Beginning with the End

n her last interview,  the day before the end of her life, Marilyn Monroe and Richard Meryman discussed her experiences with 20th Century Fox and,her 13 years as an actress. Fittingly,she wrapped up her experience with a discussion about not being made into a joke and that fame was destined to leave her behind as she aged. Had she already planned her suicide? She seemed to be speaking more to herself than Meryman. He described her as often being angry, bitter, resentful. She seemed to find more drawbacks than positives about her fame and her career. If Meryman had ever expected a pleasant, easygoing interview during his career, this was not going to be it.

16_bertstern_thelastsitting_marilynmonroe_bluesleepingMarilyn commented on her terrible loneliness many times during her life. Many people couldn’t understand this. She was a beautiful blonde, a celebrity, the ultimate Hollywood icon. How could she be lonely? I’ve often thought that the answer to a person’s ending lies in their beginning. In Marilyn’s case I believe it is imperative to begin with the end and so I often find myself focused on Marilyn’s death and the events leading up to it when I think of her. I juxtapose many of her comments, actions, attitudes and emotions with earlier years in her life, from her childhood to her death. She makes more sense that way.

18_bertstern_thelastsitting_marilynmonroe_bedMeryman stated: Marilyn was exhausted. She had drunk a full bottle of champagne and she had barely eaten anything. And she continued to paint herself as the victim. Marilyn had been discussing her absenteeism with the studio during previous weeks and how unfair it was that she’d been fired from the film Something’s Got to Give. Meanwhile she had missed so many days of work that the studio had lost thousands of dollars on the picture. that sum translates into millions today. Yet in the middle of her absences and her insistence that she was sick or her sinuses were plaguing her, Marilyn flew to Madison Square Garden to sing happy birthday to the president. She didn’t seem to appreciate the irony in her actions or the frustration of Fox’s executives.

But please don’t make me look like a joke, Marilyn said to Meryman, then let out a squeaky, forced laugh, as if her comment about being a joke was funny. In reality, it meant a great deal to Marilyn to be treated with respect, since she felt most people disrespected her. Marilyn felt laughed at, insulted, misunderstood.She was frustrated by the way Fox treated her. She didn’t trust reporters. She was tired of living up to the bombshell image she’d developed over a decade earlier. She was heard to complain, “I’m so sick of being treated like a thing!

Marilyn1962It didn’t occur to Marilyn that her habit of failing to appear on movie sets, her tardiness,and her many conflicts with directors and co-stars didn’t allow for respect. Marilyn also felt she was made to “look like a joke” because of her dumb blonde image, when she was in fact anything but. “Dumb like a fox was my friend Marilyn,Shelley Winters once said about her during the time the two were burgeoning starlets and roommates waiting for their big break. I believe that. Her many career moves that led to her incredible celebrity remain a testimony to her business savvy and the brilliant construct of her public image. None of this entered the last interview with Meryman. The interview was a testament of her anger toward Fox and her inability to share responsibility for her unprofessional behavior. She was losing her perspective. She seemed to be floundering and perhaps had lost her way. It was the beginning of the end and no one seemed capable of helping her.

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