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Marilyn Monroe Biography Essay

1892 words - 8 pages

Monroe, Marilyn (1 June 1926-5 Aug. 1962), film actress and sex symbol, was born Norma Jeane Mortensen (and was also known as Norma Jeane Baker in her youth) in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Gladys Monroe Baker Mortensen, a film cutter, who was unmarried when she gave birth to Monroe (her father has never been positively identified). Gladys Mortensen was an avid movie fan, but Monroe spent very little time with her often unstable mother. Within two weeks of her birth, Monroe was placed in the first of what would be a succession of foster homes, guardianships, and orphanages. This experience convinced her that she was a "mistake," a person easily abandoned. Given an insecure ...view middle of the document...

Roles were few, though, and her contract was not renewed. It has been suggested that she became a prostitute in order to support herself and that she at times engaged in sexual affairs with men who could advance her career. Through her judicious selection of "contacts," Monroe landed a new contract with Fox in 1948, but her first noticeable roles did not reach the screen until 1950.
Although typecast as the "dumb blonde," an unfair stereotype that bothered her throughout her career, Monroe transcended the limitations of her image in The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and All About Eve (1950). Working with two of the most lauded directors of the era, John Huston and Joseph Mankiewicz, she brought humanity and intelligence to her small roles in these films. Even though the studio did not consider her a serious actress, Monroe signed a seven-year contract with 20th Century-Fox in 1951. Her grossly underpaid bondage to Fox became symbolic of the many exploitative qualities of the studio system. Monroe nonetheless continued to overcome the deficiencies of her roles, and three films showcased her dramatic abilities: Clash by Night (1952), Don't Bother to Knock (1952), and Niagara (1953). In Clash by Night and Niagara, Monroe played darker, more demanding roles. Her Rose Loomis in Niagara is a steamy, cheating wife intent on murdering her veteran husband. In Don't Bother to Knock she portrays a psychotic babysitter.
Such "dangerous" sexuality in Monroe's acting was, however, all too often domesticated. Her sensuousness, independence, and intelligence were tamed once again in the role of the dumb blonde, a part she nonetheless played with sensitivity in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). The film, perhaps Monroe's most famous, features her as Lorelei Lee, a beautiful but dim golddigger, who sings what became Monroe's trademark song, "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." Monroe infused life into this femme fatale stencil, mocking the sexual greed of "Diamonds" and offering a commentary on postwar male American expectations in her line "I can be smart when it's important, but most men don't like it."
In the early and mid-1950s Monroe became one of the most publicized and popular actresses in America, her sexuality and vulnerability proving to be a potent and attractive mixture. She actively involved herself in her own image making and publicity, turning events from her private life to her professional advantage. Her relationship with baseball icon Joe DiMaggio created a great stir in the press (they were briefly married in 1954), as did the revelation of Monroe appearing nude in photographs for a 1952 calendar. Monroe had posed for the calendar shots when she was the proverbial starving actress, and she openly admitted this to the press, effectively forestalling criticism and in fact creating more sympathy for herself as a waif-like star. Despite Monroe's popularity and visibility, the studio still forced her to play parts she considered less than rewarding,...

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