‘He stood naked in his of­fice to greet ac­tresses’

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couch, Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe is an in­ter­est­ing ex­am­ple. Dubbed one of the ear­li­est “bim­bos” in the Fifties (on early film sets it stood for “body im­mac­u­late, brains op­tional”) the lush Mon­roe sub­mit­ted to the cast­ing couch to pro­pel her from plain Norma Jeane Morten­son to in­ter­na­tional fame. She dis­missed the trad­ing of sex for star­dom air­ily as “no big tragedy – no­body ever got can­cer from sex” and added: “I’ve slept with pro­duc­ers. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t.”

Other com­ments, how­ever, sug­gest she wasn’t so lais­sez-faire about the whole busi­ness. When 20th Cen­tury Fox awarded Mon­roe the rich­est con­tract of any ac­tress in 1955 she tri­umphantly de­clared: “It means I’ll never have to suck an­other **** again!”

She even warned Joan Collins about the las­civ­i­ous “wolves” in Hollywood and re­vealed a par­tic­u­larly un­pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence with the no­to­ri­ously lech­er­ous Harry Cohn, one of the orig­i­nal kings of the cast­ing couch who was head of Columbia Pic­tures from 1919 to the Fifties. Cohn ap­par­ently in­vited Mon­roe to an overnight cruise on his yacht where she was re­quired to strip naked for him – but when she de­clined his ad­vances (so she some­times did) Mon­roe re­called, “I had never seen a man so an­gry.”

Cohn vies with Dar­ryl F Zanuck as the man who in­vented the cast­ing couch and it was said Cohn had the orig­i­nal one in a se­cret an­nexe off his of­fice. Zanuck, mean­while, was an en­thu­si­as­tic wom­an­iser and the head of 20th Cen­tury Fox from 1935. He was fa­mously “in con­fer­ence” with a num­ber of as­pir­ing ac­tresses be­tween 4pm and 4.30pm ev­ery af­ter­noon.

One would-be star­let who was shown in­no­cently into his of­fice was rather shocked to find him half naked (from the waist down) and ready for ac­tion – which all rather sug­gests that the cast­ing couch has been in ex­is­tence for as long as cam­eras have been rolling.

Avi­a­tor and Thir­ties and For­ties film mogul Howard Hughes may have had glit­ter­ing af­fairs with the likes of Ava Gardner, Katharine Hep­burn, Bette Davis and Gin­ger Rogers but he still kept a “se­cret” house near his LA home where he’d “in­ter­view” would-be star­lets, Jane Rus­sell among them, pre­tend­ing he was play­ing at the golf club nearby. But many of these wannabes would never achieve fame. In fact, some of the great­est sil­ver screen stars are the ones who re­fused.

Lau­ren Ba­call has re­vealed how Hughes un­suc­cess­fully at­tempted to get her on the cast­ing couch while other great icons who have claimed knowl­edge of the prac­tice – and de­clined – in­clude Raquel Welch. “I never slept with any­one to get a part, al­though the of­fers were there,” she has de­clared. N 1991 Os­car-win­ning film pro­ducer Ju­lia Phillips wrote a book called You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again in which she sug­gested the cast­ing couch was still alive and well, while two years later Helen Mir­ren, Ba­call, Jane Sey­mour and Bo Derek joined forces for a doc­u­men­tary en­ti­tled Sex For Jobs In Hollywood. “The cast­ing couch was al­ways thought of as a joke but women are now say­ing: ‘Well ac­tu­ally guys it wasn’t,’” Mir­ren re­vealed at the time. “We never found it very funny.”

Myleene Klass is in a po­si­tion not to take her own in­de­cent pro­pos­als too se­ri­ously but as San­dro Monetti adds: “There are dif­fer­ent lengths that am­bi­tious peo­ple will go to in or­der to fur­ther their show­biz ca­reers.

“Myleene was pre­pared to chase star­dom on a re­al­ity show. Oth­ers will go much fur­ther. But while such ac­tions may get your foot in the door, only star qual­ity and abil­ity can keep you there long term.”

Pic­tures: COR­BIS, GETTY, REX, SCOPE FEA­TURES

NO THANKS: Level-headed Myleene Klass was scathing

about be­ing propo­si­tioned

YES AND NO: Mon­roe, left, slept with pro­duc­ers but Raquel Welch re­fused

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