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How Marilyn Monroe helped her ‘very favorite person’ Ella Fitzgerald’s career

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On Sunday’s CNN documentary special “Reframed: Marilyn Monroe,” viewers learned quite a lot about the iconic Hollywood star. One notable story was the examination of Monroe’s friendship with famous jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald.

“My very favorite person and I love her as a person as well as a singer, I think she's the greatest and that's Ella Fitzgerald,” Monroe once said.

Monroe’s close friend Amy Greene recalled the time that the famous Mocambo club wouldn’t let Fitzgerald perform because of her race and appearance. Upon learning this, Monroe reached out to the club directly.

“Marilyn read this in the paper and got very annoyed and called the manager and said hi, this is Marilyn Monroe and if you rebook Ella Fitzgerald I will come every night to hear her sing. Both shows!”

While the women’s act of friendship would not be seen as unusual today, historians noted that this occurred in the midst of the civil rights movement and during a time of heightened racism. So Monroe’s support of Fitgerald could have hurt her career, but she did it anyway.

“Advocating for somebody like Ella Fitzgerald when she didn't have to and unpopular, this speaks to her principles,” Michele Mitchell said. “Ella did say Marilyn Monroe was ahead of her time and she didn't even know it.”

Video Transcript

AMY GREENE: Ella Fitzgerald knew she had a voice like an angel, and Marilyn played her records all the time.

KYLIE ERICA MAR: On Sunday's CNN special "Reframed: Marilyn Monroe," viewers learned about the close relationship between Monroe and famed jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald.

MARILYN MONROE (VOICEOVER): My very favorite person, and I love her as a person as well as a singer. I think she's the greatest, and that's Ella Fitzgerald.

KYLIE ERICA MAR: Monroe's close friend Amy Greene recalled at the time that the famous Mocambo Club wouldn't let Fitzgerald perform because of her race and appearance, which led to Monroe intervening.

AMY GREENE: Marilyn read this in the paper. She got very annoyed. So she called the manager and said, "Hi. This is Marilyn Monroe. And if you rebook Ella Fitzgerald, I will come every night to hear her sing. Both shows!"

KYLIE ERICA MAR: While the woman's act of friendship would not be seen as unusual today, historians noted that this occurred in the midst of the civil rights movement and during a time of heightened racism. So Monroe's support of Fitzgerald could have hurt her career, but she did it anyway.

MICHELE MITCHELL: Advocating for somebody like Ella Fitzgerald when she did not have to and when it was unpopular, this speaks to her principles. Ella did say Marilyn Monroe was ahead of her time, and she didn't even know it.