Marilyn Covers Germany’s ‘Arte’

Marilyn graces the cover of Germany’s Arte magazine for April, with a profile inside by feminist author Alice Schwarzer. This classic image was taken by Sam Shaw in the summer of 1957.

“Marilyn was my fifth love. After Hildegard Knef, Elvis Presley, James Dean and Volker. I took the news of her death from a newspaper headline. ‘Marilyn Monroe dead. Suicide’ (it said). At 36. I sat down on the curb, sobbing loudly, in the middle of Timmendorf. My best friend, Barbara, barely managed to comfort me. It was August 6, 1962, and I was 19.

Barbara already knew that about me and Marilyn. The year before, I was staggered, almost enraptured, by Let’s Make Love, where Yves Montand paled before Marilyn, with my best friend in tow, as usual. And I had already seen Some Like It Hot at least three times back then – I haven’t counted since then. I’ve never lost my youthful crush on Marilyn – now I know why.

Back then, in the year of Marilyn Monroe’s death, it was not at all natural for a modern young woman like me who went to jazz band balls and Nouvelle Vague films to rave about this pin-up girl from America. On the contrary: it was considered embarrassing. Because, that was the cliché: Marilyn is a Hollywood product.

Marilyn, after her initial wear and tear in the Hollywood factory as a dumb, but nevertheless – or perhaps because of that – gorgeous blonde, had long since proven what a great, funny, smart-sexy actress she was. Whether in the deep noir thriller Niagara (1953); in Bus Stop (1956) and The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), where she acted the great Laurence Olivier off the screen with a childlike smile; or in Some Like It Hot (1959), Billy Wilder’s best film, which he owed above all to her. The director rewarded the star by saying years after her death that Monroe appeared later and later on the set every day of shooting.

Years on an analyst’s couch in New York could not stop her lateness. The world was increasingly frightening to Marilyn. A fear that she was only able to keep in check in her last years with tablets and alcohol, which doctors prescribed only too willingly. It was probably this mixture that cost her her life.

Marilyn Monroe, the daughter of a sick, helpless mother, was humiliated, used, abused at an early age, very early on. Nevertheless, she made this impressive climb. And at the height of her Hollywood career, she even dared to get out – and produce her films herself, on the east coast, far from Hollywood. But then it caught up with her again. Would Marilyn Monroe have had a chance if she had been born ten or twenty years later and had made a career as an actress in Hollywood not in the 1950s but in the 1970s, during the period of the growing women’s liberation?

And what about 40 years later? Where would she be today – in times of #MeToo? In times when women like Marilyn Monroe finally dared to break the silence. Few women have Marilyn’s extraordinary talent and charm, but very many do their jobs well – and they have courage! Courage in a time when they are no longer alone. Courage at a time when thousands, even hundreds of thousands of women are saying: ‘Me Too! Yes me too!’ Marilyn wouldn’t have been alone either.

Feminists, however, were talking and writing decades ago about the consequences of sexual humiliation and violence. It is no coincidence that Marilyn Monroe became an icon of feminism early on – at least in the USA, where people understand something about the role of idols and are more receptive to the ambivalent charisma of such a star of the century. No one embodies the tragedy and triumph of being a woman like she does. I understand my early fascination and love for Marilyn better than ever today.”