Show someone anywhere in the world a photo of Marilyn Monroe and chances are they’ll know who she is. But how many people really knew who she was? People hear her name and conjure images of a subway blowing up a skirt or a breathy rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, but the bombshell was so much more than just a dumb blonde. To learn more about Marilyn, please visit www.immortalmarilyn.com or join our group on Facebook.
1. She was one of the first female producers.
In the 1950’s, actors didn’t get to choose their film roles, they had to make whatever movies the studios assigned. Marilyn was frustrated with constantly having to play the dumb blonde and when studio execs refused to give her opportunities to play more serious roles, she walked out on her contract and went into hiding. She reemerged in January 1955 with photographer and business partner Milton Greene and announced the formation of Marilyn Monroe Productions. She was only the third woman to start a production company.
2. She was no dumb blonde.
Lorelei Lee, Sugar Kane, Pola Debovoise, The Girl….these are not characters you’d expect to see reading Doestoyevsky or Whitman, studying Rodin, or analyzing Freud. She enrolled in art history classes at UCLA, socialized with Carl Sandburg, Isak Dineson, and Truman Capote, and had a personal library of over 400 books. Her friend Susan Strasberg said about her “”When she wasn’t an expert on a subject, but wanted to be, she got hold of someone and picked their brains. After she’d gone through enough information, she was pretty knowledgeable about whatever it was:painting, music…..politics, religion, literature. She collected experts-one on the stock market, one on poetry, one on the world situation.”
3. She did a lot of work for charity.
She famously performed for soldiers in Korea, but Marilyn did a lot of charitable works. In 1952 she sidetracked a publicity tour to visit an orphanage and a children’s hospital. She performed at many benefits: for St. Jude’s Hospital in 1953, as a model in a 1958 March of Dimes fundraiser, and in 1955 rode around Madison Square Garden on an elephant that had been painted pink to help the Arthritis and Rheumatism Benefit. She donated her earnings from the world premiere of The Prince And The Showgirl to the Milk Fund For Babies in 1957. While visiting a Mexican orphanage in 1962 she initially wrote a check for $1,000, then tore it up and wrote a new one for $10,000. Her last public appearance was for a benefit for muscular dystrophy. Marilyn even provided for charity after her death- 25% of her estate’s earnings go to the Anna Freud Center, a psychiatric clinic for children.
4. She loved animals.
Marilyn felt empathy for all living things. Her first husband Jim Dougherty recounted how he came home to find his young wife leading a cow into their kitchen. She explained that it had been raining and she felt bad for it. Later, her third husband Arthur Miller would base the short story that became the film The Misfits on Marilyn running down the beach scooping up fish that had been left by the tide and throwing them back into the ocean. While living in New York, she came across young boys trapping pigeons to sell to a local butcher. She convinced them to meet her each week so she could pay them what the butcher would have and then set them free. She lavished attention on her own pets as well-her little dog Maf was given a beaver fur coat to sleep on. She had a sense of humor too-the fur coat had been a gift from her ex-husband Arthur Miller.
5. She was not plus-sized, full-figured, or a size 12.
Marilyn was 5’5, 118 pounds, and had a 22 inch waist. That’s not plus sized by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, when the famous white dress from The Seven Year Itch was being sold at auction, it was placed on a size 2 mannequin….and couldn’t be zipped up. A collector of her clothing has had to modify child size mannequins to display them. She was tiny but extraordinarily curvy, which is why she’s still recognized as the ideal bombshell figure to this day.
6. She won numerous awards
While she never got the Academy Award nomination many think she deserved, Marilyn did receive several prestigious awards. She won two Henrietta Awards for World Film Favorite and two Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture Actress and Female World Film Favorite. She won both France and Italy’s equivalents of the Oscar, the David di Donatello Award and the Crystal Star, and two Photoplay awards for Fastest Rising Female Star and Most Popular Female Star. She was nominated twice for BAFTA awards and six times for the Laurel Award. In modern times, her film Some Like It Hot was called The Greatest American Comedy of All Time by the American Film Institute.
7. She adored children
Marilyn was always at her most natural and carefree around children. She doted on the children of friends and especially on her three stepchildren, Joe DiMaggio Jr and Jane and Bobby Miller. While Jane and Bobby were away at camp she would write them charming letters from their pets, and she stayed in touch with all of her stepchildren for the rest of her life. She gave both time and money to children’s charities and said that her biggest regret was not having a child of her own. Arthur Miller said about her “To understand Marilyn best, you have to see her around children. They love her; her whole approach to life has their kind of simplicity and directness.
8. She took acting very seriously.
Marilyn shocked everyone in 1955, at the height of her fame, when she started taking classes at the renowned Actor’s Studio in New York. The biggest star in the world sat in on classes with fresh faced beginners because, as she said, “I knew how third rate I was. I could actually feel my lack of talent, as if it were cheap clothes I was wearing inside. But, my God, how I wanted to learn! To change, to improve! I didn’t want anything else. Not men, not money, not love, but the ability to act.” From early in her career, she would spend every cent she had on classes to improve, she studied with Michael Chekhov and Lee Strasberg, and would surprise reporters with lengthy conversations on Stanislavsky and The Method. Lee Strasberg said that she and Marlon Brando were the best actors he’d ever worked with, and her director Joshua Logan said she was ‘an acting genius’.
9. She never actually said most of the quotes attributed to her.
She wasn’t selfish or impatient, she didn’t think imperfection was beauty, and she certainly never said ‘avoid the drama’ or anything about a size zero. She didn’t think you could be two faced if you were pretty and she didn’t think the right shoes could conquer the world. For some unfathomable reason, people like to assign things to Marilyn that she never said. Some of the quotes attributed to her can be traced to the actual people that said them, everyone from Bette Midler to Timothy Leary, but others have been generated online in the last ten years or so. Marilyn herself was very outspoken about not having things with her name on them that she didn’t actually say, so the rule of thumb is if a quote sounds modern, doesn’t appear during her lifetime at all, and no one can tell you when, where, to whom and under what context it was said—-she probably never said it.
10. The Kennedy ”affair” has been greatly exaggerated.
Careful research has shown that Marilyn and John F. Kennedy were only in the same place at the same time on no more than five occasions. Several of these were very public events with numerous credible witnesses to vouch that there was nothing intimate at all going on. There was only one opportunity for them to have had any time alone together, at a party on March 24, 1962, and a *possible* single tryst does not an affair make. As far as Bobby Kennedy, Marilyn herself stated to friends that he was not at all her type and her only interest in him was discussing politics, particularly civil rights.
So where do these endless rumors come from? In 1974, a man named Robert Slatzer tried to publish a book about Marilyn and was told it wasn’t juicy enough. Suddenly he ”remembered” that he had not only been secretly married to her but that she was intimately involved with the Kennedys. Nearly every Marilyn-Kennedy rumor stems from this disgraced charlatan. She didn’t ‘know too much’, there was never going to be a ‘tell all press conference’ and the ‘red diary’ never existed—-it was all made up by Slatzer to sell a book, and has been thoroughly debunked since. However, since the salacious and titillating sells more papers and gets more viewers than the boring truth does, these false rumors still continue to circulate to the detriment of all three people involved.
By Marijane Gray