Marilyn’s Scottish Roots

Marilyn by John Vachon, 1953
Marilyn by John Vachon, 1953

Marilyn never visited Scotland, but it’s thought that her ancestors may have travelled to America from the Highland village of Tain, the Scottish Herald reports. (This follows another story about her family links to Indiana and Mexico.)

“The search is now on for distant relatives of the star in the Highlands after it was found her ancestors may have come from the small town of Tain.

Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortensen, was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the home of the movie business – a far cry from the remote town on the coast of the Dornoch Firth.

Tain is perhaps best known for being the oldest Royal Burgh in Scotland but connections to one of Hollywood’s biggest stars could be a big draw for the town.

DNA research by the Clan Munro USA has found that Monroe was descended from a soldier from the area who was exiled to America after the English Civil War.

The research made use of a sample provided by a male relative of Monroe’s grandfather Otis Elmer Monroe.

It found a link to John Munro, a soldier from the area around Tain, who travelled to America in the mid-17th century.

He was one of many Scotsmen who fought for the Royalist cause during the English Civil War to be exiled after its defeat by Oliver Cromwell.

He is thought to have settled in what is now the US state of Rhode Island.”

Marilyn and the Ladies of the Press

Marilyn with columnist Kendis Rochlen, 1956
‘Is this a new Marilyn?’ With columnist Kendis Rochlen, 1956

In her lifetime, Marilyn was considered a ‘man’s woman’. However, even then she had several champions among the fairer sex, and since her death, female appreciation of her has only grown.

Kate Cameron, film critic for New York’s Daily News, often praised Marilyn’s acting and wrote this sensitive tribute after her passing.

“The Marilyn Monroe I knew was a blithe spirit of the screen. I never met her in the flesh and had no desire for a rapprochement other than her communication to me as an actress.

I was an enthusiastic viewer of the various characters she presented on the screen. I had a definite picture of her as a real person in my mind and didn’t want that image of her changed in any way, although I’m inclined to believe that I would have found her as enchanting off screen as she was on.”

Columnist Liz Smith has held the title of ‘grand dame of dish’ ever since she first glimpsed Marilyn at the 1961 premiere of The Misfits. At 93, Liz is still on top, and found time to remember Marilyn’s birthday this week.

“Had she lived, the white hot of that fame would have inevitably passed by. But in a cooler climate, she might well have found all she desired. We would not talk of her as we do now, as an almost mythological figure, a repository of endless fantasy and speculation. She would speak for herself. And her work, which mattered to her more than people realized, would speak as well.”

Film scholar Lucy Bolton, who took part in a panel discussion at the BFI last year as part of their MM retrospective, took a closer look at Marilyn’s writings in a recent article for BBC Culture.

“The fragments which she wrote on bits of paper reveal a woman constantly striving to ground herself, help herself, and keep on top of her demons. They also show Monroe’s determination and strong will: whether it is in the planning of dinner parties or the preparation of a performance, Monroe was meticulous and dedicated to doing her best.”

Ashley Davies offers a personal take on ‘Why I Love MM’ in a heartfelt – and often funny – piece for Standard Issue.

“In public, she dealt with some of the undermining shit thrown at her with class. During one press conference, a female reporter asked her: ‘You’re wearing a high-necked dress. Is this a new Marilyn? A new style?’

Her response, delivered with total sweetness, a pinch of faux surprise and not a hint of sarcasm: ‘No, I’m the same person, but it’s a different suit.'”

And finally, Sophie Atkinson argues that Marilyn is more relevant than ever ‘because she predicted the struggles of modern fame’, over at Bustle.com.

“When it comes to being a star, too much publicity will always be difficult for celebrities to shoulder., and the emergence of social media gives a new urgency to these issues of press intrusion that have existed for decades. Now celebrities don’t just field encounters with the journalists, and with fans, on the street, but in the privacy of their own homes as soon as they log onto Twitter. Monroe was right when she quoted Goethe: the highest form of acting or music requires that a person doesn’t just exist as a public figure, but has private reserves they can draw from.”

Marilyn: A Political Animal

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Marilyn had a lifelong affinity with the underdog and a passion for justice. Her hero was Abraham Lincoln. She was proud of her working-class origins, and defended husband Arthur Miller in his stand against red-baiting. She also supported the Civil Rights movement. In an article for Time, Lily Rothman interviews Marilyn’s biographer, Dr Lois Banner, on the subject of her ‘forgotten radical politics.’

“Those beliefs were a product of her time, Banner says: being born in 1926 meant that she was a child during the Great Depression … As a result of her own poverty and her close contact with people of other races, Monroe grew up with progressive views on race and what Banner calls a ‘populist vision of equality for all classes.’

Her background peeked through in her film roles, as she was often cast as a working girl … Even as Monroe stepped out in public in glamorous evening gowns, she favored blue jeans and flat shoes at home.

In 1956, when she married the playwright Arthur Miller, her working-class roots blossomed into full-on political fervor. In 1960, she became a founding member of the Hollywood branch of the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy; that same year, as she kept a home in Roxbury, Conn., she was elected as an alternate delegate to the state’s Democratic caucus. She did not hide her pro-Castro views on Cuba or her support for the then-burgeoning civil rights movement.

Broadway was not affected by McCarthyism and anti-Communist investigations to the same extent as the movie business, but Miller was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee shortly before their marriage. Monroe was never called on, which Banner believes was because the anti-Communist Congressmen ‘thought she was just a dumb blonde.’ (In fact, some historians have theorized that Miller saw Monroe as a political shield.)

‘When you put it all together, [her political side] is pretty substantial. But in most of the biographies, including mine, it comes out as salt scattered on the biography, because one gets so fascinated by her psychological makeup,’ [Banner] says. ‘But the political involvements are no less real.'”

Marilyn’s Greatest Performances

'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' (1953)
‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1953) – photo edit by ‘Our Marilyn Monroe’

More than anything, Marilyn wanted to be taken seriously as an actress – so it’s a pleasant surprise to find some stellar writing on her movies among the 90th birthday tributes.

In a short but insightful article for Entertainment Weekly, Mary Sollosi selects ‘7 Essential Performances’, and concludes that ‘being Marilyn Monroe’ was ‘her greatest performance of all.’

And over at Immortal Marilyn,  April VeVea interviews Dr Timothy Bywater, who holds a Ph.D in English and Film, and teaches at Dixie State University. ‘I think her roles are brilliant,’ he says of Marilyn. ‘I think as nasty as Hollywood was, the roles they gave her, she did a wonderful job.’

Go Back in ‘Time’ With Marilyn

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Marilyn’s fame was heralded in the media by her first Life cover in 1952, and affirmed by her Time cover in 1956. The Time website has published an extract from Ezra Goodman’s article, with the full text available to subscribers.

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Like many journalists of the era, Goodman took a rather cynical and dismissive view of Marilyn’s lofty ambitions. He considered her manipulative and standoffish, and resented her growing entourage, later complaining that the editors had toned down his criticisms in his 1960 book, The Fifty-Year Decline and Fall of Hollywood, extracted in Cavalier magazine as ‘The Girl With the Three Blue Eyes.’

Scans by Roksana at Everlasting Star

Marilyn’s Family Tree

Graphic by Sergio Serrano for Marilyn Mexico
Graphic by Sergio Serrano for Marilyn Mexico (click on photo to view at full size)

Juliana Szucs has written a fascinating article about Marilyn’s ancestry – from Mexico to the American Civil War, and early Indiana pioneers – for Biography.com.

Marilyn at 90: Fans Pay Tribute

Photo by Jackie Craig
Westwood photos by Jackie Craig

Floral tributes were left by Marilyn’s crypt at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles on what would be her 90th birthday, while devoted fans like Monica Shahri visited in person.

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Canadian fan Billy made a heart-shaped card for Marilyn…

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And there was cake too, courtesy of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the team behind the Golden Globes.)

13347020_10153652033312688_3184974542303152467_nThe L.A.-based fanclub, Marilyn Remembered, organised a donation to Hollygrove, the former children’s home where Marilyn once lived.  Now known as EMQ Families First, the charity  has launched a new fundraising drive, ‘Modern Marilyn‘.

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Immortal Marilyn listed 90 Marvellous Marilyn Moments on their blog, and compiled a fan-focused tribute video. In Bendigo Park, Australia, staff member Marisa left a memento at the feet of Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture,  ‘Forever Marilyn‘.

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Many other fansites, like All About Marilyn and Marilyn Mexico, were also in celebratory mood.

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Mexico loves Marilyn…

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Snapchat users (including reality TV star Kim Kardashian) got busy with a special Marilyn Monroe filter…

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The Milton Greene Archive shared this previously unpublished photo of Marilyn with a canine friend, originally taken for a Life magazine spread on Asian gowns in 1955.

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The estate of Sam Shaw remembered a ‘dear friend.’

sam shawTwo of Marilyn’s most respected biographers, Michelle Morgan and Gary Vitacco-Robles, paid their respects via social media.

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Novelist Megan Abbott chose her favourite photo of Marilyn.

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The estate of Humphrey Bogart also remembered her fondly…

13339528_1353642397983387_775224521514747818_nArtists Alejandro Mogollo and Ileana Hunter shared Marilyn-inspired pieces.

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Everlasting Star admin Sirkuu Aaltonen went on a book hunt

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And UK superfan Megan posted a touching tribute on her personal blog.

“Another year has gone by and Marilyn’s star keeps growing brighter and brighter, people are still fascinated and enthralled by this beautiful soul. Did Marilyn have her faults? Of course she did, it’s hard to believe, I know, but she was a human being just like us. I love Marilyn for Marilyn and that will never change. I’d like to think that there are more genuine fans who love and respect Marilyn than conspiracy lovers who just follow their ignorance.”

Gainsborough-Roberts Collection in London

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Marilyn Monroe: The Legacy of a Legend, an exhibition of the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, opened at London’s Design Centre last week. Fellow collector Scott Fortner attended the launch, alongside impersonator Suzie Kennedy and actress Linda Gray (aka Sue-Ellen Ewing from TV’s Dallas.)

Photo by Scott Fortner

In an article for the Telegraph, Bethan Holt discussed the ‘lipstick, diamonds and cigarettes’ among Marilyn’s personal effects, while Ben Miller looks at the ‘vulnerability and humanity’ revealed by her drawings and notes in his review for Culture24.

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After closing on June 20, the collection will move to the Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge in County Kildare, Ireland, where it will be on display from June 25-July 25.

All photos by Scott Fortner @MarilynMonroeCollection