On the fifth of August this year, it will be half a century since Marilyn was taken from us.
And yet, she endures as an icon – including to many who were not even born when she lived.
Why? What made this troubled movie goddess unique? It was the fact that she DID NOT EXIST.
Norma Monroe INVENTED her. As a child, she had idolised the movie goddesses of the day: Lana Turner and in particular – Jean Harlow. THEY were what a movie goddess should be like.
And thus it was that Norma Jeane Monroe (Baker was foisted on her by her even MORE troubled mother) developed the character of Marilyn Monroe.
Which goes a long way to explaining why her life was so fraught. ALL the time she was in public or on set – she had to BE Marilyn Monroe.
When she played a part, it was not Norma Jeane Monroe playing it – it was Norma Jeane Monroe playing Marilyn Monroe playing the part. No wonder she became frazzled.
In another place in these chronicles, this writer was accused of INVENTING explanations of behaviour – until he responded by quoting authoritative sources for his statements (see the comments under “Morpheus on… Erroll Garner”) and will therefore retell a personal account which ILLUSTRATES the above paragraph.
The story hails from Norma’s friend, confidante and fellow-actress, Shelley Winters. Early one Fifties morning, the two were walking through the streets of New York City – when Shelley realised the superstar beside her was able to do so, unnoticed.
“This is New York – how come you’re not being inundated by your fans?” she enquired. Norma laughed and said, “Because I’m not being HER.” “What do you mean?” asked Shelley. “Do you want to SEE… her?” replied Norma. Puzzled, Shelley said yes.
At once, she witnessed a TRANSFORMATION. Norma shook her hair free of her headscarf and began to accentuate her walk. Her whole body language changed. She was ON.
Within seconds, the two women were MOBBED.
Amidst the melee, Norma caught Shelley’s eye – the two exchanged a nod – and Shelley UNDERSTOOD.
Fifty years, next August.