Read my comparison of two Hollywood sex symbols here
Read my comparison of two Hollywood sex symbols here
Another extract from film critic Richard Dyer’s essay, ‘Monroe and Sexuality’, published in his 1986 book, Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society, focuses on Cherie’s speech to Elma (Hope Lange) in Bus Stop (1956), and also her performance in The Misfits (1961.)
“Time and again, Monroe seems to buy into the ‘progressive’ view of sex, a refusal of its dirtiness – but that means buying into the traps of the sexual discourses discussed above: the playboy discourse, with women as the vehicle for male sexual freedom, and the psycho discourse, with its evocation of the ineffable unknowability of sexuality for women. The choice of roles from ‘Bus Stop’ on indicates the conundrums the image is caught up in. Only ‘The Misfits’ begins to hint at a for-itself female sexuality, and then casts it utterly within the discourse of female sexuality as formlessness. The men in the film look on, unable to comprehend her sensuality; grasping a tree she looks out at them/us with a hollow expression of beatitude, straining to express what is already defined as inexpressible.
Yet some of her later films do contain hints of the struggle, traps and conundrums of the fifties discourses of sexuality. ‘Bus Stop’ is probably the most extended example. It is possible, without straining too much against the drift of the film, to read Cherie/Monroe not just as the object of male desire but as someone who has to live being a sex object.
Cherie/Monroe’s longest dialogue comes in scenes with other women characters, and has thereby the quality of unburdening herself rather than putting on an act or standing up to men. With the waitress Vera (Eileen Heckart), she expresses her ambition to be a singer and Hollywood actress, referring to the lack of respect she has had up to now. With the young woman on the bus, Elma (Hope Lange), she speaks of the ideal man she is looking for, a notion of a man who combines traditionally masculine and feminine qualities:
‘I want a guy I can look up to and admire – but I don’t want him to browbeat me…I want a guy who’s sweet to me, but I don’t want him to baby me…I want a guy who has some real regard for me, aside from all that loving stuff.’
None of this is desperately radical or progressive; the ambition is mainstream individualism (‘I’m trying to be somebody’), the ideal man is a sentimental fantasy. But both are located in the consciousness of a dumb showgirl type, and given a legitimate voice by the seriousness of the performance, of the way in which they are filmed, and, especially, by virtue of the fact that they are spoken to another woman. The ambition and fantasy are not in the slightest ridiculed, and they have the effect of throwing into relief the showgirl role that Cherie/Monroe is playing.”
The monologue in Bus Stop is rightly considered one of the high points of Marilyn’s acting career. Unfortunately, it was heavily cut – which, Monroe believed, robbed her of an Oscar nomination.
In her 2007 book, Platinum Fox, Cindy De La Hoz revealed the text of Marilyn’s speech in its entirety. The edited parts are emboldened here.
Cherie: I don’t know why I keep expecting myself to fall in love, but I do.
Elma: I know I expect to, some day.
Cherie: I’m seriously beginning to wonder if there’s a kind of love I have in mind…naturally, I’d like to get married and have a family and all them things but…
Elma: But you’ve never been in love?
Cherie: I don’t know. Maybe I have and I didn’t know it. Maybe I’m expecting it to be something it ain’t. I just feel that, regardless how crazy you are about some guy, you’ve got to feel…and it’s hard to put into words, but…you’ve got to feel he respects you. Yes, that’s what I mean…I’ve just got to feel that whoever I marry has some real regard for me, aside from all that loving stuff. You know what I mean?
Elma: I think so. What will you do when you get to Los Angeles?
Cherie: I don’t know. Maybe if I don’t get discovered right away, I could get me a job on one of the radio stations there. Even singing hillbilly if I have to. Or else, I can go to work in Liggett’s or Walgreen’s. Then after a while I’ll probably marry some guy, whether I think I love him or not. Who am I to keep insisting I should fall in love? You hear all about love when you’re a kid and just take it for granted that such a thing really exists. Maybe you have to find out for yourself it don’t. Maybe everyone’s afraid to tell you.
My reviews of Cindy De La Hoz’s Marilyn Monroe: The Personal Archive and MM – Personal by Lois Banner are featured in the latest issue of the Mad About Marilyn fanzine, which also includes a vintage article, ‘…and the Lord Taketh Away’, from Modern Screen in 1957; a piece on Marilyn’s 1955 visit to USS Bennington; and a profile of photographer Douglas Kirkland.
If you would like to join the Mad About Marilyn Fan Club, please email Emma: firstname.lastname@example.org
“SPEAKING OF the British press … oops! They are touting a Valentine’s Day pinup of Marilyn Monroe as ‘rare and unseen, from her days as Norma Jean, the model, circa 1948.’ Sorry, the pic in question is a 20th Century Fox portrait from 1952, when MM was very well known indeed. The photo appears in a new book (yes, another book!) on Monroe. Author Cindy de la Hoz, who has written up MM previously, should have known better.
I’m sure Monroe herself wouldn’t mind the mistake. She’d simply be floored that almost 50 years after her death at age 36, she is still such a hot item. Well, as with Elvis (and possibly Michael Jackson,) an early departure can be a fabulous career move. And, let’s face it — none of the above mentioned would have enjoyed their old age. They weren’t even enjoying their middle age!”
Liz Smith, WowoWow
This photo session, by Art Adams for Valentine’s Day 1952 (not 1948), isn’t new to me either and Marilyn was not unknown, but an established star at the time. It does annoy me when pictures are trumpeted as unseen (as this snap was recently described in the Daily Telegraph) if they are nothing of the sort, especially by auctioneers trying to increase their prices.
However, I think Liz is being a little harsh on Cindy De La Hoz, author of Marilyn Monroe: The Personal Archive and Platinum Fox. While the session is certainly familiar, I can’t be sure that this particular shot has been published in a book before The Personal Archive (though it did appear in magazines back in Monroe’s heyday.)
And the promotional hype probably has little to do with the author herself, though of course she can be held responsible for any errors within the book. Still, I am grateful to sharp-eyed reporters like Liz Smith who can say what many of us are thinking.
Updates this month include Fraser’s review of MM: The Personal Archive and another vintage article from Tony, ‘From Morn to Midnight With Marilyn’.
“In a post-war era when actresses had little power, she would fight studio heads to control her image and film roles, winning adoring fans and a legion of men along the way … She was a woman who veered between paranoia and power, innocence and bold sexuality; a woman whose life involved extraordinary triumphs and dark episodes…”
Louise Millar’s article, published in the December 2010 issue of Marie-Claire (UK edition) is based on the new Cindy De La Hoz book, Marilyn Monroe: The Personal Archives.
Thanks to ‘Not a Machine’
SYNOPSIS: There is no more recognized actress of the twentieth century than Marilyn Monroe. She starred in some of the greatest films ever made and had relationships with some of the most famous men in the world. Even after death she has continued to be surrounded by interest and controversy. Through over 170 beautiful photographs and approximately 20 rare and removable facsimile documents, “Marilyn Monroe: The Personal Archive” will uncover the private life of the star, revealing her crippling stage fright, insecurity, difficult childhood and her ambition to be the greatest actress the world had ever known.
CONTENTS: A Child at Heart; War Bride; Goodbye Norma Jeane; The Talk of Hollywood; Gentlemen Prefer “Dumb” Blondes; A Guy Named Joe; The Eight-Year Itch; The Egghead and the Hourglass; Some Like it Hot; The Misfit; Something Had to Give; A Bright Future Ended.
Cindy De La Hoz is a film historian who has written extensively on cinema and legendary cinematic figures. Her books include ‘Lucy at the Movies’; ‘A Touch of Grace: How to Be a Princess, the Grace Kelly Way’ and ‘Lana: The Memories, the Myths, the Movies’, which Leonard Maltin called “one of the best books about a star I have ever read”. Cindy also wrote Marilyn Monroe: Platinum Fox.