Marilyn Monroe

It’s hard to say how I feel about her. After watching many of her films, reading a few biographies over the years, digesting the songs and paraphernalia surrounding the icon, she is the symbol of sexuality, Hollywood, and American pop-culture. What words come to mind when you say her name? Foggy. Sad. Vulnerable. Mentally ill. Gorgeous. Sexy. Childlike. Old Soul. Some say she possessed a sensitivity beyond no other. (Lee Strasberg). Others thought she was empty-headed and not worth all the trouble (Billy Wilder).

Was she a great actress? Sometimes I thought she possessed brilliance. I liked her performance in The Asphalt Jungle, The Misfits, and Bus Stop. Most of the time I felt her frustration for being typecast as a dumb blonde, sexpot who was unaware of her surroundings as in Some Like it Hot–how could you mistake Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as female? Hollywood-actress-Biography

She was more a ghost of a person than real. Her flawless skin and moist mouth, her baby-girl voice and overwhelmed eyes. Were her smiles real? I can think of twenty other actresses I’d claim had more talent. She was a fashionista, but her clothes were put on her; she didn’t care about buying them. She is known as a sex-symbol, but the artificiality of the projected image and the woman behind the make-up tarnishes the beauty. Or does it? Is the Siamese twin part of her magic?  The irony of Marilyn is her most interesting asset. She was a puppet of her times, and the men in her life damaged her.  Would she have been happy had she bypassed the fame and found a simple guy with which to have a few kids including his companionship? Instead, men around the world sniffed and petted and devoured her. It strikes me she needed the former than the latter. She missed out on female companionship to balance out the expectations of becoming the sexual manifestation of men.

The weight of icon was a heavy burden that destroyed her. Yet, fifty years later, her reputation is copied and her sex appeal embraced around the world. If you were to crown someone as the 20th Century icon, I’d argue Marilyn Monroe is higher than Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson combined. What a sad triumph when you think about it. Icons are adored; is she a false one? All I know is the price of admission into pop-culture heaven is happiness.  No thanks.

Did you like the recent biopic “My Week with Marilyn”? I enjoyed it a lot.

Did you see the HBO documentary called “Love, Marilyn”. I thought it quite entertaining.

 

What do you think of Marilyn Monroe?

41 thoughts on “Marilyn Monroe

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  1. Interesting post Cindy. She’s such a complex character and the blurring effect of her iconic status will probably mean we’ll never truly understand who she really was. It’s a while since I saw My Week With Marilyn but I did enjoy it. Also found it very troubling and sad.

    1. Thank you for commenting 🙂 If you can rent HBO doc “Love, Marilyn” it was well done and fun to see the guest cast contribute to her story. Her personality came forth through her words via their acting. She was an enigma.

  2. I think she was a complex woman, there was a mix of allure and vulnerability about her. She is undoubtedly an icon of glamour but also of tragedy. Interesting post Cindy.

  3. I don’t really have an opinion as I’ve only seen 1 film of hers, well two if you count her small role in All About Eve. She seems like a ditz in those two films which fits the reputation she has, which seems like her own creation as much as the media.

    1. Sorry Donald, you disapprove. I was contemplating with duality of Marilyn. I bet if she were alive today she’s agree she was toyed with and had very little control over her career or her life. She seemed lost to me–the internal side looking out past her exterior facade.

      1. I believe you see Marilyn Monroe as the person when Marilyn Monroe was the creation of Norma Jeane and no doubt the most indelible performance of her career. To contend that Marilyn was “toyed with” suggests that she was some sort of mindless doll and to also contend that she was “lost” suggests that she wandered aimlessly, and neither suggestion has any basis in fact. True, she had very little control over the roles she was given because of the 50s Studio System; but she revolted against that oppressive system in late 1954. She broke her contract with Fox, left Hollywood and moved to NYC where she began to study with Lee Strasberg and, at the beginning of 1955, founded her production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, with her as president and Milton Greene as VP. She did not return to Hollywood until 1956, to make Bus Stop, and she had a new contract with Fox giving her script and director approval, the right to produce her own films and make films for other studios. Her actions, in fact, hastened the end of the oppressive Studio System. Marilyn could be a difficult woman due to her willfulness and her ambition and she had problems, some of which can only be described as neurotic. She was, at her center, the wounded child Norma Jeane; but she was also an amazing woman who rose from nothing to the pinnacle of fame and stardom and there she remains, 52 years after her tragic death, despite the attempts of many to supplant her and to dismiss her as a dumb blonde who slept her way to the top. Right!

  4. Love reading this. Great stuff CIndy. I’ve always had an appreciation for MM beyond her obvious beauty. I do think she could be a good actress. Granted some of those roles are the “dumb beauty” roles but she handles most of them well and they are highly entertaining.

    I don’t know enough about her full biography to comment much on the reasons for her personal struggle and tragedy, but I don’t think it’s solely because of the manipulation and puppet handling of men. I do think she knew her sexiness and wasn’t shy about showing it from an entertainment perspective. Her relationships were another matter. With the exception of DiMaggio, it sounded like she was rarely exposed to true genuine love and companionship. So sad.

    You ask a great question – if Marilyn had been out of movies and the public eye what would her life have been like? Would she still be with us today. Very interesting and sad questions.

    1. I think it’s interesting to speculate about icons. I find them fascinating. There’s the persona which I believe is a reciprocal, organic creation between the star, the public, and the industry-making process. Then there’s the human, personal side which we read about or hear about but, of course, we don’t really know. It’s the combination of both “sides” of the human that is fascinating to wonder about. Add to that the social impact of the icon.

      Icons are worshiped and admired (should we?) and there’s a hierarchy. For example, I prefer Elvis over M.Jackson; they are both icons. So is Bogart and John Wayne. I can’t say I really like John Wayne movies or claim he was a better actor than Bogart. I have my preferences as does everyone. Thank you, Keith, for dropping by! 🙂

  5. A truly excellent blog, that asks numerous poignant questions. I don’t have the proper time to give them thought at this moment, so I will refrain from answering them. I couldn’t agree more with the following part of your blog:

    “Would she have been happy had she bypassed the fame and found a simple guy with which to have a few kids including his companionship? Instead, men around the world sniffed and petted and devoured her. It strikes me she needed the former than the latter.”

  6. An excellent blog, that asks numerous poignant questions. I couldn’t agree more with the following: “She was a puppet of her times, and the men in her life damaged her. Would she have been happy had she bypassed the fame and found a simple guy with which to have a few kids including his companionship? Instead, men around the world sniffed and petted and devoured her. It strikes me she needed the former than the latter.”

    As always, and this particular post is no exception, it is a pleasure to read your work.

    1. Thanks much, Robin, for your kind words! The creative process and the stars that come out the creation–no matter the art form, or extend icons to social philanthropists (the best form of icon) I like to think about culture and consider what we humans value and are attracted to. You are always welcome here, Robin. I enjoy your blog, too!

    1. She used her star clout to help Ella Fitzgerald (whose music and singing I love) open at a prestigious jazz club in the 1950s. There’s the old-soul coming out; Marilyn advocated for people and her friends. She definitely had a warm, big heart. I am sorry I gave you the impression I thought she was a vacuous. The fogginess from drugs and unhappy relationships along with the mistreatment early in her career with type-casting, gives me the impression she was “out there” at times. As an actress, Lee Strasberg thought her sensitivity right up there with Marlon Brando. Her demise was a shame. There’s a biography out I’d like to read regarding her death (2007) called: ‘Marilyn’s Red Diary’ by E.Z. Friedel? Do you recommend it?

      1. It’s not a biography; it’s a work of fiction. Even though I haven’t read it, I’m sure it is filth ridden and includes the usual fabrication of love affairs with JFK and RFK, who had her murdered because of her secret red diary, along with the CIA, FBI, KGB, MOB, NSA, ONI, the SS, the Bad News Bears and those rascally aliens. All of that malarkey has been debunked.

        Of the biographies I have read, I can only recommend three, Donald Spoto’s, Michelle Morgan’s and Gary Vitacco-Robles’. Volume 2 of Gary’s tome was just published so I haven’t read it yet but I have read volume 1.

        I’m sure you mean Marilyn no disrespect and I apologize if I seem a bit aggressive. I know this, Cindy: Marilyn was not a puppet of her times. She influenced and defined her times and her influence is still strong today. Also, I take issue with your statement that Billy Wilder didn’t think she was worth the trouble. He felt just the opposite.

  7. Hi, Cindy:

    Just got my desktop back on line and updating Word Press while offering kudos for one of Hollywood’s most misunderstood actresses!

    Best overall work: ‘The Asphalt Jungle’. Best comedic work: ‘Some Like It Hot’. High marks also for damaged goods in ‘The Misfits’.

  8. So many interesting films to see with this young woman starring in them–and I’m fairly certain I’ve not crossed even half off the list. But the film “My Week with Marilyn” was truly enjoyable. And I felt it was wonderfully acted as well.
    I’m always coming away from your site hungry for new discoveries, Cindy. You certainly know how to fill up my week with what could be tantamount to a film festival. Thank you for that.
    Cheers

    1. Oh, Shelley, kind words indeed. 🙂 Themes and people and episodes haunt my days. Eventually I have to write a post about it. I’m sure you and I would become fast friends instead of just virtual ones! 😉

  9. Not much left for me to say after reading all the interesting commentary above. I was quite taken with Donald McGovern’s remarks – very interesting. I’m not certain that you and he are all that far apart in your appreciation for Marilyn.

    I did not know of her admiration for Ella Fitzgerald and I’m rather ashamed of myself for not being aware of that since I’m hugely interested in Ella, Sinatra, as well as many musical artists of that era.

    As for Marilyn, I love her pure and simple. (You’ll recall my little fantasy about her swinging on a star in a previous flash fiction. 🙂 ) I think she was a major talent. She could come across as hard or vulnerable, cruel or kind, sure of herself or lost. I think she was stronger than many people think she was – she had to be to survive the industry in which she was in. I’m not sure what happened to her in the end. I think she was lonely, sad, feeling the advance of age. To us, today, 36 is so young. To a star defined by many purely in terms of her sexuality in the early 1960s, I’m not sure that was the case. She had great potential, I think, to have moved past the sexy image into something greater.

    Films? Bus Stop; The Misfits; The Asphalt Jungle; Niagara. But I like Marilyn in everything. When she appears on the screen, SHE is front and center. Everyone, everything else fades away. There will never be another Marilyn Monroe.

    And I was not going to say much! 😉

    1. Howdy, Kate! Not much to say? 😉 You and Donald alone could jointly share the title of president of her fan club. She has a lot of power fifty years later! Everyone’s taste is different when it comes to icons. As I said, her star power is greater than, gosh, probably anyones–even The Duke, probably Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson–combined. I think there’s a lot to her and I’m very happy this post garnered a host of comments and opinions regarding Marilyn. She is larger than life 🙂

  10. It is a bit shameful that I know Marilyn Monroe more for her sex symbol status than her actual movies. I have only seen two of her films (Some Like it Hot and, more recently, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), but your piece makes me want to delve into her works a bit further. While her icon status was never in question, I would like to get a better sense of her as a cinematic performer.

    1. Welcome Courtney! As a cinematic performer I think she’s intriguing. If you haven’t seen ‘All About Eve’ that’s a brilliant film all around and she has a cameo. You should like her in the great noir ‘Asphalt Jungle’ and I like her in The Misfits and Bustop because you get to see some depth in her portrayals. 🙂

  11. you hit on alot of valid points here. personally, i think she is more female impersonator than female. nothing remotely sexy about her. strasberg was a careerist with more to gain by feeding marilyn’s ego than by being honest with her about her minimal talents. i think you are mistaken about her lack of female companionship. from what i have heard, she didnt differentiate between the sexes. she was a drug-driven hedonist terrified that the inner marilyn would breakthrough the sham facade and expose her. i agree that bus stop and the misfits are her best movies, at least they are the only ones i can get through without getting ill. i cant stand this sort of person in real life and i get no enjoyment watching them show off on the screen. and look at what she spawned. can you name one decent performer who came out of her legacy? in contrast, marlon brando inspired all he came into contact with and the generation that followed., and nearly every substantial performer in the world of rock music born between 1941-1956 owed everythng to elvis presley. some examples: bob dylan,lou reed, bruce springsteen, and by association, everyone who found inspiration in those artists. marilyn inspired some cheap inspirations such as jayne mansfield and mamie van doren, and later some of the most appalling acts in the history of popularmusic: madonna, courtney love etc

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