovered that one of the young men had borrowed his car to catch up with friends.  The vehicle was even stopped by police during the short journey, and the driver cheekily gave his name as that of the Principal, Ted Marshall before abandoning it near Parkside House.

Once the group reached the vicinity of Marilyn’s home, they immediately started chanting, “We want Marilyn, We want Marilyn”, before lifting the gates clean out of their hinges, marching up the driveway and singing the 23rd Psalm outside Marilyn’s bedroom window.  However, it soon became clear to most of them that she had no intention of coming out to meet them. 

Nevertheless, although they didn’t get Marilyn’s attention, they did receive a great deal of notice from the police, who had been tipped off and were making their way to Parkside House.  As they approached, most of the fans scattered, and one former student, Allan R Pemberton remembered:

“It was dark and I had fled into long, wet grass.  I got soaking wet and I recall clearly seeing the searching lights being scanned over the area where I was hiding.  I’m not sure how long I remained in hiding, but when I thought it safe, I returned to the college, where quite a few of the group had already returned.  Quite a few hadn’t, I remember and there were many stories of ‘escapes’, but no-one saw Marilyn and we never knew whether she was aware of our escapade.”

Photo sourced from the Media History Digital Library.

Marilyn was, indeed, very aware of what went on outside her bedroom window that night.  In his autobiography, ‘Timebends: A life’, Arthur Miller described waking up to the sound of singing outside.  Once awake, he and Marilyn both watched out of the window in amazement at the spectacle below, but because of security concerns, neither of them talked to or met any of the students.

The next morning, Principal Ted Marshall was still furious and quick to bring the subject up.   One former student, Donald W J Foot remembered:

“He gave a sharp word the next day at College assembly, but those who participated were quite unabashed.”  Although the Principal threatened all sorts of sanctions, none were ever carried out and the students spent much of their summer holiday outside Parkside House, waiting for a glimpse of Marilyn.

The information for this blog was taken from my book, ‘Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed: New Edition.’ Please visit the Little, Brown website for more information and ordering options.

Until next time,

Michelle x

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