Marilyn, TIME’s Icon for the Ages

Marilyn has been chosen as one of TIME‘s 100 Women of the Year, in a project marking the magazine’s centenary. She has been selected to represent 1954, the year in which she married Joe DiMaggio; entertained US troops in Korea; filmed There’s No Business Like Show Business and The Seven Year Itch; topped the hit parade with ‘I’m Gonna File My Claim’; and then she left it all behind to study acting, and form a production company in New York.

The photo shown above was taken two years previously by Frank Powolny, but remains one of the most iconic images of Marilyn. Other featured actresses include Anna May Wong, Lucille Ball and Rita Moreno. Aimee Semple McPherson, the evangelist said to have christened Norma Jeane, and Gloria Steinem, the feminist campaigner who wrote a book about Marilyn, are also listed.

“In 1954, Marilyn Monroe—already a sex symbol and a movie star—posed on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street in New York City, for a scene intended to appear in her 1955 film The Seven Year Itch. The breeze blowing up through a subway grate sent her white dress billowing around her, an image that lingers today like a joyful, animated ghost. Monroe was a stunner, but she was also a brilliant actor and comedian who strove to be taken seriously in a world of men who wanted to see her only as an object of desire. Today, especially in a world after Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, she stands as a woman who fought a system that was rigged against her from the start. She brought us such pleasure, even as our hearts broke for her.”

Stephanie Zacharek

Marilyn at the Chateau Marmont

Shawn Levy is the author of several books about the entertainment in the 1950s and ’60s, including Rat Pack Confidential, which became a bestseller on its release twenty years ago. Marilyn’s association with the Rat Pack was covered in this entertaining book, but Levy’s style is gossipy and speculative.

In his latest tome, The Castle On Sunset, Levy explores the history of one of Hollywood’s most fabled hotels, the Chateau Marmont. Levy isn’t the first author to tackle the subject; Raymond Sarlot and Fred E. Basten beat him to it with Life At the Marmont back in 1987.

Marilyn stayed there while filming Bus Stop in 1956, although her official residence was a rented house in Beverly Glen. She most likely used Paula Strasberg’s suite for convenience, not to mention her secret trysts with Arthur Miller, who was waiting out his divorce in Nevada. (Miller’s legal battle with the House Un-American Activities Committee was hotting up at the time, and rather disturbingly, the FBI tracked the couple to the hotel.)

Levy also mentions that journalist Brad Darrach interviewed Marilyn there for her Time magazine cover story. This may seem a little odd, as the article’s author was Ezra Goodman. However, Darrach was apparently part of a team which assembled the piece. He first shared his memories with Anthony Summers for Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe in 1984. Here’s the original account, as related by Summers…

“When Time magazine mounted its first cover story on Marilyn, during the shooting of Bus Stop, its researchers began uncovering a good deal about Marilyn’s parentage. This was a vulnerable area because of her various deceptions. As a result, one of Time‘s youngest reporters, Brad Darrach, was granted a personal interview, in bizarre circumstances.

Darrach collected Marilyn at Fox at 11:00 A.M., and drove her to her hotel, the Chateau Marmont. Marilyn, herself a fast driver, asked the reporter to drive slowly. She seemed to him to be afraid, not of his driving, but ‘generally frightened.’ Once in her suite Marilyn soon declared she was tired, and asked if they could do the interview in her bedroom.

So it was that Darrach ended up, he laughingly remembered, ‘spending ten hours in bed with Marilyn Monroe’. She lay down with her head at one end of the bed. He settled at the foot, and there they talked until long after dark.

‘She was Marilyn, and reasonably pretty,’ Darrach remembered. ‘And of course there were those extraordinary jutting breasts and jutting behind. I’ve never seen a behind like hers; it was really remarkable, it was a very subtly composed ass. Yet I never felt for a moment any sexual temptation. There was nothing about her skin that made me want to touch it. She looked strained and a little unhealthy, as though there was some nervous inner heat that dried the skin. But there was no sexual feeling emanating from her. I am sure that was something that she put on for the camera.'”

Go Back in ‘Time’ With Marilyn

Marilyn’s fame was heralded in the media by her first Life cover in 1952, and affirmed by her Time cover in 1956. The Time website has published an extract from Ezra Goodman’s article, with the full text available to subscribers.

Like many journalists of the era, Goodman took a rather cynical and dismissive view of Marilyn’s lofty ambitions. He considered her manipulative and standoffish, and resented her growing entourage, later complaining that the editors had toned down his criticisms in his 1960 book, The Fifty-Year Decline and Fall of Hollywood, extracted in Cavalier magazine as ‘The Girl With the Three Blue Eyes.’

Scans by Roksana at Everlasting Star

Time, 1961: Marilyn’s New Role

This article, first published in Time on February 17, 1961, takes a compassionate look at Marilyn’s decision to enter a hospital, following her divorce from Arthur Miller and related emotional problems. It also suggests that in seeking help for her depression, Marilyn was setting a good example to others.

“In seeking help, she may have done more than the psychiatrists to win popular acceptance of a more modern view of mental illness and treatment for it.”

Thanks to Fraser Penney