I have just watched a TV programme on Channel 4 (10pm 4 Aug 2012) entitled ‘Marilyn Monroe the last sessions’ I found it to be bewitching and could not drag myself away from the TV screen. I have heard things over the years and often felt Marilyn was manipulated and misunderstood. However, this programme was a real eye opener for me for I think I glimpsed the real Marilyn, the one that has been hidden for so long. So armed with my curiosity and admiration I researched a little deeper and this is what I found.
The Early Years
Marilyn’s mother Gladys was married three times. With her first husband, “Jap” Baker, Gladys had Bernice and her brother Robert, both born in Los Angeles County, California. Jap kidnapped Bernice and her brother after Gladys divorced him. Bernice grew up in Kentucky, and married Paris Miracle on October 7, 1938; their only child, Mona Rae, was born on July 18, 1939. Meanwhile, Gladys, after a short time in Kentucky, returned to Los Angeles where she married a second time and On 1st June 1926, Gladys Pearl Baker gave birth to Norma Jeane Mortenson.
Due to her mother’s mental illness financial difficulties and subsequent hospitalisation into the local State Hospital; Norma Jeane went to stay with foster parents Ida and Albert Bolender. One day Gladys visited, dragged Ida outside in her yard locked the door on her and bundled Norma Jeane kicking and screaming; into an army rucksack zipped it up and walked out of the house with her. Ida escaped and dragged a screaming Norma Jeane back into the house. In 1933 Gladys brought a house and took Norma Jeane aged 7 years to live with her.
Just a few months later. she witnessed her mother being removed forcibly to back into the State Hospital. This would form the pattern of mental illness, for the rest of her mother’s life; Norma Jeane was made a ward of the state and went to live with her mother’s best friend Grace Mc Kee. Grace loved the movies and Jean Harlow. She told Norma Jeane she would be a star one day. In 1935 when Norma Jeane was 9 years old, Grace married Doc and she placed Norma Jeane in an orphanage. There were several couples interested in adopting her. This could not happen as her mother would not sign the adoption papers. In 1937 aged 11 years old she moved back in with Grace and Doc but after Doc’s repeated attempts to sexually abuse her she was moved out, soon after. Grace sent her to her Great Aunt Olive Brunings whose son allegedly tried to sexually abuse her also.
In 1942 aged 16 Norma Jeane went back to live with Grace and Doc and while attending high school met her first husband Jim Dougherty. Grace decided to move to Virginia and asked a local family to adopt Norma Jeane. Her mother Gladys would not agree so Grace, asked Jims mother to persuade him to marry her. After initial reluctance he agreed to prevent her returning to care.
Bernice her sister, did not know she had another sibling until she was 19 after receiving a letter from Gladys, Norma Jeane and Bernice met for the first time in 1944. Bernice worked for many years at the University of Florida and she wrote a book about Marilyn after her death.
- My Sister Marilyn, Miracle, Bernice Baker and Mona Rae Baker. Publisher: Algonquin Books, an imprint of Workman Publishing Co.. First edition (1994). Hardcover: 238 pages ISBN 1-56512-070-1
In 1943 the Second World War broke out and Jim went to work in the Merchant Navy. Whilst working in a munitions factory Norma Jeane (aged 17) was noticed by a photographer, who advised her to join a modelling agency. She did and as they were looking for fair haired models she dyed her brown hair to blonde.
In 1946 (age 20) she was signed up with Twentieth Century Fox and the rest is history. She won many awards as you can see below.
- 1951 Henrietta Award: The Best Young Box Office Personality
- 1952 Photoplay Award: Fastest Rising Star of 1952
- 1952 Photoplay Award: Special Award
- 1952 Look American Magazine Achievement Award: Most Promising Female Newcomer of 1952
- 1953 Golden Globe Henrietta Award: World Film Favorite Female.
- 1953 Sweetheart of the Month (Playboy)
- 1953 Photoplay Award: Most Popular Female Star
- 1954 Photoplay Award for Best Actress: for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire
- 1956 BAFTA Film Award nomination: Best Foreign Actress for The Seven Year Itch
- 1956 Golden Globe nomination: Best Motion Picture Actress in Comedy or Musical for Bus Stop
- 1958 BAFTA Film Award nomination: Best Foreign Actress for The Prince and the Showgirl
- 1958 David di Donatello Award (Italian): Best Foreign Actress for The Prince and the Showgirl
- 1959 Crystal Star Award (French): Best Foreign Actress for The Prince and the Showgirl
- 1960 Golden Globe, Best Motion Picture Actress in Comedy or Musical for Some Like It Hot
- 1962 Golden Globe, World Film Favorite: Female
- Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame 6104 Hollywood Blvd.
- 1999 she was ranked as the sixth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute in their list AFI’s 100 Years…100 Stars
Marilyn married 3 times in all. Her second husband was Joe Di Maggio who it is alleged in the TV programme was a controlling, manipulative man who physically abused Marilyn. Her third husband was Arthur Miller a playwrite. During her lifetime Marilyn had two miscarriages and one ectopic pregnancy. Tony Curtis stated he was to be one of the fathers of her miscarried children. Marilyn was rumoured to have also had affairs with Marlon Brando and both John and Robert Kennedy.
Marilyn spent a large part of her life in therapy. She cariied two things from her past with her always some phychology books amoungst them Freud and her white piano from her childhood. Ralph S Greenson was her psychoanyalist for many years, who I have no doubt crossed many professional boundaries. He often saw Marilyn in his own home, where she stayed overnight on occasion and lived as an adopted family member. Thus, he created dependence upon him instead of independence. It is alleged that this relationship contributed to her death aged 36 years.
The official report claimed suicide but there are numerous conspiracy theories surrounding her death. Some say she was politically dangerous, due to her relationships with the Kennedy brothers and rumoured relationships with known communists. They suggest that an American Government Agency the FBI had her killed.
She was found by her therapist Ralph Greenson, who reported her death. The tapes of her meetings with him released after her death, provide evidence of the dysfunctional and totally unprofessional relationship she had with him. It could be suggested that he was obsessed with her and jealous of her relationships with other men. He installed a housekeeper in her house to watch her and report back to him. Marilyn saw him as the father she never had but how did he see her? Did his jealousy and possessiveness overtake him? Greenson died in 1979 his papers are housed in a special collection in UCLA. The documents relating to Marilyn are sealed until 2039.
Marilyn was a troubled young woman, who wouldn’t be with her history? but was she the dumb blonde or a woman with a rare insight into others. Some of the comments she gave about the man in her life were both insightful and telling.
Marilyn on Joe Dougherty
‘My marriage didn’t make me sad but it didn’t make me happy either. My husband and I hardly spoke to each other. This wasn’t because we were angry but because we had nothing to say. I was dying of boredom’
Marilyn on men in general
‘The problem is they want to go to bed with Marilyn Munroe but they wake up with Norma Jeane. Marilyn doesn’t exist but Norma Jeane is real’
Marilyn on Jane Mansfield
‘Jane tried to convert me to religion, I tried to convert her to Freud’
Was Marilyn the stereotypical dumb blonde or someone who saw things that others didn’t? Did the things she saw and had experienced make her sad and depressed? The thing with both beautiful and plain women, is that most people just see the shell. They don’t see beyond the outside packaging. Unfortunately, this is a sad trait of our society. I suggest, that Marilyn wanted to be seen as the person she was, Norma Jeane the woman. A person who could think for herself but who was always being put down. A spiritual and caring person who looked outside of the box. They say the camera never lies but maybe the problem lies in people’s interpretation of the visual image they see. One of her co actors once said to her
‘You don’t need to try hard like me you, just smile and look pretty’
Some of the happiest photographs and footage, I have seen of Marilyn were of the time she spent in New York. She was anonymous there, she could walk around and just be herself. She associated with writers, she married one. She seemed happiest in an intellectual group, she seemed at home with them.
Marilyn’s last years were plagued with reports of her unreliability and drug abuse. If you watch the programme and I recommend you do, you can make your own mind up. It is evident that she was disappearing visually bit by bit. Her smiles were fake her body thin and gaunt and her general disappointment in the world, can be seen in her eyes. Her last public appearance was on May 19th 1962 were she famously sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’. It was on that evening she gave her final press interview.
Patricia Newcomb her friend and Secretary stated that she pleaded with reporters to repeat her words.
‘What I really want to say is that the world really needs a real feeling of kinship. Everybody, Stars, Labourers, Negros, Jews, Arabs, we are all brothers. Please don’t make me a joke. End the interview with what I believe.’
Marilyn was great friends with Ella Fitzgerald who stated after her death.
‘I owe Marilyn a real debt… it was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the 1950s. Marilyn personally called the owner of the club and told him she wanted me booked immediately; and if he would do it she would take a table at the front every night which she did.’
Marilyn recognised talent and appeared to see people without the normal societal predjudices. She wanted them to be lifted up and recognised for who they were. In a true spiritual perspective she wanted to share her joy with others. What do you think was Marilyn killed and if so who by, did she kill herself. What are your thoughts on Marilyn the woman? Was Marilyn a dumb blonde or was she an insightful spiritual person ahead of her time who displayed a intellect beyond most people’s understanding? You decide!