Marilyn Monroe: An All-American Sex Goddess or Hollywood Tragedy?
When someone mentions Marilyn Monroe, one usually thinks off the seductive all-American sex goddess who captured the world with her woman-childlike charm. Yet not many know her as the illegitimate child who endured a childhood of poverty and misery, sexual abuse, and years in foster home and orphanages. Most people don’t realize that her disrupted loveless childhood may been the main reason to her early death.
Norma Jeane Baker’s father, Edward Mortenson, had deserted her mother, Gladys Baker neè Monroe, before she was born on June, 1 1926, in the charity ward of Los Angeles General Hospital. Due to Gladys’ instability and the fact that she was unmarried at the time, Norma Jeane was placed in a foster home.
At the age of 7, Norma Jeane lived briefly with her mother. Gladys began to show signs of mental depression, and a year later she was admitted to a rest home. Norma Jeane was then placed with a family friend for a year until being placed in another orphanage for another two years. Norma Jeane was once heard to reflect on this time and say:
“The world around me then was kind of grim…I had to learn to pretend in order to…I don’t know.. block the grimness. The whole world seen sort of closed to me..(I felt) on the outside of everything, and all I could do was to dream up any kind of pretend game.” (MarilynMonroe,http://www.ionet.net/~jellenc/mmbio3.html)
In 1941, Norma Jeane again lived with a family friend when she met Jim Dougherty, who was 5 years older than her. They then married on June 19, 1942.
“Grace Mckee (family friend she was living with) arranged the marriage for me, I never had much of a choice. There’s not much to say about it. They couldn’t support me, and they had to work out something. And so I got married.” (Marilyn Monroe)
Jim joined the Marines in 1943 and was send overseas. Norma Jeane, while working in a factory inspecting parachutes in 1944, was photographed by the army as a promotion to show women on the assembly line contributing to the war effort. One of the photographers asked to take further pictures of her. She began modeling bathing suites and, after bleaching her hair blonde, began posing for pinups and glamour photos. By spring of 1945, she was quickly known as a “photographers dream” and had appeared on 33 covers of national magazines. She then enrolled in a 3 month modeling course, and in 1946, aware of her considerable charm and the potential it had for a career in films, Norma obtained a divorce.
“Howard Hughes saw some of her photographs and expressed an interest in giving her a screen test for RKO, but Ben Lyon of 20th Century-Fox beat Hughes to the punch.” (MarilynMonroeBiography,wysiwg://main.13/http:www.geocities.com/hollywood/bungalow/9690.bio.html) Ben Lyon arranged a screen test and on August 26, 1946, Norma Jeane signed a $125 a week, one year contract with the studio. Ben Lyon was the one who suggested the new name for the fledging actress, Marilyn Monroe. Along with this name change came a personality change. Her voice was lightened to speak in a whispery tone, and her nose was stretched to get rid of the pudgy look. She was no longer Norma Jeane the troubled orphan, she was now Marilyn Monroe the superstar.
Marilyn met Joe Dimaggio in early 1952, she was 25 and he was 37. By February the romance was in full bloom. After appearing in small parts of films including Happy Love, and All About Eve, Monroe achieved celebrity with starring roles in three 1953 features, Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and How to Marry a Millionaire. In 1948 she began to make a series of nude calendar photos, which appeared in the December 1953 debut issue of Playboy magazine. By the end of the year, Monroe had been voted the top star of 1953 by American Film Distributors. On January 14, Joe and Marilyn were married. The wedding captured the headlines worldwide. Joe was extremely jealous type of a guy and resented her popularity among other men. “He desired a housewife, not a star if such magnitude…. the marriage was doomed from the beginning.” (MarilynMonroe,http://www.ionet.net/~jellenc/mmbio3.html) Marilyn was asked to go on a USO tour of Korea in February to entertain the troops, beginning on the 16th for four days. She entertained over 60,000 soldiers, many of who had never seen a Monroe film…having been in the service during her rise to stardom.
Through the summer of 1954, Marilyn was “ill with bronchitis and anemia.” (MarilynMonroe) For the time, she began showing serious side effects of the many sleeping pills she had been taking for the past few years; often groggy, lethargic, and crying on the set.
The famous skirt blowing scene from the “Seven Year Itch”, filmed in 1954 was to be a hit with both amateur and professional photographers. Several hundred, along with 2000 spectators gathered around the Trans-Lux Theater in New York City in the early morning hours of September 15th to see and record her as she posed for over two hours for her adoring fans.
In the fall of 1954 Marilyn and Joe separated… later to divorce. Two years later she married again to a newly divorced Arthur Miller. Soon after her marriage they departed for London so Marilyn could start production on “The Prince and the Showgirl.” She did not return to Hollywood until 1958 to make “Some Like it Hot”. Her heath began to deteriorate due to increased dependency on drugs and involvement in an unhappy marriage. She often came late and was unable to remember her lines.
Early in 1960, Marilyn began consulting a prominent psychoanalyst to Hollywood stars. He relied heavily on drug therapy, routinely prescribing barbiturates and tranquilizers in addition to his psychotherapy. Pills for Marilyn began to be regularly flown in from her Los Angeles doctors.
In January of 1961, Marilyn divorced Arthur Miller. Later in the same year she was reported to be having an affair with John F. Kennedy. She was also reported to have an affair with Bobby Kennedy, the Attorney General. Soon after in 1962, Marilyn began seeing Joe DiMaggio frequently during this time and had finally agreed to remarry him. The wedding date was set for August 8, 1962. Fox rehired her on August 1 to complete “Somethings Got to Give” with a salary of $250,000, which was two and a half times the original amount.
On August 5, 1962, she was found dead of an overdose of sleeping pills at the early age of 36. There has been much speculation about the events surrounding Marilyn’s death. “The drug overdose was probably accidental and possibly administered by someone other than Marilyn.”(MarilynMonroeBiography,-http://tombtown.com/bios/marilyn.htm.)
In conclusion, Monroe’s was a tragedy in which her public, the media, and the Hollywood power brokers all share blame.