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Marilyn mystique

Your week with Marilyn

Marilyn Monroe never went away, apparently. Her "intoxicating quality of volcanic sexuality wrapped in an aura of almost childlike innocence, " which proved famously irresistible to movie audiences in the '50s and '60s, still periodically graces the covers of big American glossies, sells Marilyn-themed cosmetics, pops up in art (including countless reproductions of Andy Warhol's iconic Marilyn prints), and continues to light up screens in the US, in movies and shows about her or featuring her. Exactly half a century after she suddenly died on August 5, 1962, at age 36, TOI-Crest looks at the Marilyn mystique

Always in vogue

A photograph of her blowing out a candle on her 30th birthday was recently chosen by the Cannes Film Festival as its poster for its 65th anniversary. This, in spite of the fact that Marilyn famously never walked the Palais red carpet Marilyn's impress on modern pop culture is so inescapable that aspiring sex symbols have felt the need to engage it, aggressively. Like pop superstar Madonna, clearly the most influential sex symbol since, who's well-known for famously channeling Marilyn repeatedly over the course of a long career - in songs, shows, videos and public appearances - and grabbing the baton, so to speak, from a woman who still continues to seduce from beyond the grave Last year, Vogue put Marilyn on their cover again, or rather Michelle Williams, star of the biopic, My Week With Marilyn Hollywood superstars Charlize Theron (in a Dior advertisement that also featured a digitally recreated Marilyn Monroe) and Nicole Kidman (in a photoshoot for Harper's Bazaar) have also been recent entrants to the Invoking Marilyn Club Several other starlets have also felt the need to join. Think Lindsay Lohan, Scarlett Johansson, Taylor Swift, Gwen Stefani and Christina Aguilera, among others

Papa never preached

Marilyn was born Norma Jeane Mortenson in Los Angeles in 1926. Her mother Gladys was a struggling Hollywood workhand and single mother. The young Marilyn was raised in ten foster homes and even spent a year in an orphanage. She is believed to have been molested as a child. But it was her dubious paternity that troubled her most, and the issue of a missing father-figure in her life haunted her throughout


Marilyn's famously photogenic nature was noticed in the 1940s. She soon began modelling swimsuits, bleached her hair blonde and eventually changed her name to Marilyn Monroe - after studio executives signed her to a contract. A set of iconic nude photos taken in 1949 would eventually find their way into the first issue of Playboy magazine - as its first centerfold - in 1953 and would provide a powerful boost to her legend.

The top of Hollywood hill

Marilyn's big screen breakout came in 1950, in The Asphalt Jungle, and in the highly acclaimed All About Eve. She was instantly noticed by audiences. A series of hits and notable roles between 1951 and 1961 saw her firmly establish herself in the public imagination as a superstar and sex symbol. Marilyn's big films in that period include:

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch, How to Marry A Millionaire, Some Like It Hot, The Misfits Let's Make Love, The Prince and the Showgirl, Bus Stop


Numerous songs have been composed about her. They include Elton John's Candle In The Wind, Def Leppard's Photograph and Bryan Ferry's Goddess of Love. Singers who've referenced her in songs include Madonna, Billy Joel, David Bowie, Bon Jovi, Jay-Z, The Kinks, Lady Gaga, The Spice Girls, Tom Waits and Michael Jackson. She featured on the album cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and inspired the 'Marilyn' in Marilyn Manson

Loving them, leaving them

For one so embedded in the public imagination as an object of desire, Marilyn's personal life, like a character out of Tolstoy, was woefully complex and ultimately riven with tragedy. She first married a young neighbour, whom she divorced in 1946 and then had three notable relationships with: Joe DiMaggio, baseball superstar, whom she married in 1954. The star couple was the toast of America until they separated just nine months later Arthur Miller, playwright, whom she married in 1956, a marriage the American press memorably dubbed 'Egghead Weds Hourglass. ' It ended somewhat amicably in 1961 John F Kennedy, US president, with whom she reportedly had a brief fling from 1961 onwards. The tryst did not evidently result in the succour she craved, and when JFK finally distanced himself from her, it pushed her further into depression


By the early 1960s Marilyn had come to be heavily dependent on prescription drugs and alcohol to control her emotional instability. Paranoid about possibly inheriting her mother's schizophrenia and deeply troubled in many ways, Marilyn is said to have tried committing suicide several times. She often complained of hearing voices in her head and was committed to psychiatric institutions several times. She was found dead in 1962 in her Brentwood home with a phone in her hand, naked and lying face down in her bed. The news made headlines around the world, and while the police listed it "a probable suicide, " her death has fuelled hundreds of conspiracy theories since

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