This documentary is fascinating and very revealing. Marilyn on Marilyn is typical of the atypical star, much of it echoes loneliness and some of it oozes sexuality. Most of it is based on the Last Interview with Richard Meryman. It surprises the viewer with new insights we didn’t know Marilyn had. Since Marilyn speaks for herself it’s reasonable to state that most of the documentary is truthful, although Lawrence Schwiller who worked for Life Magazine for years and Richard Meryman who conducted Marilyn’s last interview, both felt Marilyn fabricated certain stories and took a skewered perspective on others. Georges Belmont, was an interviewer who was also privy to lengthy information about Marilyn, speaking freely during their sessions together. It’s a great documentary but if you haven’t got the time for the hour and a half film, here are the Cole’s notes:
I don’t think I’m lying I leave things out you know, I elaborate sometimes but it’ll be from the truth.Cause otherwise it’s hard to know where to start. You don’t start with the truth. (of a foster home she lived in) I was only boarding there. They adopted the boy they had that they were boarding. Some places I lived I was taken there at the end of the school term and they were planning to keep me but then after the summer they’d had enough. (this statement is untrue. The Bolenders asked Marilyn’s mother Gladys Baker for permission to adopt Norma Jeane. It was Gladys who refused). So then I was taken to another place so that’s why so many.I know I went to six different grammar schools.
I loved playing house you know you could make your own boundaries, your own situation..(this is likely because Norma Jeane was powerless to remain in one house for a significant amount of time. She also experienced sexual abuse by at least one male boarder.) Every Saturday and Sunday I was taken there (movies) because they worked during the week, they worked very hard and they didn’t want to be bothered with a child around the house ..I would go in, sit in the first row and I would watch all kinds of movies like Cleopatra with Claudette Colbert, When I was 7 years old Jean Harlowe was my favourite and the reason she was my favourite because she had white hair and I had white hair and I dreamed of having golden hair but instead mine was white. (when Norma Jeane went blonde, her agent encouraged her to go blonder and mimic Jean Harlowe because of the resemblance between the two women).
I went to the orphan home and I said “but I’m not an orphan.” And some people said “well you better forget about your mother,” and I said “where is my mother?” and they said “she’s dead.” I used to sit up in the window and look at RCA and cry because she had worked there. And all the other kids were asleep. I cleaned that dormitory where I slept. Oh everything had to be perfect.I washed 100 plates, 100 cups, spoons and forks. And you made 5 cents a month.And they took one penny for Sunday School.So you had one penny left (the recording leaves out information where Marilyn explains what she did with the other 3 cents). I just felt like I was on the outside of the world and suddenly when I was 11 everything opened up! Kids in school, well it’s true mostly they were boys but even then girls paid a little attention to you just because they thought “hm, she’s to be dealt with!” It was a 2 1 / 2 mile walk to school and a 2 1/2 mile walk back and it was a pleasure! Every fellow honked his horn and I waved back. I thought gee, what happened? The world became friendly and opened up to me.
I was 15 turning 16, when marriage took place i was just 16.She and her husband were going to West Virginia and they were going to put me in a home or I could marry this boy who was 21, so I married. He was a factory worker and then he went into the maritime service. He was drafted to go into the army and towards the end of the war I divorced him. I did appear when I was modelling on mens’ magazine covers that just Squint, Peek, take a peek, And then I went to 20th Century Fox.
20th Century Fox
Ben Lyon was head of casting he said “I’ve only discovered one other person and that was Jean Harlow.” And they put me into contract. I wanted the name Monroe which was my mother’s maiden name and he always said I remind him of Jean Harlow and Marilyn Miller. And he said “well Marilyn goes better with Monroe.” And then I was dropped. And then I was hired at Columbia for six months. They put me in a movie called Ladies of the Chorus Oh it was a terrible scene and terribly photographed. Oh everything was awful about it and so they dropped me after six months.I was at the Hollywood Studio Club. I couldn’t stand it there it reminded me of the orphanage.
I was behind in the rent and they usually let you get about a week behind. I was hungry and I wouldn’t have a roof over my head so Tom Kelley had asked me to pose nude. And I said no I don’t do nudes never! And then I got so far behind in the rent four weeks and I owed debt and everything so i called him and said are you sure they won’t recognize me? He said I promise. (Kelley had a different version of this story. He said Marilyn went away and thought about it. She felt she owed him so she came back and said I want to do it.) I said well if it’s at night and you don’t have any helpers to put up the lights I said I don’t know I’m shy. He said alright just Natalie and myself. So we did it and I was spread out on red velvet. it was very simple and drafty By the time it was known I was hired at Fox and I remembered they called from the set publicity department and they said did you pose for a calendar? And i said yes anything wrong? And they said don’t say you did it. i said but I did! I signed the release and I feel I should say it so I did. (Another version states that Marilyn was very worried about being fired again. She was in tears In Anthony Summers’ biography he wrote “Marilyn said she didn’t want the pictures to become a national institution but she said it very quietly”).
He came with Elir Kazan on the set of a picture called As Young as You Feel. And then I didn’t see him for about four years. (Marilyn skips over a lot of information here. Miller and Kazan both made a play for her and Marilyn chose Kazan, who was an influential producer. She moved in with him for several weeks and he began to work on a new movie but he didn’t include her in it. She became angry and lied to him, telling him she was pregnant. When she admitted the lie, he dropped her).I used to think that he might see me in a movie and I wanted to do my best. because he said that he thought I should act on the stage. And people who were around heard him say it. They laughed. But he said no, I’m very serious. I started going to UCLA, I’d never finished high school. I took a course in backgrounds in literature. I started reading, I hadn’t read before. And Arthur sent me a list of books I should read and I started to read to find out such things as the history of this country and just some stories. No i can’t say he gave me a feeling of security. I think love and work were really the only things that happened to us.
I was driving someone to the airport and I came back by the movie house out near the airport and I see my name in lights.And I pulled over and ‘my God somebody’s made a mistake!’ But there it was in lights. And I sat there and I thought ‘that’s the way it looks.’ Like going to a premiere ‘my goodness, what happened?’ And they wanted to meet me I didn’t know why, you know, I looked behind me.to see who was there? I remember when I got the part in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Jane Russell, she got $200,000 for it and I got my $500 a week but to me that was terrible. And I couldn’t get a dressing room. I said ‘look, after all I am the blonde and it is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes!’ because they always kept saying ‘remember, you’re not a star!’ I says well whatever I am I’m the blonde!
I met him the year he retired and I saw him for about a year and a half, two years and we married. He understood something about me and I understood something about him and we based our marriage on it. (In other interviews Marilyn spoke extensively about DiMaggio, but this video has edited those comments). Our marriage wasn’t a happy one. It ended within 9 months unfortunately.
See that’s the trouble a sex symbol becomes a thing, you just hate to be a thing! And if I’m going to be a symbol of something I’d rather be a symbol of sex than some other thing they’ve got symbols of. I might as well state here and now I don’t mind being burned with of being glamorous and sexual but I think that sexuality is only attractive when it’s natural and spontaneous. We are all born sexual creatures thank God. It’s a pity so many people despise and squash this natural gift.Because art comes from that, real art, everything. There are those (actresses) who try to be me. I guess the studios try to put them up to it. (most likely referring Jane Mansfield). We can make a lot of gags out of it.
Well I know I’ve been invited places to sort of brighten up a dinner table. And I find that I can have real kind of pleasure. It’s sort of like being a musician and being expected to play the piano.Fame is also a burden. And they feel it’s a gift and some sort of privilege to walk up to you and say anything to you.I guess I think what happens to your clothing. The public scares me, like mobs scare me.You know they’re kind of grabbing pieces of you and gee you know you do want to stay intact! People individually, you look at their faces they react, you react to them. That’s something you can trust. And I want to say that if I am a star the people made me a star. There was no studio and no person but the people did. It was a reaction. I mean fan mail you can’t imagine. Well I think they can be impressed by the press but I think somewhere when they go to see a movie they judge for themselves. I always feel I work hard for the ones who work hard and they go to the box office and put down their money. I work for them. When the camera starts until it stops, that moment I want to be perfect.
I’m always an hour or two late but that’s because I can’t go as fast as other people. i think we’re rushing too much nowadays. People get nervous. You know like I wouldn’t dare get a cold, how dare I get a cold! I mean the executives can get colds and stay home forever and phone it in! How dare you get a cold? (Marilyn was speaking to Richard Meryman during what would become known as The Last Interview. She was fired for lateness and for missing 17 days out of 31 during filming for Something’s Got to Give). I have never lost sight that I am working towards one thing and that is in giving a performance, that I am not at a studio any time for discipline or to be disciplined. It doesn’t have anything to do with art. An industry shouldn’t behave like a mother whose child has run out in front of a car so what do they do with the child? Instead of clasping the child to them they start beating up on the child.
I was never used to being happy. I was brought up differently than the average American child. But the average American child likes to be happy, that’s it. Successful, happy, on time, all this, you know kind of glib stuff. Happiness wasn’t anything I ever took for granted. I always thought marriage did that. Happiness it seems to me is temporary, partial happiness. And I’m not calling myself an orphan but I was brought up a waif.It warms you but it warms you a bit like say caviar. It’s good to have caviar but not every damned day. Fame goes by and if it goes then so long fame, I’ve always known you were fickle. But this is what I wanted to make clear. In some ways it has its compensations. But it also has its drawbacks and I’ve experienced both. I think in real life fame is fickle. It’s not like my life depends on it because it doesn’t have anything to do with my life, that’s not where I live.
It’s certainly where she died.