The Enduring Appeal of Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe is a greatly admired figure (literally). Even 52 years after her death, her name is still widely known and her calendar is often a bestseller. But what is it about Marilyn Monroe that is still so appealing?

Everybody knows who Marilyn Monroe is – a classic beauty with her blonde hair and her sensual curves. But of course, Marilyn Monroe was more than just a beautiful woman.

Born Norma Jeane Mortenson on 1st June 1926, she began modelling at the age of 19, whilst married to her first husband (she married him at the age of 16, and divorced him at the age of 20). At the same time as her divorce in 1946, Norma Jeane screen tested for 20th Century Fox, and so became Marilyn Monroe, the actress.

Marilyn went on to make a succession of highly regarded, now classic comedy films, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), The Seven Year Itch (1955), The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) and Some Like it Hot (1959). Marilyn’s last completed film was The Misfists in 1961, made the year before her death at the age of 36.

Although clearly a sex symbol, as Marilyn is widely known, she was also very intelligent. Her often witty replies to reporters and the intriguing replies to questions clearly show her intelligence.

“It takes a smart brunette to play a dumb blonde.”

“I’ve given pure sex appeal very little thought. If I had to think about it I’m sure it would frighten me.”

“I don’t mind living in a man’s world, as long as I can be a woman in it.”

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

“What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No.5 of course.”

Throughout her career, Marilyn wanted to be known as a serious actress, instead of the dumb blondes she always played. In 1955, when Marilyn Monroe announced to a press conference that she was to form a production company, which became Marilyn Monroe Productions, she also said that she wished to adapt The Brothers Karamazow by Dostoyevsky. One of the reporters shouted out; “Do you know how to spell Dostoevsky, Marilyn?” Marilyn quickly responded; “Have you read the book? There’s a wonderful part in it for me. A real seductress.” In the face of hostility, Marilyn could only respond by playing on her sex symbol image.

When Marilyn moved to New York to be trained by Lee Strasberg at The Actors Studio, Marilyn was ridiculed and laughed at, as no one expected her to become the serious actress that she wanted to be. When you hear stories of Marilyn being difficult to work with for not coming out of her dressing room, is it any wonder in the face of the hostility she regularly received?

When Marilyn was found dead on 5th August 1962 at the age of 36, several of the newspapers mentioned how Marilyn was found nude in bed. Even in death, Marilyn was still being described in a sexual way.

Marilyn Monroe will always be known as a sex symbol, and this image isn’t likely to change anytime soon. I guess all we can do is remember that behind her curves and her obvious sex symbol appeal, Marilyn Monroe was a very intelligent woman who also happened to be very beautiful.


About writingsuzanne

History graduate. Freelance writer and reviewer. Passionate about film, theatre and music (film soundtracks!).
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7 Responses to The Enduring Appeal of Marilyn Monroe

  1. Lindsey says:

    I just love her. 🙂


  2. Wonderfully written – I enjoyed how you summed up the important aspects of her life…
    AnnMarie 🙂


  3. Rachools says:

    I remember watching her alongside Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and instantly loving her.


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