“I Can Be Smart When It’s Important, but Most Men Don’t Like It.” The True Story of Marilyn Monroe
June 1, 2019 marks 93 years since the birth of the world cinema legend Marilyn Monroe. Her memorable image still lives on in cinematography, in parodies, and through those who copycat her manners. However, only a few people managed to see the talented and educated person hiding behind her dazzling smile and the image of a fatal blonde, who stole men’s hearts, during her life and after her death.
We at Bright Side admire this great actress. That’s why we feel eager to tell you how interesting this talented woman was deep down as a person, aside from her stunning looks. And at the end of the article, you’ll find a bonus — books and documentaries about Monroe’s life.
1. Marilyn worked at an aircraft factory during World War II.
In 1944, Norma Jeane Mortenson (the actress’s real name) who no one knew at that time, returned to the city her foster parents lived in after an unsuccessful marriage. There, she started to work at a military factory where drones and planes were assembled. And though, according to Marilyn’s biographers, her duties didn’t include the technical part of the assembly — in the photo above, she is putting together the world’s first drone.
This photo was taken by military photographer David Conover as part of Ronald Reagan’s propaganda project. It’s thanks to this shot that this bright girl was noticed and offered a contract with a modeling agency.
2. There were more than 400 books in her library.
Marilyn didn’t get a formal education as a child and a young adult and that’s why she became a great book-lover in her adult life. There were more than 400 books in her library, and they included everything from fiction to scientific books. The legendary blonde singled out authors like Hemingway, Flaubert, Camus, and Freud.
When one of the directors saw her with a volume of Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke, he asked why she chose this book. Marilyn replied, “[On] nights when I’ve got nothing else to do, I go to the Pickwick bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard. And I just open books at random—and when I come to a page or a paragraph I like, I buy that book. So last night I bought this one. Is that wrong?”
You can find the whole list of the actress’s literary preferences here.
3. Monroe tried her best to perfect her acting skills despite critics’ opinions.
Marilyn wasn’t content with her roles as a charming dumb blonde that she used to get offered, so she regularly attended acting classes. According to one of her teachers — the legendary Lee Strasberg, Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando were his best students, because they were the only ones who could immerse themselves deeply into the lives of their characters. The actress’s sense of purpose was also noted by her fellow students and other teachers.
Nevertheless, filmmakers were still not giving the actress serious roles which is why Marilyn was becoming the best under the conditions and the working environment that she had. Her look is another result of her hard work on herself. She was working out, mastering every gesture so that it looked cinematic and convincing. For example, she created a unique walk for the movie Niagara — no one ever walked this way before her.
4. She skillfully manipulated film studio management and public opinion.
Monroe had a remarkable ability to avoid sharp corners and reach goals she had set. And the biographical book Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers, as well as many other books about the life of the celebrity, prove it.
- In 1952, in one of her interviews, the actress said she was photographed naked for a calendar. The studio was trying to talk her out of the idea of revealing the fact that it was her, but the actress didn’t listen to them. Finally, Marilyn embarrassingly told the public that she was too poor to refuse the income and this revelation brought her even more love from her fans.
- Monroe had always had a strained relationship with the 20th Century Fox studio. The actress wanted more creative freedom and decent payment corresponding to her status, but she couldn’t manage to get what she wanted due to her personal dislike of the management. Then she decided to establish her own studio and started a self-PR campaign forcing 20th Century Fox to surrender and give her the contract she wanted. By the way, Monroe’s studio shot only one movie The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier.
5. The actress was developing in all scenic directions.
According to the actress’s biography written by Donald Spoto, Marilyn dedicated her time not only to learning how to act, but she was also into dancing, singing, and yoga. Ben Lyon, an executive at 20th Century Fox once described in an interview a case with Monroe that showed her other side. Having learned about the actress’s hectic life schedule, he asked her why she worked so much and hard on herself. And that’s what Marilyn answered, “One day maybe an opportunity will knock and I want to be prepared.”
6. She was actively involved in charity.
Here is a short list of the famous blonde’s good deeds:
- She performed at charity concerts for American soldiers in Korea.
- She financially supported organizations who helped orphanages and other organizations dealing with children’s problems.
- She advocated for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
- She wrote a check for $10,000 to an orphanage during a visit to Mexico.
- She bequeathed 25% of her property to her psychologist, who was supposed to sponsor psychiatric hospitals.
7. She fought for equality in civil rights.
During one of her last interviews, Marilyn asked the journalist to concentrate on things that were important to her and not on her oomph.
“What I really want to say: That what the world really needs is a real feeling of kinship. Everybody: stars, laborers, Negroes, Jews, Arabs. We are all brothers. Please don’t make me a joke. End the interview with what I believe.”Marilyn Monroe
Ella Fitzgerald, the famous singer, suffered from racial discrimination on stage in 1950. She was not allowed to perform at the famous Hollywood club “Mocambo.” Many years after Marilyn’s death, Fitzgerald confessed in her interview that she owed Marilyn a real debt.
It turns out that the actress had personally gotten in touch with the owner of the club. Having threatened the owner with going to the press, she demanded that he include Fitzgerald in the program of the club’s performances. In order to get him to agree, Monroe promised to take a front table every night, thus attracting the public to the club. The owner agreed and Monroe kept her promise, and afterward Ella Fitzgerald didn’t perform in small clubs anymore.
Marilyn Monroe’s heritage
Many biographers agree that Marilyn’s image, that helped her conquer the world, played a cruel joke on her — she became its hostage. When she decided to change her image, she couldn’t find any support from others. The essence of this thought is well reflected in the words of the writer Sarah Churchwell, the author of the actress’s biography:
“The biggest myth is that she was dumb. The second is that she was fragile. The third is that she couldn’t act. She was far from dumb, although she was not formally educated, and she was very sensitive about that. But she was very smart indeed — and very tough. She had to be both to beat the Hollywood studio system in the 1950s.
The head of Fox Studios was incredibly contemptuous of her, and she fought him tooth and nail, and won, in real terms.
She was very witty, with an acidic sense of humor. The dumb blonde was a role — she was an actress, for heaven’s sake! Such a good actress that no one now believes she was anything but what she portrayed on screen.”Sarah Churchwell
And here is what Marilyn herself would say about it via her heroine Lorelei:
“I can be smart when it’s important, but most men don’t like it.”From the movie "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"
Bonus: Materials that will help you get to know the actress better
- Marilyn Monroe: My Story
- Donald Spoto: Marilyn Monroe: The Biography
- Anthony Summers: Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe
- Truman Capote: Marilyn Monroe: A Beautiful Child
What’s your attitude toward the famous actress? We would be glad to hear from you in the comments!