...It was traditional at MGM New Year's parties for
Monroe to put her boxing skills on show, and more often than not,
these were indeed more show than substance. But Monroe's opponent
on this particular holiday eve was none other than Betty Grable,
and such was the history of ill content between these two women,
that there could be no doubting the veracity of the contest.
I had not been privileged to witness their first
bout, the bout in which the title had changed hands, thereby dethroning
Grable after a spectacular run of successful defenses. By all
accounts, I am given to believe that Grable did in fact hand out
a meaty punishment to Monroe at that time, but in the absence
of a knockout, the will of the studios prevailed as it so often
would in those days. Monroe ascended, and Grable fell from grace,
through no fault of her own, and she compounded her fall by voicing
her discontent at the decision. I had never thought that I would
ever get to see the great Betty Grable fight in person as a result
of her unwise complaints - and so was more than thrilled when
the New Year's eve bout was announced.
As was traditional, both women donned Christmas styled
bikinis made of what looked almost like a red felt material, trimmed
in white fluff, and fought with soft, ivory white seal pelt mittens.
Monroe in her prime, was as always a breathtaking creature, and
she played the coquette with studio executives and power brokers
in costume before the bout. Grable was not to be out done however:
though no one knew how much fight the well-legged blonde had left
in her - to look at her - she seemed fit enough. And when right,
Betty had always gotten the most out of her talents of any girl
in the game. I overheard many in attendance, delightfully speculating
that Monroe might actually be bested on the night, and the prospect
certainly carried with it no mean measure of glee.
As they mounted to the ringed stage, one could sense
the urgency inherent in the confrontation. Monroe stared at the
ground during introductions, while Gable shuffled nervously from
one foot to the other, grinding her teeth in anxiety to get at
her rival. At the bell, Betty charged across the ring, hands low
in the old, pre-war style, curvaceous thighs and backside rippling,
and the crowd roared it's approval at the fast start.
Marilyn was, despite all criticisms, perhaps the
best of the stars when it came to the subtle arts of boxing. She
kept her head, and slid to one side, turning a shoulder, dipping
at the waist, as Betty tried to set her feet for her famous hooks.
Betty pounded at Marilyn's creamy tummy, but Monroe's head was
secure, her eyes peaking out between her gloves as Betty slugged
below with both hands. Betty lifted her punches, using her shoulders
and head to push against Marilyn, but never raising her hands
above her waist . Marilyn seemed content to take the measure of
her foe, sitting on the ropes, covering her face and turning her
body to absorb the shock of Betty's two fisted assault. Grable
grunted aloud as she tore at Monroe's right side with left hooks,
and the punches seemed to lack none of the steam they once had.
The soft pelt surface made the light glove land with a muffled
thump, and the punch slid across Marilyn's ribs as though greased.
The round ended with Betty mauling and shoving Monroe, and punching
that soft white fur into the red felt of Monroe's trunks to give
the beauty a final painful jolt before the respite.
The second round showed us all how only two years
had made all the difference between these two women. You see,
there was greatness in Marilyn, despite the fact that she was
almost never allowed to show it, protected and pampered by the
studios until her untimely demise. She came out for the second
round obviously having calculated her needs and angles, and immediately
stopped Grable's advance with a slashing overhand right to the
The downward movement of Monroe's torso fed beautifully
into the upperward motion of her left uppercut, digging hard into
the sweaty meat of Grable's stomach. Betty gasped audibly, and
her backside shivered as she was knocked into a square stance,
and Marilyn began to find her rhythm. Betty was in trouble, badly
hurt and her face seemed devoid of hope as Marilyn jabbed left
and clouted her around the guard with a clubbing right. Monroe
was always unsurpassed in finishing, and she bore down on Betty
with predatorial ruthlessness, punching left and right to the
sides of Betty's head, then digging at the once-firm body to back
Grable to the ropes.
With under a minute left, oh, how we cheered for Betty to withstand the assault, but it was too brutal. Monroe punished Betty with a cruel joy, standing in front of the former queen and hammering her with that downward arcing right, and that upperward slashing left. A final, violent left uppercut skidded off Betty's chin, and she froze, clearly out on her feet, and tumbled forward like a felled tree. Monroe only smiled, and posed astride the fallen beauty with one hip thrust brazenly out, before gracing us with her ring walk. Betty lay on her face, burbling nonsensical, and it was with a twinge that I realized that my first sight of this great lady, would also be my last.