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Hollywood Topic A-Plus—Marilyn Monroe

Every so often, more in hope than conviction, Hollywood announces the advent of sensational glamour girl, guaranteed to entice people from all lands to the box office. Usually the sensation fizzles. But today the most respected studio seers, in a crescendo of talk unparalleled since the debut of Rita Hayworth, are saying that the genuine article is here at last: a sturdy blonde named Marilyn Monroe.

Three years ago Marilyn was trying to get a start like any other starlet: a low-salary contract with 20th Century-Fox, small parts in movies, choice as Miss Flamethrower by an Army unit. She even posed for calendar art for a few badly needed extra pennies. Somewhere between her ingenuous mind and voluptuous body came a spark of the kind that makes movie personalities. Her bit parts stood out in big films (All About Eve, Asphalt Jungle). Today she is topic A-plus in Hollywood. She gets 5,000 fan letters a week Cary Grant, Richard Widmark, Charles Laughton. 

Marilyn was being driven down a California scenic route recently by an admirer when she volunteered the information. “I was born under the sign of Gemini. That stands for the intellect.” “Everybody else I’ve told that to,” said Marilyn, “laughed.” Because her movie role is always that of a dumb blonde, Hollywood generally supposes she is pretty dumb herself. This is a delusion. Marilyn is naive and guileless, But she is smart enough to have known how to make a success in the cutthroat world of glamour. She does it by being as wholly natural as the world will allow. Physically she has many of the attributes of Jean Harlow. But there is no suggestion of hardness or tartness in Marilyn, She is relaxed, warm, apparently absorbed by whatever man she has her big blue eyes fixed on at any particular moment. “I’ve given pure sex appeal very little thought,” she says. “If I had to think about it I’m sure it would frighten me.”

What she does think about she expresses in aphorisms. On clothes: “I dress for men. A woman looks at your clothes critically. A man appreciates them.” On eating with a man: “I don’t give the food much thought.” On walking: “I use walking to just get me around.” On resting: “I sit down the way I feel.” On men: “They seem to understand me.” On herself: “I am very definitely a woman and I enjoy it.”

Marilyn never finished high school but she is devoted to the intellectual life. She sprinkles her conversation with lines from Thomas Wolfe and Browning, with the same candid simplicity she uses in describing her dumbbell exercises: “I’m fighting gravity. If you don’t fight gravity, you sag.” Her candor sometimes disconcerts interviewers. “Once this fellow says, ‘Marilyn, what do you wear to bed?’ So I said I only wear Chanel No.5 and he groans, ‘Oh no, I can’t use that.’ ”

Marilyn’s name is Norma Jeane Mortenson, though she generally gives it as Baker, apparently because her father was a baker. She was brought up at municipal expense in 12 different foster homes in Los Angeles. The first family was intensely religious. “To go to a movie was a sin,” recalls Marilyn. “Every night I was told to pray that I would not wake up in hell.” The next family was comprised of movie bit players. “They drank and danced and played cards. Oh, how I prayed for them.” Another one gave her empty whisky bottles as her only toys. She was ask thing of an ugly duckling. At 16, to avoid being sent to an orphanage, she married an aircraft worker and was divorced two years later. Marilyn looks back on the hard knocks of her youth with no particular self-pity and only hopes they may have taught her a few things about people which will help her in her career. For, with all Hollywood at her feet, she is obsessed by an irrational childhood ambition: she wants very much to become an actress.



It is a quote. LIFE MAGAZINE APRIL 1952

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