Ten Things You Might Not Know About Marilyn Monroe
A great talent, a beautiful woman and a life chock full of interesting stories - Did You Know? ...
... that the history's most famous blonde was really a brunette. Here in one of Marilyn Monroe's first on-screen appearances with Groucho Marx in Love Happy, Marilyn Monroe's hair was still it's natural shade of light reddish brown. With her career stuck in low-gear, a determined Marilyn Monroe decided she need a change and took a cue from her personal movie actress favorite, Jean Harlow, and went Platinum Blonde. The look was just right and it's hard to imagine her any other way.
... that contrary to the extra-petite Size 2 that is said to be the average size of today's most popular actresses, the most legendary sex-goddess in motion picture history wore a Size 12 dress and a 36DD bra. Seen here in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Marilyn Monroe measured in at 5 feet 5 1/2 inches tall and her actual measurements have been variously reported as 37-23-36 (according to her movie studio) and 35-22-35 (according to her dressmaker.)
... that in 1947 while making a mere $150 per week as a contract player for Fox Studios Marilyn Monroe had a one-scene role in her very first movie Dangerous Years. Twelve years later, at the height of her popularity, she would be paid $100,000 plus 10% of the profits for her most famous role as Sugar Kane in Some Like It Hot. While a lot of money by 1959's standards, it certainly does not compare to the $10 million dollar plus paychecks that contemporary actresses like Jennifer Lopez and Angelina Jolie currently receive. Don't forget to visit our Tribute to Some Like It Hot.
... that it would be Marilyn Monroe's first two substantial movie roles in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve (pictured here) that would forever cement her sexy but dimwitted on-screen persona in the minds of audiences and studio executives alike. Although playing these types of characters would bring her fame, Marilyn Monroe would resent being typecast as a not-too-smart sex symbol and would fight a very hard but ultimately losing battle to get the public to believe that she was smarter (and less man-hungry) than the women she portrayed on the silver screen. Don't forget to visit our Tribute to All About Eve.
... that Marilyn Monroe's first starring role was the bad-girl turned maybe-murderess in the dark thriller Niagara. Her beauty radiated off the screen in each and every scene as Joseph Cotton's unfaithful wife and Hollywood quickly took notice. No longer relegated to supporting roles in B-Movies, for better or worse, Marilyn's career had taken off. Next stop - stardom.
... that famous for her "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" breathless singing style Marilyn Monroe only starred in four musicals - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Ladies of the Chorus, Let's Make Love and There's No Business Like Show Business. (Although she did have a bit-part in the musical The Shocking Miss Pilgrim and performed musical numbers in both the comedy Some Like It Hot and the drama Bus Stop.)
... that arguably the most famous movie image in motion picture history - Marilyn Monroe standing above a New York City Subway grate, dress blown up by a gust of air, a look of ecstasy on her face - was filmed for the comedy The Seven Year Itch. According to Marilyn Legend, this scene was the straw that broke the back of Marilyn Monroe's eight month long marriage to baseball great Joe DiMaggio. The story goes that husband DiMaggio, just one of the thousands of people who had shown up on the New York City street that night to watch the scene be filmed reportedly became very upset that the crowd was seeing "so much" of his wife as they re-enacted the shot over and over again. DiMaggio, a shy and traditional man who though truly in love with Marilyn was not suited to be the husband of a legendary sex symbol, stormed off the set in a rage. Marilyn Monroe's marriage would only last a few weeks more.
... that frustrated with the one-dimensional sex object roles that the studios were offering her, Marilyn Monroe was encouraged by ex-roommate Shelly Winters to move to New York and join Lee Strasberg's famous Actors Studio to hone her craft. Marilyn took the advice and threw herself into the rarified acting world inhabited by the likes of Marlon Brando, Paul Newman and Shelly Winters. In her first acting job after returning to Hollywood from her working vacation, the newly trained Method Actress wowed audiences and critics alike in Bus Stop, a movie that arguably contains one of Marilyn Monroe's best and most nuanced performances. She was so grateful for the professional and personal support she received from Strasberg, his wife and his theater group that she left most of her estate to The Actor's Studio when she died.
... that by the end of her career, Marilyn Monroe's personal demons and insecurities had taken over her life, rendering her practically incapable of the performing the work she loved so much - acting. On the set of one of her last movies, Some Like It Hot, she often held fellow cast mates Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis and director Billy Wilder virtual hostages for hours at a time while paralyzed with stage fright she refused to leave her trailer. The drugs and alcohol that she consumed on a daily basis made dialog memorization nearly impossible and it is said that forty or fifty takes were not uncommon for even the most basic scenes as she struggled to remember her lines. In spite of all this, she turned in one of her best performances, a testament to the professionalism of Wilder, Curtis and Lemmon. An interesting note is that Wilder was so angry about her behavior on the set that he refused to ever work with her again. Even that was not punishment enough to satisfy the talented director. A couple of years later when writing the screenplay for The Apartment he created a bloozy, blond, promiscuous and dimwitted character, said to be based on the Marilyn Monroe he worked with, as a means of subtle revenge. Don't forget to visit our Tribute to Some Like It Hot, our Tribute to The Apartment and our Tribute to Jack Lemmon.
... that Marilyn Monroe's last completed movie was The Misfits, the story of a couple of losers in the game of life who rediscover the concept of hope in each other arms. The shoot was troubled (as were many of Marilyn Monroe's last films) and co-star Tribute to Clark Gable died of a heart attack only weeks after the movie wrapped. Directed by John Huston and written specifically for Marilyn by then-husband, playwright Arthur Miller it was only because of her husband's relentless pressuring that Marilyn reluctantly agreed to be in the movie. Marilyn was miserable and acted-up throughout the entire months-long shoot. She hated the role, feeling that it was a mere retread of her old dimwitted sex pot roles and she did not get along with man's man Huston who was notorious for not putting up with the antics of self-indulgent actors. In the final analysis - Miller knew best - the part he created for his soon-to-be ex-wife shows Marilyn at her vulnerable finest. Don't forget to visit our Tribute to Clark Gable.
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Marilyn Monroe pictured (left) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
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