Salisbury Post - January 3, 1960 by Rose Post [View Scan Version]

‘Twas No Dream

Lucky Ralph Had Marilyn Monroe Under His Thumb

By Rose Post
Post Staff Writer

There might be a man or two in the world who would envy Ralph Roberts.

He’s just back from Hollywood where he spent part of most of his evenings with Marilyn Monroe. And not only was he with Marilyn, but it was a Marilyn dressed in towels.

Which, added to the fact that he’s probably the only Salisburian ever to appear on the cover of Time, should assure him a place in local history. Certainly he’s the only one who’s massaged the most talked about body of the Fifties.

It all came about because Ralph won’t go anywhere without his table of his little bottle of oil.

Long aspiring to be an actor, he added the requirements of masseur to his abilities several years ago. Massage took little time and produced the income that made it possible for him to pound the pavements of New York in search of bit – and better – parts in Broadway shows.

Recently the pendulum has swung away from the massage table and toward the klieg lights, and he’s just spent 10 months on Broadway, the road, and in Hollywood as a dumb detective in "Bells are Ringing," the Judy Holliday hit.

Naturally, he took his table and his other stock in trade, the bottle of Nivea, with him. And it was just as natural that a sometime–actor - sometime–masseur should get a call for massage. Actually he was doing no such work at the time.

But the caller was Marilyn Monroe…

"And for her I made an exception!"

The hair is as blonde, the eyes are as blue, and the skin as peaches and cream as the screen indicates, he says. And the figure is everything it’s supposed to be.


But he was surprised to find that Miss Monroe is actually a very intelligent girl ("one of the best read I’ve ever met") and extremely shy. In fact, she and her husband Arthur Miller are both somewhat withdrawn and quiet, Ralph found.

She’s currently rehearsing for the lead in a new movie, "The Billionaire." Ralph arrived at their cottage one night to find Mr. Miller at the table with a brunette.

"Hasn’t Marilyn arrived yet?" he asked, whereupon the brunette turned around and was Marilyn trying out a brownish wispy wig she’ll wear in a few scenes in the movie.

The son of H. K. Roberts of West Innes Street, Ralph has had parts in Broadway shows for sometime. During the past few years, however, he feels that he’s been particularly fortunate in securing some very excellent roles. He was featured on the cover of Time magazine for his part as the executioner in "The Lark," which he played on Broadway and on television, was the lead in one of the "New York Confidential" television series, and played the leading role of the father in television’s "Hans Brinker" with Tab Hunter. He has also had two good stock roles in recent years, including a part in the Tennessee Williams play, "Orpheus Descending," when it played in Miami, and the part of the older brother in "Desire Under the Elms."

The day after he closed in "Desire Under the Elms," he joined the cast of "Bells Are Ringing." Though not large, his part is of the memorable sort. He plays a detective, comic in his stupidity and thoroughly dedicated to his work.

"Bells" was his first experience on the road. The show toured Washington (where his Salisbury relatives went to see it), Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"You could sense the days when the audience was sophisticated," he said. Then they’d laugh at the jokes and get the nuances. But he was just as easily able to pick the days when the "elderly ladies had tottered in" – particularly Wednesday afternoons.

Mamie Eisenhower was a Wednesday afternooner when the show was in Washington. That day the interest was in the audience, not on the stage, and someone in the cast had an eye on her every minute. When the performance was over, they compared notes and found that they had a minute by minute report – including one instant when she blew her nose.

Worked in Day

Although he’s made several movies before, this was also Ralph’s first Hollywood experience, which he found strangest because he worked, like normal people, during the day instead of at night.

Shooting a movie is altogether different from the legitimate stage in that no story sequence is followed. The first scene Ralph made was one of him taking a picture at Times Square. The very last scene he worked on was showing that picture to another detective. Actually they both came together in the middle of the movie. He took numerous pictures throughout the movie – and oddly enough the cameras were loaded with film and he was actually shooting. He was particularly pleased when several of the pictures he made were used as props in the movie.

He enjoyed the screen work because he was given more freedom with "funny business" – an important ingredient since his is a comic role – than on the stage. In one scene he chases Judy Holliday through a rubble-strewn lot where buildings are being razed. She goes through a door that’s left standing alone in the debris. Ralph chases her through the door. Then he realizes that he left the door open and returns to close it, a touch he added himself. The director approved – and that’s the way Salisburians will see the scene when the movie arrives here. "Bells" is the big MGM technicolor spectacular for 1960.

Another sidelight on the movie is the fact that Ralph wears a brown corduroy cap given to him by Susan Strasberg to wear when he bought his sport car three years ago.

"It’s little and my head’s big," so the result is amusing. He also wears his old army boots. "They seem to give a sense of stumblebumness."

Judy Holliday has become a real friend as a result of the 10-month association. He had lunch with her almost daily and they spent their waiting hours on the set playing Scrabble.

Ralph drove home from Hollywood for New Year’s but got here one hour late – after coming all the way across the United States. He was driving through Gastonia as the new decade arrived. He’ll leave tomorrow for New York where he hopes to get some short-term engagements during the next few months. In April he’ll go to Las Vegas where he’s to have a part in a Marilyn Monroe picture, "The Misfits," written by her husband.

And since Ralph is still impressed by stars – even though he’s very much on the way to becoming one himself – he’s looking forward to meeting the cast, which will include Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, and Eli Wallach.

In the meantime, he’s ready for whatever New York will offer – be it acting or that old reliable, the massage table. After all, you never can tell who might be on it.