In today’s Le Figaro, film critic Éric Neuhoff begins ‘The Faces of Marilyn Monroe’, a 6-part series for readers in France, by looking back on her early years as Norma Jeane. (I will add further instalments daily, so watch this space!)
“She was a little girl who went alone to the cinema on Saturday afternoons. Her mother would drop her off in front of the cinema … Norma Jeane Baker sat in the front row. The lights went out and she drowned in black and white oblivion. Grauman’s Chinese Theatre was her weekend kingdom. Her favorite stars were Clark Gable who, it seems, looked like her father who had abandoned her, and Jean Harlow, the peroxide blonde who turned men’s hearts upside down. It was an enchanted world, for the orphan in pigtails. When she left, her eyes were shining.”
In the second instalment, Eric Neuhoff takes a closer look at Marilyn’s remarkable career in Hollywood.
“In the camera’s eye, Marilyn Monroe is a miracle. Light is her natural element. She is a sun fallen from the sky. The event happens almost against her will. The public melts in front of this thumb-sucking blonde. Onscreen, she sparkles, while displaying a certain lethargy, an attractive softness, a sleepwalking side. She is a tornado of distress and sensuality, a prototype of which there will be no other model on the market.”
The third instalment looks at the men in Marilyn’s life.
In the fourth instalment, Neuhoff explores Marilyn’s love affair with literature.
“The cinema left her no choice. If she could, she would have been Nora, Masha, Grushenka. Marilyn would have appeared on the stage and she would have performed A Doll’s House, Three Sisters, The Brothers Karamazov under the direction of Lee Strasberg. But no, we didn’t give her time. So she was a gold-digger, girl upstairs, saloon singer. There’s no shame in that. She was therefore Rose Loomis, Sugar Kane, Lorelei Lee. Wilder, Huston, Hathaway replaced Ibsen, Dostoyevsky, Chekov. Yet she loved writers so much. They made fun of her because of that. She read Pascal’s Thoughts and Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, dogged the pages, underlined whole sentences.”
The penultimate episode revisits the death of Marilyn, 60 years later.
And the final part of the series explores Marilyn’s enduring legacy in popular culture.
Thanks to Divine Marilyn