Let me start by saying that I don’t believe I am your average “Marilyn” afficianado. Or in that case, your average anything. It would be kind of horrible to think that you were an average, something or other. It would be somehow more satisfying to be known as a “stinking” something or other than, the average as an alternative. In any case, I state this because I can trace my interest in Ms. Monroe, back some 35 years to my freshman english class with Jocelyn Edelston.
Jocelyn Edelston was pretty “average looking” (I guess someone has to be), and as I recall reminded me more of what I thought Sylvia Plath must have looked like. Yes, The Bell Jar was required reading for freshman english at Boston College in 1976. But, I digress. In freshman english that year, I first realized that I kind of liked to write. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go on to write anything of substance in the encompassing 4 years; mostly because I rarely got to write about anything that interested me! – – But, I did research and write about Marilyn Monroe.
There were already many books and twice as many articles written about Marilyn Monroe, at that time. And, I think, looking back on it, my impression was that this legend must have been from some ancient, romantic era decades ago. It’s only now that I realize she died a mere 14 years before my research. You see, I had a thing for the romantic hero or heroin; Monroe, Mantle, Dimaggio, JFK. At one time I also read everything I could get my hands on regarding the Kennedy’s and their clan. I still stop flipping the channel’s anytime I come across a retrospective on Bogart, Garbo, Dietrich, Howard Hughes, Earhardt (sp?) etc. They all enthrall me – the pure romance of their lives, and the decisions they made. So in the words of Crooner – Sir Elton John…”I would have liked to know you, but I was just a kid…” and the song goes on (“Candle in the Wind”: also sung at Princess Diana’s memorial service, with revised lyrics), “who saw you as something more than sexual, more than just our “Marilyn Monroe”. Yes, I derived more from her story, from her fatherless upbringing, to her unbalanced mother, who was committed to an insane asylum, so that Marilyn – – Norma Jean Baker (Mortenson apparently the absent father’s name) spent years in two orphanages, and a dozen foster homes!, to her mixing it up with the Apex celebrities, Sinatra, Giancana, both Kennedy’s John and Robert; and finally her apparent suicide, accidental or not. So I wrote my 3- 5 page paper on the available “stuff” in Babst Library on the campus of Boston College for english 101 freshman year.
I really don’t remember much about it, but I do remember rooting for the side of her story that told that she had some critical acting ability. I remember wanting that to be true, for there was so much more of the sensationalist, nay, factual accounts of her substance abuse, and late arrival to sets and upsetting of directors and co-stars.
But years went by and I would purchase something from an antique shop or something or other – if the feeling moved me. And, it did… a few times. But, I hadn’t thought much about Marilyn Monroe recently. One might say I was “over it”. I no longer own any reminders of the legend. And then I heard about this movie “My Week with Marilyn” and it sparked an interest. I read and heard that the portrayal by actress Michelle Williams was exceptional. I finally decided to rent it, and watch it on my own; and couldn’t have been more moved. First of all I don’t know why any female would want to see the movie. And, I’m not sure on what level they may appreciate it. Having said that, for me, this was the most real, realistically portrayed, biographical insight and depiction into the escence of what this woman must have been like, that I can imagine. I hope I’m being clear. The movie was terrific. However, I was really taken in by Michelle William’s portrayal of – this broken, fractured person that surely was – the screen legend – Marilyn Monroe. This reality had not come to me in the research I had done as a freshman in 1976! And, I’m not sure that one could understand why, she was this shell of a complete, stable person, if you hadn’t done some of the research I had in 1976. Of course! Now it was clear to me! She didn’t just take a few to many Barbituates while drinking too much one August night in 1962 – – Outta’ the Blue! From what I saw in “My Week with Marilyn”, she was probably lucky! to live the additional 6 years until her death, that she did. She must have been depressed and border line paranoid dillusional most of her adult life…. And yet somehow at some point, once she got in front of the camera, and “the stars were aligned”, she exuded magic. And even the great Sir Lawrence Olivier had to admit it.
In addition, a moral that I took from this marvelous “film” was that, people can indeed reach the heights of their gifts and talents, even in spite of the deficits or weaknesses in other areas of their lives. We need not be perfect in order to be perfectly successful!