About Marilyn Monroe Essay, Research Paper
Marilyn Monroe’s career as an actress spanned 16 years.
She made 29 films, 24 in the first 8 years of her career.
Born as Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926 in
Los Angeles General Hospital, her mother, Gladys, listed the fathers address as unknown.
Marilyn would never know the true identity of her father.
Due to her mother’s mental instability and the
fact that she was unmarried at the time, Norma Jeane was placed in the foster home of
Albert and Ida Bolender. It was here she lived the first 7 years of her life.
"They were terribly strict…they
didn’t mean any harm…it was their religion. They brought me up harshly."
In 1933, Norma Jeane lived briefly with her
mother. Gladys begin to show signs of mental depression and in 1934 was admitted to a rest
home in Santa Monica. Grace McKee, a close friend of her mother took over the care of
Norma Jeane. "Grace loved and adored her", recalled one of her co-workers.
Grace, telling her…"Don’t worry, Norma Jeane. You’re going to be a beautiful girl
when you get big…an important woman, a movie star." Grace was captivated by Jean
Harlow, a superstar of the twenties, and Marilyn would later say…"and so Jean
Harlow was my idol."
Grace was to marry in 1935 and due to financial
difficulties, Norma Jeane was placed in an orphanage from September 1935 to June 1937.
Grace frequently visited her, taking her to the movies, buying clothes and teaching her
how to apply makeup at her young age. Norma Jeane was to later live with several of
"The world around me then was kind
of grim. I had to learn to pretend in order to…I don’t know…block the
grimness. The whole world seemed sort of
closed to me…(I felt) on the outside of everything, and all I could do was to dream up
any kind of pretend-game."
In September 1941 Norma Jeane was again living
with Grace when she met Jim Dougherty, 5 years her senior. Grace encouraged the
relationship and on learning that she and her husband would be moving to the East Coast,
set in motion plans for Norma Jeane to marry Dougherty on June 19, 1942.
"Grace McKee arranged the marriage
for me, I never had a choice. There’s not much to say about it. They couldn’t support me,
and they had to work out something. And so I got married."
Dougherty joined the Merchant Marines in 1943 and
in 1944 was sent overseas. Norma Jeane, while working in a factory
inspecting parachutes in 1944, was photographed
by the Army as a promotion to show women on the assembly line contributing to the war
effort. One of the photographers, David Conover, asked to take further pictures of her. By
spring of 1945, she was quickly becoming known as a "photographers dream" and
had appeared on 33 covers of national magazines.
In the fall of 1946 she was granted a
divorce…later saying, "My marriage didn’t make me sad, but it didn’t make me happy
either. My husband and I hardly spoke to each other. This wasn’t because we were angry. We
had nothing to say. I was dying of boredom."
On July 23, 1946 she signed a contract with
Twentieth Century-Fox Studios. She selected her mother’s family name of Monroe. From this
point on she would be known as Marilyn Monroe to all her fans. She had a minor part in the
movie "Scudda-Hoo! Scudda-Hay! and was dismissed as a contract player in August.
Rehired in 1948, Marilyn sang here first song in the movie "Ladies of the
Johnny Hyde, of the William Morris Agency, became her
mentor and lover in 1949. Also, in 1949, Marilyn agreed to pose nude for a calendar. A
fact that was to stir controversy later in her career as a superstar.
"Hollywood is a place where they’ll
pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul"
Her first serious acting job came in 1950 when
she had a small but crucial role in "The Asphalt Jungle" and received favorable
reviews. "Clash By Night" in 1952 earned her several favorable notices…Alton
Cook of the New York World-Telegram and Sun wrote…"a forceful actress, a gifted new
star, worthy of all that fantastic press agentry. Her role here is not very big, but she
makes it dominant." Monroe’s first leading part in a serious feature was to be in
"Don’t Bother to Knock", also filmed in 1952.
Marilyn met Joe DiMaggio in early 1952, she was
25 and he was 37. DiMaggio, recently retired from baseball, had expressed a desire to meet
this famous star. By February the romance was in full bloom.
"I was surprized to be so crazy
about Joe. I expected a flashy New York sports type, and instead I met this reserved guy
who didn’t make a pass at me right away! He treated me like something special. Joe is a
very decent man, and he makes other people feel decent, too!"
In 1952 Marilyn began filming "Niagara"
with Joseph Cotten…a film that was to establish her stardom. After her next big film,
"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", she and Jane Russell signed their names and placed
their hands and feet in the wet cement in front of the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood
Boulevard…the same place she had visited with Gladys and Grace years earlier as a child.
"I want to be a big star more than
anything. It’s something precious"
Fox suspended Marilyn in 1954 for failure to
appear on the set of "Pink Tights". The studio had refused to let her look at
prior to accepting the part. She felt that due to her star status, she should have the
right to script approval. On January 14 Joe and Marilyn were married. The wedding captured
the headlines worldwide. Joe was an extremely jealous type of guy and resented her
popularity among other men. He desired a housewife, not a star of such magnitude…the
marriage was in trouble from the beginning.
"I didn’t want to give up my career,
and that’s what Joe wanted me to do most of all."
She was asked to go on a USO tour of Korea in
February to entertain the troops, beginning on the 16th for four days. She entertained
over 60,000 soldiers, many who had never seen a Monroe film…having been in the service
during her rise to stardom… most had seen still photos of her in many magazines and
newspapers. She was a huge success. Joe did not accompany her on this trip…explaining,
"Joe hates crowds and glamour."
"…standing in the snowfall facing
these yelling soldiers, I felt for the first time in my life no fear of anything, I felt
On May 29, Marilyn began filming "There’s No
Business Like Show Business". Throughout the summer she was ill with bronchitis and
anemia. For the first time, Marilyn began showing serious side-effects of the many
sleeping pills she had been taking for the last few years…often groggy, lethargic and
crying on the set.
The famous "skirt blowing" scene from the
"Seven Year Itch" , filmed in 1954 was to be a hit with both amateur and
professional photographers. Several hundred, along with 2000 spectators gathered outside
the Trans-Lux Theater in New York City in the early morning hours of September 15th to see
and record her as she posed for over two hours for her adoring fans.
In the fall of 1954 Marilyn and Joe
separated…later to divorce. On October 6, Jerry Giesler made a press announcement and
stated "…as her attorney, I am speaking for her and can only say that the conflict
of careers has brought about this regrettable necessity." With the press hounding
her, Marilyn answered in a choked voice, "I can’t say anything today. I’m sorry. I’m
"When I married him (Joe), I wasn’t
sure of why I married him, I have too many fantasies to be a housewife."
In early 1955 Marilyn again returned to New York
and joined the Actors Studio, in pursuit of becoming a serious actress. There she met Lee
Strasberg, head of the Studio and drama coach. Mr. Strasberg and his family would play an
important role in her life.
She was to renew her acquaintance with Arthur
Miller and have an affair with him before their marriage over a year later. To Marilyn,
Miller represented the serious theater and an intellect that she found attractive. To
Miller, years later…"It was wonderful to be around her, she was simply
overwhelming. She had so much promise. It seemed to me that she could really be a great
kind of phenomenon, a terrific artist. She was endlessly fascinating, full of original
observations…there wasn’t a conventional bone in her body."
Marilyn returned to Hollywood in February 1956,
after over a years absence, to film "Bus Stop". After completing the film she
returned to New York in June. Miller also returned to New York after obtaining a divorce
in Reno, Nevada. They where married June 29 in White Plains, NY.
The Millers departed for London soon after their
marriage so that Marilyn could start production on "The Prince and the Showgirl"
with Lawrence Olivier. As early as July, Arthur began to have doubts about the marriage.
Sidney Skolsky remarked that…"Miller looked on Marilyn strictly as an ideal and was
shocked to discover that she is a human being, a person, even as you and I and maybe
"Bus Stop" opened in London in October
1956. A Times review said…"Miss Monroe is a talented comedienne, and her sense of
timing never forsake her. She gives a complete portrait, sensitively and sometimes even
brilliantly conceived. There is about her a waif-life quality, an underlying note of
pathos which can be strangely moving."
"It’s not that I object to doing
musicals and comedies…in fact, I rather enjoy them…but I’d like to do dramatic parts
Marilyn Monroe did not return to Hollywood until
1958 to make "Some Like It Hot" with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Her
health continued to deteriorate due to increased dependency on drugs and involvement in an
unhappy marriage. She often came to the set late and was unable to remember her lines.
Director, Billy Wilder later said…"Anyone can remember lines, but it takes a real
artist to come on the set and not know her lines and yet give the performance she
did." Her next film "Let’s Make Love" proved to be an unremarkable film
with much publicity over her brief affair with co-star Yves Montand.
"I am invariably late for
appointments…sometimes, as much as two hours. I’ve tried to change my ways but the
things that make me late are too strong, and too pleasing."
Early in 1960, Marilyn was consulting with Dr.
Ralph Greenson, a prominent psychoanalyst to Hollywood stars. As common during this
period, he relied heavily on drug therapy…routinely prescribing barbiturates and
tranquilizers in addition to his psychotherapy.
July 1960 marked the start of filming "The
Misfits"…a short story by Arthur Miller adapted for film. While on location the
Millers lived in separate quarters and were barely speaking. Meanwhile, pills for Marilyn
were regularly flown in from her Los Angeles doctors, including Dr. Greenson. Allan Snyder
recalled…"It took so long to get her going in the morning that usually I had to
make her up while she lay in her bed." But once again, she managed to give an
"Everybody is always tugging at you.
They’d all like a sort of chunk out of you. I don’t think they realize it, but it’s like
"grrrr do this, grrrr do that…" But you do want to stay intact…intact and on
On November 5th, the day after "The
Misfits" was completed, co-star Clark Gable suffered a serious heart attack and died
on November 16, 1960. Marilyn felt a great deal of guilt, commenting…"I kept him
waiting…kept him waiting for hours and hours on that picture."
Evelyn Moriarty remembered…"Marilyn was
being blamed for everything. All of her problems were exaggerated to cover up for Director
Huston’s gambling and the terrible waste of money on that production. It was easy for her
to be made the scapegoat."
Marilyn divorced Arthur Miller in January of
1961, the same month that "The Misfits" was released. Another unhappy marriage
"Mr. Miller is a wonderful man and a
great writer, but it didn’t work out that we should be husband and wife."
In 1961 Marilyn purchased a house in the
Brentwood section of Los Angeles. At the urging of her psychoanalyst, Dr Greenson, she
hired Eunice Murray as housekeeper. Murray, calling herself a nurse, had neither the
training or credentials. It is suspected that she was a "spy" for Dr. Greenson
who continued to have more and more control over Marilyn’s life, seeing her almost daily
when she was in Los Angeles.
A reported affair with John F. Kennedy began in
late 1961. At the President’s gala birthday celebration in Madison Square Garden on May
19, 1962, Marilyn sang her now famous "Happy Birthday" tribute to JFK. The
Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy was also reported to have had an affair with Marilyn
shortly before her death.
Marilyn began production on "Somethings Got
to Give" in April 1962. Much has been said about her inability to show up on the set
and her trip to New York for the Presidents birthday celebration…but her illnesses had
been well documented by physicians and she had obtained permission from the Studio well in
advance of the trip to New York.
"I feel stronger if the people
around me on the set love me, care for me, and hold good thoughts for me. It creates an
aura of love, and I believe I can give a better performance."
The Studio was deeply in debt over their
production of "Cleopatra" starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The
filming was way behind schedule and costing millions over budget. It is theorized, if Fox
scrapped the Marilyn Monroe film with far fewer expensive sets and actors, they possibly
could be reimburse by the insurance company for losses due to a star’s illness, and recoup
monies spent. Fox fired Marilyn and filed suit against Marilyn Monroe Productions on June
7, but the suit was later dropped.
Marilyn had been seeing Joe DiMaggio frequently
during this time and had finally agreed to remarry him. The wedding date was set for
August 8, 1962. Fox rehired her on August 1 to complete "Somethings Got to Give"
with a salary of $250,000, which was two and a half times the original amount. Of course
these events would never come to pass due to her untimely death on August 5, 1962.
Much has been speculated about the events
surrounding her death and others involvement in it. But whatever the cause…it is highly
unlikely that it was suicide. Possibly the result of a tragic accidental drug
overdose…and possibly administered by someone other than Marilyn herself.
A saddened Joe DiMaggio made arrangements for the
funeral, inviting no one from the Hollywood scene or press…but only close friends and
relatives. As he said…"they had only hurt Marilyn." For over 20 years flowers
were delivered weekly to her crypt from Joe…just as he had promised Marilyn when she
told him of William Powell’s pledge to the dying Jean Harlow.
"I knew I belonged to the public and
to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful, but because I had never
belonged to anything or anyone else."