If I’d observed all the rules, I’d never have got anywhere.
Norma Jeane Mortenson was born June 1, 1926, baptized Norma Jeane Baker. She was the third child of Gladys Monroe, an unstable woman who was incapable of caring for herself, let alone her children. After years in foster care, Norma Jeane ended up in a marriage arranged by her guardian Grace, her mother’s best friend, to prevent her return to the orphanage. She was only 16 at the time and spent her days hanging out with the neighborhood kids until her husband, James Dougherty, six years her senior, called her home. Soon after their marriage, Jimmie joined the merchant marines leaving his young wife in the company of his mother. She went to work at the Radioplane Munitions Factory where she sprayed airplane parts with flame retardant and inspected parachutes. That is where an army photographer from YANK magazine stumbled across her while doing an expose featuring women working for the war effort and steered her in the direction of modeling.
Everyone is a star and deserves the ability to twinkle.
She and Jimmie divorced when she decided to pursue her modeling career which soon parlayed into a film career. It was the 20th Century Fox executive who discovered her in 1946 who recommended she change her name. She chose Marilyn after actress Marilyn Miller and Monroe, her mother’s maiden name. During her six month contract she had a few bit parts in some not so spectacular films and her contract was not renewed. Going back to modeling did not instantly provide her with enough income to survive so at one point she posed for nude photographs in order to pay the rent. It was Marilyn herself who suggested telling the truth when, in 1952, one of those photos turned up in a calendar, much to the horror of her then employer, Columbia Pictures.
A bit part in the Marx Brothers film, Love Happy, garnered her the attention of an agent who then arranged an audition that cemented her career in film. Soon after the blonde bombshell look was invented and put firmly in place. What you might not know is that Marilyn was highly regarded for her comedic ability but wanted to be taken seriously. So much so that she spent the majority of her acting career studying her craft in order to become a better actress. Unfortunately she was never widely recognized as a leading dramatic actress. The film, Don’t Bother to Knock, which she thought was her strongest dramatic work was poorly reviewed and not well received by the viewing public.
Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.With fame, came criticism.
Once Marilyn gained notoriety her behavior both on and off the set drew negative comments. On-set, she was thought of as difficult to work with. I’m not sure how accurate that description was however. From what I’ve read over the last few days it seems to me that she was merely insecure and needed the on-going support of her current acting coach to be able to perform a scene to the best of her ability. The constant presence of said coaches was not appreciated by any of the big name directors she worked with, Preminger, Hawks, Olivier, and Wilder. Off-set, at awards banquets, she was criticized by costars and other actors alike. After one such event Joan Crawford described her so unfavorably it brought Marilyn to the attention of Hugh Heffner who then put her, clothed, on the cover of the first edition of Playboy Magazine. Her photograph inside was nude.
A few individuals such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes costar Jane Russell, photographer Milton Green, and ex-husband Joe DiMaggio realized Marilyn was very misunderstood. She was shy and sweet and much more intelligent than people gave her credit for. She was dedicated to her performances, often rehearsing dance routines long after everyone else had left. She was a business woman who formed Marilyn Monroe Productions in order to secure better roles that were more than the blonde bimbo ones she was typically given at a pay scale more in line with her abilities than the low rate studios assumed she’d settle for.
Just before she died, Marilyn was back in touch with DiMaggio. They split due to his not being able to deal with her popularity. The trouble between them over this started with an impromptu USO tour in the middle of their honeymoon in Japan and ended with the filming of the scene with her in the white dress standing over the subway grate that director Billy Wilder himself turned into a media circus. At the end, DiMaggio felt she had fallen in with the wrong sort of people, including several noteworthy politicians, a doctor that prescribed all sorts of medicines and a so-called nurse/housekeeper with no real qualifications. The couple was to be remarried just days after her death which was classified as a probable suicide but was more likely a tragic accidental overdose, think Heath Ledger. DiMaggio remained a true gentleman regarding Marilyn. He had red roses delivered to her grave several times a week for 20 years following her death and, unlike her other husbands and self-proclaimed lovers, never spoke of her publicly or otherwise cashed in on their relationship. Even now, 45 years after her death, some of the photographers who were supposedly counted among her friends are still fighting for the right to sell her image.
Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.
Marilyn Monroe died August 5, 1962, just days before my birthday. I don’t know what really happens to a soul when someone dies but I would be honored to have a portion of hers because, though it was rarely recognized, it was a good one. To the end, she was still striving to improve herself. She had interviews and serious acting projects lined up. I, for one, am very sorry she died so young. Just imagine what she might have accomplished with age.
Tour de France update –
Winner Stage 15, July 20 – Gerrans, Australia
Overall Leader – Frank Schleck, Luxemburg