Over at the Watch More Movies blog, there’s an interesting post about Greta Garbo and her influence on Marilyn – with a special focus on their makeup styles. (Marilyn told one interviewer that she never missed a Garbo film on television, while Susan Strasberg mentioned Marilyn ‘doing her Garbo eyes’ for nights on the town.)
“Often when people talk about Marilyn Monroe’s predecessors, they can’t seem to get past her fluffy blonde hair. They draw endless parallels to Jean Harlow, with whom she shares little more than a hair color. Monroe herself idolized Garbo. And it shows if you’re looking for it.
All together, the lazy/sexy ideal is embodied by both women. Where Monroe usually infused this spirit into dizzy comedic roles, Garbo primarily put it to use playing women of mystery. Suffice it to say, both stars have reached an iconic status at least in part because their roles were intertwined so cleverly with their respective public images.
I look to Monroe’s eye makeup as the dead giveaway. Monroe and her makeup artist, Whitey Snyder, created much the same shapes but with gentler lines.
When Garbo first emerged with her long bob, it was admired by fans, but magazine writers were quick to point out that this was unflatteringly long and advised that only Garbo could pull it off. Likewise, Monroe was put down in the press for her too-long unstylish hair–some journalists even comparing her to a dog. (The ideal then being closer to Elizabeth Taylor’s neatly coiffed short curls.) Funny that both styles are considered almost universally flattering today.
According to Katharine Cornell, when Garbo was considering a return to the screen she wanted to star alongside Monroe. Garbo confided that she wanted to play Dorian Gray with Monroe as Sibyl Vane. If you’re queer-hearted like myself (and Garbo) it’s devastating that we never got that film.
I suppose I’ll sign off now with tears in my eyes for what could have been and for the mutual appreciation that Marilyn Monroe probably never knew about.”