WEIRDLAND: Marilyn Monroe, Her True Image

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Marilyn Monroe, Her True Image

Marilyn Monroe was bipolar and often disassociated from reality. People who saw “the gorgeous substrata of her life could not even imagine on what subsoil her roots were feeding.” Significant among my discoveries about Marilyn are her lesbian inclinations. She had affairs with many eminent men—baseball great Joe DiMaggio, playwright Arthur Miller, director Elia Kazan, actor Marlon Brando, singer Frank Sinatra, the Kennedy brothers—and she married DiMaggio and Miller. Yet she desired women, had affairs with them, and worried that she might be lesbian by nature. How could she be the world’s heterosexual sex goddess and desire women? Voluptuous and soft-voiced, the Marilyn we know exemplified 1950s femininity. Yet she mocked it with her wiggling walk, jiggling breasts, and puckered mouth. She had an ironic and sometimes ribald wit, engaging in puns and wordplay. She loved to play practical jokes. She sometimes was a party girl who did “crazy, naughty, sexy things,” including engaging in promiscuous sex, displaying what we now call “sex addiction.” In her paradoxical manner she covered untoward behavior with a mask of good intentions, justifying her promiscuity through advocating a free-love philosophy, which connected friendship to sex. That philosophy circulated sub rosa among the avant-garde throughout the twentieth century. 

In another guise she was a trickster who assumed aliases, wore disguises, and lived her life as though it was a spy story, with secret friends and a secret apartment in New York. “I’m so many people,” she told British journalist W. J. Weatherby, “I used to think I was going crazy, until I discovered some people I admired were like that, too.” However dominant, “Marilyn Monroe” was only one persona among many that emerged from and were created by the original Norma Jeane Baker before her name was changed. That happened when Norma Jeane signed a contract with Twentieth Century–Fox in August 1946 and began her ascent to stardom. Marilyn would become a great actress, arguably more effective in her private life than on the screen. She told people what they wanted to hear, sensed the person they wanted her to be and became that person. Given her manic-depressive tendencies and the anger she had brought to the surface of herself, Marilyn wasn’t easy to live with. “She could say things that put a hook in my belly. Cruel, vicious insights,” Arthur Miller wrote. 

On February 8, 1953, at a ceremony in the Crystal Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel that evening, Marilyn received Photoplay’s award as the year’s best newcomer. She borrowed a dress from the Fox wardrobe department to wear to the ceremony. It was made of gold lamé with a deep V-neck; Billy Travilla had designed it for a scene in Gentlemen that was cut from the movie. Travilla didn’t want her to wear it, because it was too small for her.  Giving herself enemas, she lost ten pounds in two days. (Film actresses used colonic cleansing to lose weight in a hurry.) Even after the weight loss, the dress was still so tight that it hugged her body, accentuating her hipswaying walk and the absence of underwear under the dress. She was sewn into it because it hadn’t been finished and had no zipper. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were masters of ceremony at the event. As Marilyn walked with mincing steps to the podium to receive her award, Jerry leaped on the table and hooted like a chimpanzee, while Dean broke into a hip-swinging dance. The audience howled with laughter.

Cecil Beaton described Marilyn in his book The Face of the World as a “hypnotized nymphomaniac,” “as spectacular as the silvery shower of a Vesuvius fountain” and “an undulating basilisk. Her performance is pure charade, a little girl’s caricature of Mae West. She is quintessentially American. She is a composite of Alice in Wonderland, Trilby, and a Minsky [burlesque] artist.” In real life, Marilyn usually chose tall, dark, and powerful men as partners—all father figures. But in her films from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on, she was often cast against small, unprepossessing men, whose confidence she shores up by praising their gentleness as central to real masculinity. Such redemptive women were everywhere in 1950s films, according to Brandon French in her classic study. In The Seven Year Itch, Marilyn describes the Black Lagoon creature in the film she saw with Tom Ewell as only needing “a sense of being loved and needed and wanted” to end his destructive behavior. She tells Tom Ewell’s character that “women prefer gentle men, not great big hulks who strut around like a tiger—giving you that ‘I’m so handsome, you can’t resist me’ look.”

“I didn’t like the world around me much because it was kind of grim,” Marilyn would tell Richard Meryman in the summer of 1962. Despite the tremendous challenges in her life, Norma Jeane was an average student. She earned good grades in bookkeeping, journalism, office practice, and physical education, and C’s in social living and science. Her essay on Abraham Lincoln was rated best in the class. “A little thing, perhaps,” she would recall, “but it encouraged me. I didn’t feel so dumb anymore.” Norma Jeane also escaped the negative aspects of her life through the cinema during 1939. Perhaps the film to resonate most with Norma Jeane in 1939 was MGM’s musical adaptation of Frank C. Baum’s beloved children’s book, The Wizard of Oz.

Norma Jeane frequently contributed to a column in the school paper, The Emersonian, and once wrote a piece about gentlemen preferring blondes. For the article, Norma Jeane and other classmates tabulated the responses of 500 student questionnaires regarding the qualities of a “dream girl.” Norma Jeane’s column prophetically described an idealized blonde female image into which she would eventually evolve: “According to the general consensus of opinion, the perfect girl would be a honey blonde with deep blue eyes, well molded figure, classic features, a swell personality, intelligent, athletic ability (but still feminine), and she would be a loyal friend.”

Sidney Skolsky publicized Marilyn’s performance in Love Nest in his column, referencing a scene in which she undresses and takes a shower. On the day she filmed the sequences, the set was crowded and quiet with silent and gawking studio employees assigned to other productions. The electric energy she emitted was palpable. Notorious for sometimes faltering on her lines, having an audience boosted Marilyn’s confidence and ability to find her performance. June Haver observed Marilyn warming up with a few takes in front of the gathered crew and undergoing a complete metamorphosis.

In a memorable scene, Roberta sunbathes in the back yard of the building in a polka-dot bikini bathing suit with ruffles as she sips Coca-Cola out of a bottle. The swimsuit is modest by modern standards, even covering her navel, but considered racy in its day. “Marilyn became so uninhibited in her movements, the way she sat in that chair—so gracefully, naturally graceful—and seductive at the same time,” Haver would tell Carl Rollyson. “Suddenly, she seemed to shine like the sun.”

The Coca-Cola Company would later use the scene in a 1953 Coke soda commercial, and Marilyn would pose in the bikini—showing off her washboard abdominal muscles. Designer Renie Conley (1901-1992) designed several elegant outfits for Marilyn aside from the fetching bikini. Over the course of her career, Conley would be nominated for a total of four Oscars.

“She was a difficult person because she wasn’t sure of herself,” director Joseph Newman would recall of Marilyn at age twenty-five. “I don’t think she ever got to be sure of herself. That was her major difficulty. She had exceptional ability and this childish charm coupled with great sexual attraction. She had a great natural talent, but I don’t think she ever realized it. She was always insecure. Instead of just being satisfied with her native talent, she tried to develop into a great dramatic actress. When I worked with her, though, she was basically a nice, naïve girl.” —"Icon: The Life, Times, and Films of Marilyn Monroe - Volume 1: 1926 to 1956" (2014) by Gary Vitacco-Ro


“Fragments” dates the recipe to 1955 or 1956, when Marilyn lived in an apartment at 2 Sutton Place. We conjured up images of her prowling the aisles at D’Agostino’s on First Avenue in a crepe dress and heels (this is the era of “The Seven Year Itch”), and followed along as she purchased a loaf of bread, the ground round and all those jars of dried herbs. Our only true departure — to blend sage, marjoram, ground ginger and nutmeg in place of the commercial poultry seasoning she used — was informed by what typically goes into such products.


Marilyn Monroe’s Daily Diet: The revelation of an elaborate stuffing recipe in the icon's own hand has led to speculation that perhaps Marilyn was, in fact, a domestic goddess.


Clearly, she liked to eat proper meals. Even her weight-loss plan was not insubstantial. All we can know for certain is that 1950s dieters ate well: and the sight of that menu today would send any contemporary Hollywood star to sprint from the room shrieking in horror.

In the 1950s women wore heavy makeup—a result of the return to femininity after World War Two and the power of advertising to create a demand for cosmetics. Marilyn led the trend. To make her lips larger and more lustrous, she applied four layers of lipstick and drew her lip line outside its natural shape. She put Vaseline on her lips to make them look wet. It was part of what Billy Travilla called her “fuck-me” look, especially when she held her lips in an O. She darkened the mole on the right side of her face near her lips to draw attention to them. She used eyebrow pencil to darken her eyebrows and make them heavy and straight, although she sometimes plucked them into a peak. She often wore false eyelashes. Whitey Snyder said that she knew makeup techniques that she kept secret even from him; one was to put white makeup on her eyelids to make her eyes seem larger.

Makeup artist in Phoenix: The Skin and Makeup Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, is one of the top beauty schools in America, offering the most complete programs for their students to learn how to become professional makeup artists and estheticians. Students must complete over 600 hours of training and education and pass state board exams before they are licensed.

Medical weight loss in Phoenix: Marilyn Monroe battled her weight oscillations throughout her whole career in Hollywood. My True Image offers medical weight loss through their 3 clinics, located throughout the Phoenix AZ area. They provide weight loss programs, weight loss nutrition plans, vitamin b12 shots, Lipo Plex treatments, etc.

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