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For the past fifteen years or so the name of Marilyn Monroe has
been linked more to the various conspiracy theories surrounding her
death and less on her movie career. It is probably true to say that more
books have been written about her than any other show-business celebrity.
According to The Guinness Book Of Film Facts & Feats, she is the
actress with the most biographies (Charlie Chaplin is the most writtenabout
actor). Yet Marilyn has been dead for nearly forty years and her
best films were made almost fifty years ago. But her image is still used
by advertising agencies, record companies, movie studios, television
companies and radio stations to promote their products. What is it
about this woman that continues to fascinate and intrigue people who,
like the present author, were not even born when Marilyn died?
Other women have been more beautiful. Other actresses have been
more talented. Yet when we look back at the screen goddesses of the
golden age of Hollywood, sure we remember Jean Harlow, Lana
Turner, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, Joan Crawford and her great
rival Bette Davis, Susan Hayward, Ann Sheridan et al, but it is Marilyn
who stands head and shoulders above the rest. Ask almost any young
person about the ladies mentioned above and, more often than not, you
will probably be greeted with a blank stare but mention Marilyn Monroe
and the recognition is instantaneous. Despite the often morbid preoccupation
with her death, Marilyn Monroe remains the most potent
sex symbol of the 20th century.
She began life in the Los Angeles General Hospital at 9.30am on
Tuesday 1 June 1926. Her father is listed as Edward Mortenson, a 29-
year-old baker from California, present whereabouts unknown. (Some
believe that Mortenson was not Norma Jeane’s real father and bolted when his wife became pregnant by one of her colleagues, Charles Stanley
Gifford. In 1981 Mortenson died aged 83 in Riverside, California,
from a heart attack.) Her Mexican-born mother, Gladys Pearl Monroe,
had recently celebrated her 24th birthday and was working as a film
cutter at Consolidated Film Industries. Insanity ran in Norma Jeane’s
family. Her great-grandfather, Tilford Hogan, would hang himself on
29 May 1933, at the age of 82. In July 1927 his daughter, Norma
Jeane’s grandmother, Della Mae Monroe Grainger attempted to
smother the 13-month-old baby and was committed to Norwalk Metropolitan
State Hospital. She died there on 23 August 1927. (Years later
Marilyn Monroe would claim she could remember her grandmother
trying to smother her. Although many authors have believed this
impossible, her third husband, Arthur Miller, did indeed believe her.)
On 20 November 1929, her 24-year-old uncle Marion Monroe told his
wife he was going out to buy a newspaper and walked out on his family
without explanation, never to return.
During the filming of Some Like It Hot Arthur Miller had been turning his Esquire short story The Misfits, about a group of disaffected cowboys, into a vehicle for his wife. Marilyn’s penultimate completed film was to be another fraught with difficulties despite co-starring with her childhood idol Clark Gable and her friend Montgomery Clift. Filming was delayed by the backlog caused by an actors’ strike and finally began at 9am on 18 July 1960, but was shut down a week later because director John Huston’s gambling caused a cash-flow problem. Marilyn’s first scene was filmed on 21 July. Shooting was postponed on 30 July and again on 1 August because Marilyn was ‘indisposed.’ On 25 August filming shut down because Huston had bled the company financially dry. Marilyn took the opportunity to fly to Los Angeles for a long weekend. Huston had spoken to Marilyn’s doctors Hyman Engelberg and Ralph Greenson and told them Marilyn, in his opinion, should be hospitalised for a week to rest. On 28 August Marilyn entered Westside Hospital in Los Angeles. Producer Frank Taylor announced Marilyn had suffered ‘a breakdown’ and filming would be suspended for a week. It gave Huston time to find new finance. On 5 September Marilyn returned to Reno but was ill again on 12, 13 and 19 September. Studio filming began on 24 October with Marilyn and Eli Wallach in a scene involving a truck. The film wrapped on 4 November 1960. It had cost $3,955,000 — the most expensive black and white film then made — and gone 40 days over schedule. Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller fell apart and the crew of The Misfits divided into two camps. Marilyn found Miller’s diary where he had written a less than complimentary entry about her. “I’m not just a dumb blonde this time, I’m a crazy dumb blonde. And to think, Arthur did this to me. He was supposed to be writing this for me. He could have written anything and he came up with this.” They flew home to New York from Hollywood in separate aeroplanes. On Friday 11 November a week after the film wrapped the couple announced they would divorce. Five days later, Clark Gable died after suffering a massive heart attack. The press jumped on Marilyn, claiming her behaviour on the set caused Gable’s death. No one mentioned that 59-year-old Gable insisted on doing all his own stunts, and that he smoked 60 cigarettes a day for over 30 years. When the film premièred on 31 January 1961 critics were not kind. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote ‘It has something to do with freedom. What, we couldn’t know… So that’s what's wrong with this picture. Characters and theme do not congeal. There is a lot of absorbing detail in it, but it doesn’t add up to a point. Mr Huston’s direction is dynamic, inventive and colourful. Mr Gable is ironically vital. (He died just a few weeks after shooting was done.)…But the picture just doesn’t come off.’ Marilyn and Arthur Miller were divorced on 20 January 1961, a day chosen to lessen press coverage because it coincided with the inauguration of America’s first Roman Catholic President John F Kennedy. Marilyn spent much of 1961 hospitalised for various physical and mental ailments.
|Title:||Marilyn Monroe||Publisher:||Summersdale Publishers Ltd|
|Edition:||Ebook , PDF|
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