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 54th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
For many, he is emblematic of his era. Charismatic, charming, handsome and well spoken, he accomplished a lot in this short three years in office. He is remembered as the President who would take the first step in easing the tensions created by The Cold War and paved the way for his predecessors to ensure that African-Americans had the same rights as their Caucasian peers.
He was also the first Catholic President, a direct descendant of Irish immigrants, the youngest President to date and appeared to be a loving and loyal family man.
While he was imperfect as both a man and a President (Marilyn Monroe was rumored to be one of his many mistresses), today, we look back on the early 60’s with a view covered by rose-colored glasses. Especially considering the man who presently holds the office.
History is always seen in hindsight. I believe that we remember JFK as one of our greatest Presidents not only because he was taken from us too soon, but also for what he represented and what he still represents.
There is an old saying: all that glitters is not gold. The same could be said about Hollywood and the movie stars that fill up our screens. Behind the performer is the real human being who is dealing with the same sh*t that we all deal with.
In the 2011 movie, My Week With Marilyn, Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) is in London in the mid 1950’s to film The Prince And The Showgirl. Being directed by and starring opposite Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), Marilyn is not the easiest performer to work with. Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) is a young film student who gets a job as a part of the film crew. As time goes on, Marilyn reveals that there is much more to her that the on-screen sex goddess and Colin begins understand some truths about people and life that only time, experience and maturity bring.
What I really appreciated about this movie was that it revealed some truths that many of us, regardless of whether we are a Hollywood star or a John or Jane Doe, deal with on a day-to-day basis. I also appreciated that the film humanized one of Hollywood’s best known icons and brought her down to a level that makes us appreciate and respect her as a person, not as a performer.
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.
Marilyn Monroe is without a doubt an icon. She is also the subject of this actor spotlight and this Flashback Friday Post.
Two of her movies were released in 1953.
The first movie is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) are showgirls. Lorelei is engaged to Gus Edmond Jr. (Tommy Noonan). Gus’s father does not approve of his son’s choice of a wife. On a boat sailing to Paris, Dorothy’s task is to keep Lorelei clean so her future father in law will bless his son’s future marriage. Ernie Malone (Elliott Reid) is a private detective who is trying to prove that Lorelei is a gold digger. Dorothy will be distracted by the swim team and Lorelei will be distracted by a wealthy older man. Can they get to Paris without causing trouble?
Russell and Monroe are the perfect ying and yang. The smart, sassy brunette and the dumb but beautiful blonde are archetypes, but in a good way. It’s not all bad, but one must consider the era that the movie was made in.
The second movie is How To Marry A Millionaire.
Loco (Betty Grable), Pola (Marilyn Monroe) and Schatze (Lauren Bacall) are models living and working in New York City. Tired of meeting poor schlubs, they rent a fancy apartment in hopes of attracting wealthy men. But love and life are complicated. It’s not easy to tell the millionaire from the working class man. Will the ladies stick to their plan or will life direct them elsewhere?
This movie is very much a movie of it’s era. As much as I enjoy it, I find it a little disturbing. While there are many movies where the female character’s motive is men and marriage, this movie is just a little strong on that subject for me.
Do I recommend these films? As a fan of classic cinema, yes. As a feminist who cringes at the stereotypes and the antiquated ideas about what a woman’s future should be, I’m not sure that I enjoy them.
It is said that until you walk a mile in another’s shoes, you can never truly understand them. To slightly alter that statement, one might be able to say that until a man walks a mile in a woman’s high heels, he can never truly understand her. This brings me to the topic of this Throwback Thursday post.
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) are musicians who unexpectedly become witnesses to the St. Valentines Day Massacre. The only way to hide is to join an all girl band heading to Florida. Reinventing themselves as Josephine and Daphne, they meet Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), the ukulele player in the band. Things become even more complicated when Joe reinvents himself again as a millionaire to woo Sugar and Jerry finds himself being wooed by an older man who doesn’t know that she is really a he. At the same time, the gangster who is pursuing Joe and Jerry is vacationing at the same hotel with his cronies.
In it’s own time, this movie was considered racy and controversial. Now we know that it is a comedy classic.
Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is trying to make it as a working actor in New York. But his difficult reputation precedes him. Resorting to creative measures, Michael transforms himself into Dorothy Michaels, a soap opera actress. His goal is to earn a living and be able to fund his friend’s play. What he doesn’t know that his dual identities will become problematic when he falls for his co-star Julie (Jessica Lange) and has to find ways to hide his new identity from his friends. More than twenty years after Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon put on makeup and high heels, Dustin Hoffman takes the men in drag to a new level. What is surprising to the audience and Michael, is that he becomes an accidental feminist. Michael, as Dorothy, refuses to cowtow to her male bosses and her character’s male colleagues.
This movie is almost 32 years old. It is as fresh and funny as it was when it premiered in December of 1982.
I recommend both.
There is a mystique about putting together a Broadway show. It all seems so easy. But in reality, it takes time and a lot of work, both on and off stage.
The 2012 television series, Smash took this concept and put in front of the television viewing audience.
The book writer and lyricist, Julia Houston and Tom Levitt (Debra Messing and Christian Borle) are writing a musical based on the life of iconic actress Marilyn Monroe. Directing is smarmy British director Derek Wills (Jack Davenport). Behind the scenes producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston) is doing all she can to bring the show to Broadway. Competing for the lead role is fresh from the farm ingenue Karen Cartwright (Katherine McPhee) and pulling herself up by her bootstraps chorus girl Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty).
Was the drama a little hyped up? I’m sure it was. Was the writing, especially in season 2 after taking on a new show runner a little questionable? Yes.
But sometimes, we need this kind of television, even if the critics hate it.