Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Goodbye Norma Jeane

August gives us the anniversaries of the deaths of two cultural icons whose appeal goes beyond America. Of course I’m talking about the king himself, Elvis Aaron Presley and the blonde bombshell of all time – Marilyn Monroe. Today’s blog we will be talking about Ms. Monroe. (We’ll come back to Elvis later…I promise.)

On August 5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her L.A. home, an empty bottle of sleeping pills by her side. Did she overdose? Was she murdered? Or was it simply an accident? Personally, my intrepid readers, this blogger believes she was 86’d by some nefarious outside element. But that’s the topic for another blog.  She was only 36 years old.  And the world still mourns.

Marilyn Monroe was born in Los Angeles in 1926 as Norma Jeane Mortenson. However, she was baptized and raised as Norma Jeane Baker. She did not have the easiest childhood. Her mother, Gladys, suffered from severe depression and was placed in an institution in 1932. For a while Norma Jeane was taken care of by a close friend of her mother’s Grace McKee. However due to financial constrictions and issues, when Grace and her husband had to move away from Los Angeles, they couldn’t afford to take Norma Jeane with them. She was placed in foster care and orphanages from 1935 to 1937 until she once again lived with Grace and her husband in 1941. It was there she met her first husband, Jim Dougherty, who was five years older.

Norma Jeane spent the next few years working as a print model and trying to break into Hollywood. Her marriage, which was more of an arranged situation then love, began to deteriorate. She filed and was granted a divorce in 1946, the same year she signed her first contract with Twentieth Century-Fox Studios. And Marilyn Monroe was born.

Technically her first film role was in the movie The Shocking Miss Pilgrim in which she played an un-credited telephone operator (Ain’t movies grand) Next she landed a few speaking roles in films like Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! and Ladies of the Chorus which lead to…nothing. She flitted from Fox to Columbia with little success to show for it. It was until John Huston (Yes..that John Huston…Angelica’s dad, the guy who directed The Maltese Falcon and other such Hollywood Classics) cast her in The Asphalt Jungle did her star power finally start to burn bright.

Several movies, and marriages, followed as Marilyn built up her career and began to solidify her place in the Silver Screen pantheon. 1952 however brought a bit of a snag to the rising star, this was when the notorious nude calendar pictures made their appearance. It was the same story as other movies stars, past and present. Marilyn needed money and took some nudie pictures. Of course the photographer realized the money he could make now that our blonde beauty was standing on the precipice of Hollywood domination. Marilyn made no excuses for the pictures and took full responsibility for them. Her co-stars on the movie Clash by Night which she was filming when the pictures became public were rumored to be rude and cold to her. (Who’s laughing now, you brats. Anyone besides me remember who was in that movie?)  

Now comes Niagara one of my favorite Monroe movies. Its film noir mixed with Marilyn. How can you not love it! She played a ruthless, seductive, conniving killer. Awesome sauce at its best.  Plus it has the best line about Marilyn I have ever heard. The husband asks his wife after they have watched Marilyn saunter by in an amazing red dress, why she doesn’t wear something like that. The wife glibly responds “For a dress like that you have to start laying the groundwork at about thirteen.”

This was followed by a series of films that any movie lover will know,  Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – with the famous Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend number (Madonna, just because you put on a pink dress and dance around with red lips, doesn’t make you Marilyn. Never will) How to Marry a Millionaire- which paired her with the outgoing blonde bombshell, Betty Grable, the torch is passed in this film folks, and “The Seven Year Itch. White Dress. Subway Grate. Enough Said.  Some like it Hot – Jack Lemmon in Drag, and Marilyn getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop. The film is considered the number one comedy of all time. (It will make you pee with laughter. Trust me.)

Her last completed film came in 1961 with the amazing Clark Gable. It turned out to be the last completed film for both of them. Unlike any other film she had done up to this point, Marilyn played a more dramatic role and was, in my opinion, amazing.  The Misfits gives us a glimpse of what might have been had she lived.

I could write page after page about Marilyn, because frankly I love her. I have seen every movie she has even been in and read numerous books, and I’m not the only one. What is it about this petite, busty funny blonde that captivated a generation, and is captivating audiences to this day? Why is she still so popular? Look at her eyes. Look at her smile. Now you know.

A scene from one of my favorite Marilyn movies - There's no business like show business. Marilyn + Donald O'Connor = Court heart attack.  

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