Last week marked the anniversary of the death of one of the most celebrated actresses of all time, Marilyn Monroe. 54 years have passed since her tragic and untimely death at the tender age of 36. Although her career lasted only a brief 15 years, what would appear to be a fleeting moment in history has shown no bounds in the decades that have passed since her death. Her beauty continues to inspire and captivate the world.
In honour of her death, we take a look at some her greatest filmic moments.
#1 All About Eve
Marilyn Monroe’s journey to stardom began in 1950 when she played the role of air-headed actress Miss Casswell in Joseph Mankiewicz’ oscar winning All About Eve. Whilst her role was only minor, her character played a pivotal part in the narrative of the film. Graduating from “the Copoblanca school of Dramatic Art”, Miss Casswell serves as Eve’s (Anne Baxter) counterpoint. In contrast to Miss Casswell’s honest methods, Eve is exposed as the cruel manipulator she is. Marilyn proved her worth as she was cast alongside Hollywood stars Bette Davis and George Sanders. All About Eve is widely considered one of the best films of all time and marks the beginning of her luminous career.
#2 How to Marry a Millionaire
In 1953 Marilyn Monroe landed the lead role in Jean Negulesco’s romantic-comedy How to Marry a Millionaire. Marilyn plays the role of Pola Debevoise, who along with Schatz Page (Lauren Bacall) and Loco Dempsey (Betty Grable), rent a luxury New York apartment in an attempt to lure wealthy men. Her role in the film as the air-headed blonde bombshell consequently played part in creating her public persona as the ‘ditzy blonde’.\
#3 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
The same year, Marilyn Monroe starred in Howard Hawks Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It was her biggest role to date. She starred along side Jane Russell in her role as Lorelai Lee, a showgirl who encounters several mishaps on her journey to Paris. This role is considered by many critics to be her most famous performance, one in which she perfects her role as the ‘ditzy blonde’. It was both a blessing and a curse for Marilyn. This role marked her transformation into a superstar. However, it also misled many critics and viewers who made the mistake of believing this role reflected her personality in real life. Rather, the role exposed more of her talents as a singer and an alluring dancer in the musical numbers which include her timeless “Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend”. It’s a performance which has since been widely imitated but never matched.
#4 River of No Return
The following year in 1954, Marilyn Monroe played the lead role in Otto Preminger’s Western adventure River of No Return. She stars as Kay Weston, a struggling saloon singer, alongside Robert Mitchum and Rory Calhoun. The three of them embark down the River of No Return. The film saw Monroe play a more dramatic role, reflecting her diversity and potential as an actress and further cemented her legendary status.
#5 The Seven Year Itch
Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch is iconic for so many reasons. Monroe plays the role of a girl living in the apartment above Sherman (Tom Ewell), a business man who is left alone all summer while his family are away on holiday. She once again reprises her archetypal role, she is even left nameless, simply referred to as “The Girl”. It was her seductive performance in the film that captivated the audience and carried what would otherwise be a dull film. The film also contains one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history. The timeless image of Marilyn Monroe holding down her white dress as it is blown up by the subway. A scene which has since become one of the most famous photographs in history and is Marilyn’s most recognised image.
#6 Some Like it Hot
Some Like it Hot saw the reunion of Marilyn Monroe and Billy Wilder. It is considered by many to be her greatest performance and most famous film and ranks number 1 on the American Institutes list of funniest films . The 1959 classic also stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, who become Sugar’s (Marilyn Monroe) best friends as they join an all-female jazz band in an attempt to flee Chicago after witnessing a massacre. It is a role that marks her transcendence to her legendary pop-cultural status. Her performance is eternal and effortlessly hilarious. A performance that ultimately awarded her with her first and only golden globe for best actress.
#7 The Misfits
This was Marilyn Monroe’s last complete performance before her tragic death. The Misfits was written by her previous husband Arthur Miller as a tribute to the dazzling blonde. Directed by the legendary John Huston and starring the well-known Clark Gable, Monroe plays the character of Roslyn Taber, a recent divorcee who moves in with an older cowboy and learns he is not all that he seems. It was a role that saw Marilyn evolve as both a character and an actress. Unlike previous performances, we watch her character develop. Transforming from the archetypal ‘ditzy blonde’ as she gets in touch with her humanity. Her vulnerability serves as a striking contrast to the other characters. A Village Voice review claimed
“It is Marilyn Monroe that tells the truth in this movie, who accuses, judges, reveals”.
Her final performance is bittersweet. It serves as a tragic reminder of her potential and her unparalleled talent. Nobody embodies beauty and glamour quite like Marilyn Monroe. Although she may be gone, she will never be forgotten. Her legacy is immortal.
To read more about the blonde beauty and some of her iconic moments, check out FIB Style Icons Vol 3, available now on Amazon.