Saturday, August 4, 2012

Marilyn Monroe: Out of a Dream

photo by Jack Cardiff

One chilly winter morning in 1953, a 15-year-old boy took a bus from his home in New Jersey to New York City in search of adventure. His conception of the city then was of Times Square and he roamed the neighborhood until daylight began to fade. As he made his way to the Port Authority Terminal and his bus trip home, he noticed a long black limousine driving slowly toward him. The limo came to a stop and its driver jumped out and opened the back door at the curb. As he did, he motioned the boy to stay where he was so his passenger would have a clear path across the sidewalk. Nearly 60 years later, the man who had been that boy remembered,"...a white-gloved hand reached out for help and it was given. Then came a face of dizzying beauty..." She was blonde and she wore a long gown that appeared to be made of "tiny white pearls seemingly flung at her in wild abandon and clinging to every pore. Around her neck, over her wrists and on her ears were brightly sparkling diamonds." The boy's heart was already pounding when, as she turned, the woman noticed him, smiled and whispered, "Hi."

photo by Richard Avedon
The bedazzled boy, Frank Langella, who grew up to be an Oscar-nominated, three-time Tony-winning actor, was stunned. He had serendipitously encountered Marilyn Monroe, "the girl" who enraptured the world that year in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire and would soon create pandemonium with The Seven Year Itch. Years later Richard Avedon, one of many famed photographers for whom the actress posed, would comment, "There was no such person as Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe was an invention of hers. A genius invention that she created like an author creates a character."

The vision that materialized before wide-eyed young Frank Langella on a New York street was the painstaking creation of the former Norma Jeane Baker, but the realization of this fantasy creature had required inspiration and encouragement from others. Not too unlike an orphan on a quest in a folk tale, she rose from humble origins, faced great obstacles and setbacks and, with the aid of others along with her own hard work and desire, transformed her life.

Norma Jeane Baker, age nine
In 1935, Grace McKee, a friend and co-worker of Gladys Baker at a Hollywood editing lab, became her unstable friend's court-appointed guardian and the legal guardian of the woman's nine-year-old daughter, Norma Jeane. A childless peroxide blonde with "stage mother" instincts, McKee filled the little girl's imagination with lavish fancies of one day becoming a bombshell movie star like the one with whom she herself was obsessed - Jean Harlow. When Grace married "Doc" Goddard, Norma Jeane was, for a time, sent to live in the red-brick mansion that served as the Los Angeles Orphans Home. Grace would take the girl out to lunch and a movie most Saturdays and regularly had the child's hair styled at a beauty parlor. Norma Jeane would be returned to the orphanage with her hair freshly curled and be-ribboned and, on occasion, wearing makeup Grace had applied to her very young face. The guardian coached the girl on her smile and paraded her in front of friends crowing "isn't she pretty?" and bragged that the child was going to grow up to be beautiful and famous. It would be little more than a decade after becoming Norma Jeane Baker's guardian that Grace Goddard would, because her charge was not yet 21, sign the girl's first contract with 20th Century Fox.

When Johnny Hyde, a powerful William Morris agent on the West Coast, met 22-year-old Marilyn Monroe on New Year's Eve 1949, she was a starlet adrift in the wilderness of the "party circuit" looking for a break. At one time known as producer "Joe Schenk's girl," she had been under contract to Fox for a year, from 1946 to 1947, and with Columbia Pictures for just six months in 1948. It was during her stint at Fox that she had adopted her screen name with the help of Ben Lyon, the studio's casting director. "Monroe" was her mother's family name; Lyon suggested "Marilyn." He had known and loved Broadway star Marilyn Miller before his marriage to Bebe Daniels, and Norma Jeane Baker reminded him of the talented and lovely blonde, blue-eyed actress who had died young.
Marilyn Monroe in 1950

For Johnny Hyde, meeting Marilyn Monroe led to an enchantment that brought an end to his marriage and the beginning of his tireless promotion of her career. He saw a singular quality in the sensuous blonde and worked to make things happen quickly for her. By the time of his sudden death in 1950, Hyde had negotiated parts for her in John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and Joseph Mankiewicz's All About Eve (1950). Her success in these roles led to a new, more generous contract with Fox, an agreement that was secured by Hyde.

Howard Hawks had been unimpressed with the starlet when he first met her in 1948. But after seeing her in The Asphalt Jungle, he realized she had something. And when she was cast in a supporting role in one of his films, Monkey Business (1952), he took a closer look at her potential. Hawks became convinced that Fox chief Darryl Zanuck was misreading Marilyn's appeal, too often casting her in the wrong sort of films. He told Zanuck, "You're making realism with a very unreal girl. She's a completely storybook character..." and urged him to produce Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a studio property, and cast her in it; furthermore, he agreed to direct.

In 1949 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes had made Carol Channing a Broadway sensation; in 1953, the screen adaptation had an even more powerful impact on the career of Marilyn Monroe. With the film's tremendous success, Marilyn left behind forever her years as a struggling cheesecake model/rising newcomer and emerged a bona fide superstar. She proved to have a talent for comedy and a fine sense of timing and, with Howard Hawks creating the ideal vehicle for her and overseeing an elegant Technicolor upgrade of her look and style, she embodied to scintillating perfection a funny, sexy, sweet and unique confection that produced fireworks on the screen.

In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe and top-billed co-star Jane Russell are well-matched as a pair of gorgeous gal-pal showgirls on the loose on the high seas and in Paris. Delectably dizzy/witty blonde Lorelei and droll, down-to-earth brunette Dorothy cut loose in clever comic scenes and dynamic musical routines. Both perform renditions of the centerpiece number, "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend." Marilyn's version became legendary. 

Fox strikes again! This video clip has been blocked.

Fox's next assignment for its new star was not as solid a film as her last, but it was even more popular. How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) teamed Marilyn with not just one but two other glittery leading ladies - Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall. Another glamor-fest, the story follows three models who rent a ritzy penthouse in Manhattan for a year in hopes of luring and marrying wealthy suitors before their lease expires. Bacall's is the central storyline and hers is the commonsense character; Grable and Marilyn are both ditzy-but-dear dumb blonde types. Marilyn, of course, is the knockout in the trio and, next to her, Betty Grable seems a decade out-of-date. How to Marry a Millionaire was the #5 box office hit of 1953, with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes close behind at #6. As for Marilyn Monroe, she was on top.

Marilyn in a classic Travilla gown
By the time Darryl Zanuck conspired with Billy Wilder to adapt the Broadway adultery romp, The Seven Year Itch, to the screen for Marilyn in 1955, there was no longer any need to pair her with another actress or even an established leading man to bolster the film's box office appeal. Though it is minor Wilder, The Seven Year Itch is the film that certified Marilyn as a phenomenon. On Broadway, George Axelrod's play centered on the brief affair of a married man with his gorgeous neighbor while his family is away on vacation. Even though Hollywood's Production Code demanded that there be no adultery in the adultery comedy, the onscreen presence of Marilyn Monroe was enough to tantalize and satisfy a worldwide audience. The studio's enticing publicity campaign - it was all about Marilyn in a billowy white dress - created a furor.

For a while the sensitive but wily star was able to navigate Hollywood's treacherous rapids. She managed to use the scandal of nude calendar photos to her advantage; she explained away the revelation that she was not, technically, an orphan; and she weathered the outcry stirred by the public remarks of Joan Crawford who implied she was lewd and vulgar. But Marilyn could never cope with her performance anxiety. 

Billy Wilder, ever outspoken and eminently quotable, quipped about his tribulations in working with Marilyn, "I had no problems with Monroe. It was Monroe who had problems with Monroe."

Marilyn sans makeup
Fritz Lang, who had directed her in Clash by Night (1952), remembered that she was "...scared as hell to come to the studio, always late, couldn't remember her lines..." And Howard Hawks noted, "The more important she became, the more frightened she became." Whitey Snyder, Marilyn's makeup artist from her Fox screen test to her funeral, thought her anxiety was connected to her appearance. He said that though she knew every makeup trick there was and used them to marvelous effect, "...it was all an illusion: in person, out of makeup, she was very pretty but in a plain way, and she knew it." It was more than that, though. Marilyn Monroe wasn't simply at the mercy of a fantastical physical image that required scrupulous upkeep. Her ever-shifting entourage included more than hair, makeup and massage professionals, she was also closely attended by personal confidants, studio advisors, talent agents, attorneys, psychotherapists, trophy husbands - and drama coaches.

Determined to be more than a pretty onscreen face with a voluptuous body, she took acting seriously. Teacher Natasha Lytess, employed by Fox at Marilyn's insistence, coached her even as the actress performed in front of the camera. Howard Hawks balked at this and successfully barred Lytess from the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Billy Wilder referred to her as "that creature Lytess" but put up with her on The Seven Year Itch.

By the mid-'50s, Marilyn was studying with "method" guru Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York. Julie Newmar, a member of the Studio at the time, remembered her performance of a scene from Anna Christie with Maureen Stapleton. She recalled that Marilyn's hand actually shook as she lifted a drink from the bar. In her view, Marilyn reflected precisely the essence of Strasberg's teachings - she had become Anna Christie. Of Lee Strasberg, Newmar mused that he favored three kinds of artists, "the highly gifted; the injured, tortured souls; and the beauty queens. He adored Marilyn." Soon Lytess was replaced as Marilyn's personal acting coach by Paula Strasberg, Lee's wife.
...with Brando promoting a 1955 Actors Studio benefit

Billy Wilder happily agreed to tackle another project with Marilyn in 1959; her natural luminosity was "something extra, something special" that he believed no one else could bring to the film. He would struggle mightily with her on the comedy masterpiece Some Like it Hot and was critical of the effect method acting seemed to have had on her. Before she took up Strasberg's approach, he said, Marilyn came before the camera as if she were about to walk a tightrope over a pit. After adopting "the method" it seemed to him that she focused her full concentration on only the pit...

Over the years, perhaps in an attempt to deal with her terror of "the pit" and other personal woes, Marilyn became dependent on drugs - pills that lifted her up or calmed her down or put her to sleep - and alcohol. Her reputation for being unreliable and difficult grew to epic proportions. Those who worked on her later films reported that she sometimes appeared on the set as if in a daze and, during the filming of Some Like it Hot, screenwriter Izzy Diamond recalled that she sipped liquor from a thermos that ostensibly contained coffee.

photo by George Barris
When Marilyn returned to Hollywood in 1960 after years of making her home in New York, she sought the care of Freudian analyst Ralph Greenson. The doctor, who treated her until her death, diagnosed her as "a borderline paranoid addictive personality." Norma Jeane Baker had endured a confusing and chaotic childhood, passed from home to home among friends and family - to an orphanage and back - until she was handed off in marriage at just 16.  Young Marilyn Monroe was also passed around - among the powerful men of Hollywood - during her years as an aspiring starlet. From a psychological standpoint, then, it's no surprise that her relationships were intense and volatile, her identity unstable, her emotions erratic and her actions impulsive. Greenson, who viewed her as a perennial orphan, discarded traditional therapeutic methods and took up a highly unorthodox approach in treating her. In a misguided attempt to "save" her, he welcomed Marilyn into his home and family and took on the role of "father" as well as therapist. He had set for himself an impossible task.

Something's Got to Give (1962)
Even at the peak of her popularity, Marilyn was considered risqué, a sex symbol, and was not taken seriously. Her film roles changed little over time and became, for her, a deadly repetition – the artless, often giddy showgirl, or ex-showgirl. Cherie in Bus Stop (1956), Elsie in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), Sugar in Some Like it Hot, Amanda in Let’s Make Love (1960) and even Roslyn in The Misfits (1961) are variations on a type the actress wanted to break. With her final, unfinished film, George Cukor’s Something’s Got to Give, she was cast in a role that might have helped her broaden the "Marilyn Monroe" persona; Ellen Wagstaff Arden was beautiful but she was also married and the mother of two small children. Had she been able to finish the film, Marilyn might have gone on to romantic comedy roles a la Doris Day or Shirley MacLaine. It’s also possible she could have moved into mature dramatic roles as Ava Gardner, Lee Remick and others did. But this was not to be. Life as a cultural metaphor and brand-name commodity may simply have been too much for a woman already consumed by an array of insecurities.

50 years ago Marilyn Monroe stepped out of the dream and into eternity. Her extravagant fulfillment of a childhood guardian’s fuzzy fantasies had taken her on a journey both harrowing and exhilarating, but her life would come to no fairytale ending. Only with death would come transcendence, and the mythical being she so carefully fashioned and brought to vibrant life lives on, unforgettable and bewitching.

photo by Bert Stern
This post is my contribution to the Summer Under the Stars blogathon hosted by Jill of Sittin' on a Backyard Fence and Michael of ScribeHard on Film. Click here to learn more...
 
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Notes:
Marilyn Monroe: The Biography by Donald Spoto, Harper Collins (1993)
Marilyn Monroe by Barbara Leaming, Crown (1998)
On Sunset Blvd.: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder by Ed Sikov, Hyperion (1998)
Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis by David Wills and Stephen Schmidt, It Books (2011)
Dropped Names by Frank Langella, Harper (2012)

37 comments:

  1. Eve,

    A fabulous post and wonderful tribute to this enchanting star. Her life was a sad one but she has given mover lovers some joyous times. SOME LIKE IT HOT is my all time favorite comedy. THE ASPHALT JUNGLE a brilliant heist film, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES an endearing musical and they all have one thing in common - MM. Over at my TWENTY FOUR FRAMES Facebook page I am paying tribue to MM today and tomorrow. A link to your article will be included.

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    1. John, Marilyn rarely played sad characters, though there were exceptions. Even in her most downbeat roles, I'm thinking of Roslyn in "The Misfits," she simply glowed. I focused here on the three films that firmly established the iconic "Marilyn Monroe" persona. Which reminds me of a recollection by George Masters, who was her hair stylist in the 1960s (she called the hair color he devised for her "pillowcase blonde"). Masters remembered that Marilyn transformed completely as her hair and makeup were being done and she "became" Marilyn Monroe in the process. Everything about her altered - her voice, the way she moved and the way she gestured with her hands. It was as if her personality changed entirely before his eyes - he said he'd never seen anything like it.

      Thanks for including a link to this page on your Facebook page, John.

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  2. Marilyn Monroe, I think was one of the most celebrated actress of all time. She seemed to light up the screen in all her films. It is so sad that her life took such a tragic end..

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    1. Dawn, Eve Arnold, one of the still photographers for whom Marilyn posed, has said that Marilyn's skin seemed translucent and that she always looked golden - apparently Marilyn had fine golden hairs on her face that trapped the light and gave her a glow. With all of that and the sweet soulfulness of her personality, it's no wonder she lit up the screen. Eve Arnold said Marilyn "looked almost angelic."

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  3. Beautiful piece, Eve. I'm going to recommend this to Sarah, who contributed a bit on Monroe on our blog in which she wonders why Marilyn seems to play the same role in every movie. You have brilliantly answered that question, summing up what made Marilyn "Marilyn" in a succinct and sympathetic way--I REALLY enjoyed reading this!

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    1. Brandie, Thanks so much - and I hope Sarah finds this piece of interest. Much as Marilyn may have wanted to break type and explore a greater variety of characters, it is questionable whether the public would have accepted her in roles that were very different from "the girl." I do think, though, "Something's Got to Give," which was in the vein of many Doris Day films ("The Thrill of it All," "Send Me No Flowers" - "Move Over Darling" was the film that began as "Something's Got to Give"), and I know that Marilyn was considered for "Irma la Douce" and that "What a Way to Go!" (both Shirley MacLaine films) was intended for her. Of course, the question becomes, would she be the icon she is had she lived a long life and portrayed a wider range of characters?

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  4. Eve, your piece on Marilyn expresses the kind of depth that she deserves and brilliantly taps into what makes her magical on the screen. It sounds like she went through hell (and dragged many of her co-workers along with her) when she went before the camera, but even if she was late, or spaced-out, or took 60 takes, in the end the results are there forever. With all her struggle she produced a timeless impression. You hit upon the mythical, archetypal aspect that she seemed to unknowingly conjure. Perhaps, as you say, she was reponding to what people liked and shaped her image to that; she reflected their fantasies. I think what she ended up giving them (and us) was beyond what they consciously desired. Marilyn had pretty fragile psychological boundaries and maybe this allowed her to be a kind of shape-shifter; it seems like she constructed a mask that she wore over her fragmented psyche - maybe it ultimately felt like a prison. Some talents are special, but the source of their genius doesn't seem able to maintain over an extended period without destroying the personality. Great post.

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    1. MCB, I don't think it's at all far-fetched to think of Marilyn as a sort of "shape shifter" - whether this was conscious or unconscious. I came across an interesting quote by Shelley Winters, who was once Marilyn's roommate. She believed that Marilyn "wasn't what she sold," that she hadn't realized she would have to live forever with the image she'd created early on and that she couldn't do it. Marilyn was very lovely and gifted but also ungrounded and, I think, basically feral. These things all worked well in creating and promoting a timeless persona - but not so well for the real human being behind the mask.

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  5. Marvelous post. Simply marvelous. And I just adore that last picture.

    Also, I've just been awarded the Leibster Blog Award; in return, I'm rewarding it to you. Check out my blog to get the rules.

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    1. Thank you, R.C., for your kind words and for the Leibster Award. The portrait by Bert Stern at the end of this piece is one of my favorites of her. It seemed a fitting final look at her.

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  6. What a sensitive post! I love how you covered off on both the reel and real Marilyns, as it's almost impossible to separate the girl from the persona from the performance anymore. It's especially touching to look into the face of that 9 year old girl and then read your words about what awaits her. This is a lovely tribute to her on this anniversary.

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    1. Gal, I discovered that childhood portrait not long ago and was so taken with it that I printed it and kept it nearby as I worked on this piece. In her eyes I saw sensitivity and in her jawline I saw determination - which seemed significant considering the path her life took. Later I came upon George Cukor's comment that Marilyn was rarely seen her mouth closed because she had such a determined chin that it gave her face a very different look.

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  7. Wonderful and most sensitive post Lady Eve about that most earthly but mythic Marilyn. She so wanted to be loved, and as we know, that deep-rooted psychological need - when craved so much since childhood - can never be completely filled. Of all the egos and the demanding movie stars in Hollywood, she seemed so contrary to that type, innocent and so unable to behave in a hurtful or harsh way, or to make herself hated. That's partly why she is so revered - that perfect contradiction of the most famous person in the world who is so needy and so childlike about it. So powerful and yet so weak. And its that very contradiction that Marilyn so wanted to escape, yet in the end its the one that made her mythic.

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    1. Christian, Marilyn seems a study in contradictions - conflicted and inconsistent. And fascinating. One of the most interesting reactions to her that I came upon in my research was from novelist Isak Dineson ("Out of Africa") who compared Marilyn to a seemingly harmless but actually dangerous wild animal. "She radiates at the same time unbounded vitality and a kind of unbelievable innocence," Dineson said, and this reminded her of an orphaned female lion cub brought to by her African servants. "I would not keep her," she said.

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  8. Eve, there has been so much written about Marilyn--but your post is fresh and rewarding. I especially liked the part about the young Frank Langella (it made me think of THOSE LIPS, THOSE EYES where he played a veteran actor and Tom Hulce was a young man enthralled with acting and actors).

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    1. Rick, Frank Langella may have accidentally run into Marilyn, but he knew Arthur Miller well. Miller wrote a play, "After the Fall," based on his relationship with Marilyn - the original Broadway production, directed by Elia Kazan and starring his wife, Barbara Loden, and Jason Robards, Jr., opened only 1-1/2 yrs. after Marilyn's death. The play failed and was criticized for poor taste. Langella starred in a Williamstown Theatre Festival production (directed by Miller) in 1977 - but critics still hated it. Then, in 1984, Langella mounted an Off-Broadway production in which he again starred (with Dianne Wiest). Previews went well but opening night reviews were critical and Miller was once again accused of dancing on Marilyn's grave. The play had failed again and Miller said, "They'll never forgive me."

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  9. Just a wonderfully researched and written article, Patty. I especially enjoyed seeing the photo of her without makeup.

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    1. Thank you, Kim. I'm guessing Marilyn was at least her mid-20s when the photo of her without makeup was taken - but she looks about 13. I'm not quite done with Marilyn yet - next up, "Let's Make Love" for CMBA's Gene Kelly centenary blogathon coming up in a little over 2 weeks.

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  10. Eve--

    "50 years ago Marilyn Monroe stepped out of the dream and into eternity."

    I have to admit I got teary eyed while reading your essay. A truly beautiful tribute to Monroe. Thank you for sharing with all of us. And thank you for contributing to the blogathon.

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    1. Jill, I hope the SUTS blogathon becomes an annual event, it's a perfect accompaniment to TCM's schedule and many thanks to you and Michael for hosting it. Though I certainly didn't set out to make anyone cry, it is very rewarding to know that this piece affected you emotionally.

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    2. If Michael and I make it out alive we will certainly bring it back next year. ;)

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  11. Eve, you did a great job of describing the myth of Marilyn and the facts behind it in your exceedingly well-researched and -written profile. These two are so intertwined that they're often hard to separate. There are certain people who are transformed by the presence of a movie camera and the context of a movie, and I think Marilyn was one of those--a creation of the screen and the things we as viewers project onto it.

    One of the best analyses of Marilyn I've ever encountered was a cable TV show a few years ago, one of a series that did "psychological autopsies" on deceased personalities. The picture the program painted of Marilyn's psychological problems and insecurities was a sad one. It traced her decline from the late 50s and attributed it to the combined effects of psychotherapy--the Freudian type that encouraged her to relive and dwell on her horrible childhood and young adulthood and then over-prescribed addicting medications to help her cope--and her idolatry of The Method, which also encouraged her to look deep into herself and dwell on her pain. I can only wonder how differently her life might have turned out it more modern methods of therapy and treatment for drug and alcohol abuse had been available to her.

    I've seen the extant footage of "Something's Got to Give," and it indeed does show a different side of Marilyn that might have rejuvenated her career and moved her beyond the kind of role she was associated with. I don't believe she had ever played a mother before, but the way she related to the children in the scenes she shot with them was a revelation.

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    1. R.D., It does seem that Freudian analysis, something both Strasberg and Elia Kazan recommended for their students, and method acting were potentially damaging for a person as unstable and insecure as Marilyn. Yesterday I discovered an online magazine article in which some of Marilyn's notebooks are quoted. In one journal she wrote that she didn't think thorough self-analysis was good for her. So, she apparently had an inkling that dwelling on pain had its dangers. But she was devoted to Strasberg and, later, Dr. Greenson. In the references I've cited, Strasberg is consistently depicted as opportunistic and one biographer practically accuses Dr. Greenson of murder.

      In reality, I don't think there was any saving Marilyn Monroe. It's as if the woman had worked a form of very powerful magic to create a mythical creature that then devoured her.

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  12. Just beautiful, Lady Eve. She is like a moonbeam, impossible to hold but endlessly fascinating. And thanks for the link and reference to Marilyn Miller. She is my own personal favorite Marilyn and an always thrilled to bump into her at any time and any place.

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    1. FlickChick, Poetic and perfectly true, "...like a moonbeam, impossible to hold but endlessly fascinating." I included the link to info on Marilyn Miller because though many may know that the second Marilyn was named after her, few know much at all about her.

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  13. Dear Patty,
    Terrific, terrific read! I've been reluctant to even seriously consider watching much MM in film, as I have zero patience with all the ballyhoo and worship, but your well-written and insightful article presents MM in a sympathetic, but not groveling manner. I love the information about her "transformation"...would love to know what you thought of the recent MM movie ("My Week with Marilyn?"). I found it fascinating, yet further evidence that no matter how much you doll up someone in MM makeup and gear...there's something going on behind the mask that makes Marilyn, Marilyn. Thanks for this and for your mythic take on her. I just watched Niagara for the 1st time this week and have to admit...you just can't take your eyes off her! If only she could have taken her eyes off herself! Admiringly, Kay

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    1. Kay, While I'm sympathetic toward Marilyn, I don't worship at the shrine. Obviously, I find her fascinating and her "transformation," inside and out, is what interests me most. I've become a fan of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" lately and was talking with a friend about it the other day. We agreed that wonderful as Jane Russell is as wise-cracking Dorothy, the minute Marilyn steps into any scene, the screen was all hers.

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    2. Jane Russel just SLAYS me in that movie, but you're right, Marilyn is the golden girl. I have come to discover that Gentlemen is one of my all-time favorites! The first nite I got my NEW big TV, it was on and I surrendered happily to all that glorious female Technicolor. The script, the clothes, the makeup and hair...I'm all over it! Thanks for this, Lady E!
      Love, Kay

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  14. Marvelous, TLE. You captured her essence better than entire books do.

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    1. CFB...You just made my week. Thank you!

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  15. This was extremely well written. I like that you focused on her as an actor and not on her marriages/affairs or speculations about her death. Nice job!

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    1. Silverscreenings, For me Marilyn's love life is marginalia of only passing interest. The wild speculation regarding the circumstances of her death doesn't interest me in the least. It is the Marilyn Monroe persona and the woman who embodied it that fascinates. Marilyn was desperate to be taken seriously in her lifetime (she famously begged one journalist who interviewed her not to treat her like a joke) but was not. In death, however, she has been contemplated, at length and in depth, by writers as esteemed and diverse as Norman Mailer and Gloria Steinem and is quite possibly the most famous film star of all time. Now, THAT'S interesting...

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  16. Lady Eve, a bittersweet but lovely treatment of an actress I’m beginning to reconsider. I have been guilty of dismissing Monroe entirely, based on her breathlessly exaggerated screen persona. I recently watched “My Week With Marilyn” twice, and while the film appears to revisit many of the accepted myths regarding her troubled life, there was some element that finally intrigued me. I had read Olivier’s biography years (and years) ago, and the actor summed up Monroe with a simple phrase, “she was a born model, she worked best when following as few directions as possible”. I found the statement insightful rather than dismissive, insight into both the actor and the actress’s psyche. However, when I watched “The Prince and The Showgirl” on Saturday, I was struck by a line uttered by Oliver’s character regarding Monroe’s character and her, “stomach turning sentimentality”. I had no idea Monroe’s production company owned the rights to the story, and the actress had final say concerning cast and director on the film. These combined in my mind to portray Marilyn Monroe as a woman confused about her role in the film industry and the true nature of her talent (which doesn’t seem to have been helped by Paula Strasberg’s near reverential treatment of an already unstable woman). She was a beautiful child, a lovely young woman and showed genuine promise in “The Asphalt Jungle”, “Don’t Bother To Knock” and “Niagara”. Marilyn Monroe could have been a woman perpetuating sentimentality most adults around her had outgrown and found exasperating. Dame Sybil Thorndike apparently believed she was “a lamb for the slaughter”, once the illusion began to predominate, it was difficult to see the woman for all "the dream light".

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    1. Gypsy, Though Marilyn Monroe complained about her roles, the fact is that in nearly every case, these were roles she pursued (including "the girl" in "The Seven Year Itch," Cherie in "Bus Stop," Elsie in "The Prince and the Showgirl," Sugar in "Some Like it Hot" and, initially, Roslyn in "The Misfits"). At the same time Lee Strasberg was telling her he wanted to direct her in roles like Lady MacBeth and such (which no doubt fed her frustration related to being taken seriously as an actress). I have come to like "the girl" character that made her a star and think her best route to serious parts would have been, as mentioned, to move into romantic comedy roles like Ellen Wagstaff Arden in "Something's Got to Give" and then to mature dramatic roles. She had the talent to do this and could probably have succeeded in gradually modifying her persona.

      Many who knew her have commented that while there was a fragility about her, she was not weak. Her half-sister described her strength as "...like the thread of a spider web that seems fragile but is seven times the strength of steel." From the beginning of her movie career she was known as a perfectionist on the set. I can't imagine she could have survived her starlet years and risen as high as she did without strength and commitment. But she had her insecurities. It seems to me that those insecurities, in combination with the ways she sought to relieve them, were her downfall.

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  17. I nominated you for a Liebster award. http://www.kl5film.com/2012/08/liebster-award-time.html

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  18. Great post and even better pictures. I love Merylin Monroe

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