Marilyn Monroe: The myth, the muse, the legend

25 Apr

"The reason behind Marilyn Monroe's unusual success can be found in her corporeality," writes author Barbara Sichtermann in her new book about the Hollywood star. "It would be hard to find a feminine trait that she didn't have." As such, her talent as an actress was often pushed into the background. "Her celebrity and her sex appeal [...] overshadowed her other work."

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Mythical muse Marilyn Monroe

 

Between sex appeal and art

"The reason behind Marilyn Monroe's unusual success can be found in her corporeality," writes author Barbara Sichtermann in her new book about the Hollywood star. "It would be hard to find a feminine trait that she didn't have." As such, her talent as an actress was often pushed into the background. "Her celebrity and her sex appeal [...] overshadowed her other work."

Symbol of authenticity

Sichtermann collected the views from a number of celebrities on the Marilyn Monroe phenomenon. Playwright Arthur Miller, the actress' last husband, offered this tidbit: "I don't understand how Marilyn became a symbol of authenticity. Perhaps it was simply the result of the effect she had on people: with just one look at her, men would be disloyal and women green with envy."

Paparazzi problems

"When we were married, we spent quite a bit of time alone together because Marilyn could hardly peep outside her front door without being photographed," recalled Miller, who died in 2005. "We had long talks and it was as if we could have done anything without the usual distractions." The pair is pictured here with actors Vivien Leigh and Sir Laurence Olivier.

Moral hypocrisy

"She might have been more inclined to accept herself had their been a freer, more equal moral standard," said biographer Barbara Sichtermann about the split felt by Monroe. "There's a lot of truth to the notion that the greatest sex icon of the 1950s was also a victim of acute hypocrisy." Here, Monroe is seen in a screenshot from the 1953 drama "How to Marry a Millionaire."

American Puritanism

"Even after the sexual revolution and the advent of feminism in the 1960s, the US remained a relatively puritanical place, where the power of sex was seen as a threat. Anyone who crossed the line was singled out," said Sichtermann.

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Marilyn Monroe could be ridiculously funny, both on the big screen and in private. Those who don't believe that should read what her friend, novelist Truman Capote, said about her.

The two once met at the sidelines of a funeral, an occasion he wrote about in 1955. The ensuing conversation ranged from Monroe's looks and her new beau, playwright Arthur Miller to the search for champagne and feeding dogs.

Whether the dialogue is as truthful as Capote suggested is something that no one could answer today. Yet it's something that one could imagine. And it's written splendidly - Monroe held nothing back. That made it both funny and absurd.

Capote, Oates and Miller on Monroe

Capote's short play is one of three texts that writer Barbara Sichtermann included in her short biography on Monroe, "Marilyn Monroe: Mythos und Muse" ("Marilyn Monroe: Myth and Muse"), published in Germany by Ebersbach & Simon just ahead of the icon's 90th birthday on June 1.

Another text comes from novelist Joyce Carol Oates, who recalled three important stages in Monroe's career. The third is uniquely personal, written by the world-famous playwright Arthur Miller, who was married to the actress from 1956 to 1961. In her book, Sichtermann included her own essay about the "innocent symbol" in which she attempts to explain the myth of Marilyn Monroe. Learn more about the book by clicking through the picture gallery above.

 

Author Jochen Kürten 

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