Legendary Lateness

“Well for instance I guess they think that why I’m late has to do with some kind of arrogance monroeand I think it’s the opposite of arrogance. Start with that. The opposite.” Marilyn stated these words to Meryman in her last interview.I understand that statement. If Marilyn is claiming it was the opposite of arrogance that caused her tardiness then her humility, her inability to always be Marilyn Monroe, was the real reason. That makes sense to me. Becoming Marilyn Monroe every day must have been exhausting not to mention intimidating. There were wonderful exciting days and nights being Marilyn too, I’m sure.

“Marilyn refused to acknowledge any responsibility for missing so many days on the set of Fox. She claimed she was sick but the studio just didn’t believe her.” This was Meryman’s view. He didn’t share Marilyn’s perspective regarding her late arrivals and absenteeism while filming what was to be her final, unfinished film, Something’s Got to Give. 

Marilyn did acknowledge her responsibility for her lateness but not that day with Meryman. Once she stated, “Is that what I’m doing by always being late? Punishing my father for keeping me waiting?” This was during her years receiving psychoanalysis with her psychiatrist, Dr. Greenson. Certainly the statement sounds like something a psychoanalyst might suggest. If Marilyn accepted that as being the cause of her lateness, so be it. I think it was the effort to put herself together as Marilyn Monroe, and then the social and professional expectations that weighed her down,Quite understandable for people who find it cumbersome to get up in the morning and get themselves ready for work, for whatever reason.Imagine having to worry about your physical appearance every time you left the house, whether you were going grocery shopping, to work, or to put out the garbage? Marilyn lived with that stress every day of her life.

Bert Stein, who photographed what would become known as The Last Sitting, believed Marilyn’s legendary lateness was due to the extraordinary effort it took to become Marilyn everyday. He waited patiently for her arrival on the day of their appointment. Finally, someone alerted him that “Marilyn is here.” “Already?” came the reply. Marilyn was five hours late. At the end of the photo shoot one of the women on the set commented “what’s going to happen to that poor girl?” Stein was confused about the comment. he stated “I didn’t feel sorry for Marilyn.” Her last words to him were “where have you been so long?” So long.

jfk“I am invariably late for appointments–sometimes as much as two hours. I’ve tried to change my ways but the things that make me late are too strong, and too pleasing.” Marilyn said in another interview. She didn’t elaborate on the pleasing things that made her late. I would imagine that avoiding public scrutiny and not having to face the cast and crew on a film with their many demands and expectations would be strong motives. Marilyn often stayed in bed too long and this accounted for her lateness. Whether she was asleep or not, who knew.

She was always late for (method acting) class, usually arriving just before they closed the doors. The teacher was strict about not entering in the middle of an exercise or, God forbid, in the middle of a scene. Slipping in without makeup, her luminous hair hidden under a scarf, she tried to make herself inconspicuous.

At the end of February 1962 the British actor Peter Lawford and his wife PatJohn F. monroeKennedy’s sister, invited Marilyn Monroe to a dinner party in New York that was being held to honour the President. Dinner was at eight, but at 9pm Marilyn was still sitting in front of her dressing-table mirror, putting the finishing touches to her make-up. Notoriously late for everything, she was happy to keep the President of the United States waiting.She eventually arrived at JFK’s hotel, more than an hour late, with Lawford’s business partner Milt Ebbins. She drew a deep breath, smoothed down her dress and said: ‘OK, shall we?’

Perhaps the ultimate event where she demonstrated her breezy tardiness was during her performance at Madison Square Garden in 1962  to sing happy birthday to the president. Part of her lateness was the usual Monroe. Another reason was her fear of appearing onstage, singing live in front of thousands of people in the audience and millions at home watching the television broadcast. Marilyn was literally pushed onto the stage.

Once, a director who worked with Marilyn was questioned about her exasperating lateness. He thought about it then replied, “my aunt is an extra in movies. She is always on time for work. At the box office she is worth 40 cents. Do you see my point?” During the years of her fame, Marilyn was late anywhere from one to twenty-four hours late for appointments although she claimed it was only “one to two hours.” The late Jerry Wald, head of her studio, simply commented: “True, she’s not punctual. She can’t help it, but I’m not sad about it,” he said, “I can get a dozen beautiful blondes who will show up promptly in make-up at 4 A.M. each morning, but they are not Marilyn Monroe.Point taken.


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