Immortal Ephemera Indeed
I would imagine that fifty years after her passing there are quite a few of us like myself who weren't even born by the time Marilyn left this earth. When I was a kid a one-hit wonder lasted at least six-months. Today celebrity can be as fleeting as a few weeks. Or perhaps that's better called notoriety. As brief as her life was Marilyn Monroe still managed a level of celebrity I don't believe I will ever accurately comprehend.
I'm sure I never lived through the experience of a celebrity as celebrated as Marilyn Monroe. I'm just a touch too young to actually recall the death of Elvis and while I can barely remember when John Lennon was murdered, my parents weren't big Beatles fans so I likely don't remember it as well as most of my immediate contemporaries. Even though I'm getting older I still managed to grow up in a time when pop culture was really beginning to be sliced, diced and watered down by cable TV and an ever shortened news cycle.
Michael Jackson was a big deal when Thriller was released. But with each passing album he seemed less. Not less talented, but less able to penetrate my interest or grab my attention. When he died in 2009 I spent a good half hour not so much mourning him but thinking about what a big deal this was. By the time I woke up to see Michael's face on the morning paper I had already been desensitized enough to do little more than skim the articles and get on with my day. Too bad. But our lives go on.
As I was growing up dead celebrities had already become products. The irony of celebrating Marilyn Monroe's legacy through a 24-hour marathon of her movies is that what was the most make believe part of her life is the closest I can ever come to humanizing her.
And so that becomes a pretty good reason to watch. Perhaps 24 hours of absorption can hint at what my generation missed.
But I doubt I'll be so reflective as soon as Sunday morning when the movies end.
I figured seeking out old Marilyn Monroe clippings that haven't been spotted before was a hopeless task. I did think it might be worthwhile to take a look for early Marilyn Monroe clippings just to see how she was covered in the beginning.
I found a few interesting tidbits inside the Newspaper Archive for Marilyn, 1946-1949. They follow.
I must say, the most striking thing about the search was in coming across those Marilyn Monroes who weren't the Marilyn Monroe. Kind of makes me chuckle along the lines of the recent Michael Jordan commercial for ESPN. Boy, that must be a pain and a bit frustrating sometimes!
Marilyn as Marilyn but before she was MARILYN
Even after first shedding the model label for that of actress Marilyn Monroe seems to have spent more time sitting still for the camera than moving for one. I have covered some of Marilyn's early magazine covers on the site, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE, but many of the newspaper photos I spotted today were new to me. Each was widely distributed so that my search for early Marilyn seemed to boil down to these same captions, over and over:
"Something new's been added to bathing suits. It's a bustle as displayed by screen starlet Marilyn" ... Marilyn "models a new one piece metallic bathing suit" in a classic Betty Grable pose ... "if you are allergic to most lipstick, you will be able to find a new nonallergy product which will cause you no trouble and give the same fine results obtained by Actress Marilyn" ... "pet dog Ruffles is the guest of honor at a beach picnic staged by Marilyn" ... "Good posture is one of the first things girls like Actress Marilyn Monroe learn" ... "Marilyn Monroe raises legs from the floor and grasps ankles ..." (It's an abdominal exercise, silly!).
Then the big ones.
In Victor Gunson's syndicated column, July 1947, under discussion of luck as an occasional positive in landing a screen career: "An example is Marilyn Monroe. She was a baby sitter who happened to 'sit' for a studio executive and was offered a test without asking for it." That line of text was tucked inside Gunson's lengthy column but also included one of a few various photos everywhere it was published with the caption, "Marilyn Monroe - Ex-baby sitter." (For who, Ben and Bebe?)
In April 1948: "That big smile Marilyn Monroe is wearing is because she was awarded a movie contract. A local California product of Van Nuys, Marilyn was formerly a model and magazine cover girl."
Just like the rest that one was 90% photo, 10% caption. The first mentions of Marilyn that I spotted beyond the typical captioned photos came courtesy of Louella Parsons, an early fan:
March 13, 1948: "Marilyn Monroe, formerly with Twentieth Century-Fox, was sweet enough to call me and tell me that I am responsible for the best break she has had--the lead in Ladies of the Chorus at Columbia. Well, I have news for her. I'm sure it was her blonde beauty and talent that turned the trick and not the few plugs I've given her in the column. She is such a pretty girl."
Then in July 1949 Marilyn was featured in Earl Wilson's syndicated Hollywood column:
"Over the years, Hollywood has joyously given us its 'It Girl,' its 'Oomph Girl,' its 'Sweater Girl,' and even 'The Body'--and they've all become big movie names.
"Now we get the 'Mmmm Girl.'"
Wilson quotes Marilyn as explaining it all started in Detroit, where for whatever reason they couldn't whistle at her so they went "Mmmm!"
Wilson comments that, "Personally, we think the whole thing was dreamed up by the publicist." Though in introducing Marilyn Monroe to his readers he can barely contain himself, writing that, "She has a nice flat waist that rises to an (mmmm) 36-1/2 bra line. She also has long, pretty legs."
More from Louella on October 28, 1949:
"It's good to hear anyone as thrilled as Marilyn Monroe when she telephoned to say she has the biggest part of her life in Asphalt Jungle.
"She was breathless when she said, 'I am grateful to Mr. Joseph Schenck who gave me my first job in the movies. I am grateful to Mr. Johnny Hyde who signed me. I am grateful to Mr. John Huston for accepting me. I am grateful to everyone,' said Marilyn"
The Asphalt Jungle airs on TCM at 6 am. Marilyn's part isn't big, but she will definitely grab your attention and perhaps even make you say mmmm!
TCM celebrates the memory of Marilyn Monroe on August 4 and well into the early morning hours of the 50th anniversary of her death, August 5, 1962.
Saturday, August 4, 2012 - Marilyn Monroe - TCM Summer Under the Stars
- 6:00 am - The Asphalt Jungle (1950) starring Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Marilyn Monroe
- 8:00 am - Clash by Night (1952) starring Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, Marilyn Monroe
- 10:00 am - Niagara (1953) starring Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters
- 12:00 pm - River of No Return (1954) starring Robert Mitchum, Marilyn Monroe, Rory Calhoun
- 2:00 pm - The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) starring Marilyn Monroe, Laurence Olivier, Sybil Thorndike
- 4:15 pm - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) starring Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn
- 6:00 pm - The Seven Year Itch (1955) starring Marilyn Monroe, Tom Ewell, Evelyn Keyes
- 8:00 pm - Some Like it Hot (1959) starring Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis
- 10:15 pm - Bus Stop (1956) starring Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray, Arthur O'Connell
- 12:00 am - How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) starring Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall
- 1:45 am - There's No Business Like Show Business (1954) starring Ethel Merman, Marilyn Monroe, Donald O'Connor
- 4:00 am - Let's Make Love (1960) starring Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand, Tony Randall