Re-imagining Marilyn Monroe

This afternoon the weather outside appeared to flirt with the idea of it raining, so I took a journey to the local public library. The last time I was there I was skimming through an issue of Vanity Fair when an article on Marilyn Monroe captured my interest. During this visit I sat down and carefully read through the article. The Vanity Fair June 2012 cover story article’s title was  “A Splash of Marilyn.” The article adapts from photographer Lawrence Schiller’s memoirs, his experiences working with Marilyn Monroe during an on set photo shoot. Now this article was only the beginning of my curiosity about her, because Vanity Fair’s web site also lists links of archived articles.

In November of 2010, Vanity Fair published an article titled “Marilyn and Her Monsters.” The article discusses some fascinating excerpts from the book Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn used writing journals and poetry to cope with her tumultuous emotional life. She was an avid reader who had a personal collection of over 400 books. She was attracted to intellectual men, like her third husband the playwright, Arthur Miller.

Some Fascinating facts about Marilyn Monroe:

  • Her mother was institutionalized for schizophrenia.
  • She spent time in an orphanage and various foster homes as a child. Below one of her poems describes her recollection of a humiliating punishment by her great-aunt Ida who Grace Goddard paid to watch Norma Jeane for several months from 1937  to 1938.
  • She was sexually abused as a child, which comes out later in the psychotherapy that she was using to master her craft as an actor. During this era, many members of the Actor’s Studio used therapy to draw on their personal experiences to become better actors.
  • She worked very hard at her craft to shake the stereotype of her as the “dumb blond bombshell” by working hard at method acting where you use your life experiences to enrich your portrayal of a character.
  • She did not feel respected as an actress by Twentieth Century Fox. Jane Russell was paid $200,000 for working on Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, while Marilyn made $15,000 to star in the same movie, meanwhile, she is the one referred to in the title.
  • She struggled with a deep fear of displeasing the people that she loved for most of her life, and fear that she herself would be institutionalized like her mother was.
  • She also struggled with insecurity, and substance abuse.
  • She loved to read James Joyce, Walt Whitman, and Heinrich Heine.
  • She willed her poems, letters and journals to her acting teacher, Lee Strasberg who was a father figure to her.

Some of Marilyn Monroe’s Poetry

O, Time
Be Kind
Help this weary being
To forget what is sad to remember
Lose my loneliness,
Ease my mind,
While you eat my flesh.

Ida—I have still
been obeying her—
it’s not only harmful
for me to do so
but unreality because

life starts from Now

working (doing my tasks that I
have set for myself)
On the stage—I will
not be punished for it
or be whipped
or be threatened
or not be loved
or sent to hell to burn with bad people
feeling that I am also bad.
or be afraid of my [genitals] being
or ashamed
exposed known and seen—
so what
or ashamed of my
sensitive feelings—

I am of both your directions
Existing more with the cold frost
Strong as a cobweb in the wind
Hanging downward the most
Somehow remaining
Those beaded rays have the colors
I’ve seen in paintings–ah life
They have cheated you
Thinner than a cobwebs’s thread
Sheerer than any-
But it did attach itself
And held fast in strong winds
And singed by the leaping hot fires
Life-of which at singular times
I am both of your directions-
Somehow I remain hanging downward the most
As both of your directions pull me.

 Marilyn Monroe was a troubled young woman who used writing to cope with her emotions. She was a gifted actress who worked hard to perfect her craft. She struggled with many of the issues that we all at some point in our lives will deal with. She is someone whom as I read fragments of her poems, journals and letters I find that I can relate to. The recollections of Lawrence Schiller and the other who knew her reveal a thoughtful and complex woman. It has been a pleasure to get a know her a little bit better.


7 thoughts on “Re-imagining Marilyn Monroe

    1. You’re very welcome. My quest started with a photograph that was part of “A Splash of Marilyn” where I was paying special attention to her eyes. There seemed like there was more to her story than her just being a blonde bombshell actress during the 1950’s. This led me into more research about her. It is very tragic that someone who was so talented died so young.

  1. Thank you. That was beautiful. On the anniversary of her death last year, I stayed up all night reading about her life and her mysterious death. It really touched me. To the core. Like you, I was completely shocked at all the details of her sad, early life. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. You’re very welcome. I don’t know if you have ever read the book Fragments by Marilyn Monroe. Apparently the letters, poems and journals she left to Lee Strasberg in her will were published into a book. She was a talented, intelligent, and beautiful woman. It saddens me that she didn’t perhaps know how gifted she really was. As always thank you for reading the blog.

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