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“YOU KNOW, MOST PEOPLE REALLY DON’T KNOW ME.” – Marilyn Monroe, LIFE Magazine 1962
Marilyn Monroe was the reason I got into Old Hollywood films. The first movie I saw of hers was Some Like It Hot, starring Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. A hilarious comedy set in the 1920s about two broke musicians who become witnesses to a bloody massacre. To escape they find themselves in drag in an all girl band, where they meet Sugar Kane.
From the moment I finished the film, I was hooked on Marilyn’s aura. There was just something about her that sucked me in. 2012 had me dedicate a website to her, purchase her whole movie collection and start a bookshelf containing nothing but Marilyn Monroe biographies and photo books. I have an addictive personality, what can I say. But through that obsession with Marilyn, I learnt a lot about her that not many everyday folks realise. One of those being that she was NOT how she portrayed herself. Marilyn Monroe was a character. And today, to celebrate her birthday, I am going to show you her real-life persona.
SHE KNEW PUBLICITY BETTER THAN MOST PUBLICISTS
If you’ve seen The Prince and the Showgirl, there’s a scene where Elsie (played by Monroe) curtsies when she meets the prince. Whilst doing so, her dress strap snaps. This is what happened to Marilyn at a press conference for the movie in 1956. It is not known for certain whether Marilyn did this on purpose but it certainly drew some attention.
Now, I wouldn’t go as far to call Marilyn a liar, but she certainly knew how to twist the truth to gain sympathy, inspire scandal and promote awe. She exaggerated stories from her childhood and about her life which made the public have pity for her. It is possible she saw that part of her life in a negative light, and it’s understandable too but it definitely gave Marilyn an upper hand in the pity department.
At events, she would wear gowns that perfectly accentuated her curves. In the 1950s, that wasn’t the norm like it is today. At the 1953 Photoplay Awards, Marilyn wore a gold gown which she was supposedly sewn into. Because the gown was so precariously situated on her figure. Gossip columnist Sheilah Graham stated, Marilyn “wriggled in, wearing the tightest of tight gold dresses. While everyone watched, the blonde swayed sinuously down the long room to her place on the dais. She had stopped the show cold.”
Marilyn knew that people were very visual so during the filming of River of No Return, when she sprained her ankle Marilyn insisted on using crutches and did a whole photoshoot using them with her bandaged ankle in full view.
MARILYN MONROE WAS A HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE
Marilyn supported the black community, gay rights and women’s rights.
A couple of quotes supporting this:
“‘I’M DEFINITELY A WOMAN, AND I ENJOY IT.”
“PEOPLE WHO AREN’T FIT TO OPEN THE DOOR FOR HIM SNEER AT HIS HOMOSEXUALITY. WHAT DO THEY KNOW ABOUT IT? LABELS – PEOPLE LOVE PUTTING LABELS ON EACH OTHER. THEN THEY FEEL SAFE. PEOPLE TRIED TO MAKE ME INTO A LESBIAN. I LAUGHED. NO SEX IS WRONG IF THERE’S LOVE IN IT.” – Marilyn to Journalist W.J. Weatherby on friend and co-star Montgomery Clift in 1960 recorded in Conversations With Marilyn.
“WHAT I REALLY WANT TO SAY: THAT WHAT THE WORLD REALLY NEEDS IS A REAL FEELING OF KINSHIP. EVERYBODY: STARS, LABORERS, NEGROES, JEWS, ARABS. WE ARE ALL BROTHERS.” – Marilyn to Richard Merymen in her last interview which appeared in Life Magazine on 3rd August 1962.
Marilyn was good friends with people from all walks of life which included African Americans and the gay community. She was never bias about someone’s background or their private lives. Something which was uncommon for the fifties.
HOWEVER, there is a story in which claims Marilyn had been the reason Ella Fitzgerald (a black musician) had been able to play in one of the most famous clubs in LA (Mocambo) which is often twisted. It is said that Ella was denied to perform there because of her race, but this wasn’t true. Plenty of black musicians had performed there long before Ella. Ella never stated that she wasn’t booked because of race, she just said they wouldn’t do it. Either way, Marilyn did call up the owner and insisted that Ella perform. You can read more about that here.
MARILYN ONLY MET JFK FOUR TIMES…
“No serious biographer can maintain the existence of an affair between Marilyn and the Kennedys. All we can say for sure is that the actress and the President have met 4 times, between October 1961 and August 1962, and it was during one of those meetings, that they called to a friendly relation of Marilyn from a bedroom. Shortly after, Marilyn confided this sexual relation to her close relatives, insisting about the fact that their affair ended there”. – Donald Spoto, Biographer
Shockingly (or not so), JFK had many many affairs. Marilyn is just the most famous because he is blamed for her death. Which is also ludicrous as he had no reason to want her dead. Any theory about her supposed murder can be debunked by science, reliable sources and historical records. Any images of the two of them together privately have been photoshopped or are lookalikes.
SHE NEVER HAD MUCH MONEY
In 1962, ten years after her first starring roles, Marilyn was paid £100,000 for her latest film, Something’s Got to Give whilst Elizabeth Taylor was being paid £1,000,000 for Cleopatra.
Although Taylor was also a huge star, the fact that Marilyn was one of Hollywood’s most bankable actresses makes her salary seem shocking and unfair. After she was fired from the picture, a new contract was drawn up to rehire her and pay her $1,000,000. This was three days before she passed away.
Marilyn lived a modest lifestyle and her only major purchase was her last home in 1962. It was a small hacienda located in Brentwood, Los Angeles. Gowns and jewellery were almost always borrowed from the studio’s wardrobe department. Her own closet was very basic with a few simple designer pieces.
Her accounts at the time of her death, including a balance of $1,337.53 in her City National Bank account on August 1, 1962, with an overdraft of $4,208.34 in the same account on August 3, 1962.
MARILYN HAD BEEN WRONGFULLY ADMINISTERED TO A SANITARIUM
After telling her therapist Dr Marianne Kris, in 1961 that she had been having dark thoughts, she was advised that Marilyn enter Payne Whitney on February 10, 1961, in the psychiatric department.
Marilyn had been suffering a lot with depression, exhaustion, stress and her recent divorce from Arthur Miller as well as being blamed for the death of Clark Gable. Gable’s death was brought on by a heart attack which people associated with the amount of stress Marilyn put him under on the set of The Misfits. It isn’t often remarked however that he was a heavy smoker, was unhealthy in his lifestyle and insisted on doing strenuous stunts himself.
To avoid any publicity, she was registered under the name of Mary Miller.
Far from finding an environment that she was promised, she was placed in a security wing in a cell. Her depression became worse. She contacted her acting coaches Lee and Paula Strasberg however they couldn’t get her discharged. She wrote six pages which included:
“Dr Kris has had me put into the New York Hospital – psychiatric division under the care of two idiot doctors – they both should not be my doctors. (…) I’m locked up with all these poor nutty people. I’m sure to end up a nut if I stay in this nightmare – please help me Lee. (..) I do not belong here. (..) I love you both. Marilyn
P.S. : I’m on the dangerous floor its like a cell. (..) they had the bathroom door locked so I broke the glass and outside of that I haven’t done anything that is uncooperative”.
As they could do nothing, they contacted Marilyn’s ex-husband Joe DiMaggio. When the hospital administration stated that it needed Dr Kris’s permission to let her out he threatened the doctor, saying that if Marilyn wasn’t released the next evening, he “would remove the hospital stone by stone”. Three days later on 13th February, Joe (who Marilyn hadn’t seen for 3 years), released her back to her home, before her new hospitalisation at the Columbia University Presbyterian from 17th February to 6th March. Marilyn and Joe spent a lot of time together in 1961 with rumours sparking of them rekindling their marriage, although there is no concrete evidence of this.
SHE SUFFERED WITH A STUTTER
When Marilyn was growing up she experienced issues with her speech which included stuttering. Her sexy, slow voice, was actually adopted during her sessions with a speech therapist in order to overcome her stuttering. During the outtakes of Something’s Got To Give, you can see Marilyn stuttering due to stress of the production.
SHE WAS UNABLE TO HAVE CHILDREN
All Marilyn really wanted in her life was a child. She also wanted to adopt, but sadly due to health issues (endometriosis) she was unable to have any children. She had two confirmed miscarriages from 1957 (ectopic pregnancy) and 1958, although many believe she was pregnant in 1956 this was not confirmed at the time. She had several gynaecological surgeries however was informed in 1960s that she may not be able to carry a child.
MARILYN MONROE WAS PLAYBOY’S FIRST CENTREFOLD… AND SHE WAS ONLY PAID $50 FOR IT.
When Marilyn was in need to get her car fixed during her modelling days in the 1940s, she was offered, by a photographer called Tom Kelley, to pose nude for a calendar. At first, Marilyn refused but she needed the cash to get her car repaired to travel to jobs. She told the photographer that she wanted his wife to be present, and she was.
Marilyn didn’t use her name in case it drew publicity, which in 1952 it did. She was asked by the studio to announce it wasn’t her but she said she wouldn’t lie about it. Hugh Hefner then bought the photographs for only $500, and later some of the images appeared in the very first edition of Playboy magazine in 1953. The cover photo was taken during a parade in 1952.
SHE WAS AN INTELECTUAL BUT DIDN’T HAVE AN IQ OF 168
Firstly, her IQ was never tested so we cannot be sure what her IQ was. She was definitely an avid reader who enjoyed surrounding herself with intelligent people and liked discussing topics of all kinds.
She married playwright Arthur Miller, was friends with author Truman Capote and poet Carl Sandberg. She enjoyed writing and reading poetry, art, history and method acting. Marilyn was always keen to learn and develop her craft.
At the time of her death 400 books, some of which were first editions.
Ok, I could go on and on… But I have some books (and the DVD boxset) below that I highly recommend for those who are interested in reading up on Marilyn. These are all affiliate links:
- Marilyn Monroe DVD Boxset
- My Story by Marilyn Monroe and Ben Hecht
- Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed by Michelle Morgan
- The Biography by Donald Spoto
- The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist by Michelle Morgan
Sources to avoid:
- Jeanne Carmen
- Lena Pepitone
- Robert Slatzer
- Anthony Summers
- Norman Mailer
- Fred Otash
- Dorothy Kilgallen
- Walter Winchell