Marilyn and Hollywood’s ‘Difficult’ Blondes

April VeVea, author of Marilyn Monroe: A Day in the Life, has written about Marilyn and other actresses  labelled as ‘difficult’ in an article for her Classic Blondes blog. It’s striking how blonde stars in particular were not taken seriously, and whose careers often ended prematurely. Perhaps it’s all that peroxide, and the pernicious ‘dumb blonde’ stereotyping that accompanied it. There are exceptions, of course – Betty Grable, Lana Turner and Kim Novak all survived, or at least left Hollywood behind on their own terms. But by the mid-1960s, the blonde bombshell – such a phenomenon in the post-war years – was becoming outdated. A brilliant researcher, April looks at how Marilyn’s meteoric career culminated in her being fired from Something’s Got to Give, alongside the parallel misfortunes of Carole Landis, Veronica Lake, and Jayne Mansfield.

“Anyone on here knows I prefer a realistic version of Monroe over the sugar-coated victim narrative commonly ascribed to her. Monroe faced difficulties in life, more than most people can begin to imagine, but the idea that she was the most put-upon gets tiring; however, writers love nothing more than theorizing about her last two years, looking for any semblance to of explanation to justify her ending. When Marilyn passed away in 1962, she was nearing the ends of her negotiations with Fox. I want to make it very clear that no signed contract has ever been presented by Fox to show rehiring … While Monroe’s struggles with pills are well documented, Fox was also looking for any way to remain in control of her career and projects. I can’t say her addictions and mental health issues didn’t contribute to her professional decline, but her employers also looked to exploit these issues to put her back in her place after her 1956 contract victory … One thing I always find fascinating is the need to make the aforementioned stars the sole reason for their careers’ ending. Did these women contribute to it? Absolutely, but people tend to remove the studio from working against their own stars as well. Studios were experts at vilifying women who stood up for themselves, and unfortunately, these women couldn’t break the cycle.”