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The Marilyn Myth & The Liz Legend

Updated on April 29, 2010

It's been almost a half century since her death, and yet the popularity of Marilyn Monroe has scarcely abated since the height of her screen career. In fact, over a million dollars each year are spent on merchandise bearing her likeness: posters, T - shirts, calendars, collector plates, etc. All of this in addition to the seemingly endless profusion of biographies, analyses, memoirs and coffee table photo collections.
What is it about Marilyn Monroe that keeps her so alive decades after her untimely death in 1962 at the age of 38? How has she managed to capture such a lasting hold on our cultural psyche like no other film star, here in a land that worships its celebrities as deities? We live in a world of stars and superstars but half a century from now who will remember Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears or Megan Fox. Most likely no one but historians and terminal nostalgics. However, it is likely that the icon of Marilyn Monroe will be as towering half a century from now as it is today, half a century after her disappearance.

During her meteoric rise to stardom the news media began documenting MM's every move. Her love life was grist for the ever churning mill of the press and newsreel. Her marriages were major news. When she changed movie studios, there were headlines. Her illnesses, her miscarriages, all fodder for a public hungry to know about this Blond Venus. And even before her name, indeed just her initials, became daily news her face had been one of the most photographed in history. In fact, when she was still alive, Marilyn had the distinction of being on more magazine covers than any other model in the world.

Even prior to bleaching her mousy brown hair to platinum blond, Norma Jean Baker was "that girl," whose graceful curves and alluring smile graced fashion magazines, true detective stories, men's publications, you name it. Session photographers regularly requested the bright - eyed girl who loved the camera. One Life photographer, doing a spread on Hollywood starlets, predicted that this particular starlet would become a major star because of her unique ability to play off the camera. She was a willing and ambitious model who ceaselessly pushed herself with full intentions of becoming a star.

In any review of the couple of dozen movies she appeared in during her short career, one of the first impressions is her surprisingly wide variety of roles, particularly the early ones. No one seemed to know what to make of this voluptuous women who spoke with a child's voice. Of course, they exploited her sensuous appearance and rolling gait right from her film debut in a lesser Marx Brothers comedy and again in a well - received small part in All About Eve. But even as this star rose higher and higher in the cinematic firmament, they didn't know quite what to do with MM, and she was given some fairly awful work in some fairly marginal movies that will ironically be remembered only because she was in them. She was cast as the dizzy blonde, vaporous, dependent, and looking for a man to bring meaning into her life. This stereotype lives on many decades after the motion pictures were produced.

Continued In The Marilyn Myth & The Liz Legend Part 2


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