“I did find, too, when the world opened up that people took a lot for granted, like not only could they be friendly, but they could suddenly get overly friendly and expect an awful lot for very little.”
– Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe has gone beyond being just an actress. She has become the cult of the century and beyond. Her death rose a scandal and was the most mysterious affair of its time. But it was no match to what her life was; even more mysterious, even more scandalous. While Monroe has been famous for many wrong reasons, from drug abuse to alcoholism and temper tantrums… the world has hungered for more. Even today debates are held on her life, as it were, and her death, as it happened!
Marilyn Monroe was an alias for her birth-name, Norma Jeane Mortenson. Born in 1926 in Los Angeles, Norma Jean spent most of her childhood in foster homes and orphanages. Her mother had to seek asylum in lieu of acute mental illness. Monroe was married by the age of sixteen. She married thrice in her lifetime. The famous author of Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller, being one of her husbands. She never could bear a child, despite wishing for one desperately. Her own childhood was a rough one, it even included child abuse and sexual harassment on the hands of one of her foster-fathers. However, she survived it and came out with her will to live, unscathed. After her first marriage, she took to working in a factory in 1944 as a part of the war effort. She was introduced to a photographer from the First Motion Picture Unit, and began her career successfully as a pin-up model.
Marilyn Monroe soon became the greatest sex symbol of the times and her legacy continues to live after her to the present. She dared to make an undying classic out of her sex appeal with effortless brilliance. The release of new about her naked photoshoot skyrocketed her popularity instead of diminishing it. She replaced the iconic Betty Grable as the blonde-bombshell, vey soon in her career. However she had a different take on her sex-symbol image.
“I never quite understood it, this sex symbol. I always thought symbols were those things you clash together! That’s the trouble, a sex symbol becomes a thing. I just hate to be a thing. But if I’m going to be a symbol of something I’d rather have it sex than some other things they’ve got symbols of.”
– Monroe in an interview for Life in 1962
It was after her introduction to the modelling world that she shed the skin of Norma Jeane Mortenson and took up the image of Marilyn Monroe. Throughout her life, she suffered an identity crisis between her two personal images. Monroe also suffered from an acutely low self esteem.
Monroe had a short life but a successful one. She made many iconic movies, specially comedies. Her work included comedies like Monkey Bussiness (1952) and The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), that established as the undisputed dumb-blonde character in movie roles. However she died under mysterious circumstances very soon in life.
Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood home in the early morning hours of August 5, 1962, by her psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson. Her death has been a mystery ever since. Several conspiracy theories have been developed, including murder and staged suicide. Her death rose a stinc in the undercurrents of US politics and Hollywood.
None of this came in the way of her becoming an icon of her times, so much so that there have been popular cults, tattoos and merchandise of her, in her mermory. She was an enigma in herself, and till today we stay tangled in the mysteries of her heart.
Academic Sarah Churchill who has studied narratives about Monroe has this to say for her-
The biggest myth is that she was dumb. The second is that she was fragile. The third is that she couldn’t act. She was far from dumb, although she was not formally educated, and she was very sensitive about that. But she was very smart indeed – and very tough. She had to be both to beat the Hollywood studio system in the 1950s. […] The dumb blonde was a role – she was an actress, for heaven’s sake! Such a good actress that no one now believes she was anything but what she portrayed on screen.
– Sarah Churchill on Marilyn Monroe
And here we are worshipping Monroe a generation after her death! And always will!