A Letter from 20th Century Fox to Marilyn Monroe
“Horns for the Devil”
From the Personal Files of Marilyn Monroe: A December 22, 1958 letter from Harry J. McIntyre, regarding payment for “motion picture and allied rights in the novel entitled Horns for the Devil.”
Related Collection Pieces:
From the book Marilyn Monroe by Barbara Leaming, page 87:
That May, just as she finished “How To Marry A Millionaire,” Marilyn’s weekly salary escalated to $1,250. It was an insignificant sum in relation to the box-office success of “Niagara” and, soon, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” There was no question that the terms of Marilyn’s contract had to be completely renegotiated. In 1950, Johnny Hyde had made a deal on behalf of a starlet in whom he alone believed. By the summer of 1953, it was obvious that Marilyn was about to be a very major star. From the moment Feldman had seen the rushes of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and heard the buzz about Marilyn at the studio, he’d known that the time to start talking about a new deal would be after the film went into release. If audiences and critics reacted as he expected they would, Marilyn would be in an excellent position to maximize her salary demands.
Meanwhile, Feldman had considered other ways to squeeze money out of the studio. A strategy he had used with other clients seemed appropriate here: Feldman urged Marilyn to buy the screen rights to a novel and to commission a screenwriter to tailor a script for her. Famous Artists would then make it a condition of her new contract that Zanuck purchase the rights from Marilyn. He calculated that would earn her a profit in excess of $200,000. Marilyn, advised by her lawyer to go ahead, agreed. Feldman’s office sent ten different books to Doheny, and Joe and Marilyn studied them carefully.
The sports pages were DiMaggio’s typical reading matter, but in the end it was he who chose the novel “Horns for the Devil.” Marilyn, with $5,000 advanced by Feldman, bought the book strictly on Joe’s say-so. Then she conferred with the screenwriter Alfred Hayes, whom she had met during “Clash by Night.” She paid him another few thousand dollars of Feldman’s money to complete a script. The decision to buy “Horns for the Devil” would have a significant impact on the timing of the contract negotiations. For tax reasons, Marilyn had to hold on to the screen rights for at least six months after the date of purchase. Therefore, if the rights were to be used as a negotiating tool, she couldn’t sign a new studio contract until six months had passed.
Even at this stage, Feldman was not being paid for his work on Marilyn’s behalf. Johnny Hyde had negotiated her current contract, and the agency commission deducted from her paycheck still went to William Morris. As long as that contract remained in force, no matter who handled Marilyn’s day-to-day interests, William Morris collected the commission. That situation would change when a new studio contract was signed. Then, Feldman would be entitled not only to the agents commission, but also to a cut of the proceeds from the sale of “Horn’s For The Devil,” if (and that “if” was beginning to be a source of embarrassment) Marilyn had finally signed an agency contract with Famous Artists. She had postponed so many times that Feldman had stopped raising the issue. Until she did sign, Feldman would not be entitled to a penny, no matter how many hours he and his staff devoted to her.
On July 15, 1953, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” was released. It was a spectacular critical and box-office success. This was the moment Marilyn had been working toward since she was a sad, lonely little girl in an orphanage. This was everything Grace and, later, Johnny Hyde had wanted for her. “Niagara” had excited audiences; but the impact of “Gentlemen prefer Blondes” was entirely different. Suddenly, people felt they really knew “Marilyn Monroe.” And it was immediately obvious that they couldn’t get enough of her.
Zanuck expected to hear from Feldman with his demands for a new contract, but the agency, usually so aggressive, was mysteriously silent. What Zanuck didn’t know was that the purchase of “Horns for the Devil” would not become final before August 5, 1953.
Ultimately, this gamble paid off. Marilyn sold the rights to “Horns for the Devil” to Fox for $150,000.00.