Flashback Friday – Marilyn Monroe – More than just a ‘blonde bombshell’
Born as Norma Jeane Mortenson in 1926, this young girl’s childhood wasn’t exactly an ideal one. Her mother’s unstable mental and financial situation left Norma Jeane to wind through orphanages and foster homes for most of her childhood. It wasn’t until 1945 when Norma Jeane started modelling and then signed a contract with 20th Century Fox in 1946, that is when Marilyn Monroe was born.
She rose to stardom in Hollywood and from the very time she stepped into Hollywood, Norma Jeane (now Marilyn Monroe) knew who she needed to become to make it big and become a star. Soon after she became a popular name in the industry and was famous for playing comedic ‘blonde bombshell’ characters. That’s how she became America’s most recognisable pop culture icon. Not only that, but she was also recognised as one of the most popular ‘sex symbols’ of the 50s and early 60s. She presented her all-American girl persona to the public with the help of her makeup artist Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder; who helped develop Monroe’s signature look: pale skin, blonde hair, dark arched eyebrows, plump red lips and a beauty mark.
It was unfortunate though that her fame came at a price. Her private life caught more attention from the press and public than the other aspects, thus overshadowing her work. The initial scandal of her posing for nude photographs before becoming a star worked in her favour in terms of her career instead of damaging it. However, Monroe’s name became associated with more scandals including an affair with then-President John F Kennedy, although that has still not been confirmed.
This is exactly what has been highlighted in Netflix’s recent movie on Monroe’s life ‘Blonde’. The scandals, mental health problems, drug abuse and miscarriages, despite being portrayed brilliantly by Ana de Armas, failed to highlight the good that the actress has done. We all know that Monroe was so much more than just the person they portrayed in the movie. Being in Hollywood at that time was a challenge, to manoeuvre around the masculinity that was well instilled – it was difficult to change that perspective. However, Monroe voiced that out, she pointed out the sexual predators that existed in the industry in the 50s and 60s. Not only that, she wrote about the manipulation and perversion that existed and made some of Hollywood’s biggest tycoons.
In addition to that, while filming for Girl in Pink Tights alongside Frank Sinatra, she made sure to point out that she and her costar had a huge difference in the salary they were taking home. After she protested and walked out from the sets of the film, she was suspended by 20th Century Fox, which meant the movie went on without her. Let’s just say it wasn’t a good idea and the project was shelved. After returning from suspension, she became a star and well, also got a salary raise.
We only know part of Marilyn’s story through the media, some of it goes unnoticed because of all the scandals that made big news at that time and many years after as well. But the actress was way ahead of her time, she just wasn’t who she portrayed on the big screen; she was much more than what was shown to us, especially in ‘Blonde’. The actress also turned out to be an entrepreneur and started her own production house with her photographer friend Milton Greene. The production house garnered critical success along with Gloden Globe and Oscar nominations at the time. Not only that, being a jazz music fan she reinforced Ella Fitzgerald’s career, she was an activist and a philanthropist who stood up for various causes and never shied away from giving back to society, especially the children in need. She had a tough childhood so she understood exactly what those kids must be going through. Takes one to know one, right?
It was disheartening to see that Netflix’s movie only managed to show the gloom and doom in her life. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and how she should get it. Moreso, a good sense of humour is very important and she had a good comic timing, which we can only tell from what we’ve seen or read. According to the media, we knew that Queen Elizabeth II was a difficult woman to please, and guess what? Monroe made a fan after an encounter with the Queen. Her Royal Highness was so fascinated by her that she watched all her movies. What more do you want us to say?
Monroe passed away in 1962 from an overdose of barbiturates at her home in LA. Her death garnered a lot of controversies too, but it was eventually ruled a probable suicide. It is pertinent to mention the importance of portraying the right narrative of popular figures and show a narrative that does justice to the specific person.