June 1st would have been Marilyn Monroe’s 89th birthday. She’s been gone for nearly 53 years, and even after all this time after her death, she remains one of the most celebrated, if not mysterious, celebrities of our time. So many questions remain unanswered about her life, as well as death, which (in my opinion) makes her all the more enigmatic.
When you think of Monroe, I’m sure many images come to mind. The affair with Kennedy, the failed marriages. The come-hither voice, and sex appeal that catapulted her to celebrity status that has likely never been matched, and probably never will be again.
But was this all really her? Was the the real person, Norma Jeane Mortensen….or simply this creature she had created, Marilyn Monroe……a persona and idea that she ultimately couldn’t handle?
I think that a lot of us get so caught up in the image of the late Hollywood legend, that we forget the person behind the blonde bob, red lipstick and beauty mark. What was Norma Jean really like, when you take away all the Hollywood glitz and glamor?
By all accounts there were many facets to her personality, demeanor, and psyche that are still being discovered, written about, and picked apart. New light has been shed in recent years into her thoughts, insecurities, dalliances and tendencies that give us a glimpse as to what kind of human being she truly was.
After reading this, you decide, but either way, I think she deserves to be remembered as being more than just the girl who sang “Happy Birthday Mr. President”.
1. She had an appetite for literature.
Not only was Monroe briefly married to one of the greatest play rights of our time, Arthur Miller (The Crucible) but she owned an extensive library that included the works of Flaubert, Beckett, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Kerouac.
Monroe was constantly reading, and was enthralled with the literary crowd. She wanted to be able to show everyone that behind her beauty, there was also intelligence.
2. Truman Capote was her close friend, drinking buddy, and fellow free spirit.
The eccentric author of “In Cold Blood, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was a close friend of Monroe, from the time they met in 1949 up until she died. Capote has also said that he and Monroe danced nude in Cecil Beaton’s New York hotel suite while the photographer snapped away. Capote also was said to of housed the photographic evidence in one of his five homes…
Capote would also publish a a few memoirs in which he would write of his personal friendship and experiences with Marilyn.
“There was something exceptional about Marilyn Monroe,” muses Truman Capote. “Sometimes she could be ethereal and sometimes like a waitress in a coffee shop.”
3. She was poetic, and enjoyed writing.
After her death, Lee Strasberg inherited much of Monroe’s personal items, included many notebooks and pages of scribble that she had written on during her years of psychoanalysis. Marilyn liked to jot down her thoughts, poems and musings on pieces of paper, if not anything else, to have her psychiatrist analyze them to help her break down her acting roles.
Those things have now been published in a coffee table book called Fragments. You can purchase it at any book store, and it shows a glimpse into the life of someone who is far more than just a pretty face.
“to know reality (or things as they are than to have not to know and to have few illusions as possible— train my will now”
4. She was probably really in love John F. Kennedy, sadly.
The true extent of the relationship between the two will probably never be known. Much has been debate,documented and argued over the passing of years.
Monroe’s calls have been recorded on the White House call log, and many former secret service agents, as well as member of Kennedy’s close camp, have shed new light into the relationship. Claiming that President Kennedy would take Monroe sailing on the Honey Fitz, or on boat rides down the Potomac.
It was documented that prior the affair, as an ailing Jack Kennedy was lying in the hospital after major back surgery before his Presidential election, he had a picture of an upside down Marilyn above his bed, legs up in the air.
Who can forget her infamously breathy performance of Happy Birthday, at Kennedy’s presidential gala. “Wearing skin and beads”, many people in attendence that night caught their breath as she took off her white fur coat…..they thought she was nude.
Marilyn also famously made a private phone call the Jackie at the White House to inform her that Kennedy would be divorcing her to marry the starlet. Jackie’s snarky response is still written about today.
Whatever the true facts, by all accounts, it’s been written that Monroe truly loved Kennedy, and not only thought they would be married one day, but that she would have his children. When he broke things off with her, she reportedly turned to his brother, Bobby.
The night she died, Bobby was the last person to visit her, and Kennedy was the last person she called. Many conspiracy theorist point the finger to the Kennedy brothers, or even the mafia.
Either way, we will probably never really know….
5. She was looking to secure more serious roles, and wanted to be ‘one of the greats’.
Monroe was taking steps to make sure she would be able to take on more serious roles. She had hit a cross roads in her career where she was tired of being pigeon holed into the ditzy blonde role. She wanted to prove to the world that she had the acting chops to take on roles that required substance.
Before she died, she started her own production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, with photographer Milton Greene, to ensure that she would have the opportunity to take on the roles she deemed suitable. The last week of her life, she was meeting with staff, executives, and close friends to go over future films and pan out deals for her future.
She was reportedly in good spirits, and looked better than she ever had. Her last finished film would be “The Misfits”, a screen play that Miller had written specifically with her mind. She starred alongside Clark Gable, and Montgomery Cliff.
6. She was a vulnerable, fragile, and insecure human being.
Marilyn was from a broken home. Her mother suffered from mental illness. She was carter from relative to relative, and eventually foster home to orphanages as a child. She always felt unloved, unwanted, and never good enough for anyone. These feelings would eventually manifest and carry over into her adult life.
She went through two early failed marriages, the product of convenience more than anything. Then later, she would endure two more failed marriages in Joe DiMaggio, and Arthur Miller. She would also suffer two miscarriages that by all accounts completely devastated her. She was never used to stability in her life. Even as an actress, she struggled to find her constant.
Even as she made it big, with millions of admirers, and fans, complete with several awards and accolades, she never felt good enough. She was always struggling to become more intelligent, secure more serious roles, strive to be more beautiful, and find someone to just love her for her, Norma Jeane, and not Marilyn.
This was something she struggled with from the moment she sky rocketed to fame. She would always wonder who truly loved her for her. It was always hard to tell, many people used her.
It seemed she would wonder through her life, from person to person, just wanting someone to take care of her. Friends, lovers, relations,. They would all later say that she was almost pitifully childlike; wanting, and craving affection and attention.
Looking at these factors paints another picture of the sex siren, and silver screen goddess that we believe know so well. Many of us forget that behind the beautiful facade was a regular person, with regular needs, thoughts, and dreams, just like the rest of us.
In looking through the microscope, it’s possible to peel back the layers of the myth and see Marilyn’s humanity, and true soul.
Almost 53 years later, it’s safe to say that we should also remember her for the true person she was. Not only a beautiful woman, who was successful, celebrated, and famous, but a real person, who was flesh and blood with a true beating heart which also experienced much of the same feelings that we do.
Marilyn had her faults, but there is much more complexity to her than just letting an air vent blow a white dress over her head, or haughtily singing about diamonds…..
It’s easy to forget that when you’re dealing with a legend….