When we think of Marilyn Monroe, we do not think of feminism. We think of the blonde bombshell, the Hollywood icon, the sex symbol.
In her 2018 non-fiction book, The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist, writer Michelle Morgan introduces another side of the icon: feminist.
In Marilyn’s time, sexism was accepted. Pigeonholed into the ditzy and attractive blonde by the studio, Monroe wanted to prove that as an actress, she was much more than the dumb blonde. After making The Seven Year Itch (1955), she was eager to spread her professional wings. The success of the film and her campaign for the role gave Monroe the confidence to fight for her career, to earn her place in Hollywood and become the performer that she wanted to be.
I was surprised about this book. I knew that for many, she represents old Hollywood. I had heard of the acting classes she took and I knew of the two tumultuous marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller that ended in divorce. But I didn’t know that she fought for her later roles and fought to be seen as a real actress, not just a 2D caricature. Though the book is a little slow, it is still a good read and reminder of the power of women when we fight for what we want.
I recommend it.
Today is the 90th birthday of Marilyn Monroe.
For many film fans, she is an icon of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Her likeness is everywhere.
Her style has been imitated by everyone from Madonna in her music video, Material Girl to actresses walking the red carpet during award season.
Born Norma Jean Baker on June 1st, 1926, young Norman Jean’s life was not easy. A ward of the state, she was shuttled around to different foster homes and orphanages. She married three times, husbands #2 and 3 were baseball player Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller.
But life in Hollywood did not ease the emotional burden of her demons. Even decades after her death, rumors still persist of an affair with President John F. Kennedy. The official cause of death was an overdose, but conspiracy theorists believe otherwise. Forced into the “dumb, hot blonde” niche, the majority of Marilyn’s roles reflected the double standard that existed in the 1950’s and still exists today.
What I would like to remember Marilyn Monroe for are her movies, not the rumors that surround her or the emotional problems that might have led to her death. My favorite Marilyn Monroe movies are Some Like It Hot and Gentleman Prefer Blondes. In both films, she plays yet another version of the “dumb, hot blonde” character, but she is smart enough to let the other characters think she is dumb. She has some of the best comedic timing I’ve ever seen. Unlike her screen persona and the image forced upon her by the movie studios, this lady was one smart cookie.
She also continues to prove that a woman does not have to be a size two, looking like a prepubescent boy with surgically enhanced physical charms to be considered attractive. For those of us (which actually a majority of women), we look more like Marilyn Monroe than the newest model walking down the catwalk who looks like she has not eaten for days.
Happy Birthday Marilyn.
Daniel Day Lewis is one of the best actors of his generation. A versatile, powerful actor, he disappears into his roles, making the audience forget that what they are seeing is fiction. But isn’t that the mark of any good actor?
Two of his best performances were in the 1990’s: The Crucible (1996) and The Last Of The Mohicans (1992).
Based on the classic Broadway play by Arthur Miller, The Crucible, based in Salem, Massachusetts, set during the infamous Salem Witch trials. John Proctor (Daniel Day Lewis) has foolishly had an affair with Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder), the teenaged niece of a local clergyman. When accusations of witchcraft begin to overtake the town and his wife Elizabeth (Joan Allen) is accused of witchcraft, John must face his neighbors and be able to look in the mirror at the same time.
This movie is extremely powerful. While it was based on the hunt by the American government for communists in the early 1950’s, it holds up as the fight between just going along with the crowd or standing up for what you believe in.
Four years earlier, Daniel Day Lewis was the lead character in The Last Of The Mohicans, based on the book of the same name by James Fenimore Cooper. Hawkeye or Nathaniel Poe (Daniel Day Lewis) is a frontiersman in upstate New York during the French and Indian War. A romance is initiated with a British colonel’s daughter, but a war on both sides of the border brewing, Nathaniel must decide what is the best course of action for his life.
This movie is not as good as The Crucible, but it is a window into the world of rural pre-revolutionary era America that no longer exists.
I recommend both.
A long time ago, Billy Joel wrote “Only The Good Die Young”.
He should have said only the great die young.
James Dean, Natalie Wood, River Pheonix, Heath Ledger, James Gandolfini.
Sometimes the greatest talents aren’t destined to die of old age. They die well before that, when they are still at the peak of their greatness.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman‘s name can now be added to this list.
He died this morning of an apparent drug overdose.
I saw him in the most recent revival of Arthur Miller’s classic play, Death Of A Salesman. While he was a few decades younger than the character and Brian Dennehy, who had played the character in the previous revival, it felt like I was seeing this play and introduced to this character for the first time.
His Willy Loman was a man of big dreams, caught between the past and the present, between dreams and reality. It was an incredibly powerful performance. I wish I had seen it more than once.
My heart and my prayers go out to his friends and family.
While he is gone from this world, his work and his legacy will remain.