Friday, August 5, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Mosaic of Marilyn

by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Mosaic of Marilyn — 54 Years Gone, and Still Going Strong!


“I DON’T think I lie. I might leave things out, or embellish, but it all comes from truth, it has to. So, no, I don’t lie.”

Marilyn Monroe, talking to Paris Match magazine in 1960.

Of all her statements over the years, this one comes closest to explaining the extraordinary hold the star had on her public and the media, during her short life and in the 54 years since her death. Monroe did “embellish” or “leave things out.” She ... lied.
Although she didn’t see it that way. The struggle to reconcile the many moods and shadings of Marilyn led to her being a constant “mystery” for the decade of her fame, and the half century after her death. (For ten years, magazines constantly claimed to reveal, for the first time, “The REAL Marilyn Monroe!”)

Today, on the 54th anniversary of her passing, we present a mosaic, a puzzle, comprising quotes from MM, her friends, enemies, directors, producers, poets, authors, admirers from afar. The puzzle is incomplete, the missing pieces tantalize, the contradictions are myriad.  It is what we don't know, that facilitates the unprecedented hold this woman still commands over popular culture, worldwide.
... "Marilyn, what is your nightmare?” “My nightmare is the H-bomb. What’s yours?” — MM to Redbook magazine in 1962.

... ”She was a very warm, sensitive, shy creature. It was fascinating to watch her at close range over a long period of time, and to learn that many of the unflattering legend about her were untrue. I’m proud to have been her friend and photographed her. She was a good girl.” — Photographer Elliot Erwitt.
... ”She was the meanest woman I ever met in Hollywood.” — Director Billy Wilder.
... ”There was never anyone I knew who tried harder to be a good, right person. She didn’t always make it, not with that horrible childhood. But she never stopped trying. “Fear! Fear! Fear! This was her woe.” — Magazine writer Adele Whitney Fletcher.

... ”What am I afraid of? Do I think I can’t act? I know I can act, but I am afraid and I should not be and must not be.” — Monroe, jotting a note to herself on the set of a movie in 1960.
... ”Miss Monroe is a very talented amateur.” — Laurence Olivier, after directing and acting with MM on “The Prince and the Showgirl.”
... ”An actor is a sensitive instrument. Isaac Stern takes good care of his violin. What if everybody jumped on his violin?!” — Monroe, after being fired from “Something’s Got to Give.”

... .”When I was working with her on the set, I thought, ‘Oh she’ll never come through, she’s so small scale.” Then I went to the rushes, and it was ALL there. She was a revelation, the perfect screen actress, and it’s always there, in all her movies, that perfect quality.” — Sybil Thorndike, MM one of MM’s co-stars in “The Prince and the Showgirl.”
... ”I’ve encountered two actors who I consider to be geniuses on screen. One is Marlon Brando, the other is Marilyn Monroe.” — Joshua Logan, director of “Bus Stop.”

... ”Marilyn’s acting habits are mysterious. She can do three pages of dialogue without a hitch, under circumstances that would daunt other actors, such as the upper berth scene, or all the location work on the beach. Then she’ll get stuck on one word!” — Billy Wilder.
... ”I adore her. I would rather work with her than any other actress.” — Montgomery Clift, one of Marilyn’s co-stars on “The Misfits.”
... “I don’t think she was a great talent. But she did something I’ve rarely seen. She used ALL of her talent, every moment, every line. She never coasted.” — Jack Lemmon.
“SHE was not the usual movie idol. She was the type who would join in and wash up the supper dishes without being asked.” — Carl Sandberg.

... ”She was fighting the same feelings as me. Both of us were orphans. Both of us suffered from that nameless, terrible fear that haunts you when normal people are sleeping. What does success mean when you know you were not important enough for your own mother to want you?” — Eartha Kitt.
... ”Alone! I am always alone!” — Marilyn, scribbling in a notebook, during her marriage to Arthur Miller.

... ”She was Cinderella in the ad-mass world. This world created her, but she never understood it or really belonged.” — David Robinson, writing in Town magazine, 1962.

... ”She had this double identity. One part was the great Marilyn Monroe, the character she created. The other part of her was like a very innocent girl of 14. You wanted to protect her. She was cruelly exploited and manipulated, well beyond the limit to her tragic end. Despite all the problems on the film, I never saw her lose her temper or use foul language, under any circumstance — a rare thing!” — Jack Cardiff, cinematographer on “The Prince and the Showgirl.”
... ”I wouldn’t work with her again for a million dollars. No, not even a million tax-free dollars!” — Director Otto Preminger, after “The River of No Return.”

... ”She had no meanness in her. No bitchery. She just had to concentrate on herself and people who were there to help her.” — Lauren Bacall, co-star in “How to Marry a Millionaire.”
... ”The motivation for her tardiness is a terrible fear of failure. Here is a great star without the proper background. She is always looking for more time — a hem out of line, a mussed hair, a scene to discuss. Anything to avoid doing something for which she feels inadequate.” — Jack Cole choreographer.

... ”I’ve always felt toward the slightest scene — even if all I had to do was just come in and say ‘Hi!’ that the people ought to get their money’s worth and that this is an obligation of mine.” — Marilyn, in 1962.

... ”She is not malicious, she is not temperamental. She is a star, a self-illuminating body, an original, a legend. When you hire a legend, it’s gonna cost you dough.” — Producer Jerry Wald.
... ”Kissing her was like kissing Hitler!” — Tony Curtis.

... You’ve probably read that there was some actor who said kissing me was like kissing Hitler? Well, I think that’s his problem. If I have to do intimate loves scenes, with a person who actually feels this way about me, my fantasy can come into play—out with him, in with my fantasy. I mean, he was never there!” — MM, in her final Life magazine interview.
“I HOPE, I really pray, that Marilyn survives long enough to free the strange, lovely talent that is wandering through her like a jailed spirit.” — Constance Collier, actress and coach, in 1955.

... ”She was very quiet, had great natural dignity. I cannot imagine anyone who knew her trying to take a liberty with her. She was extremely intelligent and exceedingly sensitive.” — Edith Sitwell, recalling her meeting with MM in 1953.
... ”I never met a girl as introverted as Marilyn. When we filmed at Niagara Falls, great crowds would gather to see her. She couldn’t cope, she would retreat into her shell.” — Joseph Cotton, MM’s co-star in “Niagara.”

... ”I never saw her unhappy in a crowd. Not even when they tore at her clothes for souvenirs.” — Arthur Miller.
... ”She was so adorable and winning in ‘Monkey Business.’ I admit I couldn’t imagine her becoming a big star, because she was so incredibly shy. All the attention she received seemed to make her miserable.” — Cary Grant, who worked with Marilyn in 1952.
... ”What struck me about her was how really funny she was and very bright — extremely bright. Very rarely does one meet a truly witty woman. Marilyn Monroe was one.” — Elliott Erwitt, photographer.

... ”I don’t mind being ‘burdened’ with being considered glamorous or sexual, but sometimes what comes with it can be a burden; people expect an awful lot for very little. You know, we are all born sexual creatures, thank God! Art, real art, comes from it. Everything. It’s a pity so many people despise and crush this natural gift.” — Monroe to Life magazine, in 1962.
... ”She was never really happy. There was never anyone who really understood. She worked so hard to become Marilyn Monroe, and what did it get her? It killed her.” — Mitzi Gaynor.

... ”I know we all have this mythic feeling about her now, but it was also true at the time, during her life, the impact, the legend!” — Dancer/actor George Chakiris.
“MEN ARE reaching for the stars, but they ignore the beating human heart.” — Marilyn, to her therapist in 1961.

... ”She was really a very simple person. What nobody understands is how generous she was. And I don’t mean with money, although she was generous that way. I mean she had a great generosity of spirit.” — Kenneth Battelle, hairdresser.
... ”The only thing you can do is to love bravely, and bear up as best as best as you can.” — Marilyn, in a note to herself.

... ”If they tell you she died of sleeping pills, you must know that she died of a wasting grief, a slow bleeding of the soul.” — playwright Clifford Odets.
... ”Nowadays I am trying to prove to myself that I am a person, then maybe I’ll convince myself that I am an actress.” — Marilyn, a few weeks before her death.

... ”I am so shocked. People should have been more tolerant. She was a tender, wonderful person.” — Clifton Webb, reacting to the news of Marilyn’s death.
... ”Primarily, she was a victim of her gift, a biological victim of life itself. I think Marilyn Monroe was a tragedy of civilization.” — Diana Trilling, writing in 1962.

... ”Marilyn Monroe is like nothing human you have ever seen or dreamed. She is astonishingly white, so radically pale that in her presence you can look at others as easily as you can explore the darkness around the moon. Disdaining all lingerie and dressed in tight white silk emblazoned with countless red cherries, she becomes at once a symbol of impartial and eternal availability. And her smile, when she directs it clearly at you, is exquisitely, heartbreakingly sweet.” — Alice McIntyre, writing for Esquire, from the set of “The Misfits.”
AND FINALLY, from poet and friend Norman Rosten:

“She has escaped facts and flown into myth, caught in the twilight of blended history and remembrance. She haunts us with questions that can never be answered. I have no answers, no new revelations. All beauty is mystery. What comes back to us is the smile, the desperate heart, the image that flares up and will not go away.

“She is still remembered and loved.”

Contact Liz here.