Anatomy of a Lingerie Ad

ABG, the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate, has launched yet another brand. Marilyn Monroe Envy is a range of lingerie – which is ironic, since Marilyn found underwear confining and avoided it whenever she could.

The cover image is a merging of two well-known Milton Greene photos. Some fans are unhappy with this, when there are so many thousands of gorgeous originals to choose from. However, Milton’s son Joshua has stated that a unique, one-off image had been commissioned for the advertising campaign.

Merged image without lettering and colouring. Thanks to Fraser Penney

When asked if she wore anything at all to her famous calendar shoot, Marilyn memorably replied, ‘I had the radio on.’ However, at the foot of the page on the website, another sentence has been added – ‘I did too have something on.’ In fact, she never said this. The phrase ‘did too’ was not commonplace in Marilyn’s time, and makes her sound rather like a stroppy teenager!

While I understand the desire to keep Marilyn’s image up-to-date for marketing purposes, I can’t help feeling that her essence is being sidelined, and am doubly concerned that her estate seems to be encouraging this.

Birthday Tributes in the Blogosphere

Marilyn by Cecil Beaton, 1956

Over the next few posts I’m going to focus on the best fan tributes for Marilyn’s birthday. But firstly, here are a few selections from the blogosphere.

We’re all used to reading Marilyn’s own words online – though sadly, some of them are internet fakes – but Flavorwire has compiled a rather good list, 30 of Marilyn Monroe’s Smartest and Most Insightful Quotes.

Nearly all of these are genuine, in my opinion – meaning, they can be traced back to reputable biographies and interviews with MM herself. The only one I’m not sure about is the second one, regarding James Joyce’s Ulysses, which comes from the disputed Miner transcripts. (However, we do at least have Eve Arnold’s 1955 photo as evidence that Marilyn read the book – and, indeed, she later performed Molly Bloom’s closing soliloquy as an exercise for her dramatic coach, Lee Strasberg.) 

“Here is [James] Joyce writing what a woman thinks to herself. Can he, does he really know her innermost thoughts? But after I read the whole book, I could better understand that Joyce is an artist who could penetrate the souls of people, male or female. It really doesn’t matter that Joyce doesn’t have… or never felt a menstrual cramp. To me Leopold Bloom is a central character. He is the despised Irish Jew, married to an Irish Catholic woman. It is through them Joyce develops much of what he wants to say.”

Geeks of Doom posted this thoughtful tribute:

“While she didn’t have the cocksure winking swagger of a Mae West, or the sharp natural beauty of an Ava Gardner, she somehow fell somewhere in the middle of both of those ladies…In a strange way, she is old Hollywood and still remains fresh in new Hollywood.”

And finally, Kim Morgan reposts her wonderful Playboy tribute from last year over at her Sunset Gun blog.

“Because through it all, no matter what was happening in her life, Marilyn gave us that gift: pleasure. Pleasure in happiness and pleasure in pain and the pleasure of looking at her. And great artist that she was, looking at her provoked whatever you desired to interpret from her. Her beauty was transcendent. For that, we should do as Dylan instructs: ‘Bow down to her on Sunday, salute her when her birthday comes.'”

Lady Gaga’s Blonde Moment

Lady Gaga responded to criticisms of her alleged weight gain via Twitter last night, sharing a photo of Marilyn with this quote, accompanied by a message from Gaga: ‘And thank to my fans who love me no matter what, and know the meaning of real beauty & compassion. I really love you.’

The supposed MM quote has been circulating on the internet for a few months.  However, it’s 100% fake, as Size Zero wasn’t introduced until 1966, four years after Marilyn died.

‘Just What Was Marilyn Monroe Saying?’

Jeff Nilsson takes a fascinating look back at Marilyn’s conversations with Saturday Evening Post reporter Pete Martin, who coined the term ‘Monroeisms’, proves once again that her genuine quotes are wittier than fakes. (Their interviews were later published in book form, as Will Acting Spoil Marilyn Monroe?)

“By 1956, Marilyn Monroe had earned a national reputation for being a ‘star,’ a ‘celebrity,’ a ‘sex symbol,’ and… a ‘dumb blonde.’ This last attribute came from the popular assumption that a woman with such a strong sensual nature must be ignorant. It was reinforced by the movie roles in which she played dim-witted ladies. Partly, too, it was Marilyn’s speech, delivered in a high, breathy voice that made her sound continually startled. And it wasn’t helped by many of the things Marilyn said without thinking.

But many of her sayings were well thought-out before uttered: the Post staff interviewer called them ‘Monroeisms.’ Sometimes they were baffling, but they were usually amusing and containing a double meaning.

In truth, Marilyn was continually thinking up these quotable lines. A senior publicity agent [whom Pete Martin referred to as ‘Flack Jones’] told Martin that she was a skilled ad-lib artist. ‘She makes up those cracks herself. Certainly that “Chanel Number 5″ was her own.'”

Franck Trebillac’s Marilyn

 “Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul. I know, because I turned down the first offer often enough and held out for the fifty cents.”
– Marilyn Monroe

This famous quote, taken from Marilyn’s 1954 memoir, My Story,  inspired London artist Franck Trebillac to create a new screenprint.

Marilyn’s Internet Quotes: ‘Consider the Source’

Photo by Ben Ross

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

This quote has been attributed to Marilyn countless times on the internet in recent years. However, I have never been able to find the source: not in any biography, memoir or interview.

Therefore, I consider this quote to be dubious at best. However, a writer at Gender Agenda has posted a feminist critique, no less, entitled (with no apparent irony) ‘Women Who Just Don’t Get the Point.’

“If you haven’t heard this quote before then you must acquaint yourself with all the right people. The women who use and adopt this quote (it is almost invariably women), I am sure, do it in the spirit of GIRL POWER. Women do this, and like this, and act like this; and, if you can’t deal with it, then tough. Women get emotional, women can be erratic – and if you won’t handle our cons then you can’t get our pros. I think that this detrimentally misses the point of feminism, which I believe to be gender diversity, equality and acceptance.”

As I was unable to log into the site, I could not point out that this quote was probably not said by Monroe. However, I see that another reader has commented, quite eloquently, on the matter in hand.

“While I think that you fundamentally have a good point, I would disagree with you on your assessment of Monroe’s quote; I don’t believe that there is any sort of broad base for the quote, it is intended to be entirely personal. Monroe was known for having personal issues, at the same time as being the most desired woman of her era.

In the same way as I might comment on my own personal problems, we do not assume this to extend across all of male-dom. If I say I have issues with anger, or drink, or self-esteem, or the colour blue, I am not taken as the mouthpiece of all men, all Asians, all scientists, or any other demographic. This is reflected in the structure of her sentence-’I’; it appears more as an affirmation of self-worth, if you cannot cope with the negative aspects of her character, then she has no reason to let you experience the side of her that she likes and appreciates. People desired the ideal of Marilyn Monroe, but her quote indicates a refusal to grant them this ideal, if they didn’t want to/couldn’t handle having the real, 3D, human, Marilyn Monroe, née Norma Jeane Mortenson, at the same time, as irrevocably intertwined were the two.”

Saving Abel Inspired by Marilyn

US rockers Saving Abel‘s recent single, ‘Stupid Girl (Only in Hollywood)’ was inspired by Marilyn:

“As we were in the studio, I was reading some quotes from Marilyn Monroe, which I do give her credit for because she’s awesome and I’m one of her biggest fans. But she said once that ‘A wise girl always kisses before she’s kissed, leaves before she’s left, and forgets before she’s forgotten.’ Which if you kind of think about Marilyn that nails her — nail on the head. If you actually listen to the song, it actually says you’re not a stupid girl. So it’s basically a story about Marilyn Monroe and pretty much the Hollywood vibe.”

Jared Weeks, Point Music News

The quote, often attributed to Marilyn, goes like this:

“A wise girl kisses but doesn’t love, listens but doesn’t believe, and leaves before she is left.”

Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to trace where this quote came from, and this makes me wonder if Marilyn ever really said it. If she did, it is likely that it was said with a huge dose of irony, as Marilyn was rarely that calculating in love.

However, if Marilyn didn’t say it, then this quote doesn’t represent her at all. If anyone knows where the quote originates, please do leave a comment here.

There are several other unsourced quotes floating around the internet. Here are a few:

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

“I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go. Things go wrong so you can appreciate them when they’re right. You believe lies so eventually you trust no one but yourself. And sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

“I am good, but I am no angel. I sin, but I am not the Devil. I am pretty, but I am not beautiful. I have friends but I am not the peacemaker. I am just a small girl in a big world, trying to find someone to love.”

“Imperfection is beauty. Madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Marilyn’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame makes an appearance on the ‘Stupid Girl’ video. Here are the lyrics:

“When the lights hit your eyes at night
You’re hypnotized
Don’t be a fool for the wolves in disguise
You’re not a stupid girl
The grammar in your head is playing dead
Sugar-tongue rolling off your lips whispering
You’re not a stupid girl

Cause your climbing up the list
Pretty little, box office hit and miss

You always kiss before you’re kissed
You always wanna leave before you’re left
You’re never gonna be the same
Cause you’re flirting with fame in the city of angels
They’re calling your name
Only in Hollywood

I’m sorry for all the clouds in your life
You always were the kind who loved the rainy nights
You’re not a stupid girl
I think you only want, what you think you can’t have
You lie so much
You believe yourself
You’re not a stupid girl”