Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Julia Keller argues that a novel like Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde offers more insight into the real Marilyn than a movie like My Week With Marilyn can.
While both these examples may have their merits, neither is a wholly satisfying portrait of Marilyn. Perhaps the closest we’ll ever come to her true essence is not through outside interpretations, but the words and images she created herself.
“The fault lies not in our movie stars, but in ourselves — in, that is, the profoundly complex and endlessly shifting nature of human beings. To capture the richly dynamic essence of any individual requires the only medium that’s up to the challenge:
Sitting in the dark at a recent showing of ‘My Week With Marilyn’, I was struck by the inadequacy of film as a way of conveying the boundless mystery of a real-life personality. A movie can do many things well: It can dish up terrific, gravity-defying action scenes. It can create worlds that never existed and make them uncannily plausible. It can act as a sort of prosthesis for the imagination, supplying spectacular colors and highfalutin visual hocus-pocus.
But what it can’t do — even when it tries its best — is get to the essence of a single human soul’s journey across time.
For that, you need a novel. You need the slow, methodical unfolding of a story. You need the gradual accretion of events — happy ones, tragic ones, mistakes and triumphs and accidents and turning points. A novel can deliver, one by one, the people who move in and out of any life. It can spurn the superficial. It doesn’t have to take anything at face value.”
As the giant statue of Marilyn in Chicago turns heads, the Tribune has collected trivia on The Seven Year Itch, including a review from the archives:
“A rib-tickling film … adult entertainment of a sort which children will neither understand nor enjoy, but mama and papa will find a good many laughs.”
“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