It would have been Marilyn Monroe’s 88th birthday on June 1st. I first became a fan of her when I was a teenager. I saw how sensitive she was in her movies, how vulnerable she let herself be, and realised it was ok if I was like that too. Also, I thought her dresses were pretty and I wanted to be able to wear them.
For all of her glamour, I found Marilyn to be authentic. She said ‘I don’t care about money, I just want to be wonderful.’ She wanted to be wonderful at her job: she fled her Hollywood life when her bosses wanted her to do yet another silly musical. She went to New York and joined the Actor’s Studio: she wanted to be respected and good at her job even though she was one of the most famous actresses in the world. She then started her own production company with Milton Greene, her photographer friend who took the above picture. This is one of the things I admire most about her. Marilyn was one of the first actresses to start her own production company. Marilyn Monroe Productions only made two films but she got to actually act in them, she wasn’t just there to be looked at.
She wrote poetry and was always trying to teach herself new things. A book was published a few years ago called Fragments, which shows her writings and poems. It showed her wanting to succeed; it showed her feelings. She always wanted to improve herself. I like how Marilyn can be both sensitive and strong at the same time. I feel like a lot of the time people think that they’re mutually exclusive. She said that ‘men are climbing to the moon but they don’t seem interested in the beating human heart.’ Her humanity was her strength: it was what made her a good actress and comedienne.
I think that partly too, as a rather depressive teenager, I felt that I understood some of her sadness. Marilyn’s mental health has been much talked about and we can’t be sure what is true. She lived in an era that thought it knew more about mental health than it actually did. Some of the things that should have cured her possibly only made her worse. But I think that too often people feel like they should put Marilyn Monroe in a box; she must have been a certain way because she had blonde hair and said dumb things sometimes in movies. She was a real person, fallible.
So happy belated birthday Marilyn Monroe! I need to re-watch Some Like it Hot soon, it’s one of my favourite movies.