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Marilyn Monroe Case Study

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By: Valarie Brummert Psychology Period 9 6/1/03


There are few books that feature Marilyn Monroe speaking of her life in her words. "My Story", Monroe's autobiography, and "Marilyn: Her Life in Her Own Words" photographed and co-authored by George Barris, are perhaps the only two.

What is important about hearing Marilyn speak of her own life and comments on the events that led her to stardom? Everything. The most photographed, the most famous, and the most misunderstood Hollywood actress of all time, her voice and thoughts were lost in the controversy and mania that surrounded her career and now legendary status. Marilyn Monroe, it could be said, appeared, took our hearts, glowed, glimmered, and faded with few people then or now knowing anything about what the woman and the actress thought or felt about herself and life.

For this, I respect the book and definitely recommend it. Marilyn Monroe was to her most sincere admirers and as a person, so much more than the mixture of qualities that she exuded in photos, in interviews, and onscreen. It was in photos particularly that we see Marilyn's magnificent work, a special spark that transferred from her soul to the camera and beyond. But she was also equally as smart in her mind than just in her body. Marilyn writes that she "enjoys Tolstroy" and dozens of other classic books. Now that's clearly a remarkable one. Did I also mention she took up classes at a California college nearby her Hollywood home?

Open the book to the middle section and Marilyn appears in impromptu shots along the beach in Santa Monica, breezy and girly in some, and striking Hollywood poses in others. She was as comfortable here as anywhere else, although in some indoor shots with her hair and makeup done up and sipping champagne, or posed pin-up style with legs splayed across white stone steps, we see the classic Marilyn. In some photos, Marilyn's character and moods range from carefree to girlish, contemplative to sexy, surprised to demure. All the while, the photography captures the natural way she would transform from woman to girl and girl to woman.

Monroe's first lines are "I thought the people I lived with were my parents. I called them mama and dad. The woman said to me one day, 'Don't call me mama. You're old enough to know better. I'm not related to you in any way. You just board here. Your mama's coming to see you tomorrow. You can call her mama if you want to." She then takes the opportunity to tell her story from the beginning, placing emphasis on the history of her family and how she grew up. Aside from what is commonly known about her dramatic marriages, divorces, and rise to fame, Monroe was interested not in telling what made her a star, but the events that composed her life. From her beginnings as a foster child to an awkward young woman, Monroe, named Norma Jeane at birth, had a recognizably common yet strangely painful childhood. Surviving orphanage and poverty planted the seeds for Marilyn's astounding approach to stardom.

Barely 20 years old, Monroe turned her eyes directly to Hollywood, describing the star-struck insecurities that she struggled with along the way. This is the story told from the other side, Marilyn giving an honest and personal history of the climb up the movie career ladder. Something inside Marilyn made her click... although others would see a nervous, trembling, and insecure young actress, the force behind her determination was strong and fierce. She names directors, producers, and studios that brought her into the eyes of the people of the world and helped the young talent, and describes the ups and downs in transitions between failed attempts at movies and pin-up-girl modelling jobs.

At 36, Monroe had achieved a maturity that allowed her to cover up her once-failed relationships. She describes the tumbling marriage to Joe DiMaggio, the fall of which began during the filming of "The Seven Year Itch" and the famous skirt-blowing scene. Years after the rocky marriage had failed, Marilyn in a statement in which I can imagine she made with a wave of her hand, "My friends tell me that my ex, Joe, is still in love with me... but he does have a tendency to get a little hot headed. It usually takes two to make it work, now, doesn't it?"

And even to her failing last film, Monroe devotes optimism. "Something's Got to Give" went out of production in 1962 when she began to show up late or not at all, forgetting lines during filming and finally becoming ill. The film was losing money and Fox was overbudget for "Cleopatra". But Marilyn was brave. Revealed in these words are a hint of the strength that emerged in her throughout her life. "All I can do is wait until they let me know. I'm ready. I want to work. Acting is my life. I've never felt better. I am not a victim of emotional conflicts. I am human."

Unknown at the time, Marilyn's words and photos would take on a special meaning. She quotes saying in the book, "I want to grow old without facelifts. I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I have made." The final photographs before her death and the emotional, insightful words that she narrates are a revealing last tribute to the real Monroe.


1) "I daydreamed chiefly about beauty. I dreamed of myself becoming so beautiful that people would turn to look at me when I passed. And I dreamed of colors--scarlet, gold, green, white. I dreamed of myself walking proudly in beautiful clothes and being admired by everyone and overhearing words of praise. I made up the praises and repeated them aloud as if someone else were saying them." Page 19, My Story.

I chose this passage because it illustrates the very raw hopes and dreams for Marilyn Monroe. She explains how she would



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