Today, for me M is for Marilyn Monroe as I recently completed a book about this actress who was a major Hollywood star during my childhood. This was “Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox” by Lois Banner. I knew Marilyn had had a troubled childhood but I didn’t imagine it was quite as bad as the book reveals. She was born Norma Jean Mortenson in the charity ward of the Los Angeles County General Hospital on June 1, 1926. Her father abandoned the family shortly after she was born and till the end it was not certain who her real father was. She was placed in a foster home when just three months old and for the most part of her childhood was brought up in orphanages and a series of foster homes. Banner writes of how Marilyn was abused as a child at the age of eight and with her mother suffering from mental illness which forced her to be institutionalised in later years, you can imagine the trauma that Marilyn went through.
It was to her credit that she fought back against the odds, chose areas where she could exploit her physical assets including her sexuality and persevered Hollywood to gradually rise to become a top ranked star. At the peak of her career, she was one of the few stars whose very presence in the film brought in the crowds. Her movies were hits at the box office even those in which her acting itself wasn’t great. In fact in her early movies, her acting was merely passable. She featured largely as a sex symbol coming in for criticism from directors and producers who believed she would never make it big.
The most famous men of those times were her lovers and she was married at different points of time to American legends like the baseball legend, Joe DiMaggio and the famous playwright, Arthur Miller. Why she committed suicide when she was only 36 and a super star remains a mystery of sorts. Stories link her suicide with her association with President John F Kennedy and his brother, the Attorney General, Robert F Kennedy. Banner writes at length about the reasons why perhaps Monroe took the unfortunate step of taking her own life.
The book was very interesting and as Banner puts it, “This book is about how Marilyn was created, how she lived her life, and how that life ended.”
To those of you from a different generation, who may not have seen Marilyn on screen, you can catch up with pictures of her in Pinterest