This is a short researched piece I wrote for university on the life and legacy of Marilyn Monroe. I didn’t know a great deal about the Hollywood icon before this exercise. Her strength inspires me and her story frustrates me – it seems as though she was never truly able to be the girl she wanted to be:
An original Hollywood beauty. Perfect blonde hair that bounced as she walked. Polished white teeth delicately framed by big, succulent lips. A small spot faultlessly imprinted on her left cheek. How could one human seem so flawless yet be so damaged? Marilyn could. Christened Norma Jeane Baker, it was not exactly a name destined for fame. Her upbringing was similarly bleak.
Born in Los Angeles, California in 1926. Her father left before her birth and shortly afterward, her un-married mother was placed in a mental institution. Frequent abandonment meant she never really knew what it was like to be loved unconditionally. Foster homes, orphanages and fundamentalist religion plagued her childhood and as the years went on stories of rape and sexual assault revealed their ugly heads. In 1942 an early marriage to James Dougherty brought her out of this nocuous cycle. They married when she was 16 and divorced less than four years later.
David Conover was a US Army photographer, sent to take pictures of women at work during WWII. Conover snapped the beautiful 19-year-old, whom he said was ‘half child, half woman.’ Little did she know while attaching propellers in a California munitions factory, that one image would be the catalyst to her fame.
Cameras were drawn to her; she was alive yet at ease in front of the lens. She exuded confidence and flirtation, and her squinted seductive eyes drew in an audience of thirsting male viewers. The rise to stardom had to come with a title to match and in 1956 former Miss ‘Baker’ legally changed her name to ‘Marilyn Monroe’.
Following her successful modelling career, Monroe wanted to take the step into acting. At age 20 she signed her first contract with 20th Century Fox. Instantly typecast the ‘dumb blonde,’ she willingly adopted the stereotype to accelerate her career – but it hurt her. Marilyn Monroe is often remembered on-screen for her role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) when she sang ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’.
As time went on her personal problems increasingly impacted her career, the actor was known for her tardiness, fear of live acting and reliance on drugs. Her confidence was often a façade, which behind stood a woman who was fearful, and jaded by her past. She carried demons from the lack of love and affection she was given as a child. In a journal she kept of private thoughts and poems she wrote, “I guess I have always been deeply terrified to really be someone’s wife since I know from life one cannot love another, ever.”
Marilyn Monroe was international icon and embodiment of sex and beauty. Every man wanted to have her and every woman wanted to be her. But her mental state continued to deteriorate, her friends and family received frequent and erratic phone calls from her.
On August 5th, 1962 at her home in Brentwood, California, at just 36 years old Marilyn Monroe took her own life. Found face-down in her bed, phone-in-hand and an empty bottle of pills by her side. Beautiful forever.