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Saturday, August 4, 2012

MARILYN MONROE PASSED AWAY A HALF CENTURY AGO


Tomorrow Curiosity lands on Mars and my posting will be on that event.  August 5 will also be 50 years since Marilyn Monroe passed away under still mysterious circumstances:  accidental drug overdose, suicide, murder...?   She was 36 years old.  Five new books have recently been published about her, but there already around 600.

Psychologically, she was a wreck, having lived in orphanages and foster homes after her mentally ill mother was institutionalized, for she had no father, sort of.  She suffered from sexual abuse at 8, dropped out of school at 15 and married at 16 to Jim Dougherty.  She had reddish-brown hair, but found success as a bleached  blonde.  Five feet five and a half inch tall, was reported to be 37C-23-36, 118 pounds, and wore 7AA shoes (she had ten toes).  She did wear Chanel No. 5, and her favorite drink was Dom Perignon.  Her social security number was 563-32-0764.

In 1948 she signed with Columbia Pictures and Norma Jean Mortenson Baker became Marilyn Monroe.  She appeared in a number of forgettable films in the late forties, including the Marx Brothers Love Happy, until she was selected for John Huston's Asphalt Jungle (1950).  (He also in 1961 directed her final film, The Misfits.)

She made a few more in the early 50's, but the death of her agent triggered a suicide attempt.  But one never knows because she faked several attempts for sympathy.  Jobs again became scarce, and in desperation, she posed nude, and helped launch Playboy in 1953 by appearing on the cover, while Golden Dreams (right) sold 8 million calendars.  Hugh Hefner (who remains alive) has a crypt at Westwood Village Memorial Park next to where Marilyn in buried.  In 1953 Niagara was a nice success, in a period when Joe Dimaggio  came into her life.  Then she made Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, where she sang her signature song, "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend."  Immediately in 1954 followed How to Marry a Millionaire, the first comedy on CinemaScope.

She married Joe in 1954.  Had a successful There's No Business Like Show Business, where she was out sung by Ethel Merman, but nevertheless scored with Heat Wave.   She immediately jumped into Seven Year Itch, where her subway dress scene might have been the last straw for Joe (who detested his wife being constantly cast as a ditzy blonde), as they shortly thereafter divorced.


Unfortunately, her third marriage in 1956 was messy.  Arthur Miller was America's greatest playwright, but he was already married when they first met, plus he was being investigated by Congress for Communist leanings.  He got a Reno divorce, they made it official and she subsequently converted to Judaism.
Two weeks after those vows, Marilyn and Arthur traveled to London for "Prince and the Showgirl," with Laurence Olivier, which was the flick last year, My Week with Marilyn, played by Michelle Williams.

She was wonderful in Some Like It Hot With Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, and won a Golden Globe.  Tony Curtis wrote in his memoir that he made her pregnant during filming, but she miscarried.

During these turbulent few months in 1961, Miller wrote the screenplay for The Misfits and divorced Marilyn.  This gritty black and white film suffered the death of Clark Gable two weeks after filming, Marilyn the following year, then, five years later, Montgomery Clift.


Her final public appearance was on 19May1962, singing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" at a Madison Square Garden birthday party for President John F. Kennedy.  It is reported she had affairs (also with Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra and others, even though at least one recent book identified her as a lesbian, linking her with Joan Crawford and Marlena Dietrich) with both John and his brother Bobby, who was identified to be there with her when she died on 5August1962.  About the mystery, at least one source implicates Bobby Kennedy.

Remember Elton John's 1997 "Candle in the Wind," the tribute to Princes of Wales, Diana?  Well, the original was written in 1973 for Marilyn Monroe.  This song is said to be the highest selling single of all time.  Depends on how you make the count, but I suspect Bing Crosby's White Christmas remains at #1.

As I'm completing this posting, Asphalt Jungle is showing on Turner Classic Movies, and Saturday continues the all-day marathon of her films.


But can't end without Marilyn, so here is a memorable one to remember her:


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