Even though I presented a minuscule amount of biographical information about Will Fowler in Section 4, under the subsection, “An Alleged Second Husband,” allow me to present a tad more here before this narrative ends. Hopefully, in so doing, the man who actually wrote a large portion of Slatzer’s apocrypha, The Life and Curious Death of Marilyn Monroe will be more than just a name.
Born in New York City in 1922, William Randolph was the second of two sons fathered by the renown and famous newspaperman, journalist and author, Gene Fowler, who, between the years 1918 and 1928, was the preeminent and most colorful journalist in the Big Apple; but eventually, Gene and his wife, Agnes, along with their three children, left the drab, damp and cold skyscrapers, the gray skies of New York City and substituted the warm, arid and beautiful hills, the perpetually blue skies of Southern California, where it allegedly never rains, a substitution enhanced by the exciting sparkle and twinkle of Tinsel Town.
Once in Hollywood, Gene continued his writing career, both as a journalist and a screenwriter. Naturally, he began to associate with many famous persons, some of them Hollywood luminaries, including the renown screenwriter, Ben Hecht. Ben ghost wrote Marilyn’s unfinished memoir, My Story. The two screenwriters collaborated to co-author The Great Magoo, a stage play eventually filmed as Shoot the Works. Along with additional screenplays, like What Price Hollywood and Call of the Wild, Gene wrote more than just a few books, one of which was, as I have already noted, a biography of his close, personal friend, John Barrymore.
The Fowlers frequently hosted soirees for their many Hollywood friends, which included many of Hollywood’s most famous movie stars; and so, as you have no doubt deduced, Will’s childhood was salted and peppered by many of those famous movie stars. William Claude Dukenfield, known professionally as W. C. Fields, was a close personal friend of the Fowlers. According to family lore, the kid-hating comedian, who Will called Uncle Claude, could actually tolerate the Fowler boys and often took them fishing; but the irascible comedian also asserted that he frequently fought an urge to use them as bait. The Fowlers, including Will, also enjoyed friendships with Errol Flynn, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Burgess Meredith and Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan, not to mention the screenwriting Mississippian, William Faulkner.
Like his father before him, Will became a newspaperman and a writer. He also co-founded the Greater Los Angeles Press Club; and Will was the first newspaperman on the scene after the discovery of Elizabeth Short’s mutilated body in 1947, at least he continually asserted as much, even though a few of his peers disputed his assertion. At that time, he was a cub reporter, scooping for the Los Angeles Examiner where he worked for four years; but eventually he left the world of scooping, newsprint and unsolved mutilations and entered the more lucrative field of TV. He briefly wrote for the comedian Red Skelton and the series, Biography.
A stage play penned by Will, Julius Castro, became an off-Broadway production; and later in his life, he collaborated with the playwright William Luce to generate a stage play entitled Barrymore. That play became a successful Broadway hit and garnered a Tony for its star, Christopher Plummer. Will also wrote and published two bestselling books about and dedicated to his famous father: The Young Man From Denver and The Second Handshake, a title derived from this: upon being introduced to a new someone, Will got a normal handshake, but after the new someone learned that Will was Gene Fowler’s son, a second much more vigorous shake ensued. As the decade of the nineties began, Will published his memoir.
Finally, Will was also an accomplished pianist and musical composer. CBS Radio Network once aired a musical piece for piano and orchestra composed by Will, “American Nocturne”; and Doris Day recorded “He’s So Married”, one of the many songs Will crafted during his life. At the age of eighty-one, in 2004, Will died in Burbank, California, from prostate cancer, approximately ten years after he had assembled his collection of documents and presented them to the California State University at Northridge. Needless to say, William Randolph Fowler was, and remains, an influential character and personality in the wondrously amazing story of the One and Only, Marilyn Monroe.