Thursday, August 5, 2010

Marilyn We Miss You

Author's Note:   August 5th is the anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death.   To honor her memory, I am reprinting an article I originally wrote in 2008.

Marilyn Monroe would have turned eighty on the first of June 2008. Would the world have cared and celebrated her natal day with her? How would she look? I once saw a computer projection of her at age 70 and then 80. A perky and pretty elderly woman. We shall never know if she would have accepted aging.

Why not, you ask? Katherine Hepburn the Great did. She looked fabulous right until the hour of her death at age ninety-nine. Hold on a minute here, Kate Hepburn had had a childhood, a loving one. She and her siblings never lacked for love, discipline, money, the right education at home, the best schools and tutors. Kate belonged to what we might call High Society. Mind you High Society is not a laissez-passe to Life and love but it certainly helps a child to be "born right".

Karma is very important to what happens to us in life. Overcoming desperate physical, mental, emotional and spiritual poverty takes a great deal of time and effort. I have met men and women who came from nothing and achieved success. Hard as steel, with circlets of ice around their hearts. Not a Chinaman's chance in hell of ever repenting and grabbing redemption like Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

It must have been a nightmare for Marilyn as it is for anyone who is birthed by a hardworking and mentally unstable mother on the borderline of poverty. The father is an absent figure. In MM's case we don't know who her father was. Many writers alluded to hundreds of possibilities. I am sticking to my opinion that he had deserted her mother long before she was born.

Foster homes are an even worse nightmare. Those jackals are not in it for the love of children. Get real! They take in these damaged goods for THE MONEY. There are exceptions to every rule but I stand by my statement.

I must have been seven or eight years old when my parents took me to see "How to Marry a Millionaire". My family owned a chain of movie theaters in Manila and Hong Kong so ...that was that. All of my cousins and members of my clan and their friends attended the showing. It was my Grandmother's birthday and since she was one of the major shareholders of the movie theater, she thought it was a splendid idea to invite all of High Society, Money Society, Banking Society and Military Society to see the film. The Apostolic Nuncio Egidio Vagnozzi who was one of my grandmother's best friends also attended. Gran-Gran brought Fray Paco because he was never excluded from social or gatherings.

He hooted and whistled at Marilyn throughout the movie. The only one allowed to do so.

For those of you who have not been following my chapters on THE SAGA OF FRAY PACO, please note that Fray Paco was a rare white cockatoo from Sumatra. His species may well be on its way to extinction if not actually extinct as I write this.

All the children found Marilyn adorable. I discovered she was a delightful actress and singer. What struck me immediately and would forevermore strike me in all her films was her skin. Translucent, nacre, mother - of pearl whiteness. That translucence clung to her despite s0- called suicide attempts, overdoses, miscarriages, abortions, broken loves and dreams and cracked - up marriages.

A gay friend of my grandmother who loved to host voguing parties gave me the lyrics of Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend. My children sang them and now my grandson Niccolo sings the song. He has now passed along Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend to two of his favorite girl playmates. They do not know English so he has taught then MM's song phonetically.

A trio made up of cousins Zita, Dolly and I sang and hotsy totsied this song during family parties in our small Belle Epoque theater in Santol Mansion. Note that the Teatrino seated two hundred spectators so it was impressive in its own right.

Marilyn remained a child, because I think she never had a childhood. There was always that childlike wonder and innocence about her. No wonder adolescent and pre-pubescent children like us liked her.

Her male and female fans found her irresistible for other reasons. She emanated a natural carnality. She did not need to try to be sexy, she was sexy. She is one of the symbols in our Third Millennium of the Eternal Feminine. She created a myth which cannot be duplicated - that of the poor girl from a deprived background attaining the ultimate - stardom, celebrity and a Legend in her own lifetime.

I remain her devoted fan to this day. One of my dear friends whom I met through Charlie Fawcett in Madrid still remembers her with devotion and passion. I will not reveal his name because he has not authorized me to do so. He was an actor, a promising one. A handsome golden kouros. He and Marilyn worked in the same studio Twentieth Century Fox. They may both have been under a slavish contract to the studio at the time. Their romance was a secret. It was perforce a secret. Studio head Spyros Skouras, himself of Greek descent used to show up at Marilyn's apartment and ring her bell at all hours of the night.

"He wanted a key but I am paying my own apartment and the only one who has a key is you my darling because I choose for you to have it," she murmured in that breathless voice which so many have tried and failed to imitate.

The golden kouros had his clothes ready out on the fire escape. He and Marilyn had rehearsed it to perfection. She took a few minutes to open the door to give the Golden One time to climb out of the window into the fire escape. Marilyn would keep the lights down low so that the horny Skouras would not notice the tousled sheets . Incense was everywhere. It masked the odors of sweat and sex.

"I don't allow penetration, I only suck cocks," she often remarked.

In the book "The Mob Sisters" written by Jeanne Rejaunier, she quotes Marilyn Monroe on the day her seven year contract with Fox expired. She stood firm and refused to renew regardless of the money she was offered. "Gentlemen, I have sucked the last of your cocks."

She was dressed to kill and looked it. She swished out of there slowly determined to become the actress she thought she was. I think it was a constant struggle within her.

"I know I am as good as Sarah Bernhardt. I just need an opportunity. But ... maybe the press and the studios are right I am a gorgeous Sex Goddess and I should reap in the big bucks while the reaping's good."

And so it went.

My favorite movie of Marilyn Monroe is "Don't Bother To Knock." Yes, She was extraordinary in "Some Like It Hot," "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "Bus Stop," "How to Marry a Millionaire," and all the rest. I even liked her in "The Misfits". The twisted and tormented version of her as well as of himself - playwright and soon to be ex-husband Arthur Miller.

Don't Bother To Knock is part film noir, part thriller and part character study. Monroe acted in this film in 1952. She should have won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The Academy, the critics, the press and the studios and for shame, even the public ignored her performance. Please rent the CD. Monroe is electrifying.

I promise you a unique experience.

In this film she is not a blow - up doll, not the wonderful comediene, but a damaged human being. The audience is not distracted by the boobs and the hips. Her part is a small one but she makes it memorable. Richard Widmark is the male co-star and Anne Bancroft the female lead. Two giants and legends in films and theater. Monroe does not outshine them. No. She does not even try. What she does is spin her web of tragedy and pain around them so that they become involved in her anguish despite themselves.

There is no doubt in my mind that she was thinking of her mother, Gladys Baker who spent most of her life in mental institutions when she plays Nell the babysitter. One can see the little girl inside, filled with terror and rage covering it all with a dark and prim dress that appears as fragile as she.

Her crack-up at the end is compelling to watch. Her face undergoes six transformations of psychic pain. The pain is too much to bear , it paralyses her whole body yet she keeps walking. Her fingers are curled up in agony, her calves take steps independently of her waist. The tears pelting her contorted face are genuine.

Richard Widmark lauded her performance. "She is a most extraordinary actress. I can't recalI anyone this driven and this passionate about portraying the role of a mentally sick girl."

When he celebrated his 90th birthday he had this to say, "She was without a doubt one of the best actresses I have ever worked with."

Anne Bancroft, a product of the Actor's Studio declared some years ago, "Because it was one of those very few times in all my experiences in Hollywood when I felt that give and take that can only happen when you are working with good actors. There was just this sense of one woman seeing another woman who was helpless and in pain. Marilyn was helpless and in pain. It was so real, I responded. I really reacted to her. She moved me so that tears came into my eyes."

That is the last scene. It will live on in the annals of screen history.

Don't Bother To Knock proved to all of us that Monroe could act in dramatic roles and keep us riveted. The tragedy is that she never quite believed in her thespian talents herself so fully as to transcend the fluffy roles, even if she played them with remarkable ability.

I don't think Lee Strasberg was good for and to her. Monsters like Strasberg are useful when one has a strong ego and character to counter-attack theirs. Then one can learn something from the experience that renders them better actors, people and orators.

I fear Monroe was crushed in the end by both Lee and Paula Strasberg. I think Don't Bother To Knock proves that she did not need the Strasbergs.

Gillo Pontecorvo the mighty Italian director who directed "The Battle of Algiers", "Burn or Queimada" as it was known throughout the world starring Marlon Brando and "Kapo" with Susan Strasberg in the lead role once told me that the Strasbergs could be tyrannical and manipulative. I find that is a quality most directors share. The question is: Are they destructive or constructive in their manipulations and mental masturbations?

Their own talented daughter, Susan Strasberg escaped as soon as she could. Pontecorvo was a forceful director but for one thing he was Italian and a Sephardic Jew. Thousands of years of culture there. His brother, an astro-physicist left Italy to live and work in Russia.

We shall never know the countless what ifs. Marilyn died on the fifth of August 1962. Murder, Suicide, accidental overdose, it makes no difference for she is no longer among us in the flesh. We have her motion pictures and over over 14 million sites on Google alone. In a compilation recently done by Movie Guide on the Movie Legends of all time she ranked first.

Comments are necessary here for her supposed affairs with President John F. Kennedy and then with his brother Robert F. Kennedy, the Attorney General. Gore Vidal has often said that President Kennedy was priapic. His illness, Addison's disease, a serious disorder of the adrenal glands with no known cure at the time may have contributed to his constant priapism. I doubt the end of the affair disturbed Marilyn much. Her ego had been fed sufficiently. Marriage? Let's not be foolish. Why should a Goddess marry a Catholic President? He could not have been a good lover in any case, in addition he had a bad back and could not even lift his one year old son. Imagine a mad night of sex. Out of the question.

If she had fun and games going with Bobby Kennedy that too was destined to end. She had long passed the time of pleasing men. Now she demanded sexual satisfaction. Why should she waste her time with someone who was perennially tired from work and an endless crop of children? To say nothing of a strong tempered Irish wife?

I believe the affair with Frank Sinatra was real and that it left an indelible memory on MM. Marlene Dietrich once told my beloved Indian dancer/friend: Pandit Ram Gopal that Frank Sinatra was "the Albert Einstein of sex."

Back to my Friend, the Golden Greek Kouros. He was 32 when she died. They had spoken two nights before. He had rang her from Athens. Their flame was still blazing even after fifteen years. He was now a rich entrepreneur. Hollywood and show business had nauseated him so much he did something about it. He left and joined the family business.

She was serene, not euphoric. He knew her well, as much as she allowed any man to know her. Perhaps he knew her even more than her husbands.

He remembers Don't Bother To Knock. It is his favorite film. He remembers seeing it three times with Marilyn.

"Darling, I can act. I am an actress!"

"Yes Agapemou, I have always told you that. You are a magnificent actress, now the whole world can see."

1 comment:

  1. Isabel,
    I loved this post!
    I will always love Marilyn...


Isabel Van Fechtmann

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