When she was rejected as a replaceable actress, Monroe knew her worth and boldly defended herself.
“She was finding her strength,” said photographer Nancy Lee Andrews. “Becoming Marilyn is not a tragedy. It is a victory.”
When you check out this famous movie star off-camera, the depth of her life comes full circle. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how Monroe has been strategically approaching her career.
Not just another dumb blonde
One of Monroe’s early works was the musical comedy “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”. She played a stupid blonde gold digger named Lorelei, a showgirl who sails to France to marry a wealthy man.
“I can be smart when it’s important. But most men don’t like it,” she says in the film, a phrase Monroe insisted she use.
Despite the lack of female representation, Monroe found strength by adding complexity to these simple characters.
“It was crucial to the development of Marilyn’s career and star character because Laurie is the dumb blonde who isn’t as dumb as you think,” said Sarah Churchill, professor of American literature at University College London.
Monroe played assumptions to catapult herself to stardom.
“If I’m able to not only take part in the joke but control it, then for me that’s a sign of genius,” said actress Amber Tamblyn.
Find its strength and fight for its value
Monroe starred in several successful works in 1953, including “How to Marry a Millionaire”, where she again played the role of a dumb blonde. The film grossed $15 million on Fox, which is the equivalent of $150 million today.
After Monroe was asked to play another great role on the comedy musical score, “The Girl in Pink Tights,” Monroe was fed up. She literally called it “trash” and gave it back to studio head, Daryl Zanuck, according to biographer Cindy de la Hoz Seppala.
“She was the main attraction,” said actress Mira Sorvino. “I mean she was the reason people flocked to the stage. So, it was crazy that she didn’t get a much stronger position in terms of salary.”
Monroe turned down the role until her salary and conditions were improved.
“For anyone who thinks Monroe has been a perpetual victim, she’s out of the ‘Pink Tights’ group,” said Molly Haskell, author and film critic.
The film was never produced, and the studio changed Monroe’s contract, giving her a raise in future roles.
Monroe David’s Gamble vs. Goliath
In 1954, Monroe photographed the most famous moment of her career: when her dress exploded over a subway network. The scene was featured in The Seven Year Itch which was a huge box office hit.
She was at the height of her success but she was still dressed up. Therefore, she left Hollywood.
After breaking her contract with Fox, she went to New York and launched her own film company, Marilyn Monroe Productions. She also took lessons at the Actors Studio. This was all, she said, in an effort to be seen as a “serious actress.”
Within a year, Fox waived and offered Monroe a new contract – giving her a higher salary, director approval, and the freedom to make films through her production company.
“She’s got everything she wanted, everything, unheard of in 1955,” said Monroe’s friend, Amy Green, who was with her when she received the news.
Proof of her acting cut
Monroe’s first film under her new contract was “Bus Stop”. This was her chance to flaunt her acting chops.
She played a failed musician named Chérie, who aspired to be a big star. Monroe insisted on ghost makeup because she believed this character would never go out in the sunlight. She also perfected the Ozark accent for the role.
“We can see that Marilyn Monroe’s physicality is treated differently than in previous films,” said Janine Basinger, professor of film studies at Wesleyan University. “There’s a different quality to it. It’s more realistic. It’s less voyeuristic.”
Critics praised Monroe’s performance.
“A lot of people said she really deserved to be nominated for an Academy Award for that role,” film critic Christina Neuland said.
Monroe makes a movie with her production company
Monroe’s next step was to produce The Prince and the Girl with her own production company.
“The Prince and the Showgirl was going to finally show everything she’s been fighting for a decade, and that she’s going to have all that credibility she wants,” Churchill said.
Marilyn played Elsie, an American showgirl, who falls in love with a European prince, played by Laurence Olivier. There were challenges during filming, such as Monroe being late, but she was shining in front of the camera.
“The people who worked with her talked about these clever feedback that you will make after watching [footage]”Where she said very specific things she wasn’t happy with and why,” said Alicia Malone, presenter of Turner Classic Movies. She was a symbol of a woman who knows her craft and knows exactly what she wants and exactly what she needs. “
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