I don’t remember the day, but I remember the moment I fell in love, in admiration with Marilyn Monroe. It was while I was watching Bus Stop. A movie about a singer in a country club who dreams of moving to Hollywood to become a star. Then she meets a cowboy — rough and handsome — who innocently and forcefully tries to take claim of her. Throughout the movie, the audience witnesses as Marilyn’s character struggles to free herself from his forceful obsessiveness (Spoiler: She freed herself from his roughness in the end). If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly advise you do. To me, it’s one of Marilyn’s finest, outside of The Misfits and Some Like It Hot.
Bus Stop was the first movie Marilyn made under her newly-formed production company.
It was the pivot of Marilyn letting the world know she was more than her blonde hair and curves — that she had a brain — that she was business savvy.
Often, and to my ire, critics and historians describe Marilyn Monroe as a dumb blonde, vulnerable to own her demise. In my opinion, this just isn’t the case. She was smart enough to free herself from an abusive marriage (first marriage). Monroe worked hard to earn her rightful place in Hollywood, using both her mind, body, and instinct. Some may judge her for her sexual prowess with married men who were either managers or producers, but the 1950s were a different time for women. Thus, I chose not to judge and understand the circumstance.
On the love front, Marilyn loved Yankee’s baseball legend Joe DiMaggio (her second husband). However, DiMaggio was rumored to be a traditional Italian and expected a traditional homemaker in Marilyn — but she was a star, never meant to be someone’s homemaker. Thus, he allegedly physically assaulted her, demanding she did as he told. To remain sane, Marilyn had to leave (Rumor has it, they remained lovers, off and on). However, there’s no doubt in my mind that Dimaggio regretted how he treated Marilyn, as he spent the rest of his life mourning her death.
Marilyn was a woman who loved, and she loved deeply.
“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
Thus, it wasn’t a surprise that Marilyn fell in love with playwright Arthur Miller, who became her third husband. Sadly, this too turned into an empty marriage bed — with Miller allegedly regretting marrying the “dumb blonde” — and woman who was possibly mentally ill. The movie The Misfits is rumored to be about Marilyn Monroe, and it is brutal. Miller wrote Roslyn, played by Marilyn, as a vixen who was emotionally fragile and raging with uncontrollable fits — like in the scene when she lost it with the men trying to tame wild horses in the far-out country.
“Horse killers! Killers! Murderers! You’re liars! All of you, liars! You’re only happy when you can see something die! Why don’t you kill yourself to be happy? You and your God’s country! Freedom! I pity you! You’re three dear, sweet, dead men!”
Here’s another scene, transcribed by IMDb, that personifies the alleged perception of how Miller viewed his then-wife Marilyn, who seems easy to control due to her vulnerability, but turns out not so much. Clark Gable plays Gay in the film, and as mentioned, Roslyn is played by Marilyn.
Gay: What makes you so sad? You’re the saddest girl I ever met.
Roslyn: You’re the first man who’s ever said that. I’m usually told how happy I am.
Gay: That’s because you make a man feel happy.
[He tries to kiss her, but she demurs]
Roslyn: I don’t feel that way about you, Gay.
Gay: Don’t get discouraged girl, you might.
However, as I said earlier, the critics, historians, and yes, Arthur Miller, were wrong, wrong, wrong. Marilyn wasn’t a vixen, and she wasn’t a dumb blonde. Marilyn was a human being. Marilyn chose to play in Miller’s movie The Misfits because Marilyn saw the beauty in the ugly of the character and she respected her husband’s talent — even though she allegedly felt betrayed by him. Marilyn was nobody’s victim; she was the star, in control of her destiny. That’s why I love Marylin Monore.
Here are 10 of my favorite Marilyn Monroe quotes from Brain Quotes, at least supposedly said by Ms. Monroe.
- Success makes so many people hate you. I wish it weren’t that way. It would be wonderful to enjoy success without seeing envy in the eyes of those around you.
- I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.
- It’s better to be unhappy alone than unhappy with someone — so far.
- If a star or studio chief or any other great movie personages find themselves sitting among a lot of nobodies, they get frightened — as if somebody was trying to demote them.
- A strong man doesn’t have to be dominant toward a woman. He doesn’t match his strength against a woman weak with love for him. He matches it against the world.
- I have always had a talent for irritating women since I was fourteen.
- I think that sexuality is only attractive when it’s natural and spontaneous.
- Husbands are chiefly good as lovers when they are betraying their wives.
- I’ve never dropped anyone I believed in.
- Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you’d never complete your life, would you? You’d never wholly know you.
To me, Marilyn Monroe wrote the book on femininity and feminism. She loved hard; she fell in love with the wrong man at times, but she still loved deeply. The best thing about Marilyn is she didn’t regret a thing because she did it all on her terms.
P.S. Watch HBO’s Love, Marilyn biography.
[Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images]