Marilyn Monroe – The (Not Originally)-Blonde Bombshell
In life, there are two things you cannot help but fall in love with – Nutella and Marilyn Monroe (unless of course you’re allergic to chocolate and/or a misogynist). This article is about only one of those two things. Nutella will come soon. I promise.
Anyway, as an American actress, singer and model, was the …. I can’t think of a current star that does all of those things and is as famous. She was the Marilyn Monroe of her time. She was also the most famous brunette named Norma Jean Mortenson ever.
Wait, What? Typo Alert!
Nope, sorry. Not a typo. The original ‘blonde bombshell’ of Hollywood actually looked like this as a teen.
Oh and her birth name was the distinctly un-sexy Norma Jeane Mortenson. Norma’s mother, Gladys, was mentally unstable, and poor Norma was bounced around between foster homes like the saddest game of billiards ever. Once her mother went completely cuckoo, Norma was placed under the guardianship of her mother’s friend Grace McKee, who told little Norma that one day she’ll become a star.
So Norma did what all women aspiring to be actresses do – she got married at 16 and started working in an ammunition factory. She worked at Radioplanes Munitions factory (the same people who basically invented the drone), and when a random Army photogropher came to her to take her picture and told her she could be a star, she didn’t pepper spray him. Maybe she knew that the photographer had been sent by his commanding officer, future President Ronald Reagan. But she probably didn’t. Anyway, instead of this happening…
She got her hair dyed blonde, changed her name to Marilyn Monroe, divorced her husband because apparently 20th Century Fox didn’t want to sign a contract with a married woman, and she was on her way. Oh and it didn’t hurt when a couple of nude photos of hers released, and Playboy’s founder and current walking corpse Hugh Hefner deemed one of her nudes the ‘sexiest image’ of 1949. That’s how she became the first Playboy centerfold. Fun fact – The Hef also later brought the burial site next to Marilyn for $77,000. The vault right above her went for $4.6 million. Million.
By 1952, Monroe had worked on quite a few movies and was already somewhat of a star, when she pulled a trick right out of the How to Be A Megastar playbook – she started dating the biggest sports star of the time – baseball player Joe DiMaggio. When they later got married, it was the Kim and Kanye wedding of its time, except both members of the couple actually had talent.
By the time this famous scene happened…
Marilyn and DiMaggio were already going through their issues, and in October 1954 they got divorced.
The Downward Spiral, and Look, Hey, Another US President!
By 1958, with the world at her feet, Monroe was on her way down. She went through what no woman should have to go through, with two miscarriages and one terminated pregnancy, and by 1960 she had divorced her third husband, Arthur Miller. Director Billy Wilder, who described Monroe as “Cinderella without the happy ending,” tried to sum up her marriage problems, “Her marriages didn’t work out because Joe DiMaggio found out she was Marilyn Monroe, and Arthur Miller found out she wasn’t Marilyn Monroe.” (Nobody’s Perfect:A Billy Wilder Autobiography)
After a few visits to various psychiatric facilities, some of them arranged by Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn was ready to face the world. And by that I mean she was allegedly romancing US President John F Kennedy. Listen to her singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to JFK here and tell me if it…does anything to you.
After hearing this rendition (and presumably after taking a 5 minute bathroom break), Kennedy said to her, “Thank you. I can now retire from politics after having had ‘Happy Birthday’ sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.”
Some Like It Hot…And Surprisingly Courageous
As is true with many larger-than-life stars, the actual picture becomes distorted over time. You’d think a star like Marilyn Monroe would have the confidence of a …well, Kanye West. But she initially suffered from crippling stage fright and rarely delivered her performances without the help of an acting coach.
But you know, there was more to this woman than just her winning smile and her anti-gravity skirt. In 1955, with the ‘color code’ still in force, Marilyn helped black singer Ella Fitzgerald get a spot at a Los Angeles nightclub, promising the management that she would attend the show every night, front seat. And she did, without fail.
In 1956 when her then-husband Arthur Miller was summoned by the ‘House of Un-American Activities Committee’ (yeah such a thing existed. It was a weird time) to explain his supposed communist affiliations, she was urged to stay away from him lest she lose her career too. She refused, calling them ‘born cowards’.
The Death of A Star
On August 5, 1962, an LAPD officer received a call from Marilyn’s psychiatrist, stating that she had been found dead in her apartment. The cause of death was supposedly ‘barbiturate poisoning’, and her death was concluded to be ‘probable suicide’. The conspiracy theory nuts had their day in the sun, alleging everything from JFK’s involvement in her murder to the CIA taking her out. At her funeral, Lee Strasberg, the most famous acting teacher of all time, said that after Marlon Brando, she stood out above the rest among his students.
During their marriage Marilyn had made Joe DiMaggio promise that he would place roses on her crypt for 20 years after her death. He faithfully kept that promise.
She was elegant, beautiful and intelligent. She was Marilyn Monroe.