Marilyn Monroe has been a larger-than-life pop culture icon since her untimely death by overdose (Suicide? Accident? Maybe even homicide?) at the age of 36. Her image has been plastered on every possible medium, and her part in creating the quintessential “dumb blonde” stereotype will never be forgotten.
Now, personal effects left to her acting teacher and mentor Lee Strasberg including “poems, letters, notes, recipes, and diary entries” are set to be published by Strasberg’s widow, Anna (as Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters, in case you’re interested) this fall. And in order to ensure that the money rolls in, Vanity Fair recently ran an article containing some tantalizing highlights.
What I found most compelling about both the excerpts released in Vanity Fair and the stratospheric rise and fall of Marilyn Monroe is how the course of her life was so strongly shaped by the men in her life, men who almost never had her best interests at heart.
It’s fairly common knowledge that Marilyn, born Norma Jeane Mortenson and shunted from foster homes and orphanages throughout her life, epitomized the rags to riches story. Her options were so limited, in fact, that she left high school at sixteen to marry neighbor James Dougherty.
From Vanity Fair:
“My relationship with him was basically insecure from the first night I spent alone with him,” she wrote in this long, undated, somewhat rambling memoir of that marriage.
“I was greatly attracted to him as one of the [“only” is crossed out] few young men I had no sexual repulsion for besides which it gave me a false sense of security to feel that he was endowed with more overwelming qualities which I did not possess—on paper it all begins to sound terribly logical but the secret midnight meetings the fugetive glance stolen in others company the sharing of the ocean, moon & stars and air aloneness made it a romantic adventure which a young, rather shy girl who didn’t always give that impression because of her desire to belong & develope can thrive on—I had always felt a need to live up to that expectation of my elders.”
Her memory of that marriage revolves around her fear that Dougherty preferred a former girlfriend, probably Doris Ingram, a Santa Barbara beauty queen, which triggered Marilyn’s sense of unworthiness and vulnerability to men.
Dougherty’s time overseas as a Merchant Marine led …
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