The publication of Fragments has revived the age-old (and to me, baffling) debate on Marilyn Monroe’s intellect. In Canada’s Globe and Mail, Lynn Crosbie ponders…
“But why are we so determined to make her an intellectual as well? Most riveting in film because of her unparalleled charisma, Monroe was not a brilliant actress, but a perfect spectacle.
While attracted to dour, cruel artistic men, she was not an artist herself, or an intellectual — all of these attributions derive from the bad company — Svengalis like Strasberg, Arthur Miller and photographer Milton Greene who groomed her to play classical roles — she was keeping, late in life.
Is it easier to howl at Monroe’s beauty when one dignifies such lust, even love, by affecting an admiration — again, like a coroner — of what lay beneath?
I asked the living legend, Monroe’s colleague, Mamie Van Doren — who is alive and well and gorgeous — what she thought of Marilyn-the-Genius.
‘I’m not sure you would call her an intellectual,’ she said. ‘What I do know about Marilyn is that she was a hard worker in a difficult profession, one where your peers often take greater delight in tearing you down than building you up, especially if your stock in trade was glamour.'”
In the New York Times, Maureen Dowd comments:
“The false choice between intellectualism and sexuality in women has persisted through the ages. There was no more poignant victim of it than Marilyn Monroe.
She was smart enough to become the most famous Dumb Blonde in history. Photographers loved to get her to pose in tight shorts, a silk robe or a swimsuit with a come-hither look and a weighty book — a history of Goya or James Joyce’s Ulysses or Heinrich Heine’s poems. A high-brow bunny picture, a variation on the sexy librarian trope. Men who were nervous about her erotic intensity could feel superior by making fun of her intellectually.
At least, unlike Paris Hilton and her ilk, the Dumb Blonde of ’50s cinema had a firm grasp on one thing: It was cool to be smart. She aspired to read good books and be friends with intellectuals, even going so far as to marry one. But now another famous beauty with glowing skin and a powerful current, Sarah Palin, has made ignorance fashionable.”