I hope you realize that under no circumstances would Marilyn Monroe be considered one of America’s greatest actresses, although her skill did increase during her career. And this list doesn’t honor those who are merely sex symbols. But time has created enough distance between Marilyn’s lifetime and today that we can better appreciate her. And she remains beloved to a degree that eclipses her talents.
A photographer for Yank magazine discovered Marilyn in 1944 when he came to a factory to take photos of women helping out in the war effort. He then began giving her leads for modeling jobs, which led eventually to a film contract with 20th Century Fox. She earned $125 a week.
Marilyn changed her name from Norma Jeane Baker and dyed her hair blonde, and though she got small, inconsequential roles, it’s not as if she became an immediate star. It wasn’t until she had a part in All About Eve with huge star Bette Davis that her career began to take off.
You know her hits – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, Some Like it Hot, The Seven Year Itch, Bus Stop, and Some Like it Hot. And you know her husbands, or at least the last two – Joe DiMaggio (Great American Things, January 12, 2010) and playwright Arthur Miller. You know about her flirtation with President John F. Kennedy, highlighted by her famous birthday serenade. And you know about her mysterious death, ruled a suicide but never settled in the minds of fans and conspiracy buffs.
What you may not know is that Marilyn became an actress. She worked hard at her craft, and it showed. Here are some quotes from those she worked with. Famous acting coach Lee Strasberg: “I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of actors and actresses, and there are only two that stand out way above the rest. Number one is Marlon Brando, and the second is Marilyn Monroe.” Bus Stop director Joshua Logan: “I found Marilyn to be one of the great talents of all time.” And acting legend Laurence Olivier: “Marilyn was quite wonderful, the best of all.”