Marilyn Monroe career snub that transformed Audrey Hepburn’s life forever

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Today, the icon Marilyn Monroe returns to screens as she stars in 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which airs from 3.55pm on BBC Two. It follows the life of showgirl Lorelei, and her best friend Dorothy, as they go on a trip to Paris, where the former prepares to marry the mega-rich Gus Edmond. But, while on their way, the pair are befriended by an undercover cop, to make sure Lorelei isn’t a gold-digger, but Dorothy soon falls for the private detective.

The film is often remembered as one of Monroe’s finest performances, particularly her rendition of the song Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.

Review website Rotten Tomatoes reports the film to have a 98 percent approval rating, adding: “Anchored by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell’s sparkling magnetism, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a delightfully entertaining 1950s musical.”

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was so popular, that influential German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder claimed it was among the finest 10 films ever to be created.

While the film is ranked among Monroe’s best work, lesser-known is how close the blonde bombshell was to securing what could have been a legacy-defining role in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Marilyn Monroe career snub that transformed Audrey Hepburn's life forever

Marilyn Monroe career snub that transformed Audrey Hepburn’s life forever (Image: GETTY)

Marilyn Monroe died in 1962

Marilyn Monroe died in 1962 (Image: GETTY)

Based on the work of Truman Capote, the flick became one of the most influential works of its generation and secured its lead actress, Audrey Hepburn, an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Yet, discussions on whether she was actually right for the role have continued to dominate discussion in the decades since its release.

And it would appear Captoe himself was unhappy with Hepburn’s character, previously demanding Monroe instead be selected for the character of Holly Golightly.

Discussing this in The Guardian, Sarah Churchwell, a professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, argued that Hepburn was “entirely wrong for Holly, a character who turns out to be a vagrant from west Texas whose real name is Lulamae Barnes”.

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Marilyn Monroe was considered for a role in Breakfast at Tiffany's

Marilyn Monroe was considered for a role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Image: GETTY)

Writing in 2009, she continued: “It is difficult to conceive of a woman less likely ever to have been called Lulamae, let alone ‘a hillbilly or an Okie or what’ (as Holly’s agent OJ Berman refers to Lulamae) than Audrey Hepburn.

“She could be an ingénue, a naif, anything French you like. But a redneck? A hick from a Texas dirt-farm? That’s even more implausible than Cary Grant as an Oregon lumberjack in To Catch a Thief some five years earlier.

“Every inch of Audrey Hepburn exudes aristocratic chic.”

This was totally different when compared to Monroe, Churchwell noted, who was “a depression-era orphan who was both exploited and saved by older men”.

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Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Image: GETTY)

She added: “Blake Edwards’s film adaptation was released in 1961, a little less than a year before Monroe died.

“And much to her disappointment, she didn’t win the part that had been written for, and about, her.

“Holly could have been the performance of a lifetime – as it would have been the performance of her lifetime.

“Moreover Holly, despite being blonde, is decidedly not dumb, and Monroe was desperate to escape being typecast.”

Filming locations in UK

Filming locations in UK (Image: EXPRESS)

The suitability of Hepburn was again recalled in the 2016 documentary Crazy About Tiffany’s, which analysed the potential impact a Monroe-led cast would have had on the film.

The documentary’s director, Matthew Miele, spoke about this to The Telegraph, noting how it was “interesting that Monroe was originally being considered for the role”.

He continued: “It changed everything about the image so I think they lucked out with that.”

“Audrey was aligned with Tiffany’s but not in any kind of contract.

“Through Breakfast at Tiffany’s she’s become like the face of it. I think a lot of women aspire to be like that refined, cultivated, sophisticated image that Audrey represented.”

Capote’s own view, though, was clear, with journalist Barry Paris writing that Monroe was “always [Capote’s] first choice” to play Holly.

He added: “Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey.”

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes airs from 3.55pm on BBC Two.