Marilyn R.I.P?


Marilyn Monroe (Photo credit: 
Alexander Sasha Dejan)

The movie Marilyn is enjoyable entertainment. Michele Williams, a fine actress herself, does a credible job bringing the eponymous icon to cinematic life, though a good deal of credit no doubt goes to makeup, hairdressing and costuming departments. The film is based on a pair of books by Colin Clark who knew Ms Monroe for a few  weeks when he worked as a gofer on The Prince And The Showgirl—and who claims to have been seduced emotionally, perhaps even spiritually, if not physically by what appears to be her fictionalized sense of herself. A character supposedly Arthur Miller is on hand to take a couple of lumps for being intolerant of an intolerable relationship and for writing truthfully about it. Others fawn, fume and indulge.

The movie breaks no new ground, offers no new insights, nor does it add to the lexicon of the Marilyn mystique. I think—I really can’t be sure—it asks us to feel for Ms. Monroe. It does reference her notorious tardiness while incorporating it into how misunderstood she was. For verisimilitude it does leave a few bottles  and vials around, encouraging us to nod and to go, “Mmmm…”

Questions have been raised about Colin Clark’s truthfulness and hindsight journaling, though it is doubtful they will ever be resolved. The Huffington Post indicates it may even add to the mystique. As though it is needed. When Marilyn Monroe died in 1962 she was 36 years old. The year 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of her death. Had she lived she would now (2013) be 87 years old. Her post-mortem life has been fifteen years  longer than that lived.

Marilyn Monroe continues to have a vibrant existence. She continues to make millions for others. She is no longer late on set. She is no longer in the throes of addictions. She is still manipulated by others. She is still the dream-girl of many. She is one of the most celebrated people ever to have lived. A playwright friend claims she is the greatest artist we’ve ever had. I suspect f he had his druthers her death-day would be a national holiday. Few others have achieved such post-mortem idolatry. Elvis, James Dean and Valentino come to mind: all men. Among women, her status rivals might be Joan of Arc and Marie Antoinette, and in modern times neither Jackie Onassis nor the much-impersonated Judy Garland achieved this level of immortality. Not even Princess Di.

Here is something worth remembering: Marilyn Monroe is dead. Now, here is where I risk serious derision: Marilyn Monroe’s greatest claim to fame is that she was a celebrity. She did have great beauty. She did have decent, though not great, talent. Some will point to  Bus Stop. But really, there was more Marilyn than Cherie in the performance, no matter that she was demanding about certain aspects of the character, threatening to walk out if she didn’t get her way. And it was one movie.

She was a great money-maker for the film industry until she became such a self-destructive pain in the ass that no one would work with her. Lateness seemed to be her religious dogma. If it is true that showing up is a major criteria of success, it is amazing anyone has ever heard of the woman. Andy Warhol memorialized her in his silk screens, and Richard Avedon and Cecil Beaton in striking black and white photography. Recently there  was an exhibit dedicated to Monroe in Florence, at the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo— yes, of the footwear, which includes many of the shoes Ferragamo designed for her, and which the company later bought back, as well as a receipt for shoes purchased in March of 1961. There are costumes and other memorabilia, and of course photographs, some comparing the naked Marilyn to classical works of  art. The iconic white dress she wore in The Seven Year Itch, recently sold for $5.6 million at an auction over the summer. Anyone in the show business industry must wonder why are people gullible enough to believe the costume department of a major film production would have available only a single change of an important outfit. One can reasonably conclude it is because they are paying for the fantasy. The same applies for the auctioning of Kathleen Turner’s slip in Broadway’s Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. And now there is a statue depicting that skirt-raising scene over the subway grating—twenty-six feet high and weighing in at close to 40 thousand pounds.


Seward Johnson: Forever Marilyn 1996

(Has decorum prevented the auctioning of the panties? Doubt it.)

As recently as June 2012 The Netherlands Opera debuted Waiting for Miss Monroe, with a libretto based on texts of tape recordings supposedly made by Monroe for her psychiatrist and lost by a Los Angeles prosecutor, then published with questionable authenticity in 2005. Does it, will it ever stop? Is it sacrilegious of me to say I’m finally tired of her? Will there ever be a moratorium on the proprietary veneration of the woman whom Richard Avedon claimed there was no such person, that she was an invention, not unlike a character created by an author?

Marilyn Monroe said of herself, “They were obviously loving somebody I wasn’t.”

© Michae McGrinder 2013, 2015

English: Crypt of Marilyn Monroe at Westwood V...

English: Crypt of Marilyn Monroe Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Published on November 2, 2012 at 8:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

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