In 1962, Marilyn Monroe died. Her career shows just how successful she’s been as a man-magnet — and how much she wishes she was something else.
Marilyn Monroe got only 36 years on earth – on August 4, exactly 60 years ago, Norma Jeane Baker died. In her 15 years on camera, however, she appeared in more than 30 films: from her 1947 debut in The Shocking Miss Pilgrim to the unfinished work Something’s Got to Give in 1962, the year of Monroe. Most of the time, she played the role of the naive blonde who turns heads. A share that she knew how to cultivate like no other and use to her advantage, but which has always been a thorn in her side.
From armor model to sex bomb
Even the discovery of young Norma Jeane is ready for Hollywood. In 1944, at the end of World War II, she was working in an armament factory. As part of the “Rosie the Riveter” propaganda program, photogenic women in the arms industry were supposed to ensure female growth and at the same time keep male soldiers happy. A year later she had the model contract in her pocket, another year later she was signed to the 20th Century Fox film studio.
Local talent scout Ben Lyon then gave her the stage name Marilyn, and she provided the perfectly appropriate surname herself – Monroe, her mother’s maiden name. The sound name is found, but the sound roles are slow to come until the 1950s.
Back to cramming
Only as an extra or in small roles, Monroe began her career in front of the camera. His first speaking role was simply the two words “Hi, Rad!” in the comedy “Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!”. Even in “Dangerous Years” that wasn’t enough. As a result, her contract with the film studio was not renewed, and Monroe was sent back to acting school – and her hair.
Her hair, which was bleached anyway, needed to get even blonder, her spotless teeth even more spotless with braces. Monroe’s willingness to conform to the superficial demands of her new Columbia Pictures film studio apparently paid off: the title of the film “I’m Dancing in Your Heart”, Monroe’s first starring role, in which she was immediately allowed to show her singing voice, literally struck her and the cinema audience.
With her new appearance, however, she was immediately forced to embrace a certain female image – that of the naive and cheeky, but at the same time beautiful, silly blonde. Whether in serious films like “Asphalt Jungle”, the tragic comedy “All about Eva” or the romantic comedy “We’re not married at all”.
The “Monroe Effect”
It was all the more surprising as she was celebrating her international breakthrough as the exact opposite. Although still lascivious and blonde, she planned her husband’s murder in “Niagara” like a true femme fatale with deep cunning. However, the film remained an exception: in the musical “Blondes are favorite” with his song “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” and “How do you catch a millionaire?” their roles were knit more simply again.
Her name may have preceded Monroe at this time. She was only partially satisfied with the reason for this. On the one hand, she was honored as the most popular actress in the world at the 1954 Golden Globes. On the other hand, she begged the decision makers of (again) 20th Century Fox to finally give her more demanding roles. .
The Supposed Compromise: The lead role in Billy Wilder’s “The Seven Year Itch,” the comic book that delivered one of the most famous scenes in movie history: Marilyn Monroe above a subway well through which her dress seems to develop a life of its own. An iconic moment that even gave rise to a technical term – updrafts on high-rise facades are still called the “Monroe effect” today.
Monroe, actress and producer of Method
When the term “method actor” comes up, most people think of Daniel Day-Lewis (65) first and probably never Marilyn Monroe. But it was precisely this acting philosophy that she pursued at the peak of her career in the mid-1950s. For the western drama “Bus Stop” she had specially formed a southern accent. With the British production “The Prince and the Dancer” she was even responsible as a producer with her in-house film company Marilyn Monroe Productions.
But the more Monroe tried to break out of her gilded cage of popular but meaningless roles, the more thwarted she was. Yes, the reviews of his performance on “Bus Stop” went overboard. However, the film was not a commercial success. And due to a lack of public interest, “The Prince and the Dancer” remained the first and only film Monroe produced himself.
His ambitions went unrewarded. A frustrating observation for the star, who had to let it sink first. 1958 was the only year in the actress’s career that she did not appear in any film. And when she came back in 1959, she did it the usual way, which she didn’t like.
His greatest success – and his greatest loss
She toured again with Billy Wilder: “Some Like It Hot”, known in this country as “Some Like It Hot”, quickly became Monroe’s biggest hit. Her role: that of the naive blonde, ukulele player Sugar Cane, who is looking for a rich man and falls twice in love with the impostor Joe (Tony Curtis).
Monroe was no stranger to the male gaze throughout her career. In “Some Like It Hot,” this masculine view of her body, captured through the camera lens, was near perfect. Monroe, the star with a built-in eye magnet – whether she likes it or not…
It is said again and again that he fell in love on the set of “Some Like It Hot”. By this point, Monroe was already suffering from pill addiction and self-doubt. She had trouble remembering lines and was often late for filming. Then the big twist: the actress, who was pregnant at the time, lost her child during the filming of the film.
One last wave with the fence post
Did it feel like mockery to Monroe that she received her first and only acting Golden Globe for “Some Like It Hot” of all things? Pictures from the awards ceremony in 1960 show her beaming and in good spirits. But don’t forget: Marilyn Monroe was a great actress.
She was allowed to prove it one last time on screen in the western “Misfits – Not Socially Acceptable” alongside Clark Gable. It was the last work she was able to complete before her death. Above all, her role, the dancer Roslyn, wants more respect and wants to be seen and appreciated by men not only as an object, but as a person. The parallels to his own life were obvious – and the ambitious film was once again a commercial failure.