“I’ve never fooled anyone. I’ve let people fool themselves. They didn’t bother to find out who and what I was. Instead they would invent a character for me. I wouldn’t argue with them. They were obviously loving somebody I wasn’t.”
- Marilyn Monroe
86 years after she was born and fifty years after she died, Marilyn Monroe continues to fascinate and captivate; she creates intrigue and interest, despite belonging to a different era.
Monroe was a troubled woman. Even in 2012, it’s difficult to confirm many parts of her life – both childhood and adulthood. What is known is that there was a history of mental illness in her family, through her mother and grandparents; Marilyn spent a lot of her early years moving around and feeling unwanted – something which would manifest itself on her psyche, plaguing her until her death.
Even those who aren’t Marilyn fans could recite the basic facts of her life; three marriages; several miscarriages; a constant battle to be taken seriously by Hollywood. Yet none of this even touches the cornerstone of her illusive appeal. Who was Marilyn Monroe? And why, fifty years after her death, do we still care?
Monroe was a bundle of contradictions – a little girl lost, looking for a father figure; a sexually provocative woman who knew how to use her charms. She longed to be taken seriously as an actress; yet her best known roles make light of the talent which brimmed beneath the surface. Despite being a Hollywood superstar, her constant self-doubt made her a nightmare on film sets. Her notorious lateness, illnesses, demands for script changes, tumultuous personal life, irrationality, fear and insecurity, all paint a picture of a highly neurotic and unstable woman. Even in death, her life was complicated; conspiracy theories and doubts surrounding her demise will probably never dissipate.
As someone who has a fascination with Miss Monroe (for about a decade at this point), even I feel no closer to really explaining my pull to her. There was of course her beauty and even more than that, her ownership of her beauty and femininity. Monroe was a woman who knew how to enter a room, she knew how to use her gender to get what she wanted; admittedly, at times, to her own detriment. The fuzzy details of what exactly she did early on in her career to break in to the Hollywood studios remains sketchy. More than likely, she turned sexual favours to get to the top. There’s her nude calendar – which she was paid a grand sum of $50 for – which she admitted she did for the money she desperately needed at the time. But despite the known flaws and unflattering facets of parts of her life, Monroe remains an idol. She remains my idol, not something that can be explained by her beauty or fame.
Monroe, I believe, above anything else – actress, wife, sex symbol – was a grafter. She fought her way in to Hollywood and she fought to remain at the top. Despite trying her best, her marriages failed. Monroe would consistently stumble through her life with her psychological problems, but amazingly, made herself in to a film star; a worldwide phenomenon. Her intelligence and wit are demonstrated throughout her numerous gold-star quotes and her choice of reading material; she adored historical biographies, philosophy teachings and poetry. Contrary to popular belief, Marilyn was not washed up when she died in 1962; she was on the cusp of being re-instated at Fox on Something’s Got To Give because simply, the studio realised they could not replace Marilyn Monroe. She was planning for the future; in discussions about other film projects, decorating her Brentwood home and looking forward to visiting what she considered her true home in New York City within a few weeks. This makes her apparent, sudden, depressive slump, cumulating in her death of “probable suicide”, all the more curious.
Beauties, film stars and sex symbols have come and gone since Monroe; and will continue to do so as long as Hollywood remains alive. But her fragility, her beauty and complicated personality continue to intrigue. Perhaps, it is because in some way, in another life, any woman could’ve been Marilyn Monroe. She dragged herself from her difficult start in life to become an icon. Looking at pictures of her; the half-closed eyes, the lipstick red smile, the curly blonde hair, the provocative poses; despite being a superstar, she remains accessible. Her glamour is something that, if you have the right shade of blonde, demure, sexually-charged eye glance, you can have your very own bit of Marilyn Magic. Glamour, as a fundamental concept, is illusive. It’s difficult to define yet we can instantly look at an image and go “Oh, how glamorous!”. Marilyn, for all her problems and difficulties, was glamour epitomised.
She became a star out of dust; a blazing light across an information-loaded world, that continues to burn in our minds. There are so many parts of Marilyn that can’t be explained; and perhaps that’s why we still love her. Her contradictions mirror our own; her fights can be anyone’s fights. Above being the symbol that she herself created, she was just a person, just human; like the rest of us. And that’s the most appealing trait of all.