Sunday, October 4, 2009

Norma Jean And The Kennedys

I have just finished reading a wonderful biography of Marilyn Monroe, "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe", written by J. Randy Taraborelli, that dispels all the rumors and myths we have heard over the years, particularly about Marilyn's so-called relationship with the Kennedys. Both JFK and RFK were known philanderers, and JKF did indeed have a one-night stand (perhaps two nights) with Marilyn, but afterwards he basically told her to "move on with her life" and he refused to take her phone calls. Nice guy, that JFK... A few months later, RFK invited Marilyn to sing "Happy Birthday" to the President for his 45th birthday, which she famously did, wearing a skin-tight dress. Her attitude was, "They want Marilyn, I'm going to give them Marilyn". This iconic photograph taken at a house party later that evening is the only photograph of the three of them together. Of note, Pat Kennedy Lawford, the President's sister, was one of Marilyn's closest and long-standing friends, and cherished their friendship.

If Marilyn were alive today, she would be recognized for what she was -- a brilliant comedienne, a wonderful actress, singer and dancer, and a young woman who got caught up in the world of Hollywood stardom, self-doubt and drugs. In reality, she was an intelligent woman, well-read, well versed in the arts, literature and politics. She painted, wrote poetry and was an astute businesswoman who started her own production company. She had created the persona of "Marilyn Monroe" and constantly battled the chauvinistic attitude of the men who controlled the movie industry and refused to take her seriously. She was a feminist before her time, but she had become type-cast as "Marilyn" and could not break away from "her". She was trapped in her own creation. If you want to see three brilliant performances, watch "Bus Stop", "The Seven Year Itch" or "Some Like It Hot". If those movies were to be produced today, Marilyn Monroe would be nominated for an Academy Award -- and probably win -- for all three performances. There is not an actress today who can even come close to those performances. Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Hudson, Kate Winslet -- eat your hearts out.

Marilyn's downfall was that she ultimately allowed herself to be controlled by the men in her life, including Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller, and her psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson. Dr. Greenson took advantage of her fragility, and pumped her full of barbiturates. He planted someone in her house -- Eunice Murray -- to watch Marilyn 24 hours a day and report back to him with her every move. The weekend before her death Marilyn had been seen injecting drugs intravenously, and when the people around her expressed their concern, she said, "Don't worry, I know what I'm doing". When Marilyn died, her body had enough Nembutal, Demerol, Librium and chloral hydrate in it to kill ten people. Since her untimely death in 1962, we have all seen what drugs have done to dozens -- hundreds? -- of entertainers in their prime: Jim Morrison, River Phoenix, Andy Gibb, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Chris Farley, Judy Garland, Michael Jackson -- the list goes on. Marilyn was simply another victim of drug addiction, the same way that Diana was another victim of a drunk driver. These woman were beautiful and larger than life, but in the end they died stupidly and needlessly -- no murder conpiracies, just carelessness and stupidity. Despite all the rumors and innuendoes, there is no conclusive evidence to prove otherwise. And, almost 50 years after her death, the world is still fascinated with Marilyn Monroe because she did indeed have that magical something that defines not only an actress but a star, which is all she ever wanted to be. Perhaps one day the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will have a posthumous award category. Norma Jean Baker should definitely get the long overdue recognition for her brilliant creation and portrayal of "Marilyn Monroe".

33 comments:

DUTA said...

I agree with every word in your beautifully written post.
Marilyn Monroe was and is Holywood's greatest shining feminine star.

Jo said...

DUTA, I know...! Even today, no one can outshine her.

Fraser Penney said...

Excellent!

The Panorama said...

This was an interesting read, Jo. And you are so right that she like many other celebreities died because of their stupidity of taking drugs.

PhilipH said...

Excellent and realistic posting Jo. I'm MM's #1 fan and not just for her physical beauty. She was a great actor and it was such a shock to read of her passing.

I love her version of "I Wanna be Loved by You..." in the Some Like it Hot Film.

Great stuff, boop-boop-a-doop.

TC said...

I've read her bio and my main calendar is one of her if I can find it. I also agree completely with you and STILL try to figure out how she managed to be a size 12 or 14 and look so durn good?

Jo said...

Fraser, thank you. :-)

The Panorama, yes, it was just a stupid accident, unfortunately.

Philip, I know, isn't that a great song? I like "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" as well. So many people have immitated that, but haven't even come close.

TC, Marilyn was 5 feet, 5½ inches tall and weighed 118 lbs. and according to her dressmaker her measurements were 35-22-35. By today's standards, that would be about a size 2, or a 4 at the very most. Sizes have gone down considerably. Marilyn Monroe was curvy, but she was actually very tiny.

Carol E. said...

This is the most wonderful commentary I have ever read about Norma Jean. Thank you so much!! I'm going to look for that book... it's about time someone stood up for her strength and feminism instead of her sex appeal.

Carol E. said...

feminism... I meant that she was a feminist. What is that in noun form?

Jo said...

Carol, thank you! And yes, feminism is correct. She believed in feminism, and she was way ahead of her time. It's a fabulous book...!

Brenda said...

Just curious if there was anything in the book about the cover up theory that was circulating many years ago. If I remember right, Robert Kennedy and his brother-in-law Peter Lawford were supposed to have gone in and cleaned everything up because she was suppose to have killed herself over JFK not wanting to see her anymore. I think that story came out not long after she died. But I may not be remembering correctly. She was beautiful for sure.

Jo said...

Brenda, yes that was just one of the many rumors. She had been in a downward spiral for a few years. Her psychiatrist convinced her she was sicker than she really was, and he prescribed medications that just sent her off into the stratosphere. She almost died the weekend before her death, when she was at Frank Sinatra's Cal-Neva resort. In fact, they were surprised that she survived, but she died a week later. Her closest connection to the Kennedys was her friendship with Pat Kennedy Lawford, who was very fond of Marilyn.

Country Girl said...

Beautiful woman. Flawed like the rest of us. It only made her more beautiful.

Look how young a lovely she is in that last photo! Oh, my Jo!!

Jo said...

Kate, I know...!! Wasn't she? And her talents and abilities were so under-rated. She is more appreciated today than when she was alive.

Sarah Lulu said...

I have always always been a Marilyn fan ...I often post pictures of her.

A true inspiration ..it's a pity she didn't find sobriety.

Jo said...

Sarah, yes, I was surprised to read just how deep into drugs she had descended. It was a miracle she was able to get any work done at all. But on screen, she was always luminescent.

HAPPY IN NEVADA said...

I liked her when she played opposite Clark Gable; never a fan, but this movie showed she did have talent.

When you're a young girl of 10 years old and find her body on a calendar hidden behind your uncle's bathroom door, you don't feel very good about a person who sheds her clothes like.

I didn't like her voice; I always wondered what she was like in real life, and she certainly was naive and careless in handling her fame and her personal life.

Like Anna Nichole Smith, I think their beauty is what carried them initially; they relied upon their charm - their calendar poses - their Playboy shoots and the oogling that gave them good feelings about themselves.

Sadly, they were prone to being exploited because of their lack of education; both Anna Nichole and Marilyn probably had substance, but they were overwhelmed by those they considered to be wiser than they were - they trusted too much and gave away too much control of their lives.

To me, no one will match the likes of Katherine Hepburn or Ingrid Bergman; no one has the beauty of Vivian Leigh and Greer Garson - now those were intelligent woman with beauty and spunk.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

There is a book by a psychiatrist who does past-life regression hypnosis which claims that Marilyn was reincarnated as a Canadian pop singer from Toronto named Sherrie Lea Laird. It's called "Marilyn Monroe Returns, the Healing of a Soul."

She was incredibly beautiful - her sexiness was never trashy because she had an angelic sweetness of countenance, and also great natural intelligence and comedic talent. It was sad and shocking that she died so young.

ivan said...

Excellent writeup.

There is so much riddle to Marilyn Monroe and her loves.

Pure conjecture, but I wonder if Jack and Marilyn, like in the old Bobby Gentry song, threw something off the Tallahatchie bridge.

Russell said...

I really do not know too much about Marilyn Monroe, but I do find her life and legacy most interesting.

She seems to be a good example of how complicated we, as humans, are. Such forces at play - a desire for beauty and fame conflicting with that need for privacy and overwhelming feelings of self doubt and inadequacy.

When I think of Marilyn Monroe, I think she is a great mystery. So much of her life we will know really know - but it sounds like that was a very enlightening book you read.

Jennifer D said...

Such a beautiful and compassionate post JO. I adore Marilyn and I love all three of her movies you mentioned. I also love Gentleman Prefer Blondes. She was a very funny lady and she just seemed to have a sweet heart. I was reminded of Heath Ledgers death when I read your post, precription drugs have killed so many of our fine entertainers. Your right its just stupidity.

Deb said...

what a great post...I have always love Marilyn...such a tragic death...

Jo said...

Diane, oh, yes, Greer Garson is my favorite actress of all-time, also Irene Dunne and Deborah Kerr. They were wonderful...! But they have passed into history, whereas for some strange inexplicable reason Marilyn is still very much alive, probably more so than when she was alive. It's a mystery.

Hearts, gosh, I have never heard of Sherrie Lea Laird. Yes, her sexuality was never "cheap" because she was so sweet and fragile. Her imitators have never been able to capture that.

Ivan, no, they basically had a weekend together and that was it. JFK threw her over afterwards and it devastated her, but that was the extent of their relationship.

Russell, oh, yes, Marilyn will always be a mystery. I think that is why she is still so fascinating today. Who was she really? Probably we will never know. And yes, it was an excellent book.

Jennifer, yes, Marilyn's movies are still fresh today. Some of them could have been made this year. She was a wonderful comedienne, more than anything, and had perfect timing. It's so sad.

Deb, oh goodness, yes. Here is an interesting bit of trivia. Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana spent almost exactly the same number of days on this earth, Marilyn having outlived Diana by just six days. Interesting, hey?

TomCat said...

Very well said, Josie. I miss the days when a woman could be a woman. A stick figure with a chest full of silly-putty doesn't cut it for me.

kenju said...

I could not agree more. She was a beautiful woman and very talented, and always my favorite.

I remember watching her on TV, singing to JFK.That dress was a scandal! But boy, was it ever sexy!

Land of shimp said...

Marilyn truly deserved the iconic stature that she still has. There will never be anyone quite like her again. Women adored her because her beauty and sexuality were in no way threatening. There was a friendly, open, kind quality to her that I think people of both genders respond to. When she smile, you just had to smile in return, and it was for reasons that went beyond her being beautiful, or sexy. I think she just had a human warmth that people adored.

Men loved her too, clearly, but the thing that always strikes me is that even when Marilyn was alive, she was loved by women also.

She transcended all ordinary labels. It's a pity her life was so complicated, and she died so young. I've never believed in any of the conspiracies, but I understand why some might.

When you lose someone with that kind of vibrant, life loving quality, I think it's understandable that people wanted something to blame. Certainly it must take something huge and sinister to take down someone like that. At least I think that's why people reach for such fantastic explanations.

Jo said...

TomCat, you have described it so aptly, a stick figure with a chest full of silly putty. And a lollipop for a head. *heh*

Kenju, yes, that dress was actually sewn onto her. She said she was going to do her best "Marilyn Monroe" performance, and she did!

Alane, yes, she had a very open face, and I think everyone liked her. She was known for being very sweet and angelic, beyond being beautiful and sexy. She was also described as being very fragile, and it was an instinct for people to want to protect her.

And yes, when someone like that dies, it's a shock -- as with Princess Diana -- and people tend to think there is a larger, more sinister reason behind it rather than just careless stupidity.

Marilyn is still larger than life today, almost 50 years after she died. I think even she would be very shocked at that.

Donna B said...

Jo, your post was EXCELLENT and so interesting! I too am a MM fan. I loved her in Niagra, with Joseph Cotton. I love Some Like It Hot too. Tony Curtis is a resident in Henderson, NV, where we live. He is chummy with my husband's son, who is a bar manager at Prime Steak House in the Bellagio. A couple years back, Tony invited us all to his home. He has the coolest picture of he and Jack Lemmon, in full Josephine and Geradine costumes, lying at each end of a couch, with their legs stretched beside one another. It was that weekend, Tony told us how ill Jack Lemmon was and he died shortly after.

I told him what a fan I was and we discussed his movies from the Vikings, 40 pounds of troube, Houdini, and SLIH as my favorite. He took me in his closet and showed me the blazer and hat he wore when he played the Shell Oil Millionaire. He said it still fit him! He was so down to earth and gracious and gave us an autographed copy of the SLIH DVD.

He talked of MM and said what a smart, sweet woman she was, and how her MM was her image she portrayed.

I have always thought she was so naturally beautiful. She is one of the few actresses photographed so often with uncombed hair and make up, and still looked so good!

She was in a catagory all her own. Even Jayne Mansfield, tried to copy her. I saw Jayne Mansfield in person, when I used to be an user in a theatre in the round, called Carosel. It used to be in West Covina, but has been gone for many years. She came off so phony, where Marilyn did not.

I am going to get that book as I enjoy biographies. I also loved Kathryn Hepburn. She was so unique too, very independent and strong.

I believe Marilyn's birthday was June 5th, so she was a Gemini. As a young girl, I was thrilled that our birthdays were only a couple of days apart. I agree with Land of Shrimp, women did admire her because of her vulnerability.

I remember her on TV singing to the President, and I remember the reporters hounding her outside the hospital after suffering a miscarriage. I can still remember the pain and anguish on her face.

I really enjoy your blog Jo, keep us the great work.

Inty swetha said...

wonderful post Jo!! you have moved my heart!! i agree with you .. every word you said is true!

Paula Slade said...

I thought her role in "Some like it Hot" was amazing - she was in total control as an actor. Her life story on the other hand, was sad indeed.

Vicki DeArmey said...

I was just a teenager when M.M. died. Being raised in a very strict home I never felt I could verbally say how I felt about her tragic life. I would get responses like, "well, she deserved it the way she lived", things like that. Well, as a young girl I thought Marilyn was beautiful and fragile. I was fragile growing up too and somehow I related to her in that aspect. I too, think she was a wonderful actress even if at times she came across a bit too breathy and little girlish. This side of her made her even more endearing.
The fact that JFK took advantage of this women for a one night or two night stand is unforgivable. Marilyn's fragility made her even more prone to feeling used and thrown away. Should she have committed suicide over being thrown out like dirty dishwater? No, but to say it was just a one night stand and that's all makes it sound like it was okay for the President of the US to be a sleaze and then the person he used is just "to move on". That is the part I am the most incensed about.

Chris Marks said...

Marilyn Monroe has reincarnated and remembers how and why it happened. A biometric match for her past life with a young daughter who was also born 9 months after Gladys Monroe Baker's death. Wow!

Chris Marks said...

Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and Jean Harlow have all reincarnated and can be found through expert Dr. A Finkelstein pastlives.com