After 50 years, Monroe remains strong celeb brand
FILE - In this July 15, 2011 file photo, tourists on a double decker bus photograph Seward Johnson's 26-foot-tall sculpture of Marilyn Monroe, in her most famous wind-blown pose, on Michigan Avenue, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — There is a career after death, at least if while alive you wielded star power like Marilyn Monroe.
The bombshell actress continues to be a successful celebrity brand even 50 years after she died on Aug. 5, 1962, with a new digital emphasis to complement the wealth of photos, fashion, films and other cultural touchstones she left behind.
Monroe ranked third last year in Forbes' annual list of top deceased celebrity earners, generating $27 million and coming in behind Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. It was a comeback for the actress, who had fallen off the list the previous two years.
When the list is updated in the fall, it will likely show it has been another lucrative year for the actress' estate, which was purchased in 2010 by Authentic Brands Group and its partner, NECA. The company is in the midst of upgrading Monroe offerings from trinkets to cosmetic lines, spas, salons and apparel.
From beyond the grave, Monroe tweets at nearly 54,000 followers from (at)marilynmonroe and has a website and official Facebook page with more than 3.3 million fans. The messages often focus on fashion, body image and other musings recorded while she was alive, as well as interacting with current celebrities who express adoration for Monroe.
The digital efforts expose a new generation to not only the actress' fashion and trivia about her life, but also promote sales of Monroe's memorabilia and the NBC drama "Smash," which follows fictional efforts to create a Broadway show based on Monroe's life.
FILE - In this 1955 publicity photo, actress Marilyn Monroe is shown as the girl upstairs in director Billy Wilder's "The Seven Year Itch." The bombshell actress continues to be a successful celebrity brand even 50 years after she died, with a new digital emphasis to complement the wealth of photos, fashion, films and other cultural touchstones she left behind. (AP Photo, File)
"In some ways, she's more popular and well-known today than she was even then," said Lawrence Schiller, a photographer who knew Monroe in the final months of her life and photographed her last on-set photo shoot and author of the memoir "Marilyn & Me."
Authentic Brands CEO Jamie Salter said his company is making Monroe products more in line with the elegance of a star who famously sang, "Diamonds Are a Girl's best Friend."
"Our aim has been to clean up the brand," Salter said, with a shift away from "souvenir-type stuff" and toward what he calls the mid-tier luxury business. Current partners include Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, MAC Cosmetics and Marilyn Monroe Cafes, a group of high-end coffee shops.