"Story of my life. I
always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop."
- as Sugar Kane
Kowalczyk, Some Like It Hot (1959)
Batman writer/artist Bob
Kane used Marilyn's likeness as a reference when he drew Vicki Vale.
During the filming of
Niagara (1953), Marilyn was still under contract as a stock actor,
thus, she received less salary than her make-up man.
Monroe (June 1st, 1926 August 5th, 1962) was an iconic
American actress, singer and model. To this day, she is one of the
20th century's most famous movie stars, sex symbols and pop icons.
After acting in small roles for several years, she gradually became
known for her comedic skills, sex appeal and screen presence, going
on to become one of the most popular movie stars of the 1950s. Later
in her career, she worked towards serious roles with a measure of
success. However, long standing problems were exacerbated by
disappointments in both career and personal life during her later
years. Her death, officially ruled to be probable suicide by drug
overdose, has been the subject of much speculation and conspiracy theory.
Marilyn Monroe personified
Hollywood glamour with an unparalleled glow and energy that enamored
the world. Although she was an alluring beauty with voluptuous curves
and a generous pout, Marilyn was more than a '50s sex goddess. Her
apparent vulnerability and innocence, in combination with an innate
sensuality, has endeared her to the global consciousness. She
dominated the age of movie stars to become, without question, the
most famous woman of the 20th Century.
Monroe was born on June 1st, 1926, in Los Angeles County Hospital as
Norma Jeane Mortenson (soon after changed to Baker), the third child
born to Gladys Pearl Baker (née Monroe, May 27th, 1902
March 11th, 1984). Monroe's birth certificate names the father as
Martin Edward Mortensen with his residence stated as
"unknown". The name Mortenson is listed as her surname on
the birth certificate, although Gladys immediately had it changed to
Baker, the surname of her first husband and which she still used.
Martin's surname was misspelled on the birth certificate leading to
more confusion on who her actual father was. Gladys Baker had married
a Martin E. Mortensen in 1924, but they had separated before Gladys'
pregnancy. Several of Monroe's biographers suggest that Gladys Baker
used his name to avoid the stigma of illegitimacy. Mortensen died at
the age of 85, and Monroe's birth certificate, together with her
parents' marriage and divorce documents, were discovered. The
documents showed that Mortensen filed for divorce from Gladys on
March 5th, 1927, and it was finalized on October 15th, 1928.
Throughout her life, Marilyn Monroe denied that Mortensen was her
father. Marilyn said that, when she was a child, she had been shown a
photograph of a man that Gladys identified as her father, Charles
Stanley Gifford. She remembered that he had a thin mustache and
somewhat resembled Clark Gable, and that she had amused herself by
pretending that Gable was her father.
had been a film cutter at RKO studios, but psychological problems
prevented her from keeping the job and she was unstable and
financially unable to care for the young Norma Jeane, so she placed
her with foster parents Albert and Ida Bolender of Hawthorne,
California, where she lived until she was seven. In 1933, Gladys
bought a house and brought Norma Jeane to live with her. A few months
later, Gladys began a series of mental episodes that would plague her
for the rest of her life. In her autobiography, My Story, Monroe
recalls her mother "screaming and laughing" as she was
forcibly removed to the State Hospital in Norwalk.
Norma Jeane was then declared a ward of
the state. Gladys's best friend, Grace McKee, became her guardian.
Grace was captivated by Jean Harlow, and told Monroe that some day
she would become a movie star. When Norma Jeane was 9, McKee married
Ervin Silliman "Doc" Goddard in 1935, and subsequently sent
Monroe to the Los Angeles Orphans Home (later renamed Hollygrove),
followed by a succession of eleven foster homes. While at Hollygrove,
several families were interested in adopting her, but reluctance on
Gladys' part to sign adoption papers thwarted those attempts. In
1937, Monroe moved back into Grace and Doc Goddard's house, joining
Doc's daughter from a previous marriage. Due to Doc's frequent
attempts to sexually assault Norma Jeane, this arrangement did not
sent Norma Jeane to live with her great-aunt, Olive Brunings, in
Compton, California; this was also a brief stint ended by an assault
when one of Olive's sons had attacked the now middle-school-aged
girl. Some biographers have questioned whether at least some of
Monroe's later behavior (i.e., hyper-sexuality, sleep disturbances,
substance abuse, disturbed interpersonal relationships), was a
manifestation of the effects of childhood sexual abuse in the context
of her already problematic relationships with her psychiatrically ill
mother and subsequent caregivers. In early 1938, Grace sent her to
live with another aunt, Ana Lower, who lived in the Van Nuys district
of Los Angeles. Years later, Monroe would reflect fondly about the
time that she spent with Lower, whom she affectionately called
"Aunt Ana". She would explain that it was one of the few
times in her life when she felt truly stable.
In 1942, Norma Jeane moved back to Grace
and Doc Goddard's house. While attending Van Nuys High School, she
met a neighbor's son, James "Jim" Dougherty, and began a
relationship with him. Several months later, Grace and Doc Goddard
relocated to West Virginia, where Doc had received a lucrative job
offer and they decided not to take Monroe with them. A neighborhood
family offered to adopt Monroe, but Gladys again rejected the offer.
With few options left, Grace approached Dougherty's mother and
suggested that Jim marry Norma Jeane so that she would not have to
return to an orphanage or foster care.
Jim was initially reluctant, but he
finally relented and married her in a ceremony arranged by Ana Lower
on June 19th, 1942. Norma Jeane was 16 and
Dougherty was 21 and they had been dating for six months. "She
was a sweet, generous and religious girl," Jimmy said. "She
liked to be cuddled." By all accounts Norma Jeane loved Jimmy,
and they were happy together until he joined the Merchant Marines and
was sent to the South Pacific in 1944. Frightened that he
might not come back alive, Monroe begged him to try and get her
pregnant before he left. Dougherty disagreed, feeling that she was
too young to have a baby, but he promised that they would revisit the
subject when he returned home. Subsequently, Monroe moved in with
After Jimmy left, Norma
Jeane took a job on the assembly line at the Radio Plane Munitions
factory in Burbank, California. Several months later, photographer
David Conover saw her while taking pictures of women contributing to
the war effort for Yank magazine. He couldn't believe his luck. She
was a "photographer's dream." Conover used her for the
shoot and then began sending modeling jobs her way,
encouraging her to apply to
The Blue Book Modeling Agency. She signed with the agency and began
researching the work of Jean Harlow and Lana Turner. She was told
that they were looking for models with lighter hair, so Norma Jeane
bleached her brunette hair a golden blonde.
Norma Jeane became one of Blue Book's most
successful models, appearing on dozens of magazine covers. Her
successful modeling career brought her to the attention of Ben Lyon,
a 20th Century Fox executive, who arranged a screen test for her.
Lyon was impressed and commented, "It's Jean Harlow all over
again." She was offered a standard six-month contract with a
starting salary of $125 per week. Norma Jeane was invited to spend
the weekend with Lyon and his wife Bebe Daniels at their home. It was
there that they decided to find her a new name. Following her idol
Jean Harlow, she decided to choose her mother's maiden name of
Monroe. Several variations such as Norma Jeane Monroe and Norma
Monroe were tried and initially "Jeane Monroe" was chosen.
Eventually, Lyon decided Jeane and variants were too common, and he
decided on a more alliterative sounding name. He suggested
"Marilyn", commenting that she reminded him of Marilyn
Miller. Monroe was initially hesitant because Marilyn was the
contraction of the name Mary Lynn, a name she did not like. Lyon,
however, felt that the name "Marilyn Monroe" was sexy, had
a "nice flow", and would be "lucky" due to the
"I never wanted to
be Marilyn, it just happened. Marilyn's like a veil I wear over Norma Jeane."
- Marilyn Monroe
September 1946, Monroe filed for divorce. Dougherty, served with
divorce papers while aboard a ship on the Yangtze river in China,
reported that he tried to persuade his wife against the divorce upon
his return, but she refused. In a 1984 interview, he claimed,
"She wanted to sign a contract with [20th Century] Fox and it
said she couldn't be married, they didn't want a pregnant starlet."
During her first few months at 20th
Century Fox, Monroe had no speaking roles in any films but, alongside
other new contract players, took singing, dancing and other classes.
She appeared as an extra in some movies, but no exact list exists;
some film buffs claim she appears in the musical comedies The
Shocking Miss Pilgrim and You Were Meant for Me, and in the Western,
Green Grass of Wyoming, but these are unconfirmed. Her first credited
role was as a waitress in Dangerous Years, released in December 1947,
in which she had nine short lines. In March 1948, she appeared in a
bit part as Betty in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (released after
Dangerous Years but filmed before). Dressed in a pinafore and walking
down the steps of a church, she says, "Hi, Rad" to the main
character, played by June Haver, who responds, "Hi, Betty."
After Monroe's stardom, 20th Century Fox began claiming that Monroe's
only line in the film had been cut out, an anecdote Monroe repeated
on Person to Person in 1955, but film historian James Haspiel says
her line is intact and she also appears in a shot paddling a canoe
with another woman.
1947, Monroe had been released from her contract with 20th Century
Fox. She then met with Hollywood pin-up photographer Bruno Bernard,
who photographed her at the Racquet Club of Palm Springs; and it was
at the Racquet Club where she met Hollywood talent agent Johnny Hyde.
In 1948, Monroe signed a six-month contract with Columbia Pictures
and was introduced to the studio's head drama coach Natasha Lytess,
who became her acting coach for several years. Monroe was soon cast
in a major role in the low-budget musical Ladies of the Chorus
(1948). Monroe was reviewed as one of the film's bright spots,
although the film enjoyed only moderate success and she was dropped
by Columbia. Monroe struggled to find film work but when the offers
didn't come, she returned to modeling.
In 1949, she caught the eye of
photographer Tom Kelley, who convinced her to pose nude. Monroe was
laid out on a large fabric of red silk and posed for countless shots.
She was paid $50 and signed the model release form as "Mona
Monroe". This was the only time that Monroe was paid for her
Soon thereafter she had a small walk-on
role in the Marx Brothers film Love Happy (1949, above). Monroe
impressed the producers, who sent her to New York City to be featured
in the film's promotional campaign. While on the East Coast, she and
Andre de Dienes, one of Norma Jeane's early photographers, shot a
famous series of pin-up shots of her at Long Island's Tobay Beach, in
Oyster Bay, New York.
After signing on with Johnny Hyde, Monroe
had brief roles in three films, A Ticket to Tomahawk, Right Cross,
and The Fireball, all of which were released in 1950 and brought no
attention to her career. Hyde soon thereafter arranged for her to
audition for John Huston, who cast her in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
drama The Asphalt Jungle as the young mistress of an aging criminal (below).
Her performance brought strong reviews,
and was seen by the writer and director, Joseph Mankiewicz. He
accepted Hyde's suggestion to cast Monroe in a small comedic role in
All About Eve as Miss Caswell (below right), an aspiring actress,
described by another character, played by George Sanders, as a
student of "The Copacabana School of Dramatic Art".
later commented that he had seen an innocence in her that he found
appealing, and that this had confirmed his belief in her suitability
for the role. Following Monroe's success in these roles, Hyde
negotiated a seven-year contract for her with 20th Century Fox,
shortly before his death in December 1950.
In 1951, Monroe enrolled at University of
California, Los Angeles, where she studied literature and art
appreciation. During this time Monroe had minor parts in four films:
the low-budget drama Home Town Story with Jeffrey Lynn and Alan Hale,
Jr., and three comedies: As Young as You Feel with Monty Woolley and
Thelma Ritter; Love Nest with June Haver and William Lundigan; and
Let's Make It Legal with Claudette Colbert and Macdonald Carey, all
of which were filmed on a moderate budget and only became mildly
successful. In March 1951, she appeared as a presenter at the 23rd
Academy Awards ceremony. In 1952, Monroe appeared on the cover of
Look magazine wearing a Georgia Tech sweater as part of an article
celebrating female enrollment to the school's main campus. In the
early 1950s, Monroe unsuccessfully auditioned for the role of Daisy
Mae in a proposed Li'l Abner television series based on the Al Capp
March 1952, Monroe faced a possible scandal when two of her nude
photos from her 1949 session with photographer Tom Kelley were
featured on calendars. The press speculated about the identity of the
anonymous model and commented that she closely resembled Monroe. As
the studio discussed how to deal with the problem, Monroe suggested
that she should simply admit that she had posed for the photographs
but emphasize that she had done so only because she had no money to
pay her rent. She gave an interview in which she discussed the
circumstances that led to her posing for the photographs, and the
resulting publicity elicited a degree of sympathy for her plight as a
struggling actress. One of these photographs was published in the
first issue of Playboy in December 1953, making Monroe the first
Playmate of the Month and contributing to the success of the magazine.
She made her first appearance on the cover
of Life magazine in April 1952, where she was described as "The
Talk of Hollywood". The following year, she was photographed by
noted Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, considered
"The father of photojournalism."
Stories of her childhood and upbringing
portrayed her in a sympathetic light: a cover story for the May 1952
edition of True Experiences magazine showed a smiling and wholesome
Monroe beside a caption that read, "Do I look happy? I should -
for I was a child nobody wanted. A lonely girl with a dream - who
awakened to find that dream come true. I am Marilyn Monroe. Read my
Cinderella story." It was also during this time that she began
dating baseball player Joe DiMaggio. A photograph of DiMaggio
visiting Monroe at the 20th Century Fox studio was printed in
newspapers throughout the United States, and reports of a developing
romance between them generated further interest in Monroe.
1952. She had been lent to RKO Studios to appear in a supporting
role in Clash by Night, a Barbara Stanwyck drama, directed by Fritz
Lang. This was followed by two films released in July, the
lightweight comedy We're Not Married!, and the drama Don't Bother to
Knock, where she played the starring role of a babysitter who
threatens to attack the child in her care.
Monkey Business (right with Cary Grant), a
successful comedy directed by Howard Hawks starring Cary Grant and
Ginger Rogers, was released in September and was the first movie in
which Monroe appeared with platinum blonde hair. In O. Henry's Full
House for 20th Century Fox, released in August 1952, Monroe had a
single one-minute scene with Charles Laughton, yet she received top
billing alongside him and the film's other stars.
Darryl F. Zanuck considered that Monroe's
film potential was worth developing and cast her in Niagara, as a
femme fatale scheming to murder her husband, played by Joseph Cotten.
During filming, Monroe's make-up artist Whitey Snyder noticed her
stage fright (that would ultimately mark her behavior on film sets
throughout her career); the director assigned him to spend hours
gently coaxing and comforting Monroe as she prepared to film her scenes.
of the critical commentary following the release of the film focused
on Monroe's overtly sexual performance, and a scene which shows
Monroe (from the back) making a long walk toward Niagara Falls
received frequent note in reviews. After seeing the film, Constance
Bennett reportedly quipped, "There's a broad with her future
behind her." Whitey Snyder also commented that it was during
preparation for this film, after much experimentation, that Monroe
achieved "the look, and we used that look for several pictures
in a row ... the look was established." While the film was a
success, and Monroe's performance had positive reviews, her conduct
at promotional events sometimes drew negative comments. Her
appearance at the Photoplay awards dinner in a skin-tight gold
lamé dress was criticized. Louella Parsons' newspaper column
quoted Joan Crawford discussing Monroe's "vulgarity" and
describing her behavior as "unbecoming an actress and a
lady". Monroe had previously received criticism for wearing a
dress with a neckline cut almost to her navel when she acted as grand
marshal at the Miss America Parade in September 1952. A photograph
from this event was used on the cover of the first issue of Playboy
in December 1953.
Monroe next replaced Betty Grable in the
musical film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) co-starring Jane Russell
and directed by Howard Hawks. Her role as Lorelei Lee, a gold-digging
showgirl, required her to act, sing, and dance. The two stars became
friends, with Russell describing Monroe as "very shy and very
sweet and far more intelligent than people gave her credit for".
She later recalled that Monroe showed her dedication by rehearsing
her dance routines each evening after most of the crew had left, but
she arrived habitually late on set for filming. Realizing that Monroe
remained in her dressing room due to stage fright, and that Hawks was
growing impatient with her tardiness, Russell started escorting her
to the set.
At the Los Angeles premiere of the film,
Monroe and Russell pressed their hand and footprints in the wet
concrete in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Monroe
received positive reviews and the film grossed more than double its
production costs. Her rendition of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best
Friend" (below) became associated with her. Gentlemen Prefer
Blondes also marked one of the earliest films in which William
Travilla dressed Monroe.
dressed Monroe in eight of her films including Bus Stop, Don't
Bother to Knock, How to Marry a Millionaire, River of No Return,
There's No Business Like Show Business, Monkey Business, and The
Seven Year Itch. How to Marry a Millionaire was a comedy about three
models scheming to attract wealthy husbands. The film teamed Monroe
with Betty Grable (below right, whom she replaced in Gentlemen Prefer
Blondes) and Lauren Bacall (below center), and was directed by Jean Negulesco.
The producer and scriptwriter, Nunnally
Johnson, said that it was the first film in which audiences
"liked Marilyn for herself [and that] she diagnosed the reason
very shrewdly. She said that it was the only picture she'd been in,
in which she had a measure of modesty... about her own attractiveness."
Monroe's films of this period contributed
to her popularity and established her "dumb blonde"
persona. A persona at odds with Marilyn in real life, who had an IQ
of 168. In 1953 and 1954, she was listed in the annual "Quigley
Poll of the Top Ten Money Making Stars", which was compiled from
the votes of movie exhibitors throughout the United States for the
stars that had generated the most revenue in their theaters over the
previous year. "I want to grow and develop and play serious
dramatic parts. My dramatic coach, Natasha Lytess, tells everybody
that I have a great soul, but so far nobody's interested in it."
Monroe told the New York Times. She saw a possibility in 20th Century
Fox's upcoming film, The Egyptian, but was rebuffed by Darryl F.
Zanuck who refused to screen test her.
she was assigned to the western River of No Return, opposite Robert
Mitchum. Director Otto Preminger resented Monroe's reliance on
Natasha Lytess, who coached Monroe and announced her verdict at the
end of each scene. Eventually Monroe refused to speak to Preminger,
and Mitchum had to mediate.
Of the finished product, she commented,
"I think I deserve a better deal than a grade Z cowboy movie in
which the acting finished second to the scenery and the CinemaScope
process." In late 1953 Monroe was scheduled to begin filming The
Girl in Pink Tights with Frank Sinatra. When she failed to appear for
work, 20th Century Fox suspended her.
Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were married in
San Francisco on January 14th, 1954. They traveled to Japan soon
after, combining a honeymoon with a business trip previously arranged
by DiMaggio. For two weeks she took a secondary role to DiMaggio as
he conducted his business, having told a reporter, "Marriage is
my main career from now on." Monroe then traveled alone to Korea
where she performed for 13,000 American Marines over a three-day
period. She later commented that the experience had helped her
overcome a fear of performing in front of large crowds. Her
presence caused a near-riot among the troops, and Joe was clearly
uncomfortable with thousands of men ogling his new bride.
Returning to Hollywood in March 1954,
Monroe settled her disagreement with 20th Century Fox and appeared in
the musical There's No Business Like Show Business. The film failed
to recover its production costs and was poorly received. Ed Sullivan
described Monroe's performance of the song "Heat Wave" as
"one of the most flagrant violations of good taste" he had
witnessed. The reviews echoed Monroe's opinion of the film. She had
made it reluctantly, on the assurance that she would be given the
starring role in the film adaptation of the Broadway hit The Seven
won one of her most notable film roles as the Girl in The Seven Year
Itch. In September 1954, she shot a skirt-blowing key scene for the
picture on Lexington Avenue at 52nd Street in New York City. In it,
she stands with her co-star, Tom Ewell, while the air from a subway
grating blows her skirt up. A large crowd watched as director Billy
Wilder ordered the scene to be refilmed many times.
Joe DiMaggio was reported to have been
present and infuriated by the spectacle. After a quarrel, witnessed
by journalist Walter Winchell, the couple returned to California
where they avoided the press for two weeks, until Monroe announced
that they had separated. Their divorce was granted in November 1954.
The Seven Year Itch was completed in early 1955, and after refusing
what she considered to be inferior parts in The Girl in the Red
Velvet Swing and How to Be Very, Very Popular, Monroe decided to
leave Hollywood on the advice of Milton Greene. After the film was
released and became a success (earning an estimated $8 million)
Monroe received positive reviews for her performance and was now in a
strong position to negotiate with 20th Century Fox.
Greene had first met Monroe in 1953 when he was assigned to
photograph her for Look magazine. While many photographers tried to
emphasize her sexy image, Greene presented her in more modest poses,
and she was pleased with his work. As a friendship developed between
them, she confided to him her frustration with her 20th Century Fox
contract and the roles she was offered and he quoted her once as
saying "I just want people to be happy to see me." Her
salary for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes amounted to $18,000, while
freelancer Jane Russell was paid more than $100,000. Greene agreed
that she could earn more by breaking away from 20th Century Fox. He
gave up his job in 1954, mortgaged his home to finance Monroe, and
allowed her to live with his family as they determined the future
course of her career.
On New Year's Eve 1955, they signed a new
contract which required Monroe to make four films over a seven-year
period. The newly formed Marilyn Monroe Productions would be paid
$100,000 plus a share of profits for each film. In addition to being
able to work for other studios, Monroe had the right to reject any
script, director or cinematographer she did not approve of.
Monroe had met Paula Strasberg and her
daughter Susan on the set of There's No Business Like Show Business,
and had previously said that she would like to study with Lee
Strasberg at the Actors Studio. In March 1955, Monroe met with Cheryl
Crawford, one of the founders of the Actors Studio, and convinced her
to introduce her to Lee Strasberg, who interviewed her the following
day and agreed to accept her as a student.
In May 1955, Monroe started dating
playwright Arthur Miller; they had met in Hollywood in 1950 and when
Miller discovered she was in New York, he arranged for a mutual
friend to reintroduce them. On June 1st 1955, Monroe's birthday, ex-husband
Joe DiMaggio accompanied Monroe to the premiere of The Seven Year
Itch in New York City. He later hosted a birthday party for her, but
the evening ended with a public quarrel, and Monroe left the party
without him. A lengthy period of estrangement followed.
Throughout that year, Monroe studied with
the Actors Studio, and found that one of her biggest obstacles was
her severe stage fright. She was befriended by the actors Kevin
McCarthy and Eli Wallach who each recalled her as studious and
sincere in her approach to her studies, and noted that she tried to
avoid attention by sitting quietly in the back of the class. When
Strasberg felt Monroe was ready to give a performance in front of her
peers, Monroe and Maureen Stapleton chose the opening scene from
Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie, and although she had faltered during
each rehearsal, she was able to complete the performance without
forgetting her lines. Kim Stanley later recalled that students were
discouraged from applauding, but that Monroe's performance had
resulted in spontaneous applause from the audience. While Monroe was
a student, Lee Strasberg commented, "I have worked with hundreds
and hundreds of actors and actresses, and there are only two that
stand out way above the rest. Number one is Marlon Brando, and the
second is Marilyn Monroe."
The first film to be made under her new
contract and production company was Bus Stop directed by Joshua
Logan. Logan had studied under Constantin Stanislavski, approved of
method acting, and was supportive of Monroe. Monroe severed contact
with her drama coach, Natasha Lytess, replacing her with Paula
Strasberg, who became a constant presence during the filming of
Monroe's subsequent films.
Bus Stop, Monroe played Chérie, a saloon singer with little
talent who falls in love with a cowboy, Beauregard "Bo"
Decker, played by Don Murray. Her costumes, make-up and hair
reflected a character who lacked sophistication, and Monroe provided
deliberately mediocre singing and dancing. Bosley Crowther of The New
York Times proclaimed: "Hold on to your chairs, everybody, and
get set for a rattling surprise. Marilyn Monroe has finally proved
herself an actress." In his autobiography, Movie Stars, Real
People and Me, director Logan wrote, "I found Marilyn to be one
of the great talents of all time... she struck me as being a much
brighter person than I had ever imagined, and I think that was the
first time I learned that intelligence and, yes, brilliance have
nothing to do with education." Logan championed Monroe for an
Academy Award nomination and complimented her professionalism until
the end of his life. Though not nominated for an Academy Award, she
received a Golden Globe nomination.
Bus Stop was followed by The Prince and
the Showgirl directed by Laurence Olivier, who also co-starred. Prior
to filming, Olivier praised Monroe as "a brilliant comedienne,
which to me means she is also an extremely skilled actress".
During filming in England he resented Monroe's dependence on her
drama coach, Paula Strasberg, regarding Strasberg as a fraud whose
only talent was the ability to "butter Marilyn up". The
relationship between Olivier and Monroe worsened when Olivier said
"try and be sexy" to her and she never forgave him for it.
Olivier would later comment that in the
film "Marilyn was quite wonderful, the best of all."
Monroe's performance was hailed by critics, especially in Europe,
where she won the David di Donatello, the Italian equivalent of an
Academy Award, as well as the French Crystal Star Award. She was also
nominated for a BAFTA. It was more than a year before Monroe began
her next film. During her hiatus, she summered with Miller in
Amagansett, New York. They married on June 29th, 1956,
and she suffered a miscarriage on August 1st, 1957.
The production of The Prince and the
Showgirl serves as the backdrop for the 2011 film My Week with
Marilyn, a 2011 British drama directed by Simon Curtis and written by
Adrian Hodges. It stars Michelle Williams as Marilyn, Kenneth Branagh
as Olivier and Eddie Redmayne as Colin Clark. The film also starred
Julia Ormond, Emma Watson and Judi Dench. Based on two books by Colin
Clark, it depicts the making of the 1957 film and focuses on the week
in which Monroe spent time being escorted around London by Clark
after her husband, Arthur Miller had left the country.
With Miller's encouragement she returned
to Hollywood in August 1958 to star in Some Like It Hot. The film was
directed by Billy Wilder and co-starred Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.
Wilder had experienced Monroe's tardiness, stage fright, and
inability to remember lines during production of The Seven Year Itch.
However her behavior was now more hostile, and was marked by refusals
to participate in filming and occasional outbursts of profanity.
Monroe consistently refused to take direction from Wilder, or
insisted on numerous retakes of simple scenes until she was
satisfied. She developed a rapport with Lemmon, but she disliked
Curtis after hearing that he had described their love scenes as
"like kissing Hitler". Curtis later stated that the comment
was intended as a joke. During filming, Monroe discovered that she
was pregnant. She suffered another miscarriage in December 1958, as
filming was completed.
Some Like it Hot became a resounding
success, and was nominated for six Academy Awards. Monroe was
acclaimed for her performance and won the Golden Globe Award for Best
Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. Wilder commented that the
film was the biggest success he had ever been associated with.
Monroe wasn't thrilled when she read the
script for Some Like It Hot. The thirty-three-year-old star had left
Hollywood partly because she had grown tired of stereotypical dumb
blonde roles. Now they wanted her to appear as someone too dense to
realize that Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis were disguised as women. Her
acting coach, Lee Strasberg, reminded Monroe that she usually
hadnt been close with other ladies. Marilyn should play her
character as someone who yearned for female companionship so much
that she did not notice her new friends more masculine
attributes. Armed with her teachers advice movie audiences
totally fell for Marilyns sweet and sincere comic performance.
(with Monroe on set at left) discussed the problems he encountered
during filming, saying "Marilyn was so difficult because she was
totally unpredictable. I never knew what kind of day we were going to
have... would she be cooperative or obstructive?" He had little
patience with her method-acting technique and said that instead of
going to the Actors Studio "she should have gone to a train-engineer's
school... to learn something about arriving on schedule." One
scene took Monroe sixty-five takes and her only line was,
"Its me, Sugar." Frustrated director, Billy Wilder,
tried to calm her down, "Dont worry, Marilyn."
"Worry about what?" she replied. Monroe was very shrewd
about her comic abilities and told friends later that she functioned
as her own director. Once she thought all the elements in a scene
were correct, she delivered her dialogue perfectly.
In hindsight, Wilder acknowledged Monroe's
"certain indefinable magic" and "absolute genius as a
She was a wonderful
comedienne, and she had a charisma like no one before or since&ldots;
Marilyn had kind of a built-in alarm system. It would go
off in the middle of a scene if that scene was not right for
her, and she would just stop everything. She would stand there with
her eyes closed, biting her lip, kind of wringing her hands until she
had worked it out. Now this sounds like selfishness&ldots; But she
didnt mean to be selfish - it was the only way she could work.
I didnt necessarily approve of that tactic; it was not easy
working with her, but it was fascinating.
- Jack Lemmon (Costar,
Some Like It Hot)
By this time, Monroe had only completed
one film, Bus Stop, under her four-picture contract with 20th Century
Fox. She agreed to appear in Let's Make Love, (below) which was to be
directed by George Cukor, but she was not satisfied with the script,
and Arthur Miller rewrote it. Gregory Peck was originally cast in the
male lead role, but he refused the role after Miller's rewrite; Cary
Grant, Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner and Rock Hudson also refused the
role before it was offered to Yves Montand. Monroe and Miller
befriended Montand and his wife, actress Simone Signoret, and filming
progressed well until Miller was required to travel to Europe on
business. Monroe began to leave the film set early and on several
occasions failed to attend, but her attitude improved after Montand
confronted her. Signoret returned to Europe to make a film, and
Monroe and Montand began a brief affair that ended when Montand
refused to leave Signoret. The film was not a critical or commercial success.
Monroe's health deteriorated during this
period, and she began to see a Los Angeles psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph
Greenson. He later recalled that during this time she frequently
complained of insomnia, and told Greenson that she visited several
medical doctors to obtain what Greenson considered an excessive
variety of drugs. Worried that she was progressing to the point of
addiction Greenson stated that his main objective at the time was to
enforce a drastic reduction in Monroe's drug intake.
In 1956, Arthur Miller had briefly resided
in Nevada and wrote a short story about some of the local people he
had become acquainted with, a divorced woman and some aging cowboys.
By 1960 he had developed the short story into a screenplay, and
envisaged it as containing a suitable role for Monroe. It became her
last completed film, The Misfits, directed by John Huston and
starring Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, Eli Wallach and Thelma
Ritter. Shooting commenced in July 1960, with most taking place in
the hot Northern Nevada desert. Monroe was frequently ill and unable
to perform, and away from the influence of Dr. Greenson, she had
resumed her consumption of sleeping pills and alcohol. A visitor to
the set, Susan Strasberg, later described Monroe as "mortally
injured in some way," and in August, Monroe was rushed to Los
Angeles where she was hospitalized for ten days. Newspapers reported
that she had been near death, although the nature of her
illness was not disclosed. Louella Parsons wrote in her newspaper
column that Monroe was "a very sick girl, much sicker than at
first believed", and disclosed that she was being treated by a
psychiatrist. Monroe returned to Nevada and completed the film, but
she became hostile towards Arthur Miller, and public arguments were
reported by the press. Making the film had proved to be an arduous
experience for the actors; in addition to Monroe's distress,
Montgomery Clift had frequently been unable to perform due to
illness, and by the final day of shooting, Thelma Ritter was in
hospital suffering from exhaustion. Gable, commenting that he felt
unwell, left the set without attending the wrap party. Monroe and
Miller returned to New York on separate flights.
Within ten days Monroe had announced her
separation from Miller, and Gable had died from a heart attack.
Gable's widow, Kay, commented to Louella Parsons that it had been the
"eternal waiting" on the set of The Misfits that had
contributed to his death, though she did not name Monroe. When
reporters asked Monroe if she felt guilty about Gable's death, she
refused to answer, but the journalist Sidney Skolsky recalled that
privately she expressed regret for her poor treatment of Gable during
filming and described her as being in "a dark pit of
despair". Monroe later attended the christening of the Gables'
son, at the invitation of Kay Gable.
Misfits received mixed reviews, and was not a commercial success.
Despite on-set difficulties, Gable, Monroe, and Clift delivered
performances that modern movie critics consider superb. Many critics
regard Gable's performance to be his finest, and Gable, after seeing
the rough cuts, agreed. Monroe received the 1961 Golden Globe Award
as "World Film Favorite" in March 1962, five months before
her death. Directors Guild of America nominated Huston as best
director. The film is now regarded as a classic. Huston later
commented that Monroe's performance was not acting in the true sense,
and that she had drawn from her own experiences to show herself,
rather than a character. "She had no techniques. It was all the
truth. It was only Marilyn."
During the following months, Monroe's
dependence on alcohol and prescription medications began to take a
toll on her health, and friends such as Susan Strasberg later spoke
of her illness. Her divorce from Arthur Miller was finalized in
January 1961, and in February she voluntarily entered the Payne
Whitney Psychiatric Clinic. Monroe later described the experience as
a "nightmare". She was able to phone Joe DiMaggio from the
clinic, and he immediately traveled from Florida to New York to
facilitate her transfer to the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.
She remained there for three weeks. Illness prevented her from
working for the remainder of the year; she underwent surgery to
correct a blockage in her Fallopian tubes in May, and the following
month underwent gallbladder surgery. She returned to California and
lived in a rented apartment as she convalesced.
1962, Monroe began filming Something's Got to Give, which was to be
the third film of her four-film contract with 20th Century Fox. It
was to be directed by George Cukor, and co-starred Dean Martin and
Cyd Charisse. She was ill with a virus as filming commenced, and
suffered from high temperatures and recurrent sinusitis. On one
occasion she refused to perform with Martin as he had a cold, and the
producer Henry Weinstein recalled seeing her on several occasions
being physically ill as she prepared to film her scenes, and
attributed it to her dread of performing. He commented, "Very
few people experience terror. We all experience anxiety, unhappiness,
heartbreaks, but that was sheer primal terror."
On May 19th, 1962, she attended the early
birthday celebration of President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square
Garden, at the suggestion of Kennedy's brother-in-law, actor Peter
Lawford. Monroe sang "Happy Birthday" along with a
specially written verse based on Bob Hope's "Thanks for the
Memory". Kennedy responded to her performance with the remark,
"Thank you. I can now retire from politics after having had
'Happy Birthday' sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way."
Monroe returned to the set of Something's
Got to Give and filmed a sequence in which she appeared nude in a
swimming pool. Commenting that she wanted to "push Liz Taylor
off the magazine covers", she gave permission for several
partially nude photographs to be published by Life.
Having only reported for work on twelve
occasions out of a total of 35 days of production, Monroe was
dismissed. The studio 20th Century Fox filed a lawsuit against her
for half a million dollars, and the studio's vice president, Peter
Levathes, issued a statement saying "The star system has gotten
way out of hand. We've let the inmates run the asylum, and they've
practically destroyed it." Monroe was replaced by Lee Remick,
and when Dean Martin refused to work with any other actress, he was
also threatened with a lawsuit. Following her dismissal, Monroe
engaged in several high-profile publicity ventures. She gave an
interview to Cosmopolitan and was photographed at Peter Lawford's
beach house sipping champagne and walking on the beach. She next
posed for Bert Stern for Vogue in a series of photographs that
included several nudes. Published after her death, they became known
as 'The Last Sitting'.
In the final weeks of her life, Monroe
engaged in discussions about future film projects, and firm
arrangements were made to continue negotiations on Something's Got to
Give. Among the projects was a biography of Jean Harlow filmed two
years later unsuccessfully with Carroll Baker. Starring roles in
Billy Wilder's Irma la Douce and What a Way to Go! were also
discussed; Shirley MacLaine eventually played the roles in both
films. Kim Novak replaced her in Kiss Me, Stupid, a comedy in which
she was to star opposite Dean Martin. A film version of the Broadway
musical, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and an unnamed World War I-themed
musical co-starring Gene Kelly were also discussed, but the projects
never materialized due to her death. Her dispute with 20th Century
Fox was resolved, her contract was renewed into a $1 million
two-picture deal, and filming of Something's Got to Give was
scheduled to resume in early fall 1962. Marilyn, having fired her own
agent and MCA in 1961, managed her own negotiations as President of
Marilyn Monroe Productions. Also on the table was an Italian
four-film deal worth 10 million giving her script, director, and
co-star approval. Allan "Whitey" Snyder who saw her during
the last week of her life, said Monroe was pleased by the
opportunities available to her, and that she "never looked
better [and] was in great spirits".
Marilyn Monroe was found dead in the
bedroom of her Brentwood home by her psychiatrist Ralph Greenson
after he was called by Monroe's housekeeper Eunice Murray on August
5th, 1962. She was 36 years old.
Thomas Noguchi (known as the "coroner to the stars") of
the Los Angeles County Coroners office recorded cause of death as
"acute barbiturate poisoning", resulting from a
"probable suicide". Many detectives - including Jack
Clemmons, the first Los Angeles Police Department officer to arrive
at the death scene - believe that she was murdered via lethal
injection through needles and an enema. The death of Monroe has been
the subject of a number of conspiracy theories. Some conspiracy
theories involved John and Robert Kennedy, while other theories
suggested CIA or Mafia complicity. In 1973, Norman Mailer received
much publicity for having written the first bestselling book to
suggest that Monroe's death was a murder staged to look like a drug overdose.
Many questions remain unanswered regarding
the circumstances and timeline of Monroe's death after her body was
found. Many elements of this timeline have often been brought into
question. Most notable are the discrepancies in exactly what time
Monroe either made or received her last phone call and at what time
during the late night and early morning hours of August 4th and 5th
her body was discovered. It was reported that President Kennedy was
the last person Monroe called.
In 1972, actress Veronica Hamel (Hill
Street Blues) and her husband Michael Irving bought and renovate
Marilyns Brentwood home. They hired a contractor to replace the
roof and remodel the house, and the contractors discovered an
elaborate telephone tapping and eavesdropping system that ran through
every single room, that was, in the opinion one retired Justice
Department official, "standard FBI issue." The new owners
spent $100,000 to remove the bugging devices and the discovery added
to the claims of conspiracy theorists that Marilyn had been under surveillance.
According to a biography of the events
leading up to Monroe's death written by Rachael Bell for Court TV's
Crime Library, a sedative enema might have been administered on the
advice of Monroe's psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, as a sleep aid
and as part of Greenson's larger project to wean his patient off
barbiturates. If Greenson was unaware of the fact that his patient's
internist, Dr. Hyman Engelberg, had refilled Monroe's prescription
for the barbiturate Nembutal a day earlier, the actress may very well
have ingested enough Nembutal throughout the day such that it would
lethally react with the chloral hydrate later given to her, making
Monroe's death a tragic medical mistake. Mickey Rudin claimed that
Greenson said something very important the night of Marilyn's death:
"Gosh darn it! He gave her a prescription I didn't know about!"
Monroe was interred on August 8th, 1962,
in a crypt at Corridor of Memories No. 24, at the Westwood Village
Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Joe DiMaggio took control of
the funeral arrangements, which consisted of only 31 close family and
friends, excluding Hollywood's elite. Lee Strasberg, her acting
teacher, delivered the eulogy. DiMaggio had a half-dozen red roses
delivered to her crypt three times a week for the next 20 years. He
never spoke publicly about his relationship with Monroe and never
remarried for the remaining 37 years of his life.
During her career, Marilyn
made 30 films and left one, Something's Got to Give, unfinished. She
was more than just a movie star or glamour queen. A global sensation
in her lifetime, Marilyn's popularity has extended beyond star status
The Shocking Miss Pilgrim
Green Grass of Wyoming
You Were Meant for Me
Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!
Ladies of the Chorus
A Ticket to Tomahawk
The Asphalt Jungle
All About Eve
Home Town Story
As Young as You Feel
Let's Make It Legal
Clash by Night
We're Not Married!
Don't Bother to Knock
O. Henry's Full House
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
How to Marry a Millionaire
River of No Return
There's No Business Like Show Business
The Seven Year Itch
The Prince and the Showgirl
Some Like It Hot
Let's Make Love
Something's Got to Give
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