No sooner had the world learned of her death than Marilyn Monroe’s immortality took shape. Her mundane life lasted just 36 years. Her sensual beauty and innate femininity became a myth. She was dubbed “ America’s bride.” Nina Ivanitskaya, a Moscow art historian, speaks about Monroe’s life and legend.
The story of her success can take your breath away. The sad story of her life resembles that of Cinderella. The mystery of her demise remains unraveled. “She was gorgeous. Her voluptuous curves combined perfectly with an innate grace and sensuality while the face looked constantly lit up with a limitless energy of her soul.” The description was quite popular with many critics and journalists penning numerous articles about Marilyn Monroe.
The description was quite accurate with regard to the famous Hollywood movie star at the peak of her fame. However, at the very beginning Marilyn Monroe did not have a gorgeous body or innate grace. Not to mention energy of the soul. She built her sensuality and splendor by herself. By the bye, her starry name did not exist either. Somebody at 20th Century-Fox gave a more euphonious stage name to the 20-year-old Norma Jeane Dougherty. Having been rechristened “Marilyn Monroe”, she signed her first contract with one of the largest Hollywood companies in 1946.
Monroe at 20 was not a full-blown beauty by classic standards. Her height was 5 feet while her weight varied from 155 – 120 lbs. Her measurements were 35-22-35. And her eyes were full of sadness and loneliness. She seemed to be made of assorted complexes. “You can survive without love when you’re 25 or 35 or even 45 provided that your parents loved you when you were 5. To say that Marilyn didn’t have enough love and tenderness as a child is to say very little,” as one of the critics put it.
Her mother, Gladys Baker, was a film cutter at RKO studios. She was reported to be a strange and unpredictable woman who one day for some reason arrived the conclusion that her daughter was destined to be a movie star. Norma was just a toddler yet the mom would put some makeup on her daughter’s face. She was also known to arrange Norma’s hair in a most peculiar way. But the weird games were cut short when Gladys was committed to a mental institution. Norma was too small to memorize her mother though the bitterness of being lonely always stayed inside her heart. Norma’s lonely childhood shaped her character. She spent most of her childhood in foster homes and orphanages. Some of her childhood memories featured well-bred boys and girls having fun under the supervision of their nannies. Those happy children would point their fingers at Norma and other parentless creatures before letting out a derisive cry: “Look, the orphans are coming!” One day she realized that she had to count on herself only. Every single bit of her success would stem from her own efforts.
In 1937, Norma moved in with the family friend Grace McKee Goddard. The foster mother was amazed at the girl’s great determination in perfecting herself. Norma could spend hours copying poses, imitating Marlene Dietrich’s smile or Greta Garbo’s posture. She would restlessly try to imitate the way her favorite actresses moved in the famous flicks. When Norma turned 16, she got rid of her congenital stutter – her first personal victory. She had suffered from a bad stutter since her early childhood. The defect got worse after Norma left the orphanage. At times she could not even speak two words smoothly. It took her three years to eliminate a speech defect. She finally won the battle without using a speech therapist.
But the first victory did not make Norma happy. Still, she could feel nobody give a damn about her. She worked at a factory in the day time and attended School of Charm at night. Then she was signed up by a model agency to wear swimwear. She apparently did not want to end up discarded after a few years of heavy use – the fate of a majority of would-be movie stars.
So she started training her body extensively to reach a high degree of physical flexibility. She would copy the movements of pantomime actors and spin across the dance floor wearing six-inch stiletto shoes. Years after, when reporters would bug her with questions about her amazing flexibility, Marilyn would always reply with the same phrase: “I learned to walk as a baby and I haven’t had a lesson since.”
Her food preferences looked pretty strange. In fact, food and drink meant nothing to her unless it was orange juice – her favorite beverage which she could drink throughout the day. She said she did not like restaurants and did not care about delicacies. “There’s grated carrot, raw eggs and milk. That’s the diet I’m on.” She never ate by the clock. She hated dirty dishes and the smell of a kitchen sink.
Beauty was a synonym of naturalness for Marilyn. “It seems that beauty and femininity are ageless… you can’t be truly attractive if you’re synthetic. The power of attraction is always underlined with femininity.” She had a fixation about Chanel No 5. She would invariably deny that normally she slept in the nude. “It’s not true that I had nothing on. I had Chanel No 5 on.”
Translated by Guerman Grachev
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