Marilyn, Lana and the American Dream

“We don’t need nobody- cause we got each other…” – Lana Del Rey, November 2012

The latest issue of British music mag Clash takes the American Dream as its theme. Up-and-coming singer Allie X is pictured inside with a portrait of MM, while cover girl Lana Del Rey names Marilyn among her idols:

“I ask Lana about her choice of John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis as heavenly spirits in the Garden of Eden for her short film, Tropico. ‘I wrote a little monologue for everyone who came to the premiere of Tropico. When I was studying philosophy my teacher told me that it’s okay to feel like the people you’re closest to aren’t alive anymore. Sometimes that is the best company to keep. It’s about the people that pondered the same questions as you did, and had the same sort of life mentality as you. I was upset and inspired by that premise.

‘I knew then, really, that my closest friends would be people I have never really met before. I was different and I didn’t know many people who felt about mortality how I did. As a result, I do feel a personal connection with the icons: John Wayne, Elvis. I loved how nice Marilyn was, I related to her. Finding girls who were as loving and warm as her is hard.’

Like Lana, Marilyn Monroe wasn’t one without her detractors. ‘Success makes so many people hate you,’ she once said, ‘I wish it wasn’t that way.'”

And in a separate article headlined ‘What Drives the American Dream?‘, Joe Zadeh considers Marilyn as an American icon:

“Then there was Marilyn Monroe: widely associated with sexual appeal, femme fatale roles and the chauvinistic adoration of the troops, her foster-home-to-film-noir story inspired millions too, and a nude appearance in Playboy broke traditional conceptions of female behaviour for American society.

As the years rolled by, the wheels started to fall off the Dream’s systemic and idealistic prairie schooner. First, its leading lady died, analysed perfectly in the words of biographer Graham McCann: ‘The legend of Marilyn Monroe leads one into the bourgeois truisms of Western culture: that fame does not bring happiness; that sexuality is destructive; that Hollywood destroys its own children.'”

Marilyn’s White Mask in ‘Some Like It Hot’

This fascinating article by Thomas Larson, about Marilyn’s quintessential role as Sugar Kane in Some Like it Hot, was first published in the San Diego Reader in 2003. Here’s a short extract:

“Graham McCann writes in his 1988 Marilyn Monroe, ‘The film is so significant for Monroe watchers, for it is the quintessential fiction on Monroe.’ The movie invites the audience who has followed her ‘personal highs and lows for several years to tease out the biographical references in Monroe’s character.’ This, McCann says, is what gets her fans into the theater.  For the film-makers of the 1950s, the question was always—how can the thrice-married Monroe be reflected to an audience who desperately wants her to find the right man? Answer: have art imitate life. Thus, a shy, bespectacled, unmanly Junior (Arthur Miller) meets a generous, ditzy, confessional Sugar Kane (Marilyn), and their unlikely, mixed-up, marriage-minded romance is the story. One the public knows already.

But there’s a price to pay for this too-complete identification. Since no actor can maintain her screen persona—despite the desires of audience and studio—the star like an animal ensnared in a steel trap begins to chew her foot off in order to get free. This is, essentially, the tragedy depicted in Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. In fact, Monroe’s troubles during Some Like It Hot trace a similar emotional arc to those of Norma Desmond (played to pugnacious perfection by Gloria Swanson) in Wilder’s great 1950 movie. There, the deluded silent-film star tries to parlay her old glory in a thankless Hollywood and fails utterly. Playing the 24-year-old Sugar Kane, the 32-year-old Marilyn becomes as self-destructive in her life as Swanson’s Norma was in her role.”