There should be a tremendous outpouring of entertainment feature stories, columns and photo essays on Marilyn Monroe in early August when we mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic star’s death.
Vanity Fair has already done a June cover story with excerpts from photographer Lawrence Schiller’s new book “Marilyn & Me” (Doubleday) about his relationship with Monroe on the never-completed production of “Something’s Got to Give.”
That was the comedy co-starring Dean Martin that was shut down because of Monroe’s many absences from the set (due to illness or, more likely, her disdain for the job Monroe owed 20th Century Fox to finish out her contract).
It was 50 years ago today — June 8, 1962 — when Monroe was informed that she had been fired. Some would say that was the trigger for the downward spiral into booze and pills that would kill the actress two months later.
“Marilyn Monroe: The Final Years” by Keith Badman, which will be published by St. Martin’s Press on July 17, digs into the events of the summer of 1962 in more detail than any other book I’ve read about Monroe.
The British journalist exhaustively researched “Something’s Got to Give” and suggests that a lot of Monroe’s behavior was due to the disparity between her salary and what her longtime rival Elizabeth Taylor was making on the same studio’s “Cleopatra.”
Badman also makes a good case for the Fox brass firing Monroe from her relatively low-budget movie because it couldn’t fire Taylor from “Cleopatra” after investing so many millions in it (the writer points out that Taylor’s illnesses and whimsical behavior cost more shooting days than Monroe’s bad work habits on her movie).
There was no way for Fox to cut its losses on “Cleopatra” so it dumped Monroe.
The myth of Monroe as the victim of Hollywood has grown over the decades, but another forthcoming book — “Follies of God” by James Grissom (Knopf) — includes Tennessee Williams’ rather blunt assessment of the actress and the cult that surrounded her after death:
“…Marilyn sought and developed her identity as a sex symbol; she wiggled and cooed for the camera, but, incapable of satisfaction or understanding, she fought this image, so she would read Joyce and Schopenhauer and Woolf and Jung. Of course she understood none of it, because there was no fertile ground in which any of this could take hold: You can throw a multitude of seeds into the desert sands, but there will never be fruitage. Marilyn’s mind was a desert, a drought, with tiny compartments devoted to clothes, makeup, stardom, and (sex). That is all. That is absolutely all.”
“Marilyn was an example of the weak children who seek a guru. Having no balance in her life, having no family, having no understanding of the give-and-take that is daily life, she was drawn toward Mary Baker Eddy, Buddha, Jung, Freud, and finally, the gnomish Lee Strasberg, who specialized in adopting sexually confused, physically abused women and becoming the seemingly gentle father figure they desired. Strasberg lied to her and told her she was the new Duse; he told her she should play Nina; he told her to investigate O’Neill and Shakespeare. This was all folly, because Marilyn had no talent and no understanding, and it was folly because Strasberg only wanted access to and withdrawal privileges from fame.”
“Only Strasberg got what he wanted.”
“In that awful church in the West 40s (the headquarters of the Actors Studio), Marilyn sat, face upturned, checkbook open, heart confused, and believed that she might become the great actress Strasberg told her she could and should be. It was an evil, extended con game, and there were many witnesses.”
“It’s fine to cry for Marilyn Monroe. I did, and I still do. She was tragic, but she was also lucky. There are beautiful, sad, dumb girls all over the world who endure worse than she did, but they never get to live on the screen or bathe in perfume or populate the dreams of people who love beauty or who love pain or who wonder what it must be like to possess such sexual power.”
“Let her go. Look at the beauty, but move on. There is nothing else there. A pretty visage with a sad story. Marilyn always said she wanted to be noticed, she wanted to be loved, and she wanted to be left alone and feel safe.”
“I think Marilyn Monroe got what she wanted.”