Goodbye Norma Jeane

The forced stay in the orphanage at the age of 9. Mrs. Dougherty at the age of 16. The pseudonym Marilyn Monroe at the age of 19. The cheesecake model working for the Blue Book Modelling Agency. The straightened, bleached hair. The endless exposure to those who would exploit starlets in the industry. Marilyn moved farther and farther away from Norma Jeane as her career progressed. By the time Marilyn was immersed in the entertainment industry there was no trace of Norma Jeane Baker left with the exception of subtle signs, if one recognized them. Nervous Norma Jeane still emerged from the construct of Marilyn, stuttering her lines during filming in Marilyn’s early movies. One director became irate and shouted at her that “she didn’t stutter”. In an uncharacteristically feisty moment, Marilyn yelled back “that’s what you think!”

More confusing for Norma Jeane was discovering she was reading her lines backward or in a some_like_it_hot_jpg_640_640disordered way. While filming Some Like it Hot Marilyn mistook “it’s me, Sugar” for “Sugar, it’s me” or “it’s Sugar me“. Director Billy Wilder had the line written on a blackboard.47 takes were needed to complete the simple line. Another line later in the movie, “where’s the bourbon” became “where’s the whiskey?“, “where’s the bottle” or “where’s the bonbon?” Wilder pasted the correct line inside a drawer. When Marilyn kept opening the wrong drawer Wilder pasted it inside all the drawers in the bureau.At the end of filming for the day Wilder said to Marilyn “don’t worry honey, we’ll fix the problem,” to which Marilyn replied “what problem?” By the time Marilyn spoke the line her back was turned to the camera, causing people to speculate Wilder had the line dubbed.

Wilder cruelly likened working on the set with Marilyn to being in” mid-flight and there was a nut on the plane.”

Occasionally Marilyn refused to leave her dressing room on the set of Hot.No wonder. Norma Jeane normamust have cowered with uncertainty over her ability to read simple lines, wondering why others were snickering or becoming impatient. Clearly Norma Jeane was undiagnosed with a reading disorder, most likely dyslexia. Dyslexia often shifts words in a sentence. Sometimes words jump from the front of a line to the end (sequencing difficulty). Other people experience dyslexia as several words moving around at once, or turning different colours. Disorganization (opening the wrong bureau drawers) and sensory perception also plague dyslexics Unaware of her own condition Marilyn wouldn’t have understood her difficulty.. Since dyslexia wasn’t well-known in the 1950’s and 1960’s other people didn’t recognize it in her either, including her playwright husband Arthur Miller. It was this disorder that contributed to the “dumb blonde” label when nothing was further from the truth. An observant director who once worked with Marilyn explained she wasn’t dumb “she was just uneducated.” Little did he know, the same was true of the lost Norma Jeane.

“This is the end of my story of Norma Jeane…When I just wrote ‘This is the end of Norma Jeane’ I blushed as if I had been caught out in a lie. Because this sad bitter child who grew up too fast is hardly ever out of my heart…I can still feel her frightened eyes looking out of mine. She keeps saying ‘I never lived. I was never loved.'” – Marilyn Monroe


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