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Marilyn Monroe was an American singer, actress, singer, showgirl, and model whose figure and beauty made her a world-wide sex symbol. She was loved and known by many. Marilyn left an amazing heritage in the world being the most popular woman of the 20-th century. Her career as an actress lasted sixteen years. Marilyn embodied the Hollywood glamour with an unmatched stamina and glow that captivated the world. Marilyn Monroe’s status as a popular icon and sex symbol has greatly influenced many artists since her times including Madonna, Andy Warhol, and even Britney Spears.
Biography of Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe is an American actress, one of the most prominent film stars of the 1950s. She was born on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles. No other figure has caused so many conflicting sects in the history of cinema as Monroe who became the most popular star of the 1950s. Her fans heatedly debated over her private life (in particular, the story of her marriage with a famous baseball player DiMaggio and a playwright Arthur Miller), her love affairs (including Yves Montand and the Kennedys), and the circumstances of the death that was often perceived as a kind of political plot (whether it was a suicide, murder, or an accident).
No less hotly was discussed the question whether she was a real actress or just a supernumerary distinguished by an unusually cinemagenic appearance. It is unlikely that Monroe had an outstanding acting talent. Her appearance played a major role in her career. Marilyn had a feminine figure with high breasts, narrow waist, shapely legs, curvy blond hair, sensual mouth, and entailing eyes. Monroe’s external beauty was corrected by plastic surgery and make-up, but her make-up could not conceal the magnetic charm thanks to which viewers could not take their eyes from her when she appeared on the screen. Marilyn worked hard on herself as she had started her career completely unprepared. Monroe took lessons from Michael Chekhov, she worked at the Actors Studio of Lee Strasberg, and she wanted to play a leading role of Grushenka in The Brothers Karamazov. Nevertheless, the film mainly exploited her looks and sex appeal. The uniqueness of this star was in conjunction of her erotic-hearted nature and naive childish gaze.
Her work in filmmakingbegan in 1947 with an episode in the film Dangerous Liaisons, but for the first time she was noticed in the film All About Eve by J. Mankiewicz (1951) where she in fact played herself, i.e. an aspiring actress consumed by ambitious plans. She was actively filmed in movies with evocative names Love Nest (1950), Let's Get Married (1951), We're not married (1952), You can go in without knocking, (1952), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953 ), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), There is no better business than show business (1954), The Seven Year Itch (1955), and The Prince and the Dancer (1957), in which the priority was given to her "invoice". In the history of cinema, there came a scandalous and revolutionary episode of The Seven Year Itch, in which the air flow from the grille uplifted her skirt exposing her legs.
One of her best works in these series was Sugar Reed, a singer of the female music band who dreamt to marry a rich man, but found happiness with a poor musician in the film of the brilliant playwright Billy Wilder Some Like It Hot (1959). It was one of the last black-and-white ribbons in Hollywood. Moreover, all blockbusters were filmed in colour at that time. There was even a special item in the contract with the United Artist in which it was stated that she did not film in black-and-white ribbons. Wilder managed to persuade producers and Monroe to abandon the colour with a great difficulty. In 2000, the American Film Institute declared it the best American comedy of all times.
The depth of Monroe’s dramatic talent was revealed only in her last film The Misfits (1961) by John Huston. However, The Misfits wasa film for the male ensemble and Marilyn looked out of place there. The death of her partner Clark Gable after the shooting, a divorce with her husband, and a failed attempt to have a baby led to a nervous breakdown. She even refused the offer to star as Jean Harlow in the remake of Blue Angel that glorified Marlene Dietrich. The shooting of Something's definitely going to happen was disrupted. She was found dead the day before the press conference, at which she intended to disclose her conversations with Senator Robert Kennedy.
Life and fate of Marilyn Monroe excited many contemporaries including the famous artist and filmmaker Andy Warhol, but her psychological profile was most accurately recreated by Arthur Miller in his play After the Fall.
Marilyn Monroe’s Popularity
For years Marilyn Monroe has stayed on television screens, in historical books, and in people’s hearts. Millions of Americans consider her to be well-known, but what are the circumstances that have made her so popular and special that countless fans still remember her image nowadays, years after Marilyn’s death.
It began with the premature childhood appetence of being observed. Marilyn Monroe argued in 1952 that "For the first time in my life people paid attention to me, I had friends and I prayed that the feeling wouldn’t go away" (The Myth 25). She obtained that opportunity of becoming popular and Norma Jean turned into Marilyn Monroe whom all people still recall and get to know nowadays (Guiles 97).
A lot of celebrities disputed whether Marilyn was a famous actress or her publicity was caused by her beautiful body. There is also a controversial fact whether her popularity was the result of her acting. It is common that Monroe’s life became a myth overplayed with gossips. However, it can be observed among people who were not much older than Monroe in her era that hundreds of people actually missed her popular life. The reality was that Marilyn was a well-known actress, although a precarious one (Sheehan 523). She was popular for all the comedies where she played prominent roles. Her fans love Monroe because she was not a dumb dummy who made fun of all the sexual roles she had (Sheehan 523).
Marilyn was an ideal from the public perspective and owned the body, beauty, and image. Moreover, she had so much money that all the people dreamt of. Monroe was like a Barbie doll in 1950. She possessed a sex charm that together with Marilyn’s acting in comedies made her attractive in the eyes of the public. Many famous stars were envious of her and called her “a harlot” or “whore”. Moreover, she was misapprehended by many. Her sex charm would be accepted by the today’s Hollywood, but her sexy image surprisingly differed from the one of other popular females of that time (Sheehan 523). Millions of men would tell “A body that just won’t quit!” (Sheehan 523). She had everything she wanted, but at the same timeMarilyn did not have anything. Monroe had her body and her fame, but her love life and family were a tragedy. Although Marilyn’s tragic death could have an impact on her fame, much like the of Janis Joplin or Elvis Presley, she was in a more favourable position than many other famous celebrities who had died in an analogous way. Her movies have an invariable charm that is obvious nowadays (Sheehan 523). She is more popular nowadays than she has presumably ever foreseen.
Monroe’s figure is much more popular today than she was in 1950. Marilyn was a sexy woman at that time. She changed the harmony of that time by unleashing the sexual overturn (Gleiberman 22). Marilyn offered such concupiscence with her appearance that she gained popularity. Nowadays, she still remains the huge icon of the sex cause in America (Gleiberman 22). The sex cause began in 1950 in America and marked the transition from a despiteful and eminently severe society into a free expression society. Monroe practically supported the thrust of people into boasting of their bodies and speaking about their experiences in sex in lieu of veiling their experiences and their bodies up. She was a daydream of delight without temptation (Gleiberman 22). Marilyn’s image is compared with the Elvis Presley’s one because his and her images had culturally an intensive impact on the society (Goldberg 13). Blyth argues that "Marilyn Monroe is famous for being Marilyn. She is remembered most often for the impossibly tight dress and her breathy rendition of Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy. It’s her image that is still reproduced everywhere from the mass market to songs and writing" (Blyth 8). Marilyn Monroe stated in the magazine Making of A Body Politic that the media wanted her live. Baty argues that the media makes her the material of the memory, thus dead people can live forever in the mass media (Baty 29). She was depicted by the media as the queen of the media country (Baty 29). Looking at Miss America more closely, people realize that Marilyn did not just begin the American competition, but she introduced it to the world of beauty.
Monroe was popular for her sexual ties with well-known men. She had mutual ties with Arthur Miller, Walter Whitman, Joe DiMaggio, and putative affairs with Robert Kennedy and John F. Kennedy. She was always accompanied by famous people. She also stayed in the centre of public attention due to her nice skirt blasting scene in the film The Seven Year Itch. Marilyn stated “I stood on the street in Manhattan for hours to have the scene taken where I exposed my underwear” (Marilyn 77). The fans of Monroe remember another famous time when she had her famous journey to South Korea because she wanted to encourage the U.S. soldiers (Guiles 237-39).
Marilyn’s story has blossomed. She is congealed in a certain period when she was a young famous woman, but she had slightly changed by the time of her death (Baty 30). Monroe’s life was veiled by the gloaming popularity (Blyth 8). The media concealed a lot of her ignorant secrets. However, many of them were discovered after her death. All the secrets about the on-set failures, childhood ravishments, and Monroe’s stomach disorders were not unique for any celebrity (Wilson 34). They inclined to emphasize the Monroe’s screen works, but not her tragic real life that was easily hidden by the media (Stuller 44).
Nowadays Demi Moore, Julia Roberts, Uma Thurman, and Sandra Bullock are all well-known female stars. They are considered to be celebrities, however neither of them will be the Marilyn. In his work Legends that will not die, Jay Stuller states that “Just mention the name Marilyn and chances are that most people will know of whom you are speaking; that’s the measures of a legend." (Stuller 44) Marilyn does not teach people about the hardships of gaining popularity, but she teaches people about the knowledge and power, private and public, language and gender of our times. Today, our stars have more difficulties than Marilyn had in her acting career (Baty 31). Monroe is not only the unique person, but she also represents the labour class by her real name Norma Jean. According to Wasserman, “there wasn’t a young Marilyn. Or a fat Marilyn. There was only one Marilyn." (Wasserman 601). Monroe can be recalled as “unhistorical”, “historical”, “personal”, and the “political” (Baty 31). She has influenced the nonfictional world because Marilyn has a very wide-spread image in textbooks or on web pages. Her fans can see Monroe in movies and documentaries.
There have been many articles about in all kinds of media. Marilyn’s "presence" ruined the temporality and uniformity casting a durable effect on cultures. Every recollection convinces the Americans that Marilyn is an icon in the whole world. Her premature death has made her a remembered celebrity (Baty 35). Monroe’s stories are retold, forgotten, and challenged while observing the heroine of memory of that period (Baty 36). Mass media has been constructing a putative America. Monroe goes between media and people, which indicates her immortality. The magazine Entertainment Weekly wrote that “Monroe would be worth much more today than she would have been if she were living” (Baty 62).
Marilyn is also famous in Italy because an Italian designer Salvatore Ferragamo created her outfits, accessories, apparel, and fragrances. Her movies were dubbed by Miranda Bonansea at the beginning of the Monroe’s career in Italy. Then, she was dubbed by a prolific and marvellous Rosetta Calavetta with a huge success, especially in Some Like It Hot (1959). Zoe Incrocci borrowed her voice to Marilyn in the film All About Eve (1950). The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum holds an exhibition that is simply entitled “Marilyn”. There is a wide collection of photographs from Marilyn’s career and life. This museum displays 30 pairs of shoes in size 6 with the lettering of Salvatore Ferragamo. These pairs were handcrafted for Marilyn Monroe. She is very popular in Italy because people remember her.
Thus, Marilyn will live forever in the minds and hearts. Babe Ruth, a great baseball legend player, is recalled by the videos and stories of his life. Marilyn Monroe is remembered by her famous image and her comedy roles. Many fans get to know about Marilyn from the movies and documentaries. She will live forever because the media keeps her alive.
The feminist look has rotated around the figure of the sex goddess, but this slow feminist tendency does not give a chance to dismiss her image. The excessively or hyper feminine connotative “to-be-looked-at-ness”, the term coined by Laura Mulvey in her popular essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, has captivated the “feminist gaze” as frequently as Mulvey’s omnipresent “male gaze”. The theorists have concentrated their look on the image of the woman in the feminist film, particularly as she is introduced in the classical Hollywood cinema. A lot of early theorists, such as Mary Ann Doane and Maureen Turim, have frequently replicated much of the Mulvey’s point of view that the profusely feminine woman is a “hyper-polished” or “fetishized object”. She prevails as “a reassuring object of flawless beauty” for male viewers (Turim 103).
It is impossible to provide a detailed critical overview of the sex goddess in movies. Therefore, it is important to select critical texts and articles that depict images of hyper or excessively-feminine women. However, a person can find a theoretical trend that represents feminist attitudes towards sex goddesses with a help of the feminist film theory. Critical perspectives of the sex goddess can be traced through several critical articles concerning the Howard Hawks’ 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes that portrays probably the most popular sex goddess – Marilyn Monroe. Thus, Maureen Turim follows Mulvey’s view of the superfluous femininity in her research Gentlemen Consume Blondes where she depicts Gentlemen Prefer Blondes that features Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe as best show actresses. Extending view of Mulvey of a profusely feminine woman as a “hyper-polished object”, Turim proves that the sex goddess’ image shows an “increasing reification of consumerist values” where the actresses deliberately exploit and expose a “precious commodity, the sexually cultivated self-aware female body” (Turim 103). Patricia Erens writes in Issues in Feminist Film Criticism that this “commodification of the feminine both determines and is determined by pre-existing notions of femininity in the culture” (Erens 123). Turim virtually reads the sex goddesses’ image through the notion of the male gaze created by Mulvey according to which a woman becomes sexually embodied through a projection of male desires in visual representation while the male desires are submitted in capitalistic terms.
A few feminists have got a more empowering prospect of the sex goddess. Seneca and Arbuthnot state that Monroe and Russell show a “connection with each other” and a “resistance to objectification by men” in Gentlemen. It is this rebellion that fractionally accounts for what the authors discover to be empowering in the images of the actresses for the feminist viewers (Arbuthnot et al.112). Seneca’s and Arbuthnot’s (re)reading of the Hollywood film against the background of the traditional feminist prospect of the female embodiment adds an inappreciable contribution to feminist prospects due to their effort to recoup the sex goddesses’ image as an empowering one. It seems less probable because Russell and Monroe entirely “resist male [or for that matter, female] objectification” in their roles of showgirls. In Gentlemen, Russell and Monroe use the idea of “male objectification” with their own aims by using the hyper superfluously feminine costuming for their own empowerment and display of their bodies as it is often applied in the feminist film theorist terms. They try to do so in very prudent ways as a method of achieving power (both economic and romantic) over men. Thus, they want to “objectify” men both off- and on-screen because their purpose was to supervise their male spectators. Hence, part of the pleasure Seneca and Arbuthnot seek to realize in the film through the onscreen friendship of Russell and Monroe. The latter is essentially tied to and severely invested with the same kind of desire and attraction in terms spectacle or display of an excessive femininity, one of which should use the male objectification idea.
Thus, the sex goddess appeals, but almost never produces sex. Hegeman argues that for Lorelei “childishness helped complicate the details of her own sexual and economic exchanges” (Hegeman 538). Hegeman argues that these dual related exchanges include men as for the sex goddess “the source of her attractiveness [is] those who see it and value it” (Hegeman 544). In this case, Hegeman also reiterates some feminist views that the sex goddess provokes the desire only in men.
To sum up, this famous woman is a great example of life and she will never be forgotten by the history. The implacable myth of Marilyn Monroe remains even today making her images the most prominent symbol of femininity and an approval that is still generally admitted. In spite of the fact that the public rarely stops on the plaudits of the past, her image and name remain invariably popular turning Marilyn’s unprecedented life into an eternal legend.