“Marilyn Monroe was the inspiration for the expression ‘arm candy’, which refers to any woman who decorates the arm of a man – to the envy of other men who see them together. Chicago journalist Marcia Froelke Coburn was commenting on Monroe’s appearance on the arm of actor George Sanders in the film All About Eve in a column in the early 1990s when she coined the phrase.”
Marilyn played an aspiring actress, Claudia Caswell, in the classic movie.
Definition from Wordspy:
“(ARM kan.dee) n. An extremely beautiful person who accompanies a member of the opposite sex to a party or event, but is not romantically involved with that person (cf. eye candy).
‘All About Eve’ (1950, FoxVideo). [Marilyn Monroe had] already had mini-roles in eight movies when she turned up as George Sanders’ arm candy in the party scenes of this film. But her jewel of a performance as an actress-on-the-make caught the public’s attention.
—Marcia Froelke Coburn, ‘Marilyn’s enduring appeal’, Chicago Tribune, August 21, 1992″
Coburn’s essay was a review of a VHS movie collection, and her comments on Marilyn’s acting were sensitive and insightful.
“As time goes by, she appears more gifted than we knew. Not that this is always apparent in her movies. More often than not, she was miscast, badly used or even made fun of (she was the original blond joke). When she shines, it is sometimes by default.”
You can read Marcia Froelke Coburn’s article in full here