Marilyn’s Rivals

Mrs Wallis Simpson
Old Wally Simpson was a highly controversial character in England in 1936 as the woman who lured the future King of England away from the throne, She herself was twice divorced, the last walldivorce was in order to marry King Edward VII. However, the King was not permitted to marry a woman with two living ex-husbands. Perhaps he should have shot them. Instead the silly man abdicated his throne for the decidedly homely Wallis Simpson, explaining “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.” During this time, Simpson had to leave England, so pursued was she by the British press.For the next three months, she was under siege by the media at the Villa Lou Viei, near Cannes, the home of her close friends Herman and Katherine Rogers. The information was also broadcast worldwide. Simpson was quite certain her notoriety would dominate headlines for years to come. But she hadn’t bargained for Marilyn Monroe, who swooped in and pushed her off’ the top spot overnight. Pick recorded the following conversation: “Who is that woman?” Simpson demanded of famed literary agent Charles Pick. She wanted to know all about Marilyn but not for friendly reasons. ‘Can you please tell me who Marilyn Monroe’s publicity agent is?,’ she asked. Pick said he had to confess he had no idea and asked why she wanted to know. ‘Look,’ Mrs Simpson said, ‘I have all the newspapers each day and I was generally on the front page. But now I see that Marilyn Monroe is on the front page. Well, somebody has pushed me off!’ ‘I could see I was in for a difficult time,’ Pick writes, ‘but I explained that I wasn’t in any way able to help her in displacing Monroe in her favour.” Even pseudo-royalty was affected by Marilyn. I don’t know whether Marilyn herself ever heard of Simpson’s rivalry. Who knows? She certainly would have been astonished. She might have been flattered.

Marilyn stated during an interview that in her earlier years as a starlet she would attend important parties in the industry wearing a very revealing dress that “infuriated half the women present but I had a long way to go and i didn’t have a lot of time to get there.” About the women she stated, they would huddle together in a corner and talk about my dangerous character. None of the men dared to approach her with “their wives and sweeties” present. Men I’m a failure as a woman. My men expect so much of me, because of the image they’ve made of me — and that I’ve made of myself — as a sex symbol. They expect bells to ring and whistles to whistle, but my anatomy is the same as any other woman’s and I can’t live up to it. At the same time, ever self-contradicting herself, Marilyn admitted “I’m honored” when men whistled at her.

The Press
I think that when you are famous every weakness is exaggerated, Marilyn confided once to a friend. Louella Parsons was a famous columnist during Marilyn’s era. She enjoyed the power she wielded over actors. Once she penned dreadful gossip about a  movie star and afterward her career was effectively over. Parsons was happy to quote Joan Crawford’s scathing, envious comment about a gold lame, very revealing dress Marilyn wore to an awards dinner, quoting Crawford as stating that the dress was “vulgar” and that Marilyn’s behavior was “highly unladylike.Marilyn_Monroe_The_Last_Interview_Pt_1To Richard Meryman: Please don’t make me a joke. End the interview with what I believe. I don’t mind making jokes, but I don’t want to look like one… I want to be an artist, an actress with integrity

Marilyn began making fun of herself in public in later years, anticipating and defeating press mockery. Although it was a seemingly harmless self-deprecatory strategy, Marilyn added to her own “dumb blonde” image in an effort to protect herself from the cruelty of the press. A female reporter asked Marilyn if she felt she had “grown” in her acting education. “Is this a new Marilyn we’re seeing?” Marilyn replied, “no, I’m the same me. It’s a different suit.” She claimed she wished to be respected as an actress and to be taken seriously, yet Marilyn spent $5,000.00 on the famous nude dress and worked at making her rendition of happy birthday to the President as sexy as she could at Madison Square Gardens. When acting coach Paula Strasberg questioned her motives Marilyn stated, “I have to be sexy or someone else will get all the attention!” Perhaps that “someone else” wasn’t present at the birthday celebration. Marilyn may have been referring to the next rival on the list.

Elizabeth Taylor – the other sex goddess. Elizabeth exuded her own spectacular brunette beauty taylorand sex appeal yet it was clear she harbored undisguised jealousy towards Marilyn. Liz was irked by the attention Marilyn got wherever she went, especially since she didn’t think Marilyn could act. One night while a Frank Sinatra performance in Las Vegas, the two women were seated together. Marilyn got quite drunk. She leaned against the stage, bouncing along to Sinatra’s crooning, her breasts spilling out of her pretty gown. All eyes were on Marilyn yet again.She was finally whisked away but by then Liz was clearly angry about the attention Marilyn got for revealing her breasts. Liz felt she had been outdone, overshadowed, not something she took lightly. Elizabeth was heard to exclaim, “that goddamned dyke!” Even the studio seemed to encourage the Elizabeth-Marilyn rivalry. The studio paid Liz much more elizabeth_taylor_marilyn_monroemoney than Marilyn to make a picture,even though Marilyn made them millions of dollars. As fate would have it in 1962 Elizabeth was working on the film Cleopatra and it wasn’t going well. She was paid one million dollars for the role but daily the studio was losing thousands of dollars on making the film. The studio decided on a quick fix to bring more money back into their pockets. Naturally they chose Marilyn to star in the last film she would ever be in, although not complete, Something’s Got to Give.The studio didn’t fail to demonstrate to Marilyn that she wasn’t particularly valuable to them: she got a mere $100,000 for her role. However, Marilyn fared no better than Liz and also cost the studio large sums of money. Perhaps that was one trait the two stars shared. The envy wasn’t one-sided. Marilyn was very insecure about Elizabeth’s popularity.

Working with Larry Schiller between 1960 and 1962 Marilyn insisted they take nude photos of her in an effort to eclipse Elizabeth. Monroe told Schiller: ‘Larry, if I do come out of the pool with nothing on, I want your guarantee that when your pictures appear on the covers of magazines Elizabeth Taylor is not anywhere in the same issue.’ When Hugh Hefner agreed to pay $25,000 for one nude picture Monroe told Schiller that it was worth every penny. She said with a laugh: ‘There isn’t anybody that looks like me without clothes on.’

20th Century Fox At the same time that Fox offered Marilyn the many roles that would catapult her to immortal fame, it treated her with great disrespect. During the last interview with Richard Meryman she expounded on how unfair it was that Fox fired her from Something’s Got to Give, for being sick, at least that was her perspective. In reality Marilyn missed many days of work and the studio was losing considerable money. Marilyn’s absences may have been due to her hatred of the studio, for it was well known she didn’t like working for Fox. The studio had denied Marilyn the right to make the type of films she wanted. It denied her the star treatment it gave Elizabeth Taylor and other actors. She felt Fox treated her with disrespect during her entire career, particularly because it refused to allow her to appear in “serious dramatic roles.”

So frustrated was she that Marilyn finally walked out of her contract with Fox and flew to New York to enroll in acting classes with the Strasbergs. It was only after she took such drastic action that Fox realized she was impossible to replace. The studio desperately carved out a new contract with Marilyn, allowing her to use Marilyn Monroe Productions when making Bus Stop. However the damage had already been done. In her last interview she asked Meryman not to “make me look like a joke,” something she attributed to the dumb blonde image Fox had molded over the years.

Susan Strasberg Susan_Strasberg_1950s
Marilyn may or may not have noticed her 14-year-old  “foster sister’s” jealousy. Susan, the daughter of famed Lee and Paula Strasberg, was devastated when her father turned his full attention to Marilyn, ignoring her. She remembered him singing Marilyn a lullabye he used to sing to Susan to get her to sleep. It was an obvious effort to get Susan out of the way when her parents sent her off to Europe to gain experience. Susan admitted her jealousy decades after Marilyn’s death. At the same time, Susan greatly admired her rival. “To me the mark of a great person is someone who is themselves with everyone whether it’s the President or a bag lady on the street and Marilyn was like that. She had no pretensions  Marilyn didn’t give a damn about, I mean I think what Sinatra gave her were some earrings she threw them on the floor of her closet… she was not a material girl at all.”  The earrings were later assessed at $35,000.00.

Jacqueline Kennedy
Jackie’s angst toward Marilyn Monroe was understandable. For a number of weeks, Marilyn and Jackie’s husband JFK, were involved in what was believed to be a “passionate affair.” There have been many statements about the nature of the relationship and how long it lasted. In later years, it was suggested that the fling lasted only 8 weeks at the most. It was strictly sexual, in that JFK visited Marilyn at her home for sex, then quickly departed. On occasion, she joined him at Peter Lawford’s house for a poolside party. Then Marilyn made a foolhardy mistake. She contacted the White House and informed Jackie that Jack would be divorcing her to marry Marilyn. Soon after, Marilyn discovered JFK’s personal line was disconnected. He never saw her again. It would seem that this rival had bested Marilyn.


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