Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Breaking Down "Secret Life" Part 3/?

DISCLAIMER: I am not a Marilyn expert, but I’m studying to be!

Thanks for tuning in! This is a continuation of my series of blog posts titled “Breaking Down ‘The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe’ the movie.” If you have not, please check out parts 1 & 2 of this review.

Links are here!
Part 1
Part 2

As always, thank you to April, my go-to Marilyn expert who this time specifically helped me source Jim's memoir.

Episode 1 continued: Marilyn’s marriage to Jim Dougherty + the beginning of her modeling career

In the last post, we ended on a breakdown of Marilyn’s foster homes; dates in which she was bounced back and forth between different houses and families as a child. Now we get out of her childhood and move on to her teenage years.

“The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe” (the movie) paints a picture of the young Jim Dougherty, played by Giacomo Gianniotti, as a man who cared for then Norma Jeane, played by Kelli Garner, but who soon became frustrated with her lack of interest in sex and who quickly became unsupportive of her career.

On June 19, 1942, a sixteen year old Norma Jeane married 21 year old James Dougherty. James had been a neighbor of Marilyn and would often help drive her and Bebe Goddard (Doc Goddard’s daughter) back from school. However, Doc was preparing for a job transfer to West Virginia, and they could not afford to bring Marilyn along. She was still a minor at fifteen years old, so she would have been forced to go back to the orphanage, a place which she had previously lived for one year at age seven. Sixteen was the legal age in California, so this gave Grace and Ethel (Jimmy’s mother) an idea. Norma Jeane would soon turn sixteen, and if she wanted to avoid another boarding at Hollygrove, why not marry Jimmy? They had been out on a couple friendly dates together, so the two ladies felt this would be the perfect arrangement to give Marilyn a better living situation. And so, in June of 1942, Norma Jeane Baker dropped out of her sophomore year at University High School and became Norma Jeane Dougherty in an intimate ceremony at the home of the Howell family (friends of Grace) on South Bentley Avenue.

Marilyn and James on their wedding day

That same month, the newlyweds signed a 6 month lease for a small one room bungalow in Sherman Oaks. They spent their short honeymoon at Sherwood Lake for fishing and camping.

Norma Jeane fishing at Sherwood Lake

James Dougherty soon joined the United States Merchant Marine. Not long after, he was shipped off to boot camp on Catalina Island, which had been cut off from the public to become a training ground for the navy. The Doughertys moved into an apartment in Avalon, Catalina Island where the headquarters of the Merchant Marine Corps was located. The couple made a few friends there and Marilyn loved to keep in shape by taking the dog out for a run each day or lifting weights. Marilyn frequently wrote to Grace McKee, updating her on her life at Catalina and her marriage to Jim. Their marriage started out decently, they still didn’t know each other very well, but felt they could make it work and start a family. Marilyn, lacking a father figure in her life, sometimes subconsciously saw him as her father rather than her husband. After all, he was 5 years older than her, and the maturity level was a little different. Marilyn was a young girl looking for love and stability and clung to him for both. She loved Jimmy during their marriage, but for the most part, Marilyn later recalled it just became “boring.” Marilyn was too young at that point to become a mother, so the thought of starting a family was hardly more than a thought at all. Being a sixteen year old virgin thrust into marriage must have been a terrifying situation, and the film portrays this in the scene shortly after their marriage, where Jimmy is expecting Norma Jeane to sleep with him, but she suddenly begins panicking and begging him to stop. It would be these elements combined with Marilyn’s soon to be modeling career that would ultimately lead to their separation.

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

At this point in the movie, we return to the “present” time where Marilyn briefly leaves the room in which she is conversing with the fictional Dr. DeShields. Frantically rushing to Eunice Murray, her housekeeper, she quickly swallows some unknown type of pills. Marilyn struggled much of her life with taking too many sleeping pills, this is a commonly known fact. However, Marilyn did not constantly require pills to make it through the day. The medication she used was consumed at night when she could not sleep. She was not high every minute of every day swallowing down pills. So that was pretty disappointing to see portrayed. However, Kelli Garner, as Marilyn, says during her conversation with the fictional Dr. DeShields that she would rather be a symbol for sex than “some other thing they’ve got symbols for” and that she wants to be an “artist,” not an “erotic freak.” These are real Marilyn quotes! In her ghost written book (ghostwritten but still her book) based off her working with Milton Greene and Ben Hecht to create an autobiography titled My Story, she says “I want to be an artist, not an erotic freak. I don’t want to be sold to the public as a celluloid aphrodisical.” In Marilyn’s very last interview in July of 1962, she says: “If I’m gonna be a symbol of something, I’d rather have it sex than some other thing they’ve got symbols of!”

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

In the film it is now 1944. We see Kelli as Marilyn walk into another average day at the Radioplane Munitions Factory. Marilyn herself landed this job in March of 1944 with the help of Ethel Dougherty after Jimmy was shipped off to Australia. Her job was to spray varnish on the fuselages before being promoted to inspecting parachutes. On this particular day, shown in the movie, photographer David Conover was assigned to Radioplane to photograph women on the assembly that were to be used in military magazines. Young Norma Jeane turns out to be a natural in front of the camera, and Conover suggests she take up modeling. Norma is surprised and excited at this suggestion, and it boosts her mood and her confidence in the pictures. David Conover is known as the first person to professionally photograph the soon to be Marilyn Monroe. And the film shows a super cute recreation! Just another example of why I adore the sets and costumes replicated on screen.

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

Marilyn Monroe, 1944

What I find surprising at this stage of the movie, however, is that Marilyn’s sister has not yet been mentioned. If you’re super new to the Marilyn world: yes, Marilyn had a sister! Berniece Baker was born to Gladys and Jasper Baker on July 30, 1919. She is still alive today, and is the half sister of Marilyn Monroe, they both share the same mother. Bernice married Paris Miracle in 1938 and they had a daughter together named Mona Rae Miracle in 1939. Norma Jeane had first learned of the existence of her older sister when she was twelve years old, but in the fall of 1944, at age eighteen, was when the two met for the first time in person after a trip to Detroit.

Marilyn with her sister Berniece and Berniece's daughter Mona Rae, 1944

Now we are at some point in what I would assume would be 1945. Norma Jeane has just lightened her hair, and returns home to find her mother Gladys sitting on her doorstep with some luggage. Gladys did in fact board with Marilyn at this time, but Jimmy was not a part of it, as is portrayed in the film. By 1945, Jimmy disapproved of Marilyn’s modeling career, he may have started out not thinking much of it, but he wanted her to stay at home and be a general housewife and have their children. Marilyn had quit her job at Radioplane and that August had signed with the Blue Book Modeling Agency. In the film, Jim angrily calls Marilyn and tells her he has been waiting for her to pick him up. Marilyn is caught up in trying to make her mother comfortable and has forgotten about her husband. He chooses to take the bus instead and meets them at the house. What really happened was this: Jim was on a short leave and called Marilyn. Gladys, at that time, was staying with her. Jim became angry and stayed with his own mother instead. And, unlike the movie, there was no crazy scene with a knife-wielding Gladys before the police were called and escorted her out of the house in handcuffs. Secret Life then follows up with a scene where Norma Jeane goes missing shortly after Gladys is taken away, then arrives several hours later, frantically scrambling back into bed claiming that a man was following her. According to Jimmy, this is true. In his memoir, he explains that he and Marilyn had a fight, she ran off, then returned later in the night panicking because she said a man had been stalking her. This all happened apparently after a fight, not as a result of her mother being taken away in handcuffs.

The meeting with Ben Lyon is, for the most part, entirely true. Marilyn began declaring that she was an orphan to protect the privacy of her mother, who had not been a healthy or present parental figure anyways. The name Marilyn Monroe was decided on when she signed her first contract with 20th Century Fox. Grace had to be her co-signer, because Marilyn was under 21 at the time. She used the name “Monroe”, after her mother’s maiden name, and “Marilyn” was decided by Lyon (casting director at Fox) after stage actress Marilyn Miller. Ironically, Marilyn Monroe would become Marilyn Miller in 1956 after her third marriage. This was the end for Marilyn and Jim. The two divorced in September of 1946 and Marilyn was free to pursue a dream career in acting.

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe." Kelli Garner wears what appears to be a replica of one of Marilyn's dresses from 1949 (shown below)

Marilyn in 1949

"I never knew Marilyn Monroe, and I don't claim to have any insights to her to this day. I knew and loved Norma Jeane." [- James Dougherty, United Press International, 1990]

Thank you for reading! I hope you learned something new. In the next post we’ll discuss Marilyn’s early acting career and how it is both similar and different to how it was portrayed in the film.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Quick Review! Marilyn: Her Life in Her Own Words

Hi everyone! I'm beginning a new thing: I'm going to do quick Marilyn book reviews. Not full-length, in-depth reviews but just quick ones that let you know my opinion, what to expect, and if I would recommend it. So without further ado, let's get started!

Marilyn: Her Life in Her Own Words by George Barris

George Barris met Marilyn in 1954 on the set of The Seven Year Itch where he photographed her during the subway shooting in New York. They hit it off immediately and became good friends soon after. The two decided to work together to create a truthful autobiography of Marilyn, she was fed up with all of the lies being sold to tabloids and to the press and wanted to set the record straight. However, they did not begin this project until 1962, shortly before Marilyn's untimely death. That summer, Barris interviewed Marilyn and took notes on what she said while he photographed her in Hollywood and on Santa Monica Beach. The result was a compilation of those discussions in the form of a book titled "Marilyn: Her Life in Her Own Words" published in 1995.

Book cover
George Barris knew Marilyn personally, and is a trustworthy source. These days it can get increasingly difficult to trust people involved with Marilyn. A large amount of them, whether they knew her in real life or not, seek personal and financial gain. Barris is not one of those people, and that is one of the reasons I would recommend this book. It features Marilyn's real words, none of that misquoted garbage. 

I also really love the format. It is broken up beautifully and includes several of Marilyn's gorgeous photos in high quality. The main text is italicized in Marilyn's words, but also includes footnotes and explanations by George Barris at the bottom of each page. Like My Story, it is a kind of book in which you can really hear Marilyn's voice lifting the words off the page, it feels as though you can really hear the story coming from her. I greatly appreciate that aspect of it.

However, and here is where I get a little thrown off, Barris briefly mentions twice that he believes that Marilyn was murdered. I can only assume that someone whose theory is that Marilyn was murdered doesn't know anything about her death. So I just think it's unfortunate that such an outlandish speculation is mentioned by such a valuable and trustworthy source. People who don't know any better are going to read that and think it's true, because that's what people do. It's in a book so it must be true, right!? The other thing I had a problem with was when he listed people in Marilyn's life and their connection with her. He lists both JFK and RFK as "heart breakers." Believe me, I let out the biggest sigh. I don't know how many times I've had to explain this, but, in a nutshell: The most that could have possibly happened between Marilyn and JFK is one night, and even then there's nothing to prove it. Marilyn and Bobby did not have any sort of romantic relationship whatsoever. Period. This is not a book about her death and I don;t want to draw too much attention to that, but I needed to get that out there.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and as I said, I would recommend it to someone wanting to delve more into Marilyn's personality and character. It is well-written and features so many beautiful photos taken of Marilyn in the last year of her life. George Barris photographed her magnificently. I love being able to see that playful side of her in the beach photos. It is relatively short, and only took me 2 or 3 days to read, but full of great information. Be sure to check it out and thank you for reading this quick review!

By George Barris, Santa Monica beach 1962

Monday, July 18, 2016

Breaking Down "Secret Life" Part 2/?

DISCLAIMER: I am not a Marilyn expert, but I’m working on it.

Thanks for tuning in! This is a continuation of my series of blog posts titled “Breaking Down ‘The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe’ the movie.” If you have not, please check out part 1 of this review.

This particular post would not have been possible without my go-to gal April VeVea, a Marilyn Monroe scholar who worked with me to create a comprehensive timeline of Marilyn’s childhood and who answered many of my questions late into the night.

Episode 1 continued: Gladys Baker + a look into Marilyn’s childhood

In the last breakdown, we left off with a brief discussion of Marilyn’s history with psychotherapy. At this point in the movie, Marilyn (played by Kelli Garner) begins opening up to the the fictional Dr. DeShields about her childhood. She starts with her mother Gladys’s meltdown, which began the course of her mother’s institutionalization for the rest of her life.
The first scene we see from her childhood is “the duffel bag story.” Gladys races up to the Bolenders’ home attempting to take Norma Jeane with her. The Bolenders were the first family that she lived with, they took Norma into their care when she was just 2 weeks old. Gladys paid them each month to take care of her. She stayed there until she was 7 years old. A screaming Gladys, played by Eva Amurri Martino, Susan Sarandon’s daughter in real life, rushes up to the house demanding Norma Jeane to come to her. The result is Gladys eventually making it into the house, then attempting an escape with a duffel bag over her shoulder. Ida Bolender and Gladys fight over the bag, which drops, and out crawls little Norma and into Ida’s arms.

About this duffel bag story: it didn’t happen. There’s just no evidence to even suggest something like this. In fact, I don’t recall hearing it before I read Secret Life the book, so I’m not sure where it originated, therefore I am not sure where Taraborrelli came up with it. There are no personal accounts by either the Bolenders or Gladys herself that she ever came by to kidnap her daughter. The sad but true part is though, at the end of this scene, Norma Jeane yells for “momma” directed at Ida Bolender. Ida then tells her that she’s not her mother, and to call her aunt instead. Here is what Marilyn had to say about this later in a recorded interview:

“The people I was staying with, I was about 3. And one morning I was having a bath and I referred to the woman as ‘momma.’ And she said ‘I’m not your mother. The one who comes here with the red hair, she’s your mother. Don’t call me mother anymore, call me aunt.’ But the one I was concerned was her husband I said ‘but he’s my daddy.’ And she said ‘No. You call him uncle.’ Although they weren’t my aunt and uncle.”

From "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe"

Gladys Baker, 1924
Later on, the movie presents a scene where a young Gladys is screaming and crying at the foot of a set of stairs in a small house. Seconds prior to this, we see Grace McKee (Gladys’s co-worker) and Norma Jeane at the table flipping through a magazine article which focuses on Jean Harlow, one of Marilyn’s real life movie idols. Startled by the sudden outburst, Grace races over to her friend while Norma Jeane tries to get a better view of what is happening to her mother.

Gladys with baby Marilyn

Get ready because a lot of dates are coming up! Let’s start with this house. The house shown in the movie represents the 3 bedroom home Gladys purchased in 1933 in Hollywood, California. After Gladys left her job as a film splicer at Consolidated Studios, she needed a source of income to pay the bills. Gladys rented out part of the house to an English couple called the Atkinsons. George and Maude Atkinson were both bit part actors, stand-ins trying to build a career in Los Angeles. They had a teenage daughter named Nell. Beginning in January of 1934, the Atkinson family moved into the house on Arbol Drive and paid rent to Gladys. They also helped take care of 8 year old Norma Jeane. It was during that month and in this house that Gladys had a psychotic meltdown. Gladys had been going through a lot of hardships in her life, she didn’t have a job and couldn’t afford to care for her child, her father had died in a mental hospital, in 1927 Gladys’s mother Della died of heart failure during a panic attack, and in 1933 Gladys learned that her grandfather, Tilfred Hogan, had committed suicide. These traumatizing events ultimately led to depression and realizing one of her worst fears that eventually became one of Marilyn’s own: that her family’s mental illnesses were hereditary and that she would inherit them. It was at that house on Arbol drive that Gladys broke into a mental panic. She was then admitted to a rest home in Santa Monica in January of 1934 and stayed there until an unknown date before being transferred to Los Angeles General Hospital in that same year. The following year, in January of 1935, Gladys was declared legally insane and transferred to Norwalk State hospital. Norma Jeane continued to live with the Atkinsons during this time and until May of 1935 while Grace McKee attempted to obtain legal guardianship and permission to be in charge of Gladys’s financial affairs.

Grace McKee

At some point that May, Grace had Norma removed from the Atkinsons’ care apparently after discovering that they had been neglectful. Later in life, Marilyn recalled them as being very busy with work and understandably not wanting to be “bothered with a child.” From then, she was placed in the care of the Giffen family, who didn’t live far from the Bakers. She stayed with them for only 2 months, leaving in July of 1935. Harvey Giffen worked as a sound engineer in Hollywood. Norma Jeane lived there with him, his wife Elsie, and their 3 young children. However, Harvey had plans on leaving his job and moving all the way to New Orleans, so he became interested in adopting Norma Jeane. He contacted Gladys regarding this, but Gladys refused, and Norma Jeane was sent to live with Grace.

At this point, Grace was still in the midst of working on receiving guardianship of Norma Jeane, but the courts allowed her to live with Grace temporarily. This began at some point in July of 1935. Grace would marry Doc Goddard that August. Doc had 3 children from a previous marriage: Eleanor (nicknamed Bebe, she was also born in 1926), John, and Nona. Norma Jeane was allowed to live with them until September of 1935, when she was required by law to board at an orphanage for at least one year before legally being allowed to live with Grace. From September 1935 to September 1936, Norma Jeane lived at Hollygrove Orphanage in Los Angeles, California before finally being able to move in with Grace.

Hollygrove Orphanage

Marilyn in 1933

So, that’s a ton of information and dates. If all of this is too confusing and you feel a little scrambled, I don’t blame you, it’s a lot of information! Here is the basic timeline:
·         January 1934: The Atkinsons move in with Marilyn and Gladys at Arbol Drive
·         January 1934: Gladys has a mental breakdown and is admitted to a rest home in Santa Monica where she is then transferred to Los Angeles General Hospital at an unknown date
·         January 1935: Gladys is transferred to Norwalk State Hospital
·         May 1935: Marilyn is removed from the Atkinsons’ care
·         May 1935: Marilyn moves in with the Giffen family
·         July 1935: Marilyn is removed from the care of the Giffens
·         July 1935: Marilyn is allowed to temporarily live with Grace and Doc
·         September 1935: Marilyn is moved to Hollygrove orphanage
·         September 1936: Marilyn leaves Hollygrove to live with Grace full time

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and I hope you learned more about Marilyn’s difficult childhood. Bouncing around to different homes is definitely not ideal, and led to Marilyn’s fear of abandonment and feeling of being unwanted and forgettable. Especially being that she was not in the foster care system, there was no social worker on her case inspecting the homes she lived in. The main focus of the next post will be her marriage to Jim Dougherty. Thank you for reading!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Gillian is my Marilyn

I had several outlines completed for this post. I wrote the basics, made some bullet points, but nothing was working. So I’m just going to start from scratch. An entirely blank page and just be real, say what’s on my mind and see how it goes. I hope you are able to take something away from this, thank you for taking the time to read it. So, without further ado, let’s go on a little journey into how exactly this all happened!

If you had asked me around two years ago who Gillian Anderson is, I would say I have absolutely no idea. Wouldn’t ring much of a bell. And now you’re probably thinking, based off the title of this post: how could I give someone who I didn’t even know about two years ago such a high title to say that she is my modern day Marilyn Monroe? Two years ago I wouldn’t even begin to consider such a thing. But today I’m here to tell you why Gillian fits the description for me. To me, Marilyn Monroe is the holy grail of acting, anyone who knows me knows this. All my followers know this, right!? So I was quite surprised when I realized there was someone else in the world I could compare her ability to, something I had initially thought impossible.

One of my goals in life is to become a voice actress. Or rather, one of my paths. I know it is destined to happen for me at some point. I simply cannot visualize myself with any other career. It has been like that for as long as I can remember. And for someone who is awkward and shy and insecure and embarrassing in real life, that is not an easy thing to do. And it really hit me how serious this life choice became when I attended my first set of acting classes several months ago. My nerves were through the roof when I walked into a small room with seven chairs set up in a wide half-circle around an open microphone that was towering over me, with the coach’s desk in the front corner. Yikes! Talk about reality check. I had to actually stand up in front of people and not speak, but act. I had so many mixed emotions through the whole thing. I kept thinking “Did I make the right decision??” But there was one thing that kept me going and that was thinking about how Marilyn must have felt in her first acting classes. She was always insecure, even after she became Marilyn Monroe, and her first drama coach, Natasha Lytess, recalls her mumbling and being too quiet and stuttering. Which was pretty much me in that class. But Marilyn didn’t let any of those obstacles stop her, or she wouldn’t be where she had been. She didn’t have family encouragement like I do, she didn’t have supportive best friends, like I do. Grace McKee was always pushing her to do what she loved, she was the one who became a key figure in contributing to Marilyn’s dreams of becoming an actress, and I think that’s a great thing. But at the end of the day, Marilyn did it all on her own, because it’s something she wanted to do. She set a goal for herself at a young age and she accomplished it, and worked her whole life for it, even after she reached it. And I did not allow my fears to overcome me during this class solely for that reason.

From "The Prince and the Showgirl" (1956)
I look to Marilyn for inspiration every single day. If I’m looking for encouragement, I read or listen to an interview she gave. In fact, one of my favorite of her quotes from an interview is: “I believe that you shouldn’t do anything in life until you’re ready. Half of life’s heartaches come from decisions that were made in a hurry.”  (The Gadsden Times, July 1960). These are definitely some words to live by if you ask me! And in my case especially.

So how am I fitting Gillian Anderson into all this? Marilyn is my celebrity role model, and if I have plans on becoming a voice actress, or any type of actress at all, it’s important for me to have a role model who is an actress. And not only that, Marilyn was an incredibly talented human being in a lot of aspects of her life. She was a brilliant performer, had an intelligent mind, and such a kind heart. Her face is on everything today, but I still think she’s underrated as an actress. As an artist. Therefore, I have the perfect example of who I should be modeling my attitude and decisions after. But every once in a while, this pursuit tends to stir up sad emotions. It is difficult to remember that she is no longer here on this earth. I study her so much, I often forget that she isn’t here. As a result, I was subconsciously longing for a suitable role model in today’s society. So without even realizing it, I set out looking for my modern day Marilyn Monroe.

Truthfully, I don’t know very much about Gillian Anderson, so I had an enjoyable time learning more about her in preparing for this post. I don’t know much, but what I do know is that when I watched her in The X-Files for the first time, one of the most popular science fiction dramas on TV, I finally understood what acting was. Something just clicked for me, just like a light switch, I suddenly got it. I’m pretty sure it happened when I was watching the season 4 episode “Memento Mori.” When I saw Gillian perform in that particular episode, I understood acting as an art. Because good actors, they can make you hate their character, love them, sad for them, happy for them. But this was different. This was genuine talent like I had never been exposed to on television before. And from what I understand, this woman had only trained two years prior to her audition for the show that became her big break.

From "The X-Files"
Gillian grew up in England, a place where acting is more commonly seen and appreciated as an art, before moving to the states. She got her first taste of acting when she was casted for a high school performance of “Romeo and Juliet.” She was a bit rebellious in her teenage years, and when she moved to the states to continue school, she worked on her American accent after getting teased by her classmates for sounding different. Once she graduated high school, she went on to study at DePaul University’s Goodman Theater, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts before enrolling in a workshop for the National Theatre of Great Britain at Cornell a year later. From there, she appeared in a couple off Broadway productions before auditioning for The X-Files, a touchstone of her career. (Ok if you’ve watched The X-Files you’ll see what I did there).

Gillian studied at some very prestigious places, which is what makes her so skilled and so brilliant at what she does. I don’t know why she instantly became separated from other actors for me, but she did. Upon watching her for the first time, I obviously knew nothing about her, I didn’t know where she went to school, how long she had been an actress. But something in her performance made me recognize that talent. I was so impressed with her ability to present an entirely made up person in such an authentic, memorable, and real way. And that feeling continued on for the rest of the show. Especially after my frightening first experience in acting class. Watching her I thought “Wow, she is really brave. I could never do that. I could never reach that level of artistic ability even if I tried.” I don’t plan on being the next Gillian Anderson, but as much as I loved Marilyn, I needed someone current to look up to. That is when I first began to develop the incredible amount of respect I have for Gillian today. Gillian is someone who I would do anything to sit down with for an hour and get some advice from about acting or just about life. I can’t do that with Marilyn. I wish to God I could, but for me, Gillian is the next best thing.

From Netflix's "The Fall"
But why compare her to Marilyn? Marilyn has always been very separate for me from any other actor or actress of both her time, and of the present. Sure, I admire and appreciate the work of others, there are still a few other old Hollywood actors that I am a huge fan of, but honestly at the end of the day, none of them hold a candle to what Marilyn means to me. Absolutely none. I have such an immense amount of respect for her. And that is exactly how I now feel about Gillian. No other current actress can even compare. When Marilyn appears on the screen, you pay attention to her, you are curious and intrigued as to what her character is going to do or say next. This applies to Gillian as well. When she walks on the screen, you pay attention, no matter who the character is. And that’s all Gillian. I’m not just talking about Dana Scully, undoubtedly her most popular character, but her other works as well. For example, I think she plays Stella Gibson flawlessly in “The Fall.” A Netflix show I highly recommend if you love crime dramas. You can really tell how passionate she is about her work and this shines through all of her roles. She gives her characters a certain depth and captivating effect that they otherwise may not have had. Gillian just emulates Marilyn for me. They don’t look alike, they don’t sound alike, they have different personalities, but for some reason Gillian has near the same effect for me as Marilyn does. Different, but the same.  I guess it’s because when I see Marilyn act in a film, I understand acting and the work that goes into it, it really clicks. For Gillian, it’s the same effect. I can see in her performance the hard work she puts in to developing these fictional characters. It’s incredible to watch, and as a result, these days the more I watch movies, the more I appreciate every little thing that happens in them. I don’t care if the acting is bad, if the graphics are cheesy, if the script is awful. Those first classes were enough to teach me that it takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there like that. And when I see Gillian do it especially, I have a completely new perspective on it.

Not to mention that Gillian fought against her studio for higher pay after her male co-star David Duchovny was contracted to earn twice her amount for the new season of The X-Files. Marilyn had the guts to fight her studio for better and more dramatic parts, other than just being typecast as the ditzy blonde. Gillian is a well known feminist with very strong views that she isn’t afraid to speak on. I would not consider myself a feminist but I would say I have feminist sort of … undertones if that’s even a thing. I greatly admire Gillian’s beliefs and it has really shaped a new way of thinking for me and it’s been so eye-opening to listen to her speak and read her interviews. Marilyn was not a feminist, but she was not afraid to show off her figure to eager photographers. She has never done anything vulgar, but her more provocative shoots show a woman who is genuinely comfortable with her body. In the 50’s, this was almost unheard of. It was uncommon for a woman to publicly embrace her sexuality, which is what made Marilyn so ahead of her time. These days it’s everywhere; there isn’t much of a censor in TV and film anymore. And that’s one of the reasons I admire Marilyn; for being comfortable in her own skin and not being afraid to push the boundaries. A year after Gillian gave birth to her first child, she worked on getting her body back, losing weight, and becoming more comfortable with herself and embraced the opportunity for more provocative photoshoots. I admire this quality in both of these ladies.

“People have curious attitudes about nudity, just as they have about sex. Nudity and sex are the most commonplace things in the world, yet people often act as if they were things that existed only on Mars.” –Marilyn Monroe, My Story

“Over the next short while we will start to contribute to removing the stigma from [feminism] because it’s become a dirty word and it shouldn’t be a dirty word. It’s basically … by adding to one community you’re not taking away from the other community, that’s not the intention.” Gillian Anderson, Fan Expo 2015

I wish this were easier to explain, but it’s incredibly hard to put thoughts into words. The bottom line is, Gillian Anderson is my current role model, I look to her for direction and inspiration the same as I do Marilyn. From what I’ve seen of Gillian in interviews and things of that nature, I see a sweet, genuine human being who has such a genuine love for her fans and for her work, much like Marilyn herself. “If I’m a star the people made me a star. It was no studio, and no person.” (Marilyn Monroe; Life magazine, 1962). And this quote from Gillian from a BBC interview strongly resonates with me at this point in my life: “But what’s funny, too, that happens, is when you’re young you end up being kind of thrust into and taken on this path that you don’t always feel like you have perspective in. Like if I chose now, I probably wouldn’t have done [that] because it didn’t represent how I felt about myself or how I wanted to necessarily be perceived in the world.”

What I hope that you take away from this post is the tools to help you find someone or something that gives you inspiration. I’m lucky to have found that throughout my life in Marilyn, and I’m lucky to get to see it now in Gillian. Find good influences in your life. Surround yourself with people who you can learn from, who can enlighten you and help you grow. Whether they are aware of it or not! And to the Marilyn fans, don’t criticize other people for saying some modern public figure is their Marilyn Monroe. We all know that there is only one Marilyn who will never, ever be replaced, but for some people like myself it is nice to have a role model who is more current that maybe you share that same respect for.

Follow me at @marilynnation on Instagram for more!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Breaking Down "Secret Life" Part 1/?

Breaking Down "Secret Life" Part 1: Some basic background history

DISCLAIMER: I am not a Marilyn expert, but I am hoping to be someday. This is both a movie review as well as an educational post about Marilyn’s life. Hope you enjoy! 

In 2015, Lifetime Network aired a special two-episode mini series about Marilyn Monroe’s life based off of J. Randy Taraborrelli's book "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe." Now, over a year later, I am both reviewing it and providing more information about Marilyn’s story by comparing and contrasting it to the film in the hopes to inform and educate others who are either planning on seeing it or have already seen it. The reason I’m doing this is because after this movie came out, a lot of people seemed to join the Marilyn community, which is wonderful! And also I get asked about it all the time (my opinion, what's true and what isn't, etc). I think everyone was casted very well and I think that each actor played their part admirably. Kelli Garner is one of the best Marilyns I’ve seen, and I admire the way she portrayed her after having limited time to learn about Marilyn. I think she had it down as far as looks, spontaneity, and even the voice was well done. So many "Marilyns" these days way over-exaggerate the voice, but I think Kelli accomplished it at a comfortable level. However, this movie is riddled with inaccuracies. There were things that I liked but there were also things I was very uncomfortable with, one being the way they made it seem like Marilyn was mentally ill, to the point of being crazy. But I’ll get to that later! For the next series of blog posts I will be breaking down the movie bit by bit. This is not to criticize in any way, but to learn, both for myself and others. Like I said, although there are inaccuracies, I actually enjoyed this film. And also like I said, it is based off the book, so the book is what should hold the responsibility for the inaccuracies for the most part.

So here we go!

Episode 1

The movie starts off with Marilyn (played by Kelli Garner) arriving an hour and a half late to her scheduled appointment with fictional psychiatrist Dr. DeShields. The other people in the house at the time are Pat Newcomb (Marilyn's publicist) and Eunice Murray (Marilyn's housekeeper). Marilyn Monroe, in real life, was always late for everything, this isn’t any new information. Rarely was she ever right on time. She would usually spend hours perfecting her makeup and choosing the right thing to wear. This is a trait that goes back to her childhood. During that time, she had always felt unwanted and easy to abandon. Yes, she was loved by some of the people who took care of her for a number of years such as Grace McKee and Aunt Ana, but it’s much different when you lack a strong and healthy mother figure throughout your entire childhood. Not only but that, but also not ever knowing your father, and your father never caring to know you. And that’s not something you can blame her for. And now, as Marilyn Monroe, people longed to see her, even the slightest glimpse would do, and therefore she subconsciously was enjoying what she had never experienced before: the feeling of being wanted and people waiting on you. Marilyn constantly admitted to this habit, she was fully aware of her actions. In fact, here are a few quotes she said herself regarding her chronic lateness:

From the Gadsden Times July 17, 1960:
“It’s a bad habit, I know but I believe that you shouldn’t do anything in life until you’re ready. Half of life’s heartaches come from decisions that were made in a hurry.”

From the same newspaper, screenwriter/producer Jerry Wald (producer of “Let’s Make Love” (1960) said:
 “True, she’s not punctual. She can’t help it, but I’m not sad about it. I can get a dozen beautiful blondes who will show up promptly in makeup at 4am each morning, but they are not Marilyn Monroe.”

From her last interview, conducted in July 1962, published in Life Magazine August 3, 1962:
“I guess people think that why I’m late is some kind of arrogance and I think it is the opposite of arrogance. I also feel that I’m not in this big American rush – you know, you got to go and you got to go fast but for no good reason. The main thing is, I do want to be prepared when I get there to give a good performance or whatever to the best of my ability. A lot of people can be there on time and do nothing, which I have seen them do, and you know, all sit around and sort of chit-chatting and talking trivia about their social life. Gable said about me, ‘When she’s there, she’s there. All of her is there! She’s there to work.’”

I can imagine it must have been pretty difficult to work with someone who was late all the time, sometimes by several hours, but honestly the way I see it now is: She wasn’t a diva about it, and clearly she owned up to it. It’s been half a century, in my opinion I think everyone should stop complaining about how tough she was to work with at times. Just like the very last line in Some Like It Hot: "Nobody's perfect."

Back to the film: As the fictional Doctor DeShields is awaiting Marilyn’s arrival, he picks up a book on her coffee table and opens it to find a short handwritten note inside that reads “Everyone’s childhood plays itself out.” In Marilyn’s case, we like to call these little scribbles of hers “fragments.” This is a real quote! In 1958 , Marilyn wrote this very sentence on a piece of note paper during the time she was living in Roxbury, Connecticut, around 2 years into her marriage with husband Arthur Miller.

From The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

From Marilyn's personal notes

What is significant about this book that DeShields picks up is that the subject is Stanislavsky’s form of “Method” acting. When Marilyn first joined the Actors Studio in New York in 1955, she became familiar with this technique because it is what was being taught by world renowned acting teacher Lee Strasberg. “Method” acting involves drawing from your own life experiences and using them to enhance your performance to better understand the character which you are playing. Strasberg insisted that his students see a psychoanalyst so that they would be able to look deeper into themselves to harness these experiences and memories. Marilyn first applied this form of acting in her 1956 film “Bus Stop.” Her co-star Laurence Olivier from “The Prince and the Showgirl” was famously against the Method. 

Marilyn in front of the Actors Studio, 1955

The reason I keep saying “the fictional Dr. DeShields” is because that is exactly what he is: an entirely fictional character. There is no record or documentation of anyone named Dr. DeShields in Marilyn’s history. The way the movie is set up is to have a fake psychiatrist come and have Marilyn discuss her life with him, therefore allowing the film to play out chronologically. It makes for a better story telling process, but he is entirely fictional. Marilyn’s real psychiatrist at the time of her death (1962, when the movie takes place) was Dr. Ralph Greenson, and his intern who provided prescriptions was Dr. Hyman Engelberg. There is no evidence of Marilyn trying to hire a new therapist while being in Greenson’s care. Kelli Garner briefly mentioned this in a 2015 live interview on Fox:

“We used the vice of Marilyn with a fictional therapist to kind of tell her story.”

One of the first things I notice is the setting of the house, and wow, I was impressed! It is incredibly similar to Marilyn’s real house, even down to some of the furniture items.

From The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn's house at the time of her death

Even the paintings are the same.

Part of Marilyn's dining room

They even mentioned the Latin tiles outside of Marilyn’s house saying “cursum perficio,” which means something along the lines of “My journey ends here” or “I complete the course.” I’ve read before that it was put there when it was built, and that by “journey ends” it is supposed to mean that the homeowner that is searching for a home can stop looking because this is the one they were meant to have, and therefore their journey can end. Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the settings throughout the film.

From The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

The original tiles from Marilyn's home

Marilyn in “Secret Life” mentions having been in psychotherapy for the past 6 years. This is true in real life, Marilyn first became acquainted with psychotherapy in 1955 when she trained at the Actors Studio in New York (mentioned above). Her first psychoanalyst was Dr. Margaret Hohenberg, who she became a client of from 1955 to 1957. Her photographer Milton Greene was also seeing Hohenberg for therapy at the time. After that, Marilyn began to see Dr. Marianne Kris from 1957 to 1961. The reason Marilyn dropped her is because Kris was the one who had her admitted to Payne Whitney Hospital in 1961, where she had been locked up in the psychiatric ward and treated as if she were crazy. Joe DiMaggio was eventually able to release her. The last therapist she saw was Dr. Ralph Greenson, who became her therapist from 1961 to 1962, who had also been a friend and colleague of Marianne Kris.

At one point during their conversation at the beginning, Dr. DeShields mentions the pills she frequently takes such as Nembutal, but I also caught him mentioning “Demerol.” Demerol is a brand of meperidine, a painkiller which is prescribed after and during major surgeries. According to Marilyn’s prescriptions and dosages, the earliest we can confirm she took a painkiller is decadron phosphate in 1960, and this would have been most likely for her allergies, since that is what this medication was used for as well. It was at a low dose and she had been going through some muscle loss. In June of 1961, Marilyn also had her gall bladder removed. She also had a couple procedures done in attempt to correct her endometriosis. In short, the only times she was prescribed painkillers was around surgical procedures. Marilyn did not seem to be addicted to painkillers whatsoever, so I was a bit taken aback when they implied excessive use of a painkiller. Again, the mention of it was so brief, but it caught my ear.

These are just some of the basics and background of Marilyn’s story, in the next posts I’ll be getting more into the chronology of her life and comparing it to the film. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, I hope it has been helpful! And special thank you to April for helping me figure out that 1960 prescription. Next post: Marilyn’s childhood and her mother, Gladys Baker.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How to run a successful instagram (fan) account

 DISCLAIMER: Obviously this is in no way THE correct way, this post is just to share some of my own tips and things I’ve learned in the process! These are all my preferences, of course you should run your account just as you like, I just thought this might be helpful if you’re really serious about starting a fan account. This is a special post to celebrate one year of owning mine!

1.       Quality over quantity
This is so important! What this means is the number of times you post a day won’t matter if all your pictures are blurry. Nobody wants to see heavily pixelated images consistently filling up their feed. At least, that’s my preference. It is much more appealing to post high quality images, the best you can go! I’d much rather follow someone who posts great quality photos once a day or every couple days than someone who posts blurry pics 10 times a day. Which brings me to my next point:

2.       Don’t spam
Basically don’t post 10 times a day. No matter how much you or your followers love the subject you’re posting about. I loooove me some Marilyn Monroe, and I love seeing constant Marilyn on my feed, it makes me happy! But if one account is posting a billion photos of her at once, it’s pretty stressful. Then if I like one, I feel like I have to like all the other ones but then it sort of feels like I’m spamming the other person but technically they’ve spammed me and it’s just this whole big stress-fest in my opinion. Maybe that’s just me? Try and just stick to a schedule, and even designate times if you can to make it easier if that’s what you would prefer. I post at least once or twice a day, and I have certain times I do this at, where I notice that my posts get the most activity.

3.       Captions are actually important
You may not think so, but they are. My two tips for this: Don’t be too personal, and don’t be a robot. What I find is that people who run fan accounts for TV shows and movies tend to be personal, which is no problem, but some people tend to be a little too personal. When a new person is interested in your account, they scroll through your feed and read the captions, and might be turned off if you’re being too intimate. I owned a TV Show account before, and I get it, it’s difficult to not be personal sometimes. Just be warned, too much of it will turn off new followers. I understand that for a lot of people, Instagram can be an outlet, maybe someone’s only outlet to express such things, but this is again just my own experience. It's like when you're meeting someone for the first time then all of a sudden they start talking about they're deep dark secrets and personal family life. It's a little much. And the next point: don’t be a robot; I see a lot of this in the accounts I follow these days that deal with old Hollywood, or just accounts dedicated to a famous figure, specifically Marilyn accounts. Every single caption will read something like this: “Marilyn photographed by Milton Greene in 1954.” And that’s it. For every one. That can get so boring, and can sometimes determine whether or not someone pushes that follow button. Try putting a little personality into it! Try putting in a fun fact if you know one. Just be as creative as you can when it comes to captions.

4.       Follow for follow??
No. I strongly advise you not to comment “follow for follow” on other people’s posts. When I owned my other account, I got a handful of those nearly every single day, I eventually just started blocking people.(That’s when people in your fandom, sometimes not, comment on your posts asking you to follow them and they’ll follow you if you do so).  If I’m interested in your account, that’s something I’ll discover on my own, not through you pestering me to follow you. As much as I used to get those every day, now with my Marilyn account I’ve only gotten …. Maybe 2? In a whole year? Big difference, I guess it varies with whichever fandom you’re in. Same goes with shoutout for shoutout/like for like. Trust me, post enough and people will start noticing! On my other account I was lucky enough to get noticed right away and a couple big accounts just gave me a shoutout right off the bat, it was nice! But with my Marilyn one, I had a few friends follow me at the beginning, and that was it. I started out with zero. And now I have over 30,000. Every single one of my followers and every single like on each of my posts is genuine. I’ve never used a like app or a follow app or any of that type of thing. That’s what you have to avoid too, then you get fake followers and people who aren’t really interested in your posts. We all want people to follow us, that’s why we started an instagram, right?. But just make sure you love what you’re posting enough for genuine followers.

5.       Put love into each post! Don’t post something random just because you felt you had to post!
No one is going to get mad at you if you don’t post for a day, or two days. To be honest, not many people will notice, if any at all. If you don’t have anything on your camera roll ready to post, then don’t post! That’s totally stressful. It’s better to skip a day and post something nice that you worked on then to post something extremely random with a caption that wasn’t well thought out at all.

6.     Engage your audience and interact with your feed.
Can’t stress how important this is! Engage your audience: ask questions in your captions, get your followers involved when you can. I like to hear about what other people are up to and what other people like about what I posted. Interact with your feed: take a few minutes every hour or 2 just to scroll through your feed and see what’s new. Comment on other people’s posts, respond to the comments on yours. This is crucial. Commenting elsewhere will get you noticed by other accounts that follow them, responding to comments will show your followers that you care about what they think and that you are reading what they have to say.

7.       Pick a good username.
Something short and catchy is the way to go. With no punctuation. Basically, you don’t want to have to spell your username out for people. When people ask me in person what my username is, I simply say “Marilyn Nation.” Not “Marilyn period underscore Nation period dollar sign igloo.”  Don’t hastily pick one either. Give it a few days, write down your options, and choose the one you like best! Not that there aren’t successful accounts with signs in their usernames, it’s just easier if there isn’t.

8.      Do not get co-owners
I cannot stress this enough. (Most of the time) it doesn’t matter who they are, they are not to be trusted! Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating this a little bit, but in all seriousness, avoid having someone co-own your account. The group I was in before this, SO MANY people got hacked. It was either some random who thought it was funny to make a million different accounts, or a co-owner hacking the official owner’s account. You never know who the other owner really is, especially if you only know them online. Basically don’t trust anyone, you should never give out your password or email. Now, my sister and I together own an X-Files account and that’s totally different. She’s my sister. Just be careful who you give your information to, avoid it if you can!

9.    Themes are nice, but not absolutely necessary
An instagram theme is basically when all of your posts match each other, creating a nice consistent layout. While this is appealing to new viewers, it’s not necessary. It can even be stressful trying to keep up with a theme. I used to not have one, but recently I’ve put a white border around my photos, I think it cleans it up a bit. You just have to experiment until you find a style you like, or none at all!

10.   Protect your content, and don’t steal others’
Be aware of watermarks. Meaning: if you create something, be sure to add a watermark with your username. Do not: put your watermark on someone else’s work. Seems easy right? Well how do you know when and when not to add your watermark? Simple! This photo of Marilyn Monroe was taken by Milton Greene. He is the owner of this picture. I apologize in advance for the burry-ness of these photos, they came from my phone, but you get the idea.

You did not take the picture, it is not your work. Even if you post it, which you are more than welcome to do, you shouldn’t add your watermark. I see so many people do this, and it’s unattractive to see a big username on a photo. Like this:

Which is more appealing?

Now, if you create something on your own, that’s different! For example, I created this quote edit on my computer by gathering various images and designs and cutting things out and it took a decent amount of time. Therefore I added my username as credit, so that if someone decides to repost it, which is also perfectly fine, people know where it originally came from. Example:

 Always give credit to the person who made it if you repost it! And especially do not crop out the watermark. That’s pretty disrespectful if you ask me. A few people did that a couple times with mine and my sister’s edits so we had to keep moving our marks to different areas of the picture so you wouldn’t be able to crop it out so easily. Here is an example of a scene edit, where we put the watermark at a visible place, but that it is not totally in the way:

“welovescully” is in the square area in the picture, so even if someone tried to crop it out, you would still be able to see at least most of it, showing that whoever posts it does not own it.

I think that’s it for now. I hope you’ve found these steps useful. I’ve learned so much by being in the Instagram community for the past few years and I hope that if you are serious about creating a fan account, you’ll consider these tips. Above all, just have fun and it will be worth it! It’s so exciting to meet people who you can have a lot in common with. Always make sure you love the subject you’re posting about enough to post about it, otherwise it becomes work, and not fun. Oh and don’t forget: always be kind and respectful. If you are passionate about something, I encourage you to start an account, it is such a great way to connect with people all over the world with the same interests as you.  Good luck, and thank you so much for your support over this past year!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Marilyn: The Real Last Photos

DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert on Marilyn Monroe (working on it!)

Special thanks to my go-to gal April VeVea for helping me make sense of the chronology of these shoots.

So what really was Marilyn’s last photoshoot? Who was her last photographer? I bet you’re thinking: Allan Grant, LIFE Magazine 1962. And if you asked me that question yesterday, I would have said the same thing. But recently I’ve been doing some research on some of her photo sessions, specifically her last ones, and I came to this realization:  It is in fact George Barris that took the last professional photos of Marilyn Monroe. And I say professional because ….

These are actually the last known pictures of Marilyn. They were taken during the weekend of July 27-29 of 1962 at the Cal-Neva Lodge located in California/Nevada. (It overlooks Lake Tahoe, laying across the Cali/Nevada border). Marilyn would have passed away the following weekend. These pictures were taken by Ted Allan, who happens to also be a professional photographer, but these are candids, not posed pictures meant to be published in a magazine or publicity campaign. Simply like home movies. They are the last known photos of her, but I don’t count them as the last professional ones. Here she hangs out enjoying the day with friends Peter Lawford and Frank Sinatra. Buddy Greco is also pictured.

In other words, we can determine that the final professional photos of Marilyn Monroe were taken by photographer George Barris on Santa Monica beach in July of 1962.
However, the dates on these are pretty confusing. The reason everyone gets mixed up thinking that Allan Grant took her last pictures (the same reason I believed as well) was because the Grant photos accompanied her last interview. Once approved by Marilyn, the interview and the photos were published in the August 3rd, 1962 issue of LIFE Magazine. Marilyn had passed less than 2 days after the magazine hit the stands. Grant says he took his photos on the 7th , and that’s what I believe as well, but there has been a lot of confusion on how accurate that is. Here are a couple from the Grant session:

The George Barris session is the latest that we can confirm. We know that the swimsuit and towel pictures were at least taken July 12th, 1962. This is substantiated because of a couple reasons: First, Pat Newcomb (Marilyn’s publicist) wrote a letter to Marilyn dated July 11th, 1962 saying that she would pick her up “tomorrow (Thursday) at 5:30 to go to the beach and complete the Cosmopolitan layout.” (Barris’s pictures of Marilyn were to be published in Cosmopolitan). We can confirm that Pat did pick Marilyn up and took her to the beach for the shoot because she is shown in the rare color footage of the session. Second, a library in New York City had received the swimsuit pictures the next day (July 13th). There is no way Barris could have gone and developed those photos and sent them off and have the library receive them in such a short amount of time. There is speculation that the Mexican sweater photos could have been taken on July 13th, but they also could have been the same day, July 12th. Which is possible, but in Pat’s letter she says to “complete” the layout, so it’s also possible that this was all done on the same day, that Marilyn simply took off the sweater and put it back on later. Therefore we cannot confirm whether Whitey did her makeup or if Marilyn did it herself for the sweater pictures, as Barris also says it was just him and Marilyn on the sweater day. But again, that may not be true.

George Barris describes the last picture he took of Marilyn in an article published in the Daily Mirror (US & UK) on August 8th, 1962, just 3 days after she had passed away. If this is the first image that came to your mind, you’re correct:

To the best of our knowledge, this is the last professional photograph taken of Marilyn Monroe.

“Marilyn was a real trooper. Even when the sun went down and the winds blew and it became cold, and she shivered, she hardly whimpered or complained. Only when the day was almost over and I had just one last bit of film in the camera, she said, ‘This is for you, George.’  Then she puckered her lips and blew a kiss my way as I took the last picture of her ever on that beach.”

As stated previously, George Barris is the latest that we can confirm. This timeless session remains a favorite among the Marilyn community and will always be treasured. She seems so effortless and happy, and she looks stunning even with the cold temperatures. When Marilyn is being photographed, it’s just her and the camera, and she is completely herself and never holds back. We are lucky to have images such as these available to us today. Regardless of the conflicting dates and times, her last photo session is magical and will continue to be enjoyed and appreciated by fans for endless years to come.