On August 4, 1962, Marilyn Monroe succumbed to an excessive intake of sleeping pills. In 15 years, she has shot in 32 films. Peroxidized and dizzying blonde, she remains an icon with a destiny inhabited by ill-being. An eternal icon…
Laid down on paper, the words sting, handwritten: “Oh how I wish I was / dead – absolutely non-existent – / gone away from here – from / everywhere but how could I / There are always bridges…” In the night of August 4 to 5, 1962, the author was found dead on her bed, in her modest home in Brentwood, near Los Angeles… Marilyn Monroe, born Norman Jeane (the “e” will disappear in adolescence) Bake the 1er June 1926 in the “City of Angels”.
Well barred mother, father with absent subscribers. Childhood between this crazy mother and foster families, among “little people”. A rape at 8 years old, a first marriage at 16 years old, first photos for calendars filled with pin-ups… Later, a brunette who became a peroxide blonde, hair and – the legend assures – pubis, she will be questioned: “Posing naked, that Wasn’t it a problem for you?” Answer: “There was heating in the room…”.
An icon of the XXe century
On this sixtieth anniversary of her death, Marilyn Monroe remains still and always the icon of the XXe century, eternal and ultimate, at a time when apprentice starlets claim to be influencers because they wear make-up live on the internet… Admittedly, some embittered people assure that Marilyn is a character created by a few proud Hollywood producers and launched like any other product, soap, cornflakes or vacuum cleaner, but the evidence was already there: Norma Jean possessed everything that was going to make Marilyn unique, not even a competitor of the “atomic” brunettes that the cinema industry tried to oppose to her.
Five essential films
The Asphalt Jungle (John Huston, 1950) “Doc” Riedenschneider, a crime mastermind fresh out of prison, plans a jewelry store robbery that is expected to raise half a million dollars. He recruits piercer Louis, driver Gus, backer Emmerich and tough Dix Handley. At first, everything goes as planned, but small incidents disrupt the mechanics of the flight and everyone turns out to be fallible. A film noir with a small role for Marilyn…
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953) An explosive blonde, a diamond digger, and a dazzling brunette embark for France. On the liner are the wealthy Piggie and the American athletes of the Olympic team. A musical with a famous number: Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.
The Seven Year Itch (Billy Wilder, 1955) Richard Sherman, a publicist, has just dropped off his wife and children at the station. He plans to stay alone for the summer holidays in his New York apartment. After seven years of marriage, he happily fantasizes about the girls he dreams of seducing. Her loneliness will quickly be disturbed by her charming blonde neighbor upstairs. He doesn’t take long to invite her to his house for a drink. An iconic image: Marilyn in a white dress flying above the entrance to the metro…
Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959) Two unemployed jazz musicians, unwittingly involved in a settling of accounts between gangsters, disguise themselves as musicians to escape them and go to Florida with a female orchestra. They immediately fall in love with a lovely, blonde creature, Alouette, who wants to marry a billionaire…
Let’s Make Love (George Cukor, 1960) Jean-Marc Clément reigns over New York and the Stock Exchange. He owns a powerful company which negotiates with the whole world. His pocket money: 35 million centimes per week! From his French ancestors, he also inherited a pronounced taste for women. But he does not yet know that his next conquest, an “atomic” blonde, will turn his life upside down…
After being a model for a short time, she took acting lessons. She wanted to act, Hollywood caught her as she took off. By scamming her, of course, with a pathetic contract of 75 dollars a week while others were pointing to 100,000 dollars… From 1947 to 1962, she appeared in 32 films, many of them directed by great directors (John Huston, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Howard Hawks, Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, George Cukor), with some of the most renowned actors: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Richard Fowler, Yves Montand…
Inhabited by a chronic malaise
She turned, agreeing to play the roles of a nice girl, a blonde jug, a non-dangerous idiot, thinking none the less; which will lead her to create – with the photographer Milton Green – and preside over the company Marilyn Monroe Productions. Thus, a free woman claiming her femininity and total freedom, she will choose only what pleases and suits her as a producer and actress.
Norma Jean had everything that would make Marilyn unique
Inhabited by a chronic malaise, she closes her production company and returns to Hollywood. Married to baseball player Joe DiMaggio then to playwright Arthur Miller, she collected, still according to legend, lovers: Frank Sinatra (whom she accused of having raped her) and some of his mafia friends, Yves Montand or the Kennedy brothers, John Fitzgerald and Robert.
She maintains risky relationships with profiteers, crooks and thugs to drown her loneliness. She will even pour it out on the couch of her psychoanalyst, with whom she spoke the evening of her death… In the early morning, her governess will find her lying on her bed. The doctor will conclude suicide following a significant intake of sleeping pills. “There is nothing more we can do,” he said. Even today, the mystery hovers, evoking a possible assassination sponsored by the mafia, even by the Kennedy clan. One certainty: men will always prefer blondes, especially if they are named Marilyn, dress in diamonds and wrap themselves in N° 5 by Chanel… Pou pou pidou!
They were Marilyn
It will be one of the events of the next Deauville festival in September, and one of the most anticipated Netflix releases of the year: Blonde, the biopic directed by Andrew Dominik and adapted from the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, will be released on September 28 on the streaming platform. In the role of Marilyn Monroe, the Cuban-Spanish actress Ana de Armas. After seeing the film in private screening, the novelist confided: “Andrew directed Ana de Armas so well that she really became Marilyn. I would never have thought that a male director could immerse himself so well in a female brain…”.
Before Ana de Armas, seven actresses have slipped into the clothes of Marilyn Monroe on small and big screens. Misty Rowe in 1976 starred in Goodbye, Norma Jean, directed by Larry Buchanan; it is hardly convincing. Twenty years later, the brunette Ashley Judd and the blonde Mira Sorvino play the two facets of the icon in the bland and sad TV movie Norma Jean & Marilyn (Tim Fywell, 1996). Then the Australian Poppy Montgomery is perfect in Blonde (Joyce Chopra, 2001), miniseries which already adapted the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, published the previous year.
In turn, Michelle Williams tries to show the woman behind the myth, but indulges too much in uninspired imitation in My Week with Marilyn (Simon Curtis, 2011), which nevertheless benefits from an XXL cast, including Kenneth Brannagh , Judi Dench and Emma Watson. The same year, in the TV series The Kennedys, the Canadian Charlotte Sullivan is painful to see, completely overwhelmed by the role. Finally, and still on TV, the American Kelli Garner narrowly avoids shipwreck in her interpretation, far too caricatural, in The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe (Laurie Collyer, 2015).