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VANITYFAIR.COM – Today, June 1, 2016, would have been Marilyn Monroe’s birthday. The iconic star, who was born Norma Jean Mortenson, burned brightly during her short life. She started her career as a model before transitioning into acting. She made unforgettable turns in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch, and Some Like It Hot. And at the height of her fame, she defined Hollywood glamour and charisma for an entire generation.
When she passed away in 1962 at the age of 36, Monroe left behind a complicated legacy. During her life, she carefully cultivated and controlled her image; even as behind closed doors, she struggled with mental illness and addiction. The media followed her every move, and her marriages to baseball player Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller were highly publicized.
To mark Monroe’s 90th birthday, we’ve collected several of Vanity Fair’s in-depth portrayals of the complicated, captivating star. Happy birthday, Ms. Monroe.
Look through “The Lost Photographs: Marilyn Monroe,” which capture the actress in between takes on film sets. The pictures were taken by her makeup artist, business partner, and close friends.
“The Mentor and the Movie Star chronicles the close relationship between Monroe and her father figure, Lee Strasberg, the director of the Actors Studio, to whom she left her belongings after her death. When Strasberg then left his daughter, Susan, out of his will, which included many of Monroe’s belongings, it led to the breakdown of the Strasberg family.
In “The Things She Left Behind,” author Sam Kashner offers a detailed remembrance of Monroe’s final moments, and the battle her estate faced for the control of her image following her untimely death.
BUSTLE.COM – June 1 marks what would have been Marilyn Monroe’s 90th birthday. Monroe, born Norma Jean Mortenson, passed away in 1962 after a barbiturate overdose. In the New York Times obituary of Monroe, it was speculated that one thing that contributed to her tragic death was the overwhelming amount of paparazzi focus on her. This, to me, is what makes Monroe only grow more relevant with every passing year: she was an actress who was forced to be self-conscious about her image in a way that foreshadowed modern actors and celebrities living in the social media age.
Monroe’s rise to stardom came after she first made one key change to her own image. She had naturally “curly reddish-brown hair” until she purchased a bottle of peroxide to lighten her hair for an early screen test in 1950. One change anticipated another. In 1956, the actor changed her legal name from Norma Jean Mortenson to the name she’d been using as a stage name for years: Marilyn Monroe. She was aware of her potential to be a sex symbol and seemed to consciously enhance these aspects of herself to stand out and to win the success in the entertainment world she craved. Perhaps she didn’t realize that success would go hand in hand with overwhelming, intrusive publicity. And why would she? What star, prior to Monroe, had been so besieged by the press?
Monroe’s perception of herself was often guided by what the press saw in her. In the a 1962 interview with Life magazine, she explained how it was thanks to journalists’ reactions that she first realized she was famous:
…the men of the press, unless they have their own personal quirks against me, they were always very warm and friendly and they’d say, “You know, you’re the only star,” and I’d say, “Star?” and they’d look at me as if I were nuts. I think they, in their own kind of way, made me realize I was famous.
But Monroe seemed realistic about the corrosive influence endless publicity could have, too. In the same interview, she described the way fame made it difficult for her to deliver the quality of acting she wanted to:
Goethe said, “Talent is developed in privacy,” you know? And it’s really true. There is a need for aloneness, which I don’t think most people realise for an actor. It’s almost having certain kinds of secrets for yourself that you’ll let the whole world in on only for a moment, when you’re acting. But everybody is always tugging at you. They’d all like sort of a chunk of you. I think that when you are famous every weakness is exaggerated.
Monroe’s nuanced response to publicity — a mix of self-consciousness about it, embracing it, and being repulsed by it — was perhaps best summarized in another line from the same interview, when she said: “The ‘public’ scares me, but people I trust.” She was right to be concerned about the way the “public” responded to her and her personal life. In the obituary, Sir Laurence Olivier called her “the complete victim of ballyhoo and sensation,” while poet Jean Cocteau said “Marilyn Monroe’s tragic death should serve as a terrible lesson to all those, whose chief occupation consists of spying on and tormenting film stars. Some of these reporters even spied on her from helicopters hovering over her house. That is scandalous.”
And it is in these ways that her life was a reflection of the modern era of fame. For example, there was a pervasive mistrust in Monroe’s motivation for dating male celebrities, with even her ex husband Arthur Miller speculating in a 1973 New York Review of Books article that her marriage to her second husband, baseball star Joe DiMaggio wasn’t a traditional love story: “There is even the possibility that her interest in DiMaggio begins right out of her need to play counterpoint in public relations.” This is reminiscent of when less famous female celebrities date more famous male celebrities, and the world decides it’s a publicity stunt that the woman enters into to further her career. Think: the Kim Kardashian/Kanye West marriage or the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes marriage.
In addition, the explosive mix of Monroe’s status as sex symbol, battles with mental health and anxiety, and her overexposure to the press also feels like it anticipates some other stars of our age: it has been speculated that the growing media focus on Britney Spears from 2004 onwards (when she married a childhood friend Jason Alexander and had an annulment less than two days later) eventually contributed to her eccentric behavior in 2007, when she shaved her own head and attacked a photographer with an umbrella. In 2008, a court put Spears under conservatorship that, according to the New York Times, is “designed for people who cannot take care of themselves.” But the issues that overexposure brings up can be exacerbated by social media, providing a second layer of publicity for modern day stars: Amanda Byrnes and Azaelia Banks have both experienced media scrutiny following outbursts on Twitter that both of the stars have attributed to mental health issues.
When it comes to being a star, too much publicity will always be difficult for celebrities to shoulder and the emergence of social media gives a new urgency to these issues of press intrusion that have existed for decades. Now celebrities don’t just field encounters with the journalists, and with fans, on the street, but in the privacy of their own homes as soon as they log onto Twitter. Monroe was right when she quoted Goethe: the highest form of acting or music requires that a person doesn’t just exist as a public figure, but has private reserves they can draw from. In this era where even a normal, non-Hollywood-er can feel pressure to market themselves as a brand via social media, taking advantage of our increasing accessibility to celebrities seems to be more harmful than helpful. Celebrities, like any other human being, like Monroe herself, deserve peace.
VOGUE.COM – We’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t know that Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson, but there was much more to the screen siren than her well-known stage name. In honor of what would have been the legend’s 90th birthday, here, five things you likely didn’t know about Marilyn Monroe.
1. Monroe’s signature breathy speaking voice was actually a tactic the actress used to overcome a childhood stutter. A speech therapist reportedly trained her to adopt the throaty style, and it ended up becoming one of her standout traits as an actress and singer. While Monroe was filming her final movie, Something’s Got to Give, her stutter returned, making it very difficult for the actress to deliver her lines. She was later fired from the film.
2. Monroe was supposed to play Holly Golightly in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. “She was Truman Capote’s first choice,” Sam Wasson, author of Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman, has said. “Another thing you may not know: Marilyn didn’t take the part in part because Paula Strasberg, her advisor and acting coach, said she should not be playing a lady of the evening.” Capote, author of the 1958 novella, was reportedly very disappointed that the studio went with Hepburn, saying, “Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey.”
3. The nude, crystal-covered gown Monroe wore to sing “Happy Birthday” to John F. Kennedy in 1962 was so tight, she had to be sewn into the dress. “It was skin-colored, and it was skintight. It was sewn on, covered with brilliant crystals,” Life photographer Bill Ray said in 2014. “There was this long, long pause . . . and finally, she comes out with this unbelievably breathy, ‘Happy biiiiirthday to youuuu,’ and everybody just went into a swoon.” Monroe’s dress sold at auction in 1999 for $1.26 million, setting a record price for a single item of clothing.
4. Speaking of auctions, a number of celebrities have purchased Monroe mementos. Mariah Carey bought the actress’s white baby grand piano, which originally belonged to Monroe’s mother, for $662,500 in 1999. “I wish her things didn’t have to be auctioned off,” Carey said. “It’s a shame—I wish somebody had the money to buy it all and put it in a museum.” Tommy Hilfiger purchased the blue jeans Monroe wore in 1954’s River of No Return for $37,000. “They had a great fit, a great patina, a great fabric, a great hand feel—and she wore them while filming a great movie,” Hilfiger said. The designer also bought a pair of square-toe cowgirl boots for $75,000 that Monroe wore in The Misfits and gifted them to Demi Moore. “Demi [wanted] me to buy the boots so she can wear them,” Hilfiger said. The shoes were a little big for Moore, but the actress was committed to wearing them: “I’d make them work—stuff the toes or something.”
5. Though Monroe appeared on the very first edition of Playboy, in 1953, the magazine’s silk robe–wearing founder never met the starlet. “She was actually in my brother’s acting class in New York. But the reality is that I never met her,” Hugh Hefner once said. “I talked to her once on the phone, but I never met her. She was gone, sadly, before I came out here.” In 1992, Hefner purchased the crypt next to Monroe’s for $75,000. “I will be laid to rest in a vault next to hers,” Hefner has said. “It has a completion notion to it. I will be spending the rest of my eternity with Marilyn.”
MOVIENEWSGUIDE.COM – Some new documents have surfaced lately that reveal Marilyn Monroe had a “love connection” with Edward Kennedy. The documents suggest that the legendary beauty reportedly also attended sex parties with Kennedy along with other prominent celebrities.
Radar Online reports that “love-starved” Monroe had slept with every Kennedy she met. Monroe reportedly shared physical intimacy with the youngest brother, Edward Kennedy too. A declassified FBI report has surfaced lately which has details regarding the screen siren’s private romantic rendezvous. Monroe’s romantic link ups with JFK and Robert Kennedy are well documented but fans are not aware about her “love connection” with Teddy. The secret files was released in 2010 after the powerful U.S. senator died from brain cancer.
The documents disclosed that a woman living in Carlyle hotel in New York reported that she had “considerable information about sex parties.” The names of Jack, Bobby, Monroe and Teddy surfaced in the document, too. The documents also indicate the involvement of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. of Rat Packers and various hookers. The sources of the publication have told that the informant was an ex-wife of a former U.S. ambassador to Spain.
It has been learnt that the female informant named Jacqueline Hammond had an apartment at the upscale hotel where JFK and Sinatra had also built their covert love nests. It is not clear whether Jacqueline Hammond also attended the parties or not. It could also not be made out from the files how she collected the “considerable information.” Fans of Marilyn Monroe are always eager to know everything about the legendary beauty. Londonist reports that Monroe’s jewellery, hand-written letters, still life drawings, poetry and clothes have recently been put on display in Chelsea.
Some of the letters and journals on display have never been seen by the public before. Monroe’s fans can also see the costumes worn by her in movies such as “No Business Like Show Business” and “Niagara” there.
LATIMES.COM – When Gladys Baker Eley climbed out of a window at Rockhaven Sanitarium in Montrose one night and disappeared, the story made the headlines.
Why? Because she was Marilyn Monroe’s mother. And the Glendale News-Press got the story.
Eley, a single mother, had a mental breakdown shortly after the 1926 birth of her daughter Norma Jeane Baker (later to become Marilyn Monroe). Eley spent much of her life in mental hospitals and Monroe, who was raised by a series of foster parents, rarely saw her.
Eley had been at Rockhaven for some 10 years when Monroe died in August 1962. Monroe’s will provided a trust fund payment of $5,000 a year for her mother’s care, according to the July 5, 1963, edition of the Glendale News-Press.
Less than a year after Monroe died, the 60-year-old Eley fashioned a rope out of two uniforms, climbed through an 18-inch-square closet window and lowered herself to the ground. After climbing over the wire mesh fence surrounding the property, she began walking.
Twenty-four hours later, she was discovered some 15 miles away in a church on Foothill Boulevard. She had spent the night in the church’s utility room, sitting near the water heater to keep warm.
The minister who found her called the police; they were soon followed by Glendale News-Press photographer Louie Deisbeck and a reporter.
Deisbeck, who had been with the newspaper since 1957, had many contacts in the city.
“Police and firemen contacted him all the time in those days, they knew to call him directly at home,” his son Rusty said in a recent phone interview.
Deisbeck was met at the church by two female police officers. “It was real hush hush,” his son recalled.
After he got the photo — the first taken of Eley in more than 20 years — Deisbeck raced back to the News-Press, leaving the reporter to get the story.
The police officers told the reporter (who did not get a byline in the July 5, 1963 article) that Eley stated she wanted to get away from the sanitarium and practice her Christian Science teaching. After determining that she was unharmed, they returned her to the sanitarium.
Deisbeck’s photo earned front-page coverage in many newspapers.
“That was the most famous picture he ever did,” son Rusty said. “He sold it to magazines and newspapers all over the world.”
In 2006, while working on a Verdugo Views column about Deisbeck, I interviewed him in his home. He proudly showed me a framed copy of the News-Press, with his photo of Eley placed prominently on the front page.
Deisbeck, who died this last January at age 85, was a 1949 graduate of Hoover High. He joined the News-Press when it was on Isabel Street, and he became known for breaking-news photographs that won numerous awards, according to his Feb. 5 News-Press obituary.
Gladys Baker Eley passed away on March 11, 1984.