‘American Blondes’, my essay comparing Marilyn Monroe with Lana Turner (originally posted here), is republished in the latest issue of the excellent Mad About Marilyn fanzine, which also features Marilyn’s 1956 interview with Elsa Maxwell; a profile of photographer Gene Lester; and a feature on the Moon of Baroda diamond.
An extract from Lois Banner’s Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox is published in today’s Mail on Sunday, detailing how Marilyn’s image evolved from girl next door to goddess.
“It all started with a red cardigan. The ‘sweater girl’ look, launched by Lana Turner in the 1937 film They Won’t Forget, was coming into vogue across America. But it hadn’t reached Emerson Junior High School, Los Angeles – until Norma Jeane Mortenson, or Marilyn Monroe as she was later to be known, found her own distinctive way.
Teenage girls in that era often wore a front-buttoned cardigan over a white blouse with a prim collar. Norma Jeane eliminated the blouse as well as the bra and camisole worn under it. She then took a red cardigan, turned it around, and buttoned it up the back. The sweater clung to her breasts; she called it her ‘magic sweater’.
And so began one of the most remarkable transformations in the history of Hollywood – a time-consuming and often quite inspired campaign to turn an abandoned girl, mocked by her classmates, into the sexual icon of the age.”