When I was a girl, I watched old movies with my mother, and was absolutely enthralled with certain icons of a more glamorous age. Marilyn Monroe was a particular obsession. Around age fifteen, I wanted to be her, or someone like her. I was skin and bones, she was voluptuous, sweet, enthralling. She was also dead. All through those movies where she seemed to find happiness, I always watched the sadness in her eyes. She was the ultimate incongruity of brazenness and vulnerability, Aphrodite incarnate and insecure little girl. I wanted to protect her in Some Like It Hot, in Seven Year Itch, and in How to Marry a Millionaire, Bus Stop and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I was in love with her/wanted to be her in those and all the rest of her movies.
There is something about Marilyn that still speaks to fifteen year old girls and it's in that inherent, awkward 'Do you like me? Oh, you do? How did that happen?' questioning of almost every young woman on the verge of sexuality and how will men react to her. Around that age, we fantasize being fairytale princesses and movie stars swept into the strong embrace of a square jawed prince or co-star. It's our tale we've been fed for centuries. And then we have our families (hopefully) doing everything they can to protect us from what wasn't seen on the screen in the old movies. All we wanted was to fall in love and slake our hormonal messes of pubescence.
As I grew older and studied film - making, art of and history around film - a bit in college, and as a film lover, Marilyn's vulnerability spoke to me in many different ways. Sometimes to the injustices of her neglected childhood and a how it drove her to relationships in which she was always vulnerable, how that played out in her life and on screen.
I am on the fence about whether she died from an accidental overdose or whether as the conspiracy theorists contend, she knew too much. I don't think she was at a point in her life when she would have willfully taken her own life. We've all repeatedly seen those last scene shots of her swimming in the pool for the ironically titled, Something's Gotta Give. I love watching that scene because, for once, she seems on the verge of something big, something good, swimming away from the expression that Richard Avedon caught so off-guard in the above photograph.
She's still among the most beautiful people that the world and I are still captivated by. I guess the mystery of her death and the incompleteness of what she left behind will always make us smile then make us want to cry.
photo source: http://www.richardavedon.com/