Happy Birthday, Marilyn!!
Today is the birthday of the legendary Marilyn Monroe! She would be 93 years old.
Marilyn will always hold a very special place in my heart. If Doris Day was the catalyst to my Classic Hollywood obsession, then Marilyn Monroe opened the door.
Marilyn: Truly a Gift!
Marilyn memorabilia, books, and films are EVERYWHERE! She is arguably the most recognizable star of her era. The prevalence of Marilyn’s image in everyday life was a gift from heaven for a 9-year-old girl whose interest in classic films had just recently been piqued by a brief glimpse of Doris Day dancing.
The first time I noticed Marilyn’s cultural presence was in a Toys R Us magazine. I was in third grade, looking for potential Christmas list items, when I laid eyes on the most beautiful Barbie doll I had ever seen.
It Wasn't Doris Day
At first, I excitedly thought it was a Doris Day Barbie! I had only seen Doris dance briefly in a commercial for a VHS tape collection, and as a third grader, I couldn’t confidently read Marilyn’s stylized, cursive signature on the advertisement that would have alerted me to who this Barbie was supposed to be. The Barbie was a beautiful blonde, so naturally, it had to be Doris Day, right?
I asked my mom, just to double check. She told me it was a Barbie of Marilyn Monroe, a famous actress. And I immediately became a Monroe fanatic.
The ease with which I was able to collect Marilyn pictures and information soon led me to more niche sources and information outlets I could use to learn about, and find the films of, other Classic Hollywood stars. For this and so many other reasons, Marilyn Monroe will always be one of my favorites.
To celebrate Marilyn today, I wanted to share a quick anecdote that I just love. I think it really speaks to the sweetness behind Marilyn’s great beauty and magnetism, the sweetness that maybe we don’t first think of when we hear the name “Marilyn Monroe.” But this sweetness is truly integral to why, so many years after her untimely passing, we still care about and love Marilyn.
The anecdote involves two of my other favorite stars: Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall. If you are a Marilyn fan, you can already tell that I’ll be sharing a story from the set of How to Marry a Millionaire (1953). And plus, my last picture kind of gave it away…
Anyway, Bacall had been a superstar since age 19, when her cool beauty and sultry voice made the world (and Humphrey Bogart!) take notice in To Have and Have Not (1944). Grable was the reigning, multi-talented, box office blonde beauty at 20thCentury Fox. And Marilyn was a HOT item, fresh from her amazing success as the quintessential, baby voiced platinum bombshell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).
Friendship Wins Out
If you were to place a bet on the odds of these three getting along on the set of Millionaire, what odds would you pick?
Well guess what? They got along. As much as the press wanted to paint the Millionaire set as one long, never ending catfight, Bacall, Grable and Monroe actually became friends! Particularly Grable and Monroe.
This was a huge shock, as 20thCentury Fox was not-so-subtly sending Betty the message that she was out and Marilyn was in: Fox was grooming Marilyn to be their new Betty Grable. But Grable seemed genuinely excited for Marilyn’s success, and was heard on the set saying to Marilyn,
“Honey, I’ve had it. Go get yours! It’s your turn now.”
Pretty big of Betty Grable, right? But it was easy for her to be so generous with Marilyn, because Marilyn had been such a generous friend to Betty.
Marilyn's Thoughtful Call
One day during the filming of Millionaire, Betty got a call from her daughter’s school that she had been injured. Betty rushed home and didn’t come back to the Millionaire set that day. After Marilyn’s passing, Betty recounted this day, and how it made her love Marilyn even more. In Betty’s own words,
It may sound peculiar to say so, because she is no longer with us, but we were very close. Once when we were doing that picture [Millionaire] together, I got a call on the set: my younger daughter had had a fall. I ran home and the one person to call was Marilyn…there’ll never be anyone like her for looks, for attitude, for all of it.”
Why We Still Love Marilyn
What a sweet friend! As a mother with a little girl of my own now, I can so totally relate to Betty, and how much it meant to her when her friend Marilyn called to make sure Betty and her little girl were doing ok after a hard day. I know I particularly treasure the friends in my life that are that thoughtful.
And that’s the facet of Marilyn that I think makes her beauty and charisma so special: underneath that gorgeous exterior was an exceptionally kind soul.
Happy Birthday Marilyn! Thanks for being you, thanks for pointing me towards one of my life’s greatest passions.
…and I have to throw in one more!