Obituary: Paula Lane
Actress who was known for her resemblance to Marilyn Monroe
Published 03/01/2016 | 02:30
Paula Lane, who has died, probably aged 89, earned a living and minor celebrity from her resemblance to Marilyn Monroe.
For some 20 years, she played the world's most famous sex symbol on stage, in commercials and on television. She also starred in a musical revue, Tribute to Marilyn, which toured the United States, Japan and Britain.
In 1989, she appeared in Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn (1989), a film which the director Larry Buchanan claimed would show what really happened on August 5, 1962, when the star was found dead in her Bel-Air home of an overdose.
"I play Marilyn at 36," said the by then 53-year-old lookalike. "It took a little doing, but I think I pulled it off."
The critics were not so sure, one describing the film as "maybe the sleaziest movie of 1989, a perfect 100 on the Sleaze Meter".
Paula Lane, however, he suggested, should be given a "Drive-In Academy Award nomination" for saying: "Do they have cameras in heaven?"
Paula Lane was born in San Francisco in 1926, one of five children of an architect and his hairdresser wife.
Her entrée into show business came via the beauty queen circuit. She won titles such as Miss International Auto Show, Miss Hillsdale Boat Show and Miss Los Angeles Press Club, before signing a contract with 20th Century Fox and appearing in films such as What a Way to Go and Goodbye Charlie. Her best performance was as Honey Bunny, a suicidal film star in Albert Zugsmith's Movie Star, American Style (1966). She also featured in many popular television series of the 1960s.
One Hollywood columnist described Paula Lane as "the girl most men would like to be stranded on a desert island with".
But by the 1970s acting and modelling work was proving irregular, so on the advice of an agent who suggested that she exploit her resemblance to Marilyn Monroe, she put together a song-and-dance act and took off on a three-week gig in Tokyo.
She had met the star on three occasions and as she recalled, "studied her every move, every gesture, every notion". When she heard the news of her death on the radio, "I went to church to visit my priest. I needed answers. When my grief subsided and a couple of days later I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and felt this incredible force as if Marilyn was looking back at me. It was as if she had moulded herself into my body! I started to cry. I hadn't realised before just how much I looked like Marilyn. I was her."
From the 1970s onwards, Paula Lane performed as Marilyn Monroe in clubs from California to Las Vegas. Calling her act 'The Super Star Award Show', she sang songs which Marilyn Monroe had made famous, including Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend and Heat Wave, and recreated the classic shot from The Seven Year Itch of Marilyn Monroe's dress blowing up around her legs as she stands over a subway grating. To "do" Marilyn, Paula Lane claimed, was "like a fix. To go out for a Marilyn job is an upper."
Paula Lane, who was divorced, is survived by her two daughters. She died on August 26, but her death was not reported until December 20.