In 1950, what’s now called the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had a split-off group called the Foreign Press Association of Hollywood. (The dispute was over some of the original organization’s members not being professional journalists.) The FPAH is now mostly forgotten, save for one memorable act: It gave Marilyn Monroe her first major award in 1952 at Santa Monica’s Club Casa del Mar. (That seaside brick building is now the Hotel Casa del Mar.)
The Henrietta — named after FPAH president Henry Gris — was shaped like a tall, nude woman holding a flower. The group had the prescience to choose Monroe for its International Stardom Award, given to the “best young box-office personality.” (They gave the same award that night to Tony Curtis.) Monroe, then 25, had done a dozen or so minor films, with her standout turn being a small role in John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle.
Her explosion into mega-fame came in December 1953, when she appeared nude in Playboy‘s debut issue and then a month later married Yankee star Joe DiMaggio. She was then said to be receiving 25,000 fan letters a week. The FPAH lasted one more year before folding back into the HFPA. “It was too much for the studios to deal with two different groups,” says HFPA archivist Elisa Leonelli. “By coming together, they ended up forming a much stronger organization.”
This story first appeared in a January stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.