Liz Smith: Marilyn — 50 Years Dead and More Alive Than Ever!!

“WHAT DO you dream?”

“My dreams are too intimate to be revealed in public.”

“What is your nightmare?”

“My nightmare is the H-bomb, what’s yours?”

So it went between Marilyn Monroe and writer Alan Levy, in the very last interview Marilyn gave, to Redbook magazine. (It appeared after her death.)

Over the weekend — Saturday or Sunday — it was the 50th anniversary of the death of Marilyn — half a century! Because of the varying versions of when she died and when her body was discovered, it could be either date.

In the years since I’ve had this column, I’ve probably written as much about this young woman, so long gone, than other stars who were, or are, alive and thriving. Indeed, my column was the impetus for 20th Century Fox to dig out the many glorious hours of the unfinished “Something’s Got To Give,” which gave the lie to the idea Marilyn was performing in a drug and drink induced coma. In fact, it seemed that director George Cukor was playing the diva on this set. (And by the way, there are plenty of MM’s deleted scenes from “Niagara,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “The Seven Year Itch” and “Bus Stop,” crammed into film vaults, still to be mined. Fox, are you listening?)

Marilyn’s early passing, the scandals and speculations about her death and her life (especially her love life) have fueled interest in her. She remains a vital part of 2012 pop culture. But even during her lifetime, despite Hollywood’s disdain, she was a star apart; there was something different, strange, endearing about her. It was a quality that could never quite be explained.

Natalie Wood said, shortly before Monroe’s death, “When you look at Marilyn on the screen, you just don’t want anything bad to happen to her.”

The New York Times in its obituary, referred to MM in its first sentence as “One of the greatest stars in Hollywood history.” An astounding compliment — in her brief career Monroe had left only a handful of superior films.

No longer a legend, she is now a mythological figure, an historical charter. She’s up there with Cleopatra and Marie Antoinette, Joan of Arc! When she was alive, a story went that a man ventured into the wilds of Borneo, and encountered some natives. The adventurer announced he was from America. One native said: “America. Marilyn Monroe!” Probably apocryphal, but it gives you an idea.

I have no interest in the who/what/why of her final hours. We’ll simply never know. But as her friend, the late Susan Strasberg said, “All this grimy gossip. They keep trying to drag her down, but she always rises above it. She had that peculiar quality. Like an orchid that grows in the mud.”

P.S. Recently, a writer, who is old enough to know better, did a long newspaper article on Monroe, in which he referred to her as “starlet.” I have seen this word misused constantly in recent years, about major, legendary stars. Once even about Katharine Hepburn, for heaven’s sake.

Let me try to settle this. A “starlet” is a young woman who is possibly on the cusp of fame. For a few years Marilyn was a starlet. Then she became a great star. But even in “The Asphalt Jungle” and “All About Eve,” this girl had S-T-A-R written all over her.

WELL, ALL you need is a couple of good movies — or at least a couple of impressive performances — and suddenly you’re working with the master himself, Martin Scorsese.

That’s what has happened to one-time beach-boy Matthew McConaughey. Now that “Magic Mike” and “Killer Joe” seem to have changed Hollywood’s perception of Matthew, he’s been cast in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” This will be directed by Scorsese and based on the best-selling book by Jordan Belfort. His co-star? Leonardo DiCaprio.

This is a pretty good life. You spend 20 years making silly movies and working on your tan, and then — pow! Suddenly you’re serious business.

I WAS attracted to the recent issue of The Hollywood Reporter because of the handsome back-and-white matinee-idol photo of comic actor Steve Carell on the cover. (Turns out Steve is terrifyingly normal and nice and not at all dark and twisty like most comedians.)

But there was something kind of scary in the issue. Two pages on all the latest “maintenance” procedures that women (and men!) go through to keep up appearances. Some of this stuff is as old as time — like the hair-braiding facelift, which was credited back to the days of Marlene Dietrich. It sounds very painful and I’ve always wondered if it was just an urban myth.

There are the tried and true mummy-like body wraps, soaked in minerals … and the deep tissue facials that can literally re-sculpt the face. At least temporarily. (Marilyn often availed herself of this strenuous attack on her neck and cheekbones.)

But we also have placenta treatments … nightingale droppings … bee venom masks (much better than Botox) … earthworm complex … snail excretions … bull-semen for the hair and black-eel pedicures. Oh, and on the more normal side, an IV drip pf vitamin C,D and Zinc. It’s called “The Party Girl Drip.”

Simon Cowell has availed himself of this. Well, what’s good for the goose is great for the vain gander.

CORRECTION: Gaetano P. Cipriano who serves with EI Associates (Architects, Engineers Constructors and Realty Property Management) in New Jersey says I am incorrect in a statement here about the credentials of the GOP/Tea Party Texas candidate Ted Cruz.

He says Senator-to-be Cruz “has never advocated abolishing the IRS.” Well, I am glad to learn that this is not true.

While I’m at it, let me quote exiting GOP Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison: “He’s got the pedigree, he’s got all of it. In fact, we’ve joked that he’s too smart for the Senate to fit in.”

This column originally appeared on on 8/6/12

4 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Rho says:

    Rest in peace, Marilyn.  I read somewhere that she wanted to live in Brooklyn, NY.  50 years, and she is still missed.

  2. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Liz: I wouldn’t worry about the misquote regarding Ted Cruz and the IRS. He’s a Tea Party candidate…and the Tea Party wants to abolish the following:

    Basic human rights

    Basic civil rights

    Aid for anyone, for any purpose, for any reason…unless it’s for Tea Party members

    Taxes for Tea Party members

    Any and all government interference in their lives (read: Big Government) until another Cat. 5 hurricane blows through, after which they’ll all be screaming for government hand-outs to rebuild their uninsured homes, heal their uninsured selves, feed them and house them until their homes can be repaired, and pay their way until all is well again. In Tea Party terms, that will be forever. And a day. This same attitude applies to any and all situations in which Tea Partiers need the help they so richly deserve as True Americans.

    Separation of church and state

    secular public schools

    conservation, ecological consciousness, and reality

    Actual historical fact

    Well, that covers some of their basic issues with the United States. Other than that, considering the enormity of the lies they tell, the propaganda they spread, their complete idiocy (did you know that President Obama and his family live in a mansion, are driven everywhere, and have a security detail, and that WE pay for this with OUR tax dollars? Are you as shocked as I am?) and inability to back up a single position, policy, issue, rumor or statement with even vaguely rational, viable or verifiable information, I wouldn’t apologize for that “terrible” gaffe of yours.

  3. avatar Briana Baran says:

    I don’t care about Marilyn’s love life, and I sorely wish that the world would let the matter of her sad and lonely death, regardless of its circumstances, drop. I’ve always pictured her suddenly brought to rest, drained of vitality, unseeing, unfeeling, inert and in the ultimate state of vulnerability, naked and cold and abandoned. How people can even desire to probe such a profound state of emptiness for vicarious thrills is beyond me.

    I do think that the now spectacularly cranky old man Elton John said it best: “…even when you died/Oh the press still hounded you/All the papers had to say/Was that Marilyn was found in the nude” — from “Candle in the Wind” 1973 Good-bye Yellow Brick Road

    I believe that what gave her such a unique sensuality and charm was that she was, before anything else, completely a human Star. Her shine was not ethereal or celestial, but human and glorious and womanly and sexual…and all too mortal and fallible. She was touchable, and reachable, and indescribably lovely for such a fleeting moment in time.

    Not a goddess, but what goddesses dream of being.

  4. avatar Aline says:

    Briana Baran, I hope you know how ridiculously idiotic you come across with writing such nonsense about the Tea Party. The Tea Party is made up of individuals who want Big Government out of their personal lives and wallet.