‘He stood naked in his office to greet actresses’
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.”
NO THANKS: Level-headed Myleene Klass was scathing about being propositioned
YES AND NO: Monroe, left, slept with producers but Raquel Welch refused