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Helping Hand For Marilyn Monroe

At a favored ringside table, on the edge of the closely-packed, postage stamp-sized dance floor of Hollywood’s plush and popular Mocambo night club, two well-known producers were earnestly watching Marilyn Monroe. She was swaying—and not too smoothly, either—in the arms of one Joe DiMaggio.

“I still don’t get it,” said one. “Give any blonde dame that’s got a good figure, the will to go places, and an average intelligent mind, plus provocative publicity, and you’ve got a potential star. The treatment can’t fail.”

The other producer shook his head dubiously. “The Cinderella stuff, you mean? But it doesn’t always work. It needs more than a frenzied publicity campaign, a hopped-up wardrobe, the so-called ‘pull’ to make a star. And I know what I’m talking about. This Marilyn Monroe has it on the ball. She knows how to project!”

Conflicting as it may sound, Hollywood knows that both of the above remarks contain genuine elements of truth. Possibly no star in the last decade of the movies, has received the streamlined, sink-or-swim going over that Marilyn Monroe has gotten at the hands of her sponsors, her believers—and even her detractors.

A top Hollywood movie star today is only as interesting as her entourage makes her out to be—and that goes for both friends and enemies. It’s a strange thing, but Marilyn’s critics have contributed as much to her success, as have her fervent, close-by supporters.

Controversy may not build a character, but—in the case of Marilyn—controversy has done much to mould a well established figure in the public eye.

Is Marilyn a film flash-in-the-pan exhibit, a girl whose pin-up allure will fade as the tastes—often finicky and fickle—of the fans change?

Or has Marilyn, with or without the platinum build-up that has been given her, carved a permanent niche for herself in the Hollywood order of immortals?

The helping hand that Marilyn Monroe has received in making her a star has been a generous and lavish one. From production head Darryl F. Zanuck to the lowliest seamstress in wardrobe, the enthusiasm at 20th Century-Fox has been vigorous and constructive. Here was a shining newcomer with ail the possibilities of one of the biggest box-office bets since Jean Harlow. What to do about it?

From the front office, the word went out. “The sky’s the limit. Give her the best clothes. The best training in everything from elocution to dancing. Build up a new coterie of friends for her—people of intelligence, people of sophistication, people who know their way around, artistically and socially. Let the girl learn a little about all the things she never had.”

The idea paid off. In the tip-to-toe grooming that was given Marilyn Monroe on the home lot, the best experts went to work to produce a scintillating, polished and refined product, and it seems that they succeeded. But, and this but is an interesting one, the experts, from make-up to wardrobe, are all of one opinion.

“Marilyn is a cinch to work with,” they will tell you. “This wasn’t an ordinary bit of clay, but a good model to mould. It wasn’t hard to give the right coiffure to a head of hair that already existed; the right kind of clothes that only her body could wear; the make-up that an already good skin could only enhance.”

Enthusiasm? Yes, the workers on Marilyn’s home lot have nothing but enthusiasm for the girl. So far, she’s been a real credit for all the hard work that’s gone into providing the best kind of frame for the picture. Marilyn has shown herself to be grateful, the public excited and interested, the studio itself oozing with pride.

Currently one of the things that worries not only Marilyn’s friends, but her studio itself, is her state of health. She is greatly addicted to colds, very bad ones. But lately, she has learned to take care of herself, and contrary to what many people believe, she doesn’t burn the midnight oil.

Night clubs, actually, are anathema to her, and on the rare occasions when Joe DiMaggio shoots into town and stays at the Knickerbocker Hotel, she indulges in a little more play than usual.

“The best thing that Joe can give Marilyn is a taste of the kind of family life she has never had,” reveals one of her closest friends. “In the meantime, she spends most of her evenings—like Marlon Brando—in bettering herself. Marilyn has become an earnest and steady reader, and because her medical advisors have ordered more rest, more sleep—the picking up of a book has come more naturally to her.”

Here is what Marilyn has to say about that. “Because I have had so very little education, I know my limitations. While I want to be neither a quiz kid nor a pseudo-intellectual, I would like to know what makes things tick.”

Highlight of Marilyn’s “helping hand” was the studio’s wisdom in putting her in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Says Mr. Zanuck, “If anyone has ever had any doubt as to her future here is the answer. Just as a top star can never turn a bad story into a box-office success, so will ‘Blondes’ prove that the best talents in story-telling and star-appearances are still a combination that can’t be beaten.”

Consequently, the Cinderella treatment, which has produced many dividends in Marilyn’s first years before the cameras, is going to continue. But with some changes.

In Marilyn’s case, it is known, the accent will no longer be on sex. The girl, it seems, has talent, too—and long before the gilt-edged veneer wears thin, Marilyn’s producers have decided to emphasize the young lady’s talents rather than her physical attributes.

It was a bit of a blow, you see, to even those who believed most in her, when veteran of the Hollywood movie scene Joan Crawford suddenly blew her top—and just because of Marilyn.

The incident occurred at an awards dinner, when Marilyn put on a hip-swinging display that brought down the house. “It was like a burlesque show,” exclaimed Joan. “The audience yelled and shouted. But those of us in the industry just shuddered.”

Later, Miss Crawford said in connection with the newcomer. “Sex is important in everyone’s life, but no one likes to see it flaunted. And that goes from the grown-ups to the kids. Apparently, Miss Monroe is making the mistake of believing her own publicity. What she should really know is that the public, although liking provocative feminine personalities, invariably insists that, underneath it all, the actresses still be ladies.”

Merited or not, Miss Crawford’s bitter condemnation of Miss Monroe’s power to appeal set the front office thinking. Had they gone perhaps too far with their sex build-up of Miss Monroe, or had the young actress overplayed the weapons they had spent so much time and money in magnifying?

The proof of the pudding lies in what is now happening to Miss Monroe.

Joan Crawford’s blow-up notwithstanding, Marilyn Monroe is being given the biggest build-up yet. She is being put into pictures with Jane Russell and Betty Grable. And the word has gone out: make them big pictures, make them interesting, and make them real—and don’t stint on Marilyn.

Would they do all this if the young woman had nothing on the ball? It is extremely doubtful. Hollywood, faced with intensive and growing competition in all fields of entertainment, can’t afford to take chances. In Marilyn Monroe, the studios believe they have a property the full values of which have yet to be exploited. You ain’t, if you listen to the studios, seen nuthin’ yet.

The reason?

Marilyn Monroe doesn’t need all the help, the glamourizing, the encouragement that has come her way. A natural showwoman, Marilyn unquestionably has the ability to project. And you can spell that in capitals. No matter what anyone may say about her, Marilyn Monroe’s got IT. And IT has always paid off at the box-office.