Legend has it that when someone dared to compare Sara Montiel with Marilyn Monroe, the character of La Mancha came out and also, why not, a little bit of ego. “I’m an actress!” She bellowed, beating her chest. And it is that if Montiel was clear about something, it was that hers was a role. “The one I am really satisfied with is María Antonia,” she remarked. Sarah is something else. Although it may seem otherwise, the relationship between the protagonist of ‘The Last Cuplé’ and the Hollywood star did exist. It was brief but intense. Both met in New York, husbands through, and they starred in a brief encounter that served the one from Campo de Criptana to show off all her life. Not for less, of course. Let’s see if there is someone who can say the same. And if there is, let him do it with the grace of Montiel. Impossible.
“I really liked Marilyn”, wrote Sara Montiel in ‘Vivir es un placer’, her -somewhat fantastic- memoirs. The actress, already retired from the cinema, sat down to recall a career of hers, hers, which, until then, had no comparison. Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday -for whom she came to destroy several tables at the legendary Four Seasons- or Cary Grant went through the pages of her life with ease. Although, without a doubt, one of her great attractions, also one of the episodes that she liked to remember the most, It was when he came face to face with Marilyn Monroe. Two stars at the top. Two legends in the shadow of their husbands. Or so they believed.
A winter day in New York
“I had already met Marilyn Monroe at the premiere of an Ava Gardner movie.” The 1960s were ending when Sara Montiel rubbed shoulders with the cream of Hollywood. The actress had married in 1957 with the director Anthony Mann and, of course, everything happened through her house. Producers, businessmen, tycoons and some of the biggest celluloid stars of then and always went to the mansion where they lived. It was not the case with Marilyn. Their meeting happened, yes, but on that occasion it was the Manns who visited the home that Monroe shared with the writer Arthur Miller. With what Sara liked to be a hostess…
“We went to the house they had in New York, to the studio where Miller worked, and also to another house he had in New Jersey,” Sara explains in her own handwriting. “Marilyn was having a hard time because she had just had an abortion. She was emotionally very low ”. This was not an obstacle for Montiel to notice a key detail. She “she wore a silk blouse last night and very wide pants too,” said the actress, not without stitching without thread. “Marilyn treated Tony and me wonderfully throughout the meal,” she would confess decades later in a conversation with Vanitatis. A dinner -or perhaps food, it was never quite clear- that passed to posterity.
“Marilyn was tiny, very little thing”
Despite being more than used to being surrounded by stars, Sara was somewhat fascinated by Marilyn. “She was tiny, a little thing,” she explained to the aforementioned medium shortly before her death. “She wasn’t very tall, she was very weak and skinny”. The relationship between the actresses did not go much further, perhaps because of the hatred that Sara herself felt for Arthur Miller. “I knew he was a great writer, but I didn’t like him at all as a person. He was bombastic, cocky, haughty, ”she retaliated in her memoir. “And time proved me right, because in all the bad things he wrote about Marilyn after she was killed (because no one puts it in my head that it was a natural or accidental death) he was portrayed.”
Together with their husbands and already having dinner, they went to visit a nearby theater where Miller and Mann planned to take their collaboration on stage and that was the end of it. “When I got tired of witnessing the rehearsals, I would go for a walk, see shop windows on Fifth Avenue and maybe buy something,” the actress would say years later. Sara would never see Marilyn again after that dinner. At least she’s not alive. And the fact is that the future still held one last encounter for them.
Visit Marilyn’s grave
At the beginning of the seventies, Sara Montiel traveled to the United States as part of the promotion of her film ‘Varietés’. There she is accompanied, of course, by Pepe Tous, her husband, and the actress takes advantage of her return to what was her house to show him some of the corners where she was so happy. “Hollywood no longer exists”, Sara sentenced with her usual ease in the pages of Fotogramas. “It has changed a lot. It’s not the one I met when she was married to Anthony Mann.” With everything, The actress did not want to leave until she fulfilled a debt she had acquired long ago: to pay her respects to Monroe.
“We were visiting Marilyn’s grave”, I would tell Jesús Mariñas for this publication. “I could only put three or four roses on it. They did not fit more in the «bouquet». It is a gray marble niche, impersonal and almost dehumanized”. Affected and emotional, Sara posed in front of Marilyn’s grave to be immortalized by the photographers. “I’ve wanted to pay this tribute to poor Marilyn for a long time,” she confessed with a hint of sadness. And it is that Sara, although she never recognized it, always saw herself reflected in her. “Marilyn was already a myth. I want to continue being who I am.” And she was, of course, a star.