Unraveling the Myth of the Marilyn Monroe Martyr

Next Thursday marks the 60th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death, but in some ways it seems that she never went away. In May, a new documentary about his life and death was released, reiterating the conspiracy theories that have inspired shelf-loads of books. In September, Netflix will release a biopic directed by Andrew Dominic.

At the Met Gala, Kim Kardashian was seen wearing the dress she wore to the John F. Kennedy procession to mark Monroe’s 45th birthday, and faced a trial by social media for allegedly posing. And in June, a portrait of Marilyn by Andy Warhol fetched a staggering $195m at auction. Everywhere you look, the myth of the Merlin Martyr confronts you, obscuring the real person, adding to his mystery.

Maybe it’s all Warhol’s fault. In 1962, just six weeks after Marilyn Monroe’s death, she unveiled that silkscreen painting, Marilyn Diptich, in which she used multiple versions of a highly publicized photo to portray the actress as a mass-produced icon. He did the same with Elvis, suggesting that these formerly and carefully marketed artists were the cultural equivalent of his famous Campbell’s soup tin, pop items bought, sold, and oddly placed. . And of course he had a point, but somewhere under that medically brilliant artwork lay the real Merlin, gleaming, ossified, uncanny.

Dead under unexplained circumstances at the age of 36, she would posthumously inspire a cottage industry of books, posters, tell-alls, biopics, all of which managed to make the waters even more muddy. And within a decade of his death, Monroe had become the pop cultural equivalent of a religious icon, a quasi-divine ideal of doomed but eternal beauty. Elton John did not help write a maudlin but catchy song, which would later be reimagined to praise another unlucky blonde, Diana Spencer.

Rarely has a dead celebrity been buried so extensively under conspiracy theories and competing accounts of his life. Who was Marilyn? In the year 2000, American author Joyce Carol Oates decided that a mere biography was insufficient for the task of describing Monroe’s rise and fall, and therefore created a fictionalized account of her life that was widely acclaimed and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. it was done.

an adaptation of White It’s a tempting prospect, but the film will have to be treaded with caution as it weaves its way through fact, legend, and competing conspiracy theories: Cuban actress Ana de Armas playing Marilyn, to be released next month by Netflix manufactures. When it comes to Marilyn Monroe, it seems, nothing is straight.


Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in Blonde.

That much we know. She was born Norma Jean Mortensen, on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles, and from the start, the stars seemed to align against her. She never knew her father, and her mother, Gladys Pearl Baker, was a disinterested parent who raised her at an early age. At first, this proved to be a blessing, and Norma Jean blossomed into the care of an evangelical Christian couple in rural California. But later on, the foster parent won’t be so gentle.

Several parents abused her, and sought comfort in the cinema. “I didn’t like the world around me because it was grim,” she would later say. Sent to the movies by her caregivers, she “sit all day and all night … There was a screen so big in front, and I loved it”.

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If cinema had been a means of escape, acting could have been the answer to all his prayers. As we know, this did not happen.

The path she took, from glamor modeling to small portions of films, was well trended, but what happened next was extraordinary. Critics are still raving about whether or not she can act, but she had star quality by Bucketful, and grabbed everyone’s eyes whenever she was on screen. A minor role in John Huston’s 1950 noir thriller asphalt forest put him on Hollywood’s radar, and he made his stellar success in the steamy 1953 Technicolor adventure Niagara, playing the role of a treacherous, murderous blonde. “Niagara may not be a place to visit under these circumstances,” said one critic sarcastically, “but the falls and Miss Monroe are something to behold.”

In the years since her death, it has become common to portray Marilyn as the helpless victim of a hare in the headlamps, a Hollywood flim-flam machine. But while she had a little-girl-lost aspect to her personality that underpinned her onscreen sexuality, Monroe operated under a personality she mostly created herself.

While still working as a model, Marilyn dyed her brown hair platinum blonde and later cut it into the curly bob favorite of her idol, 1930s star Jean Harlow, a prolific genius, and so on. Kind of ruined. She wore white to emphasize her stunning blondness, was dressed to show off her famous hour-glass shape, and had a hip-swinging walk that was almost absurdly feminine.


Star Quality: Monroe sought comfort in films during a difficult childhood. Photo by Baron via Getty Images

Monroe designed her own publicity stunts, like the time when the strap on her dress would mysteriously ‘break’, and developed relationships with gossip columnists such as Louella Parsons. She thought she could control the monster she had created, but she soon learned that she had a life of her own.

From the outset she was typecast as a dim and wide-eyed bombshell, oblivious to the chaos whose beauty was scattered around her. Marilyn played up the image, respected that girl’s voice and acted dumb in interviews. But when he later struggled to break free of it, taking acting classes and taking on serious dramatic roles, he was ridiculed by critics. “I want to be an artist,” she told one interviewer, “not a sex freak. I don’t want to be sold to the public as a celluloid aphrodisiac.”

In his last film, the MisfitsShe would get to prove her theatrical credentials, but Marilyn’s great gift was to films like comedies, and the seven Year Itch, some Like It Hot And gentlemen prefer blondes It is impossible to imagine without him.

When a photo surfaced, taken during her brief and unhappy marriage to playwright Arthur Miller, showed Monroe reading Ulysses, the general glee began. It was a publicity stunt, the people decided, but Marilyn had read it closely, and it was taken with Molly Bloom’s reclusiveness. “Here is Joyce writing what a woman thinks of herself,” she said, “does she, does she really know her innermost thoughts? But after reading the whole book, I could better understand that Joyce is an artist who can penetrate the soul of men or women. Some dummies.

It seemed that most people could not see beyond beauty. “People used to see me as some kind of mirror instead of a person,” she explained. “They didn’t see me, they saw their own ugly thoughts, then they whitewashed themselves by calling me ugly.”

The directors and fellow actors also saw him as a commodity. She remembered when Billy Wilder was shooting the famous scene the seven Year Itch Where the wind from the subway blows off her skirt, it turns her into a strange circus. “At first it was all innocent and funny,” she said, “but as Billy kept shooting the scene over and over again, the crowd of men kept clapping and shouting ‘More, more Marilyn – come on and see’. Which is funny. The scene should have turned into a sex scene.”


Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe in Seven Year Itch

Wilder would later bitch and lament about Monroe’s unprofessionalism and demand multiple times. some Like It Hot, although he admitted that his finished performance was magical. Tony Curtis was still less chivalrous, commenting that kissing Marilyn was like “kissing Hitler”, and later claiming that they had an affair that led to a miscarriage. If the men could not find her, they were determined to destroy her.

She had come to hate the body that everyone was attached to. Plagued by menstrual cramps and gynecological problems, she had multiple miscarriages and abortions, and resigned to the fact that she would be thrown out of domesticity forever.

He once spoke poignantly about Sunday being the loneliest day of his week. “All the men I know are spending the day with their wives and families, and all the stores in Los Angeles are closed. You can’t wander by looking at all the beautiful clothes and pretending to buy something.”

Addicted to painkillers and sleeping pills, and long unprotected, it would have been a miracle if Marilyn was old. At her bedside in Brentwood, police found empty medicine bottles and very high levels of the drug in her blood, the result of an accidental overdose. It was August 4, 1962, and Marilyn was pronounced dead at the age of 36.

But simple tragedy wasn’t enough for the Monroe legend: could her alleged boyfriends Jack and Bobby Kennedy have anything to do with it? Even for the Kennedys, Marilyn was an iconic trinket, a celebrity stronghold to be stormed. Now that was a glaring tragedy, a cautionary Hollywood story, but they were just headlines, and there was more.

In 1955, when jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald was banned from singing at the LA nightclub Mocambo, Marilyn told the owner that she would boycott the place, but that if he let Ella sing, she and her celebrity Friends would pack the front row every night. , Ella sang, and later expressed her gratitude to Marilyn. “After that,” she said, “I never got to play a small jazz club again.”