What wonderful powers lead people to their fame and success? What or who can motivate and stimulate creativity and talent? Many years ago the antique authors found the answer to this question with developing the myth about the Muses who inspired artists and their teacher Apollo. Nevertheless, the secret of the enormous glory of the famous people was not solved because behind each talent is a unique destiny.
When today people speak about the most vivid cultural phenomena and extraordinary figures of the 20th century they always mention the name of Marilyn Monroe. This actress made a real revolution in the public’s minds of the 1950s years and became the forever legend of cinematography in spite of the fact her talents were not appreciated by critics. It is possible to say that her secret was in her extreme charm and magic attraction because this woman always smiled and looked happy.
However, her smile was the mask of her great loneliness, trying to avoid which Marilyn Monroe directed all her efforts to her career success. Thus, the loneliness and desire of recognition became Monroe’s main forces toward the fame, became her Muses which followed her since birth to death.
Marilyn Monroe not only devoted her short and vivid life to art of cinematography and Apollo’s goddesses but also she herself became the goddess of the whole cultural era. While observing vibrant pictures in many magazines and colorful posters, it is difficult to imagine all that pain, loneliness, and misunderstanding which were common for Monroe’s everyday life since her early years.
Norma Jeane Mortenson, later known as Marilyn Monroe, was born on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles. Norma’s mother, Gladys, was an ordinary woman, and the father was unknown to the girl. The family suffered from poverty, but the real tragedy of little Norma Jeane was the mental illness of her mother. When Gladys was taken to hospital Norma Jeane began to change the orphanages and foster homes where she could not find the necessary love and support (“The Marilyn Monroe Biography”).
Her character formed under the influence of difficult life conditions and the enormous feeling of loneliness. Norma Jeane was too young when she understood that she can trust only herself, “I learned also that the best way to keep out of trouble was by never complaining or asking for anything” (Spoto 123).
Nevertheless, it seemed that Norma Jeane can get a chance to have a family when her mother’s friend Grace took her from the orphanage, but at the age of sixteen the girl had to look for new ways to cope with her difficult living conditions. Grace decided that the best variant for Norma Jeane could be marrying a good man. Jim Dougherty was considered as the best party for the girl.
Norma Jean got everything she wanted because now she had her own home, family, and the social status (Morgan). However, the feeling of loneliness did not disappear. Norma Jeane’s husband spent a lot of time abroad, and the young girl suffered from boredom. In 1944 Norma Jeane worked at factory, and she with other women from the factory was photographed for the promotion of the working woman’s image in the Army (Morgan).
The girl’s interesting appearance attracted David Conover, one of the photographers. It was the start of Norma Jeane’s career as a model and the end of her marriage with Dougherty. Describing her marriage, she said that it “didn’t make me sad, but it didn’t make me happy either.
My husband and I hardly spoke to each other” (Spoto 201). Moreover, the career of a model could give her proving her beauty and the feeling of personal significance because the lack of it influenced the development of her many psychological problems and inner complexes (Leaming).
Norma Jeane became a famous model who worked for such magazines as Life and Sir. This fact could become the highest top of her career, but in 1946 she signed the contract with Twentieth Century-Fox Studios.
Norma Jeane’s first role in Scudda-Hoo! Scudda-Hay! was too small, but she was happy because this new life seemed to be unfamiliar and very interesting for her, full of surprises (Morgan). Moreover, it was the best way to gain the public’s recognition. To be ready for a successful career of an actress, Norma Jeane chooses the pseudonym ‘Marilyn Monroe’.
Marilyn was sure that she could have the wonderful future because even when she worked as a model she tried to improve her appearance and prepared for the public’s attention. Thus, she was waiting for the recognition and praise and persistently tried to achieve it. It was very important for her to gain the status of a movie star (Leaming). In spite of the fact the contract with the studio was not extended, Marilyn continued to take the lessons in order to improve her actress’s skills. She stated:
My illusions didn’t have anything to do with being a fine actress. I knew how third rate I was. I could actually feel my lack of talent, as if it were cheap clothes I was wearing inside. But, my God, how I wanted to learn, to change, to improve! (Spoto 209).
Monroe’s efforts and charm were noticed, and she got the role in Ladies of the Chorus (1948) in which she sang her first song. However, directors of the studios and the public did not consider her as a serious actress. Marilyn began to receive her first significant roles only in 1950. The movies were known as The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and Clash By Night (1952). Monroe’s acting attracted the critics’ attention, and in 1952 she also received the leading part in Don’t Bother to Knock. However, the film was not successful, and the leaders of the studios began to blame Monroe for her bad acting and the failure of the movie (Morgan).
Marilyn thought that it was too injustice, and she was alone with her feelings and sufferings again. She noted that “creativity has got to start with humanity and when you’re a human being, you feel, you suffer” (Spoto 124). Nevertheless, her inner world was only her territory, and nobody could observe her real feelings. It was typical for her to combine the great optimism with disastrous depressions (Leaming).
Marilyn found the way to avoid depressions caused by the enormous feeling of loneliness in love. It was necessary for her to feel the love of the public and of those men who were with her. That is why when she met Joe DiMaggio in 1952 she thought that this man could give her that love the lack of which Monroe felt since her early childhood living without her father. She said about DiMaggio, “he treated me like something special. Joe is a very decent man, and he makes other people feel decent, too!” (Spoto 126).
Nevertheless, DiMaggio was not ready to share his wife with a lot of fans and dreamt about a loving housewife, but not a popular actress (Morgan). Marilyn also felt that her husband did not share her success in such movies as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), and Seven Year Itch (1954) (Morgan). When Marilyn began to achieve her goals and her dreams became true she did not feel the support of close people again.
To overcome the attacks of depression, Marilyn began to study at Michael Chekhov’s classes. “As Michael’s pupil, I learned more about acting. I learned psychology, history, and the good manners of art – taste” (Barris 78). It was that place where she felt happy and significant, where she felt being a real actress. Her attempts to improve her acting, develop her inner world, and receive some necessary knowledge were motivated by her extreme desire to find herself as a person, to understand her real nature:
I’m trying to find myself as a person, sometimes that’s not easy to do. Millions of people live their entire lives without finding themselves. But it is something I must do. The best way for me to find myself as a person is to prove to myself that I am an actress (Barris 137).
Trying to find herself, Marilyn lost her husband, the marriage was broken as a result of DiMaggio and Monroe’s misunderstandings. When she had to choose between her career and marriage she chose the career, because she felt that love expressed by her public, and she did not feel the love of her husband who only wanted to change her (Morgan).
During this period Monroe think about the lack of serious roles in her career, she dreams to get a really significant role in an interesting movie. However, she has a definite reputation, and nobody discusses her acting seriously (Leaming).
That is why Marilyn joined the Actors Studio in 1955 and began to take the lessons of Lee Strasberg, the famous drama coach. He was one of those few people who could see her talent and considered her as a gifted actress (Morgan). He said that she had “a luminous quality – a combination of wistfulness, radiance, yearning, that set her apart and yet made everyone wish to be part of it, to share in the childlike naivete which was at once so shy and yet so vibrant” (Barris 154).
In spite of Michael Chekhov and Lee Strasberg’s praises and acknowledgements of Monroe’s talents, there always were critics who accentuated only the actress’s weaknesses. According to David Thomson, the American critic, Marilyn could not even say two lines at once, and he did not believe that Lee Strasberg really appraised her talents (Leaming).
When Marilyn Monroe observed such commentaries she thought that the only way for her was to smile more openly, conceal her real feelings, and do as much as possible to develop her abilities. She was very dependent on the public’s vision of her acting (Morgan). High assessments stimulated her activity and gave her the optimistic state of mood when negative reactions caused her depressions and made her feeling lonely.
Monroe could be touchy and sensitive, but she was never indifferent to the other people’s thoughts about her acting and personality. Marilyn also said that “it’s better for the whole world to know you, even as a sex star, than never to be known at all”, but at the same time she stated, “I want to be an artist, not an erotic freak. I don’t want to be sold to the public as a celluloid aphrodisical” (Spoto 128).
The actress’s way to the Hollywood’s tops always depend not only on her drama talents but also on her appearance. Monroe’s appearance was so remarkable that it determined the special fashion style for the long period of time. Every woman dreamt to look like Marilyn, and every man dreamt about Marilyn. Monroe’s appearance was a result of her everyday hard work.
First, Marilyn developed her image because of the desire to be loved by the public and attract its attention. Then her appearance became her main actor’s tool, and it was almost impossible to change the public’s perception of Marilyn as a beautiful doll (“The Marilyn Monroe Biography”). Nevertheless, in spite of different considerations about Monroe’s talents as an actress, there were very few people who did not admire her as a wonderful woman.
Marilyn received the audience’s admiration which was her inner desire from the early years, but now she was not a young dreamful girl. She was a woman who wanted to be considered as a serious actress and, first of all, as a personality. Marilyn ironically noted, “I don’t want to make money. I just want to be wonderful” (Barris 130).
When Monroe met Arthur Miller she was ready to create a real family with analyzing her previous unhappy experiences. Now Marilyn could even choose her family instead of her career successes. Marilyn thought she was happy in her marriage with Miller (Morgan). It seemed that her Muse of loneliness left her, and all her efforts were directed toward creating a lovely nest at home. Moreover, Monroe was pregnant and felt that now she could realize all her love.
However, the atmosphere of happiness in Monroe’s family was not long. Marilyn’s pregnancy resulted in the miscarriage, and it was too difficult for her to overcome the following depression. That is why Monroe experienced the drug therapy and used a lot of tranquilizers as the part of her psychotherapy (“The Marilyn Monroe Biography”). Her marriage with Arthur Miller was also broken because they were very different people.
Marilyn did not receive the necessary support from her husband, and she had to cope with all her problems by herself. The Muse returned with Marilyn’s failures in the private life and stimulated her to act more and more vividly. Her talents developed greatly from Some Like It Hot (1958) to The Misfits (1961) (Morgan). However, the successes in her career could not give Marilyn satisfaction any more.
Monroe understood that “it’s better to be unhappy alone than unhappy with someone”, but once her loneliness became so extreme that only drugs could help her cope with it (“The Marilyn Monroe Biography”). It was typical for Marilyn to feel guilty for almost everything including her imperfect behavior and acting. The only remedy for Marilyn’s depression could be the public’s praise. “I feel stronger if the people around me on the set love me, care for me, and hold good thoughts for me.
It creates an aura of love, and I believe I can give a better performance” (Barris 29). Even her ex-husband Arthur Miller stated that, “to have survived, she would have had to be either more cynical or even further from reality than she was” (Spoto 139). Some people said that Hollywood was her single love, and it “broke her heart” (Thomas).
The real peculiarities of Marilyn Monroe’s death in 1962 are still unknown. There are many versions of the tragedy including the possibilities of murdering and committing suicide (Morgan). Monroe’s absence of abilities to survive in the dangerous and cruel world of Hollywood led to her tragic demise. She always tried to become more beautiful, more talented, more perfect, but those people who were close to her rarely noticed her attempts and considered her aims not seriously.
It seemed that Marilyn Monroe’s talents flourished against the critique and mockeries, and her Muse developed on the base of her difficult inner world and private deep feelings. During all her life Monroe tried to get rid of the thought that she is worse than other people because there are so many great talented persons around her (“The Marilyn Monroe Biography”).
Different famous people find their inspiration and their Muses in various things. The secret of Marilyn Monroe’s fame was in her inner tragedy and enormous loneliness. Marilyn did not feel the support of her mother and father in the childhood.
She also did not feel the support of her husbands when she became the famous actress, and the public which now praises her comedian gift was not always so merciful to Monroe’s works. However, Marilyn always tried to find the powers and go with her head up, but one day in 1962 her lonely way ended.
Barris, George. Marilyn: Her Life in Her Own Words. USA: Citadel, 2001. Print.
Leaming, Barbara. Marilyn Monroe. USA: Three Rivers Press, 2000. Print.
Morgan, Michelle. Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. USA: Carroll & Graf, 2007. Print.
Spoto, Donald. Marilyn Monroe: The Biography. USA: Cooper Square Press, 2001. Print.
The Marilyn Monroe Biography. n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2012.
Thomas, Michelle. Hello Again, Norma Jean. 18 Jul. 2006. Web. 06 Apr. 2012.