I am going to try not to focus on Marilyn or Audrey on this blog, but today is Marilyn’s birthday, so I think she deserves a small tribute.
The reason I’m not going to focus on either of those two is that I feel they have become pop icons, available everywhere, and all their charm (of which they both had a good deal) has been devalued due to their accessibility. I have nothing against either of them, in fact on the contrary–I think they’re both absolutely fascinating people. But for the purposes of this blog, their accessibility here will be limited in favor of those actors and actresses who don’t get as much outside attention as they do. However, here is a bit of an acknowledgment to Marilyn.
Marilyn Monroe’s persona was an exercise in opposites. Alternately sexy and modest, outgoing and shy, bombshell and waif, she possessed a true split personality that I think gave her a severe identity crisis that ultimately contributed to her demise. Her status as a pop icon now completely ignores a good portion of her charm, instead focusing on the classic images from her career that make her seem like a shameless sex symbol with no depth. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Born Norma Jeane Mortensen (though she used the last name “Baker” throughout her childhood), Marilyn was born on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, to a severely mentally ill mother who had gotten pregnant by a man whose identity was not clear to her. Due to her mother’s mental illness (later determined to be paranoid schizophrenia), Norma Jeane spent her childhood in a long series of foster homes, by her own account numbering 10 in total, in addition to a 2-year stint in the Los Angeles Orphans Home. This childhood (or, really, lack thereof) seemed to be a catalyst for her problems later in life. Constantly searching for stability and a father figure, she married 3 times, the first when she was 16, then to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller. As she became a star (first signing with a modeling agency, then landing small parts in films), this dichotomy between fame and poverty grew. She admitted to feeling like two different people–Marilyn Monroe, the star, and Norma Jeane Baker, the girl with no home. She grew to legend in the 1950s and soon became tired of being known as simply a sex symbol. She wanted desperately to be taken seriously, and in 1955 went to Lee Strasberg’s Actor’s Studio in New York to study the craft. She came back to make what I consider to be her best film, Bus Stop, in 1956.
However, she never gained the public appreciation she so craved for her efforts, and this contributed to her becoming very depressed. She developed a dependency on pills and alcohol, became increasingly difficult and late to the set, and died in 1962 at the age of 36, which was, in my opinion, a likely suicide. Some of her very last words in her last interview were “Please don’t make me a joke.”
It pains me to think what she would think of what she would think of her star persona today. It’s really quite sad, because I think that even after death, she is being done a great injustice with the memorabilia industry, capitalizing on her persona as a sex symbol that she was so trying to rid herself of. I am going to add some videos of her as she would have wished to be remembered. Happy birthday, Marilyn!
One of her earliest and best films, Don’t Bother to Knock. She plays a mentally unstable babysitter, a part she said she modeled after her remembrances of her mother. It is also worth noting that the famous breathy voice began as a method to control her stutter, a childhood affliction that never completely went away.
Outtakes from her last, uncompleted film, Something’s Got to Give.
Talking about Bus Stop, 1956.
Talking about her teenage years.
An interview about her marriage to Arthur Miller. She looks very uncomfortable in this interview–she said that she didn’t like crowds, which she thought was due to her years in the crowded orphanage.