Essay by Daniella Klein

Contributed by Daniella Klein

Only the public can make a star. It’s the studios who try to make a system out of it.

Marilyn Monroe had great insight to have said this. She had life experience to back it up. Marilyn’s real name was Norma Jeane Baker. She was a sweet, innocent, vibrant young woman who got caught up in the glamour of show business. As fame took hold of her, she became less and less herself, and more and more “Marilyn”. This persona created by the media was glamorous, outspoken, and unmistakably sexy. Marilyn Monroe was merely an image created by the media, and not truly Norma Jeane at all. This image was created, killing the true spirit inside of this woman, and eventually killing this woman altogether.

No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a little girl. All little girls should be told they are pretty, even if they aren’t.

Norma Jeane met Andre De Dienes, her preferred photographer, at the age of nineteen, and he immediately saw her potential. “…she was wearing a skimpy sweater, her curly hair tied in a ribbon to match…she seemed unsure of herself. With her childlike smile…I immediately felt how much I could draw out of her still childlike face, from her well-rounded yet coltish body, from this unpolished beauty.”* Andre immediately began photographing her. They traveled around America, and Andre fell more and more in love with Norma Jeane. “Norma Jeane had something of a schoolgirl about her…models usually have to be dragged out of bed…but there she was, fresh as a daisy…wearing a smile.”

I am not interested in money. I just want to be wonderful.

Marilyn’s hair became paler and paler, and she began to know how to put on make-up. Andre De Dienes had said, “I taught her how to make the most of herself…never to set foot outside her door unless she seemed on top form….thanks to me…she toned down her laugh and learned how to stand up, sit down, and hold out her hand…done with the utmost propriety and provocativeness.”* It was at this point in her life, in the late summer of 1946, that Norma Jeane found her new name. Monroe was her mother’s maiden name, and Marilyn came from actress Marilyn Miller. Marilyn Monroe was born.

I want to grow old without facelifts. I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I have made.

No one, not even Andre, was allowed to call her by her other name. Marilyn continued to pose for photographers, and audition for movies. The mediocre contracts that she did land led her nowhere. “In spite of everything she did not forget our lessons…she took up the right stance…pushing out her breasts…an inviting smile and sparkling eyes…I was the only one to spot the infinitesimal changes which were gradually transforming Norma Jeane into Marilyn underneath her carefree manner.”* Marilyn was now twenty and had never experienced the thrill of success. “…already there was a shadow over her radiance, in her laughter.”

I don’t want to play sex roles anymore. I’m tired of being known as the girl with the shape.

Millions of people became Marilyn’s fans. They admired and loved her, but saw nothing but her breasts, her hips, her legs. On camera, she was still the same as ever, charming, beautiful, elegant. In reality, she had lost that vibrancy and glow that defined her character. “She came to see me one evening…she looked unwell and admitted she could no longer sleep…what sorrow, what trouble tormented her?…pale lips, dark-circled eyes, silent and tense…”* In the summer of 1953, nine years before her death, at two o’clock in the morning, Andre received a call from Marilyn, requesting for him to take pictures of her. She brought him to a darkened Beverly hills street, using the headlights of his car for light. She wore no make-up, hair disheveled, with dark-circled eyes. These are Andre’s last pictures of Marilyn, and are dark, blurry, frightening. When they had finished the shoot, she said to him, “You usually write captions for your photos. You can put “The end of Everything” underneath these.”* That is exactly what he did.

Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.

Andre watched Marilyn slip deeper and deeper into her fit of depression. “I watched from afar as she slid into a private hell befogged by tranquilizers and a variety of sleeping pills.”* Her career had turned into an ordeal. She was constantly late on set, and forgot her lines. Some days she did not show up at all. He last saw her alive on June 1, 1961. He knew too well how badly she was sleeping, the bitterness inside of her. “…her success was a sham, her hopes thwarted…the next day she left a bouquet outside my door: a selection of her latest photos. Smiling, radiant – utterly misleading. I little guessed that this was our last goodbye.”*

Marilyn Monroe died on August 5, 1962 of an overdose of sleeping pills. Norma Jeane had died ages ago. Overwhelmed with grief, unhappy with what she had become, feeling betrayed by her public. Sir Laurence Olivier put it best when he said, “Popular opinion and all that goes to promote it is a horribly unsteady conveyance for life, and she was exploited beyond anyone’s means.”

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