At 6 a.m. on the morning of August 5th 1962, an ambulance silently leaves the driveway of a Brentwood home. The sombre mood of the morning carries on throughout the day for the residents of Los Angeles. The ambulance was ferrying away the thirty-six-year-old body of a true Hollywood legend. Each succeeding generation is drawn to the life and the art of this remarkable person who left an imprint on cinema history that has never truly been filled. Was this an American tragedy or simply a life not realised?
What more is there to know than the facts already so well known? The illegitimate child, the foster homes, the lure of Hollywood like a moth to the flame and the passage of young Norma Jean Baker to Marilyn Monroe. Stardom, world fame, marriages and divorce, the body broken, the dissolution of spirit and finally, her death. Today, we see her as a liberated woman, before it became fashionable, who won immortality in modern-day pop culture and lost her life for it.
Marilyn, that single name conjures up images of Hollywood’s most glamorous icon. She was a disarmingly sensual woman with an hourglass figure and a sexy, sassy smile. She was also a pioneer, pushing the boundaries of moviemaking for the actresses who would follow in her footsteps. She remains to this day, the screen’s only sex goddess, known and loved the world over for more than half a century.
Unbeknownst to many of her fans, Marilyn’s intelligence belied the characters she often portrayed, that of the dizzy blonde who relied on her beauty for survival. Marilyn’s 164 point IQ was over 30 points higher than that of Albert Einstein’s. She made it a habit of pretending to be dumb because it was what was expected of women in the movie industry of the ’50s. Monroe regularly read philosophy books on set and had always dreamt of playing serious roles on stage rather than on screen. She once famously commented, “It does take intelligence to be stupid!” using irony to bamboozle reporters.
Her intelligence and quick wit showed many times in press conferences and interviews. This was displayed once when a cheeky reporter tried to find out if she slept in the nude. “What do you put on when you go to bed?” he asked. Monroe, knowing precisely what he was after, said as quick as a flash, “Chanel No. 5 of course.” The reporter, adamant he was going to get an answer about her sleeping attire, re-phrased the question. “No, I mean, what do you have on when you go to bed?” Marilyn, once again, at the top of her game, replied, “I have the radio on” and smiled sexily at him. The reporter gave up, knowing he had been soundly beaten.
Monroe’s personal life was and still is, filled with innuendo and rumour, but all that was said by the gossipmongers shall be omitted from this narrative. The purpose here is to bring to light the woman behind the mask of the world’s most photographed woman, the very first Playboy cover model and the first woman ever to appear in a nude scene on screen. This is about a woman who simply wanted to be loved, especially by her loyal fans.
On the set of Something’s Got To Give, when a studio boss told her that she was famous because of him, she yelled back, “If I am famous it’s because the people made me famous. Not a studio, not an agent, but the people.”
Marilyn was promptly fired from the movie. Two weeks later, at 5 a.m. on August 5th 1962, an ambulance pulled into her Brentwood home, after a call for urgent assistance. An hour later, the ambulance silently left the driveway.
“Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.” Marilyn Monroe once said. This prophetic observation has echoed through the ages as time and time again, we see stars who have met tragic ends while chasing that elusive goal of finding fame and happiness in the City of Angels.