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Marilyn Monroe: Legend and Myth

Updated on December 12, 2016

A Young Marilyn

The Real Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn is both legend and myth. Arthur Miller, one of America's leading playwrights and one of Marilyn Monroe's husbands, wrote a play about his marriage to her called After The Fall in which he exposed her as a self absorbed and self destructive woman who needed the adulation of all men she encountered. While many Marilyn fans were upset with Miller for hurting the Marilyn Monroe image, others appreciated seeing Marilyn as human and seeing the turmoil that they knew she must have suffered based on the known facts of her life.

The life of Marilyn Monroe has also been the subject of numerous books and television shows, most of which are geared to support the fantasy rather than the facts, but one thing that all agree on is that Marilyn Monroe will forever be remembered as one of Hollywood's most tragic beauty queens.

Marilyn Monroe's softness and vulnerability made her irresistible to men in the pre-women's lib era and her image has become almost mystic due to the fact that she was not a survivor. Monroe had some talent for playing a dumb blonde, similar to Harlow, but she lacked Harlow's sarcasm. Jean Harlow's characters were in charge, and only "played" dumb. Monroe's character also lacked Mae West's confidence and intelligence. For Marilyn it was all about having a baby voice and innocent expression. It worked! To this day when viewing her in movies there is nothing that one can view as controversial or intimidating. Virtually, this is the key of being well liked.

Her characters were not calculating, just innocent and straightforward. These are the qualities that made her so attractive to the point of MM outshining Ava Gardner, Gene Tierney, Kim Novak, and numerous other beauties were had more natural beauty that Marilyn and more well rounded talent.

She was born Norma Jean Baker in Los Angeles in 1926. Her troubles started early, due to her birth being illegitimate in a time of high morality. Her mother knew that life as an only child to a single woman of little means would not lead to a well rounded childhood, and Norma Jean was sent to orphanages and foster homes. Her mother spent most of her life in and out of mental hospitals. Marilyn was lonely and insecure and as a result of being extremely lonely, was out to find some love as soon as she reached her teen years. She married while still in her teens, however, the marriage did not last long. Marilyn turned to working in a factory while trying to make it as a model.

Norma Jean was not especially beautiful by Hollywood standards. Her facial features were average, although her figure was nice, but Norma Jean wanted stardom and she knew that to achieve the super stardom that she craved, she would have to become a Hollywood knockout. Marilyn was one who studied her face and her looks obsessively to the point that she knew every curve of her bone structure and was well aware of which side was her best and where she needed help. Monroe began modeling and taking bit parts while she saved money and persuaded the men in her life to help her achieve her perfect face. She had plastic surgery in her early 20s, and the results were spectacular.


Marilyn's First Modeling Job

Norma Jean Becomes Marilyn Monroe

She spent her childhood in foster homes but was determined to achieve the dreams that ran rampant in her mind during the times that she was feeling pushed aside in her childhood. Marilyn could escape into a fantasy land by watching glamorous movies stars in the local movie theaters and by getting a hold of movie magazines. As far back as she could remember Marilyn dreamed of achieving super stardom, of being admired by all women and pursued by all men. It was the lack of love that comes from a stable family life that led to her deep desire of finding admiration of numerous strangers. As a teenager Marilyn dated and pursued marriage as quickly as possible. Her lucky break first came when in 1944 a photographer began taking photos of pretty girls doing masculine jobs as part of the war effort. She was a factory worker at the time and desperate to do anything even remotely glamorous. In the photos Marilyn looks like a barely cute redhead with a double chin and big smile. Although she is seldom credited as being an entrepreneur or business woman, these traits are the foundation of who Marilyn Monroe really was. She was fighting against all odds. She was not very pretty in a time that plastic surgery was not rampant as it is today, yet she planned on fixing her least desirable features medically. Marilyn knew that excellent beauty was just a tweek and turn away, by the right plastic surgeon of course.

After being photographed to the point of being comfortable in front of the camera, Marilyn headed for Twentieth Century Fox for her early minor appearances. During these years she jumped at every opportunity that came her way, and as soon as she could afford it Marilyn had plastic surgery at a time when it was not norm in Hollywood. In the 1940s and 50s plastic surgery was something of an obscure subject. Stars did not typically change their features. Cosmetic changes were reserved for the disfigured or the aging movie stars, but Marilyn had her nose and jaw remolded. The result was a much more refined and sophisticated look. She then landed good roles such as in All About Eve, and Don't Bother to Knock. Monroe was soon riding on the upswing of fame when she found herself cast in the 1953 film, Niagara. Many say it was her best part. It was certainly Monroe at her most attractive. It was this look that led Marilyn Monroe to become the most popular sex symbol in the world.

One of the modern myths about Marilyn is that she was a large sized woman, she was 5' 5" or 5' 6" . It was measured numerous times for her fittings. Her measurements were usually at 36-24-35. She was not large or fat as many Marilyn look- a-likes and impersonators are these days, but she kept her figure looking curvy by lifting weights. Again, she was smart, savvy and willing to think outside the box when it came to creating a look.

During the 1950s she married the men of her choice and got all the best parts in movies. When riding high in Hollywood it is hard to believe that the wave of success and good fortune will ever end, but gradually as the 1950s were coming to a close and the shapely Marilyn look lost favor to boxy suits, the mod look, and a new, younger generation of starlets emerged, Marilyn was looking old and outdated.

Monroe began looking for a new identity as she approached her mid 30s. Marilyn had always wanted children but when her career was in full swing she was willing to put off motherhood until the time was right. It has been reported that Monroe had numerous abortions in her youth and when she finally did reach her mid 30s she could no longer get pregnant. Marilyn was bothered by the fact that she had no children of her own and longed to become a wife and mother as so many other famous glamor girls had done when their looks and youth had deserted them.

Monroe was a true entrepreneur at heart and in the same way that she had conquered not being pretty enough fifteen years earlier she wanted to now get pregnant and retire from the Hollywood glamor spotlight into a life of family and dignity.

In the early 1960s Marilyn began an affair with John F Kennedy. She took the relationship very seriously, while he was just taking advantage of his position just as Bill Clinton had done in the 1990s. There was obvious tension between Marilyn and JFK as she battled to become the new first lady of the United States, and with a little luck, could also become a mother. But JFK treated Marilyn the same way that he treated all the other women he had affairs with. He had her and was now finished with her. Period.

Monroe was so devastated by her advancing age, her declining looks, and her inability to have children that her depression was mounting. She simply could not be dumped by men at this point and she sought to replace JFK with RFK. Robert Kennedy was just as willing as his brother to enjoy MM on the side but he did not treat Marilyn any better than his brother had and there is some evidence in the FBI files related to the assassination of JFK that Marilyn either told Robert that he had gotten her pregnant or that she had gotten pregnant and was ordered by some powerful men within the democratic party to have an abortion.

On August 5, 1962 Marilyn Monroe was found dead from an overdose of sleeping pills. She was 36 years old. The exact facts are shady, but all who knew Marilyn knew that she had plenty to be depressed about. Life was just not going her way, but others believe that the democratic party was threatened by her and snuffed out her life before she could do any real damage to the Kennedy's.

Marilyn Monroe & Her Mother

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    • George Vreeland profile image

      George Vreeland 2 years ago

      Great article and photos.

      George Vreeland Hill

    • Sgt Prepper profile image

      Gunny Cracker 2 years ago from Elkhorn, WI

      I don't believe Bill Clinton confined his philandering to the '90s. It is obvious to me BOTH major political parties in the U.S. are reading from the exact same script for a New World Order.

      An elderly gentleman from Texas, whose mother was from Mexico, told me why he votes Democrat. Throughout his childhood on every Election Day a stationwagon from the Democratic Party would pickup his mother before sun-up. She would spend the day voting in many different precincts and return home with a sack of potatoes to feed the family long after dark. One time the stationwagon dropped off a sack of turnips and Roberto said "I'll never forget my brother and I eating those turnips. We had no choice since Dad left years before." Out of reverence to his mother Roberto, now 84, always votes Democrat.