Marilyn Monroe Was a Tragic Beauty



Sunday night, after nearly two and a half months, I finished reading Marilyn Monroe: The Biography by Donald Spoto.  I’ve started reading My Story by Marilyn Monroe.

I’m reading about Marilyn Monroe, because I’ve always wanted to know what all the fuss was about that has made her an American icon, and a figure of worship and obsession by many.  I’m indifferent to Marilyn Monroe the icon, but I have mixed feelings about Marilyn Monroe, the person, based on what is is presented as the truth, and nothing but, in Donald Spoto’s account of her life.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers.  I suggest you retreat now, unless you want me to ruin your reading experience pertaining to Marilyn Monroe: The Biography by Donald Spoto.

I only knew a few things about MM before I read this book, and I was surprised at what I learned about her, the fact and the fiction, most of the latter which developed post her existence.  This is what I knew, before I read the book:

  • She was born a natural brunette.
  • She had an affair with JFK.
  • She was a famous actress.
  • Her death was surrounded by a conspiracy involving the Kennedy family.
  • She was married to Joe DiMaggio.
  • She posed nude in the first issue of Playboy.

What I assumed about her:

  • She was only successful because of her looks (somewhat true).
  • She was killed in a conspiracy involving the Kennedy family.
  • She was truly a dumb blonde.
  • She slept her way to the top (this is partially true).

What I learned after reading the book:

  • She lived in orphanages (not the Oliver Twist variety).
  • She never knew who her birth father was.
  • MM donated to charities and helped the less fortunate; she insisted on not having these deeds publicized.
  • Before she became an actress, she was a model.
  • She used to prostitute herself for food.
  • Was married three times, and died three days before remarrying Joe DiMaggio.
  • Was very insecure.
  • Arrived chronically late on movie sets she was shooting.
  • Had a long time dependence on pills for sleeping, and later, other prescribed drugs.
  • Her death was caused by Dr. Ralph Greenson, her psychiatrist that became obsessed with her, and his unlicensed nurse, Eunice Murray.
  • Her affair with JFK was brief, lasting for only one night.
  • She had three miscarriages throughout the course of her life, due to long time suffering from endometriosis.
  • MM believed that her life was a lot like Jean Harlow’s, since they had some parallels.  Grace Goddard, who took care of her for a period of her life, tried to mold MM after Jean Harlow, which is why MM wanted to be an actress.
  • MM didn’t have much of a relationship with her birth mother, who lived with long term mental illness.
  • She openly supported civil rights for African-Americans.
  • Her nickname in high school was “The Mmmm Girl”.
  • She had a nose job and work done on her teeth before she landed any major movie roles; the cosmetic procedures were paid for by an older married gentleman she had a long time submissive relationship with, that helped her get her foot in the door to Hollywood.
  • MM endured abandonment issues, which led to her dependence on various people throughout her life.
  • She never finished high school, but she was very much into learning new things, and read lots of Russian literature.
  • She was always devoted to her acting craft, and took a lot of acting courses.
  • MM was frustrated with a lot of the comedic roles she played in the latter part of her film career, because she longed to be a serious actress.

So, all in all, Ms. Monroe had a complicated life, despite her success.  It goes to show, once again, that fame and money can’t make you happy.  This is what perplexes me about her current fan base, how they can idolize someone who had a lot of mental and emotional issues (she visited a psychiatrist regularly during a good part of her adulthood).  She seemed like a genuinely good person, who was misguided and not confident in her own skin for awhile, due to not knowing who she really was.  No shade to her, but she is not who I would want to idolize, nor my daughter.

If you’re a true lover of MM, please share why.  I need more perspective on this.  Perhaps I’m looking to deeply.  If people admire her for her exterior, than that makes a lot more sense to me.  Knowing who she really was, what she dealt with, and how she slowly overcame these obstacles, doesn’t make me a fan, but rather, someone who wishes she was stronger when it came to her sense of self.  I believe if she was, she would not have died on August 5, 1962.

I’m hoping that reading My Story will paint a more vivid picture of who she was.  Or at least, who she thought she was, and who she aspired to be.


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