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FOREVER...

___ She is, simply put, the most famous movie star of all times... She died such a long time ago on the night of August the 5th, 1962. And yet, she is more well known than most public personalities of today. Marilyn is not only a star and a legend but an indelibile icon which has grown into a gigantic myth over the years. And her image is forever imprinted into our collective minds. I mean, who has never heard of Marilyn Monroe?

You may not love her as much as I do or worship her like I tend to but you know who she is and what she looks like. You are also aware of the basic things about her, from her unhappy childhood to her meteoric rise to fame... Just like Elvis Presley is to music, Marilyn is THE criteria on which movie fame is based on... There never was anyone like her and there never will be... She was absolutely unique.

Endlessly copied, veneered and worshipped by many, ridiculed and degraded by some, adored by her public, she is the most beautiful child-woman ever and the ultimate sex goddess of the silver screen. But to me like many of her fans, she is simply the most fascinating woman who ever lived. I own practically every single book and biography written about her (which I've all read on numerous occasions), have seen all her movies, have a few framed pictures of her on display in my house... You name it.

Everything about her was pure femininity and she possessed a child-like innocence no other woman has ever been able to reproduce. I look at her face and see this gorgeous and yet very fragile smile and surprise myself into fantasizing about being the one able to rescue her from her doom. I am not exactly sure why but there is just something about that woman that haunts me deep to the chore. And from the looks of it, I am far from being the only one. In a way, she is like an incandescent flame instantly recognizable by everyone, even in the remotest part of the world.

There is an amazing story I once read about the size of Marilyn's fame, which clearly demonstrate just how well-known she is. In the early 60's, a journalist was exploring a very remote part of Africa and came upon some indigenous which still lived in extreme poverty. Obviously, those people are not exposed to any of our civilized culture. And yet, when the journalist made the indigenous understand that he came from the United States, the indigenous said in his native tongue: "America... Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola".

There aren't many stars who can achieve this level of recognition. Elvis Presly, James Dean and Marilyn are most likely the only ones who have succeeded in such epic proportions. She is still seen and heard everywhere: from television segments about her life to magazine covers, all trying to somehow retell her story from another angle... Many of her fans (like me) were not even born at the time of her death. And yet, her estate is still being asked the permission to use her image to sell everything from watches to toilet paper, earning the Monroe estate millions of dollars every year. Fortunately, they only accept quality products but the fact is that her face is instantly recognizable and holds a very powerful marketing quality.

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SIMPLY GORGEOUS...

Why has Marilyn become such an enduring icon of mythic proportions you might wonder? There is the beauty of course. Beauty is like art and a beautiful woman is something so dazzling that I am still completely enthralled by it. Marilyn is not the only woman who I find extremely beautiful and there are many other stars I consider pretty but she is in a category all her own.

Jeri Ryan who played "Seven of Nine" on "Star Trek-Voyager" is in my opinion a very beautiful woman. So is "Kim Basinger" who gives new meaning to the term gorgeous. Marlene Dietrich is also an actress I worship. Greta Garbo has kept me fascinated for a long time and it was said she had the perfect face, completely symmetrical. Louise Brooks also resides in my top list, a silent movie actress not very well-known who redefined acting without even realizing it. All these women are the epitome of beauty to me, all in their own distinctive and unique way.

But in Marilyn's case, she had something more than the average beauty queen. She was not only sensitive but extremely so. Just by looking at a photograph or seeing her for a few seconds through a recorded segment, most people will be instantly stricken by that fragile air of innocence that is so unmistakably hers... But sensitivity is not the only factor that made Marilyn so enduring a force for so long. It is mostly her dark side and her demons which has granted her the kind of fame that could only be described as one of the most lasting phenomenon in the history of show business...

Marilyn was so sensitive that a glance, a look, an expression, a single word or gesture from someone could totally shatter her self-image. She gradually became a drug and alcohol addict constantly trying to come to grips with her insecurities and tame the many demons that plagued her all through her short existence. The pain of living, no matter how much she tried to numb it through substance abuse, was always present in Marilyn's life...

She was charming and brilliant but also, self-absorbed, ruthlessly vile when felt attacked upon, unstable emotionally, moody, extreme in her reactions to any events in her life and capable of the most terrifying and violent fits of anger.... Just like a child. Personally, I feel very close to Marilyn because I share many of her terrors and nightmares. Life for me has always been somewhat terrifying and everyday, it seems like we constantly have to fight for our survival. And by looking into Marilyn's face, we can see some part of ourselves we need to be reminded of...

If you look at the first picture below, you will know exactly why I fell in love with Marilyn Monroe. For me, that particular photograph is the most beautiful ever taken of her. It is by far my favorite picture of Marilyn. First, she is gorgeously breathtaking in it, her hair and face being featured at their very best. But mostly, it is the look in Marilyn's eyes that keeps me fascinated. Marilyn always projected a sort of unique and very touching vulnerability through all her photographs.

But for some reason, this one has caught my attention even more than all the others. She looks sad, yet happy. Contented yet frustrated. I can sense so many different things in those eyes. It's as if Marilyn lived through a multitude of conflictual emotions all at once throughout her life, slowly destroying her. I can see everything she is: the good, the bad and everything in between... And I fell in love with Marilyn even more after experiencing this amazing frozen moment of her existence...

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THAT "FUCKING" LIFE

The darker side of Marilyn has been a constant source of marvel to me. In some strange ways, I really identify with and see myself in her. She was a total insomniac, being plagued with depression and nightmares while feeling afraid of turning "crazy" like her mother who was a schizophrenic. She had to take countless sedatives every night to get to sleep, which she would often mix with alcohol with devastating results. She actually died of Barbiturate overdose which is a powerful sleep agent. I am also an insomniac and for me, falling asleep is never easy.

In the same way she was, I am capable of the most violent rages and tantrums. I pity the poor guy who will ever have the nerve to attack me because I will come out of it alive... He won't. I am, I can admit it to myself now, extremely sensitive which makes me overreact to many things that happen to me. If I feel that someone deliberately puts me down or try to lash out at me in any way, I retaliate with more force than the original attack, hell-bent on protecting myself and destroying the entity I feel has infringed on my rights as a human being.

Yes, I strongly identify with Marilyn and her unstable personality. And as I learned about her life over time, I recall getting more and more enamored with her persona which seemed so fragile it could break under any pressure. Her many struggles and despairs made her all the more human and terribly endearing. And she has the power to come back to life in endless ways just when you thought you had forgotten. Just out of nowhere, her image will stare at you with those unbelievable eyes full of love and sadness.

There is a quote, from an author of one of the countless books written about her, about Marilyn that really hit a chord with me: "Marilyn Monroe is a dream of Norma Jean". In a way, Marilyn Monroe is a fictitious entity that Norma Jean Baker created with her dreams of stardom. She worked hard at it and became a huge star. But after a while, began to suffer from a dichotomy between her real persona and her onscreen perfected" self. Her image, constantly seen in countless papers and movie screens, was a constant reminder of time passing by...

People usually think that she was a "natural", acting like herself in most of her movies. She was a much better actress than we ever gave her credit for and her dumb blond characters were only illusions. The real Marilyn is the kid known as Norma Jean Mortenson Baker, hurt and neglected by countless adult figures in her life, who never really had the ability to grow up and become a real adult woman. She retained the soul of a beautiful child and fortunately for us, her different images were captured through film technology and fixed forever, instantly and endlessly available.

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ENVY

As her fame grew into stratospheric proportions in 1953 and she became more well-known than all her peers, she craved to get respect. We tend to forget it but she was the laughing stock of many of her contemporaries. The press would make fun of her desire to become a more accomplished actress. They would imply that only her looks and body were the reason she was so famous. They would make snide remarks about her and try to put her down, just like many critics do with stars today. The more famous you get, the more exposed to criticism you become.

And as you probably know, fame and fortune stirs up envy big time. Marilyn had to endure constant attacks from people who were jealous of her looks and huge fame. Since she was at a level of fame even other actors and actresses couldn't attain, she became the object of intense resentment and envy. And for someone with a soul as sensitive as Marilyn's, it must have been pure torture.

She had felt rejected very early on as a kid, living in dozens of foster homes because her mother was institutionalized permanently suffering from severe schizophrenia. And because of her extreme sensitivity, she took everything that happened to her a lot harder than most people. As she matured and developed this incredible physical self, she began to get noticed and realized that her looks were an important asset. She first became a model who was very successful quickly and then, through hard work and perseverance, eventually became a working actress.

"I don't care about fame and fortune... I just want to be wonderful" is a quote from her which represents her deep longing to be loved. In our society, beauty is something that is worshipped to the point of obsession especially in women. So, for Marilyn, the way to be "liked" was to be wonderful. Beautiful, gorgeous, breathtakingly dazzling and glamorous. But as we all know, beauty fades with age and Marilyn admitted that one of her obsessions, beginning in her early thirties, was to sit in front of a mirror for hours, scrutinizing every feature of her face, trying to find signs of age. Yes, she was absolutely terrified of aging and it kept getting worse with time.

That is one of the many reasons why her constant craving to get better parts and become a more serious actress was so important to her. She instinctively knew that actresses, especially in the 1950's and early 60's, saw their career come to a dead stop as soon as they turned forty, unless they succeeded in changing their image. So, she had to find a new way to express herself and modify her screen persona to fit the new level of physical maturity that we all have to go through in life.

Sadly, she never had the chance to and died before that promise would ever be fulfilled. "When the past dies, there is mourning but when the future dies, our imagination is propelled to carry it on..." is a quote said about Marilyn that perfectly describes the phenomenon. Marilyn was a trend-setter, way ahead of her time. And the fact that she died before growing old has frozen her image as eternally young and beautiful. But underneath all that glamour, she was also terribly human which is the key to her longevity.

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ACTRESS

I thought I could give you some suggestions if you want to see Marilyn's figure move on the screen. Here are a few of Marilyn's best screen appearances which will give you a new perspective on her, if you are like many people who've never even seen her movies. She is probably the actress most famous for being herself than for portraying somebody else on the screen. I must admit that not all of her movies are good and most of them are only worth watching because she appears in them. But there are a few which still hold well today and worth buying.
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NIAGARA

Released in 1953, this one is often ignored in favor of other productions but I personally think it's one of her best. Marilyn played some roles which could qualify as less bubbly and more dramatic than her dumb blond characters. Don't Bother To Knock from 1952 is an example where she played a disturbed nanny who kidnaps a child. But "Niagara" was her only chance to portray a totally evil woman. Even though the movie is built as a suspense, Marilyn is the only center of interest and she is fascinating to watch.

She plays "Rose Loomis", a woman who plots to murder her husband with the aid of her lover. True, some of her acting seems forced and she is a bit stiff in certain segments. But her brashness and coldness are refreshing to see as she makes her character very conscious of the devastating effect she has on men, using sex like a weapon. I must also admit that the story is weak and all the other players are eclipsed by Marilyn who shines like a spotlight. She is so beautiful she almost looks unreal. Even if you turn off the sound, watching her is almost like a religious experience. Just look at that FACE and get lost in the dream. Niagara is the movie which transformed Marilyn from starlet to star.

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GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES

Here, Marilyn plays her signature role which defined her as a true star in 1953... She is playing her dumb blonde character for the first time, role from which she would become typecast and could never totally escape. It contains the very famous Diamonds are a girl's best friend number with the pink dress which you can see on the cover to your left. That image has become a fixture in our culture and Madonna even parodied the whole sequence in her Material Girl video from 1985. She plays Lorelei Lee, a gold-digging intent in finding a rich husband along with her smart and sassy friend Dorothy played by Jane Russell, a fairly popular actress of that era.

Marilyn, captured on camera at the age of 26 years old is here at her most beautiful in my opinion. Just look at her face only and study her expressions anytime she is on the screen.... You'll realize just how amazing an actress she was. With the flicker of an eyelash, she can express more feelings than most actresses ever could with their whole body, switching emotions at the speed of light. This is the movie that catapulted Marilyn into the kind of fame no other actor or actress would ever experience. She became more than a star... She transformed herself into the ultimate love goddess that would define a whole era.

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HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE

Released in 1953 after the hugely successful Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, this one was shot in Cinemascope. Since television was becoming more and more popular, movie studios had to lure people away from their homes into theater which is why they invented a new format where the screen was much larger than the original theatrical one which looked like the television format of today. This is why you have many movies today described with the widescreen term which are presented in letterbox format. The story is another one about the gold-digging phenomenon which is sexist in its implications but was so present in movies of the 1950's. Marilyn plays Pola, a beautiful young woman looking for a rich husband with two of her gold-digging friends.

One of them is played by Betty Grable, the famous pin-up girl of the 40's with whom Marily struck a special kinship. Lauren Bacall was the other in the trio. Even though this is billed as a comedy, there are few laughs except for Marilyn as a woman blind as a bat, refusing to wear her glasses because she feels it will diminish her chances of landing a rich husband. She bumps into walls and read books upside down, in a see of fog... The plot is weak to say the least and I found Lauren Bacall's acting a bit abrasive. But Betty Grable is charming and pleasant even though the real treat is of course Marilyn. Once again, she transcended the weak material and today, most people watch this movie only to see her. That's exactly what I did...

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THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH

You've seen that picture. The one where Marilyn, in a white dress, walks over a subway grate, with the air from passing trains blowing her dress, making it fly way above her knees... The series of stills taken from that scene is probably the most famous one in Marilyn's impressive collection. And that image was 52 feet high, overlooking New York's Times Square at the "Loew's State Theatre" for the premiere of the movie in 1955.

The movie itself hasn't aged well, feeling like a sitcom taking place in the 50's. The story centers around a middle-aged man who flirts with a pretty neighbor while his wife is away on vacation. Her onscreen partner Tom Ewell who had played the lead in the stage version makes the role his own even though his charisma might be lost on contemporary audiences. There isn't much action and anytime Marilyn isn't in the scene, you feel like pushing the forward button. But this was huge success in its day and helped cement Marilyn's huge popularity.

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SOME LIKE IT HOT

This is, by far, the best movie she ever starred in. While all the others are watchable today only because of her presence in them, this one is considered to be a comedy masterpiece, directed by the very famous Billy Wilder. By the way, he also directed The Seven Year Itch and had wowed never to work with her again but changed his mind a mere four years later. The shooting was very difficult, Marilyn still terrified of appearing before the cameras, requiring dozens of takes on even the simplest scene, making it a nightmare for everyone involved. But the end product was worth it. This was by far Marilyn's most sucessful movie in terms of box-office and critical praise. If you only want to watch one, this is it.

The story is about two men masquerading as women while trying to escape mobsters hot on their trails. Played by "Tony Curtis" and Jack Lemmon, the two male leads are very funny as matronly women trying to fool the owner of a girl music band. Marilyn plays Sugar Kane, a ukulele player both men lust over. Billy Wilder was a genius and his directing style is cynic and ironic but always entertaining. And this movie contains one of the very best endings ever with the "Nobody's perfect" quote which really is a wink at gay audiences everywhere. It is included in most top ten lists of the best films ever made and deserves every accolade.

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A NEW BEGINNING...

There is a lot of speculation about her death which is also an important factor in perpetuating her legend. Her romantic association with both "John F. Kennedy" and his brother Bobby also added to the myth factor. Did she commit suicide or was she murdered by the Mafia? Those questions give fuel to the legend and will never cease it seems to peak our curiosity. Personally though, I feel it is a lot more important to emphasize on her life and what she accomplished than in the mysterious circumstances of her death...

She was an abandoned little kid who was born so sensitive that any rejection was like a blade through her flesh. She lived in many foster homes, always feeling out of place, unloved and ashamed of being alive. Her only joy was watching movies where the world seemed like a giant fantasy she wanted to become a part of... She suffered through years of rejection by the movie studios until the public, through fan mail, decided that she should become a star.

Then, through a series of uneven movies (some good, others mediocre...), she became Marilyn Monroe, the ultimate Goddess of the silver screen. But Norma Jean was always there, hurt, confused, feeling rejected and abandoned and no amount of fame or money could ever heal that little girl's wounds. Rest assured though that you will live in our hearts and souls forever Marilyn... I only wish you found the peace you craved for all your life.

Goodbye Norma Jean...