Monroe made her first film in 1947, ‘The Shocking Miss Pilgrim’, where only her voice was heard. She continued taking small roles in various films like ‘Asphalt Jungle”’ (1950) and ‘All About Eve’ (1950). Monroe hit her stride soon after that starring in ‘Niagara’ (1953), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1953) and ‘How to Marry A Millionaire’ (1953). She lit up a movie screen and made it sizzle with one seductive wink or a sly smile. Men wanted her. Women wanted to be her.
Off screen, her life was always rocky. Her mother suffered from mental illness and Monroe never knew her father. As a youngster, she often pretended that Clark Gable was her daddy. Gladys spent most of her years in and out of mental institutions causing Monroe to live in various foster homes. Although she claimed she found some stability in the years she spent with an aunt in Van Nuys, California where she attended high school.
As an adult, Monroe had three failed marriages, several disastrous affairs and some bad habits. She liked champagne to an excess and often used barbiturates to help her wake up as well as sleep. Her damaging lifestyle took a toll on her work causing her to be notoriously late on most days and completely absent on others. On set, she frequently forgot her lines and numerous takes (sometimes more than 40) were required before everyone was happy. It could be nerve-wracking for film professionals like Sir Lawrence Olivier (‘The Prince and the Showgirl’) and Clark Gable (‘The Misfits’). But the final product almost always proved to be worth the aggravation and they knew it.
Despite her shortcomings, Marilyn Monroe remains an icon whose image is just as well known today as it was fifty years ago. Her face continues to sell goods while her name often appears on lists like ‘Hollywood’s Most Popular Celebrities’ or ‘Hollywood’s Sexiest Stars’. Her movies still draw spectators with ‘Some Like It Hot’ (1959) named the funniest film ever by the American Film Institute.
And so today, the fiftieth anniversary of her untimely death, I think Marilyn Monroe deserves a heartfelt thanks for all of the hours she spent entertaining us—something she continues to do over and over again—with her wispy voice, seductive smile and sly wink.